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Title: The Devourers
Author: Chartres, Annie Vivanti
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Devourers" ***

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                              The Devourers


                                    By

                           A. Vivanti Chartres


                           G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
                           NEW YORK AND LONDON
                         The Knickerbocker Press
                                   1910



                           COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY
                           A. VIVANTI CHARTRES.



                            TO MY WONDERCHILD

                                  VIVIEN

                TO READ WHEN SHE HAS WONDERCHILDREN OF HER OWN



PREFACE


There was a man, and he had a canary. He said, "What a dear little
canary! I wish it were an eagle." God said to him: "If you give your
heart to it to feed on, it will become an eagle." So the man gave his
heart to it to feed on. And it became an eagle, and plucked his eyes
out.

There was a woman, and she had a kitten. She said: "What a dear little
kitten! I wish it were a tiger." God said to her: "If you give your
life's blood to it to drink, it will become a tiger." So the woman gave
her life's blood to it to drink. And it became a tiger, and tore her to
pieces.

There was a man and a woman, and they had a child. They said: "What a
dear little child! We wish it were a genius."...



BOOK I



I


The baby opened its eyes and said: "I am hungry."

Nothing moved in the silent, shadowy room, and the baby repeated its
brief inarticulate cry. There were hurrying footsteps; light arms raised
it, and a laughing voice soothed it with senseless, sweet-sounding
words. Then its cheek was laid on a cool young breast, and all was tepid
tenderness and mild delight. Soon, on the wave of a light-swinging
breath, it drooped into sleep again.

       *       *       *       *       *

Edith Avory had hurried home across the meadow from the children's party
at the vicarage, her pendant plaits flying, her straw hat aslant, and
now she entered the dining-room of the Grey House fluttered and
breathless.

"Have they come?" she asked of Florence, who was laying the cloth for
tea.

"Yes, dear," answered the maid.

"Where are they? Where is the baby?" and, without waiting for an answer,
the child ran out of the room and helter-skeltered upstairs.

In front of the nursery she stopped. It was her own room, but through
the closed door she had heard a weak, shrill cry that plucked at her
heart. Slowly she opened the door, then paused on the threshold,
startled and disappointed.

Near the window, gazing out across the verdant Hertfordshire fields, sat
a large, square-faced woman in pink print, and on her lap, face
downward, wrapped in flannel, lay a baby. The nurse was slapping it on
the back with quick, regular pats. Edith saw the soles of two little red
feet, and at the other end a small, oblong head, covered with soft black
hair.

"Oh dear!" said Edith. "Is _that_ the baby?"

"Please shut the door, miss," said the nurse.

"I thought babies had yellow hair, with long muslin dresses and blue
bows," faltered Edith.

The square-faced nurse did not answer, but continued pat--pat--pat with
her large hand on the small round back.

Edith stepped a little nearer. "Why do you do that?" she asked.

The woman looked the little girl up and down before she answered. Then
she said, "Wind," and went on patting.

Edith wondered what that meant. Did it refer to the weather? or was it,
perhaps, a slangy servant's way of saying, "Leave me alone" or "Hold
your tongue"?

"Has the baby's mother come too?" she asked.

"Yes," said the nurse; "and when you go out, will you please shut the
door behind you?"

Edith did so.

She heard voices in her mother's room, and looked in. Sitting near her
mother on the sofa was a girl dressed in black, with black hair, like
the baby's. She was crying bitterly into a small black-edged
handkerchief.

"Oh, Edith dear," said her mother, "that's right! Come here. This is
your sister Valeria. Kiss her, and tell her not to cry."

"But where is the baby's mother?" said Edith, glad to gain time before
kissing the wet, unknown face.

The girl in mourning lifted her eyes, dark and swimming, from the
handkerchief. "It is me," she said, with a swift, shining smile, and one
of her tears rolled into a dimple and stopped there. "What a dear little
girl for my baby to play with!" she added, and kissed Edith on both
cheeks.

"That size baby cannot play," said Edith, drying her face with the back
of her hand. "And the woman was hitting it!"

"Hitting it!" cried the girl in black, jumping up.

"Hitting it!" cried Edith's mother.

And they both hurried out.

Edith, left alone, looked round the familiar room. On her mother's bed
lay a little flannel blanket like the one the baby was wearing, and a
baby's cap, and some knitted socks, and a rubber rattle. On a chair was
a black jacket and a hat trimmed with crape and dull black cherries.
Edith squeezed one of the cherries, which broke stickily. Then she went
to the looking-glass and tried the hat on. Her long small face looked
back at her gravely under the caliginous head-dress, as she shook her
head from side to side, to make it totter and tilt. "When I am a widow I
shall wear a thing like this," she said to herself, and then dropped it
from her head upon the chair. She quickly squeezed another cherry, and
went out to look at the baby.

It was in the nursery in its grandmother's arms, being danced up and
down; its fist was in its mouth, and its large eyes stared at nothing.
Its mother, the girl in black, was on her knees before it, clapping her
hands and saying: "Cara! Cara! Cara! Bella! Bella! Bella!" Wilson, the
nurse, with her back to them, was emptying Edith's chest of drawers, and
putting all Edith's things neatly folded upon the table, ready to be
taken to a little room upstairs that was henceforth to be hers. For the
baby needed Edith's room.

The little girl soon tired of looking, and went down to the garden.
Passing the verandah, she could hear the gardener laughing and talking
with Florence. He was saying:

"Now, of course, Miss Edith's nose is quite put out of joint."

Florence said: "I'm afraid so, poor lamb!"

Edith ran to the shrubbery, and put her hand to her nose. It did not
hurt her; it felt much the same as usual. Still, she was anxious and
vaguely disturbed. "I must tell the Brown boy," she said, and went to
the kitchen-garden to look for him.

There he was, on his knees, patting mould round the strawberry-plants; a
good deal of earth was on his face and in his rusty hair.

"Good-evening," said Edith, stopping near him, with her hands behind
her.

"Hullo!" said the gardener's boy, looking up.

"They've come," said Edith.

"Have they?" and Jim Brown sat back on his heels and cleaned his fingers
on his trousers.

"The baby is black," said Edith.

"Sakes alive!" said Jim, opening large light eyes that seemed to have
dropped into his face by mistake.

"It has got black hair," continued Edith, "and a red face."

"Oh, Miss Edith, you are a goose!" said the Brown boy. "That's all
right. I thought you meant it was all black, because of its mother being
a foreigner."

Edith shook her head. "It's not all right. Babies should have golden
hair."

"What is the mother like?" asked Jim.

"She's black, too; and the nurse is horrid. And what is the matter with
my nose?"

"Eh?" said Jim Brown.

"Yes. Look at my nose. What's wrong with it?"

The Brown boy looked at it. Then he looked closer. Little by little an
expression of horror came over his face. "Oh!" he exclaimed. "Oh my!
Just think of it!"

"What? What is it?" cried Edith. "It was all right just now." And as the
boy kept staring at her nose with growing amazement, she screamed: "Tell
me what it is! Tell me, or I'll hit you!"

Then the Brown boy got up and danced round her in a frenzy of horror at
what was the matter with her nose; so she took a small stone and threw
it at him. Whereupon he went back to his strawberry-plants, and declined
to speak to her any more.

When he saw her walking forlornly away with her hand to her nose, and
her two plaits dangling despondently behind, he felt sorry, and called
her back.

"I was only larking, Miss Edith. Your nose is all right." So she was
comforted, and sat down on the grass to talk to him.

"Valeria speaks Italian to the baby, and they have come to stay always,"
she said. "The baby is going to have my room, and I am going to be
upstairs near Florence. We are all going to dress in black, because of
my brother Tom having died. And mamma has been crying about it for the
last four days. And that baby is my niece."

"Your brother, Master Tom, was the favourite with them all, wasn't he?"
said Jim.

"Oh, yes," said Edith. "There were so many of us that, of course, the
middle ones were liked best."

"I don't quite see that," said Jim.

"Oh, well," explained Edith, "I suppose they were tired of the old ones,
and did not want the new ones, so that's why. Anyhow," she added, "it
doesn't matter. They're all dead now."

Then she helped him with the strawberry-plants until it was time for
tea.

Her grandfather came to call her in--a tall, stately figure, shuffling
slowly down the gravel path. Edith ran to meet him, and put her warm
fingers into his cool, shrivelled hand. Together they walked towards the
house.

"Have you seen them, grandpapa?" she asked, curvetting round him, as he
proceeded at gentle pace across the lawn.

"Seen whom, my dear?" asked the old gentleman.

"Valeria and the baby."

"What baby?" said the grandfather, stopping to rest and listen.

"Why, Tom's baby, grandpapa," said Edith. "You know--the baby of Tom who
is dead. It has come to stay here with its mother and nurse. Her name is
Wilson."

"Dear me!" said the grandfather, and walked on a few steps.

Then he paused again. "So Tom is dead."

"Oh, you knew that long ago. I told you so."

"So you did," said the old gentleman. He took off his skullcap, and
passed his hand over his soft white hair. "Which Tom is that--my son Tom
or his son Tom?"

"Both Toms," said Edith. "They're both dead. One died four days ago, and
the other died six years ago, and you oughtn't to mix them up like that.
One was my papa and your son, and the other was his son and the baby's
papa. Now don't forget that again."

"No, my dear," said the grandfather. Then, after a while: "And you say
his name is Wilson?"

"Whose name?" exclaimed Edith.

"Why, my dear, how should I know?" said the grandfather.

Then Edith laughed, and the old gentleman laughed with her.

"Never mind," said Edith. "Come in and see the baby--your son Tom's
son's baby."

"Your son's Tom's sons," murmured the grandfather, stopping again to
think. "Tom's sons your son's Tom's sons ... Where do I put in the
baby?"

Edith awoke in the middle of the night, listening and alert. "What is
that?" she said, sitting up in bed.

Florence's voice came from the adjoining room: "Go to sleep, my lamb.
It's only the baby."

"Why does it scream like that?"

"It must have got turned round like," explained Florence sleepily.

"Then why don't they turn it straight again?" asked Edith.

"Oh, Miss Edith," replied Florence impatiently, "do go to sleep. When a
baby gets 'turned round,' it means that it sleeps all day and screams
all night."

And so it did.



II


A gentle blue February was slipping out when March tore in with
screaming winds and rushing rains. He pushed the diffident greenness
back, and went whistling rudely across the lands. The chilly drenched
season stood still. One morning Spring peeped round the corner and
dropped a crocus or two and a primrose or two. She whisked off again,
with the wind after her, but looked in later between two showers. And
suddenly, one day, there she was, enthroned and garlanded.
Frost-spangles melted at her feet, and the larks rose.

Valeria borrowed Edith's garden-hat, tied it under her chin with a black
ribbon, and went out into the young sunshine across the fields. Around
her was the gloss of recent green, pushing upwards to the immature blue
of the sky. And Tom, her husband, was dead.

Tom lay in the dark, away from it all, under it all, in the distant
little cemetery of Nervi, where the sea that he loved shone and danced
within a stone's-throw of his folded hands.

Tom's folded hands! That was all she could see of him when she closed
her eyes and tried to recall him. She could not remember his face. Try
as she would, shutting her eyes with concentrated will, the well-known
features wavered and slipped away; and nothing remained before her but
those dull white hands as she had seen them last--terrible,
unapproachable hands!

Were those the hands Tom was so particular about and rather vain of--the
hands she had patted and laid her cheek against? Were those
hands--fixed, cessated, all-relinquishing--the hands that had painted
the Italian landscapes she loved, and the other pictures she hated,
because in them all stood Carlotta of Trastevere, rippling-haired, bare,
and deliberate? Were those the hands that had rowed her and Uncle
Giacomo in the little boat _Luisa_ on the Lake Maggiore?--the hands that
had grasped hers suddenly at the Madonna del Monte the day she had put
on her light blue dress, with the sailor collar and scarlet tie? She
seemed to hear him say, with his droll English accent: "Volete essere
sposina mia?" And she had laughed and answered him in the only two
English words she knew, and which he himself had taught her across the
table d'hôte: "Please! Thank you!" Then they had both laughed, until Zio
Giacomo had said that the Madonna would punish them.

The Madonna had punished them. She had struck him down in his
twenty-sixth year, a few months after they were married, shattering his
youth like a bubble of glass. Valeria had heard him, day after day,
night after night, coughing his life away in little hard coughs and
clearings of his throat; then in racking paroxysms that left him
breathless and spent; then in a loose, easy cough that he scarcely
noticed. They had gone from Florence, where it was too windy, to Nervi,
where it was too hot; from Nice, where it was too noisy, to Airolo,
where it was too dull; then, with a rush of hope, with hurried packing
of coats and shawls, of paintbrushes and colours, of skates and
snowshoes, they had journeyed up to Davos. And there the sun shone, and
the baby was born; and Tom Avory went skating and bob-sleighing, and
gained six pounds in eight weeks.

Then one day an American woman, whose son was dying, said to Valeria:
"It is bad for your baby to stay up here. Send her away, or when she is
fifteen she will start coughing too."

"Send her away!" Yes, the baby must be sent away. The deadly swarm of
germs from all the stricken lungs seemed to Valeria to envelope her and
her child like a cloud--the cloud of death. She could feel it, see it,
taste it. The smell of it was on her pillow at night; the sheets and
blankets exhaled it; her food was impregnated with it. She herself was
full-grown, and strong and sound; but her baby--her fragile, rose-bud
baby--was Tom's child, too! All Tom's brothers and sisters, except one
little girl called Edith, who was in England, had died in their
adolescence--one in Bournemouth; one in Torquay; one in Cannes; one,
Tom's favourite sister, Sally, in Nervi--all fleeing from the death they
carried within them. Now Davos had saved Tom. But the baby must be sent
away.

They consulted three doctors. One said there was no hurry; another said
there was no danger; the third said there was no knowing.

Valeria and Tom determined that they would not take risks. One snowy day
they travelled down to Landquart. There Tom was to leave them and return
to Davos. But the baby was crying, and Valeria was crying; so Tom jumped
into the train after them, and said he would see them as far as Zürich,
where Uncle Giacomo would be waiting to take them to Italy.

"Then you will be all right, helpless ones," he said, putting his arm
round them both, as the little train carried them down towards the
mists. And he gave his baby-girl a finger to clutch.

But Tom never reached Zürich. What reached Zürich was stern and awful,
with limp, falling limbs and blood-stained mouth. The baby cried, and
Valeria cried, and crowds and officials gathered round them. But Tom
could help his helpless ones no more.

His will was found in his breast-pocket. "Sposina mia, with all my
worldly goods I thee endow. Take our baby to England. Bury me in Nervi,
near Sally. I have been very happy.--TOM."

These things Valeria Avory remembered as she walked in the soft English
sunshine, crying under Edith's garden-hat. When she reached a little
bridge across an angry stream, she leaned over the parapet to look at
the water, and the borrowed hat fell off and floated away.

Valeria ran down the bank after it, but it was in midstream, resting
lightly against a protruding stone. She threw sticks and pebbles at it,
and it moved off and sailed on, with one black ribbon, like a thin arm,
stretched behind it. Valeria ran along the sloping bank, sliding on
slippery grass and wet stones; and the hat quivered and curtseyed away
buoyantly on the miniature waves. When the stream elbowed off towards
the wood, the hat bobbed along with it, and so did Valeria. As she and
the stream and the hat turned the corner, she heard an exclamation of
surprise, and, raising her flushed face, she saw a young man, in grey
tweeds, fishing on the other side of the water.

The young man said: "Hang it all! Good-bye, trout!" And Valeria said:
"Can you catch my hat?"

He caught it with great difficulty, holding it with the thick end of his
rod, and flattering it towards him with patient man[oe]uvres.

"My trout!" he murmured. "I had been after that fat fellow for three
days." Then he dragged the large splashing hat out of the water and held
it up. "Here's your hat." It had never been a beautiful hat; it was a
dreary-looking thing that Edith had had much wear out of. It had not the
appearance of a hat worth fishing three days for.

"Oh, thank you so much! How shall I reach it?" said Valeria, extending a
small muddy hand from her side of the stream.

"I suppose I must bring it across," said the young man, still holding
the dripping adornment at arm's length.

"Oh no!" said Valeria. "Throw it."

The young man laughed, and said: "Don't try to catch! It will give you a
cold." He flung the hat across, and it fell flat and sodden at Valeria's
feet.

"Oh dear!" she said, picking it up, with puckered brows, while the black
tulle ruffles fell from it, soft and soaking. "What shall I do with it
now? I can't put it on. And I don't think I can carry it, walking along
these slippery banks."

"Well, throw it back again," said the young man, "and I'll carry it for
you."

So she threw the heavy melancholy thing at him, and they walked along,
with the water between them, smiling at each other. On the bridge they
met, and shook hands.

"I am sorry about your fishes," she said.

"My fishes?" He laughed. "Oh, never mind them. I am sorry about your
hat." Then, noting the damp ringlets on her forehead and the dimple in
her cheek, he added: "What will you put on when you come to-morrow?"

"To-morrow?" she asked, raising simple eyes.

"Yes; will you?" he said, blushing a little, for he was very young. "At
this time"--he looked at his watch--"about eleven o'clock?"

Valeria blushed, too--a sudden crimson flush that left her face white
and waxen. "Is it eleven o'clock?" she exclaimed. "Are you sure?"

"Yes; what is the matter?"

"The baby!" gasped Valeria. "I had forgotten the baby!" And she turned
and ran down the bridge and across the fields, her black gown flying,
the wet hat flapping at her side.

She reached home breathless. The nurse was on the verandah, waiting. "Am
I late, Wilson?" she panted.

"Yes, madam," said the nurse, with tight and acid lips.

"How is baby?" gasped Valeria.

"The baby," said the woman, gazing at her, sphinx-like and severe, "is
hungry."



III


The young man went to fish in the little stream every day, but he only
caught his fat trout. The dimpled girl in mourning did not come again.
His holiday was ended, and he returned to his rooms in London, but he
left a love-letter for Valeria on the bank, pinned to the crumpled black
ruffle that had fallen off her hat, and with a stone on it to keep it
down.

Valeria found the love-letter. She had stayed indoors a week, repenting.
Then Spring and her youth joined hands, and drew her out of doors and
across the fields again. She went, blushing and faltering, with a bunch
of violets pinned at her belt. No one saw her but a tail-flicking,
windy-haired pony in a meadow, who frisked suddenly after her and made
her shiver.

Close to the stream her eye caught the tattered black ruffle and the
note pinned to it. The young man wrote that his name was Frederick
Allen; that he was reading for the Bar and writing for newspapers. He
said that she had haunting eyes, and that they would probably never meet
again. He wondered whether she had found the baby, and where she had
forgotten it, and what baby it was. And she _might_ have turned round
just once to wave him farewell! He hoped she would not be displeased if
he said that he loved her, and would never forget her. Would she tell
him her name? Only her name! Please, please! He was hers in utter
devotion, FREDERICK.

Valeria went back in a dream and looked up the word "haunting" in her
English-Italian Dictionary. She did not remember his eyes: they were
blue, she thought, or perhaps brown. But his face was clear and
sunburnt, and his smooth-parted hair was bright when he took off his hat
on the bridge.

She thought she would simply return his letter. Then she decided that
she would add a few words of rebuke. Finally one rainy day, when
everybody had seemed cross, and Edith had answered rudely, and the baby
had screamed for Wilson who was not there, Valeria, with qualms and
twinges, took a sheet of paper and wrote her name on it. The paper had a
black border. Valeria suddenly fell on her knees and kissed the black
border, and prayed that Tom might forgive her. Then she burned it, and
went to her baby, who was quarrelling with everything and trying to kill
an India-rubber sheep.

Yet one day in April--an April swooning with soft suggestions, urging
its own evanescence and the fleeting sweetness of life--Mr. Frederick
Allen, in his London lodgings, received two letters instead of one.
Hannah, the pert maid who brought them to his room, lingered while he
opened them. In the first was a cheque for six guineas from a
periodical; in the other was a visiting-card:

      VALERIA NINA AVORY.

"Who the dickens...?" he said, turning the card over. "Here!" and he
threw it across to Hannah. "Here's a French modiste, or something, if
you want falals!"

Then, as he had received six guineas when he had only expected four, he
shut up his law-book, pinched Hannah's cheek _en passant_, and went out
for a day up the river with the man next door.

The card was thrown into the coal-box, and the kitchen-maid burnt it.
And that is all.

       *       *       *       *       *

April brought the baby a tooth.

May brought it another tooth, and gave a wave to its hair. June took
away its bibs, and gave it a smile with a dimple copied from Valeria's.
July brought it short lace frocks and a word or two. August stood it
upright and exultant, with its back to the wall; and September sent it
tottering and trilling into its mother's arms.

Its name was Giovanna Desiderata Felicita.

"I cannot remember that," said the grandfather. "Call him Tom."

"But, grandpapa, it is a girl," said Edith.

"I know, my dear. You have told me so before," said the old gentleman
testily. He had become very irritable since there had been so much noise
in the house.

"Well, what girl's name can you remember?" asked Mrs. Avory, patting her
old father's hand, and frowning at her daughter, Edith.

"None--none at all," said the old man.

"Come now, come now, dear!" said Mrs. Avory. "Can you remember Annie, or
Mary?"

"No, I cannot," said her father.

Then Edith suggested "Jane," and Valeria "Camilla." And Florence, who
was laying the cloth, said: "Try him with 'Nellie' or 'Katy.'" But the
old gentleman peevishly refused to remember any of those names.

And for months he called the baby Tom.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day at dinner he said: "Where is Nancy?"

Mrs. Avory and Edith glanced at each other, and Valeria looked up in
surprise.

"Where is Nancy?" repeated the grandfather impatiently.

Mrs. Avory coughed. Then she laid her hand gently on his sleeve. "Nancy
is in heaven," she said softly.

_"What!"_ cried the old gentleman, throwing down his table-napkin and
glaring round the table.

"Your dear little daughter Nancy died many, many years ago," said Mrs.
Avory.

The old gentleman rose. "It is not true!" he said with shaking voice.
"She was here this morning. I saw her." Then his lips trembled, and he
began to cry.

Valeria suddenly started up and ran from the room. In a moment she was
back again, with her baby in its pink nightdress, kicking and crowing in
her arms.

"Here's Nancy!" she said, with a little break in her voice.

"Why, of course!" cried Edith, clapping her hands. "Don't cry,
grandpapa. Here's Nancy."

"Yes," said Mrs. Avory. "See, father dear, here's Nancy!"

The old man looked up, and his dim blue eyes met and held the sparkling
eyes of the child. Long and deeply he looked into the limpid depths that
returned his unwavering gaze.

"Yes, here's Nancy," said the old man.

So the baby was Nancy ever after.



IV


When Nancy had three candles round her birthday-cake, and was pulling
crackers with her eyes shut, and her mother's hands pressed tightly over
her ears, Edith put her elbows on the table, and said:

"What is Nancy going to be?"

"Good," answered Nancy quickly--"veddy good. Another cwacker."

So she got another cracker, and Edith repeated her question.

Mrs. Avory said: "What do you mean?"

"Well," said Edith, whose two plaits had melted into one, with a large
black bow fastened irrelevantly to the wrong end of it, "you don't want
her to be just a girl, do you?"

Valeria blushed, and said: "I have often thought I should like her to be
a genius."

Edith nodded approval, and Mrs. Avory looked dubiously at the little
figure, now discreetly dragging the tablecloth down in an attempt to
reach the crackers. Nancy noted the soft look, and sidled round to her
grandmother.

"Hold my ears," she said, "and give me a cwacker."

Mrs. Avory patted the small head, and smoothed out the blue ribbon that
tied up the tuft of black curls.

"Why do you want me to hold your ears?"

"Because I am afwaid of the cwackers."

"Then why do you want the crackers?"

"Because I like them."

"But why do you like them?"

"Because I am afwaid of them!" and Nancy smiled bewitchingly.

Everybody found this an astonishingly profound reply, and the question
of Nancy's genius recurred constantly in the conversation.

Edith said: "Of course, it will be painting. Her father, poor dear Tom,
was such a wonderful landscape-painter. And I believe he did some
splendid figures, too."

Mrs. Avory concurred; but Valeria shook her head and changed colour.
"Oh, I hope not!" she said, instant tears gathering in her eyes.

Mrs. Avory looked hurt. "Why not, Valeria?" she said.

"Oh, the smell," sobbed Valeria; "and the models ... and I could not
bear it. Oh, my Tom--my dear Tom!" And she sobbed convulsively, with her
head on Mrs. Avory's shoulder, and with Edith's arm round her.

Nancy screamed loud, and had to be taken away to the nursery, where
Fräulein Müller, the German successor of Wilson, shook her.

"Could it not be music?" said Valeria, after a while, drying her eyes
dejectedly. "My mother was a great musician; she played the harp, and
composed lovely songs. When she died, and I went to live in Milan with
Uncle Giacomo, I used to play all Chopin's mazurkas and impromptus to
him, although he said he hated music if anyone else played.... And,
then, when I married ..."--Valeria's sobs burst forth again--"dear
Tom ... said ..."

Edith intervened quickly. "I certainly think it ought to be music;" and
she kissed Valeria's hot face. "The kiddy sings 'Onward, Christian
Soldiers,' and 'Schlaf, Kindchen' in perfect tune. Fräulein was telling
me so, and said how remarkable it was."

So Nancy was sent for again, and was brought in by Fräulein, who had a
scratch on her cheek.

Nancy was told to sing, "Schlaf, Kindchen, schlaf, da draussen steht ein
Schaf," and she did so with very bad grace and not much voice. But loud
and servile applause from everyone, including Fräulein, gratified her,
and she volunteered her entire repertoire, comprising "There'll be
razors a-flyin' in the air," which she had learned incidentally from the
attractive and supercilious gardener's boy, Jim Brown.

So it was decided that Nancy should be a great musician, and a piano
with a small keyboard was obtained for her at once. A number of books on
theory and harmony were bought, and Edith said Valeria was to read them
carefully, and to teach Nancy without letting her notice it. But Nancy
noticed it. And at last she used to cry and stamp her feet as soon as
she saw her mother come into the room.

Fräulein, with much diplomacy, and according to a German book on
education, taught her her notes and her alphabet at the same time; but
the result was confusion. Nancy insisted on spelling words at the piano,
and could find no "o" for dog, and no "t" for cat, and no anything;
while the Italian Valeria added obscurity and bewilderment by calling
"d" _re_, and "g" _sol_, and "b" _c_. Nancy became sour and suspicious.
In everything that was said to her she scented a trap for the conveying
of musical knowledge, and she trusted no one, and would speak to no one
but Jim Brown and the grandfather.

At last she lit upon a device that afflicted and horrified her
tormentors. One day, when her mother was drawing little men, that turned
out to be semibreves, Nancy, speechless with anger, put her hand to her
soft hair, and dragged out a handful of it. Valeria gave a cry; she
opened the little fist, and saw the soft black fluff lying there.

"Oh, baby, baby! how could you!" she cried. "What a dreadful thing! How
can you grieve your poor mother so!"

That ended the musical education. Every time that a note lifted its
black head over Nancy's horizon, up went her hand, and she pulled out a
tuft of her hair. Then she opened her fist and showed it. Books on
harmony were put away; the piano was locked. No more Beethoven or
Schumann was sung to her in the guise of lullabies by Fräulein at night;
but her old friend, "Baby Bunting," returned, and accompanied her, as of
old, when she sailed down the stream of sleep, afloat on the darkness.

     "Bye, Baby Bunting,
     Father's gone a-hunting,
     To shoot a rabbit for its skin,
     To wrap little Baby Bunting in."

       *       *       *       *       *

... Nancy sat on the grass, nursing her doll, and watching three small
rampant feathers on Fräulein Müller's hat, nodding, like little plumes
on a hearse, in time with something she was reading.

"What are you reading?" asked Nancy.

Fräulein Müller went on nodding, and read aloud: "'Shine out, little
het, sunning over with gurls.'"

_"What?"_ said Nancy.

"'Shine out, little het, sunning over with gurls,'" repeated Fräulein
Müller.

"What does mean 'sunning over with girls'?" cried Nancy, frowning.

"Gurls, gurls--hair-gurls!" explained Fräulein.

"_Curls!_ Are you sure it is curls?" said Nancy, dropping her doll in
the grass, and folding her hands. "Read it again. Slowly."

"'Shine out, little het,'" repeated Fräulein. And Nancy said it after
her. "'Shine out, little head, shine out, little head ... sunning over
with curls.'"

Then she said to her governess: "Say that over and over and over again,
until I tell you not to;" and she shut her eyes.

"Aber warum?" asked Fräulein Müller.

Nancy did not open her eyes nor answer.

"Komische Kleine," said Fräulein; and added, in order to practise her
English, "Comic small!" Then she did as she was told.

That night Nancy quarrelled with "Baby Bunting." She sat up in bed with
flushed cheeks and small, tight fists, and said to Fräulein Müller: "Do
not tell me that any more."

Fräulein, who had been droning on in the dusk over her knitting, and
thinking that at this hour in Düsseldorf her sister and mother were
eating _belegte Brödchen_, looked up in surprise.

"What it is, mein Liebchen?"

"Do not tell me any more about that rabbit. I cannot hear about him any
more. You keep on--you keep on till I am ill."

Fräulein Müller was much troubled in suggesting other songs. She tried
one or two with scant success.

Nancy sat up again. "All those silly words tease me. Sing without saying
them."

So Fräulein hummed uncertain tunes with her lips closed, and she was
just drifting into Beethoven, when Nancy sat up once more:

"Oh, don't do that!" she said. "Say words without those silly noises.
Say pretty words until I go to sleep."

So Fräulein, after she had tried all the words she could think of, took
Lenau's poems from her own bookshelf, and read Nancy to sleep. On the
following evenings she read the "Waldlieder," and then "Mischka," until
it was finished. Then she started Uhland; and after Uhland, Körner, and
Freiligrath, and Lessing.

Who knows what Nancy heard? Who knows what visions and fancies she took
with her to her dreams? In the little sleep-boat where Baby Bunting used
to be with her, now sat a row of German poets, long of hair, wild of
eye, fulgent of epithet. Night after night, for months and years, little
Nancy drifted off to her slumber with lyric and lay, with ode and epic,
lulled by cadenced rhythm and resonant rhyme. On one of these nights the
poets cast a spell over her. They rowed her little boat out so far that
it never quite touched shore again.

And Nancy never quite awoke from her dreams.



V


In Milan the cross-grained old architect, Giacomo Tirindelli, Valeria's
"Zio Giacomo," stout of figure and short of leg, got up in the middle of
the night and went to his son Antonio's room.

The room was empty. He had expected this, but he was none the less
incensed. He went to the window and threw the shutters open. Milan
slept. Silent and deserted, Via Principe Amedeo lay at his feet. Every
alternate lamp already extinguished showed that it was past twelve
o'clock; and a dreary cat wandered across the road, making the street
emptier for its presence.

Zio Giacomo closed the window, and walked angrily up and down his son's
room. On the walls, on the mantelpiece, on the desk, were
photographs--Nunziata Villari as Theodora, in stiff regal robes;
Nunziata Villari as Cleopatra, clad in jewels; Nunziata Villari as
Marguerite Gautier, in her nightdress, or so it appeared to Zio
Giacomo's angry eyes; Villari as Norah; Villari as Sappho; Villari as
Francesca. Then, in a corner, in an old frame, the portrait of a little
girl: _"My Cousin Valeria, twelve years old."_ Zio Giacomo stopped with
a short angry sigh before the picture of his favourite niece, whom he
had hoped one day to call his daughter. "Foolish girl," he grumbled, "to
marry that idiotic Englishman instead of my stupid, disobedient son----"
Then another profile of Nunziata Villari caught his eye, and then again
Nunziata Villari, all hair and smile.... Zio Giacomo had time to learn
the strange, strong face by heart before he heard the street-door fall
to, and his son's footsteps on the stairs.

Antonio, who from the street had seen the light in his room, entered
with a cheerful smile. "Well, father," he said, "why are you not
asleep?" He received the inevitable counter-question with a little Latin
gesture of both hands (the gesture that Theodora specially liked!).
"Well, father dear, I am twenty-three, and you are--you are not;" and he
patted his father's small shoulder and laughed (his best laugh--the
laugh that Cleopatra could not resist).

"Jeune homme qui veille, vieillard qui dort, sont tous deux près de la
mort," quoted his father, in deep stern tones.

"Eh! father mine, if life is to be short, let it be pleasant," said
Antonio, lighting a cigarette.

Giacomo sat very straight; his dressing-gown was tight, and his feet
were chilly. His good-looking, good-tempered son irritated him.

"Are you not ashamed?" he said, pointing a dramatic forefinger at the
row of portraits. "She is an old woman of fifty!"

"Thirty-eight," said Antonio, seating himself in the armchair.

"An actress! a masquerading mountebank, whom every porter with a franc
in his pocket can see when he will; a creature whose husband has run
away from her to the ends of the earth----"

"To South America," interpolated Antonio.

--"With the cook." And Zio Giacomo snorted with indignation.

"I am afraid her cooking _is_ bad," said Antonio; and he blew rings of
smoke and puckered up his young red mouth in the way that made Phædra
flutter and droop her passion-shaded lids.

"I have enough of it," said his father, "and we leave for England
to-morrow."

"For England? To-morrow?" Antonio started up. "You don't mean it! You
can't mean it, father! Why to England?"

"I telegraphed yesterday to Hertfordshire. I told your cousin Valeria we
should come to see them; and she has answered that she is delighted, and
her mother is delighted, and everybody is delighted." Zio Giacomo nodded
a stubborn head. "We shall stay in England three months, six months,
until you have recovered from your folly."

"Ah! because of Cousin Valeria. I see!" and Antonio laughed. "Oh,
father, father! you dear old dreamer! Are you at the old dream again? It
cannot be, believe me; it was a foolish idea of yours years ago. Valeria
was all eyes for her Englishman then, and is probably all tears for him
now. Stay here and be comfortable, father!"

But his father would not stay there, and he would not be comfortable. He
went away shaking his head, and losing his slipper on the way, and
dropping candle-grease all over the carpet in stooping to pick it up. A
sore and angry Zio Giacomo got into bed, and tried to read the _Secolo_,
and listened to hear if the street-door banged again.

It banged again.

One o'clock struck as Antonio turned down Via Monte Napoleone, and when
he rang the bell at No. 36, the _portinaio_ kept him waiting ten
minutes. Then Marietta, the maid, kept him waiting fifteen minutes on
the landing before she opened the door; and then the Signora kept him
waiting fifteen eternities until she appeared, white-faced and
frightened, draped in white satin, with her hair bundled up anyhow--or
nearly anyhow--on the top of her head.

Antonio took both her hands and kissed them, and pressed them to his
eyes, and told her he was leaving to-morrow--no, to-day--to-day! In a
few hours! For ever! For England! And what would she do? She would be
false! She would betray him! She was infamous! He knew it! And would she
die with him now?

She gave the little Tosca scream, and turned from him with the second
act "Dame aux Camelias" shiver, and stepped back like Fedora, and
finally flung herself, like Francesca, upon his breast. Then she
whispered five words to him, and sent him home.

She called Marietta, who loosened her hair again, and plaited it, and
put away what was not wanted, and gave her the lanoline; and she greased
her face and went to bed like Nunziata Villari, aged thirty-eight.

But Antonio went through the nocturnal streets, repeating the five
words: "London. In May. Twelve performances." And this was March.

Enough! He would live through it somehow. "Aber fragt mich nur nicht
wie," he said to himself, for he knew enough German to quote Heine's
"Buch der Lieder," and he had read "Die Jungfrau von Orleans" in the
original, in order to discuss it with La Villari.

La Villari liked to discuss her rôles with him. She also practised her
attitudes and tried her gestures on him without his knowing it. He
always responded, as a violin that one holds in one's hand thrills and
responds when another violin is played. When she was studying Giovanna
d'Arco, he felt that he was le Chevalier Bayard, and he dreamed of an
heroic life and an epic death. When she was preparing herself for the
rôle of Clelia, and practising the attitudes of that famous adventuress,
he became a sceptic and a _noceur_, and gave Zio Giacomo qualms for
three weeks by keeping late hours and gambling all night at the
Patriottica. When she took up the rôle of Messalina, and for purposes of
practice assumed Messalina attitudes and expounded Messalina views, he
drifted into a period of extreme demoralization, and became perverted
and blasphemous. But during the six weeks in which she arrayed her mind
in the candid lines of La Samaritana, he became once more spiritual and
pure: he gave up the Patriottica and the Café Biffi, and went to early
Mass every morning.

"You funny boy!" said Villari to him one day. "You will do foolish
things in your life. Why don't you work?"

"I don't know," said Antonio. "I am in the wrong set, I suppose. And,
besides, there is no time. After a canter on the Bastioni in the
morning, it is lunch-time; and after luncheon one reads or goes out; and
then it is visiting-time--the Marchesa Adda expects one every Monday,
and the Della Rocca every Tuesday, and somebody else every Wednesday....
Then it is dinner-time and theatre-time and bed-time. And there you
are!"

"It is a pity," said La Villari, kindly maternal, forgetting to be
Messalina, or Giovanna, or anyone else. "You have no character. You are
nice; you are good to look at; you are not stupid. But your nose is, as
one would say, a nose of putty--yes, of putty! And anyone can twist it
here and there. Take care! You will suffer much, or you will make other
people suffer. Noses of putty," she added thoughtfully, "are fountains
of grief."

Zio Giacomo was one whose nose was not of putty. Much as he hated
journeys, many as were the things that he always lost on them, sorely as
his presence was needed in his office, where the drawings for a new town
hall were lying in expectant heaps on his desk, he had made up his mind
to start for England, and start they should. He packed off his
motherless daughter, the tall and flippant Clarissa, to a convent school
in Paris, bade good-bye to his sister Carlotta and to his niece Adèle,
and scrambled wrathfully into the train for Chiasso, followed by the
unruffled Antonio.

Antonio seemed to enjoy the trip; and soon Zio Giacomo found himself
wondering why they had taken it. Was the tale that his niece Adèle had
told him about Antonio's infatuation for the actress all foolish
nonsense? Adèle was always exaggerating.

Zio Giacomo watched his son with growing anger. Antonio was cheerful and
debonair. Antonio slept when his father was awake; Antonio ate when his
father was sick. By the time they reached Dover Giacomo, who knew no
word of English but _rosbif_ and the _Times_, was utterly broken. But
Antonio twisted up his young moustache, and ran his fingers through his
tight black curls, and made long eyes at the English girls, who smiled,
and then passed hurriedly, pretending they had not seen him.



VI


At Charing Cross to meet them were Valeria and Edith--both charming,
small-waisted, and self-conscious. Valeria flung herself with Latin
demonstrativeness into her old uncle's arms, while Edith tried not to be
ashamed of the noise the Italian new-comers made and of the attention
they attracted. When, later, they were all four in the train on their
way to Wareside, she gave herself up entirely to the rapture of watching
Uncle Giacomo's gestures and Cousin Antonio's eyes. Cousin Antonio, whom
Valeria addressed as Nino, spoke to her in what he called
"banana-English," and was so amusing that she laughed until she coughed,
and coughed until she cried; and then they all said they would not laugh
any more. And altogether it was a delightful journey.

When they alighted at the peaceful country station, there was Mrs. Avory
and little Nancy and the grandfather awaiting them; and there were more
greetings and more noise. And when the carriage reached the Grey House,
Fräulein stood at the door step, all blushes and confusion, with a
little talcum-powder sketchily distributed over her face, and her
newly-refreshed Italian vocabulary issuing jerkily from her.

They were a very cheerful party at tea; everybody spoke at once, even
the old grandfather, who kept on inquiring, "Who are they--who are
they?"--addressing himself chiefly to Zio Giacomo--at intervals during
the entire afternoon. Towards evening Nancy became excited and
unmanageable, and Mrs. Avory went to bed with a headache. But Fräulein
entertained Zio Giacomo, and Nino sat at the piano and sang Neapolitan
songs to Valeria and Edith, who listened, sitting on one stool, with
arms interlaced.

Then followed days of tennis and croquet, of picnics and teas with the
Vicar's pretty daughters and the Squire's awkward sons. Mrs. Avory had
only brief glimpses of Valeria and Edith darting indoors and out again;
running up to their rooms to change their skirts; calling through the
house for their racquets. Zio Giacomo walked about the garden, giving
advice to Fräulein about the cultivation of tomatoes, and wondering why
English people never ate macaroni.

"Nor _Knodel_," said Fräulein.

"Nor _risotto_," said Zio Giacomo.

"Nor _Leberwurst_," said Fräulein.

"Nor _cappelletti al sugo_," said Zio Giacomo.

"It is so as with the etucation," said Fräulein. "The etucation is again
already quite wrong; not only the eating and the cooking of the
foot...." And so they rambled along. And Zio Giacomo was homesick.

Suddenly Valeria was homesick too. It began on the first day of the
tennis tournament--a resplendent light-blue day. Nino said that the sky
matched Edith's dress and also her eyes, which reminded him of Lake
Como. Their partnership was very successful; Edith, airy and swift,
darted and flashed across the court, playing almost impossible balls. In
the evening, as she lay back in the rocking-chair, pale and sweet, with
her shimmering hair about her, Nino called her a tired butterfly, and
sang "La Farfalla" to her. Valeria was miserable. She said it was
homesickness. She felt that she was homesick for the sun of Italy and
the language of Italy; homesick for people with loud voices and easy
gesticulations and excitable temperaments; homesick for people with dark
eyes and dark hair.

On the second day of the tournament, at tea on the Vicar's lawn, she
became still more homesick. Her partner was offering her
cress-sandwiches, and telling her that it was very warm for April, and
that last year in April it had been much colder. Meanwhile, she could
see Nino at the other side of the lawn tuning a guitar that had been
brought to him; he was laughing and playing chords on it with his
teaspoon. Edith and two other girls stood near him; their three fair
heads shone in the sunlight. Suddenly Valeria felt as if she could not
breathe in England any more. She said to herself that it must be the
well-bred voices, the conversation about the weather, the trimness, the
tidiness, the tea, the tennis, that were insufferable to her chagrined
heart. Meanwhile her dark eyes rested upon Nino and upon the three
blonde heads, inclined towards him, and glistening in different sheens
of gold. She felt hot tears pricking her eyes.

That evening in her room, as they were preparing for bed, Edith talked
to her sister-in-law through the open door. "What fun everything is,
Val, isn't it?" she said, shaking out her light locks, and brushing them
until they crackled and flew, and stood out like pale fire round her
face. "Life is a delightful institution!"

As no answer came from Valeria's room, Edith looked in. Valeria was
lying on her bed, still in her pink evening dress, with her face hidden
in the pillow.

"Why? What has happened, dear?" asked Edith, bending over the dark bowed
head.

"Oh, I hate everything!" murmured Valeria. "That horrid tennis, and
those horrid girls, always laughing, always laughing, always laughing."

Edith sat down beside her. "But we laughed, too--at least, I know _I_
did! And as for Nino, he laughed all the time."

"That is it," cried Valeria, sitting up, tearful and indignant. "In
Italy Nino never laughed. In Italy we do not laugh for nothing, just to
show our teeth and pretend we are vivacious."

Edith was astonished. She sat for a long while looking at Valeria's
disconsolate figure, and thinking matters over. Quite suddenly she bent
down and kissed Valeria, and said: "Don't cry." So Valeria, who had left
off crying, began to cry again. And still more she cried when she raised
her head and saw Edith's shower of scintillant hair, and the two little
Lakes of Como brimming over with limpid tears. They kissed each other,
and called themselves silly and goose-like; and then they laughed and
kissed each other again, and went to bed.

Valeria fell asleep.

But Edith lay thinking in the dark.

She got up quite early, and took little Nancy primrosing in the woods;
so Nino and Valeria went to the tennis tournament alone. A fat, torpid
girl took Edith's place, and Valeria laughed all the morning.

Edith and Nancy came in from the woods late for luncheon. When they
appeared, Nino looked up at Edith in surprise. Mrs. Avory said: "Edith,
my dear, what have you done? You look a sight!"

"Do I?" said Edith. "Why, this is the famous North-German coiffure
Fräulein has made me."

Valeria's face had flushed. "You ought not to have let her drag your
hair back so tight," she said. And Mrs. Avory added: "I thought you had
given that ugly brown dress away long ago."

Then Nancy spoke of the primroses and Nino of the tennis; and Edith kept
and adopted the North-German coiffure. She dropped out of the tournament
because it gave her a pain in her shoulders, and she went for long walks
with Nancy.

Nancy was good company. Edith grew to look forward to the walks and to
the warm clasp of Nancy's little hand in hers, and the sound of Nancy's
treble voice beside her. Nancy asked few questions. She preferred not to
know what things were. She had never liked fireworks after she had seen
them in the day-time packed in a box. What! they were not baby stars?
All Fräulein's definitions of things and of phenomena were painful to
her mind as to her ear. But the seventeen years of Edith and the eight
springtimes of the child kept step harmoniously. Nancy's dawning spirit,
urged by a presaging flame, pressed forward to its morning; while
Edith's early day, chilled by an unseen blight, turned back, and stopped
before its noon. Her springtide faded before its flowering.

Thus the two girl-souls met, and their love bloomed upwards in concord
like two flames.

On Easter Sunday Fräulein entered late for luncheon, and Nancy did not
come at all. Fräulein apologized for her: "Nancy is in the summer-house
writing a poetry. She says she will not have any lunch."

Mrs. Avory laughed, and Nino said: "What is the poetry about?"

"I think," replied Fräulein, shaking out her table-napkin, and tucking
it carefully into her collar, "it is about her broken doll and her dead
canary."

"Is the canary dead?" exclaimed Valeria. "Why did you not tell me?"

"She shall have a new doll," said Mrs. Avory, "at once."

"But it isn't--she hasn't--they are not!" explained Fräulein, much
confused. "Only she says she cannot write a poetry about things that are
not broken and dead."

The old grandfather, who now rarely spoke, raised his head, and said
mournfully, "Broken and dead--broken and dead," and went on repeating
the words all through lunch, until he was coaxed and scolded into
silence.

There was much excitement over Nancy's poem that afternoon. It was read
aloud by Edith, and then by Valeria, and then by Fräulein, and then
again by Edith. Valeria improvised a translation of it into Italian for
Zio Giacomo and Nino; and then it was read aloud once more by Edith.
Everybody laughed and wept; and then Valeria kissed everybody. Nancy was
a genius! They had always known it. Zio Giacomo said that it was in his
brother's family; whereupon Mrs. Avory said, "Indeed?" and raised her
eyebrows and felt hurt. But how--said Valeria--had it come into Nancy's
head to write a poem? And what if she were never to be able to write
another? Such things had happened. Could she try again and write
something else? Just now! Oh, anything!... Saying how she wrote this
poem, for instance!

So little Nancy, all flushed and wild and charming, extemporized in
Fräulein's note-book:

    "This morning in the orchard
    I chased the fluttering birds:
    The winging, singing things I caught--
        Were words!

    "This morning in the garden
    Where the red creeper climbs,
    The vagrant, fragrant things I plucked--
        Were rhymes!

    "This morning in the...."

Nancy looked up and bit her lip. "This morning--in the what?"

"In the garden," suggested Valeria.

"I have already said that," frowned Nancy.

Zio Giacomo suggested "kitchen," and was told to keep quiet. Edith said
"woodlands," and that was adopted. Then Nancy found out that she wanted
something quite different, and could they give her a rhyme for "verse"?

"Curse," said Nino.

"Disburse," said Fräulein.

"Oh, that is not poetic, but rather the reverse!" cried Nancy.

"Terse," said Edith.

"Purse," said Nino.

"Hearse," said the old grandfather gloomily.

Nancy laughed. "We go from bad to worse," she exclaimed, dimpling and
blushing. "Wait a minute."

      "And if I cage the birdlings...."

"What birdlings?" said Fräulein.

"Why, the words that I caught in the orchard," said Nancy hurriedly.

Everybody looked vague. "Why do you want to cage them?" asked Fräulein,
who had a tidy mind.

"Because," said Nancy excitedly, making her reasons while she spoke,
"words must not be allowed to fly about anyhow as they like--they must
be caught, and shut in lines; they must be caged by the--by the----"

"The rhythm," suggested Edith.

"What is that?" said Nancy.

"The measure, the time, as in music."

"Yes, that's it!" said Nancy.

      "And if the flowers I nurse...."

"The flowers are the rhymes, of course," explained Nancy, flourishing
her pencil triumphantly.

    "And if the flowers I nurse,
    The rambling, scrambling things I write--
      Are verse!"

"Beautiful! wonderful!" cried everybody; and Uncle Giacomo and Nino
clapped their hands a long time, as if they were at the theatre.

When they left off, Mrs. Avory said: "I do not quite like those last
lines. They are not clear. But, of course, they are quite good enough
for poetry!" she added. And everyone agreed. Mrs. Avory said she thought
they ought to have somebody, some poet, down from London at once to
teach the child seriously. And Fräulein went into long details about
publishers in Berlin, and how careful one must be if one prints a volume
of poems not to let them cheat you.

From that day onward the spirit of Nancy's inspiration ruled the house.
Everybody was silent when she came into the room, lest her ideas should
be disturbed; meals must wait until Nancy had finished thinking. When
Nancy frowned and passed her hand across her forehead in a little quick
gesture she often used, Edith would quietly shut the windows and the
doors, so that nothing should disturb the little poetess, and no
butterfly-thought of hers should fly away. Valeria hovered round,
usually followed by Nino; and Fräulein, in the library, read long
chapters of Dante to Zio Giacomo, whether he slept or not, in order, as
she put it in her diary: "(_a_) To practise my Italian; (_b_) to keep in
the house the atmosphere of the Spirit of Poetry."

But the grandfather, who could not understand the silence and the
irregular meals, thought that somebody had died, and wandered drearily
about, opening doors to see if he could find out who it was. And he
frequently made Mrs. Avory turn sick and chilly by asking her suddenly,
when she sat at her work, "Who is dead in the house?"



VII


Meanwhile Nunziata Villari in Milan was flustering the maid Marietta
over the packing of her trunks, and getting ready to leave for her
twelve performances in England.

Nino had written to her twice a day during the first week of his
absence; every two days during the second week; only once in the third
week; and in this, the fourth week, not at all. "Some stupid English
girl has turned his nose of putty from me," mused La Villari, and
scolded Marietta for what she had packed, and for what she had not
packed, and for how she had packed it. But La Villari was mistaken. No
stupid English girl had turned Nino's nose of putty from her. Edith, who
might have done so had she willed, had chosen to stab his nascent
passion with the hairpins that fixed the North-German coiffure at its
most unbecoming angle half-way up her head. She had left him to himself,
and gone off primrosing with Nancy, whose love--the blind, far-seeing
love of a child--depended not on a tendril of hair, or the tint of a
cheek, or the glance of an eye.

Nino, standing alone, looking vaguely round for adoration, met Valeria's
deep eyes fixed on him; and, suddenly remembering that this little
cousin of his had been destined to his arms since both their childhood,
he let his heart respond to her timid call. As she bent her head over a
letter to her cousin Adèle, Nino watched her with narrowing eyes. Had
Fate not sent Tom Avory, the tall and leisurely Englishman, bronzed and
fair, sauntering into her life and his years ago, painting pictures,
quoting poets, rowing her and Zio Giacomo about the lake, this dark,
graceful head, thought Nino would have found its resting-place against
his own breast; the little dimpled hand, the slender shoulders--all
would belong to him. Had he not always loved her? He asked himself the
question in all sincerity, quite forgetting his brief and violent fancy
for Cousin Adèle, and his longer and more violent passion for Nunziata
Villari. True, he would never have noticed Adèle had she not sighed at
him first. And he would certainly never have loved La Villari had she
not looked at him first. But now--Adèle was nowhere; and La Villari was
in Milan packing her trunks; and here was Valeria, with her dark head
and her dimples.

"Valerietta!" he said; and she raised her eyes. "It is May-day. Come out
into the fields."

So Valeria put away her letter, and went to look for her hat. As she
passed the schoolroom she heard voices, and peeped in. There was her
little Nancy, pen in hand, wild-eyed and happy, and Edith bending over
her, reading half-aloud what the inspired child-poet had just written.

"I am going into the fields with Nino," said Valeria. "Edith dear, won't
you come, too?"

"Oh no! It is too windy," said her sister-in-law. "The wind takes my
breath away and makes me cough. Besides, Nancy could not spare me."

"No!" said Nancy, laying her pink cheek against Edith's arm and smiling,
"I could not spare her!"

Valeria laughed, and blew a kiss to them both. Then she ran upstairs for
her hat, and went out across the fields with Nino.

Adjoining the schoolroom was the drawing-room where Mrs. Avory and the
grandfather were sitting together in silence. "Sally's cough is worse,"
said the grandfather suddenly.

(The Fates were spinning. _"Here is a black thread,"_ said One. _"Weave
it in,"_ said the Other. And the Third sharpened her scissors.)

"Sally's cough is worse," said the grandfather again.

Mrs. Avory looked up from her crocheting. "Hush, father dear!" she said.

"I said Sally's cough is worse," repeated the old man. "I hear it every
night."

"No, dear; no, dear," said Mrs. Avory. "Not poor Sally. Sally has been
at rest many years. Perhaps you mean Edith. She has a little cold."

"I know Sally's cough," said the old man.

Mrs. Avory put her work down and folded her hands. A slow, icy shiver
crept over her and enveloped her like a wet sheet.

"Sally is my favourite grandchild," continued her father, shaking his
white head. "Poor little Sally--poor little Sally!"

Mrs. Avory sat still. Terror, heavy and cold, crawled like a snake into
her heart. "Edith! It is Edith!" she said.

_"It is Sally!"_ cried the old man, rising to his feet. "I remember
Sally's cough, and in the night I hear it."

There was a moment's silence. Then in the schoolroom Edith coughed. The
grandfather came close to his daughter. "There," he whispered, "that is
Sally. And you told me she was dead."

Mrs. Avory rose tremblingly to her feet. In her eyes was the vision of
her tragic children, all torn to death by the shuddering and insidious
Ill that crouched in their breasts and clutched at their throats, and
sprang upon them and strangled them when they reached the threshold of
their youth. And now Edith, too? Edith, her last-born!

She raised her eyes of Madre Dolorosa to her father's face. Then she
fell fainting before him, her grey head at his feet.

       *       *       *       *       *

Out in the fields, that were alight with daisies, Nino took Valeria's
hand and drew her arm through his. "Little cousin," he said, "do you
remember how I loved you when you were twelve years old, and scorned
me?"

"Yes," laughed Valeria; "and how I loved you when you were sixteen, and
had forgotten me."

"But, again," said Nino, "how I loved you when you were eighteen, and
refused me."

Valeria looked at him with timorous eyes. "And now I am twenty-seven and
a half, and you are only twenty-three."

"True," said Nino. "How young you are! The woman I love is thirty-eight
years old."

Valeria's face paled; then it flushed rose-pink, and she laughed.
"Thirty-eight! Nearly forty? I don't believe it!" All her pretty teeth
shone, and the dimple dipped in her cheek.

"I hardly believe it myself," said Nino, laughing.

"Perhaps it is not true, after all."

Did Zio Giacomo in the library hear with his astral ear his son's
gratifying assertion? Fräulein certainly thought that she saw him smile
in his sleep, while through her careful lips "Conte Ukolino," in the
thirty-third canto of the "Inferno," gnawed noisomely at the
Archbishop's ravaged skull.

"Are you sure that she is not seventeen?" asked Valeria, biting a blade
of grass, and glancing up sideways at her cousin's face.

Nino stopped. "'She?' Who? Why? Who is seventeen?" he asked.

"Edith," breathed Valeria.

Nino shook his head. "No, not Edith, poor little thing!" Then he bent
forward and kissed Valeria decisively and authoritatively long before
she expected it.

"Why did you call Edith a poor little thing?" asked Valeria, when she
had forgiven him, and been kissed again.

Nino looked grave, and tapped his chest with his finger. _"È tisica!"_
he said.

Valeria started back, and dragged her hands from his. "Tisica!" Her
heart stopped beating, and then galloped off like a bolting horse.
"Tisica!" In the terrible half-forgotten word the memory of Tom and the
tragic past flamed up again. Yes; Edith had a cough. But everybody in
England coughed. Edith--Edith, with her fair hair and pink cheeks! It
was not true! It could not be true. Sweet, darling Edith, with the
hideous North-German coiffure that she had made for Valeria's sake!
Edith, little Nancy's best friend! Ah, _Nancy!_... Valeria's thought,
like some maddened quarry, darted off in another direction. Nancy!
Nancy! She was with Edith now! She was always with Edith, laughing,
talking, bending over the same book, kissing her good-night and
good-morning.

"I must go back," said Valeria suddenly, with a face grown pinched and
small. Nino held her tight.

"What is it, love of mine?" he said.

"The baby!" gasped Valeria, with a sob. Nancy was the baby again. The
baby that had to be taken away from danger--from Tom first, and now from
Edith. It was the baby for whom she had run across these fields one
morning years ago, tripping and stumbling in her haste, leaving what
perhaps was love behind her, lest the baby should be hungry, lest the
baby should cry. And now again she ran, tripping and stumbling in her
haste, leaving what perhaps was love behind her. Nancy must be saved.
What if it were too late! What if Nancy had already breathed the blight?
If Nancy, too, were soon to begin to cough ... to cough, and clear her
throat, and perspire in the night, and have her temperature taken twice
a day, and then one day--one day her eyes frightened, her fists
clenched, and her mouth full of blood.... Valeria held her hands to her
cheeks, crying aloud, as she tottered and ran across the flowering
fields.

When she reached the garden there was Nancy, standing on the swing,
alone--swinging and singing, with her curls all ablow.

"Fräulein came out and called Edith away," said the child, with a little
pout. "She said I was not to come. Perhaps somebody has arrived. Could
it be the poet from London?"

"Not yet, dear," said Valeria, voiceless, and with hammering heart. She
embraced the little black legs standing on the swing, and laid her
throbbing temple against the child's pinafore. "Ave Maria, Mater Dei,
Ora pro nobis," she murmured.

"Go out of the way, mother dear, and see how high I swing," said Nancy.
Valeria stepped aside; then she saw Fräulein's face appear at the
drawing-room window and Fräulein's hand beckoning to her to come in.

"I must go indoors for a moment. Don't swing too high, darling," cried
Valeria, and hurried into the house.

When she entered the drawing-room her heart stood still. Mrs. Avory was
on the sofa, with grey lips and trembling hands. Fräulein stood by her,
holding smelling-salts and a saucer of vinegar; while Edith, kneeling
beside her, was crying: "Mother darling! mother darling! are you
better?" In a corner stood the grandfather and Zio Giacomo, looking
bewildered and alarmed.

"What has happened?" cried Valeria.

"She fainted," whispered Edith, with a sob, as she kissed and chafed the
cold hands. Then her mother's arm went round her neck, and her mother's
tears rained on her.

"Edith, my little girl, my own little girl!" she cried.

Valeria wept with her, and Edith wept too, little knowing the reason of
her mother's tears.

... Out in the garden Nancy was alone, swinging and singing, with her
curls all ablow, when the German poet's spell came over her.

    "Die linden Lüfte sind erwacht,
    Sie säuseln und wehen Tag und Nacht,
    Sie kommen von allen Enden...."

The poets murmured it in her ear. Through the darkening trees beyond the
lawn she could see a gilt line where the sunset struck its light in the
sky.

    "Die Welt wird schöner mit jeden Tag,
    Man weiss nicht was noch werden mag,
    Das Blühen will nicht enden!"

Nancy slipped from the swing. The poets were whispering and urging. Had
not Fräulein in yesterday's lessons taught her the wonderful fact that
the world was a round star, swinging in the blue, with other stars
above it and below it? If one walked to the edge of the world, just to
where it curves downward into roundness, and if one bent
forward--holding to a tree, perhaps, so as not to fall--surely one would
be able to look down into the sky and see the stars circling beneath
one's feet! Nancy felt that she must go to the edge of the world and
look down. The edge of the world! She could see it! It was behind the
trees beyond Millpond Farm, where the sun had dipped down and left the
horizon ablaze. So Nancy went out of her garden to go to the edge of the
world.

When Mrs. Avory had been tenderly helped to a seat in the garden, and
had had a footstool and a pillow, and some eau de Cologne, Edith said:

"Where is Nancy?"

"Where is Nancy?" said Valeria.

Fräulein called through the garden and through the house. Then Valeria
called through the house and through the garden, and Edith ran upstairs,
and through all the rooms and into the attics, and down again into the
garden and to the summer-house and the shrubbery. Nino came in, and was
sent to the village to see if Nancy was there. But Nancy was not there,
nor had anyone seen her. Zio Giacomo and the stable-boy set out in one
direction, and Jim Brown in another. Nino went across the fields towards
the station--you could hear his call and his whistle for miles--and
Florence went out and past the chapel along the road to Fern Glen.
Valeria, wringing her hands, ran out after Florence, telling Edith to
stay in, and mind and take care of Mrs. Avory and the grandfather.

But Edith put on her hat, and said to Mrs. Avory: "I shall be back
directly. Stay here quite quietly, mother dear, and mind you get
Fräulein to look after you and grandfather."

But her mother would not let her go alone. No, no; she would go, too! So
they both started out towards Baker's End, telling Fräulein to mind and
stay indoors, and look after grandfather.

But Fräulein, who had recently read "Misunderstood," was suddenly seized
by a horrible thought regarding the water-lilies on Castlebury Pond, and
she went out quickly, just stopping to tell the cook to prepare dinner
and to mind and look after the grandfather. But the cook ran across to
Smith's Farm, and the scullery-maid went with her.

The grandfather remained alone in the silent house.

(The Fates were spinning. _"Here is a black thread. Weave it in."_)

The grandfather was alone in the silent house. He called his daughter;
he called Valeria, and Edith, and Nancy. Then he remembered that Nancy
was lost. He called Sally; he called Tom; he rang the bells. Nobody
came; nobody answered. Then again he remembered that Nancy was lost, and
that everyone had gone to look for her. He opened the front-door and
walked down the avenue; he opened the gate and looked up and down the
deserted road. Then he stepped out and turned to the left, away from the
village, and went towards the cross-roads at Heather's Farm; but before
he reached them he crossed the field to the left, and went past
Wakeley's Ditch towards the heath.

The sun had dropped out of sight, and night, soft-footed and grey, was
stealing like a cat across the meadows; and Jim Brown had found Nancy on
Three Cedars Hill when the old grandfather left the heath and turned
his slow footsteps into the dark and silent fields. He saw something
waving and moving against the sky.

"That is Nancy," he said, and called her. But it was a
threshing-machine, covered with black cloths that moved in the wind. And
the grandfather hurried a little when he passed it. He said aloud: "I am
eighty-seven years old." He felt that nothing would hurt him that knew
this, and the threshing-machine let him pass, and did not follow with
its waving rags, as he had feared. Then some sheep penned in a fold
startled him, running towards him with soft hoofs, bleating and standing
still suddenly, with black faces turned towards him. As he tottered on
something started up and ran away from him, and then it ran after him
and darted past him. He was chilled with fear.

"I am eighty-seven years old. It is not right that I should be alone in
the night," he said; and he began to cry whiningly like a little child.
But nobody heard him, and he was afraid of the noises he made.

He turned to go home, and passed the shrouded machine again, and then in
a field to the right he saw someone standing and moving.

"Have you seen Nancy?" he cried. "Hullo! Good-evening! Is Nancy there?"

The figure in the field beckoned to him, and he went stumbling in the
ruts. When he got near, he said: "I am eighty-seven years old."

The figure waved both arms, greatly impressed; and the grandfather sat
down on the ground, for he was tired.

Nancy had reached home, and the lights were lit and voices rang through
the house; but the grandfather sat on the hill-side in the dark, and
talked to the scarecrow.

"When you go home, sir, I shall go with you," said the grandfather, and
the scarecrow made no objection. "You will tell me when you are
ready to go."

But as the figure waved to him to wait, the grandfather tried not to be
cross. "All right, all right," he said. "I am in no hurry." But it was
very cold.

Suddenly across the hill, with long light steps, came Tom, and Tom's son
Tom; and all his dead grandchildren came down the hill with long, light
steps and sat around him. And the darker it grew the closer they sat.
Sally, who was the favourite, laid her head against his arm, and he
could touch her cool face with his hand.

He asked if they had seen Nancy, but they had not; and he asked Sally
how her cough was. But they all laughed softly, and did not answer. The
threshing-machine passed, waving its wings, and his dead children sat
with him through the night. Before dawn they rose up and left him,
crossing the hill again with light, long steps.

But the scarecrow stayed with him till he slept.

(_"Cut the thread,"_ said Fate.)



VIII


A fortnight after the funeral Nino twisted up his moustache and went to
London. His father had made no objection; indeed, Zio Giacomo himself
found everything exaggeratedly doleful, and Valeria, in her black dress,
going about the house with the expression of a hunted cat, annoyed him
exceedingly. She was always jumping up in the midst of any
conversation, and running out to look for Nancy.

What if Fräulein happened to be busy with Mrs. Avory or with the
servants? said her uncle angrily. Surely there was Edith always with the
child, petting her and spoiling her. Valeria need not worry so! But
Valeria worried. She paid no attention to Zio Giacomo, never even gave
him the promised _minestrone freddo_ on his birthday, and Nino might
have ceased to exist so far as she was concerned. She seemed to be
always looking at Nancy or looking at Edith. When the two sat happily
together, reading or talking, she would call Nancy with a rough strained
voice, hurriedly sending the child on some useless errand, or keeping
her by her side and making long foolish talk with her. Edith sometimes
looked up in surprise when Valeria called the child away from her so
suddenly and so sternly; but seeing Valeria's pale and anxious face,
then glancing over to Nino, who usually looked bored and absent-minded,
Edith thought of lovers' quarrels, and asked no questions.

But there was no lovers' quarrel between Nino and Valeria. In Valeria's
terror-stricken heart maternal love had pushed all else aside, and only
one thought possessed her--the thought of keeping Nancy out of danger,
out of reach of Edith's light breath, out of reach of Edith's tender
kisses; while Nino, seeing her with little Nancy on her lap or at her
side all day, gradually grew to look upon her in the light of Valeria
the mother, and lost sight of her as Valeria the betrothed. A child on
its mother's breast forbids and restrains passion.

One evening he took up a paper and improved his English by reading the
news. The news interested him. It was on the following day that he
twisted up his moustache and went to London. He had dinner at Pagani's.
There he met Carlo Fioretti, an old fellow-student of his at Pavia, who
was dining with a golden-haired Englishwoman at a table near to his.
They invited him to drink coffee and _pousse-café_ with them, and
Fioretti told Nino that he was doctor to the Italian colony in London,
and getting on splendidly. And would he join them at the comedy later
on? Nino was sorry--he was really desolated!--but he could not. He was
going to the Garrick.

"Oh," cried the fair lady, "to be sure! La Villari is playing there
to-night, isn't she? Wonderful creature!" Then she shook an arch
forefinger at Fioretti. "Why did you not think of taking me to hear
her?"

Fioretti promised to take her the next day, and the day after, and every
day, and for ever! Then Nino took his leave with much bowing and
hand-kissing, and Fioretti accompanied him as far as the door.

"Who is she?" said Nino.

"A lady of title," said Fioretti. "Divorced."

_"Deliziosa,"_ said Nino.

_"Milionaria,"_ said Fioretti. And having quickly shaken hands with
Nino, he hurried back to her.

       *       *       *       *       *

The seven mourning women in Cossa's tragedy were already chanting their
woes when Nino entered the theatre and took his seat in the fourth row
of the stalls. His heart opened to the swing and cadence of the Italian
words, to the loud sweetness of the Italian voices, to the graceful
violence of the Italian gestures. His Latin blood thrilled in
understanding and response.

Suddenly Villari was on the stage, and no one else existed. Fervid and
lovely, keen and lithe, soon she held in her small, hot hands the hearts
of the cool English audience, tightening their nerves, swaying and
drawing them into paths of unaccustomed passion. Nino sat still with
quick heart-beats, wondering if she would see him.

He remembered the first time that her eyes had met his at the Manzoni in
Milan four years ago. She was playing Sappho. He was with his cousin
Adèle and Aunt Carlotta in one of the front rows, and they were laughing
at the vehemence of the love-scene in the second act, when suddenly he
saw that Villari was looking at him. Yes, at him! She gazed at him long
and deliberately, while Jean was sobbing at her feet, and she said
Daudet's famous words, "Toi tu ne marchais pas encore, que moi déjà je
roulais dans les bras des hommes," with her deep and steadfast eyes
fixed on Nino's face. She had said the words in French in the midst of
the Italian play, for she was whimsical and wilful, and did as she
pleased. Then she had turned away, and gone on with her part without
noticing him any more. Cousin Adèle had been acid and sarcastic all the
evening. The next day--how well he remembered it all!--he had sent
Villari flowers, as she intended that he should, and a week after that
he had sent her a bracelet, having sold Aunt Carlotta and Adèle's piano
during their absence in order to do so.

Now she was before him once more, fervid and lovely, keen and lithe, and
Nino sat motionless, with quick heart-beats, wondering if she would see
him.

Suddenly she looked straight at him, with long and deliberate gaze--so
long, indeed, that he thought everyone must notice it, and he could
hardly breathe for the violence of his rushing veins. When the curtain
fell he sent his card to her dressing-room, but she did not receive him,
nor did she do so at the end of the play. The next day he sent her
flowers, as she had intended that he should, but when he called at her
hotel she was out. He sat through nine of her twelve performances, and
still she would not see him, for she was thirty-eight and wily, and knew
men's hearts. She also knew her own, and had more than once thought that
she detected symptoms of what she called a _grande passion_, a
_toquade_, for this curly-headed, vehement young Nino with the light
laugh and the violent eyes. Nunziata Villari dreaded her grand passions.
She knew of old how disastrous they were, how unbecoming to her
complexion, how ruinous to her affairs, how gnawing during their
process, how painful at their end. And she especially dreaded a grand
passion for Nino, remembering that he was one who had a nose of putty,
and would probably be a fountain of grief. So night after night Nino sat
in his stall and watched her, and counted the days that remained before
she would go away again. Every night she was different--she was Sappho
and Magdalen; she was Norah and Fedora; she was Phædra and Desdemona.
Every night she was before him, laughing or weeping, loving or hating,
dying delicate deaths. She was terrible and sweet, fierce and alluring;
she embraced and she killed; she was resplendent Purity, she was
emblazoned Sin; she was _das Ewig Weibliche_, the immortal mistress of
all lovers, the ever-desiring and the ever-desired.

When, after her tenth performance, he was allowed to see her in her
dressing-room, he could not speak. Without a word of greeting, without
responding to her smile, he dropped into a chair and hid his face in his
hands, to the great amusement of Marietta the maid.

But Nunziata Villari was not amused. She suddenly realized that she had
been acting for this Nino every night, that especially for him she had
sobbed and raved, she had laughed and languished; and as she saw him
sitting there with his face in his hands, she felt in her heart the
intermittent throb that she recognized and dreaded. It was the _grande
passion;_ it was the _toquade._ "Ça y est!" she said. "Now I am in love
again."

And she was.



IX


In Wareside Fräulein still read Dante to the unwitting Uncle Giacomo.
The apple-blossoms fluttered and the sun shone. Butterflies, like
blow-away flowers, flitted past Edith as she lay on a couch in the
sunshine, too lazy to move, and too peaceful to read; while little Nancy
ruffled up her hair and puckered her brow, frightened and gladdened at
once by the luxuriance of words and ideas that sang in her brain, that
romped out in lines and paired off in rhymes, like children dancing.

And the two mothers sat in the shade and watched.

When Edith called Nancy, and the child ran to her, Valeria's lips
tightened, and soon she would call the little girl to her side and keep
her. Then Mrs. Avory's face grew hard, and her heart was bitter with
grief. She would rise quickly and go to Edith, trying to divert her
thoughts by some futile question about her crochet, or a book, or the
colour of the sky. Edith would answer, wondering a little, and shut her
eyes, too lazy to think.

Over their children's heads the two mothers' glances met, hostile and
hard, each shielding her own, each defending and each accusing.

"Edith is ill," said Valeria's eyes. "Nancy must not be near her."

"Edith is ill," said Mrs. Avory's eyes, "but she must not know it."

"Nancy must not be endangered."

"Edith must not be hurt."

"Mother," pipes up Nancy's treble voice suddenly, "do you think May is a
girl?"

"Who is May, dear?"

"Why, the month of May. Do you think it is a girl with roses in her
arms, dancing across the lands, and touching the hedges into flower?"

"Yes, dear; I think so."

"Or do you think it is a boy, with curls falling over his eyes, wilful
and naughty, who drags the little leaves out from the trees, and tosses
the birds across the sky, whirling and piping?"

"Yes, I think so, dear."

"Oh, mother, you are not listening!" cries Nancy, and scampers off,
improvising as she goes:

    "Says May: 'I am a girl!
    May is short for Margaret,
    Margaret or Daisy.
    The petals of a jessamine
    No boy's hand could unfurl!'
    Says May: 'I am a girl.'

    "Says May: 'I am a boy!
    May is short for...'"

"For what?" thinks Nancy, frowning impatiently at the word that will not
come. Then she skips gaily on across the grass:

    "Says May: 'I am a boy!
    May is short for Marmaduke,
    As all the world should know!
    I taught the birds their trills and shakes,
    No girl could whistle so!'

    "So May the girl, and May the boy, they quarrel all day long;
    While the flowers stop their budding, and the birds forget their
          song.
    And God says: 'Now, to punish you, I'll hang out the new moon
    And take and bundle both of you into the month of June.'"

"Of course, May is _not_ short for Marmaduke," muses Nancy, "but that
cannot be helped."

... On her couch on the lawn Edith opened her eyes and said: "Nancy?
Where is Nancy?"

Valeria sprang up. "Is there anything you want, Edith dear?"

"No; I should like Nancy. I love to see her, and I am too lazy to run
after her."

"I will call her," said Valeria.

At this unexpected reply Mrs. Avory raised eyes shining with gratitude
to her daughter-in-law's face.

Valeria found her little girl declaiming verses to the trees in the
orchard. She knelt down on the grass to fasten the small button-shoe,
and said, without raising her face: "Nancy, you are to go to Edith; but,
Nancy, _you are not to kiss her_."

"Oh, mother! has she been naughty?"

"No." Valeria remained on her knees, and put her arm round the child.
"Edith is ill," she said slowly.

"Then I will kiss her double," cried Nancy, flushing.

"Nancy, Nancy, try to understand," said Valeria. "Edith is ill, as your
father was, and he died; and as her sisters were, and they died. And if
you kiss her, you may get ill, too, and die. And every time you kiss
her--oh, Nancy, Nancy, child of mine, it is a sword struck into your
mother's heart!"

There was a long pause. "And if I refuse to kiss her, will that not be a
sword struck into her heart?" asked Nancy.

"Yes," said Valeria.

"And if a sword is in Edith's heart, there will be a sword in
grandmother's heart, too?"

"Yes," said Valeria.

A long pause; then Nancy said: "There is a sword for every heart.... I
could make a beautiful poetry about that." Her eyes were large, and saw
nothing--not her mother, not Edith who was ill--but the bleeding heart
of the world, sword-struck and gigantic, and in her ears the lines began
to swing and flow.

"Mother of God, help us!" sighed Valeria, shaking her head. "Go to
Edith."

Nancy went; and she kissed Edith, because she had forgotten all that her
mother had said.

Presently Zio Giacomo came out to them with an open letter in his hand.
It was a letter from Nino, and Zio Giacomo's wrath knew no bounds. He
called Nino a perfidious traitor and a foolish viper, and an imbecile
and the son of an imbecile. He called Valeria a blundering and insensate
one, who might have stopped Nino, and kept Nino, and married Nino, and
made him behave himself; and Nino was an angel, and no husband would
ever be such an angel as Nino would have been as a husband to Valeria.
And now the triple extract of insensate imbecility had gone off with an
actress, a perfidious, senile snake, who had followed him to England,
and it was all Valeria's fault, and Fräulein's fault. Yes, Fräulein was
an absurd, moon-struck, German creature, who had turned him, Zio
Giacomo, into a preposterous, doddering idiot by reading preposterous,
senseless, twaddling Dante's "Inferno" to him all day long.

Fräulein wept, and Valeria wept; but that did not help Zio Giacomo. Nor
did it bring back Nino from San Remo, where he was strolling under
palm-trees with La Villari; and La Villari was smiling and sighing and
melting in the throes of her new _toquade_.



X


Nino, before leaving London, had borrowed some money from Fioretti, who
had borrowed it from the lady of title; then he had written to Nunziata
Villari's impresario, and cancelled all her engagements; then he wrote
to his father, and said he was sorry, and to Valeria, and said he was a
miserable hound. After that he started for the Riviera with Nunziata,
who was meek and docile and lovely in her incredible hats and
unverisimilar gowns.

They were happy in San Remo; but as May was ended, and the weather was
hot, Nino suggested spending June in Switzerland; so they went to
Lucerne and up to Bürgenstock.

The large hotel was already filled with English-speaking people, and the
striking Italian couple was much looked at and discussed. At luncheon
their table was set next to a family of Americans--father, mother, and
three lovely daughters with no manners. The three girls shook their
curls, and laughed in their handkerchiefs, and made inaudible remarks to
each other about the new arrivals. In the evening they all three
appeared in rose-silk dresses, low-necked and tight-waisted--even the
youngest, who looked scarcely fourteen. They carried three Teddy-bears
to table with them, and were noisy and giggling and ill-mannered; but
their beauty was indescribable. The two eldest wore their red-gold curls
pinned on the top of their heads with immense black bows, whereas the
youngest had her flowing hair parted in the middle, and it fell like a
sheet of gilt water to her waist.

Nino, who sat facing them, twisted up his moustache, and forgot to offer
sweets to Nunziata; and Nunziata laughed and talked, and was charming,
biting her red lips until they were scarlet, and turning her rings round
and round on her delicate fingers.

Then she said--oh, quite casually!--that she had received a letter from
Count Jerace that afternoon. Count Jerace? The name of the handsome
Neapolitan _viveur_ always grated upon Nino, and he became angry, and
made many stinging remarks; whereupon Nunziata, still sweet and patient,
biting her red lips until they were scarlet, and turning her rings round
and round on her delicate fingers, said that Jerace thought of coming to
Bürgenstock towards the end of the week.

Nino pushed his plate aside, and said he would leave the place
to-morrow. Then Nunziata laughed and said: "So will I!" and Nino called
her an angel, and finished his dinner peacefully.

They left the next day.

They went to Engelberg. In Engelberg there were golf-links and
tennis-courts, and English girls in shirt-waists and sailor
hats--laughing girls, blushing girls, twittering girls. Engelberg was
full of them. Nunziata soon got a letter to say that the Count was
thinking of coming to Engelberg, and Nino took her on to Interlaken.

But all Switzerland was a-flower with girlhood. Everybody in the world
seemed to be seventeen or eighteen years old. Nunziata would say
nervously a hundred times a day:

"What a lovely girl!"

And Nino would ask: "What girl?"

"Why, the girl that just passed us."

Nino had not seen her.

"But you must have seen her," insisted Nunziata.

No; Nino had not seen anybody. He never did. But Nunziata saw everyone.
Every uptilted profile, every golden head, every flower-like figure,
every curve of every young cheek, struck thorns and splinters into her
hurting heart. She wore her incredible gowns and her unverisimilar hats,
but they seemed strange and out of place in Switzerland; and the
brief-skirted, tennis-playing girls, passing in twos and threes in the
cruel June sunshine, with their arms round each other's waists, would
turn and look after her and smile.

Soon Nunziata felt that what had been a caprice for four years, while
she had had her rôles and her audiences, her impresarios and her
critics, her adorers and her enemies to distract her, was a caprice no
longer. What had been merely a _toquade_, to laugh at and to talk about,
was no more a _toquade_. The fire had flamed up, and was a
conflagration; it was, indeed, _la grande passion_. And Nino was alone
in her world. Nino was not Nino to her any more. He was youth itself, he
was love, he was life, he was all that she had had in the fulness of her
past, all that would soon slip from her for ever. And her heart grew
bitter, as does the heart of every woman who is older than the man she
loves. Her thirty-eight years were to her as a wound of shame.
Sometimes, when he looked at her, she would bend forward and put her
hands over his eyes. "Don't look at me! don't look at me!" And when he
laughed and drew her hands aside, she murmured: "Your eyes are my
enemies. I dread them." For she knew that his eyes would gaze upon and
desire all the beauty and the youngness of the world.

Late one afternoon they sat on their balcony, while an Italian orchestra
in the gardens beneath them played some Sicilian music that they loved.

Nunziata spoke her thought. "Are you not tiring of me, Nino? Oh, Nino!
are you sure you are not tiring of me yet?"

"Yet?" exclaimed Nino. "I shall never tire of you--never!"

"Ils faisaient d'éternels serments!..." murmured Nunziata, with a bitter
smile.

Nino grasped her white helpless hands. "Why will you not be happy?" he
said; for he knew her heart.

"I do not know," said Nunziata.

"You are unhappy. I feel it--I feel it all through the day, even when
you laugh," said Nino. "Would you be happier without me?"

"Neither with you nor without you can I live," said Nunziata.

The orchestra was playing Lola's song, and her soul was filled with the
hunger of the unattainable and the thirst of death; then, as it was
late, she got up with a little sigh, and having powdered her face and
patted her hair, and said a little prayer to the Madonna, she slipped
her arm through his, and they went down to dinner together.

"I promise I shall not be so foolish again!" she said. "It is absurd; it
is morbid!"

But after dinner a girl from Budapest was asked if she would dance. The
girl laughed and hesitated; then she vanished for a few minutes, during
which time Nunziata turned faint and sick. The girl reappeared,
barefooted and lightly draped; then she danced. She danced like the
incarnation of spring, and she looked like a blossom blown from the
almond-tree. And Nunziata was morbid again.

Nino was in despair. He looked gloomy, and sighed, and quoted Verlaine:

    "Mourons ensemble, voulez-vous?"

She laughed a little broken laugh, and quoted the succeeding line:

    "Oh! la folle idée!"

And she did not quite mean her laugh, as he did not quite mean his sigh.

Thus the two lovers toyed lightly with thoughts of the grave, while far
away, at the Grey House, Death had uncovered his face, and was knocking
at the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Avory had awakened one morning to find the last of her daughters
pale, with blood-stained lips, fighting for breath. A doctor, summoned
in haste, had said: "Davos!" A knighted specialist from London had
repeated: "Davos!"

In less than a week the house was dismantled, the trunks packed, the
servants dismissed. Fräulein, all tears, had migrated into an American
family staying in the neighbourhood; Valeria, pale and trembling, and
little Nancy, sobbing, and clinging to Edith's neck, had said "Good-bye,
good-bye!" and had left for Italy with Uncle Giacomo. The tragic mother
and daughter turned their steps to the mountains alone.



XI


Davos glistened clear and keen-cut in the winter sunshine, and Edith lay
on the southern terrace of the Belvedere, with a rug tucked round her
and a parasol over her head. She was happy. Her mother had just brought
her a letter from Nancy. Her little niece Nancy, waiting in
Italy--waiting just for a short time until Edith should be quite well
again--wrote a letter of love and longing, and told Edith to get well
quickly. Life without Edith, she wrote, was a horrid nightmare. Italy
without Edith was a green splash and a name on the map, but did not
really exist at all. Aunt Carlotta and Cousin Adèle were very kind
people with loud voices, but she did not understand them, and did not
want to understand them. All she wanted was to be with Edith again. She
had written two poems in Italian, which her mother said were better than
anything she had ever written before. And good-bye--and oh! let Edith
get well quickly, and let them be together in England again. There was a
tender postscript from Valeria telling her to be good and get well
quickly.

Yes, yes; Edith felt that she would get well quickly. Her temperature
was up, and the slight prickle of fever in her blood gave her a
sensation of eagerness, almost of hurry, as if she were hastening
through illness to health, and she felt gladly and intensely alive. She
pressed little Nancy's letter to her lips, and lay back in her chair.

Hers was the last but one of a long row of couches on the southern
terrace of the Belvedere. On either side of her were other reclining
figures. Next to her on the right was a Russian girl, a few years older
than herself, with a pinched and hectic face. On her left was Fritz
Klasen, a German, twenty-four years old, ruddy and broad-shouldered. His
blue eyes were open when Edith turned her face towards him.

"How do you like Davos?" he said.

Edith answered: "Very much," and the young man nodded and smiled.

The Russian girl opened her black eyes and looked at Edith. "Have you
just come up?" she asked.

Edith said: "Yes; we arrived three days ago. How long have you been
here?"

"Four years," said the girl, and shut her eyes again.

Edith turned her head to the young German, and exchanged with him a
pitying glance.

"And you?" she asked him.

"I have been here eight months. I am quite well. I am going home in
May."

The Russian opened her dark eyes again, but did not speak.

"Are you going to the dance to-night?" said the young man after a while.

"A dance? Where?" asked Edith.

"Here, in the hotel--in the big ball-room. We have a dance here every
Wednesday, and the Grand Hotel has one every Saturday. Great fun." And
he cleared his throat and hummed "La Valse Bleue."

Edith went into the ball-room that evening, and although she did not
dance, she enjoyed herself very much. Mrs. Avory repeatedly asked her if
she was tired. "No, mother--no." There was a wild feverish excitement
all round her that she felt and shared without understanding it--the
excitement of the _danse macabre_.

Fritz Klasen came to where she sat, and, striking his heels together,
introduced himself to her and to her mother.

"I had no idea Davos was so gay," said Mrs. Avory, raising her light
gentle eyes to the young man's face.

"Gayest place in the world," he said. "No time to mope."

A girl in strawberry silk came rushing to him. "Lancers," she said, and
took his arm. They went off hurriedly, sliding like children on the
polished floor.

"He does not look ill," said Mrs. Avory.

"Nor does she," said Edith.

"No one does." And the mother gazed at the laughing, dancing crowd, and
wondered if they all had within them the gnawing horror that she knew
was shut in her daughter's fragile breast.

"Have you noticed," she said, "that nobody coughs?"

"It is true," said Edith. "Nobody coughs."

After a short silence Mrs. Avory said: "Probably most of them are here
for the winter sports."

For a long time she believed this. Young faces with pink cheeks and
vivid eyes, and laughter, much laughter, surrounded her. There were
balls and concerts, routs and bazaars, and everywhere the vivid eyes,
and the pink cheeks, and the laughter. The only strange thing that Mrs.
Avory noticed about her new friends was that when she said good-night to
them, and shook hands with them, their hands were strange to the touch,
and gave her a little shock.

They were not like the hands of other people that one clasps and thinks
not of. "Good-night," to one. "What a hot hand!" she would think.
"Good-night," to another. "What a cold, moist hand!" Hands of fire, and
hands of ice; arid hands, that felt brittle to the touch; humid hands,
which made her palms creep; weak, wet hands, from which her own
recoiled. Each told their tragic tale. But the faces laughed, and the
feet danced, and nobody coughed.

Edith soon stopped coughing, too. The doctor had forbidden it. She
coughed in the night, when no one except her mother heard. The months
swung past, promising and not fulfilling, but promising again, and Edith
went to her fate submissive, with light tread.

One thing only tore at her soul--the longing to see Nancy. Nancy, Nancy,
Nancy! She would say the name to herself a hundred times a day, and
close her eyes to try and picture the little face, and the tuft of black
curls on the top of the buoyant head. Her feverish hands felt vacant and
aching for the touch of the soft, warm fingers she had held. Mrs. Avory
comforted her. In the spring, or at latest in the summer, Edith should
see Nancy again. Edith would be quite well in a month or two if she ate
many raw eggs and was brave.

So Edith ate raw eggs and was brave.

       *       *       *       *       *

Spring climbed up the five thousand feet and reached Davos at the end of
May. Fritz Klasen was leaving. He was going back to Leipzig.

"Good-bye, good-bye."

He walked round the verandah at the resting-hour, shaking hands with
everyone, saying, "Gute Besserung," and "Auf wiedersehen in
Deutschland," to two or three Germans.

When he reached the Russian girl she was asleep. But Edith said:
"Good-bye; I am so glad--I am so glad for you!"

When he had passed she saw that the Russian girl's eyes were open, and
fixed on her.

"Did you speak?" said Edith.

"No," said the Russian in her strange, empty voice; "I thought."

Edith smiled. "What did you think?"

"I thought, why do you lie?"

Edith sat up, flushing, and her breath went a little shorter. "What?"
she said.

Rosalia Antonowa kept her deep eyes on Edith's face.

"You said you were glad that he was going. Perhaps you meant it," she
said. "You are here so short a time; but in a year, in two years, or
four years, your lips will not be able to say that, and your heart will
turn sick when another goes away, and you know that you will never
go--never." Her bistre lids closed.

Edith tried to find something comforting to say to her.

"Davos is so beautiful, one ought not to mind. Surely you must love all
this blue and white loveliness--the mountains, and the snow, and the
sun."

"Oh, the mountains!" murmured Rosalia, with clenched teeth. "The
mountains, weighing on my breast, and the snow freezing and choking me,
and the sun blazing and blinding me. Oh!"--she raised her thin fist to
the towering immensity round her--"oh, this unspeakable, this monstrous
prison of death!"

Just then a Belgian girl passed, with pale lips and a tiny waist. She
stopped to ask Antonowa how she was.

"Ill," said the Russian curtly.

When the girl had passed she spoke again to Edith. "And you will know
what they mean when they ask you how you are. It is not the '_comment ça
va_?' of the rest of the world. No; here they mean it. They want to
know. 'How are you? Are you better? Are you getting better more quickly
than I am? Surely you are worse than I am! What! no hæmorrhage for a
month? No temperature? That is good.' And then you see the hatred
looking out of their eyes."

"Oh, I don't think so," said Edith.

The Russian kept silent for a while; then she said: "Klasen will come
back again. He is not cured. The doctor told him not to go. He will soon
come back again."

He came back four months later. Edith was pained to see how grey and
dull his face looked. Now he would have to stay two or three years more.
But he said he did not mind; he was happy.

He had been married a month, and his wife was with him. He introduced
his girl-wife to Edith and to Mrs. Avory on the day following his
arrival. She was a gentle blonde of nineteen, a blue-blooded flower of
German aristocracy, who had married Klasen against her parents' will.

"I shall cure him," she said.

The summer was magnificent. She went out a great deal for long walks and
steep climbs, and she sang at all parties and concerts, for she had a
lovely young voice, all trills and runs like a lark's. She would sit on
the verandah at resting-time beside her husband, and near Edith, for he
had his old place again, and then after a while she would kiss his
forehead and run off to pay calls, or to practise, or to drive down to
Klosters.

Klasen's bright blue eyes would follow her. The Russian from her couch
looked at him and read his thoughts. She read: "I married that I might
not be alone--alone with my ill and my terror in the night and in the
day--but I am still alone. When my wife is with me, and I cough, she
says: 'Poor darling!' When in the night I choke and perspire, she turns
in her sleep, and says: 'Poor darling!' and goes to sleep again. And I
am alone with my ill and my terror."

The Russian girl thought that Klasen's blue eyes burned with something
that was not all love.

After a time the girl-wife practised less, and paid fewer calls. She
said she had lost weight, and one day with her husband she went to see
the doctor.

Yes, there was something--oh, very slight, very slight!--at the apex of
the left lung. So a couch was brought out for her on the terrace near
her husband, and she rested in the afternoons with a rug tucked round
her and a parasol over her head.

Fritz held the little hand with the new wedding-ring still bright upon
it. When she coughed he said: "Poor darling!" And he was no more alone.
In the day-time they laughed, and were very cheerful; in the night
Fritz slept better; but his wife lay awake, and thought of her sister
and her two little brothers safely at home with her father and mother in
Berlin.

Sometimes holiday-makers and sport-lovers came up to Davos for a
fortnight or a month, especially in the winter. Mrs. Avory noticed that
they laughed much less than the invalids did. When they hurried through
the lounge with their skates and skis, Klasen would say:

"See how they overdo things. They wear themselves out skiing, skating,
curling, bobsleighing. Yes," he would add, nodding to his wife and to
Edith, "almost everyone who comes here as a sportsman returns here as an
invalid."

His little laugh made Edith shiver. Sometimes the girl-wife would bend
forward. "See, Fritz; two more have arrived to-day!"

"Do you think they are tourists?"

"Oh no, no; they are ill." And in the young eyes that gazed upon the
new-comers was no sorrow.

       *       *       *       *       *

The months and the years swung round, and Edith passed along them with
light and ever lighter tread. And still and always the longing for Nancy
tore at her heart with poisoned teeth. Every hour of her day was bitter
with longing for the sound of the childish voice, the touch of the soft,
warm hand. She sometimes thought: "If I were dying, Valeria would let
Nancy come here to say good-bye." Then again she thought:

"If Nancy came I should recover. I cannot eat enough now to get strong
because I am so often near to crying; but if Nancy were here I should
not cry. I should eat much more; I should not feel so sad; I should go
out for walks with her. I know I should recover...."

But Nancy was in Italy in the house of Aunt Carlotta and Cousin Adèle,
and Edith's letters were not given to her, lest the paper over which
Edith had bent should carry poison in its love-laden pages.

Nancy now spoke Italian and wrote Italian poems. She went out for walks
with Adèle, and Adèle held the soft, warm hand and heard the sweet
treble voice. Adèle kept the house quiet and the meals waiting when
Nancy was writing; and when Nancy frowned and passed her hand across her
forehead with the little quick gesture she often used, Adèle laughed her
loud Milanese laugh that drove all the butterfly-thoughts away. Adèle
tidied Nancy's things and threw away the dried primroses Edith had
picked with her in the Hertfordshire woods, and gave the string of blue
beads Edith had put round Nancy's neck the day she left for Davos to the
hall-porter's child, and she tore up all the poems Nancy had written in
England, because they were old things that nobody could understand.

Thus, as the months and the years swung round, Edith went from Nancy's
memory. Softly, slowly, with light tread, the girl-figure passed from
her recollection and was gone; for children and poets are forgetful and
selfish, and a child who is a poet is doubly selfish, and doubly
forgetful.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Nancy was fifteen, Zardo, the Milan publisher, accepted her first
book--"A Cycle of Lyrics." By the post that brought the first proofs to
the little poet came also a letter, black-edged, from Switzerland, for
her mother.

"Mother, mother!" cried Nancy, drawing the printed pages from the large
envelope, and shaking them out before her, "Look, the proofs, the
proofs! This is my book, my own book!"

And she lifted all the rough sheets to her face and kissed them.

But Valeria had opened the black-edged letter, and was gazing at it,
pale, with tears in her eyes.

"Nancy," she said, "Edith is dead."

"Oh, mother dear!" exclaimed Nancy, "I am so sorry!" And she bent over
her mother and kissed her. Then she went back to her proofs and turned
over the first page.

"She died on Thursday morning," sobbed Valeria. "And oh, Nancy, she
loved you so!"

But Nancy had not heard. Before her lay her first printed poem. The
narrow verses on the wide white sheet looked to her like a slender
pathway.

And along this pathway went Nancy with starry matutinal eyes, beyond the
reach of love and the call of Death, leading her dreams far out past the
brief arch of Fame, into the shining plains of Immortality.



XII


So Valeria had her wish. Her child was a genius, and a genius recognized
and glorified as only Latin countries glorify and recognize their own.
Nancy stepped from the twilight of the nursery into the blinding uproar
of celebrity, and her young feet walked dizzily on the heights. She was
interviewed and quoted, imitated and translated, envied and adored. She
had as many enemies as a Cabinet Minister, and as many inamorati as a
_première danseuse_.

To the Signora Carlotta's tidy apartment in Corso Venezia came all the
poets of Italy. They sat round Nancy and read their verses to her, and
the criticisms of their verses, and their answers to the criticisms.
There were tempestuous poets with pointed beards, and successful poets
with turned-up moustaches; there were lonely, unprinted poets, and
careless, unwashed poets; there was also a poet who stole an umbrella
and an overcoat from the hall. Aunt Carlotta said it was the Futurist,
but Adèle felt sure it was the Singer of the Verb of Magnificent
Sterility, the one with the red and evil eyes.

Soon came a letter from Rome bearing the arms of the royal house. Her
Majesty the Queen desired to hear Giovanna Desiderata read her poems at
the Quirinal at half-past four o'clock of next Friday afternoon.

The house was in a flutter. Everywhere and at all hours, in the
intervals of packing trunks, Aunt Carlotta, Adèle, Valeria, and Nancy
practised deep curtseying and kissing of hand, and wondered if they had
to say "Your Majesty" every time they spoke, or only casually once or
twice. They started for Rome at once. A gorgeous dress and plumed hat
was bought for Nancy, a white veil was tied for the first time over her
childish face, and in very tight white gloves, holding the small volume
of her poems, she went with trembling heart--accompanied by Valeria,
Carlotta, and Adèle in large feather boas--to the Quirinal.

A gentle-voiced, simply-gowned lady-in-waiting received them, and smiled
a little as she explained that only Nancy was expected and could be
received. Nancy was then told to remove her veil and her right-hand
glove. Carlotta, Valeria, and Adèle embraced her as if she were leaving
them for a week, and made the sign of the cross on her forehead; then
the lady-in-waiting conducted her through a succession of yellow rooms,
of blue rooms, of red rooms, into the white and gold room where the
Queen awaited her.

More gentle-voiced and more simply gowned than her lady-in-waiting, the
Queen, standing beside a table laden with flowers, moved to meet the
little figure in the huge plumed hat. Nancy forgot the practised curtsey
and the rehearsed salute. She clasped and held the gracious hand
extended to her, and suddenly, as the awed, childish eyes filled with
tears, the Queen bent forward and kissed her....

It was late and almost dark when Nancy returned, dream-like, with pale
lips, to her mother, her aunt, and her cousin, who were having a nervous
meal of sandwiches and wines with a gentleman in uniform standing
beside them, and two powdered footmen waiting on them. They all three
hurriedly put on their boas as soon as Nancy appeared, and they left,
escorted and bowed out by the gentleman in uniform. "Probably the Duke
of Aosta," said Aunt Carlotta vaguely. Another powdered footman
conducted them to the royal automobile in which they returned to the
hotel.

Nancy was disappointing in her description of everything. She sat in the
dusky carriage with her eyes shut, holding her mother's hand. She could
not tell Aunt Carlotta what she had eaten. Tea? Yes, tea. And cakes?
Yes, cakes. But what kind of cakes, and what else? She did not remember.
And she could not tell Adèle how the Queen was dressed. In white? No,
not in white. Was it silk? She did not know. What rings did the Queen
wear, and what brooch? Nancy could not remember. And had she said "Your
Majesty" to her, or "Signora"? Nancy did not know. Neither, she thought.
Then her mother asked timidly: "Did she like your poems?" And Nancy
tightened the clasp on her mother's hand and said, "Yes."

Carlotta and Adèle were convinced that Nancy had made a fiasco of the
visit and of the reading. She had blundered over the greeting, and had
forgotten to say "Maestà." But they talked to everybody in the hotel
about their afternoon at the Quirinal, and pretended not to be surprised
when the hall-porter brought to them at the luncheon-table a packet
containing three pictures of the Queen with her signature, one for each;
and for Nancy a jewel-case, with crown and monogram, containing a brooch
of blue enamel with the royal initial in diamonds.

Nancy bought a diary, and wrote on the first page the date and a
name--the name of a flower, the name of the Queen.

       *       *       *       *       *

They returned to Milan in a dream. A crowd of friends awaited them at
the station, foremost among them Zio Giacomo, shorter of breath and
quicker of temper than ever, and beside him the returned prodigal, Nino,
who had never been seen and seldom been heard of for the past eight
years. Adèle turned crimson, and Valeria turned white as the
well-remembered dark eyes smiled at them from the handsome, sunburnt
face; and Nino turned up his moustache and helped them to alight from
the train, and kissed them all loudly on both cheeks. Nancy did not
remember him at all. She looked at him gravely while he rapidly
described to her a pink pinafore she used to wear in England eight years
ago, and a Punch-and-Judy show, stage-managed by a Fräulein Something or
other, and a dimple just like her mother's that she then possessed.
Immediately the dimple reappeared, dipping sweetly in the young curved
cheek, and Valeria smiled with tears in her eyes and kissed Nancy. Then
Nino kissed Valeria and kissed Nancy, and then he kissed Adèle, too, who
was acidly looking on. At last Zio Giacomo, growing very impatient,
hurried them off the crowded platform and into cabs and carriages. They
drove home, Nino crushing in at the last moment with Valeria, Carlotta,
and Nancy. He did not ask about the Queen, nor did he tell them anything
about his own long absence; but he quoted Baudelaire and Mallarmé to
them all the way home in a low resonant voice broken by the jolts of the
carriage. He did not quote Nancy's poems. "They are sacrosanct," he
said. "My lips are unworthy." Then he drifted into Richepin:

    "Voici mon sang et ma chair,
    Bois et mange!"

he said, looking straight before him at Valeria. And Valeria turned pale
again, uselessly, hopelessly; for the eyes that looked at her did not
see her.

Zio Giacomo and Nino stayed with them to dinner, and two of the poets, a
successful one and an unwashed one, came later in the evening.

"What do you think of D'Annunzio?" asked Nino of Nancy, when the poets
had stopped a moment to take breath.

"I have not read him. I have read nobody and nothing," said Nancy.

"That is right," cried Marvasi, the unwashed, nodding his rusty head and
clapping his dusty fingers. "Read nothing, and retain your originality."

"Read everything," cried Cesare Raffaelli, "and cultivate form."

During the discussion that followed, the din of the two poets' voices
built a wall of solitude round Nino and Nancy.

"How old are you?" asked Nino, looking at her mild forehead, where the
dark eyebrows lay over her light grey eyes like quiet wings.

"Sixteen," said Nancy; and the dimple dipped.

Nino did not return her smile. "Sixteen!" he said. And because his eyes
were used to the line of a fading cheek and the bitterness of a tired
mouth, his heart fell, love-struck and conquered, before Nancy's cool
and innocent youth. It was inevitable.

"Sixteen!" he repeated, looking at her, grave and wondering. "Is anybody
in the world sixteen?"

And it was not the inspired author of the poems over which half Italy
raved, but the little girl with the wing-like eyebrows, that his wonder
went to; and it was the chilly little hand of the maiden, not the pulse
of the poet, that shook his heart loose from those other white,
well-remembered hands, where the blue veins, soft and slightly turgid,
marked the slower course of the blood--those sad blue veins which moved
his pity and strangled his desire.

"May I call you by your right name?" he asked. "'Nancy' seems
so--geographical."

Nancy laughed. "Call me as you will."

"_Desiderata_" he said slowly, and the colour left his face as he
pronounced it.

That evening Nancy wrote on the second page of her diary the date, and a
name; then she scratched the name out again, and the Queen remained in
the book alone.

Every morning since the visit to the Quirinal Nancy's chocolate and her
letters were brought in to her at eight o'clock by Adèle herself, who
regarded it now as an office of honour to wait on the little Sappho of
Italy. She came in, in dressing-gown and slippers, with her long black
hair in a plait, and placed the dainty tray by Nancy's bed; then she
opened the shutters and came back to sit beside Nancy, and open her
correspondence for her. Nancy the while, like a lazy princess, sipped
her chocolate, with her little finger in the air. Newspaper cuttings
about Nancy were read first; requests for autographs were carefully put
aside for Adèle to answer. Adèle said that she could write Nancy's
autograph more like Nancy than Nancy herself. Then poems and
love-letters were read and commented upon with peals of laughter--and
business letters were put aside and not read at all.

So many people came and spoke to Nancy of what she had written that she
had no time to write anything new. But her brain was stimulated by all
the modernists and symbolists and futurists who recited their works to
her; and in the long lamp-lit evenings, while Aunt Carlotta was playing
briscola with Zio Giacomo, Nino read Carducci's "Odi Barbare" to the
three listening women--Valeria, Adèle, and Nancy--who sat in their large
armchairs with drooping lids and folded hands, like a triptichi of the
seasons of love.

Valeria always sat a little apart in the shadow, and if anyone spoke to
her she replied softly and smiled wanly. Valeria's dimple had slipped
into a little line on her cheek. Valeria herself was not Valeria any
more. She was Nancy's mother. She had moved back into the shadow, where
mothers sit with kind eyes that no one gazes into, and sweet mouths that
no one kisses, and white hands that bless and renunciate. The baby had
pushed her there. Gently, inexorably, with the first outstretching of
the tiny fist, with the first soft pressure of the pink fragile fingers
against the maternal breast, the child had pushed the mother from her
place in the sunlight--gently, inexorably, out of love, out of joy, out
of life--into the shadow where mothers sit with eyes whose tears no one
kisses away, with heart-beats that no one counts. Nancy sooner than
others had taken her own high place in the sun; for if most children are
like robin redbreasts, slayers of their old, Genius, the devourer, is
like an eagle that springs full-fledged, with careless, devastating
wings, from the nest of a dove.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Nancy," cried Adèle, bursting into her cousin's room one afternoon,
"here is an Englishman to see you. Come quickly. I cannot understand a
word he says."

"Oh, send mother to him," said Nancy. "I have forgotten all my English.
Besides, I must read this noxious Gabriele to the end."

"Your mother has gone out. Do come!" And Adèle gave Nancy's hair a
little pull on each side and a pat on the top, and hurried her to the
drawing-room, where the Englishman was waiting. He rose, a
stern-looking, clean-shaven man, with friendly eyes in a hard face.

Nancy put out her hand and said: "Buon giorno."

He answered: "How do you do? My Italian is very poor. May I speak
English?"

Nancy dimpled. "You may speak it, but I may not understand it," she
said.

But she understood him. He had written a critical essay on her book,
with prose translations of some of the lyrics, and wished to close the
article with an _aperçu_ of her literary aims and intentions. What work
was she doing at present! What message----?

"Nothing," said Nancy, with a little helpless Latin gesture of her
hands. "I am doing nothing."

"_Peccato!_" said the Englishman. And he added: "I mean your Italian
word in both senses--a pity and a sin."

Nancy nodded, and looked wistful.

"Why are you not working?" asked her visitor severely.

Nancy repeated the little helpless gesture. "I don't know," she said;
then she smiled. "In Italy we talk so much. We say all the beautiful
things we might write. That is why Italian literature is so poor, and
Italian cafés so interesting. As for our thoughts, when we have said
them they are gone--blown away like the fluff of the dandelions I used
to tell the time by when I was a little girl in England."

That childish reminiscence brought her very near to him, and he told her
about his mother and his younger sister, who lived in Kent, in an
old-fashioned house in the midst of a great garden.

"You make me homesick for England," said Nancy.

Mr. Kingsley looked pleased. "Do you remember England?" he asked.

"No," said Nancy; "I am always homesick for things that I have
forgotten, or for things that I never have known." And she smiled, but
in her eyes wavered the nostalgic loneliness of the dreamer's soul.

The Englishman cleared his throat, and said in a practical voice: "I
hope that you will work very hard, and do great things."

       *       *       *       *       *

She tried to. She got up early the next morning, and wrote in her diary,
"_Incipit vita nova!_" and she made an elaborate time-table for every
hour of the day; then she made a list of the things she intended to
write--subjects and ideas that had stirred in her mind for months past,
but had been scattered by distracting visits, dispersed in futile
conversations. She felt impatient and happy and eager. On the large
white sheet of paper which lay before her, like a wonderful unexplored
country full of resplendent possibilities, she traced with reverent
forefinger the sign of the cross.

Some one knocked at the door. It was Clarissa della Rocca, Nino's
married sister, tall, trim, and sleek in magnificent clothes.

"_Mes amours!_" she exclaimed, embracing Nancy, and pressing her long
chin quickly against Nancy's cheek. "Do put on your hat and come for a
drive with me. Aldo has come from America. He is downstairs in the
stanhope. He is trying my husband's new sorrels, and so, of course, I
insisted on going with him. Now I am frightened, and I have nobody to
scream to and to catch hold of."

"Catch hold of Aldo, whoever he may be," said Nancy, laughing.

"He is my brother-in-law. But I can't," said Clarissa, waving
explanatory mauve-gloved hands; "he is driving. Besides, he is horribly
cross. Have you never seen him? He is Carlo's youngest brother. Do come.
He will be much nicer if you are there."

"But he does not know me," said Nancy, still with her pen in her hand.

"That's why. He is always nice to people he does not know. Come quickly,
_ma chérie_. He is _ravissant_. He has been to America on a wild and
lonely ranch in Texas. He speaks English and German, and he sings like
an angel. Make yourself beautiful, _mon chou aimé_."

Nancy slipped into a long coat, and pinned a large hat on her head
without looking in the glass.

Clarissa watched her from out of her long careful eyelids, and said:
"Mon Dieu!" Then she asked suddenly: "How young are you?"

"Nearly seventeen," said Nancy, looking for her gloves.

"What luck!" sighed Clarissa. "And you are sure you won't mind if I
pinch you? I must! The near horse rears."

Then they ran downstairs together, where Aldo della Rocca sat, holding
the two impatient sorrels in with shortened reins. He was flicking at
their ears and making them plunge with curved, angry necks and frothing
mouths. He was certainly _ravissant_. His profile, as Nancy saw it
against the blue June sky, was like Praxiteles' Hermes. His glossy hair
gleamed blue-black as he raised his hat with a sweeping gesture that
made Nancy smile. Then they were seated behind him, and the puissant
horses shot off down the Corso and towards the Bastioni at a magnificent
pace. Clarissa shrieked a little now and then when she remembered to,
but Aldo did not seem to hear her, so she soon desisted.

"Is he not seraphically beautiful?" she said to Nancy, pointing an
ecstatic forefinger at her brother-in-law's slim back. "I often say to
Carlo: 'Why, why did I meet you first, and not your Apolline brother?'"

Nancy smiled. "But surely he is rather young."

"He is twenty-four, you little stinging-nettle," said Clarissa; "and he
has been so much petted and adored by all the women of Naples that he
might be a thousand."

"How horrid!" said Nancy, looking disdainfully at the unwitting back
before her, at the shining black hair above the high white collar, and
at the irreproachable hat sitting correctly on the top of it all.

"Oh yes, he is horrid," said Clarissa; "but how visually delectable!"

Aldo della Rocca turned his profile towards them. "I shall take you
along the Monza road," he said.

"Oh," cried Clarissa, "such an ugly old road, where no one will see us."

"I am driving the horses out to-day," said her brother-in-law, "not your
Paris frocks." And he turned away again, and took the road towards
Monza at a spanking gait.

"Il est si spirituel!" laughed Clarissa, who bubbled over into French at
the slightest provocation. The straight, white, dusty road, bordered
with poplars, stretched its narrowing line before them, and the sorrels
went like the wind. Suddenly, as they were nearing the first
ugly-looking houses of Sesto, the driver checked suddenly, and the
ladies bent forward to see why. A hundred paces before them, struggling
and swaying, now on the side-walk, now almost in the middle of the road,
were two women and a man. Some children standing near a door shrieked,
but the struggling, scuffling group uttered no sound. Nancy stood up.
The man, whose hat had fallen in the road--one could see his dishevelled
hair and red face--had wrenched one arm loose from the clutch of the
women, and with a quick gesture drew from his pocket something that the
sun glanced on.

"He has a knife or a pistol!" gasped Nancy.

The struggling women had seen it, too, and now they shrieked, clutching
and grappling with him, and screaming for help.

Nancy thrust her small, strong hands forward. "I can hold the horses,"
she said, and seized the reins from Della Rocca's fingers.

He turned and looked at her in surprise. "Why, what----?" And he
stopped.

She read the doubt in his face, and read it wrong.

"I can--I can!" she cried. "Go quickly! We shall be all right!"

He twisted his mouth in curious fashion; then he jumped from his seat,
and ran in light leaps across the road. The man was holding the
revolver high out of the women's reach, while they clung to him and held
him frantically, convulsively, crying: "Help! Madonna! Help!"

Della Rocca reached him in an instant, and wrenched the short revolver
away. With a quick gesture he opened the barrel and shook the cartridges
out upon the ground. He tossed the weapon to one of a dozen men who had
now come hurrying out of a neighbouring wine-shop, and, running lightly
across the dusty road, he was back at the side of the carriage in an
instant. He glanced up at Nancy, and raised his hat again with the
exaggerated sweep that had caused her to smile before.

"Pardon me for keeping you waiting," he said.

"Ah, _quel poseur!_" cried Clarissa, who had sat with her eyes shut,
holding her ears during the excitement.

Della Rocca smiled, and, jumping into his place, took the reins from
Nancy's strained and trembling hands. She dropped back in her seat
feeling faint and excited. The horses plunged and started forward again.

"What courage!" said Clarissa, taking Nancy's fingers in her own.

"Yes," said Nancy, looking with approval at the straight, slim shoulders
and the black hair and the irreproachable hat. "I like a brave man."

Clarissa gave one of her little Parisian shrieks.

"_Ouiche!_ it is not Aldo--it is you who are brave! Aldo is as cautious
as a hare, but, being a preposterous _poseur_, he would not miss an
effect for worlds!" And Clarissa flourished an imaginary hat in the
Della Rocca style.

Nancy laughed, and believed not a word about the hare.

When they left her at her door she answered his sweeping salutation with
a serious little nod; she ran up the stairs hurriedly, and into her
room. On her writing-table lay an unopened letter from Nino; he wrote to
her every morning and called on her every afternoon.

Nancy did not glance at it. She ran out on to the balcony. But the
stanhope had already turned out of sight.

Nancy stepped back into her room and slowly drew off her gloves. For
some unexplained reason she was glad that her wrists still ached, and
that her fingers were bruised by the dragging of the hard, stiff reins.

From the open balcony the wind blew into the room, and scattered the
papers on her writing-table. It blew away Nino's letter; it blew away
the elaborate time-table she had drawn up and the lists of the work she
was to do; it blew away the large white sheet of paper--the fair sheet
full of resplendent possibilities--on which she had traced with reverent
finger the sign of the cross.



XIII


When the Englishman called again to bring her a copy of the
_Fortnightly_ with the article on "An Italian Lyrist," he found that she
had not worked at all; she looked as sweet and helpless and idle as
ever, and the room was full of visitors. He was introduced to her
mother, whom he found gentle and subdued, and to the vigorous,
loud-voiced Aunt Carlotta, and to all the poets.

"I am afraid, mother dear," said Nancy, leaning her billowy head against
her mother's arm and looking up at her new friend with May-morning eyes,
"that Mr. Kingsley will think I have no character."

"You have a complexion," interposed Aunt Carlotta. "That is enough for a
girl."

Valeria laughed. "It is true. Italian girls must not have characters
until they marry. Then their husbands make it for them, according to
their own tastes."

Mr. Kingsley smiled down at Nancy. "Why should I think you have no
character?"

"Because you told me to work. And I promised; and I have not," said
Nancy.

"Have you done nothing at all since I saw you?" he asked.

Nancy shook her head.

"And have you no thoughts, no ideas that urge for expression?"

"Oh yes!" said Nancy, waving eloquent, impatient fingers. "Ideas
and thoughts grow and bloom and blow in my mind like flowers in a
garden. Then all these people come and talk to me.... Alas," she sighed,
looking round the murmuring, laughing room, "in the evening my garden is
barren, for I have cut all my flowers and given them away."

The Englishman forgot that he was English, and said what he thought:

"I wish I could carry you off, and lock you up for a year, with nothing
but books and a table and an inkstand," he said.

"I wish you could," laughed Nancy, clasping eager hands. "I should love
it. Not a soul would be allowed to speak to me. And I should have my
meals passed in through the window."

The Englishman laughed the sudden laugh of one who laughs seldom. "And I
should walk up and down outside with a gun."

Nancy looked at him, and a quick, shy thought, like a bird darting into
an open window, entered her mind for an instant. Surely it would be good
to have this strong, kind sentinel between herself and the world; to
feel the light firmness of his touch on her shoulder keeping her to her
work--to the work she loved, and yet was willing to neglect at the call
of every passing voice. This stern, fair countenance would face the
world for her; these strong shoulders would carry her burdens; these
candid eyes would look into her soul and keep it clear and bright.

Then the bird-thought flew out of the window of her mind, for the door
opened and love and destiny came in. It was Aldo della Rocca, more than
ever visually delectable.

With him came his sister-in-law Clarissa, and Nino. Nino looked
depressed and dreary; La Villari was writing to him; his conscience was
harassing him; Aldo della Rocca's self-confident beauty irritated him.

"What, Nino! Here again?" said Nancy, with a laugh. "You said last night
that henceforward you would never come to see us more than twice a
week."

"That's right," said Nino. "Yesterday was the last visit of last week,
and this is the first visit of this week. Besides, Della Rocca told me
he was coming, so I felt that I had to come too. Of course, I did all I
could to shake him off, but he is as persistent and adhesive as one of
his compatriot cab-drivers in Santa Lucia. So that is why I could not
come alone."

"How confusing!" said Nancy, turning to greet Della Rocca.

Della Rocca smiled; and his smile was sudden and brilliant, as if a row
of lights had been lit at the back of his eyes.

He bent over Nancy's proffered hand. "Signora--your slave!" he said in
ceremonious Southern fashion.

Clarissa's high voice rang out. "He has been reading your poems day and
night, Nancy. And he has put them to music. Glorious! Quite à la Richard
Strauss or Tosti or Hugo Wolff! He must sing them to you."

Then she sailed round, greeting the poets, many of whom she knew. The
Englishman was introduced as the Signor Kingsley, and Clarissa asked him
many questions about London, and did not wait to hear what he answered,
but went off with Adèle and Aunt Carlotta to a French lecture on
"Napoléon et les Femmes." The poets, as soon as they had had vermouth
and biscottini di Novara, also went away.

Then Della Rocca seated himself at the piano, and, preluding softly,
strayed from harmony to harmony into the songs he had composed for
Nancy. He played with his head bent forward and his soft hair falling
darkly over half his face, making him look like a younger brother of
Velasquez's Christ. He had the musical talent of a Neapolitan street-boy
and the voice of an angel who had studied singing in Germany. Nancy felt
happy tears welling into her eyes, and Della Rocca's clear-cut,
down-curving profile wavered before her gaze.

The Signor Kingsley sat silent in his corner near the window. Valeria
was in the shadow with some quiet work in her hand, and Nino, who was
sulky and bored, smoked cigarette after cigarette and yawned.

Nancy bent forward with clasped hands, listening to her own words, the
lovelier for their garb of music as children are more lovely when
clothed in shimmering robes and crowned with roses. She had sent her
thoughts out into the world, in their innocent and passionate
immaturity, bare and wild. And, behold, he brought them back to her
veiled in silver minor keys, borne on palanquins of rhythmic harmonies,
regal, measured, stately, like the young sisters of a queen.

Mr. Kingsley's mouth tightened as he watched the back of the singer's
black head nodding to the music, and listened to the soft tenor voice
rolling over the "r's" and broadening on the mellow "a's" of the tender
Italian words. He felt his own good English baritone contracting in his
throat, and he wondered what made "these Latin idiots" sing as they did.
Then he glanced at Nancy, who had closed her eyes, and at Nino, who was
in the rocking-chair staring at the ceiling; and suddenly he felt that
he must take his leave. He rose at the end of the cycle of songs, and
Nancy turned to him with vague eyes to say good-bye. His kind clear gaze
rested on her face.

"Do not cut all your flowers," he said.

Nancy shook her head. "No, no!" she said. "I won't. I really won't."

"Remember that your masterpiece is before you, and the little poems are
done with. Lock your doors. Shut out the world, and start on a new work
to-morrow."

Nancy said, "Yes, yes, I will." Then an absent look stole over her light
eyes. "Ah! _der Musikant!_" she cried, turning to Della Rocca, who was
singing in German, and pronouncing as if it were Genovese. "I remember
that. Is it not Eichendorff?"

"'Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts,'" said Della Rocca.

"Oh, do you really speak German? I love people who speak German," cried
Nancy, on whom the German poet's spell still rested.

"I learned it at Göttingen," said Della Rocca, with his illuminating
smile.

"Ach, de Stadt die am schönsten ist wenn man sie mit dem Rücken
ansieht," quoted Nancy, laughing.

Della Rocca laughed too, although he did not understand what she had
said; then he turned to the piano again.

Nancy felt happy and inclined to kindness. "Do not go yet," she said to
Mr. Kingsley. "Sit down and talk to me."

But Mr. Kingsley knew better. Della Rocca's melting notes were drawing
the girl's thoughts away again, and he could notice the little shiver
creep round her face, leaving it slightly paler, as the silver tenor
voice took a high A in falsetto and held it long and pianissimo.

"I will come again some day, if I may," he said. "But I almost hope that
I shall find your doors locked."

Again the bird-thought came fluttering into the window of Nancy's mind,
as the Englishman's strong hand closed firm and warm round hers.

Then the door was shut on Mr. Paul Kingsley, and the thought flew away
and was gone.

"Who is that conceited fool of an Englishman?" said Nino, who felt cross
and liked to show it.

Nancy flushed. "Please don't speak like that about Englishmen. My father
was English." Then she added, with a little toss of her head: "And he
was not a bit of a conceited fool."

"I never said he was," said Nino.

"Oh!" gasped Nancy, "you did!"

"I said nothing of the kind," declared Nino. "Your father was a good and
noble man."

"You know I was not talking of my father," said Nancy.

"No more was I," said Nino.

Nancy turned to Della Rocca, who was preluding carelessly with smooth
fingers and all his smiles alight.

"Nino always cavils and confuses until one does not know what one is
talking about!"

Della Rocca nodded. "That is just what his celebrated friend, Nunziata
Villari, said about him when I saw her in Naples. By the way, Nino,"--he
ran up a quick scale of fourths and let them fall in a minor arpeggio
like tumbling water--"they say La Villari tried to commit suicide last
month. Locked herself up with a brazier of coke, like a love-sick
grisette. Did you hear about it?"

"No," said Nino, "I did not." Then he looked long, mildly, fixedly at
Della Rocca, who after a moment got up and said good-bye.

When he had left, Nancy said to Nino: "Who is La Villari? And why did
she try to kill herself? La Villari! I thought that was an actress who
had died a hundred years ago."

Nino took her hand. "You don't know anything, Nancy," he said. "You
don't even know that you are a vulture and a shark."

Nancy laughed. "Yes, but who is La Villari?"

"She is someone you have devoured," said Nino.

And, remembering the brazier of coke, he left for Naples by the next
train; for, though he had a nose of putty, he had a heart of gold.



XIV


During the long, dreary journey in an empty carriage of the slow train
Nino fought his battles and chastened his soul. He set his conscience on
the empty seat before him and looked it in the face. The desires of his
heart sat near him, and took his part. His conscience had a dirty face
that irritated him; his desires were fair as lilies and had high treble
voices that spoke loud. His conscience said nothing, only sat there
showing its dirty face and irritating him.

By the time Bologna was reached the lilies had it all their own way.
After all he was young--well, comparatively young; thirty-one is young
for a man--and he had his life before him, while Nunziata--well, she had
lived her life. And she had had eight years of his: the eight best
years, for after all at thirty-one a man is not young--well, not so
young. His conscience was staring at him, so he changed argument.
Nunziata did not really love him any more, she had told him so a hundred
times during the last two years; it was a burden, a chain of misery to
them both. She had herself begged him to leave her after one of those
well-remembered, never-ending scenes that were always occurring since
she had finally abandoned the theatre for his sake.

She had said: "Go! I implore you to go! I cannot live like this any
longer! For my sake, go!" So it was really in order to please her that
he had gone.

The face of his conscience opposite him was looking dirtier than ever.
But the treble voices of his desires rang shrill: "He must not forget
his duties to himself and to others. He had a duty to his father, who
longed to have him near him, settled happily and normally; he had a duty
to Valeria, who----" Here he quickly changed argument again. "He had a
duty to Nancy, to little, innocent, wonderful Nancy, who understood
nothing of the world; she must be saved from designing knaves, from
struggling _littérateurs_ and poets who would like to marry her and use
her vogue in order to scramble up to a reputation, from the professional
_beau jeune homme_ like Aldo, who would break her heart.... It really
was his duty----" The train slowed, shivered, and stopped. He was glad
to get out, and rush to a hurried supper in the buffet, because the ugly
face opposite him was more than he could stand.

All through the night in the slow train to Rome he fought his battles
and chastened his soul, and the little ugly face said not a word, but
looked at him.

When day dawned he had broken the lilies, and they lay, whiter than
before, at his feet. And the face of his conscience was clean. When Rome
was reached, where he had three hours to wait for the Naples express, he
hurried into the telegraph-office and sent a message to Nunziata:

"Arriving this evening at nine. Forgive. Yours for ever, NINO."

Then, just as he was getting into the hotel omnibus, he learned that a
special excursion train was leaving for Naples at once. He could arrive
four hours sooner. He hastened back into the station, caught the train,
and was already approaching Naples when La Villari received his
telegram.

La Villari had just begun her luncheon, and the _spaghetti al burro e
formaggio_ lay in a goodly heap of pale gold on her plate. She had just
put her fork into them and begun to turn it round and round, when Teresa
came in excitedly.

"A telegram, Illustrissima," she said.

La Villari opened the telegram. "Misericordia!" she said. "He is coming
back."

Teresa cleaned her hands on her apron. What? The Signorino? He was
returning?

"Yes, to-night. At nine o'clock," sighed La Villari.

Well, let the Illustrissima not allow the spaghetti to get cold. And
Teresa sighed also, as she left the room and hustled the telegraph-boy
off without giving him a tip.

They had been so happy without the Signorino. They had had such quiet,
comfortable meals. The Illustrissima had had no nerves, no convulsions,
but a good appetite and a pleasant temper. Now it would all begin again:
the excitements, the tempers of the Illustrissima; the dinner left to
get cold while the Illustrissima and the Signorino quarrelled; the
rushings out of the Signorino; the tears of the Illustrissima; the
telephone messages; the visitors and relations to argue with and console
the Illustrissima; then the returnings of the Signorino; and supper for
everybody in the middle of the night. It was not a life.

Teresa brought in the auburn cutlet a la Milanese. There! already it was
beginning. The Illustrissima had not eaten the spaghetti!

"Do not bother me with the spaghetti," said the Illustrissima, who
already had the nerves. "Let us think about this evening."

"Yes," said Teresa. "Shall we have vol-au-vent that His Excellency
likes?"

"Oh, do not bother me with vol-au-vent!" cried the Illustrissima. "Do
you not understand that he must not find us like this?"

"Vossignoria will put on the blue crêpe-de-chine gown," said Teresa;
"and I will order the coiffeuse for six o'clock."

Yes, yes; but that was not sufficient. Nino must not find her sitting
there waiting for him, as if she had no one in the world but him.

"Go away, Teresa, go away! I must think," she said. And Teresa went to
her kitchen grumbling.

La Villari's views of life and her manner of dealing with situations
were according to Sardou, Dumas, or D'Annunzio. Nino must either find
her supine in a darkened room, with etiolated cheeks and blue shadows
under her spent eyes; or then, after his arrival, she must enter, coming
from some brilliant banquet, rose-crowned and laughing. She sees him!
She vacillates. Her jewelled hand clutches at her heart. "_Nino!_"--and
he is at her feet.... Then he makes her a scene of jealousy. Where has
she been? With whom? Where was she when his telegram arrived? Who sends
her all these flowers? Pah! He throws them out of the window--and all is
as it should be.

As it happened, there were no flowers in the room. So La Villari rang
the bell and told Teresa to order fifty francs worth of white roses and
tuberoses from the florist, to be brought as soon as possible, and the
hair-dresser for six o'clock, and the brougham for seven.

"And, Teresa!..."

Teresa turned back with a dreary face.

"Remember that it was you who opened the telegram. I was out. I am
always out. With many people, you understand."

Yes, Teresa understood. And with callous back and shuffling shoes she
went away to order the flowers, and the brougham, and the hair-dresser.

La Villari unpinned her hair, put the greater part of it neatly on the
dressing-table in readiness for the coiffeuse, rubbed a little lanoline
round her eyes, and settled herself with Matilde Serao's "Indomani" to
one more peaceful afternoon.

Love was not peaceful, it was agitating and uncomfortable; and keeping
up the pretence of being twenty-eight when one is forty-five is a labour
and a toil. Of course, she adored Nino; the mere thought of his ever
tiring of her, or leaving her, brought visions of despair and vengeance,
of vitriol and dagger to her mind. But oh! how she envied those placid
women who surrender their youth submissively, and slip serenely into
gentle middle-age as a ship glides into quiet waters. With her, because
her lover was young, she must grasp and grapple with the engulfing
years. She must clutch at her youth as a child clutches a wild bird
fluttering to escape. Alas! when the child opens its fingers the
prisoner is dead. Better let it fly when it will.

So thought Nunziata Villari. The feathers and the wings still lay in her
hand, but youth, the bird, was dead.

She took up the book, and stifled thought under the blanket of Matilde
Serao's warm prose.

The excursion train ran into Naples at five o'clock, just as a florist
in the Strada Caracciolo was threading a wire into the green throat of
the last white rose for the Illustrissima. Fifty francs worth of roses
in Naples in the month of June are enough to consummate the perfumed
death in Freiligrath's "Blumenrache," and then enough to cover the
maiden's coffin from wider to narrowest end. It took two men to carry
them, tied in huge bunches, along the Strada Caracciolo to the Palazzo
Imparato.

Nino from his cab saw two men bearing white flowers far ahead of him,
and wondered vaguely for whom they might be.

Then he thought of Nunziata's face as he had last seen it--pallid, with
a tortured smile, as she said good-bye. But now he would see her smile
again, that pretty tilted smile that was still young....

(The men with the flowers had turned a corner. Nino's cab turned it,
too, and there were the men again, marching before him.)

He had been a brute and a hound, but he would atone. He would do the
right thing. Nunziata should not be left in tears again, nor again be
driven to the little brazier of coke, like a love-sick grisette....

(The men with the white flowers were alongside. Now they were left
behind.)

And now the carriage stopped at the door of the Palazzo Imparato. The
driver handed the luggage down, and a waiting lazzarone grabbed and
shouldered it. While Nino was paying the fare the men with the flowers
came up, and Nino turned to glance at them as they passed. _But they did
not pass._ They turned into the Palazzo Imparato and vanished in the
shadow of the gateway.

Nino's heart leaped up, and stood still. The lazzarone, watching him,
saw tragedy in his face, and was satisfied that the tip would be a large
one; for the lazzarone knew that despair is as generous as happiness.

Nino ran, blind with his terrors, up the wide flights of stairs. On
Nunziata's landing the men with the flowers stood waiting.

Teresa opened the door, and saw behind the roses Nino's wild, white
face.

"The Signorino! Santa Vergine!"

In an instantaneous vision she thought of the Illustrissima, unpowdered,
unprepared, reading Matilde Serao, her tresses lying on the
dressing-room table. The servant's stupefied, stricken face confirmed
Nino's fears. He stumbled forward, and, dropping into a seat in the
hall, covered his face with his hands.

The Illustrissima, who had heard the noise, opened the drawing-room
door. At a glance she saw it all, and quietly closed the door again.

When, an instant later, Nino rushed in, the room was darkened, the
shutters closed; Nunziata lay on the couch with etiolated face, a soft
shimmering scarf was wound becomingly round her head, but no blue
shadows were under her eyes, for there had been no time to make them.

Then all began over again; for although she was peaceful and comfortable
when Nino was away, as soon as he was present she felt that all things
depended upon his love, and that his absence would end her life. Tighter
and tighter she grasped the little dead bird in her white, ringed hands,
and louder and louder she told her tired heart that youth was living and
singing still.

Nino was kind and considerate. He also wrote letters to the Italian
Consulates in Rio and Buenos Ayres, asking them to make sure that
Eduardo Villari was really dead--as his cook, who had returned with a
good deal of money and had married a baron, declared he was.

If the thought of Nancy knocked with light fingers at Nino's heart, he
never opened the door.



XV


Clarissa in her villa on Lake Maggiore was bored, so she wrote to Nancy
to come and stay with her.

"I am weary of my sweet blue lake and of my sour blue husband. Come and
stay with me a month. You shall have a large room at the top of the
house, with a huge table and an inkstand large enough to drown in, and
before you the view that inspired Manzoni. Come and write your
masterpiece."

By the same post she sent a note to her brother-in-law:

"Aldo, _mon joli_, do come. Carlo is insufferable. He growls all day and
snores all night. Why did I marry him? This is the fourth time I invite
you this year, and you never come. Last year it was different.

      "Yours,
            "CLARISSA.

"P.S.--The little _poetessa_ is going to stay here for a month."

He arrived next day. After greetings, he asked: "Where is Sappho, the
violet-haired?" Clarissa explained that Nancy had not arrived, and he
sulked and played the piano all the evening, while Carlo on the sofa
snored. Clarissa looked from one to the other, uncertain which of the
two was insulting her most.

Nancy arrived the following day. She had brought her notebooks with her
and a broken ivory pen that she always wrote with; she was full of the
masterpiece. She was going to work immediately.

Driving up from the landing-place to the Villa Solitudine she told her
plans to Clarissa, who nodded and smiled as she whipped up the fat cob.
She was going to write a book--_The Book!_--a great, noble piece of
work, not a little volume of flyaway poems that one reads and forgets in
a day. She was going to think of and dream of The Book; to live for The
Book; to breathe and walk for it, to eat and sleep for it. In Milan,
with people always round her, talking and distracting, it was
impossible; but here in the large bare room at the top of the
house----How sweet and dear of Clarissa to think of it! Never, never
could Nancy thank her enough.... Clarissa nodded and smiled, and the fat
cob turned into the chestnut drive of Villa Solitudine.

Down the steps, with a couple of dogs barking and leaping at his heels,
came Aldo to meet them, clad in Neapolitan fashion in white flannels and
scarlet sash. His uncovered head gleamed darkly in the sun.

"Behold Endymion awakened!" said Clarissa, laughing, to Nancy.
"Charmides, Adonaïs, Narcissus! The gods have cast upon him all the
beauty of the world!" As Nancy did not answer, Clarissa turned to look
at her. "Oh, what a stern face, _ma chérie!_ You are quite white. What
are you thinking of?"

"The Book," said Nancy; and she felt as if it were a child of hers that
was to die unborn.

"You shall write it, _mon ange!_ Aldo shall not disturb you." And she
threw the reins to the little stiff groom; then, daintily raising her
fluffy skirts, she alighted in Aldo's uplifted arms. Nancy put her foot
on the step, but Aldo raised her lightly and lifted her down. His red,
smiling mouth was close to her face. She thanked him, and he kissed her
hand with the ceremonious Southern salute, "Signora, I am your slave."

Nancy went to her room--the large, bare room with the beautiful
view--and stayed there all the afternoon. She put her notes in order;
she placed the large sheets of paper before her; and she dipped the
broken ivory pen into the huge inkstand. Then she sat and looked out of
the window. She could hear the dogs barking in the garden and Clarissa's
trilling laugh. On the sweet blue lake a tiny sail, like a pocket
handkerchief, dipped and curtseyed away, and through the open windows of
the drawing-room Aldo could be heard playing a Valse Triste. Nancy
dipped the pen into the inkstand again--and looked at the view.

Now she heard the music wander off in modulating chords which resolved
themselves into the rippling accompaniment of Hugo Wolff's "Musikant."

    "Wenn wir zwei zusammen wären
     Würd' das Singen mir vergeh'n."

She could hear the soft tenor voice, and felt it drawing at her heart.
She closed the window and sat down again. She dipped the ivory pen into
the inkstand, and wrote at the top of the white sheet, "Villa
Solitudine," and the date. Under it, as she had not thought of a title
yet, she wrote in large letters:

            "THE BOOK."

Then she jumped up and ran downstairs.

At sunset they went out in a sailing-boat. Clarissa held the rudder, and
Aldo stood in easy attitudes of beauty at the sail. The glow of the west
was on his pure young face, and the wind of the _tramontana_ raised his
waved hair and blew it lightly across his forehead. He was silent,
satisfied to know that the two women could see him, and that the
red-gold sky was a good background for his profile. Clarissa talked and
laughed, twittered and purred; but Aldo never spoke. And it was his
silence that enraptured Nancy.

    "Ed io che intesi ciò che non dicevi,
     M'innamorai di te perchè tacevi."

Stecchetti's words sang in her brain with new meaning, and in the days
that followed the two smooth lines were always in her mind.

Aldo knew little, but he knew the value of silence. He knew the lure of
the _hortus conclusus_--the Closed Garden into which one has not
stepped. Nancy stood outside its gates and dreamed of its unseen roses,
of fountains and shadowy paths and water-lilied lakes. For Aldo was a
closed garden.

Aldo also knew the value of his eyes--deep, passion-lit eyes, that
looked, Clarissa said, as if he had rubbed the lids with burnt cork to
darken them. When he raised them suddenly, and looked straight at Nancy,
she felt a little shock of pleasure that took her breath away. Little by
little, day by day, those eyes drew Nancy's spirit to their depths--she
leaned over them as over an abyss. In them she sunk and drowned her
soul.... Then, when from his eyes her own passionate purity gazed back
at her, she thought she saw his soul and not her own.

The Book cried in her now and then, but she stifled its voice and
whispered: "Wait!"

And The Book waited.

One day in the garden Aldo spoke to Clarissa. She was in the hammock
pretending to read.

"Clarissa, I am twenty-five years old."

"Vlan! ça y est!" said Clarissa, dropping her book. Then she drew a deep
breath, and her nostrils turned a little pale; but the superposed roses
of her cheeks bloomed on, independent of her ebbing blood and sickening
heart.

"I am penniless," continued Aldo, picking a piece of grass and chewing
it; "and Carlo has given me to understand that he can exist without me
if he tries very hard."

Clarissa sat up. "When? What did he say? Does he ... has he ... did he
mean anything?"

Aldo shook his comely head. "Carlo never means anything. But I shall
have to go back to--to the Texas ranch, or marry."

The Texas ranch was a romantic invention of Clarissa's, the only
foundation for which was a three weeks' holiday which Aldo had once
spent in the city of New York.

Clarissa bit her red, narrow lips. "Yes," she said.

During the long pause that followed Aldo picked another piece of grass
and chewed it.

"I suppose," said Clarissa, looking at him sideways through her long
lids, "you will marry some affectionate old thing with money."

"No. I know them," said Aldo. "They demand the affection, and keep the
money."

After a pause, in which he felt Clarissa's angry eyes on his face, he
said: "I am going to marry the little Sappho."

Clarissa laughed suddenly and loud. "You do that for your pleasure!
_Farceur, va!_" Aldo lifted his perfect eyebrows and did not reply. "She
has nothing, not a little black sou!" And Clarissa stuck her long
pointed thumbnail behind her long pointed teeth and jerked it forward.

"Oh! I dare say she has something," said Aldo, pretending to yawn
carelessly. "Besides, she is a genius, and can earn what she will."

"You are the perfect Neapolitan pig," said Clarissa, and closed her
eyes.

The perfect Neapolitan pig rose with an offended air and left her. He
strolled into the house and took his hat and stick, then he strolled out
again and through the garden into the hot street and down to the
landing-place. A boat was leaving for Intra, so he went on board, and at
Intra took the train for Milan. He dined at Biffi's, feeling happy.

"They will be miserable," he said. "That will teach them." Then he went
to his furnished rooms on the Corso, and slept well.

In Villa Solitudine they were miserable, and it taught them.

It taught Nancy that the Closed Garden she had had a glimpse of for so
brief an hour was the only garden in the world that she ever wanted to
enter; and that all the words Aldo had not said were the only words she
ever wanted to hear; that perfect goodness and unwavering strength must
lie behind his portentous beauty, white and immovable like marble lions
at a palace gate.

It taught Clarissa that one must accept the inevitable--that half a loaf
was better than no bread, and that a married Aldo was better than no
Aldo at all. It made her look at Nancy with closer eyes, and say to
herself that she was a little creature one would easily tire of, in
spite of--or because of--her intellectuality. Aldo was not a closed
garden for Clarissa; she knew the feeble flowers that bowed behind its
gates.

A hot, dreary week passed with no news from Aldo. Then Clarissa
telegraphed to him at Milan. She said she had told Carlo about their
conversation regarding his wish to marry Nancy, and Carlo approved.
Would he come back?

Yes; Aldo would come back. He waited another day or two, and at the
close of a sultry afternoon he sauntered in, just as he had sauntered
out, across the sleepy, bee-droning lawns of the Villa Solitudine. He
stopped at the entrance of the summer-house, where Nancy sat reading a
letter--a long letter. Already two of the blue sheets had fallen at her
side. Before her on the table was the inkstand and the ivory pen and The
Book. As his shadow passed the threshold she looked up; she drew a
quick breath, and her face turned milky white, with a pallor that
gripped at Aldo's nerves.

Once more, and for the last time, he bent his head over her hand.
"Signora, I am your slave," he said. But as he raised his eyes she knew
that he had said: "Nancy, I am your master."

"Who writes to you?" he asked.

She drooped submissive lashes, and the colour ran into her cheeks. "Mr.
Kingsley, the English friend," she said. "Do you remember him?"

Aldo took her hand and with it the letter in his own.

"What does he want?"

Her dimples fluttered. "He wants me to be good," she said, laughing,
with wistful eyes. "And to write."

Aldo pressed the little fist with the crumpled blue letter in it to his
lips. "Well, write," he said. "Write at once."

He took the ivory pen and dipped it in the ink and put it in her hand;
then he pulled the sheet of white paper which was to be The Book before
her.

"Write: 'Dear Englishman, I am going to marry Aldo della Rocca. He
adores me.'"

And Nancy, with her hair almost touching the paper, wrote: "Dear
Englishman, I am going to marry Aldo della Rocca. I adore him."

The Englishman never got the letter. But he heard of it afterwards; and
his English fists closed tight.



XVI


Nancy walked among asphodels and morning glory; and her soul was plunged
in happiness and her eyes were washed with light.

The Book waited.

They went out in the little boat at sunset. Aldo stood at the sail, and
the red sky was a background for his profile.

"Oh," sighed Nancy, looking at him and clasping puerile hands, "your
beauty _aches_ me!"

Aldo quite understood it, and was pleased.

They went for long walks to Premeno and San Salvatore; as Clarissa
refused to accompany them, Carlo chaperoned them, blandly bored.

Soon Valeria arrived. Nancy went down to meet her at the landing-place,
looking ethereal and pink as a spray of apple-blossom. Valeria kissed
her with hot tears. "Oh! my baby, my baby!" she said, and wished that
the seventeen years were a dream, and that her child's small head were
still safely nestling at her breast. In Nancy's young love she lived the
days of her own betrothal over again, and Tom arose in her memory and
was with her day and night. On this same silky blue lake Tom had so
often rowed her with Zio Giacomo, in a little boat called _Luisa_. She
tearfully begged Nancy and Aldo to come with her and see if they could
not find that very self-same boat.

They found, indeed, three _Luisas_, but Valeria could not recognize
them; still, all three of the boatmen declared that they remembered her
perfectly, and got the expected tip.

"Of course," said Valeria, deeply moved, "it cannot have been all three
of them."

And Aldo said: "You should not have given them anything. They were none
of them more than twenty-five years old." Whereupon Valeria sighed
deeply.

Then it was decided that they should go in reverent pilgrimage to the
Madonna del Monte, where Nancy's father had asked Nancy's mother to
marry him. The road was lined with beggars: shouting cripples,
exhibiting sores and stumps.

"Some of these are very old," sighed Valeria. "I am sure they were here
that day, and must have seen me."

"I shall give a franc to every one of them," said Nancy, taking out her
small fat purse, as the first one-armed mendicant held out his greasy
hat.

"My dear Nancy, what nonsense!" said Aldo. "There are about a hundred of
them!"

"Well?" and Nancy raised clear, questioning eyes to his.

"Oh, _I_ don't mind," said Aldo, with a little Neapolitan shrug.

Valeria looked at the handsome figure and impeccable profile of her
future son-in-law, as he strolled beside them up the steep wide road.
Her heart was heavy with recollections. Up this road she had walked in
her blue dress and scarlet tie with Tom beside her--Tom, broad and
careless in his slouchy brown suit, who had given the beggars all his
coppers and silver, just as Tom's daughter was doing to-day. Again she
looked at Aldo's slim, straight shoulders and sighed. "I wish it had
been an Englishman!" she thought. Then, as her memory took her to
England, she saw someone else. "Or, then, poor dear Nino." And she
sighed again; but not altogether for Nancy's sake.

She wrote to Nino that evening, and, almost without knowing it, began
her letter, "Poor dear Nino!"

Nino was out interviewing Consuls about the presumably deceased Eduardo
Villari when the letter arrived. So Nunziata opened the letter.

In it Valeria told Nino that Nancy, "our little Nancy," was betrothed
to Aldo della Rocca, and could Nino not do anything to prevent it? And
why, oh why, had his sister Clarissa invited them both to stay at the
Villa Solitudine, so that, as Fräulein Müller or was it Heine?--used to
say, "Wie könnte es anders sein," for how could anyone see Nancy in the
resplendency of her seventeen Aprils and not fall in love with her? And
oh, she was so sorry for poor, dear Nino, for she knew the secret of his
heart. And how true it was what he had said about Nancy's eyes being so
pure that they seemed never to have gazed at aught but the sky; and she
understood him and his sufferings, for had she not herself suffered
dreadfully through him, years ago--but never mind, that was nothing. And
it had never been dear, dear Nino's fault at all; it was her own foolish
fault and Fate.... And she hoped Nino did not think that she had really
suffered, for she had not, and now she never, never thought of it any
more! And if he came quickly he might still be in time; and oh, she knew
he must be heart-broken, but he was not to mind, because it could not be
helped. And she was ever his unhappy Valeria.

Nunziata read the rambling letter three times before she understood it.
The letter opened her eyes.

When her eyes were open Nunziata saw well. She saw the chain of desire
stretching out ring on ring: from Valeria's heart to Nino; from Nino's
heart to Nancy; from Nancy's heart to Aldo, as in a children's game; and
Love passing down from one to the other, stopping before each with gift
of passion, of pain, of joy. She saw that her years placed her behind
Valeria--far back, far back, out of the game; and she knew that Love had
passed her, and would not stop before her any more. Then she remembered
that she had had her gifts; that Love had heaped roses at her feet, and
that she had moved through passions as through a field of flowers.

Nunziata decided that she would play the game.

She went with her newly-opened eyes to her room and threw the shutters
back. She looked at her tired pink face in the glass, at her crimson
lips and complicated hair. She went on her knees beside her bed and said
three _Paters_ and three Aves. Then she opened her reluctant hands and
gave her dead youth back to God.

She washed her face with warm water and soap, and unpinned her elaborate
curls. She wound her own soft hair round her head, and put on a plain
black gown. Then, looking, although she did not think so, twenty years
younger and twenty times sweeter than she did before, she went
downstairs to wait for Nino.

       *       *       *       *       *

That same evening she sent him back to his father. His luggage was
packed and the brougham was waiting for him at the door, and still he
declared he would not go. He would not leave her. Her face was whiter
than any _poudre de lys_ could ever make it as she kissed his forehead,
and blessed it with the sign of the cross, and told him that he must
indeed go, and not return again.

At last, before his stubborn refusal, she took the weapon that hurt her
most, and used it to pierce her own heart. "Think of Nancy!" she said.
"You may still be in time to prevent her from marrying an adventurer."

Nino looked into the pale, kind face, from which every trace of
triviality had been washed by the warm water and the tears. And, being a
man, he did not wait, and refuse, and then catch a later train; but with
candid cruelty he said: "You are right. You are an angel. May the saints
bless you!"

... She stood on the balcony and watched the carriage drive away into
the night; it turned up Corso Umberto and was gone. With it the lights
went out in Nunziata Villari's life.

Youth, love, hope, desire--Fate blew all the candles out, and left her
in the dark.



XVII


Aldo's curved red lips under his very young moustache opened to words as
well as to kisses under Nancy's impelling, eager love. During the long
hours they spent together she spoke and he must answer. His splendid,
silent eyes urged her to quick questionings, and his kisses did not
still the thirst of her soul for his soul. Little by little she pushed
back the gates of the Closed Garden; gently, day by day, she ventured a
step farther adown the mysterious paths. Where are the arbours of roses?
Where the fountains and the deep, water-lilied lakes? She tiptoed down
the narrow paths that Clarissa and many others had trodden before her,
and when she had come to the end she said: "I am mistaken. I have not
entered the Garden yet."

They were to be married almost at once. Aldo was impatient, and Nancy
was in love; and The Book was waiting. So Valeria left for Milan to
prepare the trousseau, and Nancy must follow a week later. On the eve of
her journey Clarissa went up to say good-night to Nancy in her room--the
large, bare room in which the masterpiece had not been written. Nancy's
trunks were packed. The ivory pen and The Book were put away. The large
inkstand stood alone on the large table.

Nancy was leaning out of the window looking at the stars. Clarissa came
and stood behind her and looked up into the cobalt depths.

"I hate the stars," said Nancy; "I am afraid of them."

"Why?" said Clarissa, to whom a star was a star.

"Oh, I want to be sure that somewhere they leave off," said Nancy. "It
terrifies me to think of fabulous nothingness behind unending space, of
perpetual neverness beyond unceasing time. I should like a wall built
round the universe, a wall that would shut me safely in, away from the
terrible infinity."

Clarissa laughed. "Perhaps when you are married you will feel less
little and lonely."

"Perhaps," said Nancy. And she added: "Aldo must be the wall."

"Oh, my dear," said Clarissa, "Don't try to make poor Aldo anything that
he isn't. He is sweet; he is lovely; he is full of talent. But he is no
more a wall than this is." And she waved her filmy gossamer scarf that
blew lightly in the air.

That evening Carlo said to his wife: "I feel like a brute, letting that
good-for-nothing brother of mine marry the nice little girl. He will
make her miserable."

"Not at all," said Clarissa, putting out the candle with her book, a
thing Carlo could not bear. "She will write poems on his profile and be
perfectly happy, until she gets tired of him for not being something
that he isn't."

"Oh, well," growled Carlo. "I suppose you know her best. Women are
cackling cats."

"Mixed metaphor," murmured Clarissa, and went to sleep comfortably,
feeling that Carlo was a wall.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nancy was married in Rome. All the poets of Italy came with poems, and
Nino brought a necklet of pearls. From the Quirinal came a pendant, with
a picture of a boy's face set in diamonds.

After the wedding-breakfast all the guests left, passing to their
carriages down the red carpet that stretched from the door to the edge
of the pavement. Then Nancy, in her mouse-grey travelling-gown, kissed
Valeria, and wept and said good-bye. And kissed Nino, and wept and said
good-bye. And she went with her husband down the red carpet to the
carriage. Carlo and Clarissa, Aunt Carlotta and Adèle followed to the
station, where there were great crowds waiting to see them off.

Valeria and Nino remained alone in the desolate room. Valeria's face was
hidden in her hands. She was looking down the days of the future, and
saw them lonely, dark and desolate. Nino gazed through tear-blurred eyes
at the bowed figure before him, and his thoughts went back through the
years. Bending forward, he took her hand and kissed it. She smiled
wanly.

"What are you thinking of?" she said.

"I was thinking of Nancy, and of the past," said Nino. "Of her father,
poor Tom, who died so suddenly----"

"It was to save Nancy," said Valeria.

"And of the old grandfather who died alone on the hill-side----"

"We had to find Nancy," said Valeria.

"And of little Edith and her poor mother, forsaken in their darkest hour
by those they loved----"

"But it was to safeguard Nancy," said Valeria.

Hearing her words, he realized the puissance of all-conquering, maternal
love. Nothing mattered but Nancy, though Nancy herself, with gentle,
unconscious hands, had taken all things from her. Had not he himself,
the lover of Valeria's girlhood, turned from her, heart-stricken for
Nancy?

There was a pause.

"And I am thinking of you, Valeria, over whose heart I have
trampled,..." said Nino, with a break in his voice.

"You could not help it. You loved Nancy," said Valeria. "And now"--her
pitying eyes filled with tears--"your hope is shipwrecked and your heart
broken, too."

Nino did not answer. He turned away and gazed out of the window. He was
thinking of Nancy, so mild and sweet-voiced, with eyes like blue
hyacinths under the dark drift of her hair. And once more he realized
how Nancy in her dove-like innocence had absorbed and submerged the
existence of those around her. Her sweet helplessness itself had wrecked
and shattered, had devastated and destroyed. The lives of all those who
loved her had gone to nourish the clear flame of her genius, the white
fire of her youth.

Nino gazed down at the red wedding-carpet that stretched its scarlet
line to the pavement's edge like a narrow path of blood.

"Behold," he said, "the trail of the dear devourer--the course of the
dove of prey!"

       *       *       *       *       *

As the train glided out of the station, and shook and ran, and the
cheers and the waving handkerchiefs were left behind, Nancy raised her
eyes, tender and tear-lit, to Aldo's face. Her white wedded hand was to
open the gates of the Closed Garden.

Now the bowers of roses, and the fountains, and the water-lilied lakes!



XVIII


They had chosen to go to Paris, because Aldo said he had had enough of
landscapes to last him a lifetime. Also Clarissa had remarked to Nancy:
"If you want to have a clear vision of life, and a well-balanced brain,
always be properly dressed. And you cannot be dressed at all unless you
are dressed by Paquin."

"But I have my work to think about," said Nancy. "I do not mind much
about clothes."

"Very well," said Clarissa, "if you want to be a dowdy genius and
quarrel with your husband before you have been married two months, go
your own way, and wear coats and skirts."

So they went to Paris, and soon Paquin's gibble-gabbling demoiselles
were busy sewing cloudy blues and faint mauves to save Nancy from
quarrelling with Aldo two months afterwards.

At Aldo's suggestion they took rooms in a small hotel in Rue Lafayette,
for, as he said, they were not millionaires, and one could use one's
money better than in spending it at grand hotels. Nancy said he was
quite right, and wondered at his wisdom. Indeed, he knew many things. He
knew the prices of everything one ate, and he pounced on the waiters as
soon as there was any attempt at overcharging, or if they
absent-mindedly reckoned in the date written at the top of the bill in a
line with the francs.

Nancy rather dreaded that moment in the brilliant restaurant when Aldo
opened and inspected the neatly-folded bill, while the solemn-nosed
waiter looked down sarcastically at his smooth, well-brushed head.
Nancy noticed that, whenever they entered a place, everyone ran to meet
them, opening doors for them with obsequious bows, showing them places
with flourish of arm and of table-napkin. Aldo's hat was taken from him
with reverential hand, and her cloak was carried tenderly from her. But
when, after settling the bill, they got up to go, nobody seemed to pay
much attention to them. Aldo had to fetch his own hat and look for the
cloak, and even to open the heavy glass doors himself, for the small boy
would be absent, or looking another way and making faces at the
head-waiter. Cabs also had a way of being all smiles and hat-touchings
and little jokes when they were hailed, and all sullenness and loud
monologue when they were dismissed.

"They think that because we are on our honeymoon we must be fools. Money
is money," said Aldo.

He had learnt the phrase from his grandfather, who had kept a shop in
Via Caracciolo. The grandfather's wife--who in her radiant girlhood in
Piedigrotta had sat for English and German painters--had said: "Yes; but
education is education," and had sent her three sons to school in Modena
and Milan. The eldest son, who was the father of Carlo and Aldo, had
then learnt to say: "A gentleman is a gentleman." And on the strength of
this he would have nothing more to do with his shopkeeping parents in
Naples. When he died Carlo, who was twenty, went and hunted up the old
people. They did not need him, and were afraid of him, and called him
"Eccellenza." But Aldo, who was thirteen, and unverisimilarly beautiful,
they called "l'Amorino"; they petted and spoiled him, and let him count
the money in the till. And he liked them and their shop. And he learnt
that money was money. The phrase always struck Nancy mute. Aldo,
strolling beside her along the boulevard, continued: "It is people like
Carlo that spoil things. Carlo is a perfect idiot with his money."

"Oh, but he is very kind," said Nancy; and Aldo wondered whether she
knew that Carlo was paying all their expenses--made out with fanciful
additions by Aldo--and had promised to do so for a year after their
marriage.

"After that, not one penny. Never as long as I live," Carlo had said to
his young brother a week before the wedding. "So hustle and do something
useful."

But Aldo did not intend to hustle. Rude, unæsthetic word! A man with his
physique could not hustle. Carlo lacked all sense of the fitness of
things. Clarissa said so, too. But on this occasion Aldo did not consult
Clarissa, because she had once said: "I understand adoring a man, but I
do not understand paying his debts."

Nancy soon found that Aldo's knowledge extended further than accounts
and prices. He knew places in Paris, and he knew people--such places and
such people as she had never heard of, read of, or dreamt of. He always
said to Nancy: "Now you shall see things that will make you laugh." But
Nancy laughed little, then less; until one day she could not laugh at
all. She felt as if she would never laugh any more. Everything was
horrible, everything made her shrink and weep.

"It is life, my dear," said Aldo, with his habitual little gesture of
both hands outwards and upwards. "How can you write books if you do not
know what is life?"

Oh, but she did not want to know what is life. She could write books
without knowing. And oh, she wished that Aldo did not know either. And
let them go away quickly, and forget, and never, never remember it any
more.

So Aldo, who was not unkind, and who had not found the enlightening of
Nancy as amusing as he had expected, called for the hotel bill, said it
was preposterous, got the proprietor to deduct twelve per cent., and
then told him they were leaving the next day.

The next day they left. They went to the Villa Solitudine, which
Clarissa and Carlo were not using, and for which it was arranged that
Aldo should pay rent to Clarissa. Clarissa let him off the rent; and
Carlo, not knowing, paid it back to him. So that, on the whole, it was
not an unprofitable arrangement for Aldo.

Nancy tried to forget what life was, and smiled and blossomed in tenuous
sunrise beauty. And because of all she knew, and was trying to forget,
and because she wore trailing Parisian gowns and large, plumed hats,
Aldo burned with volcanic meridional love for her.

The Book waited.

One evening, when Aldo was at the piano, improvising music and words on
Nancy's loveliness, and she sat on a stool beside him, she asked
suddenly: "When shall we begin to work?"

"Oh, never!" said Aldo, putting his right arm round her neck without
interrupting the chords he was playing with his left hand.

Nancy laughed, and laid her head against his arm.

"Oh, but we must, Aldo. I want to write my book. It is to be a great
book."

Aldo nodded, and went on playing.

"And you, Aldo. You cannot pass your life saying that you adore me."

"Oh yes, I can," said Aldo.

Nancy laughed softly and kissed his sleeve. Then suddenly a strange
feeling came over her--a feeling of loneliness and fear. She felt as if
she were alone in the world, and small and helpless, with no one to take
care of her. She felt as if Aldo were younger and weaker and more
helpless than she. And the terror of the Infinite fell upon her soul.
Aldo was singing softly, meltingly, with his head bent forward and his
dark hair falling over his face. Suddenly Nancy thought that it would be
good to be safely locked in a large light room with nothing but books
and an inkstand, and someone walking up and down outside with a gun.

"The wall!" she said to herself as the Englishman's light eyes and
stalwart figure came before her mind. Then she said: "Work shall be my
wall." And she went to her room and unpacked her ivory pen.



XIX


Four months before the year of Carlo's bounty was up, Aldo made up his
mind that he must hustle after all. They had settled in Milan; then
nothing had happened. Carlo would never change his mind. Valeria had
shown him her banking account, and proved to him that there was nothing
Nancy could have beyond her skimpy forty thousand francs; Lady
Sainsborough, the elderly English person in Naples who had taken such a
fancy to him, had not answered his last two letters, and had probably
altered her will; so there was nothing to do or to hope for. He must
hustle.

He did so. He wrote a third letter to Lady Sainsborough. Then he decided
to ask Carlo to make room for him in his silk mills, which Carlo refused
to do.

Then he looked up Nancy's publishers, and asked them if they would
advance a substantial sum on the unwritten book, which they also refused
to do. So having done all he could, he decided not to hustle any more,
but to let events take their course.

Nancy did not help him at all. She was selfishly engrossed in her book,
and sat in her room all day, with hair pinned tightly back and wild and
lucent eyes. Whenever he came into the room she put up her hand without
turning round--a gesture he could not bear--and went on with her
writing. If he disregarded the gesture, she looked up at him with those
wild, light eyes, and he felt hurried, and forgot what he wanted to say.
So he muddled along with her forty thousand francs, and read the papers,
played the piano, and went out to the Caffè Biffi every evening until it
was time to go to the Patriottica for a game of billiards.

There he frequently saw Nino sitting glumly with the corners of his
mouth turned down; and they turned down further when Aldo came in, so
that Aldo positively hated the sight of him. Besides, Carlo, who had
refused to do anything for Aldo, had actually taken Nino into
partnership; and, just to irritate and show off, Nino was working
vulgarly, like a nigger, twelve or fourteen hours a day. The gratified
Carlo was to be seen with Nino in the evenings walking through the
Galleria arm-in-arm with him as if they were brothers, with that absurd
Zio Giacomo trotting alongside, grinning like an old hen, while he,
Aldo, Carlo's own brother, had to mooch about alone, smoking cheap
cigarettes, or else to run alongside of Giacomo like an outsider, and
listen for the thousandth time to the recital of the prodigal Nino's
reform and rehabilitation.

He went to Clarissa and complained; but she was unsympathetic. She
rubbed her left-hand nails against her right-hand palm and looked out of
the window. He had expected her to pass a white, jewelled hand lightly
over his bowed head and say, "_Povero bello!_ Poor beauteous one!" as
she had sometimes done a year or so ago; but when he bowed his head she
continued rubbing the nails of her left hand against her right-hand palm
and looking out of the window.

He felt that a great deal depended upon her friendship, and it was
almost out of a sense of duty to Nancy that he grasped her hand and
kissed it in his best and softest manner. "Oh, don't be a snail, Aldo,"
said Clarissa, taking her hand away. Then she looked down at him and
shook her head: "I _am_ thankful I married Carlo."

This was untrue, of course, said Aldo to himself; but, added to the
other things, it rankled. When he left her he understood that Clarissa
considered him as much Nancy's property as the pair of antique silver
candle-sticks she had given to Nancy for a wedding-present, and that
never would she take them back or light the candles in them again.

Nancy had written one-third of The Book. It was a great book--a book the
world would speak of. Like the portent of Jeanne of Orleans, a vision
had fallen upon her young, white heart and set it aflame. She felt
genius like an eagle beating great wings against her temples.
Inspiration, nebulous and wan, stretched thin arms to her, and young
ideas went shouting through her brain. Then the phrase, like a
black-and-white flower, rolled back its thundering petals, and the
masterpiece was born.



XX


Aldo was not allowed to play the piano any more, because it disturbed
Nancy's thoughts. He also stayed at home to see anyone who called, so
that Nancy should not be interrupted. He himself brought her meals into
her room when she did not wish to break her train of thought by going to
table, and when the loud-footed, cheerful servant annoyed and distracted
her.

A reverential hush was on the house.

The Rome publisher, Servetti, heard of The Book, and came to Milan to
ask if he could have it. Zardo, the publisher of the "Cycle of Lyrics,"
who had omitted to pay for the last two editions of that distinguished
and fortunate volume, sent, unasked, an unverisimilarly large cheque;
and suggested for her new work a special _édition de luxe_. Nancy
replied to no one, heeded no one. The Book held her soul.

It was a winter evening, and the lamps were lit, when Nancy wrote at the
summit of a candid page, "Chapter XVII." She wrote the heading
carefully, reverentially, painting over the Roman numbers with loving
pen. This was the culminating chapter of The Book. It had been worked up
to in steep and audacious ascent, and after it and from it the story
would flow down in rushing, inevitable stream to its portentous close.
But this chapter was the climax and the crown.

Nancy passed a quick hand across her forehead and pushed back her
ruffled hair. Then she looked across at Aldo. He was sitting at the
opposite side of the table with some sheets of music-paper before him.
The shine of the lamp fell blandly on his narrow head. He looked
dejected and dull.

"What is it, Aldo?" she asked, stretching her hand affectionately across
the table to him. In the joy and the overflowing ease of inspiration she
felt kind and compassionate.

"Oh, nothing," sighed Aldo. "I was thinking of writing a symphony; but I
cannot do anything without trying it at the piano. And that disturbs
you. Never mind! Don't worry about me."

"Oh, but I do worry," said Nancy, getting up and going round to his
side. She bent over him with her arm on his shoulder. Before him on the
sheet was half a line of breves and semibreves, which Nancy remembered
from her childhood as little men getting over stiles.

"You know," said Aldo, with his pen going over and over the face of one
of the little men and making it blacker and larger than the others,
"Ricordi is publishing those songs of mine; but I believe it is only
because they have your words. So I thought I would try a symphony which
will be all my own. But I ought to be able to try it at the piano."

"I know, dear," said Nancy, smoothing his soft, thick hair. "I know I am
a horrid, selfish thing, upsetting everything and everybody. But never
mind!" And she glanced across to the large "Chapter XVII" at the top of
the fair sheet, and the wet ink of the "XVII" glistened and beckoned to
her upside down at the other side of the table. "Wait till I have
finished my book. Then you shall do all you want; and we shall go and
pass blue days in the country and be as happy as sandboys, and"--she
added for him--"as rich as Cr[oe]sus."

He raised his dark eyes to her, and she thought that he looked like
Murillo's Saint Sebastian.

"Your writing has swallowed up all your love for me," he said.

"Oh no!" said Nancy, and she caressed the beautiful brow. "It is you,
your presence, your beauty, that inspires me and helps me to write."

Aldo sighed. "I suppose I am a nonentity. And I must be grateful if the
fact of my having a straight nose has helped you to write your book."

Nancy felt conscience-stricken. "Don't be bitter, dear heart," she said.
"I must be selfish! If I do not sit there and write, I feel as if I had
a maniac shut up in my brain, beating and shrieking to get out. And oh,
Aldo, when I do write, coolly and quickly and smoothly, I feel like a
mountain-spring gushing out my life in glad, scintillant waters."

Aldo drew her face down and kissed her. "Nothing shall interfere with
your book," he said.

"No, nothing," said Nancy--"nothing!"

As she spoke a strange, quivering sensation passed over her, a quick
throb shook her heart, and the roots of her hair prickled. Then it was
past and gone. She stepped back to her place at the table and stood
looking down at Chapter XVII. The wet ink still glistened on it. She was
waiting.... She knew she was waiting for that strange throb to clutch at
her heart again. She looked across at Aldo. He was thoughtfully painting
the face of another semibreve and making it large and black. She sat
down and dipped the ivory pen into the gaping mouth of the inkstand.

Ah, _again!_ the throb! the throb! like a soft hand striking at her
heart. And now a flutter as of an imprisoned bird!

"Aldo! Aldo!" she cried, falling forward with her face hidden on her
arm. And her waving hair trailed over Chapter XVII, and blurred the
waiting page.



XXI


NANCY stirred, sighed, and awoke.


In the room adjoining, Valeria was sobbing in Zio Giacomo's arms, and
Aunt Carlotta was kissing Adèle, and Aldo was shaking hands with
everybody.

Nancy could hear the whispering voices through the half-open door, and
they pleased her. Then another sound fell on her ear, like the ticking
of a slow clock--click, click, a gentle, peaceful, regular noise that
soothed her. She turned her head and looked. It was the cradle. The
Sister sat near it, dozing, with one elbow on the back of the chair and
her hand supporting her head; the other hand was on the edge of the
cradle. With gentle mechanical gesture, in her half sleep, she rocked it
to and fro. Nancy smiled to herself, and the gentle clicking noise
lulled her near to sleep again.

She felt utterly at peace--utterly happy. The waiting was over; the fear
was over. Life opened wider portals over wider, shining lands. All
longings were stilled; all empty places filled. Then with a soft tremor
of joy she remembered her book. It was waiting for her where she had
left it that evening when futurity had pulsed within her heart. The
masterpiece that was to live called softly and the folded wings of the
eagle stirred.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the gently-rocking twilight of the cradle the baby opened its eyes
and said: "I am hungry."



BOOK II



I


When eighteen thousand of the forty thousand francs were gone, Aldo
said: "I must do something." And when eighteen thousand of the forty
thousand francs were left, he said: "Something must be done." Carlo had
washed his hands of him; all that Lady Sainsborough had sent him was her
portrait, one "taken on the lawn with Fido," and another, "starting for
my morning ride with Baron Cucciniello." "Flighty old lunatic!" said
Aldo, throwing the pictures into the fire and digging at them with the
poker. Then he called Nancy and told her how matters stood.

Nancy did not seem to realize that it made much difference. She crawled
under the table and hid behind the green table-cloth. "Peek-a-boo!" The
baby crawled after her and pulled her hair.

"Well, what are we going to do?" said Aldo.

"As soon as the baby can walk," replied Nancy, looking up at him from
under the table, "I shall start my work again. As long as it is such a
teeny, weeny, helpless lamb"--and she kissed the small, soft head on
which the hair grew in yellow tufts here and there--"its mother is not
going to be such a horrid (kiss), naughty (kiss), ugly (kiss) tigress
(kiss, kiss) as to leave a poor little forlorn (kiss)----"

Aldo left the room, and nobody under the table noticed that he had
gone.

He went to Zio Giacomo, who for Nancy's sake took him into his office to
make architectural drawings and plans at a salary of two hundred francs
a month.

At the end of the third week Aldo looked round the room where four other
men were drawing plans, and observed them meditatively. Two were sallow
and thin, one was sallow and fat, and one was red and fat. The sallow,
thin ones had little hair, the sallow, fat one had no hair; the red, fat
one wore glasses. They had all been here drawing plans for four, six,
and twelve years at salaries between two hundred and six hundred and
fifty francs a month.

Aldo made a calculation on his blotting-paper. Say he stayed five years.
He would get 200 francs a month for the first two years = 4,800 francs;
300, or say 350, for the next two years = 8,400 francs; 400, or perhaps
450, for the following year = 5,400 francs. Total: 18,600 francs.

Eighteen thousand six hundred francs! So that, supposing he spent
nothing, but went on living on what remained of Nancy's _dot_ for five
years (which was out of the question, of course, as it was not enough),
at the end of five years he would find himself exactly where he was
to-day, and just five years older. Probably thin and sallow; or fat and
sallow; or red and fat, with glasses. It was preposterous. It was out of
the question. Here he was to-day, with the eighteen thousand francs and
the five years still before him.

He took his hat and walked out of the office.

He wrote to Zio Giacomo, who said he was an addlepated and clot-headed
imbecile. Aldo explained the situation mathematically to Valeria and
Nancy, who looked vague, and said that it seemed true.

"Eighteen thousand francs," said Aldo, "cleverly used, might set us on
our feet. Now, what shall we do with it?"

Valeria folded gentle hands; and Nancy said: "Peek-a-boo." So the baby,
at Aide's request, was sent out for a walk with the sour-faced thing
chosen by Aunt Carlotta to be its nurse.

"You could go into partnership with someone," said Nancy sweetly, with
her head on one side, to show that she took an interest.

Valeria nodded, and said: "Mines are a good thing."

Aldo was silent. "Eighteen thousand francs," he said thoughtfully. "It
is not much." Then he said: "Of course, one could buy a shop."

In his deep, dreaming eyes passed the vision of his grandfather's nice
little _negozio_ in the Strada Caracciolo at Naples, with its strings of
coral hanging row on row; tortoise-shell combs and brushes with silver
initials; brooches of lava and of mosaic, that were sold for a franc
each; shells of polished mother-of-pearl; pictures of Vesuvius by night,
reproduced on convex glass; and booklets of photographs, that English
people would always come to look at. He could see his grandfather now,
stepping in front of the counter with a booklet of views in his hand,
and shaking it out suddenly, br-r-r ... in front of his English
customers. Also he could see his grandfather tying up neat little
parcels, giving change, bowing and smiling with still handsome eye and
gleaming smile, and accompanying people to the door, waving an
obsequious and yet benevolent hand. Aldo would have liked a little shop
in Naples, and easy-going, trustful English customers who would not
haggle and bargain, but pass friendly remarks about the weather, and
pay their good money. Ah, the good little money coming in that one can
count every evening, and put away, and look at, and count again; not
this vague, distant "salary," that one does not see, or count, or have,
with no surprises and no possibilities.

But Valeria was speaking. "A shop! My dear Aldo! What a dreadful idea!
How can you say such a thing?"

And Nancy, who thought he was joking, said, with all her dimples alight:
"That's right, Aldo. We shall have a toy-shop--five hundred rattles for
the baby, eight hundred rubber dolls for the baby, ten thousand woolly
sheep and cows that squeak when you squeeze them. Let us have a
toy-shop, there's a dear boy." She jumped up and kissed his straight,
narrow parting on the top of his shining black head. "And if all the
toys are broken by the baby, and have the paint licked off, and the
woolliness pulled out," she added, with her cheek against his, "I shall
give away an autograph poem with each of the damaged beasts, and charge
two francs extra."

The allusion to the autograph poem made Aldo realize that it was
impossible that his wife, the celebrated author, could keep a shop, so
he sighed, and said: "I have a good mind to try Monte Carlo. I have
never been there, but my friend Delmonte once gave me a system."

"Why doesn't he play it himself?" said Nancy. "He looks as if he needed
it."

"He has played it," said Aldo; "but he is a man lacking the strength of
character that one needs to play a system. A system is a thing one has
to stick to and go through with, no matter how one may be tempted to do
something else. This is really a rather wonderful system."

And Aldo took out a pencil and a note-book, and showed the system to
Valeria and Nancy.

"You see, N. is black and R. is red." Then he made rows of little dots
irregularly under each initial. "You see, I win on all this."

"Do you?" said Nancy and Valeria, bending over the table with heads
close together.

"Yes; I win on the intermittences."

"What are they?"

"Oh, never mind what they are," said Aldo. "And I win on all the twos,
and the threes, and the fives."

"And the fours," said Nancy, who did not understand what he was saying,
but wanted to show an interest.

"No, I don't win on the fours," said Aldo. "I lose on the fours. But I
win on the fives and sixes, and everything else. And, of course, fours
come seldom."

"Of course," echoed Nancy and Valeria, looking vacantly at the little
dots under the N. and the R.

"I could make the game cheaper," said Aldo thoughtfully, "by waiting,
and letting the intermittences pass, and only starting my play on the
twos."

"Perhaps that would be a good plan," said Nancy, with vacant eyes.

"But," said Valeria, "I thought you won on the intermittences."

"I do," said Aldo, frowning, "if they _are_ intermittences. But
supposing they are fours?"

This closed the door on all comprehension so far as Nancy was concerned.
But Valeria, who had been to Monte Carlo for four days on her
wedding-tour, said decisively: "Then I think I should wait and see. If
they _are_ fours, then play only on the fives and sixes."

"There is something in that," said Aldo, rubbing his chin. "But I must
try it. Now you just say 'black' or 'red' at random, as it comes into
your head."

Nancy and Valeria said "black" and "red" at random, and Aldo staked
imaginary five-franc pieces, and doubled them, and played the system.
After about fifteen minutes he had won nearly two thousand francs.

So it was decided that he should quietly go to Monte Carlo and try the
system, starting as soon as possible.

"Do not speak about it to anyone," he said. "Delmonte made a special
point of that. If too many people knew of a thing like this, it would
spoil everything."

So no one was told, but they set about making preparations for Aldo's
departure.

"I shall not stay more than a month at a time," said Aldo. "One must be
careful not to arouse suspicions that one is playing a winning game."

"Of course," said Valeria.

And Nancy said: "Is it not rather mean to go there when you know that
you _must_ win?"

Aldo explained that the administration was not a person, and added that
the few thousand francs that he needed every year would never be missed
by such a wealthy company.

Then Nancy said: "I know Monte Carlo is a dreadful place. Full of horrid
women. I hope--oh dear----!"

Aldo kissed her troubled brow. "Dear little girl, I am going there to
make money, and nothing else will interest me."

"I know that," said Nancy, with a little laugh and a little sigh. "But
the nasty creatures are sure to look at you."

"That cannot be helped," said Aldo, raising superior eyebrows.

Nancy kissed him and laughed. "Such a funny boy!" she said. "I believe
your Closed Garden, your _hortus conclusus_, is nothing but a potato
patch! But I like to sit in it all the same."



II


May brought the baby a tooth. June brought it another tooth and a golden
shine for its hair. August brought it a word or two; September stood it,
upright and exultant, with its back to the wall; and October sent it
tottering and trilling into its mother's arms.

Its names were Lilien Astrid Rosalynd Anne-Marie.

"Now baby can walk," said Valeria to her daughter, "you ought to take up
your work again."

"Indeed I must," said Nancy, lifting the baby to her lap. "Have you seen
her bracelets?" And she held the chubby wrist out to Valeria, showing
three little lines dinting the tender flesh. "Three little bracelets for
luck." And Nancy kissed the small, fat wrist, and bit it softly.

"Where has your manuscript been put?" said Valeria.

"Oh, somewhere upstairs," said Nancy, pretending to eat the baby's arm.
"Good, good! Veddy nice! Mother, this baby tastes of grass, and
cowslips, and violets. Taste!" And she held the baby's arm out to
Valeria.

"Tace," said the baby. So the grandmother tasted and found it very
nice. Then she had to taste the other arm, and then a small piece of
cheek. Then the baby stuck out her foot in its white leather shoe, but
grandmamma would not taste it, and called it nasty-nasty. And the other
foot was held up and called nasty-nasty. But the baby said "Tace!" and
the corners of her mouth drooped. So grandmamma tasted the shoe and
found it very nice, and then the other shoe, and it was very nice. And
then Nancy had to taste everything all over again.

Thus the days passed busily, bringing much to do.

Aldo wrote that "the system" was incomparable. His only fear was that
the administration might notice it. He now played with double stakes. A
few days later he wrote again. There was a flaw in the system. But never
mind. He had found another one, a much better one. He had bought it for
a hundred francs from a man who had been shut out of the Casino because
the administration was afraid of his system. Of course, he had promised
to give the man a handsome present before he left. He had won eight
hundred francs in ten minutes with the new system last night. Of course,
he had to be very careful, because the flaw of the other system had been
disastrous.

A third letter came. After winning steadily for four days, he had had
the most incredible _guigne_: a run of twenty-four on black when he was
doubling on red. But he would stick to the system; it was the only way.
People that pottered round and skipped about from one thing to another
were bound to lose. Love to all.

Then came a postcard. "Have discovered that all previous "s's" were
wrong. Have made friends with a 'cr,' who will put things all right
again."

Valeria and Nancy puzzled over the "cr." The "s's" of course meant
"systems," but what could a "cr" be? Valeria felt anxious, and sent a
messenger for Nino. Nino left Carlo's office at once, and hurried to Via
Senato, where, since Aldo's departure, Valeria was staying with Nancy
and the baby. All three were on the balcony, and waved hands to him as
he crossed the Ponte Sant' Andrea, and hurried across the Boschetti to
No. 12.

"How do you do, Valeria?" and he kissed her cheek. "How do you do,
Nancy?" and he kissed her hand. "How do you do, Anne-Marie?" and he
kissed the baby on the top of the head. "What is the matter? What has
Aldo done?"

"Oh!" exclaimed Nancy. "How could you guess that it was about Aldo?"

Nino smiled.

Valeria held the postcard out for him to see, and covering everything
but the last line, said: "What does 'cr' mean?"

Nino looked, and said: "Where does he write from?"

Nancy and Valeria exchanged glances, and decided that they could trust
Nino. He would not use the system or give it to other people. Besides,
the system had a flaw.

"Monte Carlo," they said in unison.

Nino made a mouth as if to whistle, and did not whistle. The baby
sitting on the rug watched him and wished he would do it again.

"I suppose 'cr' is croupier," said Nino. Then there was silence. After a
while Nino said: "How much did he take with him?"

"Everything," said Valeria.

Then Nino made the mouth again, and the baby was pleased.

"You had better go and fetch him. Quick!" said Nino, looking at Nancy.

"Oh!" gasped Nancy, "must I? Is it bad?"

"Quite bad," said Nino. "He has probably lost half of your forty
thousand francs already."

"He only had eighteen," said Nancy, with a twinkle in her grey eye.

"That's better," said Nino. "But go and fetch him all the same."

Nancy was greatly excited and rather pleased. The baby should see the
Mediterranean. Valeria, "grandmamma," must come too, of course.

"No, dear," said Valeria, "I cannot. I have promised Aunt Carlotta to
help her with her reception to-morrow evening. But I will take you part
of the way--as far as Alessandria or Genoa."

"But I am sure Nino could come," said Nancy, looking up at him
interrogatively.

"Yes," said Nino, and then quickly said no, he was sorry, he could not
possibly leave Carlo's office. Besides, she would manage Aldo better
without him.

The next morning he went to the station to see them off. Valeria had
Anne-Marie in her arms, and Nancy walked beside them, looking like the
baby's elder sister. They had no luggage but a small valise, for Valeria
was returning to Milan in the afternoon, and Nancy was sure that she
would come back with Aldo the day after to-morrow.

Nino found comfortable places for them, and then stepped down and stood
in front of the window, looking up with that vacant half-smile that
everyone has who, having said good-bye, stands waiting for the train to
start. Nancy was looking down at him with sweet eyes. There was
something blue in her hat that made her eyes look bluer. Behind her the
baby, held up by Valeria, was waving a short arm up and down as the
spirit of Valeria's hand moved it. The bell rang, the whistle blew, and
as the train passed him slowly, Nino suddenly jumped on to the step at
the end of the carriage, turned the stiff handle, and went in. "I will
come as far as Valeria does," he said. He was greeted with delight, but
the baby continued irrelevantly to wave good-bye to him for a long time.
They passed Alessandria and Genoa, and went on to Savona. The baby
looked at the Mediterranean, and Nancy looked at the baby, and Nino
looked at Nancy, and Valeria looked at them all, and loved them all
with an aching maternal love. At Savona Valeria and Nino got out.
They had half an hour to wait for the return train that would take them
back to Milan.

They stood on the platform in front of the carriage window, and looked
up at Nancy with that vacant half-smile that people have when they have
said good-bye.... Nancy leaned out of the window and looked down
tenderly at her mother's upturned face, and then at Nino, and then at
her mother again. The baby stood on the seat beside her, waving its
short arm up and down, with yellow curls falling over its eyes.

_"In vettura!"_ called the guard.

"We shall be back the day after to-morrow," said Nancy for the fourth
time; "or perhaps to-morrow."

"Perhaps to-mollow," echoed the baby, who always repeated what other
people said. Nino went close to the window, and put up his hand to touch
the baby's.

"You don't know what 'to-morrow' means," he said. Anne-Marie let him
take her hand. He felt the small, warm fist closed in his. "When is
to-morrow, Anne-Marie?"

"To-mollow is ... to-mollow is when I am to have evlything," explained
Anne-Marie.

"That sounds like a long time away," said Nancy, laughing.

"Yes, indeed," said Valeria.

"Yeth, indeed," echoed the baby.

_"Pronti, partenza?"_ said the guard.

"Good-bye, Nancy! Good-bye, baby!" The bell sounded and the whistle
blew.

"Good-bye, mother dear." The train moved slightly and Nancy waved her
hand.

"Good-bye, Nancy! Good-bye, baby! Good-bye, my two darlings!"

The train was moving swiftly away.

"Perhaps to-morrow," cried Nancy, waving again. Then she drew back, lest
a spark should fly into the baby's eyes.

Valeria stood like a statue looking after them. "Good-bye, Nancy!
Good-bye, baby!"

They were gone.

And to-morrow was a long time away.



III


When the leisurely Riviera train drew into the station at Monte Carlo,
Nancy looked out of the window to see Aldo, to whom she had telegraphed.
He was not there. A group of laughing women in light gowns, two
Englishmen with their hands in their pockets, and a German
honeymoon-couple were on the platform. No one else. A handsome, indolent
porter helped Nancy and the baby to descend, and, taking their valise,
walked out in front of them, and handed it to the omnibus-driver of the
Hôtel de Paris.

"Non, non," said Nancy. "J'attends mon mari."

"Ah!" said the porter; "elle attend son mari." Then he and the
omnibus-driver grinned, and spat, and looked at her.

"Donnez-moi ma valise," said Nancy.

"Donnez-lui sa valise," said the porter.

"J'vas la lui donner," said the omnibus-driver, climbing slowly up the
little ladder, and taking the valise down again.

"Voilà la valise." And he put it on the ground. Nancy told the porter to
take it. The omnibus-driver looked astonished. "Quoi? Et moi donc? Pas
de pourboire?" And the porter spat and grinned, and said to Nancy: "Faut
lui donner son pourboire."

So Nancy gave the omnibus-driver fifty centimes, and told the porter to
take the valise to the Hôtel des Colonies. He shouldered the small
portmanteau, and stepped briskly and lightly up the flight of steps that
leads to the Place du Casino. Nancy followed, with Anne-Marie holding on
to her skirts. An old woman sitting with her basket at the foot of the
stairs offered them oranges. Nancy said, "Non, merci," and hurried on.
But Anne-Marie wanted one. She was tired and hungry, and began to cry.
So Nancy stopped and bought an orange. Then she lifted Anne-Marie in her
arms, and hurried up the steps after the porter. At the top of the
winding flight Nancy looked round. It was a light June evening. Where
the sky was palest the new moon looked like a little gilt slit in the
sky, letting the light of heaven show through.

The street was deserted. The porter had vanished. Anne-Marie began to
cry because she wanted her orange peeled, and Nancy, after hurrying
forward a few steps, stopped, lifted the child on to the low wall, sat
down beside her, and peeled the orange. Nancy was convinced that her
portmanteau was gone for ever, but nothing seemed to matter much, so
long as Anne-Marie did not cry. She looked at the light sky, the
palm-trees, and the smooth pearl-grey sea. She wondered where the Hôtel
des Colonies was, and whether Aldo had not received the telegram. The
legends of Monte Carlo murders and suicides traversed her mind for an
instant. Then Anne-Marie, who had never sat on a wall eating oranges,
lifted her face, smudged with tears and juice, and said: "Nice! Nice
evelything. I like." So Nancy liked too.

They found the Hôtel des Colonies after many wanderings, and there was
the porter with the valise waiting for them. Did Monsieur della Rocca
live here? Yes. Had he received a telegram? No; here was the telegram
waiting for monsieur. Did they know where was monsieur?

"Eh! you will find him at the Casino," said the stout proprietress.

Nancy asked to be shown to her husband's room, but as it turned out to
be a very small _mansarde_ at the top of the house, Nancy took another
room, and there Anne-Marie went to bed under the mosquito-netting, and
was asleep at once. Nancy went downstairs. The salon was dark. Madame la
Propriétaire sat in the garden with an old lady and a little fat boy.

"If you want to go to the Casino," she said, "I will look after the
little angel upstairs!"

But Nancy said: "Oh no, thank you."

Then the old lady said: "Allez donc! Allez donc! Vous savez bien les
hommes!... Ça pourrait ne pas rentrer." Then she added: "I have been
here twelve years. This, my little grandson, was born here. You can go,
tranquillement. The petit ange will be all right."

Nancy went upstairs for her hat. Anne-Marie was asleep and never
stirred. So Nancy went through the little garden again with hesitant
feet, and turned her face to the Casino. The streets were almost empty.
She was in her dark travelling-dress, and nobody noticed her. As she
passed the Hôtel de Paris she saw the people dining at the tables with
the little red lights lit. In the square round the flower-beds other
people sat in twos and threes; and over the way, in the Café de Paris,
the Tziganes in red coats were playing "Sous la Feuillée."

Nancy suddenly felt frightened and sad. What was she doing here, all
alone, at night in this unknown place, and little Anne-Marie sleeping in
that large bed all alone in a strange hotel? She felt as if she were in
a dream, and hurried on, dizzy and scared. A man, passing, said:
"Bonsoir, mademoiselle;" and Nancy ran on with a beating heart, up the
steps and into the brilliantly lighted atrium. Two men in scarlet and
white livery stopped her, and asked what she wanted; then they showed
her into an open room on the left, where men that looked like judges and
lawyers sat in two rows behind desks waiting for her.

She stepped uncertainly up to one of them--he was bald with a pointed
beard--and said: "Pardon ... I am looking for Monsieur della Rocca."

"Ah, indeed," said the man with the beard. "I have not the pleasure of
his acquaintance." And a fair man sitting near him smiled.

"Have you no idea where I can find him?" said Nancy, blushing until
tears came to her eyes.

"What is he? What does he do?" asked the fair man.

"He--he came here three weeks ago. He--has a system," stammered Nancy.
"I telegraphed, but he did not receive my telegram. And the lady of the
hotel said I should find him here."

A few people who had entered and stood about were listening with amused
faces.

"Ha, ha! You say monsieur has a system?" said the man with a beard in a
loud voice. And he nodded significantly to someone opposite him whom
Nancy could not see. She felt that by mentioning the system she had
ruined her husband's chances for ever. But nothing seemed to matter
except to find him, and not to be alone any more.

"At what hotel are you staying, mademoiselle?" asked the fair man.

"Hôtel des Colonies," said Nancy, in a trembling voice.

"And your name, mademoiselle?"

"Giovanna Desiderata Felicita della Rocca," said Nancy. And the whole
row of men smiled, while the one before whom she stood wrote her name in
a large book.

"Your profession?"

Nancy had read "Alice in Wonderland" when she was a child, and now she
knew that she was asleep. Otherwise, why should she be telling these
people that she wrote poems?

She told them so. And they pinched their noses and pulled their
moustaches, because they were laughing--they were _pouffant de
rire_--and they did not want to show it.

"And ... she did nothing else but write poems? Nothing else at all?"

"No, nothing." And as the man with the beard seemed suddenly to be
staring her through and through, she added nervously: "Except ... I have
begun a book ... a novel. But it is not finished."

The fair man suddenly handed her a little piece of blue cardboard, and
requested her to write her name on it. She said, "Why?" and the man made
a gesture with his hand that meant, "It has nothing to do with me. Do
not do so if you do not wish."

All the others smiled and bent their heads down, and pretended to write.

Nancy looked round her with the expression of a hunted rabbit. A man was
coming in, sauntering along with his hand in his pocket. He was English,
Nancy saw at a glance. He reminded her a little of Mr. Kingsley. Tom
Avory's daughter went straight towards the new-comer, and said:

"You are English?"

"I am," said the Englishman.

"Will you please help me? My father was English," said Nancy, with a
little break in her voice. "They ... they want me to write my name.
Shall I do it?"

The Englishman smiled slightly under his straight-clipped, light
moustache. "Do you want to go into the gaming-rooms?"

"Yes," said Nancy.

"Well, write your name, then," he said, and walked back to the desk
beside her. "You will see me do it too," he added, smiling, as he gave
up a card and got another one in return, on the back of which he wrote
"Frederick Allen."

All the employés were quite serious again, and seemed to have forgotten
Nancy's existence. She signed her card, and entered the atrium at the
Englishman's side.

"I am looking for my husband," she explained, and told him the story of
the system, and the telegram, and the hotel. "I feel as if I had been
telling all this over and over and over again, like the history of the
wolf." She smiled, and the dimple dipped sweetly in her left cheek. She
was flushed, and her dark hair had twisted itself into little damp
ringlets on her forehead. Mr. Allen looked at her curiously.

"I am sure I have seen you before," he said. But he could not remember
where. Nancy said she thought not.

"Oh, I am sure of it," said Mr. Allen. "I remember your smile."

But the smile he remembered had belonged to Valeria, when she stood on a
little bridge in Hertfordshire, and took from his hands a garden hat
that had fallen into the water.

They went through the rooms, and the chink, chink, of the money, and the
heavy perfume, made Nancy dizzy and bewildered. Aldo was nowhere to be
seen. They went from table to table--the season was ended, and one could
see each player at a glance--then into the _trente-et-quarante_ rooms,
which were hushed and darkened; then through the "buffet," and out into
the atrium again.

Nancy looked up at her companion, and tears gathered in her eyes. "I
cannot imagine where he is! You do not think--you do not think----" And
in her wide, frightened eyes passed the vision of Aldo, lifeless under
a palm-tree in the gardens, his divine eyes broken, his soft hair
clotted with blood.

"I think he is all right enough," said the Englishman. "We can look in
the Café de Paris."

They left the atrium and went down the steps and out into the square
again. The "Valse Bleue" was swaying its hackneyed sweetness across the
dusk. Nancy started--surely that was Aldo! There, coming out of the Café
de Paris, with a fat woman in white walking beside him. That was Aldo!
Nancy hurried on, then stopped. The Englishman stood still beside her,
and stared discreetly at the trees on his right-hand side. Aldo and the
woman had sauntered off to the left, and now sat down on a bench facing
the Crédit Lyonnais.

"Will you wait a minute?" said Nancy. And she ran off towards the bench,
while Mr. Allen waited and gazed into the trees.

Yes, it was Aldo. She heard him laugh. Who could that fat woman be? She
hurried on, and stopped a few paces from them.

Aldo, turning round, saw her. He was motionless with astonishment for
one moment. Then he bent forward, and said a word or two to his
companion. She nodded, and he rose and came quickly forward to Nancy.

"What is it?" he said. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh, Aldo!" she said, tears of relief filling her eyes. "At last! I have
looked for you everywhere."

"What is it?" repeated Aldo, in an impatient whisper. "Not--not
Anne-Marie? She is all right?"

"Oh yes, dear," said Nancy, drying her eyes. "Poor little sweet thing!
She is fast asleep at the hotel. Come along! Come and thank an English
gentleman who----" She was about to slip her arm through his when he
drew back.

"Don't!" he said. "Go back to the hotel at once! I shall be there in
five minutes. You don't want to spoil everything, do you?"

"Spoil what?" said Nancy.

"Everything," said Aldo. "Our prospects, our future, everything."

"Why? How? What do you mean?" Nancy looked across at the broad figure in
white sitting on the bench; she had turned round, and seemed to be
looking at Nancy through a _lorgnon_. Nancy could discern a large face
and golden hair under a white straw hat. "Who is that?"

"Oh, she's all right," said Aldo. "I have no time to explain now. Go
home, and do as I tell you. If you don't," he added, as he saw indignant
protest rising to Nancy's lips, "you and the child will have to bear the
consequences. Remember what I tell you----you and the child."

Then he raised his hat, and went back to the bench where the woman was
awaiting him. Nancy, paralyzed with astonishment, saw him sit down, saw
his plausible back and explanatory gestures, while the woman still
looked at her through her long-handled _lorgnon_.

She walked slowly back in stupefaction. The Englishman stood where she
had left him, at the foot of the Casino steps, facing the trees. He had
lit a cigarette. He turned, when she was near him, and threw the
cigarette away. He said:

"Are you coming into the rooms again?"

"No," said Nancy.

"Shall I see you to your hotel?"

"No," said Nancy; and stood there, dull and ashamed.

"Well," said the Englishman, putting out his hand in a brisk,
matter-of-fact way, "good-night." He shook her chilly hand. Then he
ventured consolation. "All the same a hundred years hence," he said, and
turned quickly into the Casino.

He did not stay. He came out a moment afterwards, and followed the
dreary little figure in its grey travelling dress that went slowly up
the street, and round to the right. When he had seen her safely enter
the garden of the hotel he turned back.

"Poor little girl!" he said. "I wonder where I met her before?"

Aldo entered the hotel half an hour later, and went to Nancy's room,
armed with soothing and diplomatic explanations. But Nancy was on her
knees by Anne-Marie's bed, with her face buried in the mosquito-netting,
and did not move when he entered.

"Why, Nancy, what's the matter?"

"Don't wake her, please," said Nancy.

"But I wanted to tell you----"

"Hush!" said Nancy, with her finger on her lips and her eyes on
Anne-Marie.

"Then come to my room. I want to speak to you," said Aldo.

"No," said Nancy.

"Well," said Aldo, "I think I ought to explain----"

"Hush!" said Nancy again. Then she sat on a chair near the child's bed,
and put her face down again in the mosquito-netting.

Aldo stood about the room for a time. He called her name twice, but she
did not answer. Then he went upstairs to his little room feeling
injured.



IV


Early next morning Aldo went out to buy a doll for Anne-Marie. He got it
at the Condamine, where things are cheaper. It went to his heart to
spend seven francs fifty centimes--a _mise_ and a half--but the cheaper
ones were really too hideous to buy peace with. For one mad moment he
thought of buying a doll with real eyelashes that cost twenty-eight
francs. But considerations of economy were stronger than his fears, and
he took the one for seven francs fifty, whose painted eyelashes remained
irrelevantly at the top of the eyelids even when they were closed.

Anne-Marie was delighted.

Nancy was a pale and chilly statue. Aldo sent Anne-Marie and the
Condamine doll to play in the garden, while he in the _salon de lecture_
explained.

The systems were rank and rotten. All of them. Rank--and--rotten.
Grimaux, the croupier, had told him so. There was only one way of
winning, and that was----

"I know all that," said Nancy. "Who was that woman?"

Aldo raised reproachful, nocturnal eyes to her face. She looked smaller
than usual, but very stern.

"Nancy," he said. "Tesoro mio! My treasure!..."

But Nancy ignored the eyes and the outstretched hand. "Who is she?"

"She is nobody--absolutely nobody! An old thing with a yellow wig. Her
name is Doyle. How can you go on like that, my love?"

But Nancy could go on, and did. "She is English?"

"No, no; American. A weird old thing from the prairies." And Aldo
laughed loudly, but alone.

"Well?" said Nancy, with tight lips, when Aldo had quite finished
laughing.

"Well, Grimaux, who has been here sixteen years, said to me: 'The
mistake everyone makes is to double on their losses. When you lose----'"

Aldo's slim hands waved, his shoulders shrugged, his long eyes turned
upward. Nancy watched him, cold and detached. "He looks like the
oyster-sellers of Santa Lucia!" she said to herself. "How could I ever
think him beautiful?" Then she saw Anne-Marie in the garden kissing the
Condamine doll, and she forgave him.

"When you lose," Aldo was saying, "you run after your losses--you
double, you treble, you go on, _et voilà! la débâcle_--whereas when you
win you go carefully, staking little stakes, satisfied with a louis at a
time, and when you have won one hundred francs, out you go, saying:
'That is enough for to-day!' Now that is wrong, quite wrong. What you
ought to do is to follow up your wins, so that when the streak of luck
_does_ come--"

"I have heard quite enough about that," said Nancy. "Tell me the rest."

"Well," said Aldo sulkily, "I wish you would not jump at a fellow. The
rest is merely this: The good old prairie-chicken"--he went off into
another peal of laughter, and left off again when he had finished--"she
was--she was just promising to put up the money when you came along. And
you know what women are. They--they hate families," said Aldo.

Nancy raised her eyes to his face without moving.

"I do not know why you look at me like that," said Aldo sulkily.

Nancy got up. "There is a train at one o'clock," she said; "we will take
it."

She went upstairs; Aldo went out into the garden and played with
Anne-Marie and the Condamine doll.

At twelve Nancy looked out of the window. She called Anne-Marie, who
came unwillingly, dragging the doll upstairs, and followed by Aldo.

"We are ready," said Nancy, tying the white ribbons of a floppy straw
hat under Anne-Marie's chin. Anne-Marie sat on the bed kicking her feet
in their tan travelling-boots up and down. Aldo sat near the table, and
drummed on it with his fingers.

"Who is going to pay the hotel bill?" he said.

Nancy looked up. "Have you no money?"

"I have eighty-two francs and forty centimes," said Aldo.

"Where is the rest?"

"Gone."

Nancy sat down on the bed near Anne-Marie. There was a long silence.

Aldo fidgeted, and said: "I told you the systems were all wrong."

Nancy did not answer. She was thinking. She understood nothing about
money, but she knew what this meant. How were they to go back to Milan?
How were they to live? With her mother? Her mother had had to scrape and
be careful since the forty thousand francs had been given to Aldo. She
had brought smaller boxes of chocolate to Anne-Marie. She took no cabs,
and was wearing a last year's cloak of Aunt Carlotta's. Aunt Carlotta
herself was always grumbling that when she wanted to spend five francs
she turned them over three times, and then put them into her purse
again, and that Adèle could not find a husband because her dot was
small, and men asked for nothing but money nowadays. There was Zio
Giacomo, dear, grumpy old man. But he had all Nino's old debts to pay,
and everybody was always borrowing from him. Distant relations and seedy
old friends visited and wrote to him periodically; and Zio Giacomo was
enraged, and always vowed that this would be the last time.... The only
wealthy person connected with the family was Aldo's brother, Carlo. But
Nancy knew that Aldo had exhausted all from that source. What would
happen? What were they going to do? She looked at Aldo, who sat in the
arm-chair, with his head thrown back and his eyes on the ceiling. He
knew she had likened him to San Sebastian, and now to move her pity as
much as possible he assumed the expression of the adolescent saint
pierced with arrows.

Nancy turned her eyes from him. The sight of him irritated her beyond
endurance. She looked at Anne-Marie, sitting good and happy beside her,
playing with the doll. She bent and kissed the child's cool pink cheek.

Aldo sat up, and said: "I had better go."

"Where to?" said Nancy.

"To the Casino, of course," said Aldo. "I promised to be there at
twelve-thirty."

"To meet that woman?"

"Yes," said Aldo sulkily.

"Oh!" gasped Nancy, and her hands clasped in deepest shame for him.
"What blood is in your veins?"

It was the blood of many generations of Neapolitan lazzaroni--beautiful,
lazy animals, content to lie stretched in the sun--crossed and altered
by the blood of the economical shopkeeping grandfather, who sold corals
and views of Vesuvius in the Via Caracciolo.

Aldo felt that it was time to hold his own. "It is easy enough for you
to talk," he said. "But what else can I do?"

Anne-Marie lifted the Condamine doll to her mother. "Kiss," she said.
Then she stretched it out towards her father. "Kiss," she said. Aldo
jumped up, and fell on his knees before them both. He kissed the doll,
and he kissed Anne-Marie's little coat, and Nancy's knees, and then he
put his head on Anne-Marie's lap and wept. Anne-Marie screamed and
cried, and Nancy kissed them both, and comforted them.

"Never mind--never mind! It will all come right. Don't cry, Aldo! It is
dreadful! I cannot bear to see you cry."

Aldo sobbed, and said he ought to go and shoot himself. And after Nancy
had forgiven, and comforted, and encouraged him, he raised his reddened
eyes and blurred face. "Well, then, shall I go?" he said.

Nancy turned white. It was hopeless. He did not understand. He was what
he was, and did not know that one could be anything else.

"No," she said. And he sat down and sighed, and looked out of the
window.

Nancy went to the stout proprietress and asked for the bill. While it
was being made out, the kindly woman said: "Are you leaving to-day,
madame?"

Nancy blushed, and said: "I do not know until I have seen the bill."

The proprietress, who had heard the noise upstairs--for Aldo cried loud
like a child--and was slightly anxious in regard to her money, said:
"Has monsieur already had the _viatique_?" Nancy did not understand.
"The _viatique_ of the Casino. If monsieur has played and lost, the
administration will give him something back. Let him go and ask for it.
And," she added, glancing at the brooch at Nancy's neck, "if perhaps
madame should wish to know it, the Mont de Piété is not far--just past
the Crédit Lyonnais."

The bill was one hundred and twenty-three francs. Nancy told Aldo about
the _viatique_, and he said, with a hang-dog air, he would go and ask
for it.

"How much do you think it will be?" asked Nancy.

"I don't know," said Aldo, who felt that he must be glum.

"Two or three thousand francs?"

"I suppose so," said Aldo.

"You will accept nothing from that woman. You promise!"

"I promise," said Aldo, laying flabby fingers in her earnest,
outstretched hand.

So he went, and when he was out of sight of the hotel he hurried.

Nancy packed his trunk for him, and felt pity and half remorse as she
folded his limp, well-known clothes, his helpless coats and defenceless
waistcoats, and put them away. He had no character. It was not his
fault. She ought not to have allowed him to come here. He was not a
wall; Clarissa had told her so long ago. He was weak, and limp, and
foolish. Well, Nancy would be the wall. Already she knew what to do. Say
the Casino gave them back three or four thousand francs. They would go
back to Milan, give up the home in Via Senato, and take a cheaper
apartment in the Quartieri Nuovi. She would write. She would work again.
Ah! at the thought of her work her blood quickened. The baby should stay
with Valeria, because it was impossible to do any serious work with
Anne-Marie tugging at one's skirts and at one's heart-strings. She
would go and see the baby every evening after she had written five or
six hours. Aldo would return to Zio Giacomo's office. Good old Zio
Giacomo would be glad to take him back for Valeria's and Nancy's sake,
and they would live quietly and modestly. Aldo should superintend the
household expenses, and squabble over the bills with the servant--he
loved to do that; and by the time the three, or four, or five thousand
francs that the Casino had given them were finished The Book would be
out. "The Cycle of Lyrics" had brought her in twenty thousand francs,
and it was only a slender volume of verse. This book would make a great
stir in Italy--she knew it--and it would be translated into all
languages. She wished she had the manuscript here. She felt that she
could start it again at once.

She closed her eyes and remembered. All the people she had created,
bound together by the scarlet thread of the conception, rushed out from
the neglected pages, and entered her heart again. She felt like
Browning's lion; you could see by her eye, wide and steady, she was
leagues in the desert already....

Suddenly Anne-Marie, who had been playing like a little lamb of gold on
the balcony, gave a scream: the doll had gone. The doll had fallen over
the balcony. It was gone! It was dead! Nancy looked over the ledge. Yes,
there lay the Condamine doll on the gravel-path in the garden. And it
was dead. Half of its face had jumped away and lay some distance off.

Aldo, entering the garden at that moment, saw it, and picked it up. Then
he looked up at the balcony, and saw Nancy's troubled face and the
distracted countenance of his little daughter.

He waved his hand, and went out again, taking the dead doll with him. He
hailed a carriage, and told the driver to drive quickly to the
Condamine. He bought the doll with the real eyelashes for twenty-two
francs--he made them knock off six francs--and returned with clatter of
horses and cracking of whip to the hotel.

When Anne-Marie saw the doll, and when Nancy saw Anne-Marie's face, Aldo
knew he was forgiven and reinstated.

"What have they given you back at the Casino?" asked Nancy.

"I don't know. I am to go again in two hours," said Aldo. "Let us have
luncheon."

They had an excellent luncheon, for, confronted with a desperate
situation in which the economizing of fifty centimes meant nothing, the
ancestral shopkeeper in Aldo's veins bowed, and left room for the
lazzarone, who ate his spaghetti to-day, and troubled not about the
morrow.

"If they give you five or six thousand francs, I suppose we must not
complain. We cannot expect to get back the entire eighteen thousand,"
said Nancy.

"No," said Aldo, with downcast eyelids. He knew something about
_viatiques_, but he would not let this knowledge spoil their lunch.
After all, the luncheon cost twelve francs. It must not be wasted.

"Did you see her?" asked Nancy, tying a table-napkin round the doll's
neck at Anne-Marie's request.

"Whom?" said Aldo, with his mouth full.

"The--the prairie-chicken," said Nancy, to make him feel that he was
quite forgiven.

"Oh yes; I saw her," said Aldo.

Nancy put down her knife and fork, and felt faint. "Well?"

Aldo cleared his throat, took a sip of wine, and said, "She is an old
beast."

There was a pause, then he continued: "I made a clean breast of it. I
told her who you were, and about Anne-Marie; and when I had finished she
called me a--a--oh, some vulgar American name, and off she walked."

Nancy reached across the table and patted his hand. "That's right,
Aldo."

"I told you," he said, nodding his head, "that that kind of woman cannot
stand the idea of a fellow having a family."

"Perhaps," suggested Nancy, dimpling, "she could not stand the idea of
the way the fellow treated his family."

"Well, never mind," said Aldo. "She's done with."

But she wasn't.

At four o'clock Aldo, Nancy, Anne-Marie, and the doll went out, and down
to the square in front of the Casino. Nancy and the child sat on a bench
facing the Casino, and Aldo went in to get the _viatique_. He came out a
few minutes later looking flushed and angry.

"The _canailles_! The thieves! The robbers!"

"What is it?" said Nancy.

"They have given me one hundred and fifty francs!" and he held out the
three fifty-franc notes contemptuously.

"A hundred--and--fifty francs!" gasped Nancy.

"Nancy, there is only one thing to do," said Aldo. "Go in and play them.
Plank them down on a number, and if they go, let them go, and be done
with."

"Do it," said Nancy, for nothing mattered.

"I can't," said Aldo. "I can't go in--not until this miserable dole is
paid back. You must go. They will let you in. Go on."

Nancy rose, flushed and trembling. "What do I do? How do I play it?"

"Oh, anyhow. It makes no difference," said Aldo, with his face in his
hands, suddenly realizing that they three possessed in the world one
hundred and ninety francs, and a debt of one hundred and twenty-three.
He turned to the child.

"Say a number, Anne-Marie! Any old number!"

Anne-Marie did not understand.

"You know your numbers, darling," said Nancy, "that grandmamma taught
you."

"Oh, yeth," said Anne-Marie. "One, two, three, four."

"Stop. All right," said Aldo. "Nancy, go in and play--at any table you
like--the _quatre premiers_ and _quatre en plein_. That gives you zero,
too. Go ahead! _Les quatre premiers_ and _quatre en plein_. Remember.
Tell the croupier to do it for you."

Nancy went straight in, and to the left, where the men sat who had
laughed at her the night before. They recognized her, and gave her a
card at once.

She went into the rooms. Chink, chink; chink, chink. She went to the
table on the left. A red-haired croupier sat at the end of the table
nearest her, and she went to him, and gave him one of the fifty-franc
notes.

"Les quatre premiers et quatre en plein," she said.

But it was too late. "Rien ne va plus," said the man in the centre.
"Trente-deux, noir, pair et passe."

The croupier handed her back the note. "You're lucky," he said. "You
would have lost." She repeated her phrase, and he put the note on the
top of his rake and passed it across the table. "Quatre premiers," he
said, and the man in the middle placed it.

"Et quoi encore?" said the croupier, looking at Nancy.

"Quatre premiers et quatre en plein," repeated Nancy, mechanically.

"Combien à l'en plein?" said the man, holding out his hand.

Nancy gave him the second fifty-franc note, and he passed it up on his
rake. "Quatre en plein."

"Quatre en plein. Tout va aux billets," said the man in the centre; and
the ball whizzed round. Nancy's heart was thumping; it shook her; it
beat like a drum. The little ball dropped, ran along awhile, stopped,
clattered and clicked, and fell into a compartment.

"Trois."

Everybody looked at Nancy as she was paid, and she collected the gold
and silver with clumsy hands. "Encore," she said, giving the croupier
the remaining bill and some louis.

"Quoi?" said the croupier.

"Encore la même chose." The ball was running round.

"Mais ça y est," said the croupier, for the fifty-franc note that had
won still lay at the corner of the top line.

"Mais non, mais non," said Nancy, who was very much confused, "premier
quatre"--the man placed the note on the other note still lying
there--"et quatre en plein." But for this last it was too late.

"Rien ne va plus. Zéro!"

"Voilà! ça y est!" said the croupier, returning the gold to her, and
waiting with the rake on the table for the eight hundred francs to be
paid.

What is the secret of luck? How shall it be forced? How explained?
Whatever Nancy did, she won. Wherever her money lay there the ball
went. When she thought she had enough--her hands were full, her place at
the table was piled up with louis and silver and notes--and she was
withdrawing her remaining stake and the gold paid on it with clumsy
rake, she moved it away from the numbers, and left it on "pair" while
she put down the rake. A minute was lost while a woman said something to
her, and before she could take the money up the ball had fallen. "Vingt.
Pair et passe." It was doubled.

When she at last tremblingly collected it all in her hands, and put gold
and notes as best she could into her pocket, she rose, and could hardly
see. Her cheeks were flaming. She passed out of the rooms, into the
atrium, and down the steps. Aldo sat on the bench with his elbows on his
knees and his head in his hands and the doll in his arms. Anne-Marie was
running up and down in front of him.

"Aldo," said Nancy, and sat down weakly at his side.

"Gone?" asked Aldo, raising a miserable face.

"No!" Nancy had a little hysterical laugh. She piled the money into his
hands, then into her lap, while he counted it quickly, deftly. People
passing looked at them, and smiled.

"Seven thousand eight hundred francs," said Aldo, very pale.

"Oh, but there is more;" and Nancy dived into her pocket again. There
was over fourteen thousand francs.

"Come into the Café de Paris," said Aldo.

They drank coffee and _crème de menthe_, and Anne-Marie had strawberry
ice and cakes. The band played "Sous la Feuillée."

"Oh what a lovely world it is!" said Nancy, with a little sob. "Oh,
what a glorious place! I love it all! I love everybody!"

"I love evlybody," said Anne-Marie, taking a third cake with careful
choice. Aldo and Nancy laughed.

The Englishman passed, and Nancy called him. She introduced him to Aldo,
and Aldo thanked him for being kind to Nancy the evening before. Nancy
told him about the fourteen thousand francs she had won, and they all
laughed, and the band played, and the sun shone and went down.

"The best train for Italy," said Mr. Allen suddenly, "is at six-twenty.
You have just an hour. It's a splendid train. You get to Milan at
eleven."

Aldo looked at Nancy, and Nancy looked at the sky. It was light and
tender, and the air was still. The Tsiganes were playing "Violets," and
in the distance lay the sea.

"We must take that train," said Aldo, getting up and rapping his saucer
for the waiter.

"Oh no!" said Nancy. "Please not! Let us stay here and be happy."

"Stay here and be happy," said Anne-Marie, with a bewitching smile.

They stayed.



V


Aldo repaid the _viatique_ and went into the gambling-rooms with Nancy.
The proprietress of the hotel got them a _bonne_ from Vintimille, who
walked up and down in the gardens with Anne-Marie, and carried the doll.
She cost nothing--only fifty francs a month! They arranged to take
_pension_ at the hotel. That also cost nothing--twelve francs a day
each. They took drives that cost nothing--sixteen francs to La Turbie,
twenty francs to Cap Martin. Nothing cost anything. Ten minutes at the
tables, and Nancy had won enough to pay everything for a month.

She sent a cloak to her mother, which Valeria vowed was much too
beautiful to wear. She sent presents to Aunt Carlotta and Zio Giacomo,
to Adèle and to Nino, to Carlo and to Clarissa. And she remembered a man
with no legs, who sat in a little cart on the Corso in Milan, and she
sent her mother one hundred francs to give him. Anne-Marie was dressed
in a white corded silk coat, and a white-plumed hat. The _bonne_ had a
large Scotch bow with streamers.

This lasted ten days. On the eleventh day it was ended. Nancy played
gaily, and lost. She played carefully, and lost. She played tremblingly,
and lost. She played recklessly, and lost. Aldo, who did not trust his
own luck, followed her from table to table, saying: "Be careful!...
Don't!... Do!... Why did you? Why didn't you? I told you so!" And at
each table _la guigne_ was waiting for them, pushing Nancy's hand in the
wrong direction, whispering the wrong numbers in her ear. Ten times they
made up their minds to stop, and ten times they decided to try just once
more. "We have about nine thousand francs left. With that we are paupers
for the rest of our lives. With luck we might recoup."

This lasted two days. On the third day they had one thousand and eighty
francs left. "Play the eighty," said Aldo, "and we will keep the
thousand." They lost the eighty, and then four hundred francs more.
"What is the good of six hundred francs," said Aldo, and they played
on.

Their last two louis Aldo threw on a _transversale_. They won. "Let us
leave it all on," said Aldo. They won again.

"Shall we risk it again?" said Nancy, with flushed cheeks and galloping
heart.

Aldo's lips were dry and pale; he could not speak. He nodded. And a
third time they won. The croupier flattened the notes out on the table
and knocked the little pile of gold lightly over with his rake. He
counted, and paid five times the already quintupled stake.

Aldo bent forward and picked up a rake to draw in his winnings. A man
sitting near the centre of the table put out his hand, and took the
piled-up notes and gold.

"Ah, _pardon_!" cried Aldo, striking the rake down on the notes and
holding them; "that is mine."

"Pardon! pardon! pardon!" said the man, laying his hand firmly on the
notes. "C'est ma mise à moi! Voilà déjà trois coups que je l'y
laisse----"

Aldo was incoherent with excitement, and Nancy joined in, very pale. "It
is ours, monsieur."

"Ah, mais c'est par trop fort," cried the other, who was French, and had
a loud voice. He pushed Aldo's rake aside, and took the money.

Aldo appealed to the croupiers, and to the people near him, and to the
people opposite him. They shrugged their shoulders and raised their
eyebrows. They had not seen, they did not know.

"Faites vos jeux, messieurs," said the croupier.

The ball whizzed; the game went on. Aldo, burning with rage, and Nancy
pale and dazed, left the table.

"Oh, Aldo! Let us go away. This is a horrible place. Let us go away."

Aldo did not answer.

They went out into the sunshine. Laughing women lifting light dresses
and showing their high heels came hurrying across the square. The warm
air was heavy with the scent of flowers. They turned into the gardens,
and before them was the dancing sea; and Anne-Marie, looking like an
Altezza Serenissima, tripped up and down in her white corded silk coat,
her brief curls bobbing under her white-plumed hat.

Behind her walked the Vintimille servant with the Scotch silk bow on her
head, and carried the doll with the real eyelashes.



VI


       *       *       *       *       *

                                                     NEW YORK.

MOTHER DEAR,

I shall send you this letter when nothing that I have written in it is
true any more. If we ever live through and out of it, you shall know; if
not--but, of course, we shall. We must. One cannot die of poverty, can
one? One does not really, actually suffer real hunger, does one, mother
dear? "Zu Grunde gehen!" The sombre old German words keep rumbling in my
head like far-away thunder. "Zu Grunde gehen!"

I do not suppose one really does go "_zu Grunde_." But when one has
forty-five dollars in the world, and a funny little bird with its beak
open expecting to be fed--and fed on chocolates and bonbons when it
wants them--one becomes demoralized and frightened, and pretends to
think that one might really starve.

Do not think it unkind that I did not come to Milan to kiss you and say
good-bye. I had not the heart to do so. Aldo, too, said we could not
afford it, and, indeed, our combined _viatiques_ and our jewellery only
just enabled us to come here.

We landed three days ago. Yesterday morning I sent you a postcard:
"Arrived happily." Happily! Oh, mother dear, I think there must be a
second higher and happier heaven for those who are brave enough to tell
untruths of this kind. Enough; we landed, Anne-Marie looking like a
spoilt princess; I with my Monte Carlo hat and coat, and high-heeled,
impertinent shoes; and Aldo, a pallid Antinous, with forty-five dollars
in his pocket-book.

Then came the Via Crucis of looking for rooms. Mother, did I ever stay
at the Hôtel Nazionale in Rome, and descend languidly the red-carpeted
stairs to the royal automobile that was to drive me to the Quirinal? Did
I ever sit at home in Uncle Giacomo's large arm-chair and listen
benignly to moon-struck poets reading their songs? Did I ever with
languid fingers ring bells for servants, and order what I wanted?

    "Cio avvenne forse ai tempi
     D'Omero e di Valmichi----"

That was another Nancy. This Nancy trudged for hours through straight
and terrible streets called avenues, with a dismal husband and a tired
baby at her side. Third Avenue, Fourth Avenue, then quickly across Fifth
Avenue, which had nothing to do with us, and again across to Sixth
Avenue ... and everywhere dirty shops, screaming children, jostling
girls, rude men, trains rushing overhead, street-cars screeching and
clanging. Then, at last, Seventh Avenue, where there were streets full
of quiet, squalid boarding-houses, fewer screaming children, fewer dirty
shops, and no trains. We went into a cheap, clean-looking place that a
porter had told us of. A woman opened. She looked at my hat and coat,
and at my shoes, and said: "What do you want?" "A room----" began Aldo.
She shut the door without answering. At the next house a woman in a
dirty silk dressing-gown opened the door. "Yes, they had rooms. Eight
dollars a day. Meals a dollar." In the next house they took no children.
In the next, no foreigners. Our expensive clothes in their cheap street
made them suspicious. Aldo's handsome face made them suspicious. His
Italian accent frightened them. And Anne-Marie cried every time a new
face appeared at a new door.

At last Aldo said: "I will go to the Italian consul. You wait here in a
baker's shop." The consulate was at the other end of New York, and was
closed when Aldo got there. When he returned, harassed and haggard, I
had made friends with the baker's wife. She was German. I told her our
History of the Wolf--that I was a poetess, and had met the Queen, and
all about Monte Carlo. I don't think she believed or understood much,
but she was sorry for me; and Anne-Marie, hearing us talk German,
suddenly started piping: "Schlaf, Kindchen, schlaf!" The woman caught
her up in her arms, and said: "Ach, du süsses! How does she come to know
that?" And she took us all to 28th Street to the house of her sister,
who gave us this room. It is clean, and the woman is kind.

And now, what?

I have bought myself a frightful pepper-and-salt coloured dress, and a
black straw hat. I look like a "deserving poor." And Anne-Marie is
wearing a dark blue woolly horror belonging to the woman's daughter.
She must wear it, or Frau Schmidl would be offended. Frau Schmidl is the
only friend we have in America.

For the ranch is a myth of Aldo's. He never was on a ranch in his life.
He met a Frenchman once with weak lungs, who had been in Texas, and who
gave him all the romantic details that he used to recount to us. Do you
remember, mother? On Lake Maggiore? He talked vaguely, and not much, it
is true, of those bucking bronchoes he used to ride across the sweeping
Western prairies, feeling the wind in his hair.... When I reproach him
for his fables, he tells me that it was our fault. We insisted upon the
details. We would hear all about it! He says Clarissa started the ranch
legend, because she thought it sounded well. Then she left him to keep
it up as best he could. Poor Aldo! He hates us in these clothes. And he
hates the German things Frau Schmidl gives us to eat. He has gone to the
Italian Consul for the third time to see if he can find some
correspondence to do. I could give lessons, but it seems that there are
many more people who want to give lessons than there are who want to
take them. And then--there is Anne-Marie, who has to be taken care of.
Anne-Marie! Frau Schmidl loves her because of her name. She says it is
echt deutsch! She is a stout, fair woman, who speaks English strangely.
When she enters the room, she says, nodding and laughing, "Now, and what
makes the Anne-Marie?"

The Anne-Marie likes the sound of the language, and imitates her. I
dread to think what English the Anne-Marie will learn.

       *       *       *       *       *

Aldo has found nothing to do. The Americans will have nothing to do with
an Italian, and Italians will have still less to do with an Italian. We
have eight dollars left.

       *       *       *       *       *

If I write to you for money you will send it. And then? A few weeks
hence we shall be where we are now. We must fight our battles alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have nothing left.

Mr. Schmidl says he will let us keep the room--"for another week or
two," he added gruffly; but his wife is not to feed us. "At least--not
all of you," he added still more gruffly. "Only you--and the
Anne-Marie." He is a poor man. He is quite right. But what about Aldo?

       *       *       *       *       *

We have sold the Monte Carlo clothes for twelve dollars. We feel that we
are rehabilitated. And what have I been dreaming of? I can write. I
shall send an article to the _Giornale Italo-Americano_. Unsigned, of
course. I shall write it to-night.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is done.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is accepted.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is printed.

It seems that that is all. They have told Aldo that they never pay for
articles that are sent to them from the outside--even if they are as
brilliant and original as this one. They only pay their own staff. Have
they room on their staff for a brilliant and original writer? Plenty of
room. But no money.

Aldo is living on dates and a little rice. He speaks less than ever. I
do not know what his thoughts are. I am afraid for him.

To-day as I was taking Anne-Marie for a run in front of the house I met
a man whom we knew in Italy, a Dr. Fioretti. He was an old friend of
Nino's. Do you remember? He looked at me, and past me, blankly,
unrecognizing. I thanked the fates. My knees ached with fear lest he
should stop and say: "You here! What are you doing? Where do you live?"
Where do I live? In this vile street near the negro quarter. What am I
doing? Starving. Are we dreaming, mother? Oh, mother! mother! when did I
fall asleep? I should like to wake up a little girl again in England.
Was there not another little girl called Edith, with yellow hair? Surely
I remember her. What became of her?... Or was she the girl who died?...

       *       *       *       *       *

Aldo will not leave the house any more. He will not speak to us any
more. He sits and stares at us. I am afraid of him. I shall telegraph to
you if I can find the money to do so. Mrs. Schmidl keeps Anne-Marie
downstairs in her kitchen. But she is afraid of Aldo, too. I think they
will turn us out. But they will keep the child, and take care of her.

I shall go out. I shall ask everybody, anybody, to help me....

       *       *       *       *       *

I have been to the Italian Church, to the Italian Consul, to the Italian
Embassy. They will see. They will do what they can. There are many
pitiable cases. Are we a "pitiable case"? How strange! They would not
give me any money to send a telegram. They said they would telegraph
themselves, after they had come to see us, and made inquiries....

I stopped a woman in the street, and said, "I beg your pardon. Will
you----" and then my courage failed and I asked where West 28th Street
was. She directed me, and I turned back and walked in the direction I
had come from.

I came to Fifth Avenue, and walked up it in my shabby clothes. I passed
rows of large houses. One of them had the windows open, and someone
inside was playing "Der Musikant" of Hugo Wolff. And a woman's voice was
singing:

    "Wenn wir zwei zusammen wären
     Würd' das Singen mir vergeh'n."

I stopped. I turned back, and walked up the wide stone steps. I rang the
visitors' bell, and a manservant in ornate livery opened at once.

"I wish to speak to the lady who is singing," I said.

"Oh," said the man. I knew he thought me a beggar, and was going to send
me away.

"Tell her--tell her quickly," I said, "that--that Hugo Wolff told me I
might come."

Something in my face--oh, my despairing face, mother!--touched something
human in the pompous automaton. He went straight into the drawing-room
and gave my message. There was a basket of Easter lilies on the
hall-table.

The music stopped, and almost at once on the threshold of the
drawing-room a lady appeared. She was young--hardly older than I--and
beautiful, dressed in soft mauve cloth. She looked at me curiously, and
then said suddenly:

"Will you come in?"

I went into the large, luxurious drawing-room. Titian's "Bella" looked
down at me blandly with her reddened eyelids.

"What message was that you sent?" she asked, with her graceful head on
one side.

My voice had almost left me. "I said Hugo Wolff told me to come in. I
heard you singing 'Der Musikant'...."

She laughed, and said: "Are you a musician?"

I said: "No." And I thought of telling her the History of the Wolf. But
I feared she might know my name, and tell the Italians in New York. And
the Italo-Americano would print an article about it--and the Corriere
della Sera in Milan would reprint it....

"Is there anything I can do for you?" she said.

I nodded.

"Money?" she asked softly.

I nodded.

"How much do you need?"

"Five dollars," I said.

She smiled, and said: "Is that all? I should willingly do more for a
friend of Hugo Wolff's!"

She went out of the room, and closed the door behind her. She left me in
my shabby clothes, in my black straw hat and my need of five dollars, in
her gorgeous drawing-room, scattered with priceless ornaments in silver
and gold, jewelled frames and trinkets lying all about the tables. I
covered my face with my hands, and the tears rolled through my fingers.
She came back a few minutes afterwards with a gold twenty-dollar piece
in her hand. She gave it to me, and said, "For luck!" and added:

"Is there nothing else I can do?" I nodded, with my eyes full of tears.
"Yes!" and I looked at the piano.

She smiled and sat down. She sang for me. I know she sang her very best.
She had a lovely voice.

When I went through the hall to the door two men-servants bowed me out
as if I were a princess. And I went down the stairs weeping bitterly.

I went along the street, crying and not caring who saw me. Then I sat
down in Madison Square. Suddenly someone came and sat beside me. A
woman. I felt her eyes fixed on me for a long time, and I turned and
looked at her. There, under a turquoise toque, sat the golden hair and
the large face of the prairie chicken.

"How do you do, Mrs. Doyle?" I said.

"What?" She turned quickly. "How do you know my name?" And she added,
frowning: "What are you crying for?"

"For love of a woman who has been kind to me," I said.

"There are lots of kind women," she answered. "I'm kind. What do you
want?"

"I want you to come and talk to my husband," I said. "You know him. You
met him in Monte Carlo. His name is Aldo della Rocca."

"What? Della Rocca? That lovely Italian creature? That Apollo of
Belvedere? Of course I remember him. Where is he? What is he doing
here?"

"Come and see," I said.

And she came up to Mrs. Schmidl's house in 28th Street.

That evening we dined with the prairie chicken, or rather, she invited
herself to dine with us. She said "Poison!" when she tasted the
Knödelsuppe, and "Poison!" when she tasted the Blutwurst and Kraut. She
is probably a very great lady, judging by her bad behaviour.

In my heart hope opens timid eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *



VII


Mrs. Doyle was a very great lady. Her husband had been a political
"boss"; her sister had married an English baronet; and her daughter,
Marge, eighteen years old, "a mere infant," as she said, had married
Herbert van Osten, the Congressman.

She was full of good ideas. "Now, you two might be the rage of New York
in no time," she said, at the end of the dinner. "You are a Count,
aren't you?" And she looked confidently at Aldo. "'Della Rocca'! That
sounds like a Count."

"Oh yes," said Aldo, with his shining white smile, humorously
remembering his grandfather's name, "Esposito," which means a foundling,
and the "Della Rocca" added to it because the little Esposito had been
left on a rock near Posilippo.

"Well, let me see. You must have an atelier of some kind. Ateliers are
all the rage. And your wife----" Mrs. Doyle raised her sepia eyebrows
and pinched her large chin pensively.

"My wife is a great poetess," said Aldo.

"Is she?" said Mrs. Doyle. "Well--let me see. She must--she must dress
a little differently--red scarves and things--and look picturesque, and
read her poems in salons here. Poetry is all the rage. And if it is
Eyetalian, you know," she added encouragingly to Nancy, "no one will
understand it. I shall discover you. I shall give an At Home.
'Eyetalian poetry' in a corner of the cards. That's an elegant idea!"

But Nancy was refractory. She said she would not wear red scarves, nor
recite her poetry; and what was Aldo going to do in an atelier?

"Well, my dear," said Mrs. Doyle, "faces like his are not met with every
day on Broadway. I don't know how it is in your country, but his looks
alone are enough to make him the rage here."

Aldo nodded, looking at Nancy as if to say: "You see?"

"But what is the good of being the rage if one has nothing to live on?
What are we to eat?" asked Nancy, feeling brutal and unlovely, and
_terre à terre_.

"Oh, my dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Doyle. "If once you are the rage in a
place like New York!" ... And she raised her round blue eyes to Frau
Schmidl's ceiling, where languid flies walked slowly.

But Nancy assured her that it was impossible. Could she not find some
work for Aldo to do?

"What work?" said Mrs. Doyle, resting an absent-minded blue gaze on the
lustrous convolutions of Aldo's hair, on his white, narrow forehead, on
his intense and violent eyes, and the scarlet arcuation of his vivid
lips. "What work can he do?"

"Oh!" Nancy said vaguely, "what work do men do? He has been to the
University and taken a degree. He has studied law, but has not
practised. I am sure he could do anything. He is very clever."

"Oh yes," assented Mrs. Doyle dreamily.

She was thinking. She was thinking of something her married daughter had
been saying to her that very morning. Suddenly, she got up and said
good-bye. She let Aldo help her into her long turquoise coat, and find
her gloves; and then she sent him off to fetch a motor-cab. Alone with
Nancy, she was about to open her large silver-net reticule when she saw
Nancy's straight gaze fixed upon her. So she refrained, and kissed her
instead.

"Ta-ta, Apollo," she said, shaking a fat, white-gloved hand out of the
carriage window to Aldo, who stood on the side-walk, bare-headed and
deferential. Then, leaning back as the carriage slid along 7th Avenue
and turned into 66th Street, she mused: "He will do--he will do
elegantly. Won't Marge be delighted! That will teach Bertie to sit up.
Elegant idea! Bertie will have to sit up."

Bertie was not sitting up. His wife, Mrs. Doyle's daughter, was. And
very straight she sat, with defiant, frizzy head and narrow lips, when
she heard the front door open and close. But it was not to her husband's
insubordinate footsteps. It was the indulgent swish of her mother's
silken skirts that rustled slowly upwards.

Bertie's wife sprang up and opened the door.

"'Mum'? At this hour? What has happened?"

"Nothing, Marge--nothing. Is Bertie at home?" said Mrs. Doyle.

"No," and the young pink lips narrowed again. "It is only eleven o'clock
at night. Why should he be at home?"

"Marge, I have an elegant idea," said Mrs. Doyle, seating herself
resolutely in an armchair opposite her daughter. "I have found the very
thing we need. The bo ideel, my lambkin."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Mrs. Doyle rose to go at midnight they were both wreathed in
smiles.

"You will have to be very careful, dear," said Mrs. Doyle. "Don't be
rash, and unlikely, and over-generous. The wife is a stubborn creature
who spells things with a capital letter: you know what I mean--Work and
Art and Dignity, and all that kind of thing. She must not be rubbed up
the wrong way. Besides, it will answer just as well if he does not know
what he is doing."

"That's so," said her daughter. "Mum, you're a daisy."

The unsuspecting Bertie came home that night a little before one
o'clock, keyed up for the usual withering sarcasm and darkling reproach.
He found his wife asleep, lamb-like and dove-like, her frizzy head
foundered contentedly in the pillows, a book of Gyp on the coverlet, and
a mild smile--was it of indulgence or of treason?--playing on her soft
half-open lips.

The next day Mrs. Doyle called on Aldo and Nancy. Anne-Marie was
introduced and patted on the head, and sent down into the kitchen.

"I have a secretaryship for you," said Mrs. Doyle to Aldo. "You can
start at once. Twenty dollars a week. They won't give more."

Aldo was graciously complacent, and Nancy looked anxious.

"His English is very imperfect," she said.

"Oh, the English is chiefly copying; he can do that, can't he?"

"Of course," said Aldo, frowning at Nancy.

Nancy asked for particulars, and Mrs. Doyle folded her fat hands and
gave them. It was a confidential post. He was to be "secretary to her
daughter"--catching Nancy's steady grey eye, Mrs. Doyle added--"'s
husband, Mr. Van Osten;" and the work was chiefly of a political
character. He would have to--er--copy speeches, and ... etcetera. He
would have a study, not in the Van Osten's house, but--er--in the same
street a few doors off, opposite. He was not to talk about his work,
because it was of a very--er--private character.

"Mr. Van Osten is a peculiar man," added Mrs. Doyle. "But you will
understand all that in time, when you get to know him. When can you
start?"

"Now," said Aldo.

Mrs. Doyle laughed. "Well, I think next Monday will do. Meanwhile"--and
she coughed--"the Van Ostens are very--oh, very much for appearance, you
know. You had better go to Brooks and get him to rig you out. I shall
drive round and speak to Brooks about you at once."

Nancy flushed and protested. "You can pay it back to me," said Mrs.
Doyle. "Don't bother me so."

So Nancy flushed, and was silent; and Aldo went to Brooks, and was
rigged out.

He also had some visiting-cards with "Count Aldo della Rocca" printed on
them, but not his address, which was near the nigger quarter, and
probably would continue to be so for a long time to come.

On the following Monday, at half-past eleven, he arrived at the Van
Osten house in 66th Street. Mrs. Doyle had particularly impressed upon
him that he was not to come earlier than half-past eleven. Mrs. Doyle
was waiting for him in the drawing-room, and introduced him to her
daughter. Mr. Van Osten was not in. The Count was to do his work alone
for these first few days, as Mr. Van Osten was very busy in Washington.
The two ladies had their hats on, and accompanied him across the street
to No. 59. They had a latchkey which they gave to him, and went with him
to the room that was to be his study on the top-floor. It was a large,
light, almost empty, room. A wide desk stood in front of the window;
there were a few chairs and tables, and a half-empty book-case. On the
desk was a pile of papers, newspapers, and manuscripts. A typewriting
machine stood on the table.

"Oh," said Aldo blankly, "I do not know how to use a typewriter."

"Never mind," said the ladies in unison.

"We put it there in case you could," said Mrs. Doyle.

Then Mrs. Doyle showed him his work. "All this has to be copied," she
said, showing him the tidy manuscript sheets. "And then you ought to
make extracts from these papers."

She pointed to the newspapers--they were of the preceding week. He was
to mark and cut out everything referring to the Congo, and underline
with red ink Mr. Van Osten's name every time he came across it.

"And everything that Mr. Van Osten himself says has to be copied in this
large book."

"Would it not be better to cut out the speeches in print and paste them
in?" said Aldo.

"Oh no," said Mrs. Doyle. "He wants them copied. Doesn't he, Marjorie?"

Her daughter turned from the window and said:

"Oh yes!" She had flittering green eyes and a funny smile. Her frizzy,
light hair came down to the bridge of her small freckled nose, and she
had a manner of throwing back her head in order to look from under her
hair that was peculiar to her. She was dressed like an expensive French
doll.

"Oh yes," she repeated, with her head thrown back, and in her high
childish voice. "I guess he wants it all copied." Her smile flickered,
and she turned to the window again.

The ladies left him, and he sat down to work. He copied steadily in his
beautiful _commis voyageur_ handwriting until two o'clock. Then he
went out and had a hasty lunch. At four o'clock Mrs. Doyle rustled in
and asked him how he was getting on. He was getting on splendidly. At
six he went home.

This went on for three days, and on Wednesday afternoon he had nothing
left to copy, or to cut out, or to paste in. He looked out of the
window. He took a book from the book-case--they were almost all French
novels. After reading an hour, he decided to go across to No. 8, the Van
Ostens' house, and ask for instructions. He had not yet seen his
employer, and, as all men who are sure of their tailor and their
physique, he liked new acquaintances.

The butler who opened the door looked at his clothes, then took his hat,
and divested him of his overcoat. He presented a silver tray, on which
Aldo, after a moment's hesitation, deposited his visiting-card. The man
looked at it, opened the drawing-room door, and pronounced: "Count Aldo
della Rocca." A subdued sound of voices and tea-cups subsided into
silence, and Aldo entered the room.

He bowed low, his secretary bow, standing at the door, for he did not
want to offend his employers. When he raised his head, Mrs. Van Osten's
light green flitter of a smile was greeting him from the sofa. His quick
eye saw that she was nervous. She put out her hand and said:

"Oh, Count della Rocca, how do you do? Just in time for a cup of tea."

He stepped past the four or five ladies and an old gentleman who sat
near her, and kissed her hand in Southern fashion. He was not to be the
secretary? _Benissimo!_ He was not the secretary. He was the Count.

"But perhaps," continued his hostess, "you don't like tea? Vermouth or
Campari is what you take in your country at this hour, is it not?" And
she held out a cup of tea to him, with her head thrown back and slightly
on one side.

"Oh, Madame! All what is taken from so fair a lady's hand is nectar!"
said Aldo, with his best smile; and the ladies tittered approval.

"Ah, Latin flattery, Count," said his hostess, and introduced him to her
friends.

Once or twice he noticed that she glanced anxiously at him, as if
dreading what he might do or say; but Aldo, remembering the political
and private character of his work, did not mention it. The ladies left
one by one. And the old gentleman left. Then Mrs. Van Osten turned her
little dry, hard face to Aldo.

"Why did you come?" she asked.

"I have finished my work," said Aldo, feeling himself very much the
secretary again. "I knew not what I was to do."

"Oh, I see. I will tell my mother--I mean my husband--about it." And at
this moment Mrs. Doyle entered. Her daughter drew her to the window, and
spoke to her in a whisper for some time. Mrs. Doyle replied: "Oh, all
the better. I did not know how we should ever begin it." She turned to
Aldo, standing stiff and secretarial in the middle of the room.

"I am glad you took Mrs. Van Osten's cue," she said. Aldo wondered what
"cue" meant, but did not ask. "Do so, always. It is of the greatest
importance. And now about Mr. Van Osten. _Never_ speak to him about your
work. He does not like it. Unless he mentions it to you, never speak
about it at all. Let him see that you are absolutely discreet. Now you
may stay till he comes."

He stayed and made flat general conversation. Mrs. Van Osten looked
bored. Mrs. Doyle answered him nervously and absentmindedly.

The bell rang loud, and the butler opened the hall-door to admit his
master. Aldo stood up. Suddenly he felt a hand on his sleeve. It was
little Mrs. Van Osten's jewelled hand that pulled him down into his
chair. She leaned forward, with her chin on her hand, and smiled.

"I am sure you are musical," she said, smiling into his eyes, as through
the open door Mr. Van Osten entered, large, leisurely, and good-looking.

"Hulloa!" he said to his wife. "Well, mother?" to Mrs. Doyle. Then he
looked at Aldo, who very slowly, wondering what he was to do, got up
from his seat.

"Bertie," said his wife, looking up at him with a look that was at once
the look of a cat and of a mouse, "this is Count della Rocca whom I was
telling you about."

Van Osten put out his large hand. "Glad to meet you," he said. Then Mrs.
Doyle sat down and talked to him.

"You are musical?" said Mrs. Van Osten, lifting her small chin, and
twinkling her eyes at Aldo.

Aldo suddenly remembered what Dr. Fioretti, a friend of Nino's who had
travelled in England and the United States, used to say about American
women. He seemed to hear Fioretti speaking in his impressive manner, as
if each word he said were three times underlined: "I tell you this about
the American woman: as man and as doctor, my dear friend...." And Aldo
decided that Fioretti was right.

He found himself seated at the piano, while his hostess's tiny figure
was thrown forward listening to him with rapt attention. Suddenly--while
her husband was laughing loud at something Mrs. Doyle had said--she put
out her hand and said: "Good-bye. Come next Saturday. Now go. Go quick."
And he rose and took his leave.

He described his visit to Nancy, who was so much astonished that he
thought it wise to omit the reference to next Saturday. On the following
morning another pile of papers lay on the desk for him, and he worked on
conscientiously. On Saturday a mauve envelope containing twenty dollars
was placed on the top of his papers; and on a slip of paper was written:
"Come at six."

At six he went to No. 8, and found Mrs. Van Osten alone. She scarcely
spoke to him until her husband came in. Then she seemed suddenly to wake
up, and was all smiles and pretty gestures; when Aldo spoke to her she
drooped her lashes and played with her long chiffon scarf. He left her a
little later, feeling dense and bewildered.

A fortnight afterwards he was invited to dinner. "I am sure Van Osten
feels that he can trust me now," said Aldo to Nancy, adjusting a
faultless tie at the summit of an impeccable shirt-front. "And to-day he
will probably speak to me of our work."

"I am afraid Anne-Marie is going to have measles," said Nancy, sitting
drearily on the old green armchair, while Anne-Marie pulled some of the
stuffing out of it with languid feverish hand. "Seventh Avenue is full
of it."

"It is a beastly neighbourhood," said Aldo, buttoning his waistcoat, and
fixing a sham gold chain into his watch-pocket with a safety-pin. "We
must get out of it as soon as we can."

"Did those people you met at Mrs. Van Osten's ask where we lived?" asked
Nancy.

"Yes. And on the spur of the moment I said Number 59 in the same street.
That is where the office is, you know. I hope they won't make
inquiries."

Nancy sighed. Aldo kissed her, and carefully patted Anne-Marie, who had
dirty hands and a tearful face. Then he ran down and got on a car that
took him up town.

No reference was made during dinner to politics or to the work. There
were a dozen people present, and once--to try him, Aldo felt it!--his
host said, looking straight at him: "And what are you doing in New York,
Mr. Della Rocca?"

With the corner of his eye Aldo had seen Mrs. Van Osten's small head
start up like a disturbed snake at the end of the table. He answered
imperturbably, looking Van Osten in the face:

"Some literary work. I find it _very interesting_."

He said this markedly, and Van Osten only said: "Oh, indeed?" But Aldo
knew that he was pleased. Van Osten must now indeed feel that Aldo was
absolutely discreet and intelligent.

After dinner, when the men joined the ladies in the drawing-room, Mrs.
Van Osten called him to her with her eyes. He sat down at her side, and
talked about Italy. She drooped her head as if she were blushing, and
he wondered why. He glanced round, and saw that her husband was looking
at her.

A tall thin woman stood near him, and Aldo heard her say: "What a
splendid-looking man! Quite like that Somebody's Hyperion in
that--er--what-do-you-call-it gallery."

"Yes," said Van Osten. "Nice sleek animal." And he continued to look at
his wife.

To Aldo's astonishment, she suddenly smiled and put her hand into his
own, palm upwards. He felt the little chilly hand trembling lightly on
his. Her words were as astonishing as her gesture. She said:

"Well, then, Count Aldo, if you insist, tell my fortune."

He had not insisted; but he told her fortune, following the little
crinkly lines in her palm with the light touch of his forefinger. She
shivered and she laughed, and she threw her head back.

Van Osten sauntered up to them with his hands in his pockets; he looked
large and powerful. Aldo felt like a fool, with the little chilly hand
still lying in his. He went on, however: "This is the line of the
intellect--" Van Osten laid his hand casually on his wife's slim
shoulder, and kept it there. She glanced up at him, and again in her
eyes was the look of a cat, and also of a mouse.

"... That is what I read in this hand," continued Aldo.

Van Osten moved and put forward a large patent-leather shoe. "And what
is it you read in this foot?" he said. "Kicks?"

His wife burst into a ripple of laughter and withdrew her hand from
Aldo's. Aldo also was much amused. The only one who did not seem to
find the joke funny was Van Osten himself.

A few days later in the study, when Aldo had copied four columns out of
a newspaper, he leaned back in his chair. He was irritated and tired.
There was not enough ink in the inkstand, and he had to dip in his pen
at every second word. He felt exasperated and on edge. Little Mrs. Van
Osten was getting on his nerves. What did she mean? What did she want?
She was in love with him, of course. That was not surprising. But what
was surprising was her behaviour when they were alone. Either she left
the room at once, or she looked at him with green, far-away, wintry eyes
as if he were a wall or a window.

The night after the dinner-party he had been greatly agitated. This
woman loved him. This very wealthy woman seemed to be willing to
compromise herself for his sake. What should he do? For a moment the
thought of running away with her crossed his mind. She was a plain
little thing, but enormously rich. He might be able to be of more solid
use to Nancy and his child by such a step than by slaving for them
thirty years at twenty dollars a week. In a year perhaps, he might be
able to return to Nancy, comfortably well off. These erratic American
women were extravagant and generous, he knew.

He had walked home that night with his head in the clouds, dreaming of
automobile trips across Europe, of staying at the best hotels and not
paying any bills. He had found Frau Schmidl awake, and Nancy in tears,
and Anne-Marie with the measles. He had stayed at home three days,
sitting in the darkened, stuffy little room, heating malted milk and
Nestlé's food on a spirit-lamp, and singing arias from grand operas to
Anne-Marie, who liked nothing else.

When he had gone back to the room in 66th Street nobody had been to ask
after him, and his work lay as he had left it. He had gone across to the
Van Osten's house, and had heard Mrs. Van Osten say in a high treble
voice: "I am not at home." And he had felt she was looking at him behind
the curtains as he crossed the road.

He dipped his pen in the half-empty inkstand, and then impatiently
leaned it up against a pen-box. It fell over, and was emptier than
before. He looked round the room for an ink-bottle. He thought of
ringing the bell, but the old servant that appeared on the rare
occasions when he wanted her, had, after the first week, looked so
ill-tempered that he dreaded asking for anything. He looked about, and
opened drawers and closets. In a cupboard in the wall, on the top shelf,
pushed far back, he saw a packet of papers which he seemed to recognize.
He pulled them out and looked. It was his work of the week before--182
pages, neatly written. What were they doing up there?

He gazed at them for a long time; then he put them back. He resolved to
make an experiment. He rang the bell, and asked the untipped and
unamiable old servant to bring him some ink.

When he had a full inkstand before him, he dipped in his pen and wrote:
"The debate concluded with the usual majority for the Government. La
donna è mobile qual piuma al vento. I wonder whether anyone will notice
that I am writing rubbish. Sul mare luccica l'astro d'argento Santa
Lucia, Santa Lucia."

He finished the page, and put it on the others. Then he smoked
cigarettes, and read "Autour du Mariage" until it was lunch-time. While
he was at lunch a note was left for him.

"Come this evening at eight, sharp."

His finished sheets had been taken away as usual, and a new pile placed
on the desk for him to copy. He went to the cupboard in the wall, and
looked on the top shelf. Yes; the pile of papers at the back was larger.
He pulled it out; on the top lay the page with the jumble of Italian
words on it. He took a little heap of the sheets at random from the
pile, placed them on his desk, and left them there. Then he lay back in
his chair, and reflected.

For three weeks he had been copying things out of old newspapers seven
hours a day. He had been paid twenty dollars a week for it. Why? Was
Mrs. Doyle a charitable angel who wished to help him and his family
without being thanked? No. He felt that was not it. His eye fell on the
note. "Come this evening." A light went up in his mind as he recognized
the fact that he was paid for the hours he spent in No. 8, not for those
he passed in No. 59.

It probably meant that Mrs. Van Osten loved him, and must see him when
she wanted to. The work was but a pretext to keep him near her, within
call, away from others, perhaps. "Poor little woman!" he said. "How she
must suffer!" Then he reflected that twenty dollars a week was not much.

At a quarter past eight that evening he turned into 66th Street, and
crossed Mr. Van Osten, who had just come out of his house. Aldo saluted
him respectfully, but Van Osten stood still and lit his cigar without
appearing to notice the greeting.

He found Mrs. Van Osten alone, bare-shouldered, in black and diamonds.
She was agitated and angry.

"You are late!" she cried.

"Forgive!" he said, kissing her hand.

She dragged it from him. "Did you meet my husband?"

"Yes," said Aldo.

"Did he see you?"

"Yes."

"Are you sure? Are you sure?" And she breathed quickly.

"Yes."

"He saw you? He saw you coming here and did not turn back----?" She
stopped, and the narrow lips closed tightly. Aldo looked at her, and
thought her positively ugly. She looked like a small, tight, thin,
crumpled edition of Mrs. Doyle.

"Little young prairie-chicken," said Aldo to himself. But the butler
came in with the coffee on a large silver tray, and the under-butler
followed with the cream and sugar on another large silver tray. And the
riches, the atmosphere of calm, powerful wealth, overcame Aldo's soul;
his senses swam in satisfaction, and he felt that, however thin and
small and crumpled she might be, he yet could return the
prairie-chicken's love.

When the servants had left the room Aldo felt that he ought to speak.
After a while he remembered what, once or twice, he had done with
acceptable success in Italy when alone with a comparatively unknown
woman. In a low voice he said:

"What is your name?"

Mrs. Van Osten raised glassy eyes. He repeated: "I do not yet know your
name."

She took a sip of coffee, and said, very slowly and very clearly:

"Mrs.--Van--Osten."

"No--not that name," he said. "Your own name--your little name----"

There was a slight noise in the hall, and the outer door closed. Mrs.
Van Osten heard it, and answered Aldo quickly with excited eyes.

"Marjory," she said.

Aldo bent forward over his coffee-cup. "Marjory?" he repeated softly.

It succeeded. It succeeded far better than he had expected, or than it
usually did.

"Say it again!" she said quickly. "I like to hear it. Say it again.
Quick!"

"Marjory!" exclaimed Aldo, bending nearer, just as the door opened and
her husband came in.

She turned to him at once. "Oh, Bertie! You have come back?" and she
laughed. Aldo looked at her. There was something in her voice and in her
laugh that he knew. He had heard it in women's voices before. It was
love. And love was in her eyes as she raised them to her husband's
frowning face.

Then Aldo understood what he was there for. And more than ever, as he
looked at Mr. Van Osten's powerful frame, did he realize that twenty
dollars was little.

He stayed only a short time, during which he was sad, and silent, and
bitter. And Mrs. Van Osten was pleased with his attitude. As he took his
leave, he suddenly decided to show her that he had understood.

"Would you honour me by seeing 'Tannhäuser' from my box at the opera
to-morrow night?"

A gleam shot at him from Mrs. Van Osten's sly eye. Her husband laid his
large hand on his wife's bare shoulder.

"We are engaged," he said.

Mrs. Van Osten put her head against his arm.

"Indeed, we are more than that, Bertie," she said, looking up at him
with an enamoured and rapturous smile.

Aldo bowed and withdrew.

The next day was Saturday. On his desk lay the mauve envelope, and in it
was a hundred-dollar bill.

"I shall not need you now for a month or two, I believe," said Mrs. Van
Osten wistfully. She had come over to his "office" early on the Monday
morning. "But"--and she sighed deeply--"I do not suppose the effect you
have had upon my husband will last for ever."

"Nothing does last for ever," said Aldo sententiously, seated before his
desk.

"Then I shall send for you to come to the house again. Meanwhile, you
might hang round a little in a general way," said Mrs. Van Osten. "You
can send me flowers if you like. See that they are expensive ones. But
don't come over often. If he once kicks you out, it will make everything
impossible."

"Yes," said Aldo.

"Ah!" sighed Mrs. Van Osten; "why are such things necessary. Why are men
such beasts?"

After a short pause Aldo spoke respectfully in a subdued voice: "May I
ask who _she_ is?"

"You are impertinent," said Mrs. Van Osten, "but I may as well tell you.
Everyone knows. It is Madeline Archer, that dancing minx. She has made
half the wives in New York miserable!"

Aldo made a little sympathizing, clucking sound with his tongue.
Meanwhile his thoughts were quick and definite.

"If," he said, as she rose to go, "any friend of yours, one of the wives
you have just mentioned, wanted--er--would like--er--thought that I
could assist...."

"Oh!" cried Mrs. Van Osten, clasping her hands with peals of laughter,
"you _are_ a daisy! Oh, you take the pumpkin-pie! Upon my word! You are
the greatest ever!" And she laughed and laughed, rocking to and fro.

Aldo laughed too, glad to think he was so funny.

"Before you know where you are, you'll be opening a bureau--'First Aid
for Neglected Wives.' 'Perfect jealousy-arouser of the careless or the
cooling husband. Diploma. References. Moderate tariff. Success
guaranteed.'"

"Good idea!" said Aldo, laughing. And in a way he meant it.

She stopped laughing suddenly. "You won't turn out to be a blackmailer,
will you?"

"No," said Aldo, looking at her straight from out of his beautiful eyes.

"I believe you," she said, putting out her hand. "Besides, Mum, who
knows a thing or two about human nature, said that you were a good, soft
old thing. And now," she added, with solemnity, "for what you have done
for me, and the way you've scared Bertie into good behaviour, you may
give me a kiss."

She put up her narrow mouth, and Aldo, laughing a little, kissed it.

"... I'm glad I have kissed a Count," said Mrs. Van Osten, as she went
down the stairs.



VIII


It was a bright autumn day when Valeria in Milan received Nancy's letter
from New York, telling her about those first weeks of misery.

Valeria had an income of two hundred francs a month, which Uncle
Giacomo, who kept her securities for her, paid to her punctually; and
which she as punctually paid over to Aunt Carlotta for her board and
lodging, reserving apologetically thirty or forty francs for her own
small needs. On the day the letter arrived, Valeria locked herself in
her room, and went on her knees before Guido Reni's gipsy-faced Madonna.
The Madonna must help Nancy. She, Valeria, must help Nancy.

Uncle Giacomo would give nothing that might fall into Aldo's hands;
Carlo less than nothing; he would only reproach and recriminate. As for
Nino, he had nothing to give. Aunt Carlotta would possibly lend five
hundred francs with great difficulty and many warnings. So Valeria
decided that she would raise some money from her own investments, and
arrange to have a smaller income for a few years. Nancy must have money.
So Valeria put on her hat and her black silk bolero coat with the lace
jabot down the front, and brown kid gloves, and went out to face a
stormy interview with Zio Giacomo.

The interview was stormy. Giacomo's temper shortened with his breath,
and Valeria was wrung with anguish lest his anger should harm him, and
was rent with remorse when she had succeeded in obtaining what she
wanted. She would not say what the money was for, because she knew that
Zio Giacomo would oppose it, so she was mysterious and wilful, hinted at
tragic possibilities, wept and warned, and finally left Zio Giacomo
convinced that she had got herself into some serious financial scrape.
"Ah, these silly women," said Zio Giacomo, watching Valeria tripping
across the road, holding her violet leather handbag, her umbrella and
her long skirts in confused hands. At one moment she was right under a
horse's nose, but the driver pulled up suddenly, and the swerving
carriage went on, carrying on its box a red-faced, head-shaking,
remark-making, driver. "Silly women!" said Uncle Giacomo again, and
returned wrathfully to his desk.

Valeria went to a bank, where, after much confusionary explanation, and
a quarter of an hour's waiting, she emerged with five thousand francs,
and some silver and pence. Her violet bag was fat with it all. "Now,"
said Valeria to herself, "I will go to Cook's in the Via Manzoni, and
change it into American money. Or perhaps they can send it over in some
other way." Then she went along Piazza del Duomo, thinking of Nancy.
Poor, penniless Nancy! Poor little helpless mother of the still more
helpless Anne-Marie! "I wish Tom were here to look after us all!" she
said, stepping off the pavement to cross into Via Manzoni.

If Tom had been there he would have stopped her. He would have caught
hold of her elbow, in the masterful way he always did when they crossed
a street together, saying: "Wait a minute." Tom would have seen the
tram-car coming rapidly from the right, and a carriage driving up from
the left, and behind the carriage--oh, quite a distance off--a motor
coming along smoothly and quickly. But Tom, or what was left of Tom, lay
in Nervi with folded hands, and nobody told Valeria to wait a minute. So
she stepped lightly off the pavement, holding her violet bag tightly in
one hand, and her umbrella and her skirts in the other. She saw the
tram-car coming from the right on the far side of the street, and
thought she would run across and pass in front of it. She ran two steps,
and then saw the carriage close to her, coming from the left. It was
impossible to cross before it, so she stepped back quickly, very
quickly, and the carriage passed. The driver's face was turned to her:
was that anger in his face? What a mad, terrible face! He was screaming
and gesticulating. What tempers people had in Italy, thought Valeria,
for thought is rapid.... Then something struck her in the back, and she
thought no more. A moment's maddening roar and clamour and confusion,
then utter stillness.

... Valeria felt a cadenced, gently oscillating movement, and opened her
eyes. She could see nothing. A grey linen roof was above her, grey linen
walls around her. Ah, the walls undulated, parted slightly, and let some
light through. Valeria could see parts of shops, and of houses, and
people passing.... She was being carried through the streets. What was
the matter with her mouth? She raised her hand in its brown kid glove
and touched her mouth, and down along one side of it where she felt
something unusual; her glove seemed not to touch her cheek but her
teeth; then something hot and viscid ran into the palm of her hand and
down her arm. A hand--was it hers?--fell on her breast. Suddenly she
remembered her violet bag, fat with money. Where was it? She tried to
say, "Where is it? Where is it? It is Nancy's." She cried it out loud,
but could hear only a muffled bubbling and blowing through her mouth.
Then oblivion.

... Now she was in a small, light room. Everything round her was light
and white; she saw the ceiling first. It was of glass--white frosted
glass. Everything was white; the people were white, except their faces,
which looked dark and yellow over their white clothes. One of the faces
looked at her very near, then another. Then a lighter face came with
white wings round its head. Valeria knew what that was, but could not
remember. She thought she would smile at that face, and did so, but the
face did not smile back. It continued looking at her closely, and she
felt a hand touch her forehead and smooth back her hair.

Another face came, red, with bloodshot eyes, and someone took hold of
her head and turned it. A voice said: "Useless. But we can try." Then a
sound of running water. Valeria put out her hand to stop it. Immediately
the winged face was bending over her. "Yes, dear? Yes, dear?" Valeria
thought she told her to stop the running water. But the winged face only
nodded and smiled, and said: "That is a good, brave dear! We shall soon
be better--soon be better." Another face and a voice: "Shall I wash
this?" Then something gushed over Valeria's cheek and trickled, warm and
salt, down her throat. Something choked. Then there was a pain, a pain
somewhere in the room, a burning, maddening pain. A man's voice said:
"Leave alone. That's no use. Look at this." Valeria's head was turned
round again, and she heard a crepitant sound as if her hair were being
cut. Running water again.... Valeria's head lay sideways, and she could
see the white-gowned back of a man washing his hands under a silver tap.
She liked watching him. He turned round, shaking his wet hands in the
air with his sleeves rolled back. It was he who had the red face and
the bloodshot eyes, and a clipped grey moustache. He nodded to Valeria
as he saw her eyes open, and said: "That's good, that's right. A little
patience." Valeria smiled at him; she felt that her mouth did not move,
so she blinked with her eyes, and the red face nodded back in friendly
manner.

Someone held her wrist, and for a while everything was silent. Again,
again, a shooting, maddening pain. An exclamation, and then a word:
"Useless." Valeria opened her eyes. She saw the white-winged woman's
face with her eyes fixed on the red face, which was bending forward, and
the two other faces were also bending over, looking down at something
Valeria could not see, for it was on her own pillow. Then the red-faced
man said: "Useless," again. And the white-winged face moved its lips.

"Useless!" The word conveyed nothing clear to Valeria's mind, but
something in her body responded to the word. Thump, thump, thump, her
heart began to beat, loud and quick, louder and quicker, until it could
be heard all over the room. Thump, thump, thump, it rolled like a drum,
and Valeria turned her frightened eyes to the red face above her. She
said to him: "Stop my heart. Stop my heart from beating like this." But
the three men and the sister did not seem to hear. They stood quite
still listening to it, and then Valeria knew that she had not spoken.
Thud, thump; thud, thump; quicker and quicker, and Valeria's eyes rolled
wildly, imploring help. Then the Sister said to the surgeon: "Oh, try!
try, poor thing!" And again water rushed, and something was rolled
stridently across the marble floor.

"Ether," said the surgeon.

One of the yellow faces bent over her, and he had a dark net mask in his
hand. He held it over her face.

Suddenly Valeria was wide awake. She sat up with a shriek, and struck
out at the yellow face and the mask. She saw the two doctors and the old
surgeon, and the Sister of Charity. She spoke and her voice came. She
wanted to say: "Save me! Save me!" but she heard herself saying: "I have
time to cross!" Then she tried to explain about the violet bag, and the
money, but what she cried was: "Nancy! Nancy!" Then the surgeon was
angry with the man who held the mask, and turned on him with impatient
words. But the Sister stood over Valeria, and made the sign of the cross
above her. "Lie down, dear, lie down," she said. So Valeria lay down.

Thud, thump; thud, thump; thud, thump, rolled the drum of her heart.

"Now," said the surgeon, "you must be good. Don't move! Count! Count to
twenty."

Valeria struggled to get up. The black mask was near her face again.

"Now, dear, now!" said the Sister's voice. "Count: one--two--three----"

"Breathe deeply," said someone, and Valeria did as she was told.

Then she remembered that she was to count. But she had lost time, so she
felt she must begin further on. "... Nine," she said, breathing deeply;
"ten." She was on a swing--a large, wild swing in the air that swung her
out in the sky and back through the wide, white air. "Eleven, twelve,"
Valeria felt that she must say thirteen quickly because--unlucky
number--"thirteen ... fourteen...."

The swing swung her out, flying through the air with a swoop and a sweep
beyond all the mountains. The people around her seemed to be left far
away, down in the little white room. They would never hear her voice
from so far away. "FIFTEEN!" she cried, shouting loud, loud, from afar.
Then the sweep of a gigantic wave swung her out into Eternity.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I knew it was useless," said the Surgeon angrily. The face was covered,
and the stretcher was wheeled away.

An hour later Zio Giacomo, Nino, and Aunt Carlotta came hurrying in,
red-eyed and white-faced. It was over. Aunt Carlotta wrung her hands,
and the Sister consoled her, and assured her that there had been no
suffering.

"I want to see her," said Aunt Carlotta, sobbing.

"No, no," said the Sister. "Don't."

"Don't!" said Giacomo brokenly, the tears streaming down his face. Nino
said not a word, but went with one of the young doctors into the large
bare room where two stretchers stood, each with a shrouded burden.

"This one," said the doctor, he who had held the mask. Nino saw, gasped,
and turned away.

Aunt Carlotta was being led in, supported by the Sister. Nino grasped
her hand.

"Come away," he whispered; "come away at once."

Carlotta shook her head, her face buried in her handkerchief. "My
sister's child! My sister's only child! I must close her eyes." Nino
went out.

Carlotta was led to the farther of the two stretchers. The cloth was
lifted from Valeria's face. Then shriek after shriek resounded through
the bare chill room, echoing through the wide corridors, reaching the
patients lying selfish and sad in their wards. Shriek after shriek. But
the two quiet figures on the stretchers were not disturbed.

Valeria was buried in Nervi near Tom.



IX


When Nancy in New York received the news of her mother's death she wore
black instead of brown, and wept, and wept, and wept, as children weep
for their mothers. Then she wore brown again, and went on living for
Anne-Marie, as mothers live for their children.

They had left Mrs. Schmidl's kindly, dingy roof, and moved a little
further away from the niggers, into a small flat in 82nd Street. Mrs.
Schmidl's niece, Minna, came and did the housework, and took Anne-Marie
for walks. Anne-Marie loved Minna. Anne-Marie watched her with entranced
gaze when she spoke to the tradesmen, and followed her from room to room
when she swept and did the beds. Minna wore low-necked collars, and a
little black velvet ribbon round her neck, and pink beads. She was
beautiful in Anne-Marie's sight, and Anne-Marie imitated as much as
possible her manner, her walk, and her language. Nancy could hear them
talking together in the kitchen. Minna's voice: "What did you have for
your tea? A butter-bread?" And Anne-Marie's piping treble: "Yes, two
butter-breads mit sugar." Minna: "That's fine! To-morrow Tante Schmidl
makes a cake, a good one. We eat it evenings." "A cake--a good one!"
echoed Anne-Marie.

Nancy's soul crumbled with mortification. She had taken out her
manuscript, and it lay before her on the table once more. Its broad
pages were dear to her touch. They felt thick and solid. The tingling
freshness of thought, the little thrill that always preceded the ripple
and rush of inspiration, caught at her, and the ivory pen was in her
hand.

"A cake--a good one," repeated in the next room Anne-Marie, who liked
the substantial German sound of that phrase.

"Oh, my little girl! My little girl! How will she grow up?" And Nancy
the mother took the ivory pen from Nancy the poet's hand, and Anne-Marie
was called and kept, and taught, for the rest of the day.

During the months that followed, Nancy played a game with her little
daughter which, to a certain extent, was successful.

"We will play that you are a little book of mine, that I have written. A
pretty little book like Andersen's 'Märchen,' with the pictures in it.
And in this book that I love----"

"What colour is it?" asked Anne-Marie.

"Pink, and white, and gold," said Nancy, kissing the child's shining
hair.

"Well, in it, in the midst of the loveliest fairy-tale, somebody has
come and written dreadfully silly, ugly words, like--like
'butter-bread.' I must take all those out, mustn't I? And put pretty
words and pretty thoughts in instead. Otherwise nobody will like to read
the book."

"No," said Anne-Marie, looking slightly dazed. "And will you put
pictures in it?"

"Oh yes," said Nancy. "And I wish I could put rhymes into it too."

But that was not to be. Long explanations about boy and toy--rain and
pain--fly and cry--far and star--left Anne-Marie bewildered and cross.

Nancy coaxed and petted her. "Just you say a rhyme! Only one. Now what
rhymes with _day_?"

No. Anne-Marie did not know what rhymed with day.

"_Play_, of course, my goosie dear! Now what rhymes with _dear?_"

"Play," said Anne-Marie.

"No; do think a little, sweetheart. With _dear!--dear?_"

"Vegetables?" asked Anne-Marie, who had spent many hours in Frau
Schmidl's kitchen.

Nancy groaned. _"Dear_!" she repeated again.

_"Darling!"_ cried Anne-Marie triumphantly, and was lifted up and
embraced.

"I wish you were a poet, Anne-Marie!" said her mother, pushing the fair
locks from the child's level brow.

"What for?" said Anne-Marie, wriggling.

"Poets never die," said Nancy, thus placing a picture in the fairy-tale
book.

"Then I'll be," said Anne-Marie, who knew death from having buried a
dead kitten in the Schmidls' yard, and dug it up a day or two after to
see what it was like.

But Anne-Marie was not to be a poet. In the little pink and white books
that mothers think they create, the Story is written before ever they
reach the tender maternal hands. And Anne-Marie was not to be a poet.

But Nancy herself could not forget that Fate had printed the seal of
immortality upon her own girlish brow. She thought: "I cannot finish
The Book now. The Book must wait until later on, when Anne-Marie does
not need me every moment. But now, now I can write a cycle of
child-poems on Anne-Marie."

So she watched her little daughter through narrowed eyelids, throwing
over the unconscious blonde head the misty veil of imagery, searching in
the light blue eyes for the source of word and symbol, standing
Anne-Marie like a little neoteric statue on the top of a sonnet, trying
to fix her in some rare, archaic pose. But Anne-Marie was the child of
her surroundings; Anne-Marie wore clothes of Minna's cutting and
fitting, and on her yellow head a flat pink cotton hat like a lid.
Anne-Marie had spoken Italian like a royal princess, but her
German-American English was of 7th Avenue and 82nd Street. And
Anne-Marie's pleasures were, as are those of every child, taken where
she found them; for her no wandering in a shady garden, nursing an
expensive, mellifluously-named doll. Since the Monte Carlo
"Marguerite-Louise," whose eyes, attached to two small lumps of lead now
lay in a box on a shelf, Anne-Marie's dolls had been numerous but
unloved. At Mrs. Schmidl's suggestion, and for economic motives, Nancy
had gone down town one day to a wholesale shop in Lower Broadway, where
she had been able to buy "one dozen dolls, size nine, quality four, hair
yellow, dress blue," for two dollars and seventy cents.

The first of the dozen was the same evening presented to Anne-Marie. It
was rapturously kissed; it was christened Hermina--Minna's name; its
clotted yellow hair was combed; attempts were made to undress it, but as
it did not undress, it was put to sleep as it was, and Anne-Marie went
to bed carefully beside it.

In due time Hermina broke and died. What unbounded joy was Anne-Marie's
when Hermina herself, with the self-same azure eyes, clotted yellow
hair, blue dress, angel smile, reappeared before her. She was
rapturously kissed. In due time also this second Hermina, legless, and
with pendulous, dislocated head, was taken away from Anne-Marie's fond
arms, and a new stiff Hermina was produced, with clotted hair and angel
smile renewed. Anne-Marie's eyes opened large and wide, and she drew a
deep breath. With more amazement than love she accepted the third
Hermina, and did not kiss her. That Hermina died quickly, and Nancy,
with a triumphant smile, produced a fourth. With a shriek of hatred
Anne-Marie took her by the well-known painted boots, and hit the
well-known face against the floor.

The other eight were given to her at once, and were hit, and hated, and
stamped upon. For many nights Anne-Marie's dreams were peopled with dead
and resuscitated Herminas--placid, smiling Herminas with no legs; booted
Herminas with large pieces broken out of their cheeks; fearful Herminas
all right in the back, but with darksome voids where their faces ought
to be under the clotted yellow hair.

She would have no more dolls, and her pleasures were taken where she
found them mainly in the kitchen. She liked to wash dishes, because she
was not allowed to; and she could be seen whisking a kitchen-towel under
her arm in the brisk, important manner of Minna. She liked to see the
butcher's man slap a piece of steak down on the table; and the laugh of
the "coloured lady" who brought the washing was sweet in her ears. She
also liked the piano that was played in the adjoining flat--the piano
that drove Nancy to distraction and despair whenever she tried to work.

    "Rose of my spirit, Fountain of my love,
     Lilial blue-veinèd flower of my desire----"

wrote Nancy, trying not to hear the climpering next door.

"Minna! Minna! What is that tune?" called Anne-Marie, jumping from her
chair. "Is it 'Eastside, Westside,' or 'Paradise Alley'?"

"No, it ain't. It's 'Casey would waltz.'"

"Oh, is it? Sing it. Do sing it, Minna."

And from the kitchen came Minna's voice, a loud soprano:

    "Casey would waltz with the strawberry blonde,
     And the band--played--on."

Then Anne-Marie's childish falsetto:

    "Casey would waltz with the strawberry blonde,
     And the band--play--don."

Alas! even the cycle of child poems must wait until Nancy could afford a
larger apartment, and a governess for the "lilial blue-veinèd flower of
her desire." There was no "Stimmung" for lyrics in the left-top flat in
82nd Street.

Aldo was at home a good deal during the day-time, yawning, reading the
interminable Sunday papers that lay about all the week, smoking
cigarettes, and wishing they could afford this and that.

In the evenings he went out. His work, it seemed, was to be done more in
the evening than in the day-time, so he explained to Nancy. He explained
very little to Nancy. Once he had brought home one hundred dollars
instead of twenty, but she had been so startled and aghast, so nervous
and impatient to know how he had got it, and, above all, it had been so
impossible to make her understand the subtleties of his duties to Mrs.
Van Osten, that he had finally declared it was simply a present for an
extra important piece of work he had had to do. And the next time he
received a hundred dollars--about three months afterwards, when more
arduous duties once more developed upon him--he took eighty to the Dime
Savings-Bank, and brought the usual twenty dollars home.

As soon as the little savings-bank book was placed in his hand, the
Caracciolo grandfather awoke in him again, and murdered the lazzarone
who cared not for the morrow. He became heedful of little things,
grudging of little expenses. The dingy flat was run on the strictest
principles of economy, and when a dollar could be taken up the steps of
the savings-bank and put away, he was happy. He had learned that by
making deep, grateful eyes at Minna over the accounts, she would keep
expenses down to please him; and many were the lumps of sugar and bits
of butter taken from Mrs. Schmidl's larder by Minna's fat, pink hand and
placed, sacrificial offerings, on the Della Roccas' shabby table.

Anne-Marie's pink hats and Minna-made frocks had to last through the
seasons long after the "coloured lady" had washed every vestige of tint
and vitality out of them, and they were a thorn in Nancy's eye. Nancy
wore her pepper-and-salt dress day after day; it turned, and it
dyed--black, and when it was no more, she got another like it.

The days passed meanly and quickly. And Nancy learned that one can be
dingy, and sordid, and poverty-stricken, and yet go on living, and
gently drift down into the habit of it, and hardly remember that things
were ever otherwise.

The evenings only were terrible. When Minna had gone home, and
Anne-Marie slept, and Aldo had sauntered out to meet some Italians, or
had hurried in full evening-dress to his work, Nancy sat drearily in the
"parlour." From mantelpiece, shelf, and what-not photographs of unknown
people, friends of Mrs. Johnstone, the landlady, gazed at her with faded
faces and in obsolete attire; actresses in boy's clothes, and
large-faced children; chinless young men in turned-down collars; Mr. and
Mrs. Johnstone in bridal attire; their first-born baby with no clothes
on, now a clerk at Macy's. Hanging on the wall, with whitish eyes that
followed Nancy about, was the enlarged photograph of dead Mr. Johnstone,
and Nancy, in her loneliness, feared him. She covered him one evening
with a table-cloth, but it was worse. When, on her arrival months ago,
she had collected all these photographs and hidden them away in a
closet, Mrs. Johnstone, who liked to drop in suddenly, had arrived, and
looked round with a red face.

"You don't want to do that," she had said, taking all the pictures out
again and setting them up in their places. She also would not allow the
large ornamental piano-lamp, that took up half the stuffy little room,
to be moved. It had cost thirty-two dollars. So it stood there in the
dark-carpeted, obscure parlour, and its yellow silk shade with the grimy
white silk roses pinned on it was an outrage to Nancy's pained gaze.

One evening at bed-time Anne-Marie said to her mother: "I like the girl
next door."

"You do not know her, darling," said Nancy.

"Oh yes, I do. I talked to her from the back-window."

"What is her name?" said Nancy, unfastening strings and buttons on her
daughter's back.

"Oh, she told me--I don't know. A little dry name like a cough."

Nancy laughed and kissed the nape of Anne-Marie's neck, which was plump,
and fair, and sweet to smell. At that moment the girl-neighbour knocked
and came in, with a bear made of chocolate for Anne-Marie. Her name--the
dry name like a cough--was Peggy.

"I've just come in because I thought you seemed kind of lonesome," she
said, looking round the parlour after Anne-Marie had been tucked in and
left in the adjoining bedroom with the door ajar.

She then told Nancy that she worked in a hairdresser's shop down
Broadway, "mostly fixing nails." "Sickening work," she added. "All those
different hands I have to keep holding kind of turns me. Especially
women's!"

Nancy laughed. Peggy offered to fix her nails for nothing, and after
some hesitation Nancy allowed her to do so.

"My! you have hands quite like a lady," said Peggy; and the cup of
Nancy's bitterness was full. Nancy quickly changed the subject.

"Is it you who play the piano?" she asked.

"No, my brother. He works in a shipping office. But he is great on
music."

At this point Anne-Marie's voice was heard from the adjoining room:
"What is that piece that was lovely?"

Peggy laughed, but could not say which piece Anne-Marie meant. After a
while she went to call her brother, who came in, lanky and diffident,
and was introduced as "George." Anne-Marie kept calling from her room
about the piece that was lovely, and finally the young man went back to
his flat, leaving the doors open, and played all the pieces of his
repertoire.

But "the piece that was lovely" was not among them. Peggy and Nancy
said: "She probably dreamt it." But Anne-Marie cried "No, no, no!" at
the first note of every piece that was started. At last she wept, and
was naughty and rude, and the bear's hindlegs, which she had not yet
eaten, were taken away from her.

Peggy and George were very friendly, and promised to call again. They
lived alone. Their parents had a sheep ranch in Dakota.

"Rotten place," said George. "New York is good enough for me." And they
shook hands and left.

After that, when Mr. Johnstone frightened Nancy more than usual, she
knocked at the wall in Anne-Marie's room with a hair-brush, and Peggy
came in, and spent a friendly evening with her. Sometimes George came,
too, and read the magazine supplements of the Sunday papers aloud.
George read all the poems.

"He's a great one for poetry," said his sister.

George passed his manicured fingers through his thin hair, and looked
self-conscious.

"I guess all the real poets are dead long ago," he said.

"I fear so," said Nancy.

"Mamma!" came Anne-Marie's voice, distinct and wide-awake, through the
half-open door.

"Yes, dear," said Nancy. "Good-night."

"Mamma!" cried Anne-Marie. "Come here."

Nancy rose and went to her. Anne-Marie was sitting up in bed.

"What did he say?"

Nancy did not know.

"He said the poets were dead. All the real ones. You said poets could
never die."

Nancy sat down on the bed, and pressed the little fair head to her
heart.

"I will tell you about that to-morrow," she said. "And you must not
listen to what is said in another room. It is not honourable." After a
long explanation of what "honourable" meant, Nancy rose and kissed her.

"You had better shut the door," said Anne-Marie. "One can't be
honourable if one can be not."

So the door was closed.

Early next morning Anne-Marie inquired about the poets.

"Well," said Nancy, who had forgotten about it, and was taken unawares.
She spoke slowly, making up her story as she went on, and trying to put
another picture in the little book of Anne-Marie's mind. "Once the world
was full of roses, and poets lived for ever."

"Yes," said Anne-Marie.

"Then one day some people said to God: 'There are too many useless
things in the world. Roses, for instance. We could do without them, and
have vegetables instead.' So God took away the roses. And all the poets
died."

"What of?"

"Of silence," said Nancy. "They died because they had nothing more to
say."

Anne-Marie looked very sad. Nancy made haste to comfort her.

"Then God put a few roses back, for little Anne-Maries who don't like
vegetables (which is very naughty of them, because they do one good),
and so also a few poets came back into the world."

"But not the real ones?"

"Well, not quite real ones, perhaps," said Nancy.

"Then what is the good of them?" asked Anne-Marie.

Nancy could not say. Nancy could not say what was the good of not quite
real poets. But for that matter, what was the good of the real ones?
What was the good of anything? Nancy's thoughts went in drooping file to
her own work. What was the good of writing a Book? "I need not have
written any story at all," she said to herself.

Perhaps that is what God will say when the dead worlds come rolling in
at his feet, at the end of Eternity.



X


Poverty and loneliness pushed Nancy along the dreary year, and she went
in her brown dress, with her heels worn down at the side, through the
autumn and the winter. Aldo was away for weeks at a time, and although
he seemed in good humour when he was at home, and dressed elaborately,
he was always parsimonious in the house, warning against rashness and
expense.

Anne-Marie went to a kindergarten, where the grocer's children, and the
baker's children, and the milkman's children went, and she liked them,
and they liked her.

And now April was here. Where it could, it pushed and penetrated;
through the trestles of the elevated railroads it spilt its sunshine on
the ground. And it ran into the open window of the 82nd Street flat,
and stretched its sweetness on the faded yellow silk of the hated
lampshade.

To Nancy, who was moping in her dingy brown dress, April said: "Go out."
So she put on her hat, and went out. And, having no reason to turn to
the right, she turned to the left, and after a few blocks, having no
reason to turn to the left, she turned to the right, and ran straight
into a little messenger-boy, who was coming round the corner carrying
some flowers in tissue-paper, and whistling.

Some trailing maidenhair escaping from the paper caught in her dress,
and broke off. "I am sorry," she said.

"Can't yer use yer eyes!" said the boy rudely.

Then April said to Nancy: "Smile!" And she smiled, dimpling, and said
again: "I am sorry."

The boy looked at her, and turned his tongue round in his mouth; then he
sniffed, and said: "Here you are! This is for you."

He pushed the bunch of flowers into Nancy's hand, then turned back, and
went round the corner again, whistling. Nancy ran after him, but he ran
quicker, looking round every now and then and laughing at her. When he
turned another corner Nancy stood with the flowers in her hand,
wondering.

She opened the paper a little at the top, and looked in. Mauve orchids
and maidenhair--a bouquet for a queen. She walked slowly back to her
house, carrying the flowers in front of her with both hands, and their
idle beauty and extravagant loveliness lifted her prostrate spirit above
the dust around her.

She went to her room with them, avoiding Minna, who was clattering
dishes in the kitchen, and, locking her door, sat down near the bed. She
drew the tissue-paper away, and the fairy-like flowers, scintillant and
bedewed, nodded at her.

In their midst lay a letter, with the crest of a Transatlantic steamship
on the envelope. She opened it with timid hands.

  "DEAR UNKNOWN IN THE PALE BLUE DRESS,

"I am sending this to you as a child sends a walnut-shell boat sailing
down a river. Where will it go to? Whom will it reach? I am leaving
America to-day. By the time you read this--are you smiling with
wondering eyes? or is your mouth grave, and your heart subdued?--I shall
be throbbing away to Europe on board the _Lusitania_, and we shall
probably never meet. But I am superstitious. As I drove down to the
steamer just now the words that are often in my mind when I travel
sprang with loud voices to my ear:

"'Dort wo du nicht bist, dort ist dein Glück.'

"Do you know German?

"'There _where thou art not_, is thy happiness.'

"I am leaving America because I hate it, and have never been happy here;
probably my happiness was meanwhile in Europe, or Asia, or Australia.
But what, now that I am going to Europe, if my happiness were in America
after all? What if I were driving away from it, taking ships and sailing
from it, catching trains and leaving it behind? I stopped the cab, and
got these flowers on chance.

"The steward has called a messenger, an impish boy with a crooked mouth.
He stands here waiting.

"I look at him, and like to think that you will see him too. But you?
How shall we find you, the flowers, and my heart, and the
messenger-boy?

"I shall tell him to stop the first girl he meets who is dressed in
light blue. That is you. And I reason that if you wear a light blue
dress you must be young; and if you are young you are happy; and if you
are happy you are kind; and if you are kind you will write to me, who am
a lonely, crabbed, and crusty man.

"My address is the Métropole, London.

      "ROBERT BEAUCHAMP LEESE."

Nancy placed the letter on the bed beside the flowers; she sat a long
time, with folded hands, looking at them. They brought but one message
to her eyes that were vexed with shabbiness, to her soul that was shrunk
by privation--riches.

They belonged to another sphere. They had come up the wrong street, into
the wrong house. If they could have life and motion they would rise
quickly--Nancy could imagine them--lifting dainty skirts and tripping
hurriedly out from the sordid flat.

Nancy laid her cheek near to the delicate petals, and her hand on the
letter. Her fancy played with an answer--an answer that should startle
him, surprise him.

    "How shall I hold you, fix you, freeze you,
     Break my heart at your feet to please you!..."

Yes, she could quote Browning to him, and Heine; she could paint a
fantastic picture of her light blue gown, against which the mauve
orchids melted in divine dissonance of colour; she would be wearing with
it a large black hat, with feathers curving over a shading velvet
brim....

She sighed, and went to the rickety bamboo-table, where the inkstand
stood on a cracked plate, and the ivory pen lay in demoralized
familiarity, with a red wooden penholder belonging to Anne-Marie. On
the cheap notepaper which she used when she wrote to borrow a saucepan
from Mrs. Schmidl, or to ask Mrs. Johnstone to wait until next week, she
wrote:

  "DEAR SIR,

"The wrong girl got your letter. I was dressed in _brown_."

She did not sign her name, but she read his letter over again, and,
seeing that he was lonely, and crabbed, and crusty, she added her
address.

He answered to "Miss '_brown_'" at the address she had given him, and he
began his letter: "Dear wrong girl, write to me again." And she wrote
back to say that indeed she would not dream of writing to him.

He replied thanking her, and asking if she were not the Miss Brown he
had met on board ship sixteen years ago, who had been so kind and
maternal to him, and had then had smallpox so badly. He hoped and
believed she was that Miss Brown.

Nancy felt that she must tell him she was not that Miss Brown. And she
did so. And there the correspondence ended. At least, so she told
herself as she ran up the stairs after posting her letter at the corner
of the street.

She was alone that evening, as so often. The piano-lamp was lit. The
little china clock on the mantelpiece ticked time away like a hurrying
heart, and Nancy suddenly realized that life was passing quickly, and
that she was not living. She was shut up in the dusky little flat with
Mr. Johnstone, and was as dead as he. A fierce excitement overcame her
suddenly, like a gust of wind, like a flame of fire--regret for her
wasted talents, resentment against her fate, hatred of the poverty that
was crippling and maiming and crushing her. What was she doing? Was she
asleep? was she drugged? was she dreaming? What had come over her that
she could let herself drift down into the nameless obscurity, the sullen
ignominy of despair?

When midnight struck, Nancy leaped from her chair as one who is called
by a loud voice. Life was rushing past her; she would wake, and go too.
Some old French verses came into her head about "la belle" who wanted to
enter the "blue garden"; who passed it in the morning, and looked in
through the open gates.

    "La belle qui veut,
     La belle qui n'ose,
     Cueillir les roses
     Du jardin bleu."

And she passed at noon, and looked in through the open gates:

    "La belle qui veut,
     La belle qui n'ose,
     Cueillir les roses
     Du jardin bleu."

In the evening she said: "Now I will enter." But she found that the
gates were closed.

    "La belle qui veut,
     La belle qui n'ose,
     Cueillir les roses
     Du jardin bleu."

Some characters evolve slowly, by imperceptible gradations, as a rose
opens or a bird puts on its feathers. But Nancy broke through her
chrysalis-shell in an hour. From one day to the next the gentle,
submissive Nancy was no more; the passive, childlike soul clothed in
the simplicity of genius died that night--for no other reason but that
her hour had come--drifted off, perhaps, in the little dreamboat of her
childhood, where Baby Bunting sat at the helm waiting for her. And
together they went back, afloat on the darkness, to the Isle of What is
No More.

       *       *       *       *       *

  "DEAR UNKNOWN,

"You are very persistent. Is it not enough to know who I am not, that
you needs must want to know who I am? What's in a name? A woman by any
other name would be as false.

"Then call me, if call me you will, by the sweeping, impersonal, fragile
name of Eve. And picture me as Eve, with the serpent coiled round her
neck like a boa, and the after-glimmer of a lost Paradise in her
tranquil eyes. The tranquil eyes are blue, under dark hair.

"What! more questions? Yes, I am young--not disconcertingly so. And
good-tempered--not monotonously so. And almost pretty--not distractingly
so.

"And I write to you, not because I am temerarious, but because the month
is April and the time is twilight. And you are the Unknown."

The Unknown answered. And she wrote to him again. She put all her
fancies and all her phrases into the letters. She wrote him lies and
truth. She described herself to him as she thought she was not--but as
perhaps she really was. In her letters she was a spoilt butterfly,
whirling through life with vivid wings.

As she wrote she grew to resemble the girl she wrote about. She borrowed
money from Peggy and from George, who had fallen in love with her. She
would pay it back some day. She bought clothes, and ran up debts, and
signed notes, and resorted to expedients. All the cleverness that should
have gone into her book she used in her everyday life to wrench herself
free from the poverty that was choking her. "Nothing matters! Nothing
matters!" Only to get out of the mire and the mud--to lift little
Anne-Marie out of the hideous surroundings, to stand her up safe and
high in the light, out of reach of the sordid struggle.

One day--a chilly afternoon in May--Aldo did not come home. Minna had
gone to fetch Anne-Marie from school, when a messenger rang and gave
Nancy a sealed letter.

In it Aldo said the chance of his life had come, and that he could not
throw it aside--no! for her own sake, and for the child's, he would not
do so. He thought not of himself. His thwarted ambitions, his warped
talents, his stifled nature, had cried for a wider horizon. But not for
this was he taking so grave a step. One day she would know how he was
sacrificing himself for her sake. And he would open his arms, and she
would fall on his breast and thank him. (Here was a blur--where Aldo's
tear had fallen.) And he enclosed five hundred dollars. She was to be
careful, as five hundred dollars was a large sum--two thousand five
hundred francs. And she might take a smaller flat, and pay Minna eight
dollars a month instead of ten. And she had better not write about this
to Italy, as probably in a few months' time everything would be
explained, and now farewell, and the Saints protect them! And she was to
pray for him. And he was for ever her unhappy Aldo.

The messenger had darted off as soon as she had signed his receipt, and
Nancy sat down, rigid and dazed, with her letter and the
five-hundred-dollar bill in her hand.

Aldo was not coming back. Aldo had left her and the child to struggle
through life alone. All that day she carried her heart cold and stern as
a rock in her delicate breast.

In the evening she went into his room. True, it was a mean and miserable
room. Everything in it--from the small window that looked out on a dark,
damp wall to the torn carpet, from the crooked folding-bedstead to the
broken piece of mirror leaning against the wall on the narrow
mantelpiece--everything was horrible, everything was good to get away
from. Nancy looked round, and pity drove the stinging tears to her eyes.
Poor Aldo! What had Aldo had, after all, to come home to? Not love. For
the love that would have carried them through and over such wretchedness
was not in Nancy's heart. Her love for him had been all for his beauty;
her love had been a delicate, sensitive, blow-away creature, half ghost,
half angel, whom to wound was to kill. And Fate had amused itself by
throwing bricks and bats at it, choking it under mountains of ugliness,
kicking it through crowded streets, dragging it up squalid stairs....
When Nancy drew the sheet from its face, she saw that it had been dead a
long time. And she was sorry for Aldo.

She pulled his trunk out from under the bed, and remorsefully and
compassionately put all his things into it--his books, his broken comb
and cheap brushes, his old patent-leather shoes that he wore about the
house instead of slippers, some packets of cigarettes. When she opened
his dark cupboard, and saw that all the new clothes had been taken away,
she smiled with a little sigh, and remembered how pale he had looked
when he said good-bye that morning.

How had he got those five hundred dollars to give her? She knelt down
suddenly beside the open trunk, and said a prayer for him, as he had
wished her to do. When she rose and shut the trunk, she shut in it the
memory of Aldo, that was not to be with her any more.

Anne-Marie hardly noticed her father's absence, talking of him
occasionally in the airy, detached manner of children; but Minna went
for a week with red eyes and swollen face. And after a while the
accounts rose with a rush.

Nancy paid all her debts, bought some clothes, and gave Mrs. Johnstone
notice. She engaged a suite in a fashionable boarding-house on Lexington
Avenue. Peggy and George stayed with her the last day in the flat, and
helped her with her packing; but in the evening they went back to their
rooms, for they were expecting a friend--Mr. Markowski, a Pole--who was
to come and make music with George.

Anne-Marie was asleep, and Nancy sat down in the denuded room where
everything belonging to her had already been put away. The dead Mr.
Johnstone looked sadly at her, and even the piano-lamp was bland and
dulcet, shining on the roses that George had brought her.

The postman's double knock startled her, and she received from his hand
a letter. Aldo? No. It came from England, and was addressed to "Miss
Brown." She called the grinning postman in, and gave him half a dollar.
Thank you. He would see that all them "Miss Brown" letters and any
others were brought to her new address. She opened the letter; the
large, well-known handwriting was pleasant to her eyes. The little crest
of the Grand Hotel spoke to her of cheerful, well-remembered things.
She seemed to look through its round gold ring as through an
opera-glass, that showed her far-away things she knew and loved. "Hotel
Métropole." She imagined the brilliantly lit lounge, the gaily-gowned,
laughing women rustling past with the leisurely, well-groomed men; the
soft-footed, obsequious waiters; the ready, low-bowing porter; the
willing, hurrying pageboys; and beyond the revolving glass doors
London, bright, brilliant, luxurious, rolling to its pleasures.

She sat down and answered the Unknown's letter:

"The room is closed and warm and silent. The lamp and the fire give a
mellow glow to the heavy old-rose curtains, and to the soft-tinted
arabesques on the carpet. Some large pale roses are leaning drowsily
over their vase, and dreaming their scented souls away.

"I am smoking a Russian cigarette (with a _soupçon_ of white heliotrope
added to its fragrance), and writing to you.

"My unknown friend! Are you worthy of companionship with the scent of my
roses and the smoke of my cigarette--such delicate, unselfish
things?..."

A piercing cry from the adjoining room made Nancy leap from her chair.
Penholder in hand, she rushed into Anne-Marie's room. The child, a slip
of white, was standing on her bed, pale of cheek, wild of eye, one hand
extended towards the wall. Her tumbled hair stood yellow and flame-like
round her head.

"Listen!" she gasped--"listen!" And Nancy stopped and listened.

Clearly and sweetly through the wall came the voice of a violin. Then
the piano struck in, accompanying the "Romance" of Svendsen. Anne-Marie
stood like a little wild prophetess, with her hand stretched out. Then
she whispered: "It is the lovely piece--the lovely piece that he could
not remember!"

"It is a violin, darling," said Nancy, and sat down on the bed.

But Anne-Marie was listening, and did not move. Nancy drew the blanket
over the little bare feet, and put her arm round the slight, nightgowned
figure.

The last long-drawn note ended; then Anne-Marie moved. She covered her
face with her hands and began to cry.

"Why do you cry, darling--why do you cry?" asked Nancy embracing her.

Anne-Marie's large eyes gazed at Nancy. "For many things--for many
things!" she said. And Nancy for the first time felt that her child's
spirit stood alone, beyond her reach and out of her keeping.

"Is it the music, dear?"

Anne-Marie held her tight, and did not answer. Nancy coaxed her back to
bed, and soon tucked her up and left her. But the door between them was
kept wide open, and the sound of Grieg's "Berceuse" and Handel's
"Minuet" reached Nancy at her table, and helped her to add fantastic
details to her letter.

The next morning they moved to the boarding-house in Lexington Avenue.
They did not see George, who had already gone down-town to his shipping
office; but Peggy helped them into the carriage, and with Minna ran up
and down the stairs after forgotten parcels.

"What's wrong with the kiddy? She don't look festive," said Peggy,
handing a hoop and a one-legged policeman, survivor of the Schmidl's
Punch-and-Judy show, into the carriage to Anne-Marie.

"Your music yesterday excited her very much," said Nancy. "She liked the
violin."

"Oh, that was Markowski. He's a funny old toad," said Peggy; and she got
on to the carriage-step to kiss Anne-Marie. But Anne-Marie covered her
face, and turned her head away. She seemed to be crying, and Peggy
winked at Nancy, and said; "She's a queer little kid." And Nancy said,
"She does not like good-byes." Then Minna got into the carriage with the
cage of Anne-Marie's waltzing mice, for she was going to the
boarding-house with them to help unpack.

"Good-bye! Au revoir! Come and see us soon!"... The carriage rumbled
off. Minna had counted and recounted on her fingers how many things they
had, and how many things they had forgotten, when Anne-Marie raised her
red face from her hands.

"I _do_ like good-byes," she said. "But why did she say an old toad did
the music?"

Nancy comforted her, and said it did not matter, and they were going to
a nice, nice, nice new house.

The nice new house was expecting them, and a cheeky, pimply German
page-boy took their packages up. He was rough with the hoop and the
policeman, and held his nose as he carried up the waltzing mice. But the
room they were to have was large and sunny, and everything was bright.

They went down to luncheon, and sat down at a table with many strangers.
Anne-Marie, who thought it was a party, was very shy in the beginning
and very noisy at the end of the meal. The boarders were the kith and
kin of all boarding-house guests. There was the silent old gentleman
and the loud young man; the estimable couple that kept themselves to
themselves; and the lady with the sulphur-coloured hair who did not keep
herself to herself. There was the witty man and the sour woman; there
were the ill-behaved children, that quarrelled all day and danced
skirt-dances in the drawing-room at night; and their ineffectual mother
and harassed father. There was also the Frenchman, the two Swedish
girls, and the German lady.

The German lady sat opposite Nancy, and, having looked at her and at
Anne-Marie once, continued to do so at intervals all during lunch. Every
time Nancy raised her eyes she met those of the German lady fixed upon
her. They were kindly, inquisitive brown eyes behind glasses. Nobody
spoke to Nancy at luncheon, the sulphur-haired lady and the witty man
talking most of the time of their own affairs and their opinion of Sarah
Bernhardt. Nancy was kept busy telling Anne-Marie in Italian not to
stare at the two little girls, who seemed to fascinate her by their
execrable behaviour.

In the evening Nancy went down to dinner alone. After the soup the
German lady spoke to her.

"I hope the little girl is quite well," she said, nodding towards the
empty place near Nancy.

"Oh yes, thank you. She has early supper and goes to bed."

"That is English habit," said the German lady. "Were you in England?"

"When I was a child," said Nancy.

Then the fish came; and always Nancy felt the brown eyes behind the
glasses fixed on her face. At the mutton the German lady spoke again:

"I heard you speak Italian," she said. "Are you from _il bel paese ove
il sì suona_?"

Nancy laughed and said: "My mother was Italian. My father was English. I
was born in Davos, in Switzerland." For some unaccountable reason the
German lady flushed deeply. She did not speak again until the sago
pudding had gone round twice and the fruit once--very quickly.

"You speak German?" she said.

"I had a German governess," said Nancy.

Again the German lady's smooth cheeks flushed. Then every one rose and
went into the drawing-room, and Nancy went to her room and wrote to the
Unknown.

"You ask me to talk about myself. Nothing pleases me better; for I am
selfish and subjective.

"I am a gambler. I went to Monte Carlo some time ago. Oh, golden-voiced,
green-eyed Roulette! I gambled away all my money and all the money of
everyone else that I could lay hands on. I laid hands on a good deal. I
have rather pretty hands.

"I am a dreamer. I have wandered out in deserted country roads dreaming
of you, my unknown hero, and of Uhland's mysterious forests, and of
Maeterlinck's lost princesses, until I could feel the warmth welling up
at the back of my eyes, which is the nearest approach to tears that is
vouchsafed me.

"I am a heathen. I have a hot, unruly worship for everything beautiful,
man, woman, or thing. I believe in Joy; I trust in Happiness; I adore
Pleasure.

"I am a savage--an overcivilized, hypercultivated savage with some of
the growls and the hankerings after feathers still left in him. I adore
jewels. I have some diamonds--diamonds with blue eyes and white
smiles--as large as my heart. No, no! larger! I wear them at all seasons
and everywhere; round my throat, my arms, my ankles, all over me! I like
men to wear jewels. If ever I fall in love with you, I shall insist upon
your wearing rings up to your finger-tips. Do not protest, or I will
_not_ fall in love with you.

"I am feminine; over- and ultra-feminine. I wear nothing but
fluffinesses--trailing, lacey, blow-away fluffinesses, floppy hats on my
soft hair, and flimsy scarves on my small shoulders. I have no views. I
belong to no clubs. I drink no cocktails--or, when I do, I make
delicious little grimaces over them, and say they burn. They _do_ burn!
I smoke Russian cigarettes scented with white heliotrope, because surely
no man would dream of doing such a sickening thing.

"I am careless; I am extravagant; I am lazy--oh, exceedingly lazy. I
envy La Belle au Bois dormant, who slept a hundred years. Until Prince
Charming....

"Good-bye, Prince Charming.

      "EVE."



XI


The next day at luncheon the German lady stared again, and looked away
quickly.

Anne-Marie asked her mother: "What is Irish stew when he is alive?"
Nancy smiled and dimpled. Then the German lady, who had seen the dimple
and the smile, said in a sudden, loud voice, over which she had no
control: "Is your name Nancy?"

Nancy looked up with a start. "Yes!" she said. And everyone was silent.

"My name is Fräulein Müller," said the German lady, taking a pink-edged
handkerchief from her pocket and making ready for tears.

"Fräulein Müller! Fräulein Müller!" said Nancy dreamily. "You read
Uhland to me, and Lenau, and ... 'shine out little head sunning over
with curls.'"

Then Fräulein Müller wept in her handkerchief, and Nancy rose from her
seat and went round and kissed her. Then it was Fräulein Müller's turn
to get up and go round and kiss Anne-Marie; whereupon the sulphur-haired
lady remarked how small the world was; and the witty man said they would
next discover that he and she were brother and sister, and had she not a
strawberry mark on her left shoulder?

After lunch Fräulein Müller asked Nancy to her room, and she held
Anne-Marie on her lap, and had to say the baby rhyme, "Da hast du 'nen
Thaler, geh' auf den Markt" about fifty times, with the accompanying
play on Anne-Marie's pink, outstretched palm, before she was allowed to
talk to Nancy. Then she told them all about the years she had passed in
an American family after leaving the Grey House, and about the little
house she had just rented on Staten Island--a tiny little house in a
garden, where she was going to live for the rest of her life. She was
furnishing it now, and it would be ready next week.

"You must come to see it. You must stay with me there," said Fräulein
Müller, looking for a dry spot on the sodden handkerchief. "Oh, meine
kleine Nancy! My little Genius! Und was ist mit der Poesie?"

The following week Fräulein Müller left Lexington Avenue for her
"Gartenhaus," as she called it, and three days later Nancy and
Anne-Marie went to stay with her for a fortnight.

"What for an education has the child?" inquired the old governess, when
Anne-Marie had been put to bed after a day of wonders. What?
Strawberries grew on plants? Anne-Marie had always thought they came in
baskets.

"She seems to know nothing," said Fräulein Müller. "I tried her with a
little arithmetic. Did she know the metric system? Oh yes, she said she
did, and wanted to speak about something else. But I kept her to it,"
said Fräulein sternly, "and asked her: 'What are millimetres?' Do you
know what the child said? She said that she supposed they were relations
of the centipedes!"

Nancy laughed, and told Fräulein Müller about the Sixth Avenue School.
Fräulein clasped horrified hands.

"I will educate her myself. I suppose she is also a genius."

"No, I am afraid not," said Nancy, shaking her head regretfully. "I wish
she were!"

The two women were silent; and from the little bedroom upstairs, through
the open window, came Anne-Marie's voice, like tinkling water.

"She is singing," said Fräulein Müller.

"Oh yes; she always sings herself to sleep. She likes music." And Nancy
told her about the violin.

"We shall buy her a violin to-morrow," said Fräulein Müller.

And so she did. The violin was new and bright and brown; it was labelled
"Guarnerius," and cost three dollars. Anne-Marie pushed the bow up and
down on it with great pleasure for a short time. Then she became very
impatient, and took it out into the garden, and looked for a large
stone.

"... It made ugly voices at me," she said, standing small and
unrepentant by the broken brown pieces, while Fräulein Müller and Nancy
shook grieved heads at her.

"I do not think that music is her vocation after all," said Fräulein
Müller. "But we shall see."



XII


"Good-morning, my tenebrious Unknown. I am in the country, perched up on
a stone wall with nothing in sight but vague, distant hills and sleepy
fields. Queer insects buzz in the sun, and make me feel pale. I dread
buzzing insects with a great shivery dread.

"Why are you not here? I am wearing a large straw hat with blue ribbons,
and a white dress and a blue sash, like the _ingénue_ in a drawing-room
comedy. And there is no one to see me. And the fields are full of
flowers, and I pick them, and have no one to give them to. Surely it is
the time in all good story-books when the heroine in a white dress and
blue sash is sitting on a wall for Prince Charming to pass and see her,
and stop suddenly.... But life is a badly constructed novel;
uninteresting people walk in and walk out, and all is at contra-tempo,
like a Brahms Hungarian Dance.

"Prince Charming, why have you gone three thousand miles away?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Good-morning again.

"This is a divine day--cool winds and curtseying grasses.

"I am still here, living on herbs and sunsets and memories of things
that have not been. You are a thing that has not been. Perhaps that is
why you are so much in my thoughts. I have many friends whom I seldom
think of. I have a few lovers whom I never think of. And I have you who
are nothing, and whom I always think of. It is absurd and wonderful.

"My lovers! You ask me who they are and why I have them. I have them
because they make me look pretty. I look pretty when I laugh. A woman's
beauty depends entirely upon how much she is loved. Did you not know
that? The best 'fard pour la beauté des dames' is other people's
adoration.

"My lovers therefore have their use, but they are not entertaining. They
are uniformly sad or angry. Yet I am good to my lovers. I let them trot
in and out of their tempers like nice tame animals that nobody need
mind. I do not require them to perform in public; I sit and watch their
innocent tricks with kind and wondering eyes.

"Et vous, mon Prince Charmant? What of you? Who are you making to look
prettier? Whose cheeks are you tinting? Whose eyes are you brightening?
Whose heart are you making to flutter by the hurry of yours? Who smiles
and dimples and blushes for your sake? I suppose you are falling in love
with your fair countrywomen--tall, tennis-playing English girls, with
cool, unkissed mouths and white, inexperienced hands. Ah, Prince
Charming, whom do you love?

          "EVE."

He replied: "You have spoken. Whom do I love? Eve."

She was glad. She lived a life of fevered joy. She was not Nancy. She
was the Girl in the Letters; and the Girl in the Letters was a wild,
unfettered, happy creature. Nothing seemed sweeter to her than this
subtle _amor di lontano_--this love across the distance. Ah, how modern
and piquant and recherché! And, again, how thirteenth-century! Was it
not Jaufré Rudel, the Poet-Prince, who had loved the unseen Countess
Melisenda for so many years?

    "Amore di terra lontana,
     Per voi tutto il core mi duol,"

and who at last, coming to her, had died at her feet? Could they not
also love each other across the distance, wildly and blindly, without
the aid of any one of their senses? Surely that was the highest, the
divinest, the most perfect way of love!

So Nancy lived her dream, and tossed the tender little love-letters
across the ocean with light hands.

       *       *       *       *       *

"CHER INCONNU,

"I write to you because it is raining and the sky is of grey flannel.
You will say that I wrote to you yesterday because the weather was fine
and the sky was of blue silk.

"Ah, dear Unknown! It is true. You have grown into my life, like some
strange, startling modern flower, out of place, out of season, yet sweet
to my unwondering eyes. You are a black and white flower of words,
growing through your brief wild letters into the garden of my heart.

"What a garden, mon ami! What a growth of weeds! what a burst of roses!
what a burgeoning of cabbages! An unnatural, degenerate garden, where
the trees carry _marrons glacés_ and the flowers are scented with
patchouli.

"Into this luxuriance of perversity, this decadent brilliance of
vegetation, you have blossomed up, strange and new, for the delight of
my soul. That you should say you love me, you who have never seen me, is
sweeter perfume to my sated senses than the incense of all the thousand
seraph-flowers that bow and swing at my feet.

"Good-bye. My name is Nancy."

To this letter he replied by cable: "Nancy, come here at once."

"'Come here at once!' The arrogant words go with a shock of pleasure to
my heart. I am unused to the imperative; nobody has ever bullied me or
told me to do this and that. I think I like it. I like being meek and
frightened, and having to obey.

"'Come here at once!' I find myself timidly looking round for my hat and
gloves, and wondering whether I shall wear my blue or my grey dress on
the journey. I am nice on journeys. I am good-tempered, and wear
mousie-coloured clothes that fit well, and I have a small waist. All
this is very important in travelling, and makes people overlook and
forgive the many, many small packages I carry into the compartment, and
the hatboxes I lose, and the umbrellas I forget. When I am tired I can
put my head down anywhere and go to sleep; I sleep nicely and quietly
and purrily, like a cat.

"I am really very nice on journeys. Also I am very popular with useful
people, like conductors and porters and guards. They take care of me and
give me advice, and open and shut my windows, and lock my compartments
even when it does not matter; and they bring me things to eat, and run
after all the satchels and parcels I leave about.

"Your last letter says you are going to Switzerland. How nice! I should
like to be with you, throbbing away on excitable little Channel
steamers, puffing along in smoky, deliberate Continental trains, driving
the bell-shaking horses slowly up the wide white roads that coil like
wind-blown ribbons round the swelling breasts of the Alps;
table-d'hôting at St. Moritz; tennis-playing at Maloya; clattering and
rumbling over the covered bridges near Splügen; wandering through the
moonlike sunshine of Sufer's pine-forest, where beady-eyed squirrels
stop and look, and then scuttle, tail flourishing, up the trees. I am
friends with every one of those squirrels. Greet them from me.

      "NANCY."

       *       *       *       *       *

                                            NEW YORK.

"AMOR MIO DI LONTANO,

"I am in the city again the horrible, glaring, screaming city, all loud
and harsh in the uncompromising July sun. How I long to-day for the
shade of the closed Italian houses, the friendly, indrawn shutters, the
sleeping silence of the empty streets, and, far-off, the cerulean sweep
of the Mediterranean!

"And a new lover at my side! A brand-new lover, whose voice would sound
strange to my ears, whose eyes I had not fathomed, whose feelings I did
not understand, whose thoughts I could only vaguely and wrongly guess
at, whose nerves would respond strangely, like an unknown instrument, to
the shy touch of my hand.

"Your letter is brought to me. Written at the Hotel Bellevue, Andermatt.
_Andermatt!_ How cool and buoyant and scintillant it sounds. It falls on
my heart like a snowflake in the humid heat of this town.

"I have opened the letter. What? Only three words!

"Again: 'Come at once.' Again the words, with their brief, irresistible
imperiousness, thrill my lazy soul.

"If you write it a third time ... by all that is sweet and unlikely, I
shall come!

"Will you be glad? Will you kiss my white hands gratefully? Shall we be
simple and absurd and happy? Or shall we fence and be brilliant,
antagonistic, keen-witted? No matter! No matter! The fever of my heart
will be stilled. My eyes will see you and be satisfied."

       *       *       *       *       *

A cablegram to Andermatt. Reply paid. (Money borrowed from Fräulein
Müller.)

"Dreamt that you had long black beard. Tell me that not true.--NANCY."

Reply from Andermatt:

"Not true. Come at once."

       *       *       *       *       *

Nancy did not go at once. She had no money to go with; and, of course,
she never intended to go at all.

He wrote: "Will you meet me in Lucerne?" and she replied: "Impossible."

He: "I shall expect you in Interlaken."

She: "Out of the question."

He: "I shall be in London in October. After that I am off to Peru."

So in September she wrote to him again.

"I lay awake last night dreaming of our first meeting. It will be framed
in the conventional luxury of a little sitting-room in a Grand Hotel. It
will be late in the afternoon--late enough to have the pretty
pink-shaded lights lit, like shining fairy-tale flowers, all over the
room. Then a knock at the door. And you will come into my life. What
then, what then, dear Unknown? My hands will lie in yours like prisoned
butterflies; my wilfulness and my courage, my flippancy and effrontery
will throb away, foolishly, weakly, before your eyes. What then? Will
Convention guide the steed of our Destiny gently back into the well-kept
stables of the common-place? or shall we take the reins into our own
hands, and lash it rearing and foaming over the precipice of the
Forbidden, down into the flaming depths of passionate happiness?

"Good-bye. Of course I shall not come."



XIII


Fräulein Müller came to town three times a week and taught Anne-Marie
arithmetic and geography. Of arithmetic Anne-Marie understood little; of
geography no word. She pointed vaguely with a ruler at the map, and
said: "Skagerrack and Kattegat," which were the words whose sounds
pleased her most.

"The child is not at all a genius," said Fräulein Müller, much
depressed.

One day George and Peggy came to visit them at the boarding-house. And
with them they brought Mr. Markowski and his violin.

In the drawing-room after tea Nancy asked the shy and greasy-looking
Hungarian to play: and the fiddle was taken tenderly out of its
plush-lined case. Markowski was young and shabby, but his violin was old
and valuable. Markowski had a dirty handkerchief, but the fiddle had a
clean, soft white silk one. Markowski placed a small black velvet
cushion on his greasy coat-collar, and raised the violin to it; he
adjusted his chin over it, raised his bow, and shut his eyes. Then
Markowski was a god.

Do you know the hurrying anguish of Grieg's F dur Sonata? Do you know
the spluttering shrieks of laughter of Bazzini's "Ronde des Lutins"? The
sobbing of the unwritten Tzigane songs? The pattering of wing-like feet
in Ries's "Perpetuum Mobile?"

Little Anne-Marie stood in the middle of the room motionless, pale as
linen, as if the music had taken life from her and turned her into a
white statuette. Ah, here was the little neoteric statue that Nancy had
tried to fix! The child's eyes were vague and fluid, like blue water
spilt beneath her lashes; her colourless lips were open.

Nancy watched her. And a strange dull feeling came over her heart, as if
someone had laid a heavy stone in it. What was that little figure,
blanched, decolorized, transfigured? Was that Anne-Marie? Was that the
little silly Anne-Marie, the child that she petted and slapped and put
to bed, the child that was so stupid at geography, so brainless at
arithmetic?

"Anne-Marie! Anne-Marie! What is it, dear? What are you thinking about?"

Anne-Marie turned wide light eyes on her mother, but her soul was not in
them. For the Spirit of Music had descended upon her, and wrapped her
round in his fabulous wings--wrapped her, and claimed her, and borne her
away on the swell of his sounding wings.



XIV


"Fräulein, I have no more money--not one little brown cent in the wide
world," said Nancy, sitting on the lawn of the Gartenhaus, and drinking
afternoon tea out of Fräulein's new violet-edged cups.

"So?" said Fräulein. For a long time her lips moved in mental
calculation. Then she said: "I could let you have forty-seven dollars."

Nancy put down the cup, and, bending forward, kissed Fräulein's downy
cheek.

"Dear angel!" she said; "and then?"

"What is to be done?" said Fräulein, drying her lips on her new fringed
serviette, and folding it in a small neat square.

"_Mah!_" said Nancy, raising her shoulders, swayed back into Italian by
the stress of the moment.

"No news from your husband?"

"Bah!" said Nancy, shrugging her shoulders again, and waving her hand
from the wrist downwards in a gesture of disdain.

Fräulein sighed, and looked troubled. Then she said:

"You must come and live here, you and Anne-Marie. I will send Elisabeth
away--anyhow, she has broken already three lamp-glasses and a plate--and
we must live with economy." Fräulein, who had lived with that lean and
disagreeable comrade all her life, then coughed and looked practical.
"Yes, I shall be glad to get rid of that clumsy girl, Elisabeth."

Nancy put one arm round her neck and kissed her again. Then she said: "I
have only one hope."

"What is that?" asked Fräulein.

It was Nancy's turn to cough. She did so, and then said: "There is ...
there are ... some ... some people in England who are interested in
me--in my writings. I think ... they might help ... I ought to go over
and see them."

"Certainly," said Fräulein, "you must go. And I will keep Anne-Marie
here with me. Then she need not interrupt her violin-lessons."

"Yes," said Nancy. "You could keep Anne-Marie...." She sighed deeply.
"Of course she must not interrupt her lessons. I suppose you think I
_ought_ to go?"

"Of course," said Fräulein, who was practical. "A firm like that won't
do anything without seeing you and talking business. But mind, mind they
do not cheat! Authoresses are always being cheated."

Nancy smiled. "I shall try not to let them."

"Being English, perhaps they will not. In Berlin----" And here Fräulein
repeated a discourse she had made many, many years ago in Wareside when
Nancy's first poem had been read aloud. Fräulein remembered that day,
and spoke of it now with tearful tenderness. She also believed she
remembered bits of the poem:

    "This morning in the garden
     I caught the little birds;
     This morning in the orchard
     I picked the little words."

"What!" said Nancy. "Why did I 'pick the little words'?"

"Perhaps it was 'plucked,'" said Fräulein, looking vague.

    "This morning in the garden
     I caught the little words;
     This morning in the orchard
     I plucked ... or picked the little birds----"

--"or caught them," continued Fräulein, much moved.

"I cannot say that that sounds very beautiful," said Nancy.

"Oh, but it was. It may have been a little different. But it was lovely.
And you were a little tiny thing, like Anne-Marie!"

"Listen to Anne-Marie," said Nancy.

Anne-Marie had insisted upon bringing her violin to the Gartenhaus, and
was now practising on it in the dining-room. The windows were open. She
was playing a little cradle-song very softly, very lightly, in perfect
tune.

"That is indeed a Wonderchild," said Fräulein.

Markowski had called her a Wonderchild directly. When he had seen her
weeping convulsively after he had played, he had exclaimed: "This is a
Wonderchild. I will teach her to play the fiddle."

And sure enough he had come to the house on the following day, with a
little old half-sized fiddle, like a shabby reproduction of the dead
Guarnerius, and had given Anne-Marie her first lesson. The lesson had
been long, and Anne-Marie had emerged from it with feverish eyes and hot
cheeks, and with anger in her heart. For the Bird, or the Fairy, or the
Sorcerer, or the Witch that made music in other violins, did not seem to
be inside the little shabby fiddle Markowski had brought her.

"Be gentle, be gentle! and do what I say," said Markowski, with his
stringy black hair falling over his vehement eyes. "One day the Birds
and the Witches will be in it, and they will sing to you. Now, practise
scale of C."

And Anne-Marie had practised scale of C--to Nancy's amazement, for she
thought that in one lesson no one could have learnt so much. In ten
lessons Anne-Marie had learnt fifteen scales and a cradle-song. In two
months she had learnt what other children learn in two years. So said
Markowski, who got more and more excited, and gave longer and longer
lessons, and came every day instead of twice a week.

"What do I owe you?" Nancy asked him. "I can't keep count of the
lessons. You seem to be always coming."

"Never mind! never mind!" said Markowski, waving excited, unwashed
hands. And as he had heard about their financial position from George
and Peggy, he added, "You will pay me ... when she plays you the Bach
Chaconne!"

"Very well," said Nancy, who thought that that meant in a week or two.
"Just as you please, Herr Markowski."

And then she thought he must be insane, because he was bent with
laughter as he packed away his violin.

Fräulein Müller made accounts in a little black book all one day and
half one night, and in the morning she went to Lexington Avenue to see
Nancy.

"I can give you eighty dollars. Will that pay your journey to England to
see the firm of publishers?"

Oh yes, Nancy thought so. And how good of her! And how could Nancy ever
thank her?

"Of course, those people will be glad to advance you something at once,
even if the manuscript is not quite ready," said Fräulein, who was
romantic besides being practical.

"I suppose so," said Nancy.

"See that you have a proper contract. You had better ask a barrister to
make it for you." And Nancy promised that she would.

So Fräulein hurried off to the Deutsche Bank, and drew out eighty
dollars and a little extra, because Anne-Marie would have to have
puddings and good soups while she was with her. The thought of giving
puddings to Anne-Marie made her hurriedly take her handkerchief from her
pocket and blow her nose.

"One day it shall be sago, one day it shall be rice, and one day it
shall be tapioca, with _Konfitüre_." And Fräulein Müller hurried with
her eighty dollars to Nancy.

But then a strange thing happened. Nancy would not go. Day after day
passed, and Nancy always had some excuse for not having packed her trunk
or taken her berth. Surely it was not so difficult to pack the little
things she wanted for a short business journey. Her new navy-blue serge,
observed Fräulein, was very good, and the brown straw hat for autumn
would do nicely.

"You must dress sensibly in a business-like way to go and see those
people," said Fräulein. "It would never do if you went looking like a
flimsy fly-away girl."

"No, indeed," said Nancy, smiling with pale lips. That evening she wrote
to George. He came up to town at the lunch-hour next day, and asked to
see her. She left Anne-Marie at table eating stewed steak, to go and
speak to him.

"George," she said, keeping in hers the cool damp hand he held out, "I
want money. I want a lot of money."

George slowly withdrew his hand, and pulled at a little beard he had
recently and not very successfully grown on his receding chin.

"Then I guess you must have it," he said.

"But I want a great deal. Two or three hundred dollars," said Nancy. "Or
four----"

"Stop right there," said George. "Don't go on like that, or I can't
follow." And he pulled his beard again.

"Oh, George, how sweet of you! how dear of you!" And she clasped his
moist left hand, which he left limply in hers.

"The bother of it is, I don't know how I shall get it," said George.
"I'm just thinking that"----

"Oh, don't tell me--please don't tell me!" said Nancy. "I--I'd rather
not know! I know you won't steal, or murder anyone, but get it, George!
Oh, thank you! thank you so much! Good-bye!"

And Nancy, as she looked out of the window after him, at his cheap hat
and his sloping shoulders, and saw him board a cable-car going
down-town, felt that she was a vulture and a harpy.

"The Girl in the Letters has demoralized me," she said.

He brought her four hundred dollars on the following Monday, and she
wept some pretty little tears over it, and covered her ears with her
hands, and dimpled up at him, when he began to tell her how he had got
them. She was the Girl in the Letters. She was practising. And with
George it answered very well--too well! She had to stop quickly and be
herself again. Then he went away.

And she went out and bought dresses. She bought drooping, trailing gowns
and flimsy fly-away gowns, and an unbusiness-like hat, and shoes
impossible to walk in. She bought _Crème des Crèmes_ for her face, and
_Crème Simon_ for her hands, and liquid varnish for her nails, and
violet unguent for her hair.

Then she waited for the Unknown's next letter, saying

"Come."

The letter did not arrive. A day passed, and another. And he did not
write. A week passed, and another, and he did not write. Nancy sat in
the boarding-house with her dresses and her hats and her _Crème des
Crèmes_. The entire four hundred dollars of George, and fifteen dollars
out of Fräulein's eighty, were gone.

Nancy sat and looked out of the window, and thought her thoughts. Could
she write to the Unknown again? No. Hers had been the last letter. He
had not answered it. Should she telegraph? Where to? And to say what? He
had gone to Peru. She knew, she felt, he had gone to Peru. The pretty,
silly, romantic story was ended--ended as she had wished it to end,
without the banal _dénouement_ of their meeting. Better so. Much better
so. Nancy was really very glad that things were as they were.

And now what was going to happen to her? She said to herself that she
must have been insane to borrow all that money and buy those crazy
dresses, those idiotic hats. What should she do? The terror of life came
over her, and she wished she were safely away and asleep in the little
Nervi cemetery between her father and her mother, cool and in the dark,
with quiet upturned face.

Oh yes, she was really exceedingly glad that things were as they were!

Half-way through the third week a telegram was brought to her. It came
from Paris.

"Why not dine with me next Thursday at the Grand Hôtel?"

To-day was Thursday.

She cabled back.

"Why not? At eight o'clock.--NANCY."

Oh, the excitement, the packing, the telegraphing to Fräulein, the
hurry, the joy, the confusion! The stopping every minute to kiss
Anne-Marie; the sitting down suddenly and saying, "Perhaps I ought not
to go!" And then, the jumping up again at the thought of the boat that
left to-morrow at noon.

Fräulein came to fetch Anne-Marie at ten in the morning. She arrived
joyful and agitated, bringing a fox-terrier pup in her arms, a present
for Anne-Marie, to prevent her crying.

"Why should I cry?" said Anne-Marie, with the hardness of tender years.

"Why, indeed!" said Nancy, buttoning Anne-Marie's coat, while quick
tears fell from her eyes. "Mother will come back very soon--very soon."

"Of course," said Anne-Marie, holding the puppy tightly round the neck,
and putting up a shoe to have it buttoned.

"Don't let her catch cold, Fräulein," sobbed Nancy, bending over the
shoe; and when it was fastened, she kissed it.

"No," said Fräulein, beaming. "She shall wear flannel pellipands that I
am making for her."

The second shoe was buttoned and kissed. Her hat was put on with the
elastic in front of her ears. Her gloves? Yes, in her coat-pocket.
Handkerchief? Yes. The mice? Yes; Fräulein had them, and the violin, and
the music-roll, and the satchel. The box was already downstairs in the
carriage. They were ready.

"Let me carry down the puppy," said Nancy on the landing, with a break
in her voice. "Then I can hold your dear little hand."

"Oh no!" said Anne-Marie. "I'll carry the puppy. You can hold on to the
bannisters."

So Nancy walked down behind Anne-Marie and the puppy. Fräulein was in
front, dreading the moment of leave-taking, and thinking with terror of
the possibility of travelling all the way to Staten Island with a loud
and tearful Anne-Marie. So she started a new topic of conversation.

"You shall have pudding every day," she said, trying to turn round on
the second landing to Anne-Marie, close behind her, and nearly dropping
the satchel and the mice, as the violin-case caught in the bannisters.
"One day it shall be sago, another day tapioca...."

"I don't like tapioca," said Anne-Marie, walking down the stairs. "I
don't like nothing of all that."

They were at the door. By request of Nancy, nobody was there to speak to
them. But all the boarders who were in the house were looking at them
from behind the drawing-room curtains.

"Then what do you like for dessert?" said Fräulein, going down the stone
steps by Anne-Marie's side, while Nancy still followed.

"I like peppermint bullseyes," said Anne-Marie, "and pink jelly." And
she added: "Nothing else," while the pimply boy and the maid hoisted her
into her carriage. Fräulein got in after her, with the many packages.
And the puppy barked at the mice.

"Good-bye, Anne-Marie! Good-bye, darling!" cried Nancy, kissing her with
great difficulty through the carriage-window across Fräulein, and the
violin, and the mice, that were on Fräulein's lap. "God bless you! God
bless you and keep you, my own darling!"

The puppy barked deafeningly. The pimply boy nodded to the cabman, and
off they were.

Nancy walked slowly back into the house, and up the stairs, and into the
desolate rooms.



XV


Peggy and George accompanied her to the boat, Peggy excited and
talkative, George depressed and silent. In his murky down-town office
George had felt himself of late more poet than clerk, and now he was all
elegy. She was leaving! She was going away with his heart, and she might
perhaps never return! She might perhaps never return the four hundred
dollars either. They belonged to a friend of George's--a mean and sordid
soul. George stifled the unlovely thought, born of the clerk, and
surrendered his spirit to the grief of the poet.

Farewell! Farewell! The ship turned its cruel side, and hid the little
waving figure from his sight. It throbbed away like a great, unfaithful
heart, abandoning the land. Farewell! What were four hundred dollars,
belonging to a friend, compared with the torn and quivering heart-strings
of a lover?

The ship heaved forward towards the east, rising and sinking as ships
rise and sink, carrying Nancy and her dresses, and her hats, and her
little pots of cream, to the Unknown. And the nearer they got to him,
the more frightened was Nancy. What if she should reach Paris, with the
fourteen dollars she still possessed, and he were not there? What if he
turned out to be a brute and a beast? What--oh, terrible thought!--if he
were to think her not as pretty as he had expected? She was not really
pretty. Oh, why had she not the pale sunshiny hair of the American girl
opposite her at table? Why not the youth-splashed eyes of the little
girl from the West, who was going to Paris to study art? Why not the
long, up-curling lashes of her light and starry glance?

Nancy comforted herself by hoping that he himself might be hideous. But
if he were? How should she smile at him and talk to him if he were a
repugnant, odious monster? Then she reasoned that if he were a monster,
he would not have asked her to come. "Why not dine with me on Thursday?"
is not the kind of telegram a monster would send. No, he was not a
monster.

What would he say to her when they met? Everything depended on the first
moment. She pictured it in a thousand different ways. The pictures
always began in the same manner. She arrived in Paris; she drove from
the Gare du Nord, not to the Grand Hôtel where he was staying, but to
the Continental. She engaged a gorgeous suite of rooms. What! with
fourteen dollars? Exactly so! What did it matter? It was Rouge or Noir.
If Rouge came up, all was well. If Noir--_la débâcle_! _le déluge_!
Fifty francs more or less made absolutely no difference. A few hours'
rest. An hour or two for an elaborate toilette; all the creams used, all
the details perfect. Then she would send a messenger, at a quarter to
eight, to his hotel:

"Dear Unknown, I am here!"

Then--ah! then, what? He arrives, he enters, he sees her. Then she must
say something. Ah! what? What are her first words to be? "_How do you
do?_" Dreadful! No, never that! "_Here I am!_" Worse, worse still. In
French, perhaps? "_Me voilà!_" Ridiculous! No; she will say nothing. He
must speak first.

Then she imagines his opening phrases. After a long silence his voice,
deep and trembling with emotion: "Yes, you are the Woman of my Dreams!"
That would be very nice. Or, then: "Ah! Eve! Eve! How I have longed for
you!" That would strike the right note at once. Or, then, with both
hands outstretched: "So _this_ is Nancy!" That would be rather nice. But
perhaps he will say something more original: "Why did you not tell me
you had a dimple in your chin?"

Ah, how long Nancy lay awake thinking of those First Words! Nancy tossed
in her little berth, and turned her pillow's freshest side to her hot
cheek; and she palpitated and trembled, smiled and feared, repented and
defied, until the huge boat creaked against the landing stage of the
Havre dock.

She arrived at the Gare du Nord at three o'clock. She drove to the
Continental, and engaged a suite of rooms that cost eighty francs a day:
a sitting-room, all tender greens and delicate greys, looking as if it
were seen through water, and adjoining it a gorgeous scarlet bedroom,
with a dozen mirrors a-shine, all deferentially awaiting the Elaborate
Toilette.

Sleep was out of the question. By four o'clock the note that was to be
sent at half-past seven was written, and Nancy began her elaborate
toilette. She thought of ordering the coiffeur, but she remembered that
coiffeurs had always dressed her hair in wonderful twists and coils and
rolls, until her head looked like a cake to which her face did not in
any way belong. So she did her hair _à la Carmen_, parted on one side.
It seemed the style of hair-dress that the Girl in the Letters would
adopt. But when it was done it looked startling and impertinent. So she
unpinned it again and decided in favour of a simple, unaffected
coiffure. She parted her hair in the middle, plaited it, and pinned it
round her head. It _was_ unaffected and simple. She looked like the
youngest of the two Swedish girls in the boarding-house. She did not
look at all like the Girl in the Letters. So once more she unpinned it,
and did it _à la pierrot_--a huge puff in the middle, waving down over
her forehead, and two huge puffs, one on each side. It looked pretty and
unladylike.

By this time it was six o'clock. The creams! First a little cold cream;
then _Crème Impératrice_; then--she remembered the directions given her
by the person in the shop perfectly--a tiny amount of Leichner's rouge,
mixed with a little _Crème des Crèmes_ in the palm of the hand, gently
rubbed into the cheeks and chin; then powder--rose-coloured and Rachel.
Now a _soupçon_ of rouge on the lobes of the ears and in the nostrils.
This, the person in the shop said, was very important. Then the eyebrows
brushed with an atom of _mascaro_, a touch of Leichner on the lips, an
idea of shadow round the eyes--and behold!

Nancy beheld. Her face looked mauve, and her nostrils suggested a
feverish cold. Her eyes looked large, and tired, and intense, like the
eyes of the prairie chickens at Monte Carlo.

Seven o'clock! She had forgotten her nails! For twenty minutes she
painted her nails with the pink varnish, which was sticky, and, once on,
would not wash off. Her fingers looked as if she had dipped them in
blood.

Half-past seven! She must send the note. She rang the bell, and a
waiter came. He had been a nice, well-behaved German waiter, as he had
shown her respectfully to her expensive rooms. When he saw her as she
now appeared--she had hastily slipped into the lightest of the three
trailing dresses--the waiter stared; he stared rudely, with raised
eyebrows, at her, and took the note from her hand.

He read the address, nodded, and said: "Jawohl! All right. C'est bon!"
And then he smiled. He smiled--at her!--and went down the passage
whistling softly.

Nancy shut her door. She took off the trailing dress, and went to her
bathroom. She turned on the hot water and washed her face. She washed
off the shades and _soupçons_, the _crèmes_ and the _mascaro_ from her
eyebrows and her chin, her ears and her nostrils. Then she pinned her
hair loosely on the top of her head, as she always did, and put on the
darkest of the three trailing gowns. But her nails she scrubbed in vain.
They remained aggressively rose-coloured, and Nancy blushed hotly every
time she saw them. She decided to put her hat and gloves on. She did so.
Then she sat down in her sitting-room and waited. She waited fifteen
minutes.

Then somebody knocked.

Nancy started to her feet as if she had been shot. With beating heart
she ran back into the bedroom and shut the door after her. No, it was
not quite shut; it swung lightly ajar, and Nancy left it so. She heard
the knock repeated more loudly at the outer door; she heard the door
open, and someone enter. Then the door closed, and steps--the waiter's
steps--went back along the hall.

Somebody was in that room. Somebody! A man! A man whom she had never
seen. A man to whom she had written forty or fifty letters, whom she had
called "mon ami" and "mes amours," "Prince Charming," and "my unknown
lover"!

Nancy stood motionless, petrified with shame, her face hidden in her
white-gloved hands. She would never go in--never! Not if she had to
stand here for years! She could not face that silent man next door.

The situation was becoming ridiculous. The silence was tense in both
rooms. Ah, when three thousand miles had separated them, how near she
had felt to him! And now, with a few feet of carpet and an open door
between them, he was far away--incommensurably far away! A stranger, an
intruder, an enemy!

Utter silence. Was he there? Yes. Nancy knew he was there, waiting.

Suddenly Nancy was frightened. The one idea possessed her to get away
from that unseen, silent man. She would slip through the bathroom, and
out into the passage and away! She took a step forward. Her trailing
dress rustled. Her high-heeled boots creaked. And in the next room the
man coughed.

Nancy stood still again, transfixed--turned to stone.

Another long silence, ludicrous, untenable. Then in the next room the
First Words were spoken. He spoke them in a calm and well-bred voice.

"Our dinner will be cold."

Nancy laughed suddenly, softly, convulsively. Her voice was treble and
sweet as she replied:

"What have you ordered?"

The man in the next room said: "Fillet of sole."

"Fried?" asked Nancy earnestly; and, knowing that unless she slid in on
that fillet of sole she would never do so, she passed quickly under the
draped portière and entered the room.

They looked each other in the face. She saw a large and stalwart figure,
a hard mouth, and a strong, curved nose in a sunburnt face, two chilly
blue eyes under a powerful brow, and waving grey hair. He looked down at
her, and was satisfied. His cool blue gaze took her in from the top of
her large black feathered hat to the tips of her Louis XV. shoes.

"Come," he said, offering his arm. And they went out together.

The dinner was not cold. Nancy hardly spoke at all. She was nervous and
charming. She sipped Liebfraunmilch, and dimpled and rippled while he
told her that he had mines in Peru, and that he had been away from
civilization for twenty years.

"I went down to the mines when I was twenty, and came back when I was
forty. That is four years ago. I have been fighting my way ever since,
trying to keep clear of the wrong woman. I am afraid of women."

"So am I," said Nancy, which was not true.

He laughed, and said: "And of what else?"

"Spiders," said Nancy, with her head on one side.

"And what else?"

"Lions," said Nancy.

"And what else?"

"Thunderstorms." And, as he seemed to be waiting, she added: "And of
you, of course."

He did not believe it. But she was.

After dinner he took her to the Folies Bergères and then to the Boîte à
Fursy; and he watched her narrowly, and was glad that she did not laugh.
Then he took her back to the hotel. They went up together in the lift,
and along the red-carpeted, boot-adorned corridor to her green and grey
salon. He did not ask permission, but walked in and sat down--large and
long--in the small brocaded armchair.

"Are you tired?" he said.

Nancy said, "No," and remained standing.

He said, "Sit down," and she obeyed him.

He sat staring before him for a while, with his underlip pushed up under
his upper-lip, making his straight, short-cut moustache stand out. He
was a strong, large, ugly man. Nancy suddenly remembered that she had
called him "toi," and said, "adieu, mes amours" to him in her letters,
and she felt faint with shame. He made a little noise, something between
a cough and a growl, and looked up at her.

"What are you thinking?" he said.

She laughed. "I am thinking that I called you Prince Charming, whereas
you really are the Ogre."

"Yes," he said, and stared at her a long time. Then he got up suddenly
and put out his large hand. "Good-night, Miss Brown," he said. He took
his hat and stick, and went out, shutting the door decidedly behind him.

The next morning at half-past eleven he came; he had a small bunch of
lilies of the valley in his hand.

"Will you invite me to lunch?" he said.

Yes, Nancy would be very pleased. She thought of the twenty-two francs
in her purse; but nothing mattered.

They lunched in the dining-room, and he was very silent. Nancy spoke of
music, but he did not respond.

"Do you sing?" she asked at last.

He looked up at her like an offended wild beast. "Do I look as if I
could sing?"

"No, you don't," she said. "You look as if you could growl."

He smiled slightly under his clipped moustache, and did not answer.
Nancy gave up all attempt at conversation. Her heart beat fast. Things
were going wrong. He was tired of her already. He looked bored--well,
no, not bored, but utterly indifferent and hard, as if he were alone.
After their coffee he got up--every time he rose Nancy wondered anew at
his breadth and length--and led the way out. Nancy trotted after him
with short steps. He went into the lounge and took a seat near a table
in the window, pushing a chair forward for Nancy.

"May I smoke?" he said, taking a large cigar-case from his pocket.

Nancy nodded. He chose his cigar carefully, clipped the end off, and lit
it. Nancy could not think of a word to say. All her pretty, frivolous
conversation, all the bright remarks and witty repartee, wavered away
from her mind. She had not prepared herself for monologues.

After the first puff he said: "You don't smoke, do you?"

"Oh no!" said Nancy.

As soon as she had said it a wave of crimson flooded her face. She
remembered writing that she smoked Russian cigarettes perfumed with
heliotrope. He had not believed her. How could she have written such an
idiotic thing? And suddenly she realized that she was not the Girl in
her Letters at all, and that he must be bored and disappointed. But no
more was he the Man of his Letters; at least, she had imagined him quite
different, with fair hair and droopy grey eyes, and a poet's soul. Then
she remembered that he had never spoken about himself in his letters at
all.

At this point he looked up and said: "I like a woman who can keep quiet.
You have not spoken for half an hour." And she laughed, and was glad.

When he had finished his cigar, he said: "I hope you have not left any
valuables in your room. It is not safe."

"Oh no," said Nancy; "I haven't."

"Have you given them to the office?"

"No," said Nancy--"no;" and suddenly she remembered that she had told
him in her letters that she wore jewels all over her.

Without looking up, he said: "Will you give me your purse? I will take
care of it."

Nancy felt that if she went on flushing any more her hair would catch
fire. She drew out her purse and handed it to him. He opened it slowly
and deliberately. He took out the three sous and the two francs, and put
them into his pocket. Then he opened the middle division, and looked at
the twenty-franc piece. He took it out and placed it on the table. Then
he went through all the other compartments, gazing pensively at an
unused tramway ticket and at a medal of the Madonna del Monte. He put
those back again, and handed Nancy the purse. The twenty-franc piece he
put into a purse of his own, and into his pocket.

"Now let us go for a drive," he said.

Nancy, feeling dazed, rustled away, and took the lift to her room. She
pinned on her hat, took her coat and gloves, and just caught the lift
again as it was passing down. When he saw her, he said "That was quick,"
and they went out together. A victoria was waiting for them. The porter
was profusely polite, and the horses started off at a loose trot down
the Boulevards and towards the Étoile. He asked her many questions
during the drive, and in her answers she was as much as possible the
Girl of the Letters.

He sounded her about Monte Carlo, and she was glad that she was quite
_au courant_, and could mention systems and the Café de Paris.

"Would you like to go there again?" he asked.

"Yes--oh yes!" she said, clasping her mauve kid gloves. Then she fell
into a reverie, and she kept her hands clasped in her lap, for she was
saying an _Ave_ and _a Pater_ for Anne-Marie.

The carriage was turning into the Bois when her companion said:

"Where do you want to go?"

Nancy said: "This is very nice. The Bois is lovely."

"I mean where do you want to go to to-morrow, or the day after, or next
week. You do not want to stay in Paris for ever, do you?"

She drew a little quick breath, and said, "Oh!" and then again, "Oh,
really?" and looked up at him with uncertain eyes.

"Do not look at me as if I were the spider, or the lion, or the
thunderstorm. Tell me if there is any place on earth that you have
longed to go to. And when. And with whom."

Nancy's eyes filled quickly with glowing tears. "I should like to go to
Italy," she said, "to a little village tip-tilted over the sea, called
Porto Venere."

The Ogre, who had read "Elle et Lui," nodded, and said: "I know.
Anywhere else?"

"I should like to stay a few days in Milan--to see some people who are
dear."

"Et après?"

"I should like to go to Switzerland. Only to one or two little places
there--the Via Mala, Splügen, Sufers--"

"H'm--h'm," said he, and waited to hear more.

"And then--and then--yes, perhaps to Monte Carlo--and oh, to Naples and
to Rome! But I want to stay longest in Porto Venere."

He nodded, and said: "When do you want to start?"

"To-morrow," said Nancy.

"And how? In a train? Or by motor? Or by boat?"

"I don't mind," said Nancy, hiding her face in her handkerchief and
beginning to weep.

"And with whom?" There was a pause. "What about a maid?"

"Oh, no maid!" said Nancy. Then she looked up. "With you," she said,
because the Girl in the Letters would have said it, and also because she
wanted him to come.

"All right. Don't take much luggage," he said.



XVI


They went. They went through Switzerland. They drove down the wide white
roads that coil like wind-blown ribbons round the swelling breasts of the
Alps; they went up the barren Julier Pass, and through the shuddering
Via Mala, breakfasting at St. Moritz, table d'hôting at Maloya,
wandering through the moonlike sunshine of Splügen's pine-forests,
clattering and rumbling over the covered bridges of Sufers. The
snow-tipped pine-trees, like regiments of monks with nightcaps on,
nodded at them in stately gravity; the squirrels stopped with quick,
beady glances, and scuttled away, tail-flourishing, up the branches,
while the bland Helvetian cows stood in the green meadows to watch them
pass.

Every evening they went together down boot-adorned passages to the door
of Nancy's room. And there he said, "Good-night, Miss Brown," and left
her.

They went on into Italy--straight down to Naples without stopping in
Milan, for Nancy would not see anyone she loved after all; for she could
not explain anything, and did not know what to say, and did not want to
think of anything just now. She would think afterwards. They clambered
up the Vesuvius; they wandered through Pompei; they went to Spezia, and
remembered Shelley; they went on to Porto Venere, and trembled to think
that the sharks might have eaten Byron when he swam across the bay; they
rowed about the Golfo, and ate _vongole_ and other horrible,
ill-smelling _frutti di mare_. And every evening, in the boot-adorned
passages of the hotels, he took her to the door of her room, and said,
"Good-night, Miss Brown."

In Spezia a little steamer that was coasting northwards took them on
board. They were sliding on blue waters into Genoa, when Nancy, seated
on a basket of oranges, felt the touch of the Ogre's hand on her
shoulder. She looked up and smiled. He sat down on another basket beside
her. It creaked and groaned under his weight, so he got up and fetched a
heavy wooden case, dragging it along the deck to Nancy's side.

"Now what?" he said.

Nancy had grown to understand him well. Not for an instant did she think
that he was talking of the moment, or the next hour, as she had thought
when they had driven in the Bois, now more than a month ago. She knew
that he looked at life in large outlines, and seldom spoke of small,
immediate things.

"Now what?" she echoed. He put his large brown hand on her small one,
and it was his first caress. It thrilled Nancy to the heart. His chilly
blue eyes watched her face, and saw it paling slowly under his gaze.

"Now you must go home," he said.

"Yes," said Nancy, "now I must go home." And she wondered vaguely
whether home was the boarding-house in Lexington Avenue or Mrs.
Johnstone's flat in 82nd Street. She decided that it was the flat, where
the bunch of orchids and maidenhair had come and lived almost a week.
Peggy and George would be her friends again, and the dead Mr. Johnstone,
and the naked baby, and the chinless young man would be with her in the
evenings. And Anne-Marie must leave Fräulein Müller's _Gartenhaus_, and
go back to school on Sixth Avenue.

"What are your thoughts," said the Ogre.

"... I was wondering what made you send that messenger-boy with the
flowers and the letter--the letter to the girl in blue.... It was not a
bit like you," she said. And, looking into the hard face, she added:
"You are not at all like that."

"I know I'm not," he said. Then he added, with a laugh, "Thank God! But
we all do things that are not like ourselves now and then. Don't we?"
She did not answer. "Don't you?" he insisted.

Nancy sighed and wondered. "I don't know. What is like me, and what is
not like me? I do not know at all. I do not know myself."

"I do," said the Ogre. And there was another long silence. He had the
aggravating habit of stopping short after a sentence that one would like
to hear continued.

"Speak," said Nancy. "Say more."

"It was not like me to send those useless and expensive flowers out into
the world to nobody, and to write a crazy letter _in's Blaue
hinein_--into space. But we all have mad moments in our lives when we do
things that are quite unlike us." A pause again. "It was not like you to
write me those letters describing your old-rose curtains--afterwards
they were blue velvet--and your scented cigarettes, and your jewels, and
your lovers. And it was not like you to cross the Atlantic and come to
Paris and to supper with a man you had never met, in order to see
whether you could get money out of him."

Nancy covered her face. "Oh!" she said, "have you thought that?"

"Oh!" he said, "have you done that?" And there was silence.

The Captain passed and remarked on the fine weather, adding that they
would arrive in less than an hour. Then he went by.

"I liked your first letter--poor little truthful letter on the cheap
paper. You said you were the wrong girl. You were dressed in brown. I
could see you in your shabby brown dress--I knew it must be shabby--and
I liked the idea of doing something unexpected with a little money. Then
I was amused at your letter saying you were not Miss Brown. After that
the lies began."

Nancy quivered. The houses of Quarto were coming into sight; the red
hotel of Quinto was gliding past.

"How could you think that I would believe in the old-rose curtains in
the 300's of East 82nd Street, I who have lived five or six years in New
York? That showed me that you were a foreigner, or you would have known
that street numbers in New York tell their own tale. Then your letters
told me that you were a fanciful creature, and they told me that you
were lonely, or you would not have found time to write so much--a
cultivated, little fibber, who quoted every poet under the sun,
especially the out-of-the-way ones. Then, when I found out that you
had a child--"

"Oh!" gasped Nancy, and the tears welled over. "You know about
Anne-Marie!"

"I know about Anne-Marie. I even have a picture of her." He unbuttoned
his coat, and drew out his pocket-book, and from it a little snapshot
photograph, which he handed to Nancy. It was herself and Anne-Marie in
front of a toy-shop. They were in the act of turning from it, and
Anne-Marie's foot was lifted in the air. They were both laughing, and
neither of them looking their best.

"Oh, but that's hideous of her," said Nancy. "She is quite different
from that."

He smiled, and put the picture back into his pocket-book, and the
pocket-book into his breast-pocket.

"When I had found out that you had a child, and that your husband"--he
hesitated--"was--er--Neapolitan, I understood what you were after, and
decided that I would--walk into it--que je marcherais, as the French
say. Et j'ai marché." A long silence, and then he said: "And now, what
do you want?"

But Nancy was crying, and could not answer. "Do you want to go on living
in America?" Nancy shook her head.

"What are you crying for?" and he took her wrist, and pulled one hand
from her face.

Nancy raised her reddened eyes. "I am crying," she said brokenly,
"because all the--the prettiness has been taken out of everything. Yes,
I was poor--yes, I was miserable, and I was inventing things in my
letters; but I thought you believed them--and I thought you--you loved
me, like Jaufré Rudel. And I have never, never been so happy as when--as
when--I loved you across the distance--and you were the Unknown--and now
it is all broken and spoilt--and all the time you thought I wanted
money--I mean you knew I wanted money, and you had that hideous picture,
and"--here Nancy broke into weak, wild sobs--"you thought I looked like
that!"

"That's so," said Jaufré Rudel.

And he let her cry for a long time.

Quarto had slipped back into the distance, and San Francesco D'Albaro
was moving smoothly into view.

"I can't go on crying for ever," said Nancy, raising her face with a
quivering smile, "and the Captain will think you are a huge, horrid,
scolding English Ogre."

They were nearly in. "Get your little bag and things," he said to her,
and she rose quickly and complied. Everybody was standing up waiting to
land. Oh, how good it was to be taken care of and ordered about, to be
told to do this and that! She stood behind him small and meek, holding
her travelling-bag in one hand, and in the other the umbrellas and
sticks strapped together. His large shoulders were before her like a
wall. She raised the bundle of umbrellas to her face and kissed the
curved top of his stick. And now, what?

They drove to the hotel. Then they had dinner. In the evening they sat
on the balcony, and watched the people passing below them. Handsome
Italian officers, moustache-twisting and sword-clanking, passed in twos
and threes, eyeing the hurrying modistes and the self-conscious
_signorine_ that walked beside their portly mothers and fathers. The
military band was playing in the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, and the music
reached the balcony faintly. Then Nancy told him about her work. About
the first book of verse that had set all Italy aflame, about the second,
The Book, the work of her life, that had been interrupted.

He listened, smoking his cigar, and making no comment. Then he spoke.

"There is a boat from here on Wednesday. The _Kaiser Wilhelm_. A good
old boat. Go over and fetch the child." Then he halted, and said: "Or do
you like her to be brought up in America?"

"Oh no!" said Nancy.

"Well, fetch her," he said. "And fetch the old Fräulein across too, if
she likes to come. Then go to Porto Venere, or to Spezia, or anywhere
you like, and take a house, and sit down and work."

She could not speak. She saw Porto Venere white in the sunshine,
tip-tilted over the sea, and she saw The Book that was to live, to live
after all.

As she did not answer he said: "Don't you like it?"

She took his hand, and pressed it to her lips, and to her cheek, and to
her heart. She could not answer. And his chilly blue eyes grew suddenly
lighter than usual. "Dear little Miss Brown," he said; "dear, dear,
foolish, little Miss Brown." And, bending forward, he kissed her
forehead.



XVII


The _Gartenhaus_ on Staten Island in the twilight, with lamplight and
firelight gleaming through its casements, and a little hat of snow on
its roof, looked like a Christmas-card, when Nancy hurried through the
narrow garden-gate, and ran up the tiny gravel-path. She had left all
her belongings at the dock in order not to lose an instant. Anne-Marie's
pink fingers were dragging at her heart.

Fräulein, foggy as to time-tables and arrivals of boats, had thought it
wisest not to attempt a meeting at the crowded, draughty, New York
landing-station. She had kept Anne-Marie indoors for the last three
days, saying: "Your mother may be here any moment." After the first
thirty-six hours of poignant expectancy and frequent runnings to the
gate, Anne-Marie had silently despised Fräulein for telling naughty
untruths, and had whispered in the hairy ear of Schopenhauer that she
would never again believe a word Fräulein ever said again.
Schopenhauer--whose name had been chosen by Fräulein for educational
purposes, namely (as she wrote in her diary), "to enlarge the childish
mind by familiarity with the names of authors and philosophers"--was
sympathetic and equally sceptical when Fräulein Müller sibilantly urged
him: "Schoppi, Schoppi, mistress is coming. Go seek mistress! Seek
mistress, sir." But Schoppi, who had searched and sniffed every corner
of the hedge, and dug rapid holes round the early cabbages and in the
flower-bed, knew that "mistress" was a pleasurably exciting, but merely
delusive and empty sound. And so nobody expected Nancy as she ran up the
path in the twilight, and saw the lights shining through the casement.

Her heart beat in trepidant joy. She had been so anxious about
Anne-Marie. During the last few hours of the journey she had had ghostly
and tragic imaginings. What if Anne-Marie had been running about the
island, and had fallen into the sea? What if a motor-car--her heart had
given a great leap, and then dropped, like a ball of lead, turning her
faint with reminiscent terror. She would not think about it. No, she
would not think of such things any more. But what if Anne-Marie had
scarlet fever? Yes! suddenly she felt convinced that Anne-Marie had
scarlet fever, that she would see the little red flag of warning hanging
out over the _Gartenhaus_ door....

Nancy made ready to knock; then, before doing so, she dropped quickly to
her knees on the snowy doorstep, and folded her hands in a childlike
attitude of prayer: "O God! let me find Anne-Marie safe and happy!"

Almost in answer a sound struck her ear--a chord of sweetness and
harmony, then a long, lonely note, and after it a quick twirl of running
notes like a ripple of laughter. The violin!

Nancy sprang from the doorstep, and ran under the window that was lit
up. She scrambled on to the rockery under it, and, scratching her hand
against the climbing rose-branches, she grasped the ledge and looked in
through the white-curtained glass. It was Anne-Marie. Standing in the
circle of light from the lamp, with the violin held high on her left
arm, and her cheek resting lightly against it, she looked like a little
angel musician of Beato Angelico.

Her eyes were cast down, her floating hair rippled over her face.
Nancy's throat tightened as she looked. Then Nancy's brain staggered as
she listened. For the child was playing like an artist. Trills and
arpeggios ran from under her fingers like clear water. Now a full and
sonorous chord checked their springing lightness, and again the bubbling
runs rilled out, sprinkling the twilight with music.

Nancy's hand slipped from the sill, and a rose-branch hit the window.
Then the fox-terrier's sharp bark rang through the house; there were
hurrying feet in the hall; the door was opened by the smiling
Elisabeth--and Fräulein was exclaiming and questioning, and Anne-Marie
was in her mother's arms. Warm, and living, and tight she held her
creature, thanking God for the touch of the fleecy hair against her
face, for the fresh cheek that smelt of soap, and the soft breath that
smelt of grass and flowers.

"Anne-Marie! Anne-Marie! Have you missed me, darling?"

Anne-Marie was sobbing wildly. "No! No! I haven't! Only now! Only now!"

"But now you have me, my own love."

"But now I miss you! Now I miss you," sobbed Anne-Marie, incoherent and
despairing. And her mother understood. Mothers understand.

"Anne-Marie! I shall never go away from you again! I promise!"

Anne-Marie looked up through shimmering tears. "Honest engine?" she
asked brokenly, putting out a small damp hand.

"Honest engine," said Nancy, placing her hand solemnly in the hand of
her little daughter. Schopenhauer, squirming with barks, was patted and
admired, and made to sit up leaning against the leg of the table; and
Fräulein told the news about Anne-Marie having _doch gegessen_ the
tapioca-puddings, but never the porridge, and seldom the vegetables.
Then, as it was late, Anne-Marie was conducted upstairs by everybody,
including Schopenhauer, and while Elisabeth unfastened buttons and
tapes, Fräulein brushed and plaited the golden hair, and Nancy, on her
knees before the child, laughed with her and kissed her.

When she was in bed Elisabeth and Schopenhauer had to sit in the dark
beside her until she slept.

"But, Fräulein, that will never do!" said Nancy, as they went down the
little staircase together arm-in-arm. "You spoil her shockingly."

"Hush!" said Fräulein. And as they entered the cheerful drawing-room,
where the violin lay on the table, and the bow on a chair, and a piece
of rosin on the sofa, Fräulein stopped, and said impressively, "You do
not know that that child is a Genius!"

In Fräulein's voice, as she said the word "genius," was awe and homage,
service and genuflexion. Nancy sat down, and looked at the little piece
of rosin stuck on its green cloth on the sofa. "A Genius!" The word and
the awestruck tone brought a recollection to her mind. Years ago, when
she had stepped into the dazzling light of her first success, and all
the poets of Italy had come to congratulate and to flatter, One had not
come. He was the great and sombre singer of revolt, the Pagan poet of
modern Rome. He was the Genius, denounced, anathematized and exalted in
turn by the hot-headed youth of Italy. He lived apart from the world,
aloof from the clamour made around his name, shunning both laudators and
detractors, impassive alike to invective and acclamation. To him, with
his curt permission, Nancy herself had gone. A disciple and apostle of
his, long-bearded and short of words, had come to conduct her to the
Poet's house in Bologna. It was an old house on the broad, ancient
ramparts of the city, where an armed sentinel marched, gun on shoulder,
up and down. Nancy remembered that she had laughed, and said
frivolously: "I suppose the Poet has the soldier on guard to prevent his
ideas being stolen." The apostle had not smiled. Then she had entered
the house alone, for the apostle was not invited.

The Spirit of Silence was on the cold stone staircase. The door had been
opened by a pale-faced, stupid-looking servant, whose only mission in
life seemed to be not to make a noise. Three hushed figures, the
daughters of the Poet, had bidden her in a half-whisper to sit down.
They all had a look about them as if they lived with something that
devoured them day by day. And they looked as if they liked it. They
lived to see that the Genius was not disturbed. Then the Genius had
entered the room--a fierce and sombre-looking man of sixty, with a
leonine head and impatient eyes. And she, seeing him, understood that
one should be willing to tiptoe through life with subdued gesture and
hushed voice, so that he were not disturbed. She understood that he had
the right to devour.

He carried her little book in his hand, and spoke in brief, gruff tones.
"Three women," he said, his flashing eyes looking her up and down as if
he were angry with her, "have been poets: Sappho, Desbordes Valmore,
Elizabeth Browning. And now--you. Go and work."

That was all. But it had been enough to send Nancy away dazed with
happiness. The Devoured Ones had opened the door for her, and silently
shown her out; and as she went tremblingly down the steps she had heard
a heavy tread above her, and had stopped to look back. He had come out
on to the landing, and was looking after her. She stood still, with a
beating heart. And he had spoken again. Three words: "Aspetto e
confido--I wait and trust."

She had replied, "Grazie," and then had gone running down the stairs,
trembling and stumbling, knowing that his eyes were upon her.

"_Aspetto e confido_." He had waited and trusted in vain. She had never
written another book. And now he would never read what she might write,
for he was dead.

Nancy still stared at the little piece of rosin stuck on its dentelated
green cloth--stared at it vaguely, unseeing. What? Anne-Marie was a
Genius? The little tender, wild-eyed birdling was one of the Devourers?
Yes, already in the _Gartenhaus_ there was the atmosphere of hushed
reverence, the attitude of sacrifice and waiting. Fräulein spoke in
whispers; Elisabeth and the fox-terrier sat in the dark while the Genius
went to sleep. Her violin possessed the table, her bow the armchair, her
rosin the sofa. Fräulein had all the amazed stupefaction of one of the
Devoured.

"The child is a Genius," she was repeating. "She will be like Wagner.
Only greater."

Then she seemed to awake to the smaller realities of life. "What did the
Firm say? When does your book appear? My poor dear, you must be tired!
you must be hungry! But, hush! the child's room is just overhead, so, if
you do not mind, I will give you your supper in the back-kitchen.
Anne-Marie, when she is not eating, does not like the sound of plates."



XVIII


So Nancy did not go to Porto Venere after all. Nor to Spezia. For there
was no great violin teacher in either of those blue and lovely places.

There were only balconied rooms, with wide views over the Mediterranean
Sea, where Nancy could have written her Book, and seen visions and
dreamed dreams; but surely, as Fräulein said, she could write her book
in any nice quiet room, with a table in it, and pen and ink, while
Anne-Marie must cultivate her gift and her calling. Anne-Marie must
study her violin. So Nancy wrote, and explained this to the Ogre, and
then she went with Anne-Marie and Fräulein to Prague, where the greatest
of all violin-teachers lived, fitting left hands with wonderful
technique, and right hands with marvellous pliancy; teaching slim
fingers to dance and scamper and skip on four tense strings, and supple
wrists to wield a skimming, or control a creeping, bow. And this
greatest of teachers took little Anne-Marie to his heart. He also called
her the _Wunderkind_, and set her eager feet, still in their white socks
and button shoes, on the steep path that leads up the Hill of Glory.

Nancy unpacked her manuscripts in an apartment in one of the not very
wide streets of old Prague; opposite her window was a row of brown and
yellow stone houses; she had a table, and pen and ink, and there was
nothing to disturb her. True, she could hear Anne-Marie playing the
violin two rooms off, but that, of course, was a joy; besides, when all
the doors were shut one could hardly hear anything, especially if one
tied a scarf or something round one's head, and over one's ears.

So Nancy had no excuse for not working. She told herself so a hundred
times a day, as she sat at the table with the scarf round her head,
staring at the yellow house opposite. Through the open window came the
sound of loud, jerky Czech voices. The strange new language, of which
Nancy had learned a few dozen words, rang in her ears continuously:
Kavarna ... Vychod ... Lekarna ... the senseless words turned in her
head like a many-coloured merry-go-round. Even at night in her dreams
she seemed to be holding conversations in Czech. But that would pass,
and she would be able to work; for now she had no anxieties and no
preoccupations. Fräulein looked after Anne-Marie, body and soul, with
unceasing and agitated care, deeming it as important that she should
have her walk as that she should play the "Zigeunerweisen," that she
should say her prayers as that she should eat her soup. And Nancy had no
material preoccupations either. She had decided to accept gratefully,
and without scruple, all that she needed for two years from her friend
the Ogre. Long before then The Book would be out, and she could repay
him. And what mattered repaying him? All he wanted was that she should
be happy, and live her own life for two years. He would have to go back
to Peru, and stay there for about that period of time. Let her meanwhile
live her own life and fulfil her destiny--thus he wrote to her. And the
Prager Bankverein had money for her when she needed it.

So Nancy sat before her manuscripts and lived her own life, and tried
not to hear the violin, and not to mind interruptions. In her heart was
a great longing--the longing to see the Ogre again before he left
Europe, a great, aching desire for the blue chilliness of his eyes, for
his stern manner, and his gruff voice, and for the shy greatness of his
heart that her own heart loved and understood.

And besides this ache was the yearn and strain and sorrow of her destiny
unfulfilled. For once again the sense of time passing, of life running
out of her grasp, bit at her breast like an adder.

    "La belle qui veut,
     La belle qui n'ose
     Cueillir les roses
     Du jardin bleu."

She sat down and wrote to him. "I cannot work. I cannot work. I am swept
away and overwhelmed by some chimeric longing that has no name. My soul
drowns and is lost in its indefinite and fathomless desire. Will you
take me away before you go, away to some rose-lit, jasmine-starred nook
in Italy, where my heart may find peace again? I feel such strength,
such boundless, turbulent power, yet my spirit is pinioned and held down
like a giant angel sitting in a cave with huge wings furled....

"You have unclosed the sweep of heaven before me; I will bring the
sunshot skies down to your feet...."

The door opened, and Fräulein's head appeared, solemn and sibylline,
with tears shining behind her spectacles.

"Nancy, to-day for the first time Anne-Marie is to play Beethoven. Will
you come?"

Yes, Nancy would come. She followed Fräulein into the room where
Anne-Marie was with the Professor and his assistant.

The Professor did not like to play the piano, so he had brought the
assistant with him, who sat at the piano, nodding a large, rough black
head in time to the music. Anne-Marie was in front of her stand. The
Professor, with his hands behind him, watched her. The Beethoven Romance
in F began.

The simple initial melody slid smoothly from under the child's fingers,
and was taken up and repeated by the piano. The willful crescendo of
the second phrase worked itself up to the passionate high note, and was
coaxed back again into gentleness by the shy and tender trills, as a
wrathful man by the call of a child. Martial notes by the piano. The
assistant's head bobbed violently, and now Beethoven led Anne-Marie's
bow, gently, by tardigrade steps, into the first melody again. Once
more, the head at the piano bobbed over his solo. Then, on the high F,
down came the bow of Anne-Marie, decisive and vehement.

"That's right!" shouted the Professor suddenly. "Fa, mi, sol--play that
on the fourth string."

Anne-Marie nodded without stopping. Eight accented notes by the piano,
echoed by Anne-Marie.

"That is to sound like a trumpet!" cried the master.

"Yes, yes; I remember," said Anne-Marie.

And now for the third time the melody returned, and Anne-Marie played it
softly, as in a dream, with a _gruppetto_ in _pianissimo_ that made the
Professor push his hands into his pockets, and the assistant turn his
head from the piano to look at her. At the end the slowly ascending
scales soared and floated into the distance, and the three last, calling
notes fell from far away.

No one spoke for a moment; then the Professor went close to the child
and said:

"Why did you say, 'I remember' when I told you about the trumpet
notes?"

"I don't know," said Anne-Marie, with the vague look she always had
after she had played.

"What did you mean?"

"I meant that I understood," said Anne-Marie.

The Professor frowned at her, while his lips worked.

"You said, 'I remember.' And I believe you remember. I believe you are
not learning anything new. You are remembering something you have known
before."

Fräulein intervened excitedly. "Ach! Herr Professor! I assure you the
child has never seen that piece! I have been with her since the first
day she _überhaupt_ had the violin, and--"

The Professor waved an impatient hand. He was still looking at
Anne-Marie. "Who is it?" and he shook his grey head tremulously. "Whom
have we here? Is it Paganini? Or Mozart? I hope it is Mozart." Then he
turned to the man at the piano, who had his elbows on the notes, and his
face hidden in his hands. "What say you, Bertolini? Who is with us in
this involucrum?"

"I know not. I am mute," said the black-haired man in moved tones.

"Thank the Fates that you are not deaf," said the Professor, looking
vaguely for his hat, "or you would not have heard this wonder."

Then he took his leave, for he was a busy man. Bertolini remained to
pack up the Professor's precious Guarnerius del Gesù, dearer to him than
wife and child, and his music, and his gloves, and his glasses, and
anything else that he left behind him, for the Professor was an
absent-minded man.

Then Nancy said to the assistant: "Are you Italian?"

"Sissignora," said Bertolini eagerly.

"So am I," said Nancy. And they were friends.

Bertolini came the next day to ask if he might practise with "little
Wunder," as he called her. He also came the next day, and the day after,
and then every day. He was a second-rate violinist, and a third-rate
pianist; but he was an absolutely first-rate musician, an extravagant,
impassioned, boisterous musician, whose shouts of excitement, after the
first half-hour of polite shyness, could be heard all over the house.

Anne-Marie loved to hear him vociferate. She used to watch his face when
she purposely played a false note; she liked to see him crinkle up his
nose as if something had stung him, and open a wild mouth to shout. Once
she played through an entire piece in F, making every B natural instead
of flat. "Si bemolle! B flat!" said Bertolini the first time.
"_Bemolle!_" cried Bertolini the second time. "BEMOLLE!" he roared,
trampling on the pedals, and with his hand grasping his hair, that
looked like a curly black mat fitted well over his head.

"What is the matter with Bemolle?" asked Fräulein, raising bland eyes
from her needlework.

Anne-Marie laughed. "I don't know what is the matter with him. I think
he's crazy." And thus Signor Bertolini was christened Bemolle for all
time.

Bemolle, who was a composer, now composed no more. He soon became one of
the Devoured. His mornings were given up to the Professor; his
afternoons he gave to Anne-Marie. He would arrive soon after lunch, and
sit down at the piano, tempting the child from playthings or story-book
by rippling accompaniments or dulcet chords. And because the Professor
had said: "With this child one can begin at the end," Bemolle lured her
long before her ninth birthday across the ditches and pitfalls of Ernst
and Paganini, over the peaks and crests of Beethoven and Bach.

On the day that Nancy was called from her writing to hear Anne-Marie
play Bach's "Chaconne," Nancy folded up the scarf that she had used to
cover her ears with, and put it away. Then she took her manuscripts,
and kissed them, and said good-bye to them for ever, and put them away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Soon afterwards the Ogre came to Prague. He had received Nancy's letter
about Italy, and had come to answer it in person. It was good to see him
again. His largeness filled the room, his mastery controlled and soothed
the spirit. He was the "wall" that Clarissa had spoken of in the Villa
Solitudine long ago.

Lucky is the woman who belongs to a wall. When she has bruised and
fretted herself in trying to push through it, and get round it, and jump
over it, let her sit down quietly in its protecting shadow and be
grateful.

An hour after his arrival the imperious Anne-Marie was subjugated and
entranced, Fräulein was a-bustle and a-quiver with solicitude as to his
physical welfare, and Nancy sat back in a large armchair, and felt that
nothing could hurt, or ruffle, or trouble her any more.

In the evening, when Fräulein had taken Anne-Marie to bed, the Ogre
smoked his long cigar, and said to Nancy:

"There is no jasmine in this season in Italy. And not many roses. But
the place that you asked for is ready. It has a large garden. When I
have settled you there, I am going to Peru."

"Oh, must you?" said Nancy. "Must you really?"

"The Mina de l'Agua needs looking after. Something has gone wrong with
it. I ought to have gone three months ago, when I first wrote to you
that I should," said the Ogre. "But enough. That does not concern you."

Nancy looked very meek. "I am sorry," she said apologetically.

"Very well," said the Ogre "Now let us talk about your work and Italy.
When do you start?"

Those four words thrilled Nancy with indescribable joy. "When do you
start?" What a serene, what an attractive phrase!

"Can you be ready on Thursday?" Again the balm and charm of the question
ran into Nancy's veins. She felt that she could listen to questions of
this kind for ever. But he stopped questioning, and expected an answer.
It was a hesitant answer. She said:

"What about Anne-Marie's violin?"

He waited for her to explain, and she did so. Anne-Marie was going to be
a portentous virtuosa. The great master had said so. It would never do
to take her away from Prague. Nowhere would she get such lessons,
nowhere would there be a Bemolle to devote himself utterly and entirely
to her.

The Ogre listened with his eyes fixed on Nancy.

"Well? Then what?"

"Ah!" said Nancy. "Then what!" And she sighed.

"Do you want to leave her here?" asked the Ogre.

"No," said Nancy.

"Do you want to take her with you?"

"N-no," said Nancy.

"Then what?" said the Ogre again.

Nancy raised her clouded eyes under their wing-like eyebrows to his
strong face. "Help me," she said.

He finished smoking his cigar without speaking; then he helped her. He
looked in her face with his firm eyes while he spoke to her.

He said: "You cannot tread two ways at once. You said your genius was a
giant angel sitting in a cave, with huge wings furled."

"Yes; but since then the genius of Anne-Marie has flown with clarion
wings into the light."

"You said that your unexpressed thoughts, your unfulfilled destiny, hurt
you."

"Yes; but am I to silence a singing fountain of music in order that my
silent, unwritten books may live?"

He did not speak for some time. Then he said: "Has it never occurred to
you that it might be better for the little girl to be just a little
girl, and nothing else?"

"No," said Nancy. "It never occurred to me."

"Might it not have been better if you yourself, instead of being a poet,
had been merely a happy woman?"

"Ah, perhaps!" said Nancy. "But Glory looked me in the face when I was
young--Glory, the sorcerer!--the Pied Piper!--and I have had to follow.
Through the days and the nights, through and over and across everything,
his call has dragged at my heart. And, oh! it is not his call that
hurts; it is the being pulled back and stopped by all the outstretched
hands. The small, everyday duties and the great loves that hold one and
keep one and stop one--they it is that break one's heart in two. Yes,
_in two_, for half one's heart has gone away with the Piper." She drew
in a long breath, remembering many things. Then she said: "And now he is
piping to Anne-Marie. She has heard him, and she will go. And if her
path leads over my unfulfilled hopes and my unwritten books, she shall
tread and trample and dance on them. And good luck to her!"

"Well, then--good luck to her!" said the Ogre.

And Nancy said: "Thank you."

"Now you are quite clear," he said after a pause; "and you must never
regret it. If you want your child to be an eagle, you must pull out your
own wings for her."

"Every feather of them!" said Nancy.

"And when you have done so, then she will spread them and fly away from
you."

"I know it," said Nancy.

"And you will be alone."

"Yes," said Nancy.

And she closed her eyes to look into the coming years.



XIX


The Ogre remained in Prague a week, and took Anne-Marie on the Moldau
and to the White Mountain, to the Stromovka and the Petrin Hill. Bemolle
was frantic. For six days Anne-Marie had not touched the violin. He had
looked forward to long hours of music with Anne-Marie, and had prepared
her entire repertoire carefully in contrasting programmes for the
English visitor's pleasure. But the English visitor would have none of
it, or very little, and that little not of the best. Not much Beethoven,
scarcely any Bach, no Brahms! Only Schubert and Grieg. Short pieces!
Then the large man would get up and shake hands, first with Anne-Marie,
then with Bemolle, and say "Thank you, thank you," and the music was
over.

On the last day of his stay he came before luncheon, and went to the
valley of the Sarka alone with "Miss Brown"--he never called Nancy
anything else, and she loved the name. It was a clear midsummer day. The
country was alight with poppies, like a vulgar summer hat. The heart of
Miss Brown was sad.

"I leave this evening," he said, "at 8.40."

"You have told me that twenty times," said Miss Brown.

"I like you to think of it," he said; and she did not answer. "I am
going back to the mines, back to Peru--"

"You have said that two hundred times," said Miss Brown pettishly.

He paid no attention. "To Peru," he continued, "and I may have to stay
there a year, or two years ... to look after the mine. Then I return."
He coughed. "Or--I do not return."

No answer.

"You have not changed your mind about going to Italy and writing your
book?"

"No," said Nancy, with little streaks of white on each side of her
nostrils.

"I thought not."

Then they walked along for a quarter of an hour in silence. The wind ran
over the grasses, and the birds sang.

"Nancy!" he said. It was the first time he had called her by her name.
She covered her face and began to cry. He did not attempt to comfort
her. After a while he said, "Sit down," and she sat on the grass and
went on crying.

"Do you love me very much?" he asked.

"Dreadfully," said Nancy, looking up at him helplessly through her
tears.

He sat down beside her.

"And do you know that I love you very much?"

"Yes, I know," sobbed Nancy.

There was a short silence. Then he said: "In one of your letters long
ago you wrote: 'This love across the distance, without the aid of any
one of our senses, this is the Blue Rose of love, the mystic marvel
blown in our souls for the delight of Heaven.' Shall we pluck it, Nancy,
and wear it for our own delight?"

The grasses curtseyed and the river ran. He took her hand from her face.
Nancy looked at him, and the tears brimmed over.

"Then," she said brokenly, "it would not be the Blue Rose any more."

"True," he said.

"Then it would be a common, everyday, pink-faced flower like every
other."

"True," he said again.

She withdrew her hand from his. Then his hand remained on his knee in
the sunshine, a large brown hand, strong, but lonely.

"Oh, dear Unknown!" said Nancy; and she bent forward and kissed the
lonely hand. "Do not let us throw our blue dream-rose away!"

"Very well," he said--"very well, dear little Miss Brown." And he kissed
her forehead for the second time.

That evening he went back to his mines.



XX


The following winter, when Nancy had been in Prague nearly a year, the
Professor said:

"Next month Anne-Marie will give an orchestral concert."

"Oh, Herr Professor!" gasped Nancy. "Was giebt's?" asked the Professor.

"Was giebt's?" asked Anne-Marie.

"She is only nine years old."

"Well?" said the Professor.

"Well?" said Anne-Marie.

Who can describe the excitement of the following days? The excitement of
Bemolle over the choice of a programme! The excitement of Fräulein over
the choice of a dress! The excitement of Nancy, who could close no eye
at night, who pictured Anne-Marie breaking down or stopping in the
middle of a piece, or beginning to cry, or refusing to go on to the
platform, or catching cold the day before! Everyone was febrile and
overwrought except Anne-Marie herself, who seemed to trouble not at
all about it.

She was to play the Max Bruch Concerto? _Gut!_ And the Fantasia
Appassionata? All right. And the Paganini variations on the G string?
Very well. And now might she go out with Schop? For Schopenhauer,
long-bodied and ungainly, had come with them to Europe, and was now
friends with all the gay dogs of Prague.

"I will order the pink dress," said Fräulein.

"Oh no! Let it be white," said Nancy.

"I want it blue," said Anne-Marie.

So blue it was.

One snowy morning Anne-Marie went to her first rehearsal with the
orchestra. There was much friendly laughter among the strings and wind,
the brass and reeds, when the small child entered through the huge glass
doors of the Rudolfinum, followed by Bemolle carrying the violin, Nancy
carrying the music, Fräulein carrying the dog, and the Professor in the
rear, with his hat pulled down deeply over his head, and a large unlit
cigar twisting in his fingers. Anne-Marie was introduced to the Bohemian
chef d'orchestre, and was hoisted up to the platform by Fräulein and the
Professor. Violins and violas tapped applause on their instruments.

And now Jaroslav Kalas raps his desk with the bâton and raises his
arm. Then he remembers something. He stops and bends down to Anne-Marie.
Has she the A? Yes, thank you. And the little girl holds the fiddle to
her ear and plucks lightly and softly at the strings. She raises it to
her shoulder, and stands in position.

Again the conductor taps and raises his arms. B-r-r-r-r-r roll the
drums. Re-do-si, re-do-si, re-e, whisper the clarinets. A pause.
Anne-Marie lifts her right arm slowly, and strikes the low G--a long
vibrating note, like the note of a 'cello. Then she glides softly up the
cadenza, and ends on the long pianissimo high D. Bemolle, who has been
standing up, sits down suddenly. The Professor, who has been sitting
down, stands up. Now Anne-Marie is purling along the second cadenza.
Fräulein, beaming in her lonely stall in the centre of the empty hall,
nods her head rapidly and continuously. Nancy has covered her face with
her hands. But the little girl, with her cheek on the fiddle, plays the
concerto and sees nothing. Only once she gives a little start, as the
brass instruments blare out suddenly behind her and she turns slightly
towards them with an anxious eye. Then she forgets them; and she carries
the music along, winding through the andante, gliding through the
adagio, tearing past the allegro, leaping into the wild, magnificent
finale.

Perfect silence. The orchestra has not applauded. Kalas folds his
arms and turns round to look at the Professor. But the Professor is
blowing his nose. So Kalas steps down from his desk, and, taking
Anne-Marie's hand, lifts it, bow and all, to his lips. Then, stepping
back briskly to the desk, he raps for silence. "Vieuxtemps' Fantasie,"
he says, and the music-sheets are fluttered and turned.

       *       *       *       *       *

All Prague sat expectant--rustling and murmuring and coughing--in the
stalls and galleries of the Rudolfinum, on the night of the concert. The
Bohemian orchestra were in their seats. Kalas stepped up to his
desk, and an overture was played.

A short pause. Then, in the midst of a tense silence, Anne-Marie
appeared, threading her way through the orchestra, with her violin under
her arm. Now she stands in her place, a tiny figure in a short blue silk
frock, with slim black legs and black shoes, and her fair hair tied on
one side with a blue ribbon. Unwondering and calm, Anne-Marie confronted
her first audience, gazing at the thousand upturned faces with gentle,
fearless eyes. She turned her quiet gaze upwards to the gallery, where
row on row of people were leaning forward to see her. Then, with a
little shake of her head to throw back her fair hair, she lifted her
violin to her ear, plucked lightly, and listened, with her head on one
side, to the murmured reply of the strings. Kalas, on his tribune,
was looking at her, his face drawn and pale. She nodded to him, and he
rapped the desk. B-r-r-r-r-r-r rolled the drums.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the artists' room at the close of the concert people were edging and
pressing and pushing to get in and catch a glimpse of Anne-Marie. The
Directors and the uniformed men pushed the crowd out again, and locked
the doors. The Professor, who had listened to the concert hidden away in
a corner of the gallery, elbowed his way through the crush and entered
the artists' room. The doors were quickly locked again behind him.

The Professor had his old black violin-case in his hands. He went to the
table, and, pushing aside a quantity of flowers that lay on it, he
carefully put down his violin-case. It looked like a little coffin in
the midst of the flowers. Anne-Marie was having her coat put on by
Kalas, and a scarf tied round her head by Nancy, who was white as
a sheet. The Professor beckoned to her, and she ran to him, and stood
beside him at the table. He opened his violin-case and lifted out the
magnificent blond instrument that he had treasured for thirty years. He
turned the key of the E string, and drew the string off. Then he drew
the A string off; then the D. The violin, now with the single silver G
string holding up its bridge, lay in the Professor's hands for a moment.
He turned solemnly to the little girl.

"This is my Guarnerius del Gesù. I give it to you."

"Yes," said Anne-Marie.

"You will always play the Paganini Variations for the G string on this
violin. Put no other strings on it."

"No," said Anne-Marie.

The Professor replaced the violin in the case, and shut it. "I have
taught you what I could," he said solemnly. "Life will teach you the
rest."

"Yes," said Anne-Marie, and took the violin-case in her arms. The
Professor looked at her a long time. Then he said:

"See that you put on warm gloves to go out; it is snowing." He turned
away quickly and left the room.

Nancy put her arm round Anne-Marie.

"Oh, darling, you forgot to thank him!" she said.

Anne-Marie raised her eyes. She held the violin-case tightly in both her
arms. "How can one thank him? What is the good of thanking him?" she
said. And Nancy felt that she was right.

"Where are my gloves?" said Anne-Marie. "He told me to put them on. And
where is Fräulein?"

Fräulein had gone. She had been sent home in a cab after the second
piece, for she had not a strong heart. Bemolle, who had been weeping
copiously in a corner, stepped forward with the other violin-case in his
hand.

Now they were ready. Anne-Marie was carrying the Guarnerius and the
flowers, so Nancy could not take her hand. The men in uniform saluted
and unlocked the doors, throwing them wide open. Then Anne-Marie, who
had started forward, stopped. Before her the huge passage was lined with
people, crowded and crushed in serried ranks, with a narrow space
through the middle. At the end of the passage near the doors they could
be seen pushing and surging, like a troubled sea. Anne-Marie turned to
her mother.

"Mother, what are the people waiting for?" she asked.

Nancy smiled with quivering lips. "Come, darling," she said.

"No," said Anne-Marie; "I will not come. I am sure they are waiting to
see something, and I want to wait, too."

As the crowd caught sight of her and rushed forward, she was lifted up
by a large policeman, who carried her on his shoulder and pushed his way
through the tumult. Anne-Marie clutched her flowers and the violin-case,
which knocked against the policeman's head with every step he took.
Nancy followed in the crush, laughing and sobbing, feeling hands
grasping her hands, hearing voices saying: "Gebenedeite Mutter!
glückliche Mutter!" And she could only say: "Thank you! Thank you! Oh,
thank you!"

Then they were in the carriage. The door was shut with a bang. Many
faces surged round the windows.

"Wave your hand," said Nancy. And Anne-Marie waved her hand. Cheers and
shouts frightened the plunging horses, and they started off at a gallop
through the nocturnal streets. Nancy put her arm round Anne-Marie, and
the child's head lay on her shoulder. The Guarnerius was at their feet.
The flowers fell from Anne-Marie's hand on to the Professor's old black
case, that was like a shabby little coffin. So they drove away out of
the noise and the lights into the dark and silent streets, holding each
other without speaking. Then Anne-Marie said softly:

"Did you like my concert, Liebstes?"

She had learned the tender German appellative from Fräulein.

"Yes," whispered Nancy.

"Did I play well, Liebstes?"

"Yes, my dear little girl."

A long pause. "Are you happy, Liebstes?"

"Oh yes, yes, yes! I am happy," said Nancy.



XXI


Before a week had passed Nancy had discovered how difficult a thing it
was to be the mother of a wonderchild, and had grown thin and harassed
by the stream of visitors and the deluge of letters that overwhelmed
their modest apartment in the Vinohrady. As early as eight o'clock in
the morning rival violinists walked beneath the windows to hear if
Anne-Marie was practising, and how she was practising, and what she was
practising. As they did not hear her, they concluded that she practised
on a mute fiddle, and were wrathful and disappointed. By ten o'clock
Lori, the smiling maid, had introduced a reporter or two, an impresario
or two, a mother or two with a child or two, and none of them seemed to
need to go home to luncheon. Questions were asked, and advice was
tendered. "How long did the child practise every day?" "Two or three
hours," said Nancy. "Too much," cried the mothers. "Too little," said
the impresarios. "At what age did she begin?" "When she was between
seven and eight." "Too young," said the mothers. "Too old," said the
impresarios. "How does she sleep?" asked the mothers. "What fees do you
expect?" asked the impresarios. "Why do you dress her in blue?" asked
the mothers. "Why not in white or in black velvet?" "Why don't you cut
her hair quite short and dress her in boy's clothes, and say she is five
years old?" asked the impresarios. "How old is she _really_?" "Does her
father beat her?" There seemed to be no restraint to the kind and the
quantity of questions people were prepared to ask.

Meanwhile the fame of Anne-Marie had flashed to Vienna, and she was
invited to play in the Musikverein Saal. They said good-bye to the
Professor with tears of gratitude, and left--taking away with them his
best violin and his only assistant, for Bemolle was to go with them and
carry the violin, and run the messages, and see after the luggage, and
attend to the business arrangements. This last duty neither Fräulein nor
Anne-Marie, and least of all Nancy, was capable of undertaking. Bemolle
himself was nervous about it, but the Professor (who knew as much about
business as Anne-Marie) had coached him.

"All you have to do is to count the tickets they give you, and the money
they give you. And there must be no discrepancy. Do you see?"

Yes, Bemolle saw. And so that was what he did, everywhere and after each
concert. He counted the tickets, and he counted the money that was given
him very carefully and lengthily, while the smiling manager stood about
and smoked, or went out and refreshed himself; and it was always all
right, and there was never any discrepancy anywhere. So _that_ was all
right.

The great hall of the Musikverein was filled for Anne-Marie's first
concert. It was crowded and packed for her second, and third, and
fourth. A blond Archduchess asked her to play to her children, and
Anne-Marie's lips were taught to frame phrases to Royal Highnesses, and
her little black legs were trained to obeisance and curtsey. Then Berlin
telegraphed for the Wonderchild, and the Wonderchild went to Berlin and
played Bach and Beethoven in the Saal der Philharmonic. Two tall,
white-haired gentlemen came into the artists' room at the end of the
concert. Solemnly they kissed the child's forehead, and invoked God's
blessing upon her. When they had left, Nancy saw Bemolle running after
them and shaking their hands. Nancy said: "What are you doing, Bemolle?"
The emotional Bemolle, who, since Anne-Marie's début, passed his days
turning pale and red, and always seemed on the verge of tears,
exclaimed: "I have shaken hands with Max Bruch and with Joachim. I do
not care if now I die."

And always at the end of the concerts crowds waited at the doors for the
child to appear. Anne-Marie passed through the cheering people with her
arms full of flowers, nodding to the right, nodding to the left, smiling
and thanking and nodding again, with Nancy nodding and smiling and
thanking close behind her. Sometimes the crowd was so great that they
could not pass, and Anne-Marie had to be lifted up and carried to the
carriage buoyantly, laughing down at everybody and waving her hands.
Then there was a rush round the carriage door. Nancy, crushed and
breathless, tearful and laughing, managed to get in after her, the door
banged, and off they were, Anne-Marie still nodding first at one window
then at the other, and rapping her fingers against the glass in
farewell.... At last the running, cheering crowds were left behind, and
she would drop her head with a little sigh of happiness against Nancy's
arm.

"Did you like my concert, mother dear? Did I play well, Liebstes?"

That was the hour of joy for Nancy's heart. The concerts themselves
turned her into a statue of terror, enveloped her with fear as with a
sheet of ice. While Anne-Marie played, swaying slightly like a flower in
a breeze, her spirit carried away on the wing of her own music, Nancy
sat in the audience petrified and blenched, her hands tightly
interlaced, her heart thumping dull and fast in her throat and in her
ears. If the blue dream-light of Anne-Marie's eyes wandered round and
found her, and rested on her face, Nancy would try to smile--a strained,
panic-stricken smile, which made Anne-Marie, even while she was playing,
feel inclined to laugh. Especially if she were at that moment performing
something very difficult, spluttering fireworks by Bazzini, or a
romping, breakneck bravura by Vieuxtemps, she would look fixedly at her
mother, while an impish smile crept into her eyes, and her fingers
rushed and scampered up and down the strings, and her bow swept and
skimmed with the darting flight of a swallow.

Nancy, watching her and trying, with ashen lips, to respond to her
smile, would say to herself: "She will stop suddenly! She will forget.
She cannot possibly remember all those thousands and thousands of notes.
She will let her bow drop. The string will break. Something will happen!
And if my heart goes on hammering like this, I shall fall down and die."
But nothing happened, and she did not die, and the piece ended. And the
applause crackled and crashed around them. And the concert ended, and
soon they were alone together in the flower-filled, fragrant penumbra of
the moving carriage.

"Are you happy, mother dear?"

"Yes, yes, yes! I am so happy, my own little girl!"

       *       *       *       *       *

In the gentle month of May they went to London.

London! Nancy's father's home! London! Close to Hertfordshire, where
Nancy had lived the first eight years of her life.

On board the Channel steamer Nancy, with beating heart, full of
tenderness and awe, pointed out the white cliffs to Anne-Marie. "That is
England."

"Yes," said Anne-Marie, "I know."

"You must love England, darling," said Nancy.

"We shall see," said the Wonderchild, who was not prepared to love by
command. Fräulein was bubbling over with reminiscences. It was in Dover
that Nancy's mother had come to meet her twenty-four years ago. They had
had tea and sponge-cakes in the train. They had bought an umbrella
somewhere, because she had left hers on the boat, and it was raining.

So it was to-day, raining drearily, heavily on the sad green landscapes
as the train ran through Kent and towards London.

They went to a hotel, close to the hall where Anne-Marie was to play.
And all the way driving to it Bemolle wept, with emotion at being in
London, and with emotion at not being in Italy; for in a little village
at the foot of the Appenines, his old mother still lived, following him
with anxious letters while he rushed across Europe carrying the violin
for Anne-Marie.

The first London concert was to be the week after their arrival. The
manager, pink-faced and blue-eyed, came to the hotel to talk about the
programme.

"England is not Berlin. Don't make it too heavy," he said. So the
Beethoven Concerto was taken out, and the Vieuxtemps Concerto put in its
stead. The Chaconne was taken out, and the Faust Phantasie put in its
stead. The manager said, "That's right," and went out to play golf.

The London audience and the London critics came _en masse_ to hear
Anne-Marie. The London audiences clapped and shouted. The London critics
carped and reproved. How sad it was, said they, that a child with such a
marvellous gift should waste her genius on music of the cheap virtuoso
kind! What a responsibility on the shoulders of parents and masters who
withheld from her the classic glories of Beethoven and Bach!

The manager, coming for the programme of the second concert, said: "Pile
it on. Give it to them heavy. It's the heavy stuff they want." Then he
went out and played golf.

So Anne-Marie played the Beethoven Concerto and the Beethoven Romance,
the Bach Chaconne and Fugue, Prelude and Sarabande. And the audience
shouted and clapped.

But the critics carped and reproved. How can a mere child understand
Beethoven and Bach? How wrong to overweight the puerile brain with the
giants of classic composition! It is almost a sacrilege to hear a little
girl venturing to approach the Chaconne. Let her play Handel and Mozart.

So in the third concert Anne-Marie played Handel and Mozart, and the
audience shouted and clapped.

But the critics said that, though she played the easy, simple music very
nicely for her age, still, in a London concert hall one expected to hear
something more puissant and authoritative. And why did she give concerts
at all? Why not do something else? Study composition, for instance?

"That's England all over," said the manager, and went out and played
golf.

Nancy was bewildered and unhappy. Bemolle danced about in helpless
Latin rage, and Fräulein sat down and wrote a long letter to the
_Times_. But it is uncertain whether the _Times_ printed it.

Anne-Marie, who did not know that critics existed, nor care what critics
said, was happy and cheerful, and bought a dog in Regent Street, to
replace the quarantined Schopenhauer. He was a young and thin and
careless dog, and answered to the name of Ribs. Then Anne-Marie decided
that she loved England very much.

Many people called at the hotel to ask for autographs, and to express
their views. One elderly musician was very stern with Anne-Marie, and
sterner still with Nancy. He began by asking Nancy what she thought her
child was going to be in the future.

"I do not know," said Nancy. "I am grateful for what she is now."

"Ah! but you must think of the future. You want her to be a great
artist--"

"I don't know that I do," said Nancy. "She is a great artist now. If she
degenerates"--and Nancy smiled--"into merely a happy woman, she will
have had more than her share of luck."

"Take care! The prodigy will kill the artist!" repeated the stern man.
"You pluck the flower and you lose the fruit."

Nancy laughed. "It is as if you said: 'Beware of being a rose-bud lest
you never be an apple!' I am content that she should bloom unhindered,
and be what she is. Why should she not be allowed to play Bach like an
angel to-day, lest she should not be able to play him like Joachim ten
years hence?"

"Yes, why not!" piped up Anne-Marie, who had paid no attention to the
conversation, but who liked to say "Why not?" on general principles.

The stern man turned to her. "Bach, my dear child----" he began.

Anne-Marie gave a little laugh. "Oh, I know!" she said cheerfully.

"What do you know?" asked the gentleman severely.

"You are going to say, '_Always_ play Bach; nothing else is worthy,'"
said Anne-Marie, regretting that she had joined in the conversation.

"I was not going to say anything of the kind," said the stern man.

"Oh, then you were going to say the other thing: 'Do not _attempt_ to
play Bach--no child can understand him.' Professors always say one or
the other of those two things. Much stupid things are said about music."

"It is so," said the gentleman severely. "You cannot possibly understand
Bach."

Anne-Marie suddenly grasped him by the sleeve.

"What do _you_ understand in Bach? I want to know. You must tell me what
you understand. Exactly what it is that you understand and I don't.
Bemolle!" she cried, still holding the visitor's sleeve. "Give me the
violin!"

Bemolle jumped up and obeyed with beaming face.

"Anne-Marie, darling!" expostulated Nancy.

But Anne-Marie had the violin in her hand and wildness in her eye.

"Stay here," she said to the visitor, relinquishing his sleeve with
unwilling hand, and hastily tuning the fiddle. "Now you have got to tell
me what you understand in Bach." She played the first five of the
thirty-two variations of the Chaconne; then she stopped.

"What does Bach mean? What have you understood?" she cried. The English
musician leaned back in his chair and smiled with benevolent
superiority.

"And now--now I play it differently." She played it again, varying the
lights and shades, the piani and the forti. "What different thing have
you understood?"

"And now--now I play it like Joachim. So, exactly so, he played it for
me and with me...

"... Now what have you understood that I have not? What has Bach said to
you, and not to me, you silly man?"

Nancy took Anne-Marie's hand. "Hush, Anne-Marie! For shame!"

"I will not hush!" cried Anne-Marie, with flaming cheeks. "I am tired of
hearing them always say the same stupid things."

The visitor, smiling acidly, stood up to go. "I am afraid too much music
is not good for a little girl's manners," he said.

"Mother," said Anne-Marie, with her head against her mother's breast.
"Tell him to wait. I want to say a thing that I can't. Help me."

"What is it, dear?"

"When we were to have gone to a country that you said was hot and
pretty--and dirty--where was that?"

"Spain?"

"Yes, yes, yes! You said something about the little hotels there ... the
funny little hotels. What did you say about them?"

Nancy thought a moment. Then she smiled and remembered. "I said: 'You
can only find in them what you bring with you yourself.'"

"Yes, yes!" cried Anne-Marie, raising her excited eyes. "Now say that
about music."

And Nancy said it. "You will only find in music what you bring to it
from your own soul."

"Yes," said Anne-Marie, turning to the visitor; "how can you know what I
bring? How can you know that what you bring is beautifuller or gooder?
How can you know that Bach meant what _you_ think and not what I think?"

"Don't get excited, you funny little girl," said the visitor; and he
took his leave with dignity.

But Anne-Marie was excited, and did not sleep all night.



XXII


"Anne-marie, the King wants to hear you play!"

"The King? The real King?"

"Yes."

"Not a fairy-tale king?"

"No."

"The King who was ill when I had a birthday-cake long ago?"

"Yes."

"And that I made get well again?"

"Oh, did you, dear?" laughed Nancy. "I did not know that."

"I did it," said Anne-Marie, with deep and serious mien. "I made him get
well. Do you remember the seven candles round my cake?"

"I heard of them. You were seven when you were at the _Gartenhaus_; and
I was away from you." And Nancy sighed.

"And you know about the birthday wishes?" asked the eager Anne-Marie.
"The Poetry says:

    "The heart must be pure,
     The Wish must be sure,
     The blow must be one--
     The magic is done!"

"What terrible lines!" said Nancy.

"Fräulein did them, from the German," said Anne-Marie.

"What is the blow?"

"The blowing-out of the candles. You may only blow once. And 'the Wish
must be sure.' You must not change about, and regret, and wish you
hadn't. Fräulein told me it would be safest to make a list of all my
wishes beforehand. So I made a list days and days before my birthday.
They were to be seven things--one for each candle. There was a white
pony, and a kennel for Schopenhauer, and a steamer to go and fetch you
home in, and a lovely dress for Fräulein, and a gold watch for you, and
something else for Elisabeth, and another dog for me, and to go to the
theatre every day, and--"

"There seem to be more than seven things already," said Nancy.

"Well, they were most beautiful. Especially the pony and the steamer....
And then you wrote about the King."

"I remember," said Nancy.

"You said he was ill, and that he was your papa's King, and that he was
good and forgave everybody: whole countries-full of bad people! And you
wrote that I was to say a prayer, and ask God to make him well."

"I remember."

"Well, I didn't, I said to God: 'Wait a minute!' because next day was my
birthday, and I had the cake with the seven Wishes. I thought first I
would just give up the kennel, and wish _once_ for the King to get well.
So I did it, and blew out one candle; then I gave up the present for
Elisabeth, and wished for the King again. Then I thought I could do
without the dress for Fräulein. And without the theatre.... And then I
let the steamer and the pony go too. And I blew out all seven candles
for the King!" Anne-Marie folded her hands in her lap. "So that's how I
made him get well."

"How nice," said Nancy.

"And now I am going to see him, and to play to him," said Anne-Marie
dreamily. "It is very strange." She raised her simple eyes to her
mother. "Do you think I ought to tell him about my having saved him?"

"I think not," said Nancy. "It is much nicer to have saved him without
his knowing it."

So Anne-Marie did not tell him.

... But he knew. "I know that he knew!" sobbed Anne-Marie in the evening
of the great day, trembling with emotion in her mother's arms. "I saw it
in the kindness of his eyes. And mother! mother! I think that was why he
kissed me."



XXIII


The Piper piped tunes into Anne-Marie's ear, tunes that she had to hum,
and to sing, and to play; tunes that enraptured her when she created
them, and hurt her when she forgot them. So Bemolle had to write them
down. Everything she heard wandered off into melodies, melted into
harmonies, divided itself up into rhythms. Mother Goose rhymes and
Struwwelpeter were put to music, and all the favourites in Andersen's
Märchen--the Princess and the Mermaid, the Swineherd and the
Goblins--corresponded to some special bars of music in Anne-Marie's
mind. "She has the sense of the Leitmotiv," said Bemolle, with awestruck
eyes and oracular forefinger.

It had been arranged that Bemolle should have his mornings to himself
for his own compositions. He had, two years before, by dint of much
scraping, paid five hundred francs to secure a good libretto for his
much-dreamed-of opera, of which he had already composed the principal
themes when he first went with the Professor to play for Anne-Marie; he
was also half-way through a tone-poem on Edgar Allan Poe's "Eldorado."
He played it occasionally to Anne-Marie; frequently to Nancy:

    "Gaily bedight, a gallant Knight,
     In sunshine and in shadow----"

"Do you hear?" he would say, playing with much pedal, while his rough
black head bounced and dipped. "Do you hear the canter and gallop and
thump? It is the Horse, and the Heart, and the Hope of the Knight!"

Yes; Nancy could hear the Horse, and the Heart, and the Hope quite
clearly.

"Now!" Bemolle's curly black mat would swoop over the keys and stay
there quite near to his fingers, "Now--the Hag appears! Do you hear the
Hag murmur and mumble? This is the Hag murmuring and mumbling."

"I should make her mumble in D flat," said Anne-Marie airily. And then
she trotted out of the room, leaving in Bemolle's heart a vague sense
of dissatisfaction with his Hag, because she was mumbling in A natural.

Soon, as there was much to do, programmes to prepare, letters to answer,
engagements to accept, tours to refuse, and they were all four rather
unbusiness-like and confusionary, Bemolle had to put aside his opera and
his tone-poem, and dedicate himself exclusively to the business
arrangements of the party.

They frequently got confused in their dates. "The Costanzi in Rome has
telegraphed, asking for three concerts in February, and I have
accepted!" cried Bemolle triumphantly, when Nancy and Anne-Marie
returned from one of the dreaded and inevitable afternoon receptions
given in their honour.

"I thought we had accepted Stockholm for February," said Nancy, with
troubled brow.

"So we had!" exclaimed Bemolle. "Oh dear! Now we must cancel it."

"Oh, don't cancel Rome! Cancel Stockholm," said Nancy.

And so they cancelled Stockholm with great difficulty, promising
Stockholm a date in March, immediately after Rome, and immediately
before Berlin, where Anne-Marie was to play for the Kaiserfest the Max
Bruch Concerto, accompanied by the great composer himself.

A week later, Nancy, looking at Bemolle's little book of dates and
engagements, said: "How can we get from Rome to Stockholm, and from
Stockholm to Berlin in six days, and give three concerts in between?"

"We cannot do so," said Fräulein. "From Berlin to Warnemünde--"

"Oh, never mind details, Fräulein," sighed Nancy. "It cannot be done."

"We must cancel Rome," said Fräulein.

"No, you can't do that," said Bemolle.

"Well, then, we must cancel Berlin," said Nancy.

"Impossible!"

"Then I suppose we must cancel Stockholm again."

So they cancelled Stockholm again, by telegrams that cost one hundred
and fifty francs, and by paying damages to the extent of two thousand
francs, and by swallowing and ignoring threats of lawsuits and
acrimonious letters.

"I think we ought to have an impresario," said Nancy. "We do not seem to
manage our business affairs well."

So they decided to have an impresario. After wavering for a long time
between a little black man from Rome, who had followed them all over the
Continent, and a great Paris impresario who had only telegraphed twice,
they decided on a nice-looking man in Vienna, who had seemed honest, and
had promised them many things. He was telegraphed for--nobody ever wrote
letters if it could be helped; indeed, the correspondence which flowed
in on them from all parts of the world was only half read and a quarter
answered. The impresario from Vienna replied, asking for two hundred
kronen for travelling expenses. These were sent to him by telegraph. And
then he did not come. "We must not put up with it," said Fräulein. So
they did not put up with it. They went to a solicitor, who asked for the
correspondence and ten pounds for preliminary expenses, which were given
to him. And that was all--except that about a year afterwards, when they
had forgotten all about it, a bill from the solicitor for four pounds
two shillings followed them across Europe, and finally reached them in
St. Petersburg. And they paid it.

But meanwhile they decided upon the Paris impresario. He was a great
man, and had "launched" everybody who was anybody in the artistic world.
He needed no travelling expenses. He arrived, gorgeous of waistcoat,
resplendent of hat. He said he had already fixed up two Colonne concerts
in Paris for Anne-Marie. He was none of your slow, sleepy, impresarios.
Here was a contract in duplicate ready for them to sign. His bright
brown eye wandered critically over Bemolle. Then he took Fräulein in at
a glance, and looking at Nancy's helpless and bewildered face he seemed
to be satisfied with Anne-Marie's surroundings. To Anne-Marie herself he
paid no attention. He had heard her play twice. That was enough.
Anne-Marie, as Anne-Marie, interested him not at all. Anne-Marie as
artist still less. Anne-Marie was a musical-box, ten years old, with
yellow hair, whom he had wanted to get hold of for the last six months.

Here was the contract. No father? Well, Nancy could sign it in the
father's stead.

Nancy, Bemolle, and Fräulein read the contract over very carefully,
while the impresario drank claret and smoked cigarettes. He had a way of
sniffing the air up through his nostrils, and of swallowing with his
lips turned up at the corners in an expectant, self-satisfied manner
that distracted Nancy, and interfered with her understanding of the
contract.

There were fourteen clauses. "It seems all right," said Nancy softly to
Bemolle. Bemolle frowned a businesslike frown, and Fräulein said,
"Sprechen wir Deutsch," which they did, to the placid amusement of the
Paris impresario, who was born in Klagenfurt.

After much reading and considering, Bemolle turned with his business
frown to the impresario. "You say forty per cent to the artist?"

The impresario sniffed and swallowed. "That's right," he said. "I have
the risks and the expenses."

"Of course," said Nancy.

Bemolle touched her arm lightly and warningly.

"Forty per cent of the _gross_ receipts?" asked Bemolle suspiciously.

"Of the _net_ receipts," said the impresario.

"Ah, that is better!" said the unenlightened Fräulein. And Bemolle put
out his foot gently and kicked her.

"Now, what is this clause about three years?"

"That's right," said the impresario. "You do not think I am to have all
the trouble of launching her for you to take her away after six months,
while I sit sucking my fingers."

"Gemeiner Kerl!" said Fräulein to Nancy.

But Nancy said: "She is already launched."

"Is she?" said the impresario. "I don't think so." And he sniffed and
swallowed. "She must make about two million francs in the next two
years. Otherwise she may as well quit."

"Zwei Millionen!" gasped Fräulein, under her breath.

Bemolle kicked her again. "And what does this mean? Clause eight. 'The
party of the second part agrees to give a minimum of one hundred and
forty concerts per year for three years'?"

"That is a matter of form," said the impresario. "We put that into all
contracts lest we should feel inclined to sit about with our hands in
our pockets doing nothing. Now, if you don't like it, you can leave it.
I've not come over for this. I have a contract with the biggest star
singer in Europe to sign here to-day. That is what I came for. Look at
it." And he pulled out a contract made in the name of a world-famed
tenor, and dotted over with tens of hundreds of pounds as a field is
with daisies.

Fräulein was much impressed. "Better take him quick," she said in
German. "He might go." So they took him quick, and signed the contract.
And Bemolle was careful to have it stamped.

"Und nun ist Alles in Ordnung," said the "gemeiner Kerl," grinning at
Fräulein. And then he sniffed and swallowed.

They soon found out what Clause eight meant. The party of the second
part was bound to give a minimum of one hundred and forty concerts a
year--and the party of the second part was Anne-Marie. Anne-Marie was
certainly not to be allowed to sit about with her hands in her pockets.
In sixteen days she gave twelve concerts with eleven journeys between.
She went from town to town, from platform to platform, looking like a
little dazed seraph playing in its dreams. Fräulein broke down on the
sixth journey, and was left behind, half-way between Cologne and Mainz.
Bemolle said nothing. He could only look at Anne-Marie dozing in the
train, and great tears would gather in his round black eyes, linger and
roll down, losing themselves in his dark moustache, that drooped over
his mouth like a seal's. When the impresario travelled with them,
smoking cigarettes in their faces, and going to sleep with his hands in
his pockets, and his long legs stretched across the compartment, there
was murder--black and scarlet murder--in Bemolle's eyes, and his gaze
would wander from the impresario's flowered waistcoat to his blond,
pointed beard, searching for a place.

During the concerts the impresario was everywhere to be seen, with his
hands in his pockets and his legs wide apart. Between the pieces he sat
in the artists' room and talked to everyone who came in to see
Anne-Marie, scenting out the journalists with the _flair_ of a dog.
Nancy could hear him inventing startling anecdotes about Anne-Marie. He
talked to the enthusiastic musicians and the tearful ladies that came to
congratulate, and always could Nancy hear him recounting the same untrue
and unlikely anecdotes. Yes, this child he had discovered playing the
piano when she was three years old. When she was five she had, with the
aid of her little brother, built a violin out of a soap-box. She had
been kidnapped by some Nihilists in Russia, and had been kept by them
three weeks in a kind of vault, where she had to play to them for hours
when they asked her to. She had jewels and decorations worth ten
thousands pounds. She had three Strads; one of them had belonged to
Wagner and the other to the Tsar.

At the end of the concerts the impresario got into the carriage with
them. The impresario bore Anne-Marie through the clapping crowds. The
impresario carried her flowers and her violin, and waved his hand out of
the window to the people when Anne-Marie was too tired to do so.
Anne-Marie sat in her corner of the carriage and fell asleep. Nancy bit
her lips and tried not to cry. And Bemolle sat outside on the box,
thinking evil Italian thoughts, and murmuring old Italian curses that
had never been known to fail.

This lasted just a fortnight. On the fifteenth day Anne-Marie said: "I
don't want to see that man any more. And I want to have a picnic in the
grass," she added, "with things to eat in parcels, and milk in a
bottle."

"Very well, dear," said Nancy. "You shall have it." And they had it. And
it was very nice.

When the impresario came that evening Anne-Marie was not to be seen. She
was in bed and asleep, rosy and worn out by her long day in the open
air.

"Are you ready?" said the impresario, looking round. Nancy said:
"Anne-Marie cannot play to-night. She is tired. I did not know where to
find you, or I should have let you know before."

"Oh, indeed!" said the impresario. And he sniffed and swallowed.

"And really," said Nancy. "I have come to the conclusion that this won't
do. Anne-Marie must play only when she wants to. One or two concerts in
a month, if she feels like it, and not more. She shall not play because
she must, but because she loves to."

"Gelungen!" said the impresario, sitting down and taking out his
cigarette case.

"So I think you had better just pay for the concerts she has given, and
let us go."

The impresario laughed long and loud. His shoulders shook with
amusement.

"Na, gelungen!" he said again, leaving off laughing to light his
cigarette, and stretching out his long legs. "How much did you say I was
to pay?" And he shook with laughter again.

"Well, our share, I suppose," said Nancy timidly.

"That's right," said the impresario, and he stopped laughing suddenly,
and looked at his watch. "Now hurry up and come along. It is time to
start."

"Anne-Marie is asleep," said Nancy.

"Then wake her," said the impresario.

Nancy felt herself turning pale.

"Get on," said the impresario; "it won't kill her to play to-night. And
the concert-hall is sold out."

"I am sorry," said Nancy; "but Anne-Marie never plays when she is
tired."

"That is foolish, my dear woman," said the impresario, getting up. "I
shall be obliged to wake her myself if you don't." And he took a step
towards the closed door which led into the room where Anne-Marie was
sleeping.

Now Anne-Marie's sleep was a sacred thing. A thing watched over and
hallowed, approached on tip of toe, spoken of with finger on lip and
bated breath. If Anne-Marie slept perfect silence was kept, and the
world must stop. If Bemolle chanced to open a door or creak a careless
shoe, he was frowned at with horrified brows. Anne-Marie's sleep was a
thing inviolate and sacrosanct.

Bemolle had been standing near the window looking out into the darkness
while the impresario spoke to Nancy; but with the first step in the
direction of the closed door Bemolle darted forward with a growl like
that of a angry dog. Bemolle was short and stout, but his long
accumulated anger and hatred stood him in lieu of height and muscles. He
jumped at the impresario, he pulled his beard, he scratched his face, he
pummelled him in the chest, and with short, excited legs he kicked him.
When the big man recovered from the amazement caused by this unexpected
onslaught, he lifted Bemolle off his legs and sat him on the floor. The
he took his hat and his umbrella and walked out of the room, and out of
the hotel.

"Has he gone?" said Bemolle, after a while, sitting up, with papery
cheeks and a reddened eye.

"Yes, he has gone," said Nancy. "Poor Bemolle! Did he hurt you?"

Bemolle did not rise from the floor. He shook his head, and muttered
hoarsely:

"He wanted to wake Anne-Marie. He actually wanted to wake Anne-Marie!"

... It cost them twenty-five thousand francs to annul the contract, and
five hundred francs in legal expenses. But they considered that it was
cheap for the joy of having got rid of the impresario.

They had picnics and played about until Fräulein was well enough to join
them again, and then they went to Rome, where they arrived with a
fortnight to spare before the orchestral concerts at the Teatro
Costanzi.

Thither from Milan came Aunt Carlotta, bent and wrinkled, and Zio
Giacomo, trembling and slow; and Adèle and Nino and Carlo and Clarissa
in a noisy and affectionate group. Many tender tears were shed in memory
of Valeria, who had not lived to see her little grandchild's fame. "But
she saw _your_ glory, Nancy," said Nino.

They lived again in memory Nancy's visit to the Queen with her little
volume of poems, as they all went one sunshiny afternoon up the hill of
the Quirinal and past the Palace. Nino, whose hair was quite grey, and
who, according to Aunt Carlotta, was rather difficult to please and easy
to irritate, walked in front of them, and Anne-Marie trotted beside him,
holding his hand. He told her interesting tales about a pink pinafore
her mother had worn when she was eight years old, and what Fräulein
looked like when she was apple-cheeked and twenty-five. Fräulein, who
really did not show the twenty years' difference very much, walked
beside them, deeply moved by these reminiscences; and Bemolle, who was
to go and visit his lonely old mother as soon as the Costanzi concerts
were over, walked behind them all, tearful on general principles.

"By the way," said Nino to Nancy, "I saw the dear old Grey House again.
I went to England on Carlo's affairs two months ago. I ran down to
Hertfordshire and looked at it. It seemed to be empty."

"Oh," said Fräulein, "what a beautiful place it was! Don't you remember
it, Nancy?"

"I remember the garden," said Nancy, with vague eyes, "and the
swing----"

"What swing?" said Anne-Marie, taking an interest.

Nancy told her about the swing in the orchard of that far-away home,
where she had stood swinging and singing in the placid English sunshine
when she was a little girl.

... After a very few days the well-remembered envelope with the golden
arms of the Royal House was put into Anne-Marie's small hands. On the
following evening, Adèle, Carlotta, and Clarissa were in a flutter
preparing Nancy and Anne-Marie for their audience at the Quirinal.
Bemolle was fevered with excitement, for he was to play Anne-Marie's
accompaniments on the piano. He walked, pale and happy, carrying the
violin and the music, behind Nancy and Anne-Marie, as they passed, with
right hands bared, through the red room, and the yellow room, and the
blue room, and at last into the white and gold room where the King and
the Queen and many officers and ladies were waiting for them. The Queen
was not the same Queen whom Nancy had known, and whose name--the name of
a flower--was written on the first page of her old diary. But the
little boy whose picture, framed in diamonds, Nancy had received on her
wedding-day, was King.

The Queen embraced Anne-Marie many times, and laughed when Anne-Marie
talked, and wept when Anne-Marie played. Anne-Marie gazed at the tall,
dark-eyed Queen with adoration, sparing a glance or two for a gorgeous
man in scarlet tunic, with many decorations, whom she took to be the
King.

As the Adagio of Mendelssohn's concerto ended, a stern-faced man in
plain evening-dress, sitting slightly apart from the others, said: "I do
not care much for music, but this music I love." The Queen turned to him
with a smile on her beautiful face--a smile that startled Anne-Marie.
Anne-Marie followed the track of that shining smile, and her eyes
fastened on the face of the stern man. Where had she seen that face
before? Why was it so dear and familiar? Why did it make her think of
New York, and her mother weeping over letters from home. Stamps! She had
seen it on stamps! _He_ was the King of Italy! How could she have looked
at that silly, yellow-haired man in the red tunic! Anne-Marie's small
loyal heart prostrated itself in penitence before him who did not care
for music. And as she played, he smiled back at her with piercing,
friendly eyes.

Bemolle, who had made his deep obeisance on entering the door, and had
then stopped beside the piano, bent under the awful joy of the majestic
presence, never straightened himself out again, but sat down and stood
up when spoken to, in a tense curvilinear posture that was painful to
look upon. He also played many wrong notes in the accompaniments, and
could feel the anger of Anne-Marie flashing upon him, even though her
small blue back was turned. Nancy sat beside the Queen, smiling through
tear-lit eyes, replying to the many intimate and kindly questions the
beautiful lips asked. The Queen addressed her by her maiden name that
was famous, and quoted her poems to her with softly cadenced voice; and
the past and the present melted into one in Nancy's heart, and she could
not separate their beauty.

They drove back to the hotel in moved and grateful spirit. Anne-Marie,
fluffy and feathery in her mother's arms, chatted all the way home, for
she had much to say.



XXIV


A year of dream-like travels from triumph to triumph, from success to
success, scattered roses and myrtles at the feet of Anne-Marie. She went
through life as a child wanders through a fairy-tale garden, alight with
flowers that bow and bend to her hand. The concerts were her joy. Music
filled her soul to overflowing, and, like a pure and chosen vessel,
Anne-Marie poured it forth again upon the listening world. When she
played she was fulfilling her destiny, as a lark must sing.

One day in Genoa she was taken to see Paganini's violin, hanging mute
and sealed in its glass case at the town hall. She looked at it silently
and turned away.

"What are you thinking, dear heart?" said Nancy. "You look so sad."

"I am thinking," said Anne-Marie, with solemn eyes, "how it must hurt
that violin and ache it, to be kept locked up, and not be allowed to
sing!"

The remark was heard, and repeated, and reached the ears of the Mayor of
Genoa. One afternoon, with great pomp, Anne-Marie was invited to the
palace of the Municipio, and, before a few invited guests, the seals
were broken, and the hallowed instrument of the immortal Nicolò was
placed in the little girl's hands. Anne-Marie had not slept for three
nights thinking of that moment, imagining the joy of the imprisoned
voice when her hands should let it loose.

She drew a new E string quickly over the tarnished bridge. Now she
plucked lightly at it, bending her head to listen. Then, raising her
bow, she struck the bonds of silence from the quivering strings. The
chord in D minor rippled out, hoarse and feeble. Anne-Marie struck a
second chord, pressing down her fingers with a vehement vibrato. Again
the reply came--muffled, quavering, weak. Anne-Marie's face grew white
and tense. She removed the violin from her shoulder with a little sob.

"It is dead," she said.

Years after, if ever Nancy thought that it might have been better had
Anne-Marie been held back, and not been allowed to play her heart out to
the world, the memory of the Silent Violin, locked in its glass case,
came back to her--the violin that had died of its own silence. And she
was glad that her little skylark had been allowed to sing.

And sing it did, in many climes and under many skies. Was it in Turin
that the horses were taken from the carriage, and Anne-Marie and Nancy
drawn in triumph through the cheering, waving streets? Was it in Bern
that the police had to hold the crowd back, and clear the squares for
their plunging horses to pass? Where was it that she was serenaded and
called to the balcony twenty times by a crowd that seemed to have gone
mad? Where did men lift little children up that they might touch her
dress, and women, jostled in the crowd, with hats awry, fight for a
glimpse of the fair nodding head, for a touch of the little gloved hand?
Was it at Naples that they called her _la bambino, assistita_, and
thought her possessed by a spirit, and begged her to predict to them the
winning numbers of the following Saturday's lottery?

Yes, that was in Naples. In the confused glory of the shifting scenes
some memories stood out clearly, and held Nancy's recollection. It was
in Naples that no seat had been reserved for her in the immense and
crowded concert-hall, and that the manager had told her of a lady who
would give her a seat in her own box: box 5, tier 2--Nancy remembered it
still. And when Anne-Marie, duly kissed and blessed, stepped out, violin
in hand, upon the platform, Nancy was still running along the empty
corridors of tier 2, looking for box 5. Here it was! There was a lady in
it alone. Nancy bowed to her and took her seat, murmuring: "Grazie."
Then, with tightly folded hands, she had whispered the little prayer she
always said for God to help Anne-Marie. And, as always, the prayer was
answered, for Anne-Marie played grandly and suavely, never even dreaming
that help could be needed.

Nancy sat in the box, tense and terrified as usual, waiting for the
tranquil eyes of Anne-Marie to wander round the auditorium and find her.
There! They found her, and shone and twinkled. Then the Spirit of Music
dropped its great wings between them, and carried away little
Anne-Marie, swinging and singing her out of reach--out of reach of her
mother's love, farther than Nancy could follow.

The lady in black took her pocket-handkerchief and pressed it to her
eyes. Nancy was used to the gesture, but it always moved her. She put
her hand lightly on the arm of the unknown woman whose heart her little
girl's music had wrung.

The last piece was ended, and the well-known cries of applause were
starting from all corners of the house, when Nancy rose quickly to go
back to Anne-Marie. The woman in black put back her veil, and said:

"My name is Villari."

Nancy remembered the name. All that Aldo had told, all that Nino had not
told, years ago swept into her mind. She looked curiously into the tired
face, under its helmet of dark-red tinted hair. There were many lines in
the face. Nancy thought it looked like a map, and along the many little
lines Nancy's eyes seemed to travel into a sad and distant country. She
put out her hand.

"I know your name well," said Nancy. "I salute the great artist."

The woman sighed deeply. "I salute the happy mother," she said. Then she
pulled down her veil and turned away.

Nancy hastened along the crowded corridors, where people in groups were
discussing her little daughter, and the words, "wonderful! marvellous!
incredible!" beat with their accustomed soft wing on her ears.

"Happy mother!" Oh yes, she was a happy mother! She said it over and
over again, and repeated it to herself as she tied the soft woollen
scarf round Anne-Marie's head, and again as they made their way through
the cheering crowd, and the outstretched hands, and the waving hats. She
repeated it as she sat in the motor open to the balmy Neapolitan night,
and held Anne-Marie tightly as she stood up on the seat, waving both
small hands to the surrounding throng. The little standing figure swayed
as the carriage moved swiftly down the street. Soon the shouting people
were left behind, and Anne-Marie slid down to her place near her mother.
Beyond the Gulf, Vesuvius breathed its glowing rhythmic breath, and the
waters glittered. Nancy remembered that this was Aldo's birthplace; and
then she forgot it in the lilt of the usual dulcet words:

"Did you like my concert, mother dear?"

The phrase had now become a formula which they repeated laughingly like
the refrain of a song. Of all the hours of the rushing turbulent day,
this was the hour of joy for Nancy. Anne-Marie, who was elfish and
impish, made strange by her music, and made wild by the worship of many
people, in this one hour became a little tender child again, softer and
sweeter than the day-time Anne-Marie, nearer and more human than the
concert Anne-Marie, who was a strange, inaccessible being that Nancy
sometimes thought could not really belong to her.

Fräulein and Bemolle followed them in another carriage. No one since the
impresario had ever dared to intrude upon this sacred starlit hour of
their love.

Did Nancy's heart ever regret her own hopes of glory? Did she remember
her unwritten Book? Did she feel the wounded place of the wings that she
had torn out? Never! She lived for Anne-Marie and in Anne-Marie. Little
by little the chimera of inspiration drew away from her. She forgot that
she had once clasped Fame to her own breast. No words, no visions, no
dreams haunted her any more. She breathed in the music Anne-Marie
played. She dreamed the music Anne-Marie composed. The Pied Piper had
passed her; his call dragged at her soul no more. The eagle of her
genius no more shook and shattered her with the wild beating of his
wings. She was like the Silent Violin--the music that her soul had not
sung was dead.



XXV


It was in Paris that what Nancy had so often vaguely dreaded and
expected happened at last. She was alone in the hotel in her own quiet
sitting-room when the lift-boy knocked at the door, and on her careless
response a visitor was ushered in. It was Aldo--Aldo with a square beard
and a dangling eyeglass, hat in hand, and faultlessly attired.

He stood before her, gazing at her face. Then he put his hat on a chair,
extended both hands, and said in a deep, fervent voice:

"Nancy!"

Nancy had risen with quick, indrawn breath, and stood, slim and pale, in
her soft-tinted dressing-gown. He took another step towards her, still
with both hands outstretched. Nancy put out a diffident hand, and her
husband clasped it fervently in both his own. On his little finger was a
diamond ring. He bent his sleek black head over Nancy's hand and kissed
it.

"Thank God!" he murmured, and sank into a chair.

Nancy wondered what he was thanking God for. Aldo himself was not very
clear about it, but it seemed an appropriate thing to say. And he had
nothing else ready. The embarrassing silence was broken by Aldo. He
said:

"Nancy, I have returned!"

Nancy said, "Yes," and thought disconnected thoughts about his beard and
his diamond ring.

"You have thought cruel thoughts of me during all this time?"

No, Nancy had not thought cruel thoughts.

"You have left off loving me?"

Nancy looked at him with vague, dazed eyes, and smiled without knowing
why. Aldo tried not to notice the smile. He said:

"Will you never forgive me?"

"Oh yes, I suppose so," said Nancy; and she smiled again.

She thought it funny that this strange man with the square beard and the
dangling eyeglass should be asking her to forgive him, and questioning
her about love. Nothing about him seemed in the least familiar. His
hair, that used to be parted in the middle, now waved back from his
forehead; his fan-shaped beard altered his face and made him look like a
Frenchman; even his hat, square and high and narrow-rimmed, lying on her
chair, had in it an element of utter strangeness.

"What are you laughing at?" said Aldo. And some tone of offended vanity
in his voice startled her memory, and suddenly it was up and awake.

"I am not laughing," said Nancy, and she began to cry. That was the
attitude that Aldo had expected, and knew how to cope with. A cold,
light-eyed woman with an ambiguous smile was an uncomfortable and
uncertain thing. But a woman in tears was a sight he had often seen, and
he understood the meaning of the bowed head and the significance of the
hidden face. He was beside her, his arm round her narrow shoulders.

"Nancy, don't cry, don't cry! I have been a brute. But I will atone. I
will repay you in happiness a thousandfold for all that you have
suffered!"

Still she wept with her face hidden in her hands.

"I am rich. I have more money than we shall know how to spend."

The heaving shoulders stopped heaving. They seemed to be waiting,
listening. There was distrust in those waiting shoulders, so he hurried
out:

"It is all right. I have not gambled or done anything disreputable. The
money has been left to me"--still the shoulders waited--"by a--by--an
old person whom I befriended. She has died and left me her money. I
deserved it. I was very good to her--"

The shoulders heaved again in a deep sigh. Relief? Despair? Aldo was
uncertain.

"So all your troubles are at an end, Nancy. I have settled enough on you
and the child, so that you need no more exploit Anne-Marie."

Nancy started up and away from him. "Exploit Anne-Marie!"... Exploit
Anne-Marie! Was that what he thought? Was that what other people
thought?--that she was _exploiting Anne-Marie_?

Nancy covered her face again and burst into wild, uncontrollable sobs of
grief. She cried loud, like a child, and Aldo felt that these were not
the tears that he was used to and understood.

In these tears were all Nancy's broken hopes and lost aspirations, all
that she had sacrificed and stifled and tried with prayers and fastings,
for Anne-Marie's sake, not to regret. Her work, her Book, her hopes of
Fame, her dreams of Glory, all that she had given up for love of
Anne-Marie, laid down for Anne-Marie's little feet to trample on, stood
up in her memory like murdered things. She remembered the beating wings
of her own genius that she had torn out in order not to impede
Anne-Marie in her flight, and the wounds burned and bled again.

"I have not been exploiting Anne-Marie," she said, raising her
tear-merged eyes to Aldo. "All that she has earned in her concerts has
been put away for her. It is sacrosanct. No one has touched it."

"Then how have you lived?" he said.

"I have borrowed money," she said defiantly and angrily. "A lot of
money, which I shall repay when I can."

"From whom?" asked Aldo. Nancy did not answer.

"You can repay it now," said Aldo, frowning. And then he was silent.

The frivolous hotel clock struck four in tinkling chimes.

"Where is Anne-Marie?" asked Aldo, in a low voice.

"She is out." And Nancy's face grew hard as stone. "I do not want her to
see you. She is not to be excited and upset."

"Nancy!"--and Aldo's nostrils went white--"you must let me see her. I
have longed for her day and night for the past three years. I have
thought of nothing else. I have lain awake hours every night planning
the meeting with her. When I should be free, when I should be
rich"--Nancy flinched and shivered--"I thought of finding you struggling
and in need. And I planned our meeting. I was going to send something to
her--with no name--every day for a week beforehand, every day something
better than the day before. The first day only a box of sweets, or of
toys. Then a cageful of singing birds. Then a bankbook with money, and
the last day"--Aldo's eyes were full of tears now, but Nancy's were dry
and hard--"it was to be a pony-carriage with two white ponies and a
stiff little groom sitting behind"--Aldo's voice broke--"and that was to
fetch you both away, away from poverty, and misery, and loneliness, and
bring you back to me!"

Aldo covered his face with his hands, and his tears fell over the
diamond ring.

"Then I heard ... I read ... about Anne-Marie ... and I would not go to
hear her. I could not go, I could not sit alone ... and see my own
little girl ... standing there ... playing to a thousand strangers ...
while I, her father----" He became incoherent with grief.

"And I have never heard her, never heard her," he sobbed.

Nancy's lips were shut, and her heart was shut. She did not speak.

Aldo looked at her through his swimming orbs, and wished that she would
weep too. He spoke in a broken whisper.

"Am I not to be forgiven? Can we not all be happy again?"

"No," said Nancy.

"Do you mean never?" asked Aldo, and his beard worked strangely.

"Never," said Nancy, and a shudder of dislike tightened her elbows to
her side.

Then Aldo raved and wept. He had dreamed of this meeting for three
years; he had always loved her; he had always loved Anne-Marie; he had
done what he had done for her sake and for Anne-Marie; he had saved, and
skimped, and schemed for her and for Anne-Marie; he could not have lived
but for the thought of her and of Anne-Marie; and he would not live a
day longer unless it were with her and with Anne-Marie!

As he spoke thus it was truth, and became truer while he said it, and
while he saw her and felt that she would never be anything in his life
again.

"Oh, Nancy! Nancy! Nancy!" He grasped her cold, limp hand, and crushed
it in his own. "You will let me see Anne-Marie. You cannot refuse it! I
shall abide by what she says. If she does not want me I will go away.
But if she wants me--if she remembers me and says that I may
stay--promise me that you will let me! Promise! promise! I will not
leave you--I will not leave you until you promise!"

Nancy would not promise.

"Nancy, remember how we loved each other! Remember the days on Lake
Maggiore! Remember when you were writing your Book, and you used to read
it to me in the evening with your head against my arm. Remember
everything, Nancy, and promise that I may see Anne-Marie, and that if
she is willing you will let me stay. Promise, Nancy, promise!"

But Nancy would not promise.

"Nancy, have you forgotten the hard times in New York? The hunger and
the misery we went through together? For the sake of those dark days,
the days in the old Schmidls' house, and in the little flat; for the
sake of my dreary little dark room, that I have since so often longed
for and regretted, because I could see you and the child asleep through
the open door ... will you not promise, Nancy?"

No; Nancy could not promise.

"Do you remember when Anne-Marie had the measles?" sobbed Aldo. "And
she would only eat the food I cooked?... And she would only go to sleep
if she held my finger and I sang, 'Celeste Aïda!' to her?... Will you
remember that, and will you promise?"

Nancy remembered that. And she promised.

They sat waiting for Anne-Marie to come back from her walk. Neither
spoke; but Aldo took a little picture-postcard of Anne-Marie with her
violin that lay on the table, and held it in his hand, gazing at it with
his elbow on his knee. Then his head drooped, and he sat with his
forehead pressed against the little picture.

The unconscious Arbiter of Destinies came running along the hotel
passage with a balloon from the Bon Marché tied to her wrist. It was a
large red balloon with the words "Bon Marché" in gold letters on it, and
it had caused Fräulein intense mortification as she had walked beside it
down the Boulevard des Italiens to the hotel.

"People will recognize you," she had said to Anne-Marie in the street,
"and they will not take you and your music seriously any more. It is not
for a great artist to walk about with a stupid balloon."

"It is not stupider than any other balloon," said Anne-Marie, slapping
its red inflated head, and watching it ascend slowly to the length of
its string. Then she pulled it down again, and a slight puff of wind
made it knock lightly against Fräulein's cheek.

Fräulein was exceedingly vexed. "I cannot imagine how any one who plays
the Beethoven Sonata--"

"Which Sonata?" asked Anne-Marie, who was an adept at changing the
conversation. "The Kreutzer or the Frühling? I prefer the Kreutzer."

Then she forcibly inserted her fingers under Fräulein's hard and
resisting arm, and trotted gaily beside her. The balloon bumped lightly
against Fräulein's hat, but Fräulein did not mind; she merely said that
she would have preferred if "Louvre" had been written on it instead of
"Bon Marché," which looked so cheap.

Anne-Marie now entered the sitting-room, balloon in hand. Fräulein,
seeing a visitor there, withdrew to her room.

Anne-Marie was used to people calling on her and waiting for her. She
put out a small warm hand to the stranger, who had started to his feet,
and was looking at her with vehement, tearful eyes.... Anne-Marie had
seen many strangers and many tearful eyes. She was not moved or
surprised.

"Bon jour," she said, judging by the beard.

Then she went to her mother. "Look at my balloon, Liebstes," she said,
slipping the string off her wrist. The balloon rose quickly and gently,
and before it could be stopped it was knock-knocking against the
ceiling. Anne-Marie's despairing eyes followed it. The room was high.
The piece of string hung beyond human reach. Then the man with the beard
took her hand, and said:

"Anne-Marie!"

Anne-Marie drew her hand away, rubbing it lightly against her dress.

He again said: "Anne-Marie!" in a hoarse voice, with his hands clasped
together. "Look at me," he said, and the blue eyes obediently left the
ceiling and rested on his face. "Do you remember me?"

"Yes," said Anne-Marie promptly and unveraciously. She had often been
chided by Fräulein for saying an abrupt "no" on these occasions. "It is
rude to say 'no' and it hurts people's feelings. You must say: 'I am
not sure ... I think I remember ...' Fräulein had admonished. "Oh, if I
must not say no, I had better say yes," said Anne-Marie, who believed in
being brief. And so she did on this occasion.

The hot blood had rushed like a flame to Aldo's face. He dropped upon
his knee and took her hands, pressing them to his eyes, and to his
forehead, and to his lips. "My little girl! My little girl!" he said,
and the quick southern tears flowed. Anne-Marie said to herself: "He
must be a German musician." Only German musicians had been as
demonstrative as this. And she looked round to her mother, but her
mother's face was turned away.

"May I stay--may I stay, Anne-Marie? You don't want me to go away again,
do you? Tell your mother that you want me to stay with you and take care
of you!"

Now it was for Anne-Marie to be bewildered.

"I don't want to be taken care of, thank you," she said, as politely as
she could.

Aldo laughed through his tears. "Dear, funny little child of mine," he
cried, kissing her hand and her sleeve.

Anne-Marie was matter-of-fact. "Good-bye," she said decisively. "If you
want an autograph, I will give you one."

Aldo caught her by both arms, gazing into her face with blurred eyes.
"Anne-Marie! Anne-Marie! you said you remembered me! Don't you know who
I am? Don't you remember your father, Anne-Marie, who used to sing
'Celeste Aïda, forma divina' to you when you were ill, and who took you
to see the squirrels in the park? Anne-Marie, don't you remember me?"

Anne-Marie's underlip trembled. She shook her head. Aldo rose from his
knees. He turned away and hid his face in his hands.

Anne-Marie tiptoed to her mother's side, and nestled in her encircling
arm. Then her eyes wandered upwards in search of the balloon. There it
was, close to the ceiling. Anne-Marie thought that it looked smaller
than it was before. She wondered how she would ever get it down again.

Nancy had turned her face--a pinched white face that also looked
smaller, thought Anne-Marie--towards her, and spoke in a low voice.

"Anne-Marie, he is your father."

"Is he?" said Anne-Marie, glancing at the tall figure with the sloping
shoulders and the hidden face, and then at the hat on the chair.

"Shall he stay with us?" questioned Nancy under her breath.

"With us two?" asked Anne-Marie, with round, troubled eyes, and
remembering the impresario.

"With us two."

"For always?" and Anne-Marie's eyes were larger and more troubled.

"For always," said Nancy.

Anne-Marie glanced at the man again and at the hat again. Then she put
her cheek against her mother's arm, as she always did, when she asked a
favour. "Rather not, Liebstes," she whispered.

The Arbiter had spoken.

Aldo said only a few words more to Nancy. He placed his hands on
Anne-Marie's head, and looked at her a long time. Then he turned
suddenly, took up his square hat, and left the room.

"That was a strange man," said Anne-Marie. "Was he really my father?"

Nancy, with pale lips, said: "Yes."

"Are you sure?" questioned Anne-Marie, raising her eyes to the balloon.

"Yes, dear," said Nancy; and her tears fell.

Suddenly Anne-Marie flew to the door. "Father!" she cried in a shrill
treble voice.

Aldo, on the stairs, heard and stood still. His hand gripped the
bannisters, his heart leaped to his throat.

"Father!"

He turned slowly, doubtingly.

"Father!" came the treble voice again; and he mounted the steps, and
went trembling and stumbling along the passage. Anne-Marie was standing
at the door.

"Do you think," she said, "you could catch my balloon before you go?"

       *       *       *       *       *

He caught her balloon. Then he went--out of the
room, out of their lives, out of the story.



XXVI

       *       *       *       *       *

                         "MINA DE L'AGUA.

"Nancy,--The years and the yearning are over. I am leaving for Europe.
You will come to meet me in Genoa; and we shall sit on the balcony where
three years ago you told me of your Book, which you feared would die
like a babe unborn in your breast.

"I am coming to take you to Porto Venere, 'white in the
sunshine--tip-tilted over the sea'; and the Book shall live at last.

"And we, also, shall live. Oh, Nancy, Nancy! I have been a silent and a
lonely man so long, that my love has no words, my happiness no language.
Even now I can hardly believe that the years of exile and solitude are
over. But I know that you, having loved me once, still love me and will
love me. I know that your heart is not a heart that changes, and that
the words that drew you to me across the ocean three years ago will
bring you to me again. Nancy, come to me. To my empty arms, to my sad
and solitary heart, Nancy, come at once. And for ever."

       *       *       *       *       *

"DEAR OGRE, dear friend and love of mine, your call has shaken my soul.
All my longings, all my dreams, have joined their voices with yours,
crying to me to go to you. Alas! a little prayer that Fräulein used to
make me say when I was a child whispers to me, and its small voice
drowns the cry of my desires. It is the prayer of the Three Angels that
stand round one's bed in the night:

    "'One holds my hands, One holds my feet,
      And the Third One holds my heart.'

"Can I come to you when I am thus bound--bound hands and feet by Law and
Church? My small conventional soul shrinks from the unlawful and the
forbidden.

"But, believe me, were I free as air, were my hands unbound to lie in
yours, my feet unloosed to fly to you, the Third Angel remains. 'And the
Third One holds my heart.' Anne-Marie is the Third Angel. Anne-Marie
holds my heart. How could I bring her with me? Think and reply for me.
How could I leave her? Think and reply. Dear Ogre, I am one of the
Devoured. Little Anne-Marie has devoured me, and it is right that it
should be so; she has absorbed me, and I am glad; she has consumed me,
and I am grateful. For it is in the nature of things that to these lives
given to us, our lives should be given. What matter that I fall back
into the shadow--my course not run, my goal not reached, my mission
unfulfilled? Anne-Marie will have what I have missed; Anne-Marie will
reach the completeness that has failed me; for her will be the heights I
have not conquered, the Glory I have not attained.

"Oh, lover and friend of mine, understand and forgive me. There is no
room for love in my life. My life is full of haste and turmoil, full of
Kings and Queens, full of rushing trains, and shouting voices, and
clapping hands....

"Can you not see it all as in a picture--the Pied Piper whistling and
dancing on ahead; little Anne-Marie, Fame-drunken, music-struck,
whirlwinding after him; and I following them in breathless, palpitant
haste, leaving all that was once mine behind me--my Books, my Dreams, my
Love?... Love in the picture is not a rose-crowned god of laughter and
passion. Love is a lonely figure, lonely and stern and sad. Oh, love,
forgive me, and understand! And say good-bye--good-bye to Nancy!"

       *       *       *       *       *

He forgave her, and understood, and said good-bye to Nancy.



XXVII


The days swung on. And they swung Anne-Marie from triumph to triumph.
And they poured sunshine into her hair, and sea-shine into her eyes. And
they reared her into fulgent maidenhood, as a white lily is reared on a
fragile stem.

They swung Nancy back into the shadow where mothers sit with gentle
hands folded, and eyes whose tears no one counts. She learned to forget
that she had even known a poem about "La belle qui veut, la belle qui
n'ose, ceuillir les roses du jardin bleu!" The blue garden of youth
closed its gates silently behind her, and the roses that Nancy's hand
had not gathered would bloom for her no more.

But for Anne-Marie, when the time was ripe, the Pied Piper tossed his
flute to another Player. Anne-Marie stood still and listened to the new
call--the far-away call of Love. Soon she faltered, and turned and
followed the silver-toned call of Love.

       *       *       *       *       *



XXVIII


The carriage that was to take the bride and bridegroom to the station
was waiting in the Tuscan sunlight, surrounded by the laughing,
impatient crowd. As Anne-Marie appeared--her rose-lit face half hidden
in her furs, her travelling-hat poised lightly at the back of her
shining head--the crowd shouted and cheered, just as it had always done
after her concerts. And she smiled and nodded, and said, "Good-bye!
Good-bye! Thank you, and good-bye!" just as she always did at the close
of her concerts. The bridegroom, tall and serious beside her, would have
liked to hurry her into the carriage, but she took her hand from his arm
and stopped, turning and smiling to the right and to the left, shaking
hands with a hundred people who knew her and loved and blessed her. With
one foot on the carriage-step, she still nodded and smiled and waved her
hand. Then the young husband lifted her in, jumped in beside her, and
shut the carriage-door. Cheers and shouts and waving hats followed them
as the horses, striking fire from their hoofs, broke into a gallop, and
carried them down the street and out of sight.

... Nancy had not left the house. She had not gone to the window. She
could hear the cheers and the laughter, and for a moment she pictured
herself with Anne-Marie in the carriage, driving home after the
concerts--Anne-Marie still nodding, first out of one window, then out of
the other, laughing, waving her hand; then falling into her mother's
arms with a little sigh of delight. At last they were alone--alone after
all the crowd--in the darkness and the silence, after all the noise and
light. And Anne-Marie's hand was in hers; Anne-Marie's soft hair was on
her breast. Again the well-known dulcet tones: "Did you like my concert,
Liebstes? Are you happy, mother dear?" Then silence all the way
home--home to strange hotels, no matter in what town or in what land. It
was always home, for they were together.

Nancy stepped to the window, both hands held tightly to her heart. The
road was empty. The house was empty. The world was empty. Then she
cried, loud and long--cried, stretching her arms out before her,
kneeling by the window: "Oh, my little girl! My own child! What shall I
do? What shall I do?"

But there was nothing left for Nancy to do.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now it was late. Her Book was dead. Her child had left her. And the blue
garden was closed.



BOOK III



I

Anne-Marie stirred, sighed, and awoke.


The room was dim and silent. But soon a gentle, rhythmical sound fell on
her ears, and pleased her. It was a soft, regular sound, like the
ticking of a clock, like the beating of a heart--it was the rocking of a
cradle.

Anne-Marie smiled to herself, and her soul sank into peacefulness. The
gentle clicking sound lulled her near to sleep again. She was utterly at
peace--utterly happy. Life opened wider portals over wider shining
lands.

Then, with the awakening of memory, came the thought of her violin. With
a soft tremor of joy, she realized that the brief silence of the past
year was over. Music would stream again from her hands over the world.

Her violin! Under her closed lashes she thought of it. She could see the
gold-brown curves of the volute, the soft swing of the F's, the tense,
sensitive strings resting on the lithe, slim bridge--all waiting for
her, waiting for the touch of her wild young fingers to spring into life
and song again.

The tears welled into her closed eyes. How she would work! What songs,
what symphonies she would create! How much she would say that nobody had
yet said....

Already Inspiration, nebulous and wan, laid soft hands upon her--drawing
faint harmonies, like floating ribbons, through her brain. Then joy
rushed through her like a living thing, and she saw her life before her.

She would ascend the wide white road of Immortality with Love upholding
her, with Genius burning and exalting her like a flaming star that had
fallen into her soul....

       *       *       *       *       *

In the shadowy cradle the baby opened its eyes and said: "I am hungry."



          _A Selection from the Catalogue of_

                 G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

         Complete Catalogues sent on application



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                                 _Albany Times-Union._

                        POPPY

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                By Cynthia Stockley

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_Second Printing_

_With Frontispiece. $1.35 net ($1.50 by mail)_

  New York    G. P. Putnam's Sons    London



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                    The Master Girl

                  By Ashton Hilliers

            Author of "As It Happened," etc.

A vivid story of prehistoric times, when the wife-hunter prowled around
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_At all Booksellers. $1.25 net ($1.35 by mail)_

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                        THE ROSARY

                 By Florence L. Barclay

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_Crown 8vo. $1.35 Net. ($1.50 by mail.)_

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                    _GREAT NEW NOVEL_

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in which the popular author of "The Leavenworth Case" reaches the
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A rambling old country house surrounded by pines. Enter a man at
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As he bends over the lifeless body, enter the police, summoned by a
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Transcriber's Notes: There were a few printer's errors which have been
corrected. The oe ligature is indicated by [oe].





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