Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Foregone Conclusion
Author: Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920
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 "A Foregone Conclusion" ***

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



A FOREGONE CONCLUSION

By William Dean Howells


_Fifteenth Edition._



A FOREGONE CONCLUSION



I.


As Don Ippolito passed down the long narrow _calle_ or footway leading
from the Campo San Stefano to the Grand Canal in Venice, he peered
anxiously about him: now turning for a backward look up the calle,
where there was no living thing in sight but a cat on a garden gate; now
running a quick eye along the palace walls that rose vast on either
hand and notched the slender strip of blue sky visible overhead with
the lines of their jutting balconies, chimneys, and cornices; and now
glancing toward the canal, where he could see the noiseless black
boats meeting and passing. There was no sound in the calle save his own
footfalls and the harsh scream of a parrot that hung in the sunshine in
one of the loftiest windows; but the note of a peasant crying pots of
pinks and roses in the campo came softened to Don Ippolito's sense, and
he heard the gondoliers as they hoarsely jested together and gossiped,
with the canal between them, at the next gondola station.

The first tenderness of spring was in the air though down in that calle
there was yet enough of the wintry rawness to chill the tip of
Don Ippolito's sensitive nose, which he rubbed for comfort with a
handkerchief of dark blue calico, and polished for ornament with a
handkerchief of white linen. He restored each to a different pocket in
the sides of the ecclesiastical _talare_, or gown, reaching almost to
his ankles, and then clutched the pocket in which he had replaced the
linen handkerchief, as if to make sure that something he prized was safe
within. He paused abruptly, and, looking at the doors he had passed,
went back a few paces and stood before one over which hung, slightly
tilted forward, an oval sign painted with the effigy of an eagle, a
bundle of arrows, and certain thunderbolts, and bearing the legend,
CONSULATE OF THE UNITED STATES, in neat characters. Don Ippolito gave a
quick sigh, hesitated a moment, and then seized the bell-pull and
jerked it so sharply that it seemed to thrust out, like a part of the
mechanism, the head of an old serving-woman at the window above him.

"Who is there?" demanded this head.

"Friends," answered Don Ippolito in a rich, sad voice.

"And what do you command?" further asked the old woman.

Don Ippolito paused, apparently searching for his voice, before he
inquired, "Is it here that the Consul of America lives?"

"Precisely."

"Is he perhaps at home?"

"I don't know. I will go ask him."

"Do me that pleasure, dear," said Don Ippolito, and remained knotting
his fingers before the closed door. Presently the old woman returned,
and looking out long enough to say, "The consul is at home," drew some
inner bolt by a wire running to the lock, that let the door start open;
then, waiting to hear Don Ippolito close it again, she called out from
her height, "Favor me above." He climbed the dim stairway to the point
where she stood, and followed her to a door, which she flung open into
an apartment so brightly lit by a window looking on the sunny canal,
that he blinked as he entered. "Signor Console," said the old woman,
"behold the gentleman who desired to see you;" and at the same time
Don Ippolito, having removed his broad, stiff, three-cornered hat,
came forward and made a beautiful bow. He had lost for the moment the
trepidation which had marked his approach to the consulate, and bore
himself with graceful dignity.

It was in the first year of the war, and from a motive of patriotism
common at that time, Mr. Ferris (one of my many predecessors in office
at Venice) had just been crossing his two silken gondola flags above the
consular bookcase, where with their gilt lance-headed staves, and their
vivid stars and stripes, they made a very pretty effect. He filliped a
little dust from his coat, and begged Don Ippolito to be seated, with
the air of putting even a Venetian priest on a footing of equality with
other men under the folds of the national banner. Mr. Ferris had the
prejudice of all Italian sympathizers against the priests; but for this
he could hardly have found anything in Don Ippolito to alarm dislike.
His face was a little thin, and the chin was delicate; the nose had a
fine, Dantesque curve, but its final droop gave a melancholy cast to
a countenance expressive of a gentle and kindly spirit; the eyes were
large and dark and full of a dreamy warmth. Don Ippolito's prevailing
tint was that transparent blueishness which comes from much shaving of a
heavy black beard; his forehead and temples were marble white; he had
a tonsure the size of a dollar. He sat silent for a little space, and
softly questioned the consul's face with his dreamy eyes. Apparently he
could not gather courage to speak of his business at once, for he
turned his gaze upon the window and said, "A beautiful position, Signor
Console."

"Yes, it's a pretty place," answered Mr. Ferris, warily.

"So much pleasanter here on the Canalazzo than on the campos or the
little canals."

"Oh, without doubt."

"Here there must be constant amusement in watching the boats: great
stir, great variety, great life. And now the fine season commences,
and the Signor Console's countrymen will be coming to Venice. Perhaps,"
added Don Ippolito with a polite dismay, and an air of sudden anxiety
to escape from his own purpose, "I may be disturbing or detaining the
Signor Console?"

"No," said Mr. Ferris; "I am quite at leisure for the present. In what
can I have the honor of serving you?"

Don Ippolito heaved a long, ineffectual sigh, and taking his linen
handkerchief from his pocket, wiped his forehead with it, and rolled it
upon his knee. He looked at the door, and all round the room, and then
rose and drew near the consul, who had officially seated himself at his
desk.

"I suppose that the Signor Console gives passports?" he asked.

"Sometimes," replied Mr. Ferris, with a clouding face.

Don Ippolito seemed to note the gathering distrust and to be helpless
against it. He continued hastily: "Could the Signor Console give a
passport for America ... to me?"

"Are you an American citizen?" demanded the consul in the voice of a man
whose suspicions are fully roused.

"American citizen?"

"Yes; subject of the American republic."

"No, surely; I have not that happiness. I am an Austrian subject,"
returned Don Ippolito a little bitterly, as if the last words were an
unpleasant morsel in the mouth.

"Then I can't give you a passport," said Mr. Ferris, somewhat more
gently. "You know," he explained, "that no government can give passports
to foreign subjects. That would be an unheard-of thing."

"But I thought that to go to America an American passport would be
needed."

"In America," returned the consul, with proud compassion, "they don't
care a fig for passports. You go and you come, and nobody meddles. To
be sure," he faltered, "just now, on account of the secessionists, they
_do_ require you to show a passport at New York; but," he continued more
boldly, "American passports are usually for Europe; and besides, all the
American passports in the world wouldn't get _you_ over the frontier at
Peschiera. _You_ must have a passport from the Austrian Lieutenancy of
Venice."

Don Ippolito nodded his head softly several times, and said,
"Precisely," and then added with an indescribable weariness, "Patience!
Signor Console, I ask your pardon for the trouble I have given," and he
made the consul another low bow.

Whether Mr. Ferris's curiosity was piqued, and feeling himself on the
safe side of his visitor he meant to know why he had come on such an
errand, or whether he had some kindlier motive, he could hardly have
told himself, but he said, "I'm very sorry. Perhaps there is something
else in which I could be of use to you."

"Ah, I hardly know," cried Don Ippolito. "I really had a kind of hope in
coming to your excellency."

"I am not an excellency," interrupted Mr. Ferris, conscientiously.

"Many excuses! But now it seems a mere bestiality. I was so ignorant
about the other matter that doubtless I am also quite deluded in this."

"As to that, of course I can't say," answered Mr. Ferris, "but I hope
not."

"Why, listen, signore!" said Don Ippolito, placing his hand over that
pocket in which he kept his linen handkerchief. "I had something that it
had come into my head to offer your honored government for its advantage
in this deplorable rebellion."

"Oh," responded Mr. Ferris with a falling countenance. He had received
so many offers of help for his honored government from sympathizing
foreigners. Hardly a week passed but a sabre came clanking up his dim
staircase with a Herr Graf or a Herr Baron attached, who appeared in
the spotless panoply of his Austrian captaincy or lieutenancy, to
accept from the consul a brigadier-generalship in the Federal armies,
on condition that the consul would pay his expenses to Washington, or
at least assure him of an exalted post and reimbursement of all outlays
from President Lincoln as soon as he arrived. They were beautiful men,
with the complexion of blonde girls; their uniforms fitted like kid
gloves; the pale blue, or pure white, or huzzar black of their coats was
ravishingly set off by their red or gold trimmings; and they were
hard to make understand that brigadiers of American birth swarmed at
Washington, and that if they went thither, they must go as soldiers of
fortune at their own risk. But they were very polite; they begged pardon
when they knocked their scabbards against the consul's furniture, at the
door they each made him a magnificent obeisance, said "Servus!" in their
great voices, and were shown out by the old Marina, abhorrent of
their uniforms and doubtful of the consul's political sympathies. Only
yesterday she had called him up at an unwonted hour to receive the visit
of a courtly gentleman who addressed him as Monsieur le Ministre, and
offered him at a bargain ten thousand stand of probably obsolescent
muskets belonging to the late Duke of Parma. Shabby, hungry, incapable
exiles of all nations, religions, and politics beset him for places of
honor and emolument in the service of the Union; revolutionists out of
business, and the minions of banished despots, were alike willing to be
fed, clothed, and dispatched to Washington with swords consecrated to
the perpetuity of the republic.

"I have here," said Don Ippolito, too intent upon showing whatever it
was he had to note the change in the consul's mood, "the model of a
weapon of my contrivance, which I thought the government of the North
could employ successfully in cases where its batteries were in danger of
capture by the Spaniards."

"Spaniards? Spaniards? We have no war with Spain!" cried the consul.

"Yes, yes, I know," Don Ippolito made haste to explain, "but those of
South America being Spanish by descent"--

"But we are not fighting the South Americans. We are fighting our own
Southern States, I am sorry to say."

"Oh! Many excuses. I am afraid I don't understand," said Don Ippolito
meekly; whereupon Mr. Ferris enlightened him in a formula (of which
he was beginning to be weary) against European misconception of the
American situation. Don Ippolito nodded his head contritely, and when
Mr. Ferris had ended, he was so much abashed that he made no motion to
show his invention till the other added, "But no matter; I suppose the
contrivance would work as well against the Southerners as the South
Americans. Let me see it, please;" and then Don Ippolito, with a
gratified smile, drew from his pocket the neatly finished model of a
breech-loading cannon.

"You perceive, Signor Console," he said with new dignity, "that this is
nothing very new as a breech-loader, though I ask you to observe this
little improvement for restoring the breech to its place, which is
original. The grand feature of my invention, however, is this secret
chamber in the breech, which is intended to hold an explosive of high
potency, with a fuse coming out below. The gunner, finding his piece in
danger, ignites this fuse, and takes refuge in flight. At the moment
the enemy seizes the gun the contents of the secret chamber explode,
demolishing the piece and destroying its captors."

The dreamy warmth in Don Ippolito's deep eyes kindled to a flame; a
dark red glowed in his thin cheeks; he drew a box from the folds of his
drapery and took snuff in a great whiff, as if inhaling the sulphurous
fumes of battle, or titillating his nostrils with grains of gunpowder.
He was at least in full enjoyment of the poetic power of his invention,
and no doubt had before his eyes a vivid picture of a score of
secessionists surprised and blown to atoms in the very moment of
triumph. "Behold, Signor Console!" he said.

"It's certainly very curious," said Mr. Ferris, turning the fearful toy
over in his hand, and admiring the neat workmanship of it. "Did you make
this model yourself?"

"Surely," answered the priest, with a joyous pride; "I have no money to
spend upon artisans; and besides, as you might infer, signore, I am not
very well seen by my superiors and associates on account of these
little amusements of mine; so keep them as much as I can to myself." Don
Ippolito laughed nervously, and then fell silent with his eyes intent
upon the consul's face. "What do you think, signore?" he presently
resumed. "If this invention were brought to the notice of your generous
government, would it not patronize my labors? I have read that America
is the land of enterprises. Who knows but your government might invite
me to take service under it in some capacity in which I could employ
those little gifts that Heaven"--He paused again, apparently puzzled by
the compassionate smile on the consul's lips. "But tell me, signore, how
this invention appears to you." "Have you had any practical experience
in gunnery?" asked Mr. Ferris.

"Why, certainly not."

"Neither have I," continued Mr. Ferris, "but I was wondering whether
the explosive in this secret chamber would not become so heated by the
frequent discharges of the piece as to go off prematurely sometimes, and
kill our own artillerymen instead of waiting for the secessionists?"

Don Ippolito's countenance fell, and a dull shame displaced the
exultation that had glowed in it. His head sunk on his breast, and he
made no attempt at reply, so that it was again Mr. Ferris who spoke.
"You see, I don't really know anything more of the matter than you do,
and I don't undertake to say whether your invention is disabled by the
possibility I suggest or not. Haven't you any acquaintances among the
military, to whom you could show your model?"

"No," answered Don Ippolito, coldly, "I don't consort with the military.
Besides, what would be thought of a _priest_," he asked with a bitter
stress on the word, "who exhibited such an invention as that to an
officer of our paternal government?"

"I suppose it would certainly surprise the lieutenant-governor
somewhat," said Mr. Ferris with a laugh. "May I ask," he pursued after
an interval, "whether you have occupied yourself with other inventions?"

"I have attempted a great many," replied Don Ippolito in a tone of
dejection.

"Are they all of this warlike temper?" pursued the consul.

"No," said Don Ippolito, blushing a little, "they are nearly all of
peaceful intention. It was the wish to produce something of utility
which set me about this cannon. Those good friends of mine who have done
me the honor of looking at my attempts had blamed me for the uselessness
of my inventions; they allowed that they were ingenious, but they said
that even if they could be put in operation, they would not be what
the world cared for. Perhaps they were right. I know very little of the
world," concluded the priest, sadly. He had risen to go, yet seemed not
quite able to do so; there was no more to say, but if he had come to the
consul with high hopes, it might well have unnerved him to have all
end so blankly. He drew a long, sibilant breath between his shut teeth,
nodded to himself thrice, and turning to Mr. Ferris with a melancholy
bow, said, "Signor Console, I thank you infinitely for your kindness, I
beg your pardon for the disturbance, and I take my leave."

"I am sorry," said Mr. Ferris. "Let us see each other again. In regard
to the inventions,--well, you must have patience." He dropped into some
proverbial phrases which the obliging Latin tongues supply so abundantly
for the races who must often talk when they do not feel like thinking,
and he gave a start when Don Ippolito replied in English, "Yes, but hope
deferred maketh the heart sick."

It was not that it was so uncommon to have Italians innocently come
out with their whole slender stock of English to him, for the sake
of practice, as they told him; but there were peculiarities in Don
Ippolito's accent for which he could not account. "What," he exclaimed,
"do you know English?"

"I have studied it a little, by my myself," answered Don Ippolito,
pleased to have his English recognized, and then lapsing into the
safety of Italian, he added, "And I had also the help of an English
ecclesiastic who sojourned some months in Venice, last year, for his
health, and who used to read with me and teach me the pronunciation. He
was from Dublin, this ecclesiastic."

"Oh!" said Mr. Ferris, with relief, "I see;" and he perceived that what
had puzzled him in Don Ippolito's English was a fine brogue superimposed
upon his Italian accent.

"For some time I have had this idea of going to America, and I thought
that the first thing to do was to equip myself with the language."

"Um!" said Mr. Ferris, "that was practical, at any rate," and he mused
awhile. By and by he continued, more kindly than he had yet spoken, "I
wish I could ask you to sit down again: but I have an engagement which I
must make haste to keep. Are you going out through the campo? Pray wait
a minute, and I will walk with you."

Mr. Ferris went into another room, through the open door of which Don
Ippolito saw the paraphernalia of a painter's studio: an easel with a
half-finished picture on it; a chair with a palette and brushes, and
crushed and twisted tubes of colors; a lay figure in one corner; on the
walls scraps of stamped leather, rags of tapestry, desultory sketches on
paper.

Mr. Ferris came out again, brushing his hat.

"The Signor Console amuses himself with painting, I see," said Don
Ippolito courteously.

"Not at all," replied Mr. Ferris, putting on his gloves; "I am a painter
by profession, and I amuse myself with consuling;" [Footnote: Since
these words of Mr. Ferris were first printed, I have been told that a
more eminent painter, namely Rubens, made very much the same reply to
very much the same remark, when Spanish Ambassador in England. "The
Ambassador of His Catholic Majesty, I see, amuses himself by painting
sometimes," said a visitor who found him at his easel. "I amuse myself
by playing the ambassador sometimes," answered Rubens. In spite of the
similarity of the speeches, I let that of Mr. Ferris stand, for I am
satisfied that he did not know how unhandsomely Rubens had taken the
words out of his mouth.] and as so open a matter needed no explanation,
he said no more about it. Nor is it quite necessary to tell how, as he
was one day painting in New York, it occurred to him to make use of a
Congressional friend, and ask for some Italian consulate, he did not
care which. That of Venice happened to be vacant: the income was a few
hundred dollars; as no one else wanted it, no question was made of Mr.
Ferris's fitness for the post, and he presently found himself possessed
of a commission requesting the Emperor of Austria to permit him to enjoy
and exercise the office of consul of the ports of the Lombardo-Venetian
kingdom, to which the President of the United States appointed him from
a special trust in his abilities and integrity. He proceeded at once
to his post of duty, called upon the ship's chandler with whom they had
been left, for the consular archives, and began to paint some Venetian
subjects.

He and Don Ippolito quitted the Consulate together, leaving Marina to
digest with her noonday porridge the wonder that he should be walking
amicably forth with a priest. The same spectacle was presented to the
gaze of the campo, where they paused in friendly converse, and were
seen to part with many politenesses by the doctors of the neighborhood,
lounging away their leisure, as the Venetian fashion is, at the local
pharmacy.

The apothecary craned forward over his counter, and peered through the
open door. "What is that blessed Consul of America doing with a priest?"

"The Consul of America with a priest?" demanded a grave old man, a
physician with a beautiful silvery beard, and a most reverend and
senatorial presence, but one of the worst tongues in Venice. "Oh!" he
added, with a laugh, after scrutiny of the two through his glasses,
"it's that crack-brain Don Ippolito Rondinelli. He isn't priest enough
to hurt the consul. Perhaps he's been selling him a perpetual motion for
the use of his government, which needs something of the kind just now.
Or maybe he's been posing to him for a picture. He would make a very
pretty Joseph, give him Potiphar's wife in the background," said the
doctor, who if not maligned would have needed much more to make a Joseph
of him.



II


Mr. Ferris took his way through the devious footways where the shadow
was chill, and through the broad campos where the sun was tenderly warm,
and the towers of the church rose against the speck-less azure of the
vernal heaven. As he went along, he frowned in a helpless perplexity
with the case of Don Ippolito, whom he had begun by doubting for a
spy with some incomprehensible motive, and had ended by pitying with
a certain degree of amusement and a deep sense of the futility of his
compassion. He presently began to think of him with a little disgust, as
people commonly think of one whom they pity and yet cannot help, and he
made haste to cast off the hopeless burden. He shrugged his shoulders,
struck his stick on the smooth paving-stones, and let his eyes rove up
and down the fronts of the houses, for the sake of the pretty faces that
glanced out of the casements. He was a young man, and it was spring,
and this was Venice. He made himself joyfully part of the city and
the season; he was glad of the narrowness of the streets, of the
good-humored jostling and pushing; he crouched into an arched doorway to
let a water-carrier pass with her copper buckets dripping at the end
of the yoke balanced on her shoulder, and he returned her smiles and
excuses with others as broad and gay; he brushed by the swelling hoops
of ladies, and stooped before the unwieldy burdens of porters, who as
they staggered through the crowd with a thrust hero, and a shove there
forgave themselves, laughing, with "We are in Venice, signori;" and
he stood aside for the files of soldiers clanking heavily over the
pavement, then muskets kindling to a blaze in the sunlit campos and
quenched again in the damp shadows of the calles. His ear was taken by
the vibrant jargoning of the boatmen as they pushed their craft under
the bridges he crossed, and the keen notes of the canaries and the
songs of the golden-billed blackbirds whose cages hung at lattices far
overhead. Heaps of oranges, topped by the fairest cut in halves, gave
their color, at frequent intervals, to the dusky corners and recesses
and the long-drawn cry of the venders, "Oranges of Palermo!" rose above
the clatter of feet and the clamor of other voices. At a little shop
where butter and eggs and milk abounded, together with early flowers
of various sorts, he bought a bunch of hyacinths, blue and white and
yellow, and he presently stood smelling these while he waited in the
hotel parlor for the ladies to whom he had sent his card. He turned
at the sound of drifting drapery, and could not forbear placing the
hyacinths in the hand of Miss Florida Vervain, who had come into the
room to receive him. She was a girl of about seventeen years, who looked
older; she was tall rather than short, and rather full,--though it could
not be said that she erred in point of solidity. In the attitudes of
shy hauteur into which she constantly fell, there was a touch of defiant
awkwardness which had a certain fascination. She was blonde, with a
throat and hands of milky whiteness; there was a suggestion of freckles
on her regular face, where a quick color came and went, though her
cheeks were habitually somewhat pale; her eyes were very blue under
their level brows, and the lashes were even lighter in color than the
masses of her fair gold hair; the edges of the lids were touched with
the faintest red. The late Colonel Vervain of the United States army,
whose complexion his daughter had inherited, was an officer whom it
would not have been peaceable to cross in any purpose or pleasure, and
Miss Vervain seemed sometimes a little burdened by the passionate nature
which he had left her together with the tropical name he had bestowed in
honor of the State where he had fought the Seminoles in his youth, and
where he chanced still to be stationed when she was born; she had
the air of being embarrassed in presence of herself, and of having an
anxious watch upon her impulses. I do not know how otherwise to describe
the effort of proud, helpless femininity, which would have struck the
close observer in Miss Vervain.

"Delicious!" she said, in a deep voice, which conveyed something of
this anxiety in its guarded tones, and yet was not wanting in a kind of
frankness. "Did you mean them for me, Mr. Ferris?"

"I didn't, but I do," answered Mr. Ferris. "I bought them in ignorance,
but I understand now what they were meant for by nature;" and in
fact the hyacinths, with their smooth textures and their pure colors,
harmonized well with Miss Vervain, as she bent her face over them and
inhaled their full, rich perfume.

"I will put them in water," she said, "if you'll excuse me a moment.
Mother will be down directly."

Before she could return, her mother rustled into the parlor.

Mrs. Vervain was gracefully, fragilely unlike her daughter. She entered
with a gentle and gliding step, peering near-sightedly about through her
glasses, and laughing triumphantly when she had determined Mr. Ferris's
exact position, where he stood with a smile shaping his full brown beard
and glancing from his hazel eyes. She was dressed in perfect taste with
reference to her matronly years, and the lingering evidences of her
widowhood, and she had an unaffected naturalness of manner which even at
her age of forty-eight could not be called less than charming. She spoke
in a trusting, caressing tone, to which no man at least could respond
unkindly.

"So very good of you, to take all this trouble, Mr. Ferris," she said,
giving him a friendly hand, "and I suppose you are letting us encroach
upon very valuable time. I'm quite ashamed to take it. But isn't it a
heavenly day? What _I_ call a perfect day, just right every way; none of
those disagreeable extremes. It's so unpleasant to have it too hot,
for instance. I'm the greatest person for moderation, Mr. Ferris, and
I carry the principle into everything; but I do think the breakfasts
at these Italian hotels are too light altogether. I like our American
breakfasts, don't you? I've been telling Florida I can't stand it; we
really must make some arrangement. To be sure, you oughtn't to think of
such a thing as eating, in a place like Venice, all poetry; but a sound
mind in a sound body, _I_ say. We're perfectly wild over it. Don't you
think it's a place that grows upon you very much, Mr. Ferris? All those
associations,--it does seem too much; and the gondolas everywhere. But
I'm always afraid the gondoliers cheat us; and in the stores I never
feel safe a moment--not a moment. I do think the Venetians are lacking
in truthfulness, a little. I don't believe they understand our American
fairdealing and sincerity. I shouldn't want to do them injustice, but I
really think they take advantages in bargaining. Now such a thing
even as corals. Florida is extremely fond of them, and we bought a
set yesterday in the Piazza, and I _know_ we paid too much for them.
Florida," said Mrs. Vervain, for her daughter had reentered the room,
and stood with some shawls and wraps upon her arm, patiently waiting for
the conclusion of the elder lady's speech, "I wish you would bring down
that set of corals. I'd like Mr. Ferris to give an unbiased opinion. I'm
sure we were cheated."

"I don't know anything about corals, Mrs. Vervain," interposed Mr.
Ferris.

"Well, but you ought to see this set for the beauty of the color;
they're really exquisite. I'm sure it will gratify your artistic taste."

Miss Vervain hesitated with a look of desire to obey, and of doubt
whether to force the pleasure upon Mr. Ferris. "Won't it do another
time, mother?" she asked faintly; "the gondola is waiting for us."

Mrs. Vervain gave a frailish start from the chair, into which she had
sunk, "Oh, do let us be off at once, then," she said; and when they
stood on the landing-stairs of the hotel: "What gloomy things these
gondolas are!" she added, while the gondolier with one foot on the
gunwale of the boat received the ladies' shawls, and then crooked his
arm for them to rest a hand on in stepping aboard; "I wonder they don't
paint them some cheerful color."

"Blue, or pink, Mrs. Vervain?" asked Mr. Ferris. "I knew you were coming
to that question; they all do. But we needn't have the top on at all,
if it depresses your spirits. We shall be just warm enough in the open
sunlight."

"Well, have it off, then. It sends the cold chills over me to look at
it. What _did_ Byron call it?"

"Yes, it's time for. Byron, now. It was very good of you not to mention
him before, Mrs. Vervain. But I knew he had to come. He called it a
coffin clapped in a canoe."

"Exactly," said Mrs. Vervain. "I always feel as if I were going to
my own funeral when I get into it; and I've certainly had enough of
funerals never to want to have anything to do with another, as long as I
live."

She settled herself luxuriously upon the feather-stuffed leathern
cushions when the cabin was removed. Death had indeed been near her very
often; father and mother had been early lost to her, and the brothers
and sisters orphaned with her had faded and perished one after another,
as they ripened to men and women; she had seen four of her own children
die; her husband had been dead six years. All these bereavements had
left her what they had found her. She had truly grieved, and, as she
said, she had hardly ever been out of black since she could remember.

"I never was in colors when I was a girl," she went on, indulging many
obituary memories as the gondola dipped and darted down the canal, "and
I was married in my mourning for my last sister. It did seem a little
too much when she went, Mr. Ferris. I was too young to feel it so much
about the others, but we were nearly of the same age, and that makes a
difference, don't you know. First a brother and then a sister: it was
very strange how they kept going that way. I seemed to break the charm
when I got married; though, to be sure, there was no brother left after
Marian."

Miss Vervain heard her mother's mortuary prattle with a face from which
no impatience of it could be inferred, and Mr. Ferris made no comment on
what was oddly various in character and manner, for Mrs. Vervain touched
upon the gloomiest facts of her history with a certain impersonal
statistical interest. They were rowing across the lagoon to the Island
of San Lazzaro, where for reasons of her own she intended to venerate
the convent in which Byron studied the Armenian language preparatory
to writing his great poem in it; if her pilgrimage had no very earnest
motive, it was worthy of the fact which it was designed to honor. The
lagoon was of a perfect, shining smoothness, broken by the shallows
over which the ebbing tide had left the sea-weed trailed like long,
disheveled hair. The fishermen, as they waded about staking their nets,
or stooped to gather the small shell-fish of the shallows, showed legs
as brown and tough as those of the apostles in Titian's Assumption. Here
and there was a boat, with a boy or an old man asleep in the bottom of
it. The gulls sailed high, white flakes against the illimitable blue of
the heavens; the air, though it was of early spring, and in the
shade had a salty pungency, was here almost languorously warm; in the
motionless splendors and rich colors of the scene there was a melancholy
before which Mrs. Vervain fell fitfully silent. Now and then Ferris
briefly spoke, calling Miss Vervain's notice to this or that, and she
briefly responded. As they passed the mad-house of San Servolo, a maniac
standing at an open window took his black velvet skull-cap from his
white hair, bowed low three times, and kissed his hand to the ladies.
The Lido in front of them stretched a brown strip of sand with white
villages shining out of it; on their left the Public Gardens showed a
mass of hovering green; far beyond and above, the ghostlike snows of the
Alpine heights haunted the misty horizon.

It was chill in the shadow of the convent when they landed at San
Lazzaro, and it was cool in the parlor where they waited for the monk
who was to show them through the place; but it was still and warm in the
gardened court, where the bees murmured among the crocuses and hyacinths
under the noonday sun. Miss Vervain stood looking out of the window
upon the lagoon, while her mother drifted about the room, peering at the
objects on the wall through her eyeglasses. She was praising a Chinese
painting of fish on rice-paper, when a young monk entered with a cordial
greeting in English for Mr. Ferris. She turned and saw them shaking
hands, but at the same moment her eyeglasses abandoned her nose with a
vigorous leap; she gave an amiable laugh, and groping for them over her
dress, bowed at random as Mr. Ferris presented Padre Girolamo.

"I've been admiring this painting so much, Padre Girolamo," she said,
with instant good-will, and taking the monk into the easy familiarity of
her friendship by the tone with which she spoke his name. "Some of the
brothers did it, I suppose."

"Oh no," said the monk, "it's a Chinese painting. We hung it up there
because it was given to us, and was curious."

"Well, now, do you know," returned Mrs. Vervain, "I _thought_ it was
Chinese! Their things _are_, so odd. But really, in an Armenian convent
it's very misleading. I don't think you ought to leave it there; it
certainly does throw people off the track," she added, subduing the
expression to something very lady-like, by the winning appeal with which
she used it.

"Oh, but if they put up Armenian paintings in Chinese convents?" said
Mr. Ferris.

"You're joking!" cried Mrs. Vervain, looking at him with a graciously
amused air. "There _are_ no Chinese convents. To be sure those rebels
are a kind of Christians," she added thoughtfully, "but there can't be
many of them left, poor things, hundreds of them executed at a time,
that way. It's perfectly sickening to read of it; and you can't help
it, you know. But they say they haven't really so much feeling as we
have--not so nervous."

She walked by the side of the young friar as he led the way to such
parts of the convent as are open to visitors, and Mr. Ferris came after
with her daughter, who, he fancied, met his attempts at talk with sudden
and more than usual hauteur. "What a fool!" he said to himself. "Is
she afraid I shall be wanting to make love to her?" and he followed in
rather a sulky silence the course of Mrs. Vervain and her guide. The
library, the chapel, and the museum called out her friendliest praises,
and in the last she praised the mummy on show there at the expense of
one she had seen in New York; but when Padre Girolamo pointed out the
desk in the refectory from which one of the brothers read while the rest
were eating, she took him to task. "Oh, but I can't think that's at
all good for the digestion, you know,--using the brain that way whilst
you're at table. I really hope you don't listen too attentively; it
would be better for you in the long run, even in a religious point of
view. But now--Byron! You _must_ show me his cell!" The monk deprecated
the non-existence of such a cell, and glanced in perplexity at Mr.
Ferris, who came to his relief. "You couldn't have seen his cell, if
he'd had one, Mrs. Vervain. They don't admit ladies to the cloister."

"What nonsense!" answered Mrs. Vervain, apparently regarding this
as another of Mr. Ferris's pleasantries; but Padre Girolamo silently
confirmed his statement, and she briskly assailed the rule as a
disrespect to the sex, which reflected even upon the Virgin, the
object, as he was forced to allow, of their high veneration. He smiled
patiently, and confessed that Mrs. Vervain had all the reasons on her
side. At the polyglot printing-office, where she handsomely bought every
kind of Armenian book and pamphlet, and thus repaid in the only way
possible the trouble their visit had given, he did not offer to take
leave of them, but after speaking with Ferris, of whom he seemed an
old friend, he led them through the garden environing the convent, to
a little pavilion perched on the wall that defends the island from the
tides of the lagoon. A lay-brother presently followed them, bearing
a tray with coffee, toasted rusk, and a jar of that conserve of
rose-leaves which is the convent's delicate hospitality to favored
guests. Mrs. Vervain cried out over the poetic confection when Padre
Girolamo told her what it was, and her daughter suffered herself to
express a guarded pleasure. The amiable matron brushed the crumbs of
the _baicolo_ from her lap when the lunch was ended, and fitting on her
glasses leaned forward for a better look at the monk's black-bearded
face. "I'm perfectly delighted," she said. "You must be very happy here.
I suppose you are."

"Yes," answered the monk rapturously; "so happy that I should be content
never to leave San Lazzaro. I came here when I was very young, and the
greater part of my life has been passed on this little island. It is my
home--my country."

"Do you never go away?"

"Oh yes; sometimes to Constantinople, sometimes to London and Paris."

"And you've never been to America yet? Well now, I'll tell you; you
ought to go. You would like it, I know, and our people would give you a
very cordial reception."

"Reception?" The monk appealed once more to Ferris with a look.

Ferris broke into a laugh. "I don't believe Padre Girolamo would come in
quality of distinguished foreigner, Mrs. Vervain, and I don't think he'd
know what to do with one of our cordial receptions."

"Well, he ought to go to America, any way. He can't really know anything
about us till he's been there. Just think how ignorant the English are
of our country! You _will_ come, won't you? I should be delighted to
welcome you at my house in Providence. Rhode Island is a small State,
but there's a great deal of wealth there, and very good society
in Providence. It's quite New-Yorky, you know," said Mrs. Vervain
expressively. She rose as she spoke, and led the way back to the
gondola. She told Padre Girolamo that they were to be some weeks in
Venice, and made him promise to breakfast with them at their hotel. She
smiled and nodded to him after the boat had pushed off, and kept him
bowing on the landing-stairs.

"What a lovely place, and what a perfectly heavenly morning you _have_
given us, Mr. Ferris I We never can thank you enough for it. And now, do
you know what I'm thinking of? Perhaps you can help me. It was Byron's
studying there put me in mind of it. How soon do the mosquitoes come?"

"About the end of June," responded Ferris mechanically, staring with
helpless mystification at Mrs. Vervain.

"Very well; then there's no reason why we shouldn't stay in Venice till
that time. We are both very fond of the place, and we'd quite concluded,
this morning, to stop here till the mosquitoes came. You know, Mr.
Ferris, my daughter had to leave school much earlier than she ought, for
my health has obliged me to travel a great deal since I lost my husband;
and I must have her with me, for we're all that there is of us; we
haven't a chick or a child that's related to us anywhere. But wherever
we stop, even for a few weeks, I contrive to get her some kind of
instruction. I feel the need of it so much in my own case; for to tell
you the truth, Mr. Ferris, I married too young. I suppose I should do
the same thing over again if it was to be done over; but don't you see,
my mind wasn't properly formed; and then following my husband about from
pillar to post, and my first baby born when I was nineteen--well, it
wasn't education, at any rate, whatever else it was; and I've determined
that Florida, though we are such a pair of wanderers, shall not have
my regrets. I got teachers for her in England,--the English are not
anything like so disagreeable at home as they are in traveling, and we
stayed there two years,--and I did in France, and I did in Germany. And
now, Italian. Here we are in Italy, and I think we ought to improve
the time. Florida knows a good deal of Italian already, for her music
teacher in France was an Italian, and he taught her the language as well
as music. What she wants now, I should say, is to perfect her accent and
get facility. I think she ought to have some one come every day and read
and converse an hour or two with her."

Mrs. Vervain leaned back in her seat, and looked at Ferris, who said,
feeling that the matter was referred to him, "I think--without presuming
to say what Miss Vervain's need of instruction is--that your idea is
a very good one." He mused in silence his wonder that so much
addlepatedness as was at once observable in Mrs. Vervain should exist
along with so much common-sense. "It's certainly very good in the
abstract," he added, with a glance at the daughter, as if the sense
must be hers. She did not meet his glance at once, but with an impatient
recognition of the heat that was now great for the warmth with which she
was dressed, she pushed her sleeve from her wrist, showing its delicious
whiteness, and letting her fingers trail through the cool water; she
dried them on her handkerchief, and then bent her eyes full upon him as
if challenging him to think this unlady-like.

"No, clearly the sense does not come from her," said Ferris to himself;
it is impossible to think well of the mind of a girl who treats one with
tacit contempt.

"Yes," resumed Mrs. Vervain, "it's certainly very good in the abstract.
But oh dear me! you've no idea of the difficulties in the way. I
may speak frankly with you, Mr. Ferris, for you are here as the
representative of the country, and you naturally sympathize with the
difficulties of Americans abroad; the teachers will fall in love with
their pupils."

"Mother!" began Miss Vervain; and then she checked herself.

Ferris gave a vengeful laugh. "Really, Mrs. Vervain, though I sympathize
with you in my official capacity, I must own that as a man and a
brother, I can't help feeling a little sorry for those poor fellows,
too."

"To be sure, they are to be pitied, of course, and _I_ feel for them; I
did when I was a girl; for the same thing used to happen then. I don't
know why Florida should be subjected to such embarrassments, too. It
does seem sometimes as if it were something in the blood. They all get
the idea that you have money, you know."

"Then I should say that it might be something in the pocket," suggested
Ferris with a look at Miss Vervain, in whose silent suffering, as he
imagined it, he found a malicious consolation for her scorn.

"Well, whatever it is," replied Mrs. Vervain, "it's too vexatious. Of
course, going to new places, that way, as we're always doing, and only
going to stay for a limited time, perhaps, you can't pick and choose.
And even when you _do_ get an elderly teacher, they're as bad as any.
It really is too trying. Now, when I was talking with that nice monk
of yours at the convent, there, I couldn't help thinking how perfectly
delightful it would be if Florida could have _him_ for a teacher. Why
couldn't she? He told me that he would come to take breakfast or lunch
with us, but not dinner, for he always had to be at the convent before
nightfall. Well, he might come to give the lessons sometime in the
middle of the day."

"You couldn't manage it, Mrs. Vervain, I know you couldn't," answered
Ferris earnestly. "I'm sure the Armenians never do anything of the kind.
They're all very busy men, engaged in ecclesiastical or literary work,
and they couldn't give the time."

"Why not? There was Byron."

"But Byron went to them, and he studied Armenian, not Italian, with
them. Padre Girolamo speaks perfect Italian, for all that I can see; but
I doubt if he'd undertake to impart the native accent, which is what you
want. In fact, the scheme is altogether impracticable."

"Well," said Mrs. Vervain; "I'm exceedingly sorry. I had quite set my
heart on it. I never took such a fancy to any one in such a short time
before."

"It seemed to be a case of love at first sight on both sides," said
Ferris. "Padre Girolamo doesn't shower those syruped rose-leaves
indiscriminately upon visitors."

"Thanks," returned Mrs. Vervain; "it's very good of you to say so,
Mr. Ferris, and it's very gratifying, all round; but don't you see, it
doesn't serve the present purpose. What teachers do you know of?"

She had been by marriage so long in the service of the United States
that she still regarded its agents as part of her own domestic economy.
Consuls she everywhere employed as functionaries specially appointed
to look after the interests of American ladies traveling without
protection. In the week which had passed since her arrival in Venice,
there had been no day on which she did not appeal to Ferris for help or
sympathy or advice. She took amiable possession of him at once, and
she had established an amusing sort of intimacy with him, to which the
haughty trepidations of her daughter set certain bounds, but in which
the demand that he should find her a suitable Italian teacher seemed
trivially matter of course.

"Yes. I know several teachers," he said, after thinking awhile; "but
they're all open to the objection of being human; and besides, they all
do things in a set kind of way, and I'm afraid they wouldn't enter into
the spirit of any scheme of instruction that departed very widely from
Ollendorff." He paused, and Mrs. Vervain gave a sketch of the different
professional masters whom she had employed in the various countries of
her sojourn, and a disquisition upon their several lives and characters,
fortifying her statements by reference of doubtful points to her
daughter. This occupied some time, and Ferris listened to it all with
an abstracted air. At last he said, with a smile, "There was an Italian
priest came to see me this morning, who astonished me by knowing
English--with a brogue that he'd learned from an English priest straight
from Dublin; perhaps _he_ might do, Mrs. Vervain? He's professionally
pledged, you know, not to give the kind of annoyance you've suffered
from in teachers. He would do as well as Padre Girolamo, I suppose."

"Do you really? Are you in earnest?"

"Well, no, I believe I'm not. I haven't the least idea he would do.
He belongs to the church militant. He came to me with the model of a
breech-loading cannon he's invented, and he wanted a passport to go to
America, so that he might offer his cannon to our government."

"How curious!" said Mrs. Vervain, and her daughter looked frankly into
Ferris's face. "But I know; it's one of your jokes."

"You overpraise me, Mrs. Vervain. If I could make such jokes as that
priest was, I should set up for a humorist at once. He had the touch of
pathos that they say all true pieces of humor ought to have," he went
on instinctively addressing himself to Miss Vervain, who did not repulse
him. "He made me melancholy; and his face haunts me. I should like to
paint him. Priests are generally such a snuffy, common lot. And I dare
say," he concluded, "he's sufficiently commonplace, too, though he
didn't look it. Spare your romance, Miss Vervain."

The young lady blushed resentfully. "I see as little romance as joke in
it," she said.

"It was a cannon," returned Ferris, without taking any notice of her,
and with a sort of absent laugh, "that would make it very lively for the
Southerners--if they had it. Poor fellow! I suppose he came with high
hopes of me, and expected me to receive his invention with eloquent
praises. I've no doubt he figured himself furnished not only with a
passport, but with a letter from me to President Lincoln, and foresaw
his own triumphal entry into Washington, and his honorable interviews
with the admiring generals of the Union forces, to whom he should
display his wonderful cannon. Too bad; isn't it?"

"And why didn't you give him the passport and the letter?" asked Mrs.
Vervain.

"Oh, that's a state secret," returned Ferris.

"And you think he won't do for our purpose?"

"I don't indeed."

"Well, I'm not so sure of it. Tell me something more about him."

"I don't know anything more about him. Besides, there isn't time."

The gondola had already entered the canal, and was swiftly approaching
the hotel.

"Oh yes, there is," pleaded Mrs. Vervain, laying her hand on his arm. "I
want you to come in and dine with us. We dine early."

"Thank you, I can't. Affairs of the nation, you know. Rebel privateer on
the canal of the Brenta."

"Really?" Mrs. Vervain leaned towards Ferris for sharper scrutiny of his
face. Her glasses sprang from her nose, and precipitated themselves into
his bosom.

"Allow me," he said, with burlesque politeness, withdrawing them from
the recesses of his waistcoat and gravely presenting them. Miss Vervain
burst into a helpless laugh; then she turned toward her mother with a
kind of indignant tenderness, and gently arranged her shawl so that it
should not drop off when she rose to leave the gondola. She did not look
again at Ferris, who resisted Mrs. Vervain's entreaties to remain, and
took leave as soon as the gondola landed.

The ladies went to their room, where Florida lifted from the table a
vase of divers-colored hyacinths, and stepping out upon the balcony
flung the flowers into the canal. As she put down the empty vase, the
lingering perfume of the banished flowers haunted the air of the room.

"Why, Florida," said her mother, "those were the flowers that Mr. Ferris
gave you. Did you fancy they had begun to decay? The smell of hyacinths
when they're a little old is dreadful. But I can't imagine a gentleman's
giving you flowers that were at all old."

"Oh, mother, don't speak to me!" cried Miss Vervain, passionately,
clasping her hands to her face.

"Now I see that I've been saying something to vex you, my darling," and
seating herself beside the young girl on the sofa, she fondly took down
her hands. "Do tell me what it was. Was it about your teachers falling
in love with you? You know they did, Florida: Pestachiavi and Schulze,
both; and that horrid old Fleuron."

"Did you think I liked any better on that account to have you talk it
over with a stranger?" asked Florida, still angrily.

"That's true, my dear," said Mrs. Vervain, penitently. "But if it
worried you, why didn't you do something to stop me? Give me a hint, or
just a little knock, somewhere?"

"No, mother; I'd rather not. Then you'd have come out with the whole
thing, to prove that you were right. It's better to let it go," said
Florida with a fierce laugh, half sob. "But it's strange that you can't
remember how such things torment me."

"I suppose it's my weak health, dear," answered the mother. "I didn't
use to be so. But now I don't really seem to have the strength to be
sensible. I know it's silly as well as you. The talk just seems to keep
going on of itself,--slipping out, slipping out. But you needn't mind.
Mr. Ferris won't think you could ever have done anything out of the way.
I'm sure you don't act with _him_ as if you'd ever encouraged anybody. I
think you're too haughty with him, Florida. And now, his flowers."

"He's detestable. He's conceited and presuming beyond all endurance. I
don't care what he thinks of me. But it's his manner towards you that I
can't tolerate."

"I suppose it's rather free," said Mrs. Vervain. "But then you know, my
dear, I shall be soon getting to be an old lady; and besides, I always
feel as if consuls were a kind of one of the family. He's been very
obliging since we came; I don't know what we should have done without
him. And I don't object to a little ease of manner in the gentlemen; I
never did."

"He makes fun of you," cried Florida: "and there at the convent,", she
said, bursting into angry tears, "he kept exchanging glances with that
monk as if he.... He's insulting, and I hate him!"

"Do you mean that he thought your mother ridiculous, Florida?" asked
Mrs. Vervain gravely. "You must have misunderstood his looks; indeed
you must. I can't imagine why he should. I remember that I talked
particularly well during our whole visit; my mind was active, for I felt
unusually strong, and I was interested in everything. It's nothing but
a fancy of yours; or your prejudice, Florida. But it's odd, now I've sat
down for a moment, how worn out I feel. And thirsty."

Mrs. Vervain fitted on her glasses, but even then felt uncertainly about
for the empty vase on the table before her.

"It isn't a goblet, mother," said Florida; "I'll get you some water."

"Do; and then throw a shawl over me. I'm sleepy, and a nap before dinner
will do me good. I don't see why I'm so drowsy of late. I suppose it's
getting into the sea air here at Venice; though it's mountain air that
makes you drowsy. But you're quite mistaken about Mr. Ferris. He isn't
capable of anything really rude. Besides, there wouldn't have been any
sense in it."

The young girl brought the water and then knelt beside the sofa, on
which she arranged the pillows under her mother, and covered her with
soft wraps. She laid her cheek against the thinner face. "Don't mind
anything I've said, mother; let's talk of something else."

The mother drew some loose threads of the daughter's hair through her
slender fingers, but said little more, and presently fell into a deep
slumber. Florida gently lifted her head away, and remained kneeling
before the sofa, looking into the sleeping face with an expression
of strenuous, compassionate devotion, mixed with a vague alarm and
self-pity, and a certain wondering anxiety.



III.


Don Ippolito had slept upon his interview with Ferris, and now sat in
his laboratory, amidst the many witnesses of his inventive industry,
with the model of the breech-loading cannon on the workbench before him.
He had neatly mounted it on wheels, that its completeness might do him
the greater credit with the consul when he should show it him, but the
carriage had been broken in his pocket, on the way home, by an unlucky
thrust from the burden of a porter, and the poor toy lay there disabled,
as if to dramatize that premature explosion in the secret chamber.

His heart was in these inventions of his, which had as yet so grudgingly
repaid his affection. For their sake he had stinted himself of many
needful things. The meagre stipend which he received from the patrimony
of his church, eked out with the money paid him for baptisms, funerals,
and marriages, and for masses by people who had friends to be prayed out
of purgatory, would at best have barely sufficed to support him; but
he denied himself everything save the necessary decorums of dress and
lodging; he fasted like a saint, and slept hard as a hermit, that he
might spend upon these ungrateful creatures of his brain. They were
the work of his own hands, and so he saved the expense of their
construction; but there were many little outlays for materials and for
tools, which he could not avoid, and with him a little was all. They not
only famished him; they isolated him. His superiors in the church, and
his brother priests, looked with doubt or ridicule upon the labors for
which he shunned their company, while he gave up the other social joys,
few and small, which a priest might know in the Venice of that day, when
all generous spirits regarded him with suspicion for his cloth's sake,
and church and state were alert to detect disaffection or indifference
in him. But bearing these things willingly, and living as frugally as
he might, he had still not enough, and he had been fain to assume the
instruction of a young girl of old and noble family in certain branches
of polite learning which a young lady of that sort might fitly know.
The family was not so rich as it was old and noble, and Don Ippolito was
paid from its purse rather than its pride. But the slender salary was a
help; these patricians were very good to him; many a time he dined with
them, and so spared the cost of his own pottage at home; they always
gave him coffee when he came, and that was a saving; at the proper
seasons little presents from them were not wanting. In a word, his
condition was not privation. He did his duty as a teacher faithfully,
and the only trouble with it was that the young girl was growing into
a young woman, and that he could not go on teaching her forever. In an
evil hour, as it seemed to Don Ippolito, that made the years she had
been his pupil shrivel to a mere pinch of time, there came from a young
count of the Friuli, visiting Venice, an offer of marriage; and Don
Ippolito lost his place. It was hard, but he bade himself have patience;
and he composed an ode for the nuptials of his late pupil, which,
together with a brief sketch of her ancestral history, he had elegantly
printed, according to the Italian usage, and distributed among the
family friends; he also made a sonnet to the bridegroom, and these
literary tributes were handsomely acknowledged.

He managed a whole year upon the proceeds, and kept a cheerful spirit
till the last soldo was spent, inventing one thing after another, and
giving much time and money to a new principle of steam propulsion,
which, as applied without steam to a small boat on the canal before
his door, failed to work, though it had no logical excuse for its
delinquency. He tried to get other pupils, but he got none, and he
began to dream of going to America. He pinned his faith in all sorts of
magnificent possibilities to the names of Franklin, Fulton, and Morse;
he was so ignorant of our politics and geography as to suppose us at
war with the South American Spaniards, but he knew that English was the
language of the North, and he applied himself to the study of it. Heaven
only knows what kind of inventor's Utopia, our poor, patent-ridden
country appeared to him in these dreams of his, and I can but dimly
figure it to myself. But he might very naturally desire to come to a
land where the spirit of invention is recognized and fostered, and where
he could hope to find that comfort of incentive and companionship which
our artists find in Italy.

The idea of the breech-loading cannon had occurred to him suddenly one
day, in one of his New-World-ward reveries, and he had made haste
to realize it, carefully studying the form and general effect of the
Austrian cannon under the gallery of the Ducal Palace, to the high
embarrassment of the Croat sentry who paced up and down there, and who
did not feel free to order off a priest as he would a civilian. Don
Ippolito's model was of admirable finish; he even painted the carriage
yellow and black, because that of the original was so, and colored the
piece to look like brass; and he lost a day while the paint was drying,
after he was otherwise ready to show it to the consul.

He had parted from Ferris with some gleams of comfort, caught chiefly
from his kindly manner, but they had died away before nightfall, and
this morning he could not rekindle them.

He had had his coffee served to him on the bench, as his frequent
custom was, but it stood untasted in the little copper pot beside the
dismounted cannon, though it was now ten o'clock, and it was full time
he had breakfasted, for he had risen early to perform the matin service
for three peasant women, two beggars, a cat, and a paralytic nobleman,
in the ancient and beautiful church to which he was attached. He had
tried to go about his wonted occupations, but he was still sitting idle
before his bench, while his servant gossiped from her balcony to the
mistress of the next house, across a calle so deep and narrow that it
opened like a mountain chasm beneath them. "It were well if the master
read his breviary a little more, instead of always maddening himself
with those blessed inventions, that eat more soldi than a Christian, and
never come to anything. There he sits before his table, as if he were
nailed to his chair, and lets his coffee cool--and God knows I was ready
to drink it warm two hours ago--and never looks at me if I open the door
twenty times to see whether he has finished. Holy patience! You have not
even the advantage of fasting to the glory of God in this house, though
you keep Lent the year round. It's the Devil's Lent, _I_ say. Eh, Diana!
There goes the bell. Who now? Adieu, Lusetta. To meet again, dear.
Farewell!"

She ran to another window, and admitted the visitor. It was Ferris, and
she went to announce him to her master by the title he had given,
while he amused his leisure in the darkness below by falling over a
cistern-top, with a loud clattering of his cane on the copper lid, after
which he heard the voice of the priest begging him to remain at
his convenience a moment till he could descend and show him the way
upstairs. His eyes were not yet used to the obscurity of the narrow
entry in which he stood, when he felt a cold hand laid on his, and
passively yielded himself to its guidance. He tried to excuse himself
for intruding upon Don Ippolito so soon, but the priest in far suppler
Italian overwhelmed him with lamentations that he should be so unworthy
the honor done him, and ushered his guest into his apartment. He plainly
took it for granted that Ferris had come to see his inventions, in
compliance with the invitation he had given him the day before, and
he made no affectation of delay, though after the excitement of the
greetings was past, it was with a quiet dejection that he rose and
offered to lead his visitor to his laboratory.

The whole place was an outgrowth of himself; it was his history as
well as his character. It recorded his quaint and childish tastes, his
restless endeavors, his partial and halting successes. The ante-room in
which he had paused with Ferris was painted to look like a grape-arbor,
where the vines sprang from the floor, and flourishing up the trellised
walls, with many a wanton tendril and flaunting leaf, displayed their
lavish clusters of white and purple all over the ceiling. It touched
Ferris, when Don Ippolito confessed that this decoration had been the
distraction of his own vacant moments, to find that it was like certain
grape-arbors he had seen in remote corners of Venice before the doors
of degenerate palaces, or forming the entrances of open-air restaurants,
and did not seem at all to have been studied from grape-arbors in the
country. He perceived the archaic striving for exact truth, and he
successfully praised the mechanical skill and love of reality with which
it was done; but he was silenced by a collection of paintings in Don
Ippolito's parlor, where he had been made to sit down a moment. Hard
they were in line, fixed in expression, and opaque in color, these
copies of famous masterpieces,--saints of either sex, ascensions,
assumptions, martyrdoms, and what not,--and they were not quite
comprehensible till Don Ippolito explained that he had made them from
such prints of the subjects as he could get, and had colored them after
his own fancy. All this, in a city whose art had been the glory of
the world for nigh half a thousand years, struck Ferris as yet more
comically pathetic than the frescoed grape-arbor; he stared about him
for some sort of escape from the pictures, and his eye fell upon a piano
and a melodeon placed end to end in a right angle. Don Ippolito, seeing
his look of inquiry, sat down and briefly played the same air with a
hand upon each instrument.

Ferris smiled. "Don Ippolito, you are another Da Vinci, a universal
genius."

"Bagatelles, bagatelles," said the priest pensively; but he rose with
greater spirit than he had yet shown, and preceded the consul into
the little room that served him for a smithy. It seemed from some
peculiarities of shape to have once been an oratory, but it was now
begrimed with smoke and dust from the forge which Don Ippolito had set
up in it; the embers of a recent fire, the bellows, the pincers, the
hammers, and the other implements of the trade, gave it a sinister
effect, as if the place of prayer had been invaded by mocking imps, or
as if some hapless mortal in contract with the evil powers were here
searching, by the help of the adversary, for the forbidden secrets of
the metals and of fire. In those days, Ferris was an uncompromising
enemy of the theatricalization of Italy, or indeed of anything; but the
fancy of the black-robed young priest at work in this place appealed to
him all the more potently because of the sort of tragic innocence which
seemed to characterize Don Ippolito's expression. He longed intensely
to sketch the picture then and there, but he had strength to rebuke the
fancy as something that could not make itself intelligible without the
help of such accessories as he despised, and he victoriously followed
the priest into his larger workshop, where his inventions, complete and
incomplete, were stored, and where he had been seated when his visitor
arrived. The high windows and the frescoed ceiling were festooned with
dusty cobwebs; litter of shavings and whittlings strewed the floor;
mechanical implements and contrivances were everywhere, and Don
Ippolito's listlessness seemed to return upon him again at the sight
of the familiar disorder. Conspicuous among other objects lay the
illogically unsuccessful model of the new principle of steam propulsion,
untouched since the day when he had lifted it out of the canal and
carried it indoors through the ranks of grinning spectators. From a
shelf above it he took down models of a flying-machine and a perpetual
motion. "Fantastic researches in the impossible. I never expected
results from these experiments, with which I nevertheless once pleased
myself," he said, and turned impatiently to various pieces of portable
furniture, chairs, tables, bedsteads, which by folding up their legs
and tops condensed themselves into flat boxes, developing handles at the
side for convenience in carrying. They were painted and varnished, and
were in all respects complete; they had indeed won favorable mention
at an exposition of the Provincial Society of Arts and Industries, and
Ferris could applaud their ingenuity sincerely, though he had his tacit
doubts of their usefulness. He fell silent again when Don Ippolito
called his notice to a photographic camera, so contrived with straps and
springs that you could snatch by its help whatever joy there might be
in taking your own photograph; and he did not know what to say of a
submarine boat, a four-wheeled water-velocipede, a movable bridge, or
the very many other principles and ideas to which Don Ippolito's cunning
hand had given shape, more or less imperfect. It seemed to him that
they all, however perfect or imperfect, had some fatal defect: they were
aspirations toward the impossible, or realizations of the trivial and
superfluous. Yet, for all this, they strongly appealed to the painter
as the stunted fruit of a talent denied opportunity, instruction, and
sympathy. As he looked from them at last to the questioning face of the
priest, and considered out of what disheartened and solitary patience
they must have come in this city,--dead hundreds of years to all such
endeavor,--he could not utter some glib phrases of compliment that
he had on his tongue. If Don Ippolito had been taken young, he might
perhaps have amounted to something, though this was questionable; but at
thirty--as he looked now,--with his undisciplined purposes, and his head
full of vagaries of which these things were the tangible witness....
Ferris let his eyes drop again. They fell upon the ruin of the
breech-loading cannon, and he said, "Don Ippolito, it's very good of
you to take the trouble of showing me these matters, and I hope you'll
pardon the ungrateful return, if I cannot offer any definite opinion of
them now. They are rather out of my way, I confess. I wish with all
my heart I could order an experimental, life-size copy of your
breech-loading cannon here, for trial by my government, but I can't;
and to tell you the truth, it was not altogether the wish to see these
inventions of yours that brought me here to-day."

"Oh," said Don Ippolito, with a mortified air, "I am afraid that I have
wearied the Signor Console."

"Not at all, not at all," Ferris made haste to answer, with a frown at
his own awkwardness. "But your speaking English yesterday; ...
perhaps what I was thinking of is quite foreign to your tastes and
possibilities."... He hesitated with a look of perplexity, while Don
Ippolito stood before him in an attitude of expectation, pressing the
points of his fingers together, and looking curiously into his face.
"The case is this," resumed Ferris desperately. "There are two American
ladies, friends of mine, sojourning in Venice, who expect to be here
till midsummer. They are mother and daughter, and the young lady wants
to read and speak Italian with somebody a few hours each day. The
question is whether it is quite out of your way or not to give her
lessons of this kind. I ask it quite at a venture. I suppose no harm
is done, at any rate," and he looked at Don Ippolito with apologetic
perturbation.

"No," said the priest, "there is no harm. On the contrary, I am at this
moment in a position to consider it a great favor that you do me in
offering me this employment. I accept it with the greatest pleasure.
Oh!" he cried, breaking by a sudden impulse from the composure with
which he had begun to speak, "you don't know what you do for me; you
lift me out of despair. Before you came, I had reached one of those
passes that seem the last bound of endeavor. But you give me new life.
Now I can go on with my experiment. I can at test my gratitude by
possessing your native country of the weapon I had designed for it--I am
sure of the principle: some slight improvement, perhaps the use of some
different explosive, would get over that difficulty you suggested," he
said eagerly. "Yes, something can be done. God bless you, my dear little
son--I mean--perdoni!--my dear sir."...

"Wait--not so fast," said Ferris with a laugh, yet a little annoyed that
a question so purely tentative as his should have met at once such a
definite response. "Are you quite sure you can do what they want?" He
unfolded to him, as fully as he understood it, Mrs. Vervain's scheme.

Don Ippolito entered into it with perfect intelligence. He said that he
had already had charge of the education of a young girl of noble family,
and he could therefore the more confidently hope to be useful to this
American lady. A light of joyful hope shone in his dreamy eyes, the
whole man changed, he assumed the hospitable and caressing host. He
conducted Ferris back to his parlor, and making him sit upon the hard
sofa that was his hard bed by night, he summoned his servant, and bade
her serve them coffee. She closed her lips firmly, and waved her finger
before her face, to signify that there was no more coffee. Then he
bade her fetch it from the caffè: and he listened with a sort of rapt
inattention while Ferris again returned to the subject and explained
that he had approached him without first informing the ladies, and that
he must regard nothing as final. It was at this point that Don Ippolito,
who had understood so clearly what Mrs. Vervain wanted, appeared a
little slow to understand; and Ferris had a doubt whether it was from
subtlety or from simplicity that the priest seemed not to comprehend
the impulse on which he had acted. He finished his coffee in this
perplexity, and when he rose to go, Don Ippolito followed him down to
the street-door, and preserved him from a second encounter with the
cistern-top.

"But, Don Ippolito--remember! I make no engagement for the ladies, whom
you must see before anything is settled," said Ferris.

"Surely,--surely!" answered the priest, and he remained smiling at the
door till the American turned the next corner. Then he went back to his
work-room, and took up the broken model from the bench. But he could not
work at it now, he could not work at anything; he began to walk up and
down the floor.

"Could he really have been so stupid because his mind was on his
ridiculous cannon?" wondered Ferris as he sauntered frowning away; and
he tried to prepare his own mind for his meeting with the Vervains, to
whom he must now go at once. He felt abused and victimized. Yet it was
an amusing experience, and he found himself able to interest both of
the ladies in it. The younger had received him as coldly as the forms
of greeting would allow; but as he talked she drew nearer him with a
reluctant haughtiness which he noted. He turned the more conspicuously
towards Mrs. Vervain. "Well, to make a long story short," he said, "I
couldn't discourage Don Ippolito. He refused to be dismayed--as I should
have been at the notion of teaching Miss Vervain. I didn't arrange
with him not to fall in love with her as his secular predecessors have
done--it seemed superfluous. But you can mention it to him if you like.
In fact," said Ferris, suddenly addressing the daughter, "you might make
the stipulation yourself, Miss Vervain."

She looked at him a moment with a sort of defenseless pain that made him
ashamed; and then walked away from him towards the window, with a frank
resentment that made him smile, as he continued, "But I suppose you
would like to have some explanation of my motive in precipitating Don
Ippolito upon you in this way, when I told you only yesterday that he
wouldn't do at all; in fact I think myself that I've behaved rather
fickle-mindedly--for a representative of the country. But I'll tell you;
and you won't be surprised to learn that I acted from mixed motives. I'm
not at all sure that he'll do; I've had awful misgivings about it since
I left him, and I'm glad of the chance to make a clean breast of it.
When I came to think the matter over last night, the fact that he
had taught himself English--with the help of an Irishman for the
pronunciation--seemed to promise that he'd have the right sort of
sympathy with your scheme, and it showed that he must have something
practical about him, too. And here's where the selfish admixture comes
in. I didn't have your interests solely in mind when I went to see Don
Ippolito. I hadn't been able to get rid of him; he stuck in my thought.
I fancied he might be glad of the pay of a teacher, and--I had half a
notion to ask him to let me paint him. It was an even chance whether I
should try to secure him for Miss Vervain, or for Art--as they call it.
Miss Vervain won because she could pay him, and I didn't see how Art
could. I can bring him round any time; and that's the whole inconsequent
business. My consolation is that I've left you perfectly free. There's
nothing decided."

"Thanks," said Mrs. Vervain; "then it's all settled. You can bring him
as soon as you like, to our new place. We've taken that apartment we
looked at the other day, and we're going into it this afternoon. Here's
the landlord's letter," she added, drawing a paper out of her pocket.
"If he's cheated us, I suppose you can see justice done. I didn't want
to trouble you before."

"You're a woman of business, Mrs. Vervain," said Ferris. "The man's a
perfect Jew--or a perfect Christian, one ought to say in Venice; we true
believers do gouge so much, more infamously here--and you let him get
you in black and white before you come to me. Well," he continued, as
he glanced at the paper, "you've done it! He makes you pay one half too
much. However, it's cheap enough; twice as cheap as your hotel."

"But I don't care for cheapness. I hate to be imposed upon. What's to be
done about it?"

"Nothing; if he has your letter as you have his. It's a bargain, and you
must stand to it."

"A bargain? Oh nonsense, now, Mr. Ferris. This is merely a note of
mutual understanding."

"Yes, that's one way of looking at it. The Civil Tribunal would call
it a binding agreement of the closest tenure,--if you want to go to law
about it."

"I _will_ go to law about it."

"Oh no, you won't--unless you mean to spend your remaining days and all
your substance in Venice. Come, you haven't done so badly, Mrs. Vervain.
I don't call four rooms, completely furnished for housekeeping, with
that lovely garden, at all dear at eleven francs a day. Besides, the
landlord is a man of excellent feeling, sympathetic and obliging, and
a perfect gentleman, though he is such an outrageous scoundrel. He'll
cheat you, of course, in whatever he can; you must look out for that;
but he'll do you any sort of little neighborly kindness. Good-by," said
Ferris, getting to the door before Mrs. Vervain could intercept him.
"I'll come to your new place this evening to see how you are pleased."

"Florida," said Mrs. Vervain, "this is outrageous."

"I wouldn't mind it, mother. We pay very little, after all."

"Yes, but we pay too much. That's what I can't bear. And as you said
yesterday, I don't think Mr. Ferris's manners are quite respectful to
me."

"He only told you the truth; I think he advised you for the best. The
matter couldn't be helped now."

"But I call it a want of feeling to speak the truth so bluntly."

"We won't have to complain of that in our landlord, it seems," said
Florida. "Perhaps not in our priest, either," she added.

"Yes, that _was_ kind of Mr. Ferris," said Mrs. Vervain. "It was
thoroughly thoughtful and considerate--what I call an instance of true
delicacy. I'm really quite curious to see him. Don Ippolito! How very
odd to call a priest _Don_! I should have said Padre. Don always makes
you think of a Spanish cavalier. Don Rodrigo: something like that."

They went on to talk, desultorily, of Don Ippolito, and what he might
be like. In speaking of him the day before, Ferris had hinted at some
mysterious sadness in him; and to hint of sadness in a man always
interests women in him, whether they are old or young: the old have
suffered, the young forebode suffering. Their interest in Don Ippolito
had not been diminished by what Ferris had told them of his visit to the
priest's house and of the things he had seen there; for there had
always been the same strain of pity in his laughing account, and he had
imparted none of his doubts to them. They did not talk as if it were
strange that Ferris should do to-day what he had yesterday said he would
not do; perhaps as women they could not find such a thing strange; but
it vexed him more and more as he went about all afternoon thinking of
his inconsistency, and wondering whether he had not acted rashly.



IV.


The palace in which Mrs. Vervain had taken an apartment fronted on a
broad campo, and hung its empty marble balconies from gothic windows
above a silence scarcely to be matched elsewhere in Venice. The local
pharmacy, the caffè, the grocery, the fruiterer's, the other shops with
which every Venetian campo is furnished, had each a certain life about
it, but it was a silent life, and at midday a frowsy-headed woman
clacking across the flags in her wooden-heeled shoes made echoes whose
garrulity was interrupted by no other sound. In the early morning, when
the lid of the public cistern in the centre of the campo was unlocked,
there was a clamor of voices and a clangor of copper vessels, as the
housewives of the neighborhood and the local force of strong-backed
Frinlan water-girls drew their day's supply of water; and on that sort
of special parochial holiday, called a _sagra_, the campo hummed and
clattered and shrieked with a multitude celebrating the day around the
stands where pumpkin seeds and roast pumpkin and anisette-water were
sold, and before the movable kitchen where cakes were fried in caldrons
of oil, and uproariously offered to the crowd by the cook, who did
not suffer himself to be embarrassed by the rival drama of adjoining
puppet-shows, but continued to bellow forth his bargains all day long
and far into the night, when the flames under his kettles painted his
visage a fine crimson. The sagra once over, however, the campo relapsed
into its habitual silence, and no one looking at the front of the palace
would have thought of it as a place for distraction-seeking foreign
sojourners. But it was not on this side that the landlord tempted his
tenants; his principal notice of lodgings to let was affixed to the
water-gate of the palace, which opened on a smaller channel so near the
Grand Canal that no wandering eye could fail to see it. The portal was a
tall arch of Venetian gothic tipped with a carven flame; steps of white
Istrian stone descended to the level of the lowest ebb, irregularly
embossed with barnacles, and dabbling long fringes of soft green
sea-mosses in the rising and falling tide. Swarms of water-bugs and
beetles played over the edges of the steps, and crabs scuttled side-wise
into deeper water at the approach of a gondola. A length of stone-capped
brick wall, to which patches of stucco still clung, stretched from the
gate on either hand under cover of an ivy that flung its mesh of shining
green from within, where there lurked a lovely garden, stately, spacious
for Venice, and full of a delicious, half-sad surprise for whoso opened
upon it. In the midst it had a broken fountain, with a marble naiad
standing on a shell, and looking saucier than the sculptor meant, from
having lost the point of her nose, nymphs and fauns, and shepherds and
shepherdesses, her kinsfolk, coquetted in and out among the greenery
in flirtation not to be embarrassed by the fracture of an arm, or the
casting of a leg or so; one lady had no head, but she was the boldest
of all. In this garden there were some mulberry and pomegranate trees,
several of which hung about the fountain with seats in their shade, and
for the rest there seemed to be mostly roses and oleanders, with other
shrubs of a kind that made the greatest show of blossom and cost the
least for tendance. A wide terrace stretched across the rear of the
palace, dropping to the garden path by a flight of balustraded steps,
and upon this terrace opened the long windows of Mrs. Vervain's parlor
and dining-room. Her landlord owned only the first story and the
basement of the palace, in some corner of which he cowered with his
servants, his taste for pictures and _bric-à-brac_, and his little
branch of inquiry into Venetian history, whatever it was, ready to
let himself or anything he had for hire at a moment's notice, but very
pleasant, gentle, and unobtrusive; a cheat and a liar, but of a kind
heart and sympathetic manners. Under his protection Mrs. Vervain set up
her impermanent household gods. The apartment was taken only from week
to week, and as she freely explained to the _padrone_ hovering about
with offers of service, she knew herself too well ever to unpack
anything that would not spoil by remaining packed. She made her trunks
yield all the appliances necessary for an invalid's comfort, and then
left them in a state to be strapped and transported to the station
within half a day after the desire of change or the exigencies of
her feeble health caused her going. Everything for housekeeping
was furnished with the rooms. There was a gondolier and a sort of
house-servant in the employ of the landlord, of whom Mrs. Vervain hired
them, and she caressingly dismissed the padrone at an early moment after
her arrival, with the charge to find a maid for herself and daughter.
As if she had been waiting at the next door this maid appeared promptly,
and being Venetian, and in domestic service, her name was of course
Nina. Mrs. Vervain now said to Florida that everything was perfect, and
contentedly began her life in Venice by telling Mr. Ferris, when he
came in the evening, that he could bring Don Ippolito the day after the
morrow, if he liked.

She and Florida sat on the terrace waiting for them on the morning
named, when Ferris, with the priest in his clerical best, came up
the garden path in the sunny light. Don Ippolito's best was a little
poverty-stricken; he had faltered a while, before leaving home, over
the sad choice between a shabby cylinder hat of obsolete fashion and
his well-worn three-cornered priestly beaver, and had at last put on the
latter with a sigh. He had made his servant polish the buckles of his
shoes, and instead of a band of linen round his throat, he wore a strip
of cloth covered with small white beads, edged above and below with a
single row of pale blue ones.

As he mounted the steps with Ferris, Mrs. Vervain came forward a little
to meet them, while Florida rose and stood beside her chair in a sort of
proud suspense and timidity. The elder lady was in that black from which
she had so seldom been able to escape; but the daughter wore a dress
of delicate green, in which she seemed a part of the young season that
everywhere clothed itself in the same tint. The sunlight fell upon
her blonde hair, melting into its light gold; her level brows frowned
somewhat with the glance of scrutiny which she gave the dark young
priest, who was making his stately bow to her mother, and trying to
answer her English greetings in the same tongue.

"My daughter," said Mrs. Vervain, and Don Ippolito made another low bow,
and then looked at the girl with a sort of frank and melancholy wonder,
as she turned and exchanged a few words with Ferris, who was assailing
her seriousness and hauteur with unabashed levity of compliment. A quick
light flashed and fled in her cheek as she talked, and the fringes of
her serious, asking eyes swept slowly up and down as she bent them upon
him a moment before she broke abruptly, not coquettishly, away from him,
and moved towards her mother, while Ferris walked off to the other end
of the terrace, with a laugh. Mrs. Vervain and the priest were trying
each other in French, and not making great advance; he explained to
Florida in Italian, and she answered him hesitatingly; whereupon he
praised her Italian in set phrase.

"Thank you," said the girl sincerely, "I have tried to learn. I hope,"
she added as before, "you can make me see how little I know." The
deprecating wave of the hand with which Don Ippolito appealed to her
from herself, seemed arrested midway by his perception of some novel
quality in her. He said gravely that he should try to be of use, and
then the two stood silent.

"Come, Mr. Ferris," called out Mrs. Vervain, "breakfast is ready, and I
want you to take me in."

"Too much honor," said the painter, coming forward and offering his arm,
and Mrs. Vervain led the way indoors.

"I suppose I ought to have taken Don Ippolito's arm," she confided in
under-tone, "but the fact is, our French is so unlike that we don't
understand each other very well."

"Oh," returned Ferris, "I've known Italians and Americans whom Frenchmen
themselves couldn't understand."

"You see it's an American breakfast," said Mrs. Vervain with a critical
glance at the table before she sat down. "All but hot bread; _that_
you _can't_ have," and Don Ippolito was for the first time in his life
confronted by a breakfast of hot beef-steak, eggs and toast, fried
potatoes, and coffee with milk, with a choice of tea. He subdued all
signs of the wonder he must have felt, and beyond cutting his meat into
little bits before eating it, did nothing to betray his strangeness to
the feast.

The breakfast had passed off very pleasantly, with occasional lapses.
"We break down under the burden of so many languages," said Ferris. "It
is an _embarras de richesses_. Let us fix upon a common maccheronic. May
I trouble you for a poco piú di sugar dans mon café, Mrs. Vervain? What
do you think of the bellazza de ce weather magnifique, Don Ippolito?"

"How ridiculous!" said Mrs. Vervain in a tone of fond admiration aside
to Don Ippolito, who smiled, but shrank from contributing to the new
tongue.

"Very well, then," said the painter. "I shall stick to my native
Bergamask for the future; and Don Ippolito may translate for the foreign
ladies."

He ended by speaking English with everybody; Don Ippolito eked out his
speeches to Mrs. Vervain in that tongue with a little French; Florida,
conscious of Ferris's ironical observance, used an embarrassed but
defiant Italian with the priest.

"I'm so pleased!" said Mrs. Vervain, rising when Ferris said that he
must go, and Florida shook hands with both guests.

"Thank you, Mrs. Vervain; I could have gone before, if I'd thought you
would have liked it," answered the painter.

"Oh nonsense, now," returned the lady. "You know what I mean. I'm
perfectly delighted with him," she continued, getting Ferris to one
side, "and I _know_ he must have a good accent. So very kind of you.
Will you arrange with him about the pay?--such a _shame_! Thanks. Then
I needn't say anything to him about that. I'm so glad I had him to
breakfast the first day; though Florida thought not. Of course, one
needn't keep it up. But seriously, it isn't an ordinary case, you know."

Ferris laughed at her with a sort of affectionate disrespect, and said
good-by. Don Ippolito lingered for a while to talk over the proposed
lessons, and then went, after more elaborate adieux. Mrs. Vervain
remained thoughtful a moment before she said:--

"That was rather droll, Florida."

"What, mother?"

"His cutting his meat into small bites, before he began to eat. But
perhaps it's the Venetian custom. At any rate, my dear, he's a gentleman
in virtue of his profession, and I couldn't do less than ask him to
breakfast. He has beautiful manners; and if he must take snuff, I
suppose it's neater to carry two handkerchiefs, though it does look odd.
I wish he wouldn't take snuff."

"I don't see why we need care, mother. At any fate, we cannot help it."

"That's true, my dear. And his nails. Now when they're spread out on a
book, you know, to keep it open,--won't it be unpleasant?"

"They seem to have just such fingernails all over Europe--except in
England."

"Oh, yes; I know it. I dare say we shouldn't care for it in him, if he
didn't seem so very nice otherwise. How handsome he is!"



V.


It was understood that Don Ippolito should come every morning at ten
o'clock, and read and talk with Miss Vervain for an hour or two; but
Mrs. Vervain's hospitality was too aggressive for the letter of the
agreement. She oftener had him to breakfast at nine, for, as she
explained to Ferris, she could not endure to have him feel that it was a
mere mercenary transaction, and there was no limit fixed for the lessons
on these days. When she could, she had Ferris come, too, and she missed
him when he did not come. "I like that bluntness of his," she professed
to her daughter, "and I don't mind his making light of me. You are so
apt to be heavy if you're not made light of occasionally. I certainly
shouldn't want a _son_ to be so respectful and obedient as you are, my
dear."

The painter honestly returned her fondness, and with not much greater
reason. He saw that she took pleasure in his talk, and enjoyed it even
when she did not understand it; and this is a kind of flattery not easy
to resist. Besides, there was very little ladies' society in Venice in
those times, and Ferris, after trying the little he could get at, had
gladly denied himself its pleasures, and consorted with the young men he
met at the caffè's, or in the Piazza. But when the Vervains came,
they recalled to him the younger days in which he had delighted in the
companionship of women. After so long disuse, it was charming to be with
a beautiful girl who neither regarded him with distrust nor expected him
to ask her in marriage because he sat alone with her, rode out with her
in a gondola, walked with her, read with her. All young men like a house
in which no ado is made about their coming and going, and Mrs. Vervain
perfectly understood the art of letting him make himself at home.
He perceived with amusement that this amiable lady, who never did an
ungraceful thing nor wittingly said an ungracious one, was very much of
a Bohemian at heart,--the gentlest and most blameless of the tribe,
but still lawless,--whether from her campaigning married life, or the
rovings of her widowhood, or by natural disposition; and that Miss
Vervain was inclined to be conventionally strict, but with her irregular
training was at a loss for rules by which to check her mother's little
waywardnesses. Her anxious perplexity, at times, together with her
heroic obedience and unswerving loyalty to her mother had something
pathetic as well as amusing in it. He saw her tried almost to tears by
her mother's helpless frankness,--for Mrs. Vervain was apparently one of
those ladies whom the intolerable surprise of having anything come into
their heads causes instantly to say or do it,--and he observed that she
never tried to pass off her endurance with any feminine arts; but seemed
to defy him to think what he would of it. Perhaps she was not able to
do otherwise: he thought of her at times as a person wholly abandoned to
the truth. Her pride was on the alert against him; she may have imagined
that he was covertly smiling at her, and she no doubt tasted the
ironical flavor of much of his talk and behavior, for in those days he
liked to qualify his devotion to the Vervains with a certain nonchalant
slight, which, while the mother openly enjoyed it, filled the daughter
with anger and apprehension. Quite at random, she visited points of his
informal manner with unmeasured reprisal; others, for which he might
have blamed himself, she passed over with strange caprice. Sometimes
this attitude of hers provoked him, and sometimes it disarmed him; but
whether they were at feud, or keeping an armed truce, or, as now
and then happened, were in an _entente cordiale_ which he found very
charming, the thing that he always contrived to treat with silent
respect and forbearance in Miss Vervain was that sort of aggressive
tenderness with which she hastened to shield the foibles of her mother.
That was something very good in her pride, he finally decided. At
the same time, he did not pretend to understand the curious filial
self-sacrifice which it involved.

Another thing in her that puzzled him was her devoutness. Mrs. Vervain
could with difficulty be got to church, but her daughter missed no
service of the English ritual in the old palace where the British and
American tourists assembled once a week with their guide-books in one
pocket and their prayer-books in the other, and buried the tomahawk
under the altar. Mr. Ferris was often sent with her; and then his
thoughts, which were a young man's, wandered from the service to the
beautiful girl at his side,--the golden head that punctiliously bowed
itself at the proper places in the liturgy: the full lips that murmured
the responses; the silken lashes that swept her pale cheeks as
she perused the morning lesson. He knew that the Vervains were not
Episcopalians when at home, for Mrs. Vervain had told him so, and that
Florida went to the English service because there was no other. He
conjectured that perhaps her touch of ritualism came from mere love of
any form she could make sure of.

The servants in Mrs. Vervain's lightly ordered household, with the
sympathetic quickness of the Italians, learned to use him as the next
friend of the family, and though they may have had their decorous
surprise at his untrammeled footing, they probably excused the whole
relation as a phase of that foreign eccentricity to which their nation
is so amiable. If they were not able to cast the same mantle of charity
over Don Ippolito's allegiance,--and doubtless they had their reserves
concerning such frankly familiar treatment of so dubious a character as
priest,--still as a priest they stood somewhat in awe of him; they had
the spontaneous loyalty of their race to the people they served, and
they never intimated by a look that they found it strange when Don
Ippolito freely came and went. Mrs. Vervain had quite adopted him into
her family; while her daughter seemed more at ease with him than with
Ferris, and treated him with a grave politeness which had something also
of compassion and of child-like reverence in it. Ferris observed that
she was always particularly careful of his supposable sensibilities as
a Roman Catholic, and that the priest was oddly indifferent to this
deference, as if it would have mattered very little to him whether
his church was spared or not. He had a way of lightly avoiding, Ferris
fancied, not only religious points on which they could disagree, but
all phases of religion as matters of indifference. At such times Miss
Vervain relaxed her reverential attitude, and used him with something
like rebuke, as if it did not please her to have the representative of
even an alien religion slight his office; as if her respect were for his
priesthood and her compassion for him personally. That was rather hard
for Don Ippolito, Ferris thought, and waited to see him snubbed outright
some day, when he should behave without sufficient gravity.

The blossoms came and went upon the pomegranate and almond trees in the
garden, and some of the earliest roses were in their prime; everywhere
was so full leaf that the wantonest of the strutting nymphs was forced
into a sort of decent seclusion, but the careless naiad of the fountain
burnt in sunlight that subtly increased its fervors day by day, and it
was no longer beginning to be warm, it was warm, when one morning
Ferris and Miss Vervain sat on the steps of the terrace, waiting for Don
Ippolito to join them at breakfast.

By this time the painter was well on with the picture of Don Ippolito
which the first sight of the priest had given him a longing to paint,
and he had been just now talking of it with Miss Vervain.

"But why do you paint him simply as a priest?" she asked. "I should
think you would want to make him the centre of some famous or romantic
scene," she added, gravely looking into his eyes as he sat with his head
thrown back against the balustrade.

"No, I doubt if you _think_," answered Ferris, "or you'd see that a
Venetian priest doesn't need any tawdry accessories. What do you want?
Somebody administering the extreme unction to a victim of the Council of
Ten? A priest stepping into a confessional at the Frari--tomb of Canova
in the distance, perspective of one of the naves, and so forth--with his
eye on a pretty devotee coming up to unburden her conscience? I've no
patience with the follies people, think and say about Venice!"

Florida stared in haughty question at the painter.

"You're no worse than the rest," he continued with indifference to her
anger at his bluntness. "You all think that there can be no picture of
Venice without a gondola or a Bridge of Sighs in it. Have you ever read
the Merchant of Venice, or Othello? There isn't a boat nor a bridge nor
a canal mentioned in either of them; and yet they breathe and pulsate
with the very life of Venice. I'm going to try to paint a Venetian
priest so that you'll know him without a bit of conventional Venice near
him."

"It was Shakespeare who wrote those plays," said Florida. Ferris bowed
in mock suffering from her sarcasm. "You'd better have some sort of
symbol in your picture of a Venetian priest, or people will wonder why
you came so far to paint Father O'Brien."

"I don't say I shall succeed," Ferris answered. "In fact I've made one
failure already, and I'm pretty well on with a second; but the principle
is right, all the same. I don't expect everybody to see the difference
between Don Ippolito and Father O'Brien. At any rate, what I'm going to
paint _at_ is the lingering pagan in the man, the renunciation first of
the inherited nature, and then of a personality that would have enjoyed
the world. I want to show that baffled aspiration, apathetic despair,
and rebellious longing which you caten in his face When he's off his
guard, and that suppressed look which is the characteristic expression
of all Austrian Venice. Then," said Ferris laughing, "T must work in
that small suspicion of Jesuit which there is in every priest. But it's
quite possible I may make a Father O'Brien of him."

"You won't make a Don Ippolito of him," said Florida, after serious
consideration of his face to see whether he was quite in earnest, "if
you put all that into him. He has the simplest and openest look in the
world," she added warmly, "and there's neither pagan, nor martyr, nor
rebel in it."

Ferris laughed again. "Excuse me; I don't think you know. I can convince
you."...

Florida rose, and looking down the garden path said, "He's coming;"
and as Don Ippolito drew near, his face lighting up with a joyous and
innocent smile, she continued absently, "he's got on new stockings, and
a different coat and hat."

The stockings were indeed new and the hat was not the accustomed
_nicchio_, but a new silk cylinder with a very worldly, curling brim.
Don Ippolito's coat, also, was of a more mundane cut than the talare;
he wore a waistcoat and small-clothes, meeting the stockings at the knee
with a sprightly buckle. His person showed no traces of the snuff with
which it used to be so plentifully dusted; in fact, he no longer took
snuff in the presence of the ladies. The first week he had noted an
inexplicable uneasiness in them when he drew forth that blue cotton
handkerchief after the solace of a pinch shortly afterwards, being alone
with Florida, he saw her give a nervous start at its appearance. He
blushed violently, and put it back into the pocket from which he had
half drawn it, and whence it never emerged again in her presence. The
contessina his former pupil had not shown any aversion to Don Ippolito's
snuff or his blue handkerchief; but then the contessina had never
rebuked his finger-nails by the tints of rose and ivory with which Miss
Vervain's hands bewildered him. It was a little droll how anxiously he
studied the ways of these Americans, and conformed to them as far as
he knew. His English grew rapidly in their society, and it happened
sometimes that the only Italian in the day's lesson was what he read
with Florida, for she always yielded to her mother's wish to talk,
and Mrs. Vervain preferred the ease of her native tongue. He was
Americanizing in that good lady's hands as fast as she could transform
him, and he listened to her with trustful reverence, as to a woman of
striking though eccentric mind. Yet he seemed finally to refer every
point to Florida, as if with an intuition of steadier and stronger
character in her; and now, as he ascended the terrace steps in his
modified costume, he looked intently at her. She swept him from head
to foot with a glance, and then gravely welcomed him with unchanged
countenance.

At the same moment Mrs. Vervain came out through one of the long
windows, and adjusting her glasses, said with a start, "Why, my dear Don
Ippolito, I shouldn't have known you!"

"Indeed, madama?" asked the priest--with a painful smile. "Is it so
great a change? We can wear this dress as well as the other, if we
please."

"Why, of course it's very becoming and all that; but it does look so out
of character," Mrs. Vervain said, leading the way to the breakfast-room.
"It's like seeing a military man in a civil coat."

"It must be a great relief to lay aside the uniform now and then,
mother," said Florida, as they sat down. "I can remember that papa used
to be glad to get out of his."

"Perfectly wild," assented Mrs. Vervain. "But he never seemed the same
person. Soldiers and--clergymen--are so much more stylish in their own
dress--not stylish, exactly, but taking; don't you know?"

"There, Don Ippolito," interposed Ferris, "you had better put on your
talare and your nicchio again. Your _abbate's_ dress isn't acceptable,
you see."

The painter spoke in Italian, but Don Ippolito answered--with certain
blunders which it would be tedious to reproduce--in his patient,
conscientious English, half sadly, half playfully, and glancing at
Florida, before he turned to Mrs. Vervain, "You are as rigid as the rest
of the world, madama. I thought you would like this dress, but it seems
that you think it a masquerade. As madamigella says, it is a relief
to lay aside the uniform, now and then, for us who fight the spiritual
enemies as well as for the other soldiers. There was one time, when I
was younger and in the subdiaconate orders, that I put off the priest's
dress altogether, and wore citizen's clothes, not an abbate's suit like
this. We were in Padua, another young priest and I, my nearest and only
friend, and for a whole night we walked about the streets in that dress,
meeting the students, as they strolled singing through the moonlight;
we went to the theatre and to the caffè,--we smoked cigars, all the time
laughing and trembling to think of the tonsure under our hats. But
in the morning we had to put on the stockings and the talare and the
nicchio again."

Don Ippolito gave a melancholy laugh. He had thrust the corner of his
napkin into his collar; seeing that Ferris had not his so, he twitched
it out, and made a feint of its having been all the time in his lap.
Every one was silent as if something shocking had been said; Florida
looked with grave rebuke at Don Ippolito, whose story affected Ferris
like that of some girl's adventure in men's clothes. He was in terror
lest Mrs. Vervain should be going to say it was like that; she was going
to say something; he made haste to forestall her, and turn the talk on
other things.

The next day the priest came in his usual dress, and he did not again
try to escape from it.



VI.


One afternoon, as Don Ippolito was posing to Perris for his picture of
A Venetian Priest, the painter asked, to make talk, "Have you hit upon
that new explosive yet, which is to utilize your breech-loading cannon?
Or are you engaged upon something altogether new?"

"No," answered the other uneasily, "I have not touched the cannon since
that day you saw it at my house; and as for other things, I have not
been able to put my mind to them. I have made a few trifles which I have
ventured to offer the ladies."

Ferris had noticed the ingenious reading-desk which Don Ippolito had
presented to Florida, and the footstool, contrived with springs
and hinges so that it would fold up into the compass of an ordinary
portfolio, which Mrs. Vervain carried about with her.

An odd look, which the painter caught at and missed, came into the
priest's face, as he resumed: "I suppose it is the distraction of my new
occupation, and of the new acquaintances--so very strange to me in every
way--that I have made in your amiable country-women, which hinders me
from going about anything in earnest, now that their munificence has
enabled me to pursue my aims with greater advantages than ever before.
But this idle mood will pass, and in the mean time I am very happy. They
are real angels, and madama is a true original."

"Mrs. Vervain is rather peculiar," said the painter, retiring a few
paces from his picture, and quizzing it through his half-closed eyes.
"She is a woman who has had affliction enough to turn a stronger head
than hers could ever have been," he added kindly. "But she has the
best heart in the world. In fact," he burst forth, "she is the most
extraordinary combination of perfect fool and perfect lady I ever saw."

"Excuse me; I don't understand," blankly faltered Don Ippolito.

"No; and I'm afraid I couldn't explain to you," answered Ferris.

There was a silence for a time, broken at last by Don Ippolito, who
asked, "Why do you not marry madamigella?"

He seemed not to feel that there was anything out of the way in the
question, and Ferris was too well used to the childlike directness of
the most maneuvering of races to be surprised. Yet he was displeased, as
he would not have been if Don Ippolito were not a priest. He was not
of the type of priests whom the American knew from the prejudice and
distrust of the Italians; he was alienated from his clerical fellows by
all the objects of his life, and by a reciprocal dislike. About other
priests there were various scandals; but Don Ippolito was like that
pretty match-girl of the Piazza of whom it was Venetianly answered, when
one asked if so sweet a face were not innocent, "Oh yes, she is mad!"
He was of a purity so blameless that he was reputed crack-brained by the
caffè-gossip that in Venice turns its searching light upon whomever you
mention; and from his own association with the man Ferris perceived
in him an apparent single-heartedness such as no man can have but the
rarest of Italians. He was the albino of his species; a gray crow, a
white fly; he was really this, or he knew how to seem it with an art far
beyond any common deceit. It was the half expectation of coming sometime
upon the lurking duplicity in Don Ippolito, that continually enfeebled
the painter in his attempts to portray his Venetian priest, and that
gave its undecided, unsatisfactory character to the picture before
him--its weak hardness, its provoking superficiality. He expressed the
traits of melancholy and loss that he imagined in him, yet he always was
tempted to leave the picture with a touch of something sinister in it,
some airy and subtle shadow of selfish design.

He stared hard at Don Ippolito while this perplexity filled his mind,
for the hundredth time; then he said stiffly, "I don't know. I don't
want to marry anybody. Besides," he added, relaxing into a smile of
helpless amusement, "it's possible that Miss Vervain might not want to
marry me."

"As to that," replied Don Ippolito, "you never can tell. All young girls
desire to be married, I suppose," he continued with a sigh. "She is very
beautiful, is she not? It is seldom that we see such a blonde in Italy.
Our blondes are dark; they have auburn hair and blue eyes, but their
complexions are thick. Miss Vervain is blonde as the morning light; the
sun's gold is in her hair, his noonday whiteness in her dazzling throat;
the flush of his coming is on her lips; she might utter the dawn!"

"You're a poet, Don Ippolito," laughed the painter. "What property of
the sun is in her angry-looking eyes?"

"His fire! Ah, that is her greatest charm! Those strange eyes of hers,
they seem full of tragedies. She looks made to be the heroine of some
stormy romance; and yet how simply patient and good she is!"

"Yes," said Ferris, who often responded in English to the priest's
Italian; and he added half musingly in his own tongue, after a moment,
"but I don't think it would be safe to count upon her. I'm afraid she
has a bad temper. At any rate, I always expect to see smoke somewhere
when I look at those eyes of hers. She has wonderful self-control,
however; and I don't exactly understand why. Perhaps people of strong
impulses have strong wills to overrule them; it seems no more than
fair."

"Is it the custom," asked Don Ippolito, after a moment, "for the
American young ladies always to address their mammas as _mother_?"

"No; that seems to be a peculiarity of Miss Vervain's. It's a little
formality that I should say served to hold Mrs. Vervain in check."

"Do you mean that it repulses her?"

"Not at all. I don't think I could explain," said Ferris with a certain
air of regretting to have gone so far in comment on the Vervains. He
added recklessly, "Don't you see that Mrs. Vervain sometimes does and
says things that embarrass her daughter, and that Miss Vervain seems to
try to restrain her?"

"I thought," returned Don Ippolito meditatively, "that the signorina was
always very tenderly submissive to her mother."

"Yes, so she is," said the painter dryly, and looked in annoyance from
the priest to the picture, and from the picture to the priest.

After a minute Don Ippolito said, "They must be very rich to live as
they do."

"I don't know about that," replied Ferris. "Americans spend and save in
ways different from the Italians. I dare say the Vervains find Venice
very cheap after London and Paris and Berlin."

"Perhaps," said Don Ippolito, "if they were rich you would be in a
position to marry her."

"I should not marry Miss Vervain for her money," answered the painter,
sharply.

"No, but if you loved her, the money would enable you to marry her."

"Listen to me, Don Ippolito. I never said that I loved Miss Vervain, and
I don't know how you feel warranted in speaking to me about the matter.
Why do you do so?"

"I? Why? I could not but imagine that you must love her. Is there
anything wrong in speaking of such things? Is it contrary to the
American custom? I ask pardon from my heart if I have done anything
amiss."

"There is no offense," said the painter, with a laugh, "and I don't
wonder you thought I ought to be in love with Miss Vervain. She _is_
beautiful, and I believe she's good. But if men had to marry because
women were beautiful and good, there isn't one of us could live single a
day. Besides, I'm the victim of another passion,--I'm laboring under an
unrequited affection for Art."

"Then you do _not_ love her?" asked Don Ippolito, eagerly.

"So far as I'm advised at present, no, I don't."

"It is strange!" said the priest, absently, but with a glowing face.

He quitted the painter's and walked swiftly homeward with a triumphant
buoyancy of step. A subtle content diffused itself over his face, and
a joyful light burnt in his deep eyes. He sat down before the piano and
organ as he had arranged them, and began to strike their keys in unison;
this seemed to him for the first time childish. Then he played some
lively bars on the piano alone; they sounded too light and trivial, and
he turned to the other instrument. As the plaint of the reeds arose, it
filled his sense like a solemn organ-music, and transfigured the place;
the notes swelled to the ample vault of a church, and at the high altar
he was celebrating the mass in his sacerdotal robes. He suddenly caught
his fingers away from the keys; his breast heaved, he hid his face in
his hands.



VII.


Ferris stood cleaning his palette, after Don Ippolito was gone, scraping
the colors together with his knife and neatly buttering them on the
palette's edge, while he wondered what the priest meant by pumping him
in that way. Nothing, he supposed, and yet it was odd. Of course she had
a bad temper....

He put on his hat and coat and strolled vaguely forth, and in an hour or
two came by a roundabout course to the gondola station nearest his own
house. There he stopped, and after an absent contemplation of the boats,
from which the gondoliers were clamoring for his custom, he stepped into
one and ordered the man to row him to a gate on a small canal opposite.
The gate opened, at his ringing, into the garden of the Vervains.

Florida was sitting alone on a bench near the fountain. It was no longer
a ruined fountain; the broken-nosed naiad held a pipe above her head,
and from this rose a willowy spray high enough to catch some colors
of the sunset then striking into the garden, and fell again in a mist
around her, making her almost modest.

"What does this mean?" asked Ferris, carelessly taking the young girl's
hand. "I thought this lady's occupation was gone."

"Don Ippolito repaired the fountain for the landlord, and he agreed
to pay for filling the tank that feeds it," said Florida. "He seems to
think it a hard bargain, for he only lets it play about half an hour
a day. But he says it's very ingeniously mended. He didn't believe it
could be done. It _is_ pretty.

"It is, indeed," said the painter, with a singular desire, going through
him like a pang, likewise to do something for Miss Vervain. "Did you go
to Don Ippolito's house the other day, to see his traps?"

"Yes; we were very much interested. I was sorry that I knew so little
about inventions. Do you think there are many practical ideas amongst
his things? I hope there are--he seemed so proud and pleased to show
them. Shouldn't you think he had some real inventive talent?"

"Yes, I think he has; but I know as little about the matter as you do."
He sat down beside her, and picking up a twig from the gravel, pulled
the bark off in silence. Then, "Miss Vervain," he said, knitting his
brows, as he always did when he had something on his conscience and
meant to ease it at any cost, "I'm the dog that fetches a bone and
carries a bone; I talked Don Ippolito over with you, the other day, and
now I've been talking you over with him. But I've the grace to say that
I'm ashamed of myself."

"Why need you be ashamed?" asked Florida. "You said no harm of him. Did
you of us?"

"Not exactly; but I don't think it was quite my business to discuss you
at all. I think you can't let people alone too much. For my part, if I
try to characterize my friends, I fail to do them perfect justice, of
course; and yet the imperfect result remains representative of them in
my mind; it limits them and fixes them; and I can't get them back again
into the undefined and the ideal where they really belong. One ought
never to speak of the faults of one's friends: it mutilates them; they
can never be the same afterwards."

"So you have been talking of my faults," said Florida, breathing
quickly. "Perhaps you could tell me of them to my face."

"I should have to say that unfairness was one of them. But that is
common to the whole sex. I never said I was talking of your faults. I
declared against doing so, and you immediately infer that my motive is
remorse. I don't know that you have any faults. They may be virtues in
disguise. There is a charm even in unfairness. Well, I did Bay that I
thought you had a quick temper,"--

Florida colored violently.

--"but now I see that I was mistaken," said Ferris with a laugh.

"May I ask what else you said?" demanded the young girl haughtily.

"Oh, that would be a betrayal of confidence," said Ferris, unaffected by
her hauteur.

"Then why have you mentioned the matter to me at all?"

"I wanted to clear my conscience, I suppose, and sin again. I wanted to
talk with you about Don Ippolito."

Florida looked with perplexity at Ferris's face, while her own slowly
cooled and paled.

"What did you want to say of him?" she asked calmly.

"I hardly know how to put it: that he puzzles me, to begin with. You
know I feel somewhat responsible for him."

"Yes."

"Of course, I never should have thought of him, if it hadn't been for
your mother's talk that morning coming back from San Lazzaro."

"I know," said Florida, with a faint blush.

"And yet, don't you see, it was as much a fancy of mine, a weakness for
the man himself, as the desire to serve your mother, that prompted me to
bring him to you."

"Yes, I see," answered the young girl.

"I acted in the teeth of a bitter Venetian prejudice against priests.
All my friends here--they're mostly young men with the modern Italian
ideas, or old liberals--hate and despise the priests They believe
that priests are full of guile and deceit, that they are spies for the
Austrians, and altogether evil."

"Don Ippolito is welcome to report our most secret thoughts to the
police," said Florida, whose look of rising alarm relaxed into a smile.

"Oh," cried the painter, "how you leap to conclusions! I never intimated
that Don Ippolito was a spy. On the contrary, it was his difference from
other priests that made me think of him for a moment. He seems to be as
much cut off from the church as from the world. And yet he is a priest,
with a priest's education. What if I should have been altogether
mistaken? He is either one of the openest souls in the world, as you
have insisted, or he is one of the closest."

"I should not be afraid of him in any case," said Florida; "but I can't
believe any wrong of him."

Ferris frowned in annoyance. "I don't want you to; I don't, myself. I've
bungled the matter as I might have known I would. I was trying to put
into words an undefined uneasiness of mine, a quite formless desire to
have you possessed of the whole case as it had come up in my mind. I've
made a mess of it," said Ferris rising, with a rueful air. "Besides, I
ought to have spoken to Mrs. Vervain."

"Oh no," cried Florida, eagerly, springing to her feet beside him.
"Don't! Little things wear upon my mother, so. I'm glad you didn't speak
to her. I don't misunderstand you, I think; I expressed myself badly,"
she added with an anxious face. "I thank you very much. What do you want
me to do?"

By Ferris's impulse they both began to move down the garden path toward
the water-gate. The sunset had faded out of the fountain, but it still
lit the whole heaven, in whose vast blue depths hung light whiffs of
pinkish cloud, as ethereal as the draperies that floated after Miss
Vervain as she walked with a splendid grace beside him, no awkwardness,
now, or self-constraint in her. As she turned to Ferris, and asked in
her deep tones, to which some latent feeling imparted a slight tremor,
"What do you want me to do?" the sense of her willingness to be bidden
by him gave him a delicious thrill. He looked at the superb creature, so
proud, so helpless; so much a woman, so much a child; and he caught his
breath before he answered. Her gauzes blew about his feet in the light
breeze that lifted the foliage; she was a little near-sighted, and in
her eagerness she drew closer to him, fixing her eyes full upon his with
a bold innocence. "Good heavens! Miss Vervain," he cried, with a sudden
blush, "it isn't a serious matter. I'm a fool to have spoken to you.
Don't do anything. Let things go on as before. It isn't for me to
instruct you."

"I should have been very glad of your advice," she said with a
disappointed, almost wounded manner, keeping her eyes upon him. "It
seems to me we are always going wrong"--

She stopped short, with a flush and then a pallor.

Ferris returned her look with one of comical dismay. This apparent
readiness of Miss Vervain's to be taken command of, daunted him, on
second thoughts. "I wish you'd dismiss all my stupid talk from your
mind," he said. "I feel as if I'd been guiltily trying to set you
against a man whom I like very much and have no reason not to trust, and
who thinks me so much his friend that he couldn't dream of my making any
sort of trouble for him. It would break his heart, I'm afraid, if you
treated him in a different way from that in which you've treated him
till now. It's really touching to listen to his gratitude to you and
your mother. It's only conceivable on the ground that he has never had
friends before in the world. He seems like another man, or the same man
come to life. And it isn't his fault that he's a priest. I suppose," he
added, with a sort of final throe, "that a Venetian family wouldn't use
him with the frank hospitality you've shown, not because they distrusted
him at all, perhaps, but because they would be afraid of other Venetian
tongues."

This ultimate drop of venom, helplessly distilled, did not seem to
rankle in Miss Vervain's mind. She walked now with her face turned from
his, and she answered coldly, "We shall not be troubled. We don't care
for Venetian tongues."

They were at the gate. "Good-by," said Ferris, abruptly, "I'm going."

"Won't you wait and see my mother?" asked Florida, with her awkward
self-constraint again upon her.

"No, thanks," said Ferris, gloomily. "I haven't time. I just dropped in
for a moment, to blast an innocent man's reputation, and destroy a young
lady's peace of mind."

"Then you needn't go, yet," answered Florida, coldly, "for you haven't
succeeded."

"Well, I've done my worst," returned Ferris, drawing the bolt.

He went away, hanging his head in amazement and disgust at himself for
his clumsiness and bad taste. It seemed to him a contemptible part,
first to embarrass them with Don Ippolito's acquaintance, if it was an
embarrassment, and then try to sneak out of his responsibility by these
tardy cautions; and if it was not going to be an embarrassment, it was
folly to have approached the matter at all.

What had he wanted to do, and with what motive? He hardly knew. As he
battled the ground over and over again, nothing comforted him save the
thought that, bad as it was to have spoken to Miss Vervain, it must have
been infinitely worse to speak to her mother.



VIII.


It was late before Ferris forgot his chagrin in sleep, and when he
woke the next morning, the sun was making the solid green blinds at his
window odorous of their native pine woods with its heat, and thrusting a
golden spear at the heart of Don Ippolito's effigy where he had left it
on the easel.

Marina brought a letter with his coffee. The letter was from Mrs.
Vervain, and it entreated him to come to lunch at twelve, and then join
them on an excursion, of which they had all often talked, up the Canal
of the Brenta. "Don Ippolito has got his permission--think of his not
being able to go to the mainland without the Patriarch's leave! and can
go with us to-day. So I try to make this hasty arrangement. You _must_
come--it all depends upon you."

"Yes, so it seems," groaned the painter, and went.

In the garden he found Don Ippolito and Florida, at the fountain where
he had himself parted with her the evening before; and he observed
with a guilty relief that Don Ippolito was talking to her in the happy
unconsciousness habitual with him.

Florida cast at the painter a swift glance of latent appeal and
intelligence, which he refused, and in the same instant she met him with
another look, as if she now saw him for the first time, and gave him her
hand in greeting. It was a beautiful hand; he could not help worshipping
its lovely forms, and the lily whiteness and softness of the back, the
rose of the palm and finger-tips.

She idly resumed the great Venetian fan which hung from her waist by
a chain. "Don Ippolito has been talking about the vitteggiatura on the
Brenta in the old days," she explained.

"Oh, yes," said the painter, "they used to have merry times in the
villas then, and it was worth while being a priest, or at least an
abbate di casa. I should think you would sigh for a return of those good
old days, Don Ippolito. Just imagine, if you were abbate di casa with
some patrician family about the close of the last century, you might be
the instructor, companion, and spiritual adviser of Illustrissima at the
theatres, card-parties, and masquerades, all winter; and at this season,
instead of going up the Brenta for a day's pleasure with us barbarous
Yankees, you might be setting out with Illustrissima and all the
'Strissimi and 'Strissime, big and little, for a spring villeggiatura
there. You would be going in a gilded barge, with songs and fiddles
and dancing, instead of a common gondola, and you would stay a month,
walking, going to parties and caffès, drinking chocolate and lemonade
gaming, sonneteering, and butterflying about generally."

"It was doubtless a beautiful life," answered the priest, with simple
indifference. "But I never have thought of it with regret, because I
have been preoccupied with other ideas than those of social pleasures,
though perhaps they were no wiser."

Florida had watched Don Ippolito's face while Ferris was speaking, and
she now asked gravely, "But don't you think their life nowadays is more
becoming to the clergy?"

"Why, madamigella? What harm was there in those gayeties? I suppose the
bad features of the old life are exaggerated to us."

"They couldn't have been worse than the amusements of the hard-drinking,
hard-riding, hard-swearing, fox-hunting English parsons about the same
time," said Ferris. "Besides, the abbate di casa had a charm of his own,
the charm of all _rococo_ things, which, whatever you may say of them,
are somehow elegant and refined, or at least refer to elegance and
refinement. I don't say they're ennobling, but they're fascinating.
I don't respect them, but I love them. When I think about the past of
Venice, I don't care so much to see any of the heroically historical
things; but I should like immensely to have looked in at the Ridotto,
when the place was at its gayest with wigs and masks, hoops and
small-clothes, fans and rapiers, bows and courtesies, whispers and
glances. I dare say I should have found Don Ippolito there in some
becoming disguise."

Florida looked from the painter to the priest and back to the painter,
as Ferris spoke, and then she turned a little anxiously toward the
terrace, and a shadow slipped from her face as her mother came rustling
down the steps, catching at her drapery and shaking it into place. The
young girl hurried to meet her, lifted her arms for what promised an
embrace, and with firm hands set the elder lady's bonnet straight with
her forehead.

"I'm always getting it on askew," Mrs. Vervain said for greeting to
Ferris. "How do you do, Don Ippolito? But I suppose you think I've kept
you long enough to get it on straight for once. So I have. I _am_ a
fuss, and I don't deny it. At my time of life, it's much harder to make
yourself shipshape than it is when you're younger. I tell Florida that
anybody would take _her_ for the _old_ lady, she does seem to give so
little care to getting up an appearance."

"And yet she has the effect of a stylish young person in the bloom of
youth," observed Ferris, with a touch of caricature.

"We had better lunch with our things on," said Mrs. Vervain, "and then
there needn't be any delay in starting. I thought we would have it
here," she added, as Nina and the house-servant appeared with trays of
dishes and cups. "So that we can start in a real picnicky spirit. I knew
you'd think it a womanish lunch, Mr. Ferris--Don Ippolito likes what we
do--and so I've provided you with a chicken salad; and I'm going to ask
you for a taste of it; I'm really hungry."

There was salad for all, in fact; and it was quite one o'clock before
the lunch was ended, and wraps of just the right thickness and thinness
were chosen, and the party were comfortably placed under the striped
linen canopy of the gondola, which they had from a public station, the
house-gondola being engaged that day. They rowed through the narrow
canal skirting the garden out into the expanse before the Giudecca, and
then struck across the lagoon towards Fusina, past the island-church of
San Giorgio in Alga, whose beautiful tower has flushed and darkened in
so many pictures of Venetian sunsets, and past the Austrian lagoon forts
with their coronets of guns threatening every point, and the Croatian
sentinels pacing to and fro on their walls. They stopped long enough at
one of the customs barges to declare to the swarthy, amiable officers
the innocence of their freight, and at the mouth of the Canal of the
Brenta they paused before the station while a policeman came out and
scanned them. He bowed to Don Ippolito's cloth, and then they began to
push up the sluggish canal, shallow and overrun with weeds and mosses,
into the heart of the land.

The spring, which in Venice comes in the softening air and the perpetual
azure of the heavens, was renewed to their senses in all its miraculous
loveliness. The garden of the Vervains had indeed confessed it in
opulence of leaf and bloom, but there it seemed somehow only like a
novel effect of the artifice which had been able to create a garden in
that city of stone and sea. Here a vernal world suddenly opened before
them, with wide-stretching fields of green under a dome of perfect blue;
against its walls only the soft curves of far-off hills were traced, and
near at hand the tender forms of full-foliaged trees. The long garland
of vines that festoons all Italy seemed to begin in the neighboring
orchards; the meadows waved their tall grasses in the sun, and broke in
poppies as the sea-waves break in iridescent spray; the well-grown maize
shook its gleaming blades in the light; the poplars marched in stately
procession on either side of the straight, white road to Padua, till
they vanished in the long perspective. The blossoms had fallen from the
trees many weeks before, but the air was full of the vague sweetness of
the perfect spring, which here and there gathered and defined itself as
the spicy odor of the grass cut on the shore of the canal, and drying in
the mellow heat of the sun.

The voyagers spoke from time to time of some peculiarity of the villas
that succeeded each other along the canal. Don Ippolito knew a few
of them, the gondoliers knew others; but after all, their names were
nothing. These haunts of old-time splendor and idleness weary of
themselves, and unable to escape, are sadder than anything in Venice,
and they belonged, as far as the Americans were concerned, to a world as
strange as any to which they should go in another life,--the world of
a faded fashion and an alien history. Some of the villas were kept in a
sort of repair; some were even maintained in the state of old; but the
most showed marks of greater or less decay, and here and there one was
falling to ruin. They had gardens about them, tangled and wild-grown;
a population of decrepit statues in the rococo taste strolled in their
walks or simpered from their gates. Two or three houses seemed to be
occupied; the rest stood empty, each

  "Close latticed to the brooding heat,
  And silent in its dusty vines."

The pleasure-party had no fixed plan for the day further than to ascend
the canal, and by and by take a carriage at some convenient village and
drive to the famous Villa Pisani at Strà.

"These houses are very well," said Don Ippolito, who had visited the
villa once, and with whom it had remained a memory almost as signal as
that night in Padua when he wore civil dress, "but it is at Strà you
see something really worthy of the royal splendor of the patricians of
Venice. Royal? The villa is now one of the palaces of the ex-Emperor of
Austria, who does not find it less imperial than his other palaces." Don
Ippolito had celebrated the villa at Strà in this strain ever since
they had spoken of going up the Brenta: now it was the magnificent
conservatories and orangeries that he sang, now the vast garden with
its statued walks between rows of clipt cedars and firs, now the stables
with their stalls for numberless horses, now the palace itself with its
frescoed halls and treasures of art and vertu. His enthusiasm for the
villa at Strà had become an amiable jest with the Americans. Ferris
laughed at his fresh outburst he declared himself tired of the gondola,
and he asked Florida to disembark with him and walk under the trees of
a pleasant street running on one side between the villas and the canal.
"We are going to find something much grander than the Villa Pisani," he
boasted, with a look at Don Ippolito.

As they sauntered along the path together, they came now and then to a
stately palace like that of the Contarini, where the lions, that give
their name to one branch of the family, crouch in stone before the
grand portal; but most of the houses were interesting only from their
unstoried possibilities to the imagination. They were generally of
stucco, and glared with fresh whitewash through the foliage of their
gardens. When a peasant's cottage broke their line, it gave, with its
barns and straw-stacks and its beds of pot-herbs, a homely relief from
the decaying gentility of the villas.

"What a pity, Miss Vervain," said the painter, "that the blessings
of this world should be so unequally divided! Why should all this
sketchable adversity be lavished upon the neighborhood of a city that
is so rich as Venice in picturesque dilapidation? It's pretty hard on
us Americans, and forces people of sensibility into exile. What wouldn't
cultivated persons give for a stretch of this street in the suburbs of
Boston, or of your own Providence? I suppose the New Yorkers will be
setting up something of the kind one of these days, and giving it a
French name--they'll call it _Aux bords du Brenta_. There was one of
them carried back a gondola the other day to put on a pond in their new
park. But the worst of it is, you can't take home the sentiment of these
things."

"I thought it was the business of painters to send home the sentiment of
them in pictures," said Florida.

Ferris talked to her in this way because it was his way of talking; it
always surprised him a little that she entered into the spirit of it;
he was not quite sure that she did; he sometimes thought she waited till
she could seize upon a point to turn against him, and so give herself
the air of having comprehended the whole. He laughed: "Oh yes, a poor
little fragmentary, faded-out reproduction of their sentiment--which is
'as moonlight unto sunlight and as water unto wine,' when compared with
the real thing. Suppose I made a picture of this very bit, ourselves
in the foreground, looking at the garden over there where that amusing
Vandal of an owner has just had his statues painted white: would our
friends at home understand it? A whole history must be left unexpressed.
I could only hint at an entire situation. Of course, people with a taste
for olives would get the flavor; but even they would wonder that I
chose such an unsuggestive bit. Why, it is just the most maddeningly
suggestive thing to be found here! And if I may put it modestly, for my
share in it, I think we two young Americans looking on at this supreme
excess of the rococo, are the very essence of the sentiment of the
scene; but what would the honored connoisseurs--the good folks who get
themselves up on Ruskin and try so honestly hard to have some little
ideas about art--make of us? To be sure they might justifiably praise
the grace of your pose, if I were so lucky as to catch it, and your
way of putting your hand under the elbow of the arm that holds your
parasol,"--Florida seemed disdainfully to keep her attitude, and the
painter smiled,--"but they wouldn't know what it all meant, and couldn't
imagine that we were inspired by this rascally little villa to sigh
longingly over the wicked past."

"Excuse me," interrupted Florida, with a touch of trouble in her proud
manner, "I'm not sighing over it, for one, and I don't want it back.
I'm glad that I'm American and that there is no past for me. I can't
understand how you and Don Ippolito can speak so tolerantly of what no
one can respect," she added, in almost an aggrieved tone.

If Miss Vervain wanted to turn the talk upon Don Ippolito, Ferris by
no means did; he had had enough of that subject yesterday; he got as
lightly away from it as he could.

"Oh, Don Ippolito's a pagan, I tell you; and I'm a painter, and the
rococo is my weakness. I wish I could paint it, but I can't; I'm a
hundred years too late. I couldn't even paint myself in the act of
sentimentalizing it."

While he talked, he had been making a few lines in a small pocket
sketch-book, with a furtive glance or two at Florida. When they returned
to the boat, he busied himself again with the book, and presently he
handed it to Mrs. Vervain.

"Why, it's Florida!" cried the lady. "How very nicely you do sketch, Mr.
Ferris."

"Thanks, Mrs. Vervain; you're always flattering me."

"No, but seriously. I _wish_ that I had paid more attention to my
drawing when I was a girl. And now, Florida--she won't touch a pencil. I
wish you'd talk to her, Mr. Ferris."

"Oh, people who are pictures needn't trouble themselves to be painters,"
said Ferris, with a little burlesque.

Mrs. Vervain began to look at the sketch through her tubed hand; the
painter made a grimace. "But you've made her too proud, Mr. Ferris. She
doesn't look like that."

"Yes she does--to those unworthy of her kindness. I have taken Miss
Vervain in the act of scorning the rococo, and its humble admirer, me,
with it."

"I'm sure _I_ don't know what you mean, Mr. Ferris; but I can't think
that this proud look is habitual with Florida; and I've heard people
say--very good judges--that an artist oughtn't to perpetuate a temporary
expression. Something like that."

"It can't be helped now, Mrs. Vervain: the sketch is irretrievably
immortal. I'm sorry, but it's too late."

"Oh, stuff! As if you couldn't turn up the corners of the mouth a
little. Or something."

"And give her the appearance of laughing at me? Never!"

"Don Ippolito," said Mrs. Vervain, turning to the priest, who had been
listening intently to all this trivial talk, "what do you think of this
sketch?"

He took the book with an eager hand, and perused the sketch as if trying
to read some secret there. After a minute he handed it back with a light
sigh, apparently of relief, but said nothing.

"Well?" asked Mrs. Vervain.

"Oh! I ask pardon. No, it isn't my idea of madamigella. It seems to me
that her likeness must be sketched in color. Those lines are true, but
they need color to subdue them; they go too far, they are more than
true."

"You're quite right, Don Ippolito," said Ferris.

"Then _you_ don't think she always has this proud look?" pursued Mrs.
Vervain. The painter fancied that Florida quelled in herself a movement
of impatience; he looked at her with an amused smile.

"Not always, no," answered Don Ippolito.

"Sometimes her face expresses the greatest meekness in the world."

"But not at the present moment," thought Ferris, fascinated by the stare
of angry pride which the girl bent upon the unconscious priest.

"Though I confess that I should hardly know how to characterize her
habitual expression," added Don Ippolito.

"Thanks," said Florida, peremptorily. "I'm tired of the subject; it
isn't an important one."

"Oh yes it is, my dear," said Mrs. Vervain. "At least it's important to
me, if it isn't to you; for I'm your mother, and really, if I thought
you looked like this, as a general thing, to a casual observer, I should
consider it a reflection upon myself." Ferris gave a provoking laugh,
as she continued sweetly, "I must insist, Don Ippolito: now did you ever
see Florida look so?"

The girl leaned back, and began to wave her fan slowly to and fro before
her face.

"I never saw her look so with you, dear madama," said the priest with an
anxious glance at Florida, who let her fan fall folded into her lap, and
sat still. He went on with priestly smoothness, and a touch of something
like invoked authority, such as a man might show who could dispense
indulgences and inflict penances. "No one could help seeing her
devotedness to you, and I have admired from the first an obedience and
tenderness that I have never known equaled. In all her relations to you,
madamigella has seemed to me"--

Florida started forward. "You are not asked to comment on my behavior to
my mother; you are not invited to speak of my conduct at all!" she burst
out with sudden violence, her visage flaming, and her blue eyes burning
upon Don Ippolito, who shrank from the astonishing rudeness as from a
blow in the face. "What is it to you how I treat my mother?"

She sank back again upon the cushions, and opening the fan with a clash
swept it swiftly before her.

"Florida!" said her mother gravely.

Ferris turned away in cold disgust, like one who has witnessed a cruelty
done to some helpless thing. Don Ippolito's speech was not fortunate at
the best, but it might have come from a foreigner's misapprehension, and
at the worst it was good-natured and well-meant. "The girl is a perfect
brute, as I thought in the beginning," the painter said to himself. "How
could I have ever thought differently? I shall have to tell Don Ippolito
that I'm ashamed of her, and disclaim all responsibility. Pah! I wish I
was out of this."

The pleasure of the day was dead. It could not rally from that stroke.
They went on to Strà, as they had planned, but the glory of the Villa
Pisani was eclipsed for Don Ippolito. He plainly did not know what
to do. He did not address Florida again, whose savagery he would not
probably have known how to resent if he had wished to resent it. Mrs.
Vervain prattled away to him with unrelenting kindness; Ferris kept near
him, and with affectionate zeal tried to make him talk of the villa, but
neither the frescoes, nor the orangeries, nor the green-houses, nor the
stables, nor the gardens could rouse him from the listless daze in which
he moved, though Ferris found them all as wonderful as he had said.
Amidst this heavy embarrassment no one seemed at ease but the author of
it. She did not, to be sure, speak to Don Ippolito, but she followed her
mother as usual with her assiduous cares, and she appeared tranquilly
unconscious of the sarcastic civility with which Ferris rendered her any
service. It was late in the afternoon when they got back to their boat
and began to descend the canal towards Venice, and long before they
reached Fusina the day had passed. A sunset of melancholy red, streaked
with level lines of murky cloud, stretched across the flats behind them,
and faintly tinged with its reflected light the eastern horizon which
the towers and domes of Venice had not yet begun to break. The twilight
came, and then through the overcast heavens the moon shone dim; a light
blossomed here and there in the villas, distant voices called musically;
a cow lowed, a dog barked; the rich, sweet breath of the vernal land
mingled its odors with the sultry air of the neighboring lagoon. The
wayfarers spoke little; the time hung heavy on all, no doubt; to Ferris
it was a burden almost intolerable to hear the creak of the oars and
the breathing of the gondoliers keeping time together. At last the boat
stopped in front of the police-station in Fusina; a soldier with a sword
at his side and a lantern in his hand came out and briefly parleyed
with the gondoliers; they stepped ashore, and he marched them into the
station before him.

"We have nothing left to wish for now," said Ferris, breaking into an
ironical laugh.

"What does it all mean?" asked Mrs. Vervain.

"I think I had better go see."

"We will go with you," said Mrs. Vervain.

"Pazienza!" replied Ferris.

The ladies rose; but Don Ippolito remained seated. "Aren't you going
too, Don Ippolito?" asked Mrs. Vervain.

"Thanks, madama; but I prefer to stay here."

Lamentable cries and shrieks, as if the prisoners had immediately been
put to the torture, came from the station as Ferris opened the door. A
lamp of petroleum lighted the scene, and shone upon the figures of two
fishermen, who bewailed themselves unintelligibly in the vibrant accents
of Chiozza, and from time to time advanced upon the gondoliers, and
shook their heads and beat their breasts at them, A few police-guards
reclined upon benches about the room, and surveyed the spectacle with
mild impassibility.

Ferris politely asked one of them the cause of the detention.

"Why, you see, signore," answered the guard amiably, "these honest men
accuse your gondoliers of having stolen a rope out of their boat at
Dolo."

"It was my blood, you know!" howled the elder of the fishermen, tossing
his arms wildly abroad, "it was my own heart," he cried, letting the
last vowel die away and rise again in mournful refrain, while he stared
tragically into Ferris's face.

"What _is_ the matter?" asked Mrs. Vervain, putting up her glasses, and
trying with graceful futility to focus the melodrama.

"Nothing," said Ferris; "our gondoliers have had the heart's blood
of this respectable Dervish; that is to say, they have stolen a rope
belonging to him."

"_Our_ gondoliers! I don't believe it. They've no right to keep us here
all night. Tell them you're the American consul."

"I'd rather not try my dignity on these underlings, Mrs. Vervain;
there's no American squadron here that I could order to bombard Fusina,
if they didn't mind me. But I'll see what I can do further in quality
of courteous foreigner. Can you perhaps tell me how long you will be
obliged to detain us here?" he asked of the guard again.

"I am very sorry to detain you at all, signore. But what can I do? The
commissary is unhappily absent. He may be here soon."

The guard renewed his apathetic contemplation of the gondoliers, who did
not speak a word; the windy lamentation of the fishermen rose and fell
fitfully. Presently they went out of doors and poured forth their wrongs
to the moon.

The room was close, and with some trouble Ferris persuaded Mrs. Vervain
to return to the gondola, Florida seconding his arguments with gentle
good sense.

It seemed a long time till the commissary came, but his coming instantly
simplified the situation. Perhaps because he had never been able to
befriend a consul in trouble before, he befriended Ferris to the utmost.
He had met him with rather a browbeating air; but after a glance at
his card, he gave a kind of roar of deprecation and apology. He had the
ladies and Don Ippolito in out of the gondola, and led them to an upper
chamber, where he made them all repose their honored persons upon his
sofas. He ordered up his housekeeper to make them coffee, which he
served with his own hands, excusing its hurried feebleness, and he
stood by, rubbing his palms together and smiling, while they refreshed
themselves.

"They need never tell me again that the Austrians are tyrants," said
Mrs. Vervain in undertone to the consul.

It was not easy for Ferris to remind his host of the malefactors; but
he brought himself to this ungraciousness. The commissary begged pardon,
and asked him to accompany him below, where he confronted the accused
and the accusers. The tragedy was acted over again with blood-curdling
effectiveness by the Chiozzotti; the gondoliers maintaining the calm of
conscious innocence.

Ferris felt outraged by the trumped-up charge against them.

"Listen, you others the prisoners," said the commissary. "Your padrone
is anxious to return to Venice, and I wish to inflict no further
displeasures upon him. Restore their rope to these honest men, and go
about your business."

The injured gondoliers spoke in low tones together; then one of them
shrugged his shoulders and went out. He came back in a moment and laid a
rope before the commissary.

"Is that the rope?" he asked. "We found it floating down the canal, and
picked it up that we might give it to the rightful owner. But now I wish
to heaven we had let it sink to the bottom of the sea."

"Oh, a beautiful story!" wailed the Chiozzoti. They flung themselves
upon the rope, and lugged it off to their boat; and the gondoliers went
out, too.

The commissary turned to Ferris with an amiable smile. "I am sorry that
those rogues should escape," said the American.

"Oh," said the Italian, "they are poor fellows it is a little matter; I
am glad to have served you."

He took leave of his involuntary guests with effusion, following them
with a lantern to the gondola.

Mrs. Vervain, to whom Ferris gave an account of this trial as they
set out again on their long-hindered return, had no mind save for the
magical effect of his consular quality upon the commissary, and accused
him of a vain and culpable modesty.

"Ah," said the diplomatist, "there's nothing like knowing just when
to produce your dignity. There are some officials who know too
little,--like those guards; and there are some who know too much,--like
the commissary's superiors. But he is just in that golden mean of
ignorance where he supposes a consul is a person of importance."

Mrs. Vervain disputed this, and Ferris submitted in silence. Presently,
as they skirted the shore to get their bearings for the route across the
lagoon, a fierce voice in Venetian shouted from the darkness, "Indrio,
indrio!" (Back, back!) and a gleam of the moon through the pale, watery
clouds revealed the figure of a gendarme on the nearest point of land.
The gondoliers bent to their oars, and sent the boat swiftly out into
the lagoon.

"There, for example, is a person who would be quite insensible to my
greatness, even if I had the consular seal in my pocket. To him we are
possible smugglers; [Footnote: Under the Austrians, Venice was a free
port but everything carried there to the mainland was liable to duty.]
and I must say," he continued, taking out his watch, and staring hard at
it, "that if I were a disinterested person, and heard his suspicion met
with the explanation that we were a little party out here for pleasure
at half past twelve P. M., I should say he was right. At any rate
we won't engage him in controversy. Quick, quick!" he added to the
gondoliers, glancing at the receding shore, and then at the first of the
lagoon forts which they were approaching. A dim shape moved along the
top of the wall, and seemed to linger and scrutinize them. As they drew
nearer, the challenge, "_Wer da?_" rang out.

The gondoliers eagerly answered with the one word of German known to
their craft, "_Freunde_," and struggled to urge the boat forward; the
oar of the gondolier in front slipped from the high rowlock, and fell
out of his hand into the water. The gondola lurched, and then suddenly
ran aground on the shallow. The sentry halted, dropped his gun from his
shoulder, and ordered them to go on, while the gondoliers clamored back
in the high key of fear, and one of them screamed out to his passengers
to do something, saying that, a few weeks before, a sentinel had fired
upon a fisherman and killed him.

"What's that he's talking about?" demanded Mrs. Vervain. "If we don't
get on, it will be that man's duty to fire on us; he has no choice," she
said, nerved and interested by the presence of this danger.

The gondoliers leaped into the water and tried to push the boat off. It
would not move, and without warning, Don Ippolito, who had sat silent
since they left Fusina, stepped over the side of the gondola, and
thrusting an oar under its bottom lifted it free of the shallow.

"Oh, how very unnecessary!" cried Mrs. Vervain, as the priest and the
gondoliers clambered back into the boat. "He will take his death of
cold."

"It's ridiculous," said Ferris. "You ought to have told these worthless
rascals what to do, Don Ippolito. You've got yourself wet for nothing.
It's too bad!"

"It's nothing," said Don Ippolito, taking his seat on the little prow
deck, and quietly dripping where the water would not incommode the
others.

"Oh, here!" cried Mrs. Vervain, gathering some shawls together, "make
him wrap those about him. He'll die, I know he will--with that reeking
skirt of his. If you must go into the water, I wish you had worn your
abbate's dress. How _could_ you, Don Ippolito?"

The gondoliers set their oars, but before they had given a stroke,
they were arrested by a sharp "Halt!" from the fort. Another figure had
joined the sentry, and stood looking at them.

"Well," said Ferris, "_now_ what, I wonder? That's an officer. If I had
a little German about me, I might state the situation to him."

He felt a light touch on his arm. "I can speak German," said Florida
timidly.

"Then you had better speak it now," said Ferris.

She rose to her feet, and in a steady voice briefly explained the whole
affair. The figures listened motionless; then the last comer politely
replied, begging her to be in no uneasiness, made her a shadowy salute,
and vanished. The sentry resumed his walk, and took no further notice of
them.

"Brava!" said Ferris, while Mrs. Vervain babbled her satisfaction, "I
will buy a German Ollendorff to-morrow. The language is indispensable to
a pleasure excursion in the lagoon."

Florida made no reply, but devoted herself to restoring her mother to
that state of defense against the discomforts of the time and place,
which the common agitation had impaired. She seemed to have no sense of
the presence of any one else. Don Ippolito did not speak again save
to protect himself from the anxieties and reproaches of Mrs. Vervain,
renewed and reiterated at intervals. She drowsed after a while, and
whenever she woke she thought they had just touched her own landing.
By fits it was cloudy and moonlight; they began to meet peasants' boats
going to the Rialto market; at last, they entered the Canal of the
Zattere, then they slipped into a narrow way, and presently stopped at
Mrs. Vervain's gate; this time she had not expected it. Don Ippolito
gave her his hand, and entered the garden with her, while Ferris
lingered behind with Florida, helping her put together the wraps strewn
about the gondola.

"Wait!" she commanded, as they moved up the garden walk. "I want
to speak with you about Don Ippolito. What shall I do to him for
my rudeness? You _must_ tell me--you _shall_," she said in a fierce
whisper, gripping the arm which Ferris had given to help her up the
landing-stairs. "You are--older than I am!"

"Thanks. I was afraid you were going to say wiser. I should think your
own sense of justice, your own sense of"--

"Decency. Say it, say it!" cried the girl passionately; "it was
indecent, indecent--that was it!"

--"would tell you what to do," concluded the painter dryly.

She flung away the arm to which she had been clinging, and ran to where
the priest stood with her mother at the foot of the terrace stairs. "Don
Ippolito," she cried, "I want to tell you that I am sorry; I want to ask
your pardon--how can you ever forgive me?--for what I said."

She instinctively stretched her hand towards him.

"Oh!" said the priest, with an indescribable long, trembling sigh. He
caught her hand in his held it tight, and then pressed it for an instant
against his breast.

Ferris made a little start forward.

"Now, that's right, Florida," said her mother, as the four stood in the
pale, estranging moonlight. "I'm sure Don Ippolito can't cherish any
resentment. If he does, he must come in and wash it out with a glass
of wine--that's a good old fashion. I want you to have the wine at any
rate, Don Ippolito; it'll keep you from taking cold. You really must."

"Thanks, madama; I cannot lose more time, now; I must go home at once.
Good night."

Before Mrs. Vervain could frame a protest, or lay hold of him, he bowed
and hurried out of the land-gate.

"How perfectly absurd for him to get into the water in that way," she
said, looking mechanically in the direction in which he had vanished.

"Well, Mrs. Vervain, it isn't best to be too grateful to people,"
said Ferris, "but I think we must allow that if we were in any danger,
sticking there in the mud, Don Ippolito got us out of it by putting his
shoulder to the oar."

"Of course," assented Mrs. Vervain.

"In fact," continued Ferris, "I suppose we may say that, under
Providence, we probably owe our lives to Don Ippolito's self-sacrifice
and Miss Vervain's knowledge of German. At any rate, it's what I shall
always maintain."

"Mother, don't you think you had better go in?" asked Florida, gently.
Her gentleness ignored the presence, the existence of Ferris. "I'm
afraid you will be sick after all this fatigue."

"There, Mrs. Vervain, it'll be no use offering _me_ a glass of wine. I'm
sent away, you see," said Ferris. "And Miss Vervain is quite right. Good
night."

"Oh--_good_ night, Mr. Ferris," said Mrs. Vervain, giving her hand.
"Thank you so much."

Florida did not look towards him. She gathered her mother's shawl about
her shoulders for the twentieth time that day, and softly urged her in
doors, while Ferris let himself out into the campo.



IX.


Florida began to prepare the bed for her mother's lying down.

"What are you doing that for, my dear?" asked Mrs. Vervain. "I can't go
to bed at once."

"But mother"--

"No, Florida. And I mean it. You are too headstrong. I should think
you would see yourself how you suffer in the end by giving way to your
violent temper. What a day you have made for us!"

"I was very wrong," murmured the proud girl, meekly.

"And then the mortification of an apology; you might have spared
yourself that."

"It didn't mortify me; I didn't care for it."

"No, I really believe you are too haughty to mind humbling yourself. And
Don Ippolito had been so uniformly kind to us. I begin to believe that
Mr. Ferris caught your true character in that sketch. But your pride
will be broken some day, Florida."

"Won't you let me help you undress, mother? You can talk to me while
you're undressing. You must try to get some rest."

"Yes, I am all unstrung. Why couldn't you have let him come in and talk
awhile? It would have been the best way to get me quieted down. But no;
you must always have your own way Don't twitch me, my dear; I'd rather
undress myself. You pretend to be very careful of me. I wonder if you
really care for me."

"Oh, mother, you are all I have in the world!"

Mrs. Vervain began to whimper. "You talk as if I were any better off.
Have I anybody besides you? And I have lost so many."

"Don't think of those things now, mother."

Mrs. Vervain tenderly kissed the young girl. "You are good to your
mother. Don Ippolito was right; no one ever saw you offer me disrespect
or unkindness. There, there! Don't cry, my darling. I think I _had_
better lie down, and I'll let you undress me."

She suffered herself to be helped into bed, and Florida went softly
about the room, putting it in order, and drawing the curtains closer to
keep out the near dawn. Her mother talked a little while, and presently
fell from incoherence to silence, and so to sleep.

Florida looked hesitatingly at her for a moment, and then set her candle
on the floor and sank wearily into an arm-chair beside the bed. Her
hands fell into her lap; her head drooped sadly forward; the light flung
the shadow of her face grotesquely exaggerated and foreshortened upon
the ceiling.

By and by a bird piped in the garden; the shriek of a swallow made
itself heard from a distance; the vernal day was beginning to stir from
the light, brief drowse of the vernal night. A crown of angry red formed
upon the candle wick, which toppled over in the socket and guttered out
with a sharp hiss.

Florida started from her chair. A streak of sunshine pierced shutter and
curtain. Her mother was supporting herself on one elbow in the bed, and
looking at her as if she had just called to her.

"Mother, did you speak?" asked the girl.

Mrs. Vervain turned her face away; she sighed deeply, stretched her thin
hands on the pillow, and seemed to be sinking, sinking down through the
bed. She ceased to breathe and lay in a dead faint.

Florida felt rather than saw it all. She did not cry out nor call for
help. She brought water and cologne, and bathed her mother's face, and
then chafed her hands. Mrs. Vervain slowly revived; she opened her eyes,
then closed them; she did not speak, but after a while she began to
fetch her breath with the long and even respirations of sleep.

Florida noiselessly opened the door, and met the servant with a tray of
coffee. She put her finger to her lip, and motioned her not to enter,
asking in a whisper: "What time is it, Nina? I forgot to wind my watch."

"It's nine o'clock, signorina; and I thought you would be tired this
morning, and would like your coffee in bed. Oh, misericordia!" cried the
girl, still in whisper, with a glance through the doorway, "you haven't
been in bed at all!"

"My mother doesn't seem well. I sat down beside her, and fell asleep in
my chair without knowing it."

"Ah, poor little thing! Then you must drink your coffee at once. It
refreshes."

"Yes, yes," said Florida, closing the door, and pointing to a table in
the next room, "put it down here. I will serve myself, Nina. Go call the
gondola, please. I am going out, at once, and I want you to go with me.
Tell Checa to come here and stay with my mother till I come back."

She poured out a cup of coffee with a trembling hand, and hastily drank
it; then bathing her eyes, she went to the glass and bestowed a touch
or two upon yesterday's toilet, studied the effect a moment, and turned
away. She ran back for another look, and the next moment she was walking
down to the water-gate, where she found Nina waiting her in the gondola.

A rapid course brought them to Ferris's landing. "Ring," she said to the
gondolier, "and say that one of the American ladies wishes to see the
consul."

Ferris was standing on the balcony over her, where he had been watching
her approach in mute wonder. "Why, Miss Vervain," he called down, "what
in the world is the matter?"

"I don't know. I want to see you," said Florida, looking up with a
wistful face.

"I'll come down."

"Yes, please. Or no, I had better come up. Yes, Nina and I will come
up."

Ferris met them at the lower door and led them to his apartment. Nina
sat down in the outer room, and Florida followed the painter into his
studio. Though her face was so wan, it seemed to him that he had never
seen it lovelier, and he had a strange pride in her being there, though
the disorder of the place ought to have humbled him. She looked over it
with a certain childlike, timid curiosity, and something of that lofty
compassion with which young ladies regard the haunts of men when they
come into them by chance; in doing this she had a haughty, slow turn of
the head that fascinated him.

"I hope," he said, "you don't mind the smell," which was a mingled
one of oil-colors and tobacco-smoke. "The woman's putting my office
to rights, and it's all in a cloud of dust. So I have to bring you in
here."

Florida sat down on a chair fronting the easel, and found herself
looking into the sad eyes of Don Ippolito. Ferris brusquely turned the
back of the canvas toward her. "I didn't mean you to see that. It isn't
ready to show, yet," he said, and then he stood expectantly before her.
He waited for her to speak, for he never knew how to take Miss Vervain;
he was willing enough to make light of her grand moods, but now she was
too evidently unhappy for mocking; at the same time he did not care to
invoke a snub by a prematurely sympathetic demeanor. His mind ran on
the events of the day before, and he thought this visit probably related
somehow to Don Ippolito. But his visitor did not speak, and at last he
said: "I hope there's nothing wrong at home, Miss Vervain. It's rather
odd to have yesterday, last night, and next morning all run together
as they have been for me in the last twenty-four hours. I trust Mrs.
Vervain is turning the whole thing into a good solid oblivion."

"It's about--it's about--I came to see you"--said Florida, hoarsely. "I
mean," she hurried on to say, "that I want to ask you who is the best
doctor here?"

Then it was not about Don Ippolito. "Is your mother sick?" asked Ferris,
eagerly. "She must have been fearfully tired by that unlucky expedition
of ours. I hope there's nothing serious?"

"No, no! But she is not well. She is very frail, you know. You must have
noticed how frail she is," said Florida, tremulously.

Ferris had noticed that all his countrywomen, past their girlhood,
seemed to be sick, he did not know how or why; he supposed it was all
right, it was so common. In Mrs. Vervain's case, though she talked a
great deal about her ill-health, he had noticed it rather less than
usual, she had so great spirit. He recalled now that he _had_ thought
her at times rather a shadowy presence, and that occasionally it
had amused him that so slight a structure should hang together as it
did--not only successfully, but triumphantly.

He said yes, he knew that Mrs. Vervain was not strong, and Florida
continued: "It's only advice that I want for her, but I think we had
better see some one--or know some one that we could go to in need. We
are so far from any one we know, or help of any kind." She seemed to be
trying to account to herself, rather than to Ferris, for what she was
doing. "We mustn't let anything pass unnoticed".... She looked at him
entreatingly, but a shadow, as of some wounding memory, passed over her
face, and she said no more.

"I'll go with you to a doctor's," said Ferris, kindly.

"No, please, I won't trouble you."

"It's no trouble."

"I don't _want_ you to go with me, please. I'd rather go alone." Ferris
looked at her perplexedly, as she rose. "Just give me the address, and I
shall manage best by myself. I'm used to doing it."

"As you like. Wait a moment." Ferris wrote the address. "There," he
said, giving it to her; "but isn't there anything I can do for you?"

"Yes," answered Florida with awkward hesitation, and a half-defiant,
half-imploring look at him. "You must have all sorts of people applying
to you, as a consul; and you look after their affairs--and try to forget
them"--

"Well?" said Ferris.

"I wish you wouldn't remember that I've asked this favor of you; that
you'd consider it a"--

"Consular service? With all my heart," answered Ferris, thinking for the
third or fourth time how very young Miss Vervain was.

"You are very good; you are kinder than I have any right," said Florida,
smiling piteously. "I only mean, don't speak of it to my mother. Not,"
she added, "but what I want her to know everything I do; but it
would worry her if she thought I was anxious about her. Oh! I wish I
wouldn't."

She began a hasty search for her handkerchief; he saw her lips tremble
and his soul trembled with them.

In another moment, "Good-morning," she said briskly, with a sort of airy
sob, "I don't want you to come down, please."

She drifted out of the room and down the stairs, the servant-maid
falling into her wake.

Ferris filled his pipe and went out on his balcony again, and stood
watching the gondola in its course toward the address he had given, and
smoking thoughtfully. It was really the same girl who had given poor Don
Ippolito that cruel slap in the face, yesterday. But that seemed no more
out of reason than her sudden, generous, exaggerated remorse both
were of a piece with her coming to him for help now, holding him at a
distance, flinging herself upon his sympathy, and then trying to snub
him, and breaking down in the effort. It was all of a piece, and the
piece was bad; yes, she had an ugly temper; and yet she had magnanimous
traits too. These contradictions, which in his reverie he felt rather
than formulated, made him smile, as he stood on his balcony bathed by
the morning air and sunlight, in fresh, strong ignorance of the whole
mystery of women's nerves. These caprices even charmed him. He reflected
that he had gone on doing the Vervains one favor after another in spite
of Florida's childish petulancies; and he resolved that he would not
stop now; her whims should be nothing to him, as they had been nothing,
hitherto. It is flattering to a man to be indispensable to a woman so
long as he is not obliged to it; Miss Vervain's dependent relation to
himself in this visit gave her a grace in Ferris's eyes which she had
wanted before.

In the mean time he saw her gondola stop, turn round, and come back to
the canal that bordered the Vervain garden.

"Another change of mind," thought Ferris, complacently; and rising
superior to the whole fitful sex, he released himself from uneasiness on
Mrs. Vervain's account. But in the evening he went to ask after her.
He first sent his card to Florida, having written on it, "I hope Mrs.
Vervain is better. Don't let me come in if it's any disturbance." He
looked for a moment at what he had written, dimly conscious that it was
patronizing, and when he entered he saw that Miss Vervain stood on the
defensive and from some willfulness meant to make him feel that he was
presumptuous in coming; it did not comfort him to consider that she was
very young. "Mother will be in directly," said Florida in a tone that
relegated their morning's interview to the age of fable.

Mrs. Vervain came in smiling and cordial, apparently better and not
worse for yesterday's misadventures.

"Oh, I pick up quickly," she explained. "I'm an old campaigner, you
know. Perhaps a little _too_ old, now. Years do make a difference; and
you'll find it out as you get on, Mr. Ferris."

"I suppose so," said Ferris, not caring to have Mrs. Vervain treat him
so much like a boy. "Even at twenty-six I found it pleasant to take a
nap this afternoon. How does one stand it at seventeen, Miss Vervain?"
he asked.

"I haven't felt the need of sleep," replied Florida, indifferently, and
he felt shelved, as an old fellow.

He had an empty, frivolous visit, to his thinking. Mrs. Vervain asked
if he had seen Don Ippolito, and wondered that the priest had not come
about, al day. She told a long story, and at the end tapped herself on
the mouth with her fan to punish a yawn.

Ferris rose to go. Mrs. Vervain wondered again in the same words why Don
Ippolito had not been near them all day.

"Because he's a wise man," said Ferris with bitterness, "and knows when
to time his visits." Mrs. Vervain did not notice his bitterness, but
something made Florida follow him to the outer door.

"Why, it's moonlight!" she exclaimed; and she glanced at him as though
she had some purpose of atonement in her mind.

But he would not have it. "Yes, there's a moon," he said moodily.
"Good-night."

"Good night," answered Florida, and she impulsively offered him her
hand. He thought that it shook in his, but it was probably the agitation
of his own nerves.

A soreness that had been lifted from his heart, came back; he walked
home disappointed and defeated, he hardly knew why or in what. He did
not laugh now to think how she had asked him that morning to forget her
coming to him for help; he was outraged that he should have been repaid
in this sort, and the rebuff with which his sympathy had just been met
was vulgar; there was no other name for it but vulgarity. Yet he could
not relate this quality to the face of the young girl as he constantly
beheld it in his homeward walk. It did not defy him or repulse him;
it looked up at him wistfully as from the gondola that morning.
Nevertheless he hardened his heart. The Vervains should see him next
when they had sent for him. After all, one is not so very old at
twenty-six.



X.


"Don Ippolito has come, signorina," said Nina, the next morning,
approaching Florida, where she sat in an attitude of listless patience,
in the garden.

"Don Ippolito!" echoed the young girl in a weary tone. She rose and
went into the house, and they met with the constraint which was but too
natural after the events of their last parting. It is hard to tell
which has most to overcome in such a case, the forgiver or the forgiven.
Pardon rankles even in a generous soul, and the memory of having
pardoned embarrasses the sensitive spirit before the object of its
clemency, humbling and making it ashamed. It would be well, I suppose,
if there need be nothing of the kind between human creatures, who cannot
sustain such a relation without mutual distrust. It is not so ill with
them when apart, but when they meet they must be cold and shy at first.

"Now I see what you two are thinking about," said Mrs. Vervain, and a
faint blush tinged the cheek of the priest as she thus paired him off
with her daughter. "You are thinking about what happened the other
day; and you had better forget it. There is no use brooding over
these matters. Dear me! if _I_ had stopped to brood over every little
unpleasant thing that happened, I wonder where I should be now? By the
way, where were _you_ all day yesterday, Don Ippolito?"

"I did not come to disturb you because I thought you must be very tired.
Besides I was quite busy."

"Oh yes, those inventions of yours. I think you are _so_ ingenious! But
you mustn't apply too closely. Now really, yesterday,--after all you had
been through, it was too much for the brain." She tapped herself on the
forehead with her fan.

"I was not busy with my inventions, madama," answered Don Ippolito,
who sat in the womanish attitude priests get from their drapery, and
fingered the cord round his three-cornered hat. "I have scarcely touched
them of late. But our parish takes part in the procession of Corpus
Domini in the Piazza, and I had my share of the preparations."

"Oh, to be sure! When is it to be? We must all go. Our Nina has been
telling Florida of the grand sights,--little children dressed up like
John the Baptist, leading lambs. I suppose it's a great event with you."

The priest shrugged his shoulders, and opened both his hands, so that
his hat slid to the floor, bumping and tumbling some distance away. He
recovered it and sat down again. "It's an observance," he said coldly.

"And shall you be in the procession?"

"I shall be there with the other priests of my parish."

"Delightful!" cried Mrs. Vervain. "We shall be looking out for you.
I shall feel greatly honored to think I actually know some one in the
procession. I'm going to give you a little nod. You won't think it very
wrong?"

She saved him from the embarrassment he might have felt in replying, by
an abrupt lapse from all apparent interest in the subject. She turned to
her daughter, and said with a querulous accent, "I wish you would throw
the afghan over my feet, Florida, and make me a little comfortable
before you begin your reading this morning." At the same time she feebly
disposed herself among the sofa cushions on which she reclined, and
waited for some final touches from her daughter. Then she said, "I'm
just going to close my eyes, but I shall hear every word. You are
getting a beautiful accent, my dear, I know you are. I should think
Goldoni must have a very smooth, agreeable style; hasn't he now, in
Italian?"

They began to read the comedy; after fifteen or twenty minutes Mrs.
Vervain opened her eyes and said, "But before you commence, Florida,
I wish you'd play a little, to get me quieted down. I feel so very
flighty. I suppose it's this sirocco. And I believe I'll lie down in the
next room."

Florida followed her to repeat the arrangements for her comfort. Then
she returned, and sitting down at the piano struck with a sort of soft
firmness a few low, soothing chords, out of which a lulling melody grew.
With her fingers still resting on the keys she turned her stately head,
and glanced through the open door at her mother.

"Don Ippolito," she asked softly, "is there anything in the air of
Venice that makes people very drowsy?"

"I have never heard that, madamigella."

"I wonder," continued the young girl absently, "why my mother wants to
sleep so much."

"Perhaps she has not recovered from the fatigues of the other night,"
suggested the priest.

"Perhaps," said Florida, sadly looking toward her mother's door.

She turned again to the instrument, and let her fingers wander over the
keys, with a drooping head. Presently she lifted her face, and smoothed
back from her temples some straggling tendrils of hair. Without looking
at the priest she asked with the child-like bluntness that characterized
her, "Why don't you like to walk in the procession of Corpus Domini?"

Don Ippolito's color came and went, and he answered evasively, "I have
not said that I did not like to do so."

"No, that is true," said Florida, letting her fingers drop again on the
keys.

Don Ippolito rose from the sofa where he had been sitting beside her
while they read, and walked the length of the room. Then he came towards
her and said meekly, "Madamigella, I did not mean to repel any interest
you feel in me. But it was a strange question to ask a priest, as I
remembered I was when you asked it."

"Don't you always remember that?" demanded the girl, still without
turning her head.

"No; sometimes I am suffered to forget it," he said with a tentative
accent.

She did not respond, and he drew a long breath, and walked away in
silence. She let her hands fall into her lap, and sat in an attitude
of expectation. As Don Ippolito came near her again he paused a second
time.

"It is in this house that I forget my priesthood," he began, "and it
is the first of your kindnesses that you suffer me to do so, your good
mother, there, and you. How shall I repay you? It cut me to the heart
that you should ask forgiveness of me when you did, though I was hurt
by your rebuke. Oh, had you not the right to rebuke me if I abused the
delicate unreserve with which you had always treated me? But believe me,
I meant no wrong, then."

His voice shook, and Florida broke in, "You did nothing wrong. It was I
who was cruel for no cause."

"No, no. You shall not say that," he returned. "And why should I have
cared for a few words, when all your acts had expressed a trust of me
that is like heaven to my soul?"

She turned now and looked at him, and he went on. "Ah, I see you do not
understand! How could you know what it is to be a priest in this most
unhappy city? To be haunted by the strict espionage of all your own
class, to be shunned as a spy by all who are not of it! But you two have
not put up that barrier which everywhere shuts me out from my kind.
You have been willing to see the man in me, and to let me forget the
priest."

"I do not know what to say to you, Don Ippolito. I am only a foreigner,
a girl, and I am very ignorant of these things," said Florida with a
slight alarm. "I am afraid that you may be saying what you will be sorry
for."

"Oh never! Do not fear for me if I am frank with you. It is my refuge
from despair."

The passionate vibration of his voice increased, as if it must break
in tears. She glanced towards the other room with a little movement or
stir.

"Ah, you needn't be afraid of listening to me!" cried the priest
bitterly.

"I will not wake her," said Florida calmly, after an instant.

"See how you speak the thing you mean, always, always, always! You could
not deny that you meant to wake her, for you have the life-long habit of
the truth. Do you know what it is to have the life-long habit of a lie?
It is to be a priest. Do you know what it is to seem, to say, to do,
the thing you are not, think not, will not? To leave what you believe
unspoken, what you will undone, what you are unknown? It is to be a
priest!"

Don Ippolito spoke in Italian, and he uttered these words in a voice
carefully guarded from every listener but the one before his face. "Do
you know what it is when such a moment as this comes, and you would
fling away the whole fabric of falsehood that has clothed your life--do
you know what it is to keep still so much of it as will help you to
unmask silently and secretly? It is to be a priest!"

His voice had lost its vehemence, and his manner was strangely subdued
and cold. The sort of gentle apathy it expressed, together with a
certain sad, impersonal surprise at the difference between his own and
the happier fortune with which he contrasted it, was more touching than
any tragic demonstration.

As if she felt the fascination of the pathos which she could not fully
analyze, the young girl sat silent. After a time, in which she seemed to
be trying to think it all out, she asked in a low, deep murmur: "Why did
you become a priest, then?"

"It is a long story," said Don Ippolito. "I will not trouble you with it
now. Some other time."

"No; now," answered Florida, in English. "If you hate so to be a priest,
I can't understand why you should have allowed yourself to become one.
We should be very unhappy if we could not respect you,--not trust you as
we have done; and how could we, if we knew you were not true to yourself
in being what you are?"

"Madamigella," said the priest, "I never dared believe that I was in the
smallest thing necessary to your happiness. Is it true, then, that
you care for my being rather this than that? That you are in the least
grieved by any wrong of mine?"

"I scarcely know what you mean. How could we help being grieved by what
you have said to me?"

"Thanks; but why do you care whether a priest of my church loves his
calling or not,--you, a Protestant? It is that you are sorry for me as
an unhappy man, is it not?"

"Yes; it is that and more. I am no Catholic, but we are both
Christians"--

Don Ippolito gave the faintest movement of his shoulders.

--"and I cannot endure to think of your doing the things you must do as
a priest, and yet hating to be a priest. It is terrible!"

"Are all the priests of your faith devotees?"

"They cannot be. But are none of yours so?"

"Oh, God forbid that I should say that. I have known real saints among
them. That friend of mine in Padua, of whom I once told you, became
such, and died an angel fit for Paradise. And I suppose that my poor
uncle is a saint, too, in his way."

"Your uncle? A priest? You have never mentioned him to us."

"No," said Don Ippolito. After a certain pause he began abruptly, "We
are of the people, my family, and in each generation we have sought to
honor our blood by devoting one of the race to the church. When I was a
child, I used to divert myself by making little figures out of wood and
pasteboard, and I drew rude copies of the pictures I saw at church. We
lived in the house where I live now, and where I was born, and my mother
let me play in the small chamber where I now have my forge; it was
anciently the oratory of the noble family that occupied the whole
palace. I contrived an altar at one end of it; I stuck my pictures about
the walls, and I ranged the puppets in the order of worshippers on the
floor; then I played at saying mass, and preached to them all day long.

"My mother was a widow. She used to watch me with tears in her eyes.
At last, one day, she brought my uncle to see me: I remember it all far
better than yesterday. 'Is it not the will of God?' she asked. My uncle
called me to him, and asked me whether I should like to be a priest
in good earnest, when I grew up? 'Shall I then be able to make as many
little figures as I like, and to paint pictures, and carve an altar like
that in your church?' I demanded. My uncle answered that I should have
real men and women to preach to, as he had, and would not that be much
finer? In my heart I did not think so, for I did not care for that part
of it; I only liked to preach to my puppets because I had made them.
But said, 'Oh yes,' as children do. I kept on contriving the toys that I
played with, and I grew used to hearing it told among my mates and about
the neighborhood that I was to be a priest; I cannot remember any other
talk with my mother, and I do not know how or when it was decided.
Whenever I thought of the matter, I thought, 'That will be very well.
The priests have very little to do, and they gain a great deal of money
with their masses; and I shall be able to make whatever I like.' I only
considered the office then as a means to gratify the passion that has
always filled my soul for inventions and works of mechanical skill and
ingenuity. My inclination was purely secular, but I was as inevitably
becoming a priest as if I had been born to be one."

"But you were not forced? There was no pressure upon you?"

"No, there was merely an absence, so far as they were concerned, of any
other idea. I think they meant justly, and assuredly they meant kindly
by me. I grew in years, and the time came when I was to begin my
studies. It was my uncle's influence that placed me in the Seminary of
the Salute, and there I repaid his care by the utmost diligence. But it
was not the theological studies that I loved, it was the mathematics
and their practical application, and among the classics I loved best
the poets and the historians. Yes, I can see that I was always a mundane
spirit, and some of those in charge of me at once divined it, I think.
They used to take us to walk,--you have seen the little creatures in
their priest's gowns, which they put on when they enter the school, with
a couple of young priests at the head of the file,--and once, for an
uncommon pleasure, they took us to the Arsenal, and let us see the
shipyards and the museum. You know the wonderful things that are there:
the flags and the guns captured from the Turks; the strange weapons of
all devices; the famous suits of armor. I came back half-crazed; I wept
that I must leave the place. But I set to work the best I could to carve
out in wood an invention which the model of one of the antique galleys
had suggested to me. They found it,--nothing can be concealed outside
of your own breast in such a school,--and they carried me with my
contrivance before the superior. He looked kindly but gravely at me: 'My
son,' said he, 'do you wish to be a priest?' 'Surely, reverend father,'
I answered in alarm, 'why not?' 'Because these things are not for
priests. Their thoughts must be upon other things. Consider well of it,
my son, while there is yet time,' he said, and he addressed me a long
and serious discourse upon the life on which I was to enter. He was a
just and conscientious and affectionate man; but every word fell like
burning fire in my heart. At the end, he took my poor plaything, and
thrust it down among the coals of his _scaldino_. It made the scaldino
smoke, and he bade me carry it out with me, and so turned again to his
book.

"My mother was by this time dead, but I could hardly have gone to her,
if she had still been living. 'These things are not for priests!' kept
repeating itself night and day in my brain. I was in despair, I was in
a fury to see my uncle. I poured out my heart to him, and tried to make
him understand the illusions and vain hopes in which I had lived. He
received coldly my sorrow and the reproaches which I did not spare
him; he bade me consider my inclinations as so many temptations to be
overcome for the good of my soul and the glory of God. He warned me
against the scandal of attempting to withdraw now from the path marked
out for me. I said that I never would be a priest. 'And what will you
do?' he asked. Alas! what could I do? I went back to my prison, and in
due course I became a priest.

"It was not without sufficient warning that I took one order after
another, but my uncle's words, 'What will you do?' made me deaf to these
admonitions. All that is now past. I no longer resent nor hate; I seem
to have lost the power; but those were days when my soul was filled with
bitterness. Something of this must have showed itself to those who had
me in their charge. I have heard that at one time my superiors had grave
doubts whether I ought to be allowed to take orders. My examination,
in which the difficulties of the sacerdotal life were brought before me
with the greatest clearness, was severe; I do not know how I passed it;
it must have been in grace to my uncle. I spent the next ten days in a
convent, to meditate upon the step I was about to take. Poor helpless,
friendless wretch! Madamigella, even yet I cannot see how I was to
blame, that I came forth and received the first of the holy orders, and
in their time the second and the third.

"I was a priest, but no more a priest at heart than those Venetian
conscripts, whom you saw carried away last week, are Austrian soldiers.
I was bound as they are bound, by an inexorable and inevitable law.

"You have asked me why I became a priest. Perhaps I have not told
you why, but I have told you how--I have given you the slight outward
events, not the processes of my mind--and that is all that I can do. If
the guilt was mine, I have suffered for it. If it was not mine, still I
have suffered for it. Some ban seems to have rested upon whatever I have
attempted. My work,--oh, I know it well enough!--has all been cursed
with futility; my labors are miserable failures or contemptible
successes. I have had my unselfish dreams of blessing mankind by some
great discovery or invention; but my life has been barren, barren,
barren; and save for the kindness that I have known in this house, and
that would not let me despair, it would now be without hope."

He ceased, and the girl, who had listened with her proud looks
transfigured to an aspect of grieving pity, fetched a long sigh. "Oh,
I am sorry for you!" she said, "more sorry than I know how to tell. But
you must not lose courage, you must not give up!"

Don Ippolito resumed with a melancholy smile. "There are doubtless
temptations enough to be false under the best of conditions in this
world. But something--I do not know what or whom; perhaps no more my
uncle or my mother than I, for they were only as the past had made
them--caused me to begin by living a lie, do you not see?"

"Yes, yes," reluctantly assented the girl.

"Perhaps--who knows?--that is why no good has come of me, nor can come.
My uncle's piety and repute have always been my efficient help. He is
the principal priest of the church to which I am attached, and he has
had infinite patience with me. My ambition and my attempted inventions
are a scandal to him, for he is a priest of those like the Holy Father,
who believe that all the wickedness of the modern world has come from
the devices of science; my indifference to the things of religion is a
terror and a sorrow to him which he combats with prayers and penances.
He starves himself and goes cold and faint that God may have mercy and
turn my heart to the things on which his own is fixed. He loves my soul,
but not me, and we are scarcely friends."

Florida continued to look at him with steadfast, compassionate eyes.
"It seems very strange, almost like some dream," she murmured, "that you
should be saying all this to me, Don Ippolito, and I do not know why I
should have asked you anything."

The pity of this virginal heart must have been very sweet to the man
on whom she looked it. His eyes worshipped her, as he answered her
devoutly, "It was due to the truth in you that I should seem to you what
I am."

"Indeed, you make me ashamed!" she cried with a blush. "It was selfish
of me to ask you to speak. And now, after what you have told me, I am
so helpless and I know so very little that I don't understand how to
comfort or encourage you. But surely you can somehow help yourself. Are
men, that seem so strong and able, just as powerless as women, after
all, when it comes to real trouble? Is a man"--

"I cannot answer. I am only a priest," said Don Ippolito coldly, letting
his eyes drop to the gown that fell about him like a woman's skirt.

"Yes, but a priest should be a man, and so much more; a priest"--

Don Ippolito shrugged his shoulders.

"No, no!" cried the girl. "Your own schemes have all failed, you say;
then why do you not think of becoming a priest in reality, and getting
the good there must be in such a calling? It is singular that I should
venture to say such a thing to you, and it must seem presumptuous and
ridiculous for me, a Protestant--but our ways are so different."... She
paused, coloring deeply, then controlled herself, and added with grave
composure, "If you were to pray"--

"To what, madamigella?" asked the priest, sadly.

"To what!" she echoed, opening her eyes full upon him. "To God!"

Don Ippolito made no answer. He let his head fall so low upon his breast
that she could see the sacerdotal tonsure.

"You must excuse me," she said, blushing again. "I did not mean to wound
your feelings as a Catholic. I have been very bold and intrusive. I
ought to have remembered that people of your church have different
ideas--that the saints"--

Don Ippolito looked up with pensive irony.

"Oh, the poor saints!"

"I don't understand you," said Florida, very gravely.

"I mean that I believe in the saints as little as you do."

"But you believe in your Church?"

"I have no Church."

There was a silence in which Don Ippolito again dropped his head upon
his breast. Florida leaned forward in her eagerness, and murmured, "You
believe in God?"

The priest lifted his eyes and looked at her beseechingly. "I do not
know," he whispered. She met his gaze with one of dumb bewilderment. At
last she said: "Sometimes you baptize little children and receive them
into the church in the name of God?"

"Yes."

"Poor creatures come to you and confess their sins, and you absolve
them, or order them to do penances?"

"Yes."

"And sometimes when people are dying, you must stand by their death-beds
and give them the last consolations of religion?"

"It is true."

"Oh!" moaned the girl, and fixed on Don Ippolito a long look of wonder
and reproach, which he met with eyes of silent anguish.

"It is terrible, madamigella," he said, rising. "I know it. I would fain
have lived single-heartedly, for I think I was made so; but now you see
how black and deadly a lie my life is. It is worse than you could have
imagined, is it not? It is worse than the life of the cruelest bigot,
for he at least believes in himself."

"Worse, far worse!"

"But at least, dear young lady," he went on piteously, "believe me
that I have the grace to abhor myself. It is not much, it is very, very
little, but it is something. Do not wholly condemn me!"

"Condemn? Oh, I am sorry for you with my whole heart. Only, why must you
tell me all this? No, no; you are not to blame. I made you speak; I made
you put yourself to shame."

"Not that, dearest madamigella. I would unsay nothing now, if I could,
unless to take away the pain I have given you. It has been more a relief
than a shame to have all this known to you; and even if you should
despise me"--

"I don't despise you; that isn't for me; but oh, I wish that I could
help you!"

Don Ippolito shook his head. "You cannot help me; but I thank you for
your compassion; I shall never forget it." He lingered irresolutely with
his hat in his hand. "Shall we go on with the reading, madamigella?"

"No, we will not read any more to-day," she answered.

"Then I relieve you of the disturbance, madamigella," he said; and after
a moment's hesitation he bowed sadly and went.

She mechanically followed him to the door, with some little gestures
and movements of a desire to keep him from going, yet let him go, and so
turned back and sat down with her hands resting noiseless on the keys of
the piano.



XI.


The next morning Don Ippolito did not come, but in the afternoon the
postman brought a letter for Mrs. Vervain, couched in the priest's
English, begging her indulgence until after the day of Corpus Christi,
up to which time, he said, he should be too occupied for his visits of
ordinary.

This letter reminded Mrs. Vervain that they had not seen Mr. Ferris
for three days, and she sent to ask him to dinner. But he returned an
excuse, and he was not to be had to breakfast the next morning for the
asking. He was in open rebellion. Mrs. Vervain had herself rowed to the
consular landing, and sent up her gondolier with another invitation to
dinner.

The painter appeared on the balcony in the linen blouse which he wore
at his work, and looked down with a frown on the smiling face of Mrs.
Vervain for a moment without speaking. Then, "I'll come," he said
gloomily.

"Come with me, then," returned Mrs. Vervain,

"I shall have to keep you waiting."

"I don't mind that. You'll be ready in five minutes."

Florida met the painter with such gentleness that he felt his resentment
to have been a stupid caprice, for which there was no ground in the
world. He tried to recall his fading sense of outrage, but he found
nothing in his mind but penitence. The sort of distraught humility with
which she behaved gave her a novel fascination.

The dinner was good, as Mrs. Vervain's dinners always were, and there
was a compliment to the painter in the presence of a favorite dish. When
he saw this, "Well, Mrs. Vervain, what is it?" he asked. "You
needn't pretend that you're treating me so well for nothing. You want
something."

"We want nothing but that you should not neglect your friends. We have
been utterly deserted for three or four days. Don Ippolito has not been
here, either; but _he_ has some excuse; he has to get ready for Corpus
Christi. He's going to be in the procession."

"Is he to appear with his flying machine, or his portable dining-table,
or his automatic camera?"

"For shame!" cried Mrs. Vervain, beaming reproach. Florida's face
clouded, and Ferris made haste to say that he did not know these
inventions were sacred, and that he had no wish to blaspheme them.

"You know well enough what I meant," answered Mrs. Vervain. "And now, we
want you to get us a window to look out on the procession."

"Oh, _that's_ what you want, is it? I thought you merely wanted me not
to neglect my friends."

"Well, do you call that neglecting them?"

"Mrs. Vervain, Mrs. Vervain! What a mind you have! Is there anything
else you want? Me to go with you, for example?"

"We don't insist. You can take us to the window and leave us, if you
like."

"This clemency is indeed unexpected," replied Ferris. "I'm really quite
unworthy of it."

He was going on with the badinage customary between Mrs. Vervain and
himself, when Florida protested,--

"Mother, I think we abuse Mr. Ferris's kindness."

"I know it, my dear--I know it," cheerfully assented Mrs. Vervain. "It's
perfectly shocking. But what are we to do? We must abuse _somebody's_
kindness."

"We had better stay at home. I'd much rather not go," said the girl,
tremulously.

"Why, Miss Vervain," said Ferris gravely, "I'm very sorry if you've
misunderstood my joking. I've never yet seen the procession to
advantage, and I'd like very much to look on with you."

He could not tell whether she was grateful for his words, or annoyed.
She resolutely said no more, but her mother took up the strain and
discoursed long upon it, arranging all the particulars of their meeting
and going together. Ferris was a little piqued, and began to wonder why
Miss Vervain did not stay at home if she did not want to go. To be
sure, she went everywhere with her mother but it was strange, with her
habitual violent submissiveness, that she should have said anything in
opposition to her mother's wish or purpose.

After dinner, Mrs. Vervain frankly withdrew for her nap, and Florida
seemed to make a little haste to take some sewing in her hand, and sat
down with the air of a woman willing; to detain her visitor. Ferris was
not such a stoic as not to be dimly flattered by this, but he was too
much of a man to be fully aware how great an advance it might seem.

"I suppose we shall see most of the priests of Venice, and what they are
like, in the procession to-morrow," she said. "Do you remember speaking
to me about priests, the other day, Mr. Ferris?"

"Yes, I remember it very well. I think I overdid it; and I couldn't
perceive afterwards that I had shown any motive but a desire to make
trouble for Don Ippolito."

"I never thought that," answered Florida, seriously. "What you said was
true, wasn't it?"

"Yes, it was and it wasn't, and I don't know that it differed from
anything else in the world, in that respect. It is true that there is a
great distrust of the priests amongst the Italians. The young men hate
them--or think they do--or say they do. Most educated men in middle life
are materialists, and of course unfriendly to the priests. There are
even women who are skeptical about religion. But I suspect that the
largest number of all those who talk loudest against the priests are
really subject to them. You must consider how very intimately they are
bound up with every family in the most solemn relations of life."

"Do you think the priests are generally bad men?" asked the young girl
shyly.

"I don't, indeed. I don't see how things could hang together if it were
so. There must be a great basis of sincerity and goodness in them, when
all is said and done. It seems to me that at the worst they're merely
professional people--poor fellows who have gone into the church for a
living. You know it isn't often now that the sons of noble families
take orders; the priests are mostly of humble origin; not that they're
necessarily the worse for that; the patricians used to be just as bad in
another way."

"I wonder," said Florida, with her head on one side, considering her
seam, "why there is always something so dreadful to us in the idea of a
priest."

"They _do_ seem a kind of alien creature to us Protestants. I can't make
out whether they seem so to Catholics, or not. But we have a repugnance
to all doomed people, haven't we? And a priest is a man under sentence
of death to the natural ties between himself and the human race. He is
dead to us. That makes him dreadful. The spectre of our dearest friend,
father or mother, would be terrible. And yet," added Ferris, musingly,
"a nun isn't terrible."

"No," answered the girl, "that's because a woman's life even in the
world seems to be a constant giving up. No, a nun isn't unnatural, but a
priest is."

She was silent for a time, in which she sewed swiftly; then she suddenly
dropped her work into her lap, and pressing it down with both hands, she
asked, "Do you believe that priests themselves are ever skeptical about
religion?"

"I suppose it must happen now and then. In the best days of the church
it was a fashion to doubt, you know. I've often wanted to ask our friend
Don Ippolito something about these matters, but I didn't see how it
could be managed." Ferris did not note the change that passed over
Florida's face, and he continued. "Our acquaintance hasn't become so
intimate as I hoped it might. But you only get to a certain point with
Italians. They like to meet you on the street; maybe they haven't any
indoors."

"Yes, it must sometimes happen, as you say," replied Florida, with a
quick sigh, reverting to the beginning of Ferris's answer. "But is it
any worse for a false priest than for a hypocritical minister?"

"It's bad enough for either, but it's worse for the priest. You see Miss
Vervain, a minister doesn't set up for so much. He doesn't pretend to
forgive us our sins, and he doesn't ask us to confess them; he doesn't
offer us the veritable body and blood in the sacrament, and he doesn't
bear allegiance to the visible and tangible vicegerent of Christ upon
earth. A hypocritical parson may be absurd; but a skeptical priest is
tragical."

"Yes, oh yes, I see," murmured the girl, with a grieving face. "Are they
always to blame for it? They must be induced, sometimes, to enter the
church before they've seriously thought about it, and then don't know
how to escape from the path that has been marked out for them from their
childhood. Should you think such a priest as that was to blame for being
a skeptic?" she asked very earnestly.

"No," said Ferris, with a smile at her seriousness, "I should think such
a skeptic as that was to blame for being a priest."

"Shouldn't you be very sorry for him?" pursued Florida still more
solemnly.

"I should, indeed, if I liked him. If I didn't, I'm afraid I shouldn't,"
said Ferris; but he saw that his levity jarred upon her. "Come, Miss
Vervain, you're not going to look at those fat monks and sleek priests
in the procession to-morrow as so many incorporate tragedies, are you?
You'll spoil my pleasure if you do. I dare say they'll be all of them
devout believers, accepting everything, down to the animalcula in the
holy water."

"If _you_ were that kind of a priest," persisted the girl, without
heeding his jests, "what should you do?"

"Upon my word, I don't know. I can't imagine it. Why," he continued,
"think what a helpless creature a priest is in everything but his
priesthood--more helpless than a woman, even. The only thing he could
do would be to leave the church, and how could he do that? He's in the
world, but he isn't of it, and I don't see what he could do with it,
or it with him. If an Italian priest were to leave the church, even the
liberals, who distrust him now, would despise him still more. Do
you know that they have a pleasant fashion of calling the Protestant
converts apostates? The first thing for such a priest would be exile.
But I'm not supposably the kind of priest you mean, and I don't think
just such a priest supposable. I dare say if a priest found himself
drifting into doubt, he'd try to avoid the disagreeable subject, and,
if he couldn't, he'd philosophize it some way, and wouldn't let his
skepticism worry him."

"Then you mean that they haven't consciences like us?"

"They have consciences, but not like us. The Italians are kinder people
than we are, but they're not so just, and I should say that they don't
think truth the chief good of life. They believe there are pleasanter
and better things. Perhaps they're right."

"No, no; you don't believe that, you know you don't," said Florida,
anxiously. "And you haven't answered my question."

"Oh yes, I have. I've told you it wasn't a supposable case."

"But suppose it was."

"Well, if I must," answered Ferris with a laugh. "With my unfortunate
bringing up, I couldn't say less than that such a man ought to get out
of his priesthood at any hazard. He should cease to be a priest, if it
cost him kindred, friends, good fame, country, everything. I don't see
how there can be any living in such a lie, though I know there is.
In all reason, it ought to eat the soul out of a man, and leave him
helpless to do or be any sort of good. But there seems to be something,
I don't know what it is, that is above all reason of ours, something
that saves each of us for good in spite of the bad that's in us. It's
very good practice, for a man who wants to be modest, to come and live
in a Latin country. He learns to suspect his own topping virtues, and
to be lenient to the novel combinations of right and wrong that he sees.
But as for our insupposable priest--yes, I should say decidedly he ought
to get out of it by all means."

Florida fell back in her chair with an aspect of such relief as comes
to one from confirmation on an important point. She passed her hand over
the sewing in her lap, but did not speak.

Ferris went on, with a doubting look at her, for he had been shy of
introducing Don Ippolito's name since the day on the Brenta, and he did
not know what effect a recurrence to him in this talk might have. "I've
often wondered if our own clerical friend were not a little shaky in his
faith. I don't think nature meant him for a priest. He always strikes
me as an extremely secular-minded person. I doubt if he's ever put
the question whether he is what he professes to be, squarely to
himself--he's such a mere dreamer."

Florida changed her posture slightly, and looked down at her sewing. She
asked, "But shouldn't you abhor him if he were a skeptical priest?"

Ferris shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, I don't find it such an easy matter
to abhor people. It would be interesting," he continued musingly, "to
have such a dreamer waked up, once, and suddenly confronted with what
he recognized as perfect truthfulness, and couldn't help contrasting
himself with. But it would be a little cruel."

"Would you rather have him left as he was?" asked Florida, lifting her
eyes to his.

"As a moralist, no; as a humanitarian, yes, Miss Vervain. He'd be much
happier as he was."

"What time ought we to be ready for you tomorrow?" demanded the girl in
a tone of decision.

"We ought to be in the Piazza by nine o'clock," said Ferris, carelessly
accepting the change of subject; and he told her of his plan for seeing
the procession from a window of the Old Procuratie.

When he rose to go, he said lightly, "Perhaps, after all, we may see the
type of tragical priest we've been talking about. Who can tell? I say
his nose will be red."

"Perhaps," answered Florida, with unheeding gravity.



XII.


The day was one of those which can come to the world only in early June
at Venice. The heaven was without a cloud, but a blue haze made mystery
of the horizon where the lagoon and sky met unseen. The breath of the
sea bathed in freshness the city at whose feet her tides sparkled and
slept.

The great square of St. Mark was transformed from a mart, from a
_salon_, to a temple. The shops under the colonnades that inclose it
upon three sides were shut; the caffès, before which the circles of
idle coffee-drinkers and sherbet-eaters ordinarily spread out into the
Piazza, were repressed to the limits of their own doors; the stands of
the water-venders, the baskets of those that sold oranges of Palermo and
black cherries of Padua, had vanished from the base of the church of St.
Mark, which with its dim splendor of mosaics and its carven luxury of
pillar and arch and finial rose like the high-altar, ineffably rich and
beautiful, of the vaster temple whose inclosure it completed. Before
it stood the three great red flag-staffs, like painted tapers before
an altar, and from them hung the Austrian flags of red and white, and
yellow and black.


In the middle of the square stood the Austrian military band,
motionless, encircling their leader with his gold-headed staff uplifted.
During the night a light colonnade of wood, roofed with blue cloth, had
been put up around the inside of the Piazza, and under this now paused
the long pomp of the ecclesiastical procession--the priests of all the
Venetian churches in their richest vestments, followed in their order by
facchini, in white sandals and gay robes, with caps of scarlet, white,
green, and blue, who bore huge painted candles and silken banners
displaying the symbol or the portrait of the titular saints of the
several churches, and supported the canopies under which the host
of each was elevated. Before the clergy went a company of Austrian
soldiers, and behind the facchini came a long array of religious
societies, charity-school boys in uniforms, old paupers in holiday
dress, little naked urchins with shepherds' crooks and bits of fleece
about their loins like John the Baptist in the Wilderness, little girls
with angels' wings and crowns, the monks of the various orders, and
civilian penitents of all sorts in cloaks or dress-coats, hooded or
bareheaded, and carrying each a lighted taper. The corridors under
the Imperial Palace and the New and Old Procuratie were packed with
spectators; from every window up and down the fronts of the palaces,
gay stuffs were flung; the startled doves of St. Mark perched upon the
cornices, or fluttered uneasily to and fro above the crowd. The baton
of the band leader descended with a crash of martial music, the priests
chanted, the charity-boys sang shrill, a vast noise of shuffling feet
arose, mixed with the foliage-like rustling of the sheets of tinsel
attached to the banners and candles in the procession: the whole
strange, gorgeous picture came to life.

After all her plans and preparations, Mrs. Vervain had not felt well
enough that morning to come to the spectacle which she had counted
so much upon seeing, but she had therefore insisted the more that her
daughter should go, and Ferris now stood with Florida alone at a window
in the Old Procuratie.

"Well, what do you think, Miss Vervain?" he asked, when their senses had
somewhat accustomed themselves to the noise of the procession; "do
you say now that Venice is too gloomy a city to have ever had any
possibility of gayety in her?"

"I never said that," answered Florida, opening her eyes upon him.

"Neither did I," returned Ferris, "but I've often thought it, and I'm
not sure now but I'm right. There's something extremely melancholy to me
in all this. I don't care so much for what one may call the deplorable
superstition expressed in the spectacle, but the mere splendid sight and
the music are enough to make one shed tears. I don't know anything more
affecting except a procession of lantern-lit gondolas and barges on the
Grand Canal. It's phantasmal. It's the spectral resurrection of the old
dead forms into the present. It's not even the ghost, it's the corpse,
of other ages that's haunting Venice. The city ought to have been
destroyed by Napoleon when he destroyed the Republic, and thrown
overboard----St. Mark, Winged Lion, Bucentaur, and all. There is no land
like America for true cheerfulness and light-heartedness. Think of our
Fourth of Julys and our State Fairs. Selah!"

Ferris looked into the girl's serious face with twinkling eyes. He
liked to embarrass her gravity with his antic speeches, and enjoyed her
endeavors to find an earnest meaning in them, and her evident trouble
when she could find none.

"I'm curious to know how our friend will look," he began again, as he
arranged the cushion on the window-sill for Florida's greater comfort in
watching the spectacle, "but it won't be an easy matter to pick him out
in this masquerade, I fancy. Candle-carrying, as well as the other acts
of devotion, seems rather out of character with Don Ippolito, and I
can't imagine his putting much soul into it. However, very few of the
clergy appear to do that. Look at those holy men with their eyes to the
wind! They are wondering who is the _bella bionda_ at the window here."

Florida listened to his persiflage with an air of sad distraction. She
was intent upon the procession as it approached from the other side of
the Piazza, and she replied at random to his comments on the different
bodies that formed it.

"It's very hard to decide which are my favorites," he continued,
surveying the long column through an opera-glass. "My religious
disadvantages have been such that I don't care much for priests or
monks, or young John the Baptists, or small female cherubim, but I do
like little charity-boys with voices of pins and needles and hair cut _à
la_ dead-rabbit. I should like, if it were consistent with the consular
dignity, to go down and rub their heads. I'm fond, also, of _old_
charity-boys, I find. Those paupers make one in love with destitute
and dependent age, by their aspect of irresponsible enjoyment. See how
briskly each of them topples along on the leg that he hasn't got in
the grave! How attractive likewise are the civilian devotees in those
imperishable dress-coats of theirs! Observe their high collars of the
era of the Holy Alliance: they and their fathers and their grandfathers
before them have worn those dress-coats; in a hundred years from now
their posterity will keep holiday in them. I should like to know the
elixir by which the dress-coats of civil employees render themselves
immortal. Those penitents in the cloaks and cowls are not bad, either,
Miss Vervain. Come, they add a very pretty touch of mystery to this
spectacle. They're the sort of thing that painters are expected to paint
in Venice--that people sigh over as so peculiarly Venetian. If you've
a single sentiment about you, Miss Vervain, now is the time to produce
it."

"But I haven't. I'm afraid I have no sentiment at all," answered the
girl ruefully. "But this makes me dreadfully sad."

"Why that's just what I was saying a while ago. Excuse me, Miss Vervain,
but your sadness lacks novelty; it's a sort of plagiarism."

"Don't, please," she pleaded yet more earnestly. "I was just thinking--I
don't know why such an awful thought should come to me--that it might
all be a mistake after all; perhaps there might not be any other world,
and every bit of this power and display of the church--_our_ church as
well as the rest--might be only a cruel blunder, a dreadful mistake.
Perhaps there isn't even any God! Do you think there is?"

"I don't _think _it," said Ferris gravely, "I _know_ it. But I don't
wonder that this sight makes you doubt. Great God! How far it is from
Christ! Look there, at those troops who go before the followers of the
Lamb: their trade is murder. In a minute, if a dozen men called out,
'Long live the King of Italy!' it would be the duty of those soldiers to
fire into the helpless crowd. Look at the silken and gilded pomp of
the servants of the carpenter's son! Look at those miserable monks,
voluntary prisoners, beggars, aliens to their kind! Look at those
penitents who think that they can get forgiveness for their sins by
carrying a candle round the square! And it is nearly two thousand years
since the world turned Christian! It is pretty slow. But I suppose God
lets men learn Him from their own experience of evil. I imagine the
kingdom of heaven is a sort of republic, and that God draws men to Him
only through their perfect freedom."

"Yes, yes, it must be so," answered Florida, staring down on the crowd
with unseeing eyes, "but I can't fix my mind on it. I keep thinking the
whole time of what we were talking about yesterday. I never could have
dreamed of a priest's disbelieving; but now I can't dream of anything
else. It seems to me that none of these priests or monks can believe
anything. Their faces look false and sly and bad--_all_ of them!"

"No, no, Miss Vervain," said Ferris, smiling at her despair, "you push
matters a little beyond--as a woman has a right to do, of course. I
don't think their faces are bad, by any means. Some of them are dull and
torpid, and some are frivolous, just like the faces of other people. But
I've been noticing the number of good, kind, friendly faces, and they're
in the majority, just as they are amongst other people; for there are
very few souls altogether out of drawing, in my opinion. I've even
caught sight of some faces in which there was a real rapture of
devotion, and now and then a very innocent one. Here, for instance, is a
man I should like to bet on, if he'd only look up."

The priest whom Ferris indicated was slowly advancing toward the
space immediately under their window. He was dressed in robes of high
ceremony, and in his hand he carried a lighted taper. He moved with a
gentle tread, and the droop of his slender figure intimated a sort of
despairing weariness. While most of his fellows stared carelessly or
curiously about them, his face was downcast and averted.

Suddenly the procession paused, and a hush fell upon the vast assembly.
Then the silence was broken by the rustle and stir of all those
thousands going down upon their knees, as the cardinal-patriarch lifted
his hands to bless them.

The priest upon whom Ferris and Florida had fixed their eyes faltered
a moment, and before he knelt his next neighbor had to pluck him by the
skirt. Then he too knelt hastily, mechanically lifting his head, and
glancing along the front of the Old Procuratie. His face had that
weariness in it which his figure and movement had suggested, and it was
very pale, but it was yet more singular for the troubled innocence which
its traits expressed.

"There," whispered Ferris, "that's what I call an uncommonly good face."

Florida raised her hand to silence him, and the heavy gaze of the priest
rested on them coldly at first. Then a light of recognition shot into
his eyes and a flush suffused his pallid visage, which seemed to grow
the more haggard and desperate. His head fell again, and he dropped the
candle from his hand. One of those beggars who went by the side of the
procession, to gather the drippings of the tapers, restored it to him.

"Why," said Ferris aloud, "it's Don Ippolito! Did you know him at
first?"



XIII.


The ladies were sitting on the terrace when Don Ippolito came next
morning to say that he could not read with Miss Vervain that day nor for
several days after, alleging in excuse some priestly duties proper to
the time. Mrs. Vervain began to lament that she had not been able to
go to the procession of the day before. "I meant to have kept a sharp
lookout for you; Florida saw you, and so did Mr. Ferris. But it isn't at
all the same thing, you know. Florida has no faculty for describing; and
now I shall probably go away from Venice without seeing you in your real
character once."

Don Ippolito suffered this and more in meek silence. He waited his
opportunity with unfailing politeness, and then with gentle punctilio
took his leave.

"Well, come again as soon as your duties will let you, Don Ippolito,"
cried Mrs. Vervain. "We shall miss you dreadfully, and I begrudge every
one of your readings that Florida loses."

The priest passed, with the sliding step which his impeding drapery
imposed, down the garden walk, and was half-way to the gate, when
Florida, who had stood watching him, said to her mother, "I must speak
to him again," and lightly descended the steps and swiftly glided in
pursuit.

"Don Ippolito!" she called.

He already had his hand upon the gate, but he turned, and rapidly went
back to meet her.

She stood in the walk where she had stopped when her voice arrested him,
breathing quickly. Their eyes met; a painful shadow overcast the face of
the young girl, who seemed to be trying in vain to speak.

Mrs. Vervain put on her glasses and peered down at the two with
good-natured curiosity.

"Well, madamigella," said the priest at last, "what do you command me?"
He gave a faint, patient sigh.

The tears came into her eyes. "Oh," she began vehemently, "I wish there
was some one who had the right to speak to you!"

"No one," answered Don Ippolito, "has so much the right as you."

"I saw you yesterday," she began again, "and I thought of what you had
told me, Don Ippolito."

"Yes, I thought of it, too," answered the priest; "I have thought of it
ever since."

"But haven't you thought of any hope for yourself? Must you still go on
as before? How can you go back now to those things, and pretend to
think them holy, and all the time have no heart or faith in them? It's
terrible!"

"What would you, madamigella?" demanded Don Ippolito, with a moody
shrug. "It is my profession, my trade, you know. You might say to the
prisoner," he added bitterly, "'It is terrible to see you chained here.'
Yes, it is terrible. Oh, I don't reject your compassion! But what can I
do?"

"Sit down with me here," said Florida in her blunt, child-like way, and
sank upon the stone seat beside the walk. She clasped her hands together
in her lap with some strong, bashful emotion, while Don Ippolito,
obeying her command, waited for her to speak. Her voice was scarcely
more than a hoarse whisper when she began.

"I don't know how to begin what I want to say. I am not fit to advise
any one. I am so young, and so very ignorant of the world."

"I too know little of the world," said the priest, as much to himself as
to her.

"It may be all wrong, all wrong. Besides," she said abruptly, "how do
I know that you are a good man, Don Ippolito? How do I know that you've
been telling me the truth? It may be all a kind of trap"--

He looked blankly at her.

"This is in Venice; and you may be leading me on to say things to you
that will make trouble for my mother and me. You may be a spy"--

"Oh no, no, no!" cried the priest, springing to his feet with a kind of
moan, and a shudder, "God forbid!" He swiftly touched her hand with the
tips of his fingers, and then kissed them: an action of inexpressible
humility. "Madamigella, I swear to you by everything you believe good
that I would rather die than be false to you in a single breath or
thought."

"Oh, I know it, I know it," she murmured. "I don't see how I could say
such a cruel thing."

"Not cruel; no, madamigella, not cruel," softly pleaded Don Ippolito.

"But--but is there _no_ escape for you?"

They looked steadfastly at each other for a moment, and then Don
Ippolito spoke.

"Yes," he said very gravely, "there is one way of escape. I have often
thought of it, and once I thought I had taken the first step towards it;
but it is beset with many great obstacles, and to be a priest makes one
timid and insecure."

He lapsed into his musing melancholy with the last words; but she
would not suffer him to lose whatever heart he had begun to speak with.
"That's nothing," she said, "you must think again of that way of escape,
and never turn from it till you have tried it. Only take the first step
and you can go on. Friends will rise up everywhere, and make it easy for
you. Come," she implored him fervently, "you must promise."

He bent his dreamy eyes upon her.

"If I should take this only way of escape, and it seemed desperate to
all others, would you still be my friend?"

"I should be your friend if the whole world turned against you."

"Would you be my friend," he asked eagerly in lower tones, and with
signs of an inward struggle, "if this way of escape were for me to be no
longer a priest?"

"Oh yes, yes! Why not?" cried the girl; and her face glowed with heroic
sympathy and defiance. It is from this heaven-born ignorance in women
of the insuperable difficulties of doing right that men take fire and
accomplish the sublime impossibilities. Our sense of details, our fatal
habits of reasoning paralyze us; we need the impulse of the pure ideal
which we can get only from them. These two were alike children as
regarded the world, but he had a man's dark prevision of the means, and
she a heavenly scorn of everything but the end to be achieved.

He drew a long breath. "Then it does not seem terrible to you?"

"Terrible? No! I don't see how you can rest till it is done!"

"Is it true, then, that you urge me to this step, which indeed I have so
long desired to take?"

"Yes, it is true! Listen, Don Ippolito: it is the very thing that I
hoped you would do, but I wanted you to speak of it first. You must have
all the honor of it, and I am glad you thought of it before. You will
never regret it!"

She smiled radiantly upon him, and he kindled at her enthusiasm. In
another moment his face darkened again. "But it will cost much," he
murmured.

"No matter," cried Florida. "Such a man as you ought to leave the
priesthood at any risk or hazard. You should cease to be a priest, if it
cost you kindred, friends, good fame, country, everything!" She blushed
with irrelevant consciousness. "Why need you be downhearted? With your
genius once free, you can make country and fame and friends everywhere.
Leave Venice! There are other places. Think how inventors succeed in
America"--

"In America!" exclaimed the priest. "Ah, how long I have desired to be
there!"

"You must go. You will soon be famous and honored there, and you shall
not be a stranger, even at the first. Do you know that we are going home
very soon? Yes, my mother and I have been talking of it to-day. We are
both homesick, and you see that she is not well. You shall come to us
there, and make our house your home till you have formed some plans
of your own. Everything will be easy. God _is_ good," she said in a
breaking voice, "and you may be sure he will befriend you."

"Some one," answered Don Ippolito, with tears in his eyes, "has already
been very good to me. I thought it was you, but I will call it God!"

"Hush! You mustn't say such things. But you must go, now. Take time to
think, but not too much time. Only,--be true to yourself."

They rose, and she laid her hand on his arm with an instinctive gesture
of appeal. He stood bewildered. Then, "Thanks, madamigella, thanks!" he
said, and caught her fragrant hand to his lips. He loosed it and lifted
both his arms by a blind impulse in which he arrested himself with a
burning blush, and turned away. He did not take leave of her with his
wonted formalities, but hurried abruptly toward the gate.

A panic seemed to seize her as she saw him open it. She ran after him.
"Don Ippolito, Don Ippolito," she said, coming up to him; and stammered
and faltered. "I don't know; I am frightened. You must do nothing from
me; I cannot let you; I'm not fit to advise you. It must be wholly from
your own conscience. Oh no, don't look so! I _will_ be your friend,
whatever happens. But if what you think of doing has seemed so terrible
to you, perhaps it _is_ more terrible than I can understand. If it is
the only way, it is right. But is there no other? What I mean is, have
you no one to talk all this over with? I mean, can't you speak of it
to--to Mr. Ferris? He is so true and honest and just."

"I was going to him," said Don Ippolito, with a dim trouble in his face.

"Oh, I am so glad of that! Remember, I don't take anything back. No
matter what happens, I will be your friend. But he will tell you just
what to do."

Don Ippolito bowed and opened the gate.

Florida went back to her mother, who asked her, "What in the world have
you and Don Ippolito been talking about so earnestly? What makes you so
pale and out of breath?"

"I have been wanting to tell you, mother," said Florida. She drew her
chair in front of the elder lady, and sat down.



XIV.


Don Ippolito did not go directly to the painter's. He walked toward
his house at first, and then turned aside, and wandered out through the
noisy and populous district of Canaregio to the Campo di Marte. A squad
of cavalry which had been going through some exercises there was moving
off the parade ground; a few infantry soldiers were strolling about
under the trees. Don Ippolito walked across the field to the border of
the lagoon, where he began to pace to and fro, with his head sunk in
deep thought. He moved rapidly, but sometimes he stopped and stood still
in the sun, whose heat he did not seem to feel, though a perspiration
bathed his pale face and stood in drops on his forehead under the shadow
of his nicchio. Some little dirty children of the poor, with which this
region swarms, looked at him from the sloping shore of the Campo di
Giustizia, where the executions used to take place, and a small boy
began to mock his movements and pauses, but was arrested by one of the
girls, who shook him and gesticulated warningly.

At this point the long railroad bridge which connects Venice with
the mainland is in full sight, and now from the reverie in which he
continued, whether he walked or stood still, Don Ippolito was roused
by the whistle of an outward train. He followed it with his eye as it
streamed along over the far-stretching arches, and struck out into the
flat, salt marshes beyond. When the distance hid it, he put on his hat,
which he had unknowingly removed, and turned his rapid steps toward the
railroad station. Arrived there, he lingered in the vestibule for half
an hour, watching the people as they bought their tickets for departure,
and had their baggage examined by the customs officers, and weighed and
registered by the railroad porters, who passed it through the wicket
shutting out the train, while the passengers gathered up their smaller
parcels and took their way to the waiting-rooms. He followed a group of
English people some paces in this direction, and then returned to the
wicket, through which he looked long and wistfully at the train. The
baggage was all passed through; the doors of the waiting-rooms were
thrown open with harsh proclamation by the guards, and the passengers
flocked into the carriages. Whistles and bells were sounded, and the
train crept out of the station.

A man in the company's uniform approached the unconscious priest, and
striking his hands softly together, said with a pleasant smile, "Your
servant, Don Ippolito. Are you expecting some one?"

"Ah, good day!" answered the priest, with a little start. "No," he
added, "I was not looking for any one."

"I see," said the other. "Amusing yourself as usual with the machinery.
Excuse the freedom, Don Ippolito; but you ought to have been of our
profession,--ha, ha! When you have the leisure, I should like to show
you the drawing of an American locomotive which a friend of mine has
sent me from Nuova York. It is very different from ours, very curious.
But monstrous in size, you know, prodigious! May I come with it to your
house, some evening?"

"You will do me a great pleasure," said Don Ippolito. He gazed dreamily
in the direction of the vanished train. "Was that the train for Milan?"
he asked presently.

"Exactly," said the man.

"Does it go all the way to Milan?"

"Oh, no! it stops at Peschiera, where the passengers have their
passports examined; and then another train backs down from Desenzano
and takes them on to Milan. And after that," continued the man with
animation, "if you are on the way to England, for example, another train
carries you to Susa, and there you get the diligence over the mountain
to St. Michel, where you take railroad again, and so on up through Paris
to Boulogne-sur-Mer, and then by steamer to Folkestone, and then by
railroad to London and to Liverpool. It is at Liverpool that you go on
board the steamer for America, and piff! in ten days you are in Nuova
York. My friend has written me all about it."

"Ah yes, your friend. Does he like it there in America?"

"Passably, passably. The Americans have no manners; but they are good
devils. They are governed by the Irish. And the wine is dear. But he
likes America; yes, he likes it. Nuova York is a fine city. But immense,
you know! Eight times as large as Venice!"

"Is your friend prosperous there?"

"Ah heigh! That is the prettiest part of the story. He has made himself
rich. He is employed by a large house to make designs for mantlepieces,
and marble tables, and tombs; and he has--listen!--six hundred francs a
month!"

"Oh per Bacco!" cried Don Ippolito.

"Honestly. But you spend a great deal there. Still, it is magnificent,
is it not? If it were not for that blessed war there, now, that would be
the place for you, Don Ippolito. He tells me the Americans are actually
mad for inventions. Your servant. Excuse the freedom, you know," said
the man, bowing and moving away.

"Nothing, dear, nothing," answered the priest. He walked out of the
station with a light step, and went to his own house, where he sought
the room in which his inventions were stored. He had not touched them
for weeks. They were all dusty and many were cobwebbed. He blew the dust
from some, and bringing them to the light, examined them critically,
finding them mostly disabled in one way or other, except the models of
the portable furniture which he polished with his handkerchief and set
apart, surveying them from a distance with a look of hope. He took up
the breech-loading cannon and then suddenly put it down again with a
little shiver, and went to the threshold of the perverted oratory and
glanced in at his forge. Veneranda had carelessly left the window
open, and the draught had carried the ashes about the floor. On the
cinder-heap lay the tools which he had used in mending the broken pipe
of the fountain at Casa Vervain, and had not used since. The place
seemed chilly even on that summer's day. He stood in the doorway with
clenched hands. Then he called Veneranda, chid her for leaving the
window open, and bade her close it, and so quitted the house and left
her muttering.

Ferris seemed surprised to see him when he appeared at the consulate
near the middle of the afternoon, and seated himself in the place where
he was wont to pose for the painter.

"Were you going to give me a sitting?" asked the latter, hesitating.
"The light is horrible, just now, with this glare from the canal. Not
that I manage much better when it's good. I don't get on with you, Don
Ippolito. There are too many of you. I shouldn't have known you in the
procession yesterday."

Don Ippolito did not respond. He rose and went toward his portrait on
the easel, and examined it long, with a curious minuteness. Then he
returned to his chair, and continued to look at it. "I suppose that it
resembles me a great deal," he said, "and yet I do not _feel_ like that.
I hardly know what is the fault. It is as I should be if I were like
other priests, perhaps?"

"I know it's not good," said the painter. "It _is_ conventional, in
spite of everything. But here's that first sketch I made of you."

He took up a canvas facing the wall, and set it on the easel. The
character in this charcoal sketch was vastly sincerer and sweeter.

"Ah!" said Don Ippolito, with a sigh and smile of relief, "that is
immeasurably better. I wish I could speak to you, dear friend, in a mood
of yours as sympathetic as this picture records, of some matters that
concern me very nearly. I have just come from the railroad station."

"Seeing some friends off?" asked the painter, indifferently, hovering
near the sketch with a bit of charcoal in his hand, and hesitating
whether to give it a certain touch. He glanced with half-shut eyes at
the priest.

Don Ippolito sighed again. "I hardly know. I was seeing off my hopes, my
desires, my prayers, that followed the train to America!"

The painter put down his charcoal, dusted his fingers, and looked at the
priest without saying anything.

"Do you remember when I first came to you?" asked Don Ippolito.

"Certainly," said Ferris. "Is it of that matter you want to speak to me?
I'm very sorry to hear it, for I don't think it practical."

"Practical, practical!" cried the priest hotly. "Nothing is practical
till it has been tried. And why should I not go to America?"

"Because you can't get your passport, for one thing," answered the
painter dryly.

"I have thought of that," rejoined Don Ippolito more patiently. "I can
get a passport for France from the Austrian authorities here, and at
Milan there must be ways in which I could change it for one from my own
king"--it was by this title that patriotic Venetians of those days spoke
of Victor Emmanuel--"that would carry me out of France into England."

Ferris pondered a moment. "That is quite true," he said. "Why hadn't you
thought of that when you first came to me?"

"I cannot tell. I didn't know that I could even get a passport for
France till the other day."

Both were silent while the painter filled his pipe. "Well," he said
presently, "I'm very sorry. I'm afraid you're dooming yourself to many
bitter disappointments in going to America. What do you expect to do
there?"

"Why, with my inventions"--

"I suppose," interrupted the other, putting a lighted match to his
pipe, "that a painter must be a very poor sort of American: _his_ first
thought is of coming to Italy. So I know very little directly about the
fortunes of my inventive fellow-countrymen, or whether an inventor has
any prospect of making a living. But once when I was at Washington I
went into the Patent Office, where the models of the inventions are
deposited; the building is about as large as the Ducal Palace, and it is
full of them. The people there told me nothing was commoner than for
the same invention to be repeated over and over again by different
inventors. Some few succeed, and then they have lawsuits with the
infringers of their patents; some sell out their inventions for a trifle
to companies that have capital, and that grow rich upon them; the great
number can never bring their ideas to the public notice at all. You can
judge for yourself what your chances would be. You have asked me why you
should not go to America. Well, because I think you would starve there."

"I am used to that," said Don Ippolito; "and besides, until some of my
inventions became known, I could give lessons in Italian."

"Oh, bravo!" said Ferris, "you prefer instant death, then?"

"But madamigella seemed to believe that my success as an inventor would
be assured, there."

Ferris gave a very ironical laugh. "Miss Vervain must have been about
twelve years old when she left America. Even a lady's knowledge of
business, at that age, is limited. When did you talk with her about it?
You had not spoken of it to me, of late, and I thought you were more
contented than you used to be."

"It is true," said the priest. "Sometimes within the last two months I
have almost forgotten it."

"And what has brought it so forcibly to your mind again?"

"That is what I so greatly desire to tell you," replied Don Ippolito,
with an appealing look at the painter's face. He moistened his parched
lips a little, waiting for further question from the painter, to whom he
seemed a man fevered by some strong emotion and at that moment not quite
wholesome. Ferris did not speak, and Don Ippolito began again: "Even
though I have not said so in words to you, dear friend, has it not
appeared to you that I have no heart in my vocation?"

"Yes, I have sometimes fancied that. I had no right to ask you why."

"Some day I will tell you, when I have the courage to go all over it
again. It is partly my own fault, but it is more my miserable fortune.
But wherever the wrong lies, it has at last become intolerable to me.
I cannot endure it any longer and live. I must go away, I must fly from
it."

Ferris shrank from him a little, as men instinctively do from one who
has set himself upon some desperate attempt. "Do you mean, Don Ippolito,
that you are going to renounce your priesthood?"

Don Ippolito opened his hands and let his priesthood drop, as it were,
to the ground.

"You never spoke of this before, when you talked of going to America.
Though to be sure"--

"Yes, yes!" replied Don Ippolito with vehemence, "but now an angel has
appeared and shown me the blackness of my life!"

Ferris began to wonder if he or Don Ippolito were not perhaps mad.

"An angel, yes," the priest went on, rising from his chair, "an angel
whose immaculate truth has mirrored my falsehood in all its vileness
and distortion--to whom, if it destroys me, I cannot devote less than a
truthfulness like hers!"

"Hers--hers?" cried the painter, with a sudden pang. "Whose? Don't speak
in these riddles. Whom do you mean?"

"Whom can I mean but only one?--madamigella!"

"Miss Vervain? Do you mean to say that Miss Vervain has advised you to
renounce your priesthood?"

"In as many words she has bidden me forsake it at any risk,--at the cost
of kindred, friends, good fame, country, everything."

The painter passed his hand confusedly over his face. These were his own
words, the words he had used in speaking with Florida of the supposed
skeptical priest. He grew very pale. "May I ask," he demanded in a hard,
dry voice, "how she came to advise such a step?"

"I can hardly tell. Something had already moved her to learn from me the
story of my life--to know that I was a man with neither faith nor hope.
Her pure heart was torn by the thought of my wrong and of my error. I
had never seen myself in such deformity as she saw me even when she
used me with that divine compassion. I was almost glad to be what I was
because of her angelic pity for me!"

The tears sprang to Don Ippolito's eyes, but Ferris asked in the same
tone as before, "Was it then that she bade you be no longer a priest?"

"No, not then," patiently replied the other; "she was too greatly
overwhelmed with my calamity to think of any cure for it. To-day it was
that she uttered those words--words which I shall never forget, which
will support and comfort me, whatever happens!"

The painter was biting hard upon the stem of his pipe. He turned away
and began ordering the color-tubes and pencils on a table against the
wall, putting them close together in very neat, straight rows. Presently
he said: "Perhaps Miss Vervain also advised you to go to America?"

"Yes," answered the priest reverently. "She had thought of everything.
She has promised me a refuge under her mother's roof there, until I can
make my inventions known; and I shall follow them at once."

"Follow them?"

"They are going, she told me. Madama does not grow better. They are
homesick. They--but you must know all this already?"

"Oh, not at all, not at all," said the painter with a very bitter smile.
"You are telling me news. Pray go on."

"There is no more. She made me promise to come to you and listen to your
advice before I took any step. I must not trust to her alone, she said;
but if I took this step, then through whatever happened she would be my
friend. Ah, dear friend, may I speak to you of the hope that these words
gave me? You have seen--have you not?--you must have seen that"--

The priest faltered, and Ferris stared at him helpless. When the next
words came he could not find any strangeness in the fact which yet gave
him so great a shock. He found that to his nether consciousness it had
been long familiar--ever since that day when he had first jestingly
proposed Don Ippolito as Miss Vervain's teacher. Grotesque, tragic,
impossible--it had still been the under-current of all his reveries; or
so now it seemed to have been.

Don Ippolito anxiously drew nearer to him and laid an imploring touch
upon his arm,--"I love her!"

"What!" gasped the painter. "You? You I A priest?"

"Priest! priest!" cried Don Ippolito, violently. "From this day I am
no longer a priest! From this hour I am a man, and I can offer her
the honorable love of a man, the truth of a most sacred marriage, and
fidelity to death!"

Ferris made no answer. He began to look very coldly and haughtily at Don
Ippolito, whose heat died away under his stare, and who at last met
it with a glance of tremulous perplexity. His hand had dropped from
Ferris's arm, and he now moved some steps from him. "What is it, dear
friend?" he besought him. "Is there something that offends you? I came
to you for counsel, and you meet me with a repulse little short of
enmity. I do not understand. Do I intend anything wrong without knowing
it? Oh, I conjure you to speak plainly!"

"Wait! Wait a minute," said Ferris, waving his hand like a man tormented
by a passing pain. "I am trying to think. What you say is.... I cannot
imagine it!"

"Not imagine it? Not imagine it? And why? Is she not beautiful?"

"Yes."

"And good?"

"Without doubt."

"And young, and yet wise beyond her years? And true, and yet angelically
kind?"

"It is all as you say, God knows. But.... a priest"--

"Oh! Always that accursed word! And at heart, what is a priest, then,
but a man?--a wretched, masked, imprisoned, banished man! Has he not
blood and nerves like you? Has he not eyes to see what is fair, and ears
to hear what is sweet? Can he live near so divine a flower and not know
her grace, not inhale the fragrance of her soul, not adore her beauty?
Oh, great God! And if at last he would tear off his stifling mask,
escape from his prison, return from his exile, would you gainsay him?"

"No!" said the painter with a kind of groan. He sat down in a tall,
carven gothic chair,--the furniture of one of his pictures,--and rested
his head against its high back and looked at the priest across the room.
"Excuse me," he continued with a strong effort. "I am ready to befriend
you to the utmost of my power. What was it you wanted to ask me? I have
told you truly what I thought of your scheme of going to America; but I
may very well be mistaken. Was it about that Miss Vervain desired you
to consult me?" His voice and manner hardened again in spite of him. "Or
did she wish me to advise you about the renunciation of your priesthood?
You must have thought that carefully over for yourself."

"Yes, I do not think you could make me see that as a greater difficulty
than it has appeared to me." He paused with a confused and daunted air,
as if some important point had slipped his mind. "But I must take the
step; the burden of the double part I play is unendurable, is it not?"

"You know better than I."

"But if you were such a man as I, with neither love for your vocation
nor faith in it, should you not cease to be a priest?"

"If you ask me in that way,--yes," answered the painter. "But I advise
you nothing. I could not counsel another in such a case."

"But you think and feel as I do," said the priest, "and I am right,
then."

"I do not say you are wrong."

Ferris was silent while Don Ippolito moved up and down the room, with
his sliding step, like some tall, gaunt, unhappy girl. Neither could put
an end to this interview, so full of intangible, inconclusive misery.
Ferris drew a long breath, and then said steadily, "Don Ippolito, I
suppose you did not speak idly to me of your--your feeling for Miss
Vervain, and that I may speak plainly to you in return."

"Surely," answered the priest, pausing in his walk and fixing his eyes
upon the painter. "It was to you as the friend of both that I spoke of
my love, and my hope--which is oftener my despair."

"Then you have not much reason to believe that she returns
your--feeling?"

"Ah, how could she consciously return it? I have been hitherto a priest
to her, and the thought of me would have been impurity. But hereafter,
if I can prove myself a man, if I can win my place in the world.... No,
even now, why should she care so much for my escape from these bonds, if
she did not care for me more than she knew?"

"Have you ever thought of that extravagant generosity of Miss Vervain's
character?"

"It is divine!"

"Has it seemed to you that if such a woman knew herself to have once
wrongly given you pain, her atonement might be as headlong and excessive
as her offense? That she could have no reserves in her reparation?"

Don Ippolito looked at Ferris, but did not interpose.

"Miss Vervain is very religious in her way, and she is truth itself.
Are you sure that it is not concern for what seems to her your terrible
position, that has made her show so much anxiety on your account?"

"Do I not know that well? Have I not felt the balm of her most heavenly
pity?"

"And may she not be only trying to appeal to something in you as high as
the impulse of her own heart?"

"As high!" cried Don Ippolito, almost angrily. "Can there be any higher
thing in heaven or on earth than love for such a woman?"

"Yes; both in heaven and on earth," answered Ferris.

"I do not understand you," said Don Ippolito with a puzzled stare.

Ferris did not reply. He fell into a dull reverie in which he seemed
to forget Don Ippolito and the whole affair. At last the priest spoke
again: "Have you nothing to say to me, signore?"

"I? What is there to say?" returned the other blankly.

"Do you know any reason why I should not love her, save that I am--have
been--a priest?"

"No, I know none," said the painter, wearily.

"Ah," exclaimed Don Ippolito, "there is something on your mind that you
will not speak. I beseech you not to let me go wrong. I love her so well
that I would rather die than let my love offend her. I am a man with the
passions and hopes of a man, but without a man's experience, or a man's
knowledge of what is just and right in these relations. If you can be
my friend in this so far as to advise or warn me; if you can be her
friend"--

Ferris abruptly rose and went to his balcony, and looked out upon the
Grand Canal. The time-stained palace opposite had not changed in the
last half-hour. As on many another summer day, he saw the black boats
going by. A heavy, high-pointed barge from the Sile, with the captain's
family at dinner in the shade of a matting on the roof, moved sluggishly
down the middle current. A party of Americans in a gondola, with their
opera-glasses and guide-books in their hands, pointed out to each other
the eagle on the consular arms. They were all like sights in a mirror,
or things in a world turned upside down.

Ferris came back and looked dizzily at the priest trying to believe that
this unhuman, sacerdotal phantasm had been telling him that it loved a
beautiful young girl of his own race, faith, and language.

"Will you not answer me, signore?" meekly demanded Don Ippolito.

"In this matter," replied the painter, "I cannot advise or warn you. The
whole affair is beyond my conception. I mean no unkindness, but I cannot
consult with you about it. There are reasons why I should not. The
mother of Miss Vervain is here with her, and I do not feel that her
interests in such a matter are in my hands. If they come to me for help,
that is different. What do you wish? You tell me that you are resolved
to renounce the priesthood and go to America; and I have answered you
to the best of my power. You tell me that you are in love with Miss
Vervain. What can I have to say about that?"

Don Ippolito stood listening with a patient, and then a wounded air.
"Nothing," he answered proudly. "I ask your pardon for troubling you
with my affairs. Your former kindness emboldened me too much. I shall
not trespass again. It was my ignorance, which I pray you to excuse. I
take my leave, signore."

He bowed, and moved out of the room, and a dull remorse filled the
painter, as he heard the outer door close after him. But he could do
nothing. If he had given a wound to the heart that trusted him, it was
in an anguish which he had not been able to master, and whose causes he
could not yet define. It was all a shapeless torment; it held him like
the memory of some hideous nightmare prolonging its horror beyond sleep.
It seemed impossible that what had happened should have happened.

It was long, as he sat in the chair from which he had talked with Don
Ippolito, before he could reason about what had been said; and then the
worst phase presented itself first. He could not help seeing that the
priest might have found cause for hope in the girl's behavior toward
him. Her violent resentments, and her equally violent repentances; her
fervent interest in his unhappy fortunes, and her anxiety that he should
at once forsake the priesthood; her urging him to go to America, and her
promising him a home under her mother's roof there: why might it not all
be in fact a proof of her tenderness for him? She might have found
it necessary to be thus coarsely explicit with him, for a man in
Don Ippolito's relation to her could not otherwise have imagined
her interest in him. But her making use of Ferris to confirm her own
purposes by his words, her repeating them so that they should come back
to him from Don Ippolito's lips, her letting another man go with her to
look upon the procession in which her priestly lover was to appear in
his sacerdotal panoply; these things could cot be accounted for except
by that strain of insolent, passionate defiance which he had noted ill
her from the beginning. Why should she first tell Don Ippolito of their
going away? "Well, I wish him joy of his bargain," said Ferris aloud,
and rising, shrugged his shoulders, and tried to cast off all care of a
matter that did not concern him. But one does not so easily cast off a
matter that does not concern one. He found himself haunted by certain
tones and looks and attitudes of the young girl, wholly alien to
the character he had just constructed for her. They were child-like,
trusting, unconscious, far beyond anything he had yet known in women,
and they appealed to him now with a maddening pathos. She was standing
there before Don Ippolito's picture as on that morning when she came
to Ferris, looking anxiously at him, her innocent beauty, troubled
with some hidden care, hallowing the place. Ferris thought of the young
fellow who told him that he had spent three months in a dull German town
because he had the room there that was once occupied by the girl who had
refused him; the painter remembered that the young fellow said he had
just read of her marriage in an American newspaper.

Why did Miss Vervain send Don Ippolito to him? Was it some scheme of her
secret love for the priest; or mere coarse resentment of the cautions
Ferris had once hinted, a piece of vulgar bravado? But if she had acted
throughout in pure simplicity, in unwise goodness of heart? If Don
Ippolito were altogether self-deceived, and nothing but her unknowing
pity had given him grounds of hope? He himself had suggested this to
the priest, and how with a different motive he looked at it in his own
behalf. A great load began slowly to lift itself from Ferris's heart,
which could ache now for this most unhappy priest. But if his conjecture
were just, his duty would be different. He must not coldly acquiesce
and let things take their course. He had introduced Don Ippolito to the
Vervains; he was in some sort responsible for him; he must save them if
possible from the painful consequences of the priest's hallucination.
But how to do this was by no means clear. He blamed himself for not
having been franker with Don Ippolito and tried to make him see that the
Vervains might regard his passion as a presumption upon their kindness
to him, an abuse of their hospitable friendship; and yet how could he
have done this without outrage to a sensitive and right-meaning soul?
For a moment it seemed to him that he must seek Don Ippolito, and repair
his fault; but they had hardly parted as friends, and his action might
be easily misconstrued. If he shrank from the thought of speaking to him
of the matter again, it appeared yet more impossible to bring it before
the Vervains. Like a man of the imaginative temperament as he was, he
exaggerated the probable effect, and pictured their dismay in colors
that made his interference seem a ludicrous enormity; in fact, it
would have been an awkward business enough for one not hampered by his
intricate obligations. He felt bound to the Vervains, the ignorant young
girl, and the addle-pated mother; but if he ought to go to them and tell
them what he knew, to which of them ought he to speak, and how? In
an anguish of perplexity that made the sweat stand in drops upon his
forehead, he smiled to think it just possible that Mrs. Vervain might
take the matter seriously, and wish to consider the propriety of
Florida's accepting Don Ippolito. But if he spoke to the daughter, how
should he approach the subject? "Don Ippolito tells me he loves you,
and he goes to America with the expectation that when he has made his
fortune with a patent back-action apple-corer, you will marry him."
Should he say something to this purport? And in Heaven's name what right
had he, Ferris, to say anything at all? The horrible absurdity, the
inexorable delicacy of his position made him laugh.

On the other hand, besides, he was bound to Don Ippolito, who had come
to him as the nearest friend of both, and confided in him. He remembered
with a tardy, poignant intelligence how in their first talk of the
Vervains Don Ippolito had taken pains to inform himself that Ferris was
not in love with Florida. Could he be less manly and generous than this
poor priest, and violate the sanctity of his confidence? Ferris groaned
aloud. No, contrive it as he would, call it by what fair name he chose,
he could not commit this treachery. It was the more impossible to him
because, in this agony of doubt as to what he should do, he now at least
read big own heart clearly, and had no longer a doubt what was in it. He
pitied her for the pain she must suffer. He saw how her simple goodness,
her blind sympathy with Don Ippolito, and only this, must have led the
priest to the mistaken pass at which he stood. But Ferris felt that
the whole affair had been fatally carried beyond his reach; he could do
nothing now but wait and endure. There are cases in which a man must not
protect the woman he loves. This was one.

The afternoon wore away. In the evening he went to the Piazza, and drank
a cup of coffee at Florian's. Then he walked to the Public Gardens,
where he watched the crowd till it thinned in the twilight and left him
alone. He hung upon the parapet, looking off over the lagoon that at
last he perceived to be flooded with moonlight. He desperately called
a gondola, and bade the man row him to the public landing nearest the
Vervains', and so walked up the calle, and entered the palace from the
campo, through the court that on one side opened into the garden.

Mrs. Vervain was alone in the room where he had always been accustomed
to find her daughter with her, and a chill as of the impending change
fell upon him. He felt how pleasant it had been to find them together;
with a vain, piercing regret he felt how much like home the place had
been to him. Mrs. Vervain, indeed, was not changed; she was even more
than ever herself, though all that she said imported change. She seemed
to observe nothing unwonted in him, and she began to talk in her way of
things that she could not know were so near his heart.

"Now, Mr. Ferris, I have a little surprise for you. Guess what it is!"

"I'm not good at guessing. I'd rather not know what it is than have to
guess it," said Ferris, trying to be light, under his heavy trouble.

"You won't try once, even? Well, you're going to be rid of us soon I We
are going away."

"Yes, I knew that," said Ferris quietly. "Don Ippolito told me so
to-day."

"And is that all you have to say? Isn't it rather sad? Isn't it sudden?
Come, Mr. Ferris, do be a little complimentary, for once!"

"It's sudden, and I can assure you it's sad enough for me," replied the
painter, in a tone which could not leave any doubt of his sincerity.

"Well, so it is for us," quavered Mrs. Vervain. "You have been very,
very good to us," she went on more collectedly, "and we shall never
forget it. Florida has been speaking of it, too, and she's extremely
grateful, and thinks we've quite imposed upon you."

"Thanks."

"I suppose we have, but as I always say, you're the representative of
the country here. However, that's neither here nor there. We have no
relatives on the face of the earth, you know; but I have a good many old
friends in Providence, and we're going back there. We both think I shall
be better at home; for I'm sorry to say, Mr. Ferns, that though I don't
complain of Venice,--it's really a beautiful place, and all that; not
the least exaggerated,--still I don't think it's done my health much
good; or at least I don't seem to gain, don't you know, I don't seem to
gain."

"I'm very sorry to hear it, Mrs. Vervain."

"Yes, I'm sure you are; but you see, don't you, that we must go? We are
going next week. When we've once made up our minds, there's no object in
prolonging the agony."

Mrs. Vervain adjusted her glasses with the thumb and finger of her right
hand, and peered into Ferris's face with a gay smile. "But the greatest
part of the surprise is," she resumed, lowering her voice a little,
"that Don Ippolito is going with us."

"Ah!" cried Ferris sharply.

"I _knew_ I should surprise you," laughed Mrs. Vervain. "We've been
having a regular confab--_clave_, I mean--about it here, and he's all
on fire to go to America; though it must be kept a great secret on his
account, poor fellow. He's to join us in France, and then he can easily
get into England, with us. You know he's to give up being a priest, and
is going to devote himself to invention when he gets to America. Now,
what _do_ you think of it, Mr. Ferris? Quite strikes you dumb, doesn't
it?" triumphed Mrs. Vervain. "I suppose it's what you would call a wild
goose chase,--I used to pick up all those phrases,--but we shall carry
it through."

Ferris gasped, as though about to speak, but said nothing.

"Don Ippolito's been here the whole afternoon," continued Mrs. Vervain,
"or rather ever since about five o'clock. He took dinner with us, and
we've been talking it over and over. He's _so_ enthusiastic about it,
and yet he breaks down every little while, and seems quite to despair
of the undertaking. But Florida won't let him do that; and really it's
funny, the way he defers to her judgment--you know _I_ always regard
Florida as such a mere child--and seems to take every word she says for
gospel. But, shedding tears, now: it's dreadful in a man, isn't it? I
wish Don Ippolito wouldn't do that. It makes one creep. I can't feel
that it's manly; can you?"

Ferris found voice to say something about those things being different
with the Latin races.

"Well, at any rate," said Mrs. Vervain, "I'm glad that _Americans_ don't
shed tears, as a general _rule_. Now, Florida: you'd think she was the
man all through this business, she's so perfectly heroic about it; that
is, outwardly: for I can see--women can, in each other, Mr. Ferris--just
where she's on the point of breaking down, all the while. Has she ever
spoken to you about Don Ippolito? She does think so highly of your
opinion, Mr. Ferris."

"She does me too much honor," said Ferris, with ghastly irony.

"Oh, I don't think so," returned Mrs. Vervain. "She told me this morning
that she'd made Don Ippolito promise to speak to you about it; but he
didn't mention having done so, and--I hated, don't you know, to ask
him.... In fact, Florida had told me beforehand that I mustn't. She said
he must be left entirely to himself in that matter, and"--Mrs. Vervain
looked suggestively at Ferris.

"He spoke to me about it," said Ferris.

"Then why in the world did you let me run on? I suppose you advised him
against it."

"I certainly did."

"Well, there's where I think woman's intuition is better than man's
reason."

The painter silently bowed his head.

"Yes, I'm quite woman's rights in that respect," said Mrs. Vervain.

"Oh, without doubt," answered Ferris, aimlessly.

"I'm perfectly delighted," she went on, "at the idea of Don Ippolito's
giving up the priesthood, and I've told him he must get married to some
good American girl. You ought to have seen how the poor fellow blushed!
But really, you know, there are lots of nice girls that would _jump_ at
him--so handsome and sad-looking, and a genius."

Ferris could only stare helplessly at Mrs. Vervain, who continued:--

"Yes, I think he's a genius, and I'm determined that he shall have a
chance. I suppose we've got a job on our hands; but I'm not sorry. I'll
introduce him into society, and if he needs money he shall have it.
What does God give us money for, Mr. Ferris, but to help our
fellow-creatures?"

So miserable, as he was, from head to foot, that it seemed impossible
he could endure more, Ferris could not forbear laughing at this burst of
piety.

"What are you laughing at?" asked Mrs. Vervain, who had cheerfully
joined him. "Something I've been saying. Well, you won't have me to
laugh at much longer. I do wonder whom you'll have next."

Ferris's merriment died away in something like a groan, and when Mrs.
Vervain again spoke, it was in a tone of sudden querulousness. "I
_wish_ Florida would come! She went to bolt the land-gate after Don
Ippolito,--I wanted her to,--but she ought to have been back long ago.
It's odd you didn't meet them, coming in. She must be in the garden
Somewhere; I suppose she's sorry to be leaving it. But I need her. Would
you be so very kind, Mr. Ferris, as to go and ask her to come to me?"

Ferris rose heavily from the chair in which he seemed to have grown ten
years older. He had hardly heard anything that he did not know already,
but the clear vision of the affair with which he had come to the
Vervains was hopelessly confused and darkened. He could make nothing of
any phase of it. He did not know whether he cared now to see Florida
or not. He mechanically obeyed Mrs. Vervain, and stepping out upon the
terrace, slowly descended the stairway.

The moon was shining brightly into the garden.



XV.


Florida and Don Ippolito had paused in the pathway which parted at the
fountain and led in one direction to the water-gate, and in the other
out through the palace-court into the campo.

"Now, you must not give way to despair again," she said to him. "You
will succeed, I am sure, for you will deserve success."

"It is all your goodness, madamigella," sighed the priest, "and at the
bottom of my heart I am afraid that all the hope and courage I have are
also yours."

"You shall never want for hope and courage then. We believe in you, and
we honor your purpose, and we will be your steadfast friends. But now
you must think only of the present--of how you are to get away from
Venice. Oh, I can understand how you must hate to leave it! What a
beautiful night! You mustn't expect such moonlight as this in America,
Don Ippolito."

"It _is_ beautiful, is it not?" said the priest, kindling from her. "But
I think we Venetians are never so conscious of the beauty of Venice as
you strangers are."

"I don't know. I only know that now, since we tave made up our minds to
go, and fixed the day and hour, it is more like leaving my own country
than anything else I've ever felt. This garden, I seem to have spent my
whole life in it; and when we are settled in Providence, I'm going
to have mother send back for some of these statues. I suppose Signor
Cavaletti wouldn't mind our robbing his place of them if he were paid
enough. At any rate we must have this one that belongs to the fountain.
You shall be the first to set the fountain playing over there, Don
Ippolito, and then we'll sit down on this stone bench before it, and
imagine ourselves in the garden of Casa Vervain at Venice."

"No, no; let me be the last to set it playing here," said the priest,
quickly stooping to the pipe at the foot of the figure, "and then we
will sit down here, and imagine ourselves in the garden of Casa Vervain
at Providence."

Florida put her hand on his shoulder. "You mustn't do it," she said
simply. "The padrone doesn't like to waste the water."

"Oh, we'll pray the saints to rain it back on him some day," cried Don
Ippolito with willful levity, and the stream leaped into the moonlight
and seemed to hang there like a tangled skein of silver. "But how shall
I shut it off when you are gone?" asked the young girl, looking ruefully
at the floating threads of splendor.

"Oh, I will shut it off before I go," answered Don Ippolito. "Let it
play a moment," he continued, gazing rapturously upon it, while the moon
painted his lifted face with a pallor that his black robes heightened.
He fetched a long, sighing breath, as if he inhaled with that
respiration all the rich odors of the flowers, blanched like his own
visage in the white lustre; as if he absorbed into his heart at once the
wide glory of the summer night, and the beauty of the young girl at his
side. It seemed a supreme moment with him; he looked as a man might look
who has climbed out of lifelong defeat into a single instant of release
and triumph.

Florida sank upon the bench before the fountain, indulging his caprice
with that sacred, motherly tolerance, some touch of which is in all
womanly yielding to men's will, and which was perhaps present in greater
degree in her feeling towards a man more than ordinarily orphaned and
unfriended.

"Is Providence your native city?" asked Don Ippolito, abruptly, after a
little silence.

"Oh no; I was born at St. Augustine in Florida."

"Ah yes, I forgot; madama has told me about it; Providence is _her_
city. But the two are near together?"

"No," said Florida, compassionately, "they are a thousand miles apart."

"A thousand miles? What a vast country!"

"Yes, it's a whole world."

"Ah, a world, indeed!" cried the priest, softly. "I shall never
comprehend it."

"You never will," answered the young girl gravely, "if you do not think
about it more practically."

"Practically, practically!" lightly retorted the priest. "What a word
with you Americans; That is the consul's word: _practical_."

"Then you have been to see him to-day?" asked Florida, with eagerness.
"I wanted to ask you"--

"Yes, I went to consult the oracle, as you bade me."

"Don Ippolito"--

"And he was averse to my going to America. He said it was not
practical."

"Oh!" murmured the girl.

"I think," continued the priest with vehemence, "that Signor Ferris is
no longer my friend."

"Did he treat you coldly--harshly?" she asked, with a note of
indignation in her voice. "Did he know that I--that you came"--

"Perhaps he was right. Perhaps I shall indeed go to ruin there. Ruin,
ruin! Do I not _live_ ruin here?"

"What did he say--what did he tell you?"

"No, no; not now, madamigella! I do not want to think of that man, now.
I want you to help me once more to realize myself in America, where I
shall never have been a priest, where I shall at least battle evenhanded
with the world. Come, let us forget him; the thought of him palsies all
my hope. He could not see me save in this robe, in this figure that I
abhor."

"Oh, it was strange, it was not like him, it was cruel! What did he
say?"

"In everything but words, he bade me despair; he bade me look upon all
that makes life dear and noble as impossible to me!"

"Oh, how? Perhaps he did not understand you. No, he did not understand
you. What did you say to him, Don Ippolito? Tell me!" She leaned towards
him, in anxious emotion, as she spoke.

The priest rose, and stretched out his arms, as if he would gather
something of courage from the infinite space. In his visage were the
sublimity and the terror of a man who puts everything to the risk.

"How will it really be with me, yonder?" he demanded. "As it is with
other men, whom their past life, if it has been guiltless, does not
follow to that new world of freedom and justice?"

"Why should it not be so?" demanded Florida. "Did _he_ say it would
not?"

"Need it be known there that I have been a priest? Or if I tell it, will
it make me appear a kind of monster, different from other men?"

"No, no!" she answered fervently. "Your story would gain friends and
honor for you everywhere in America. Did _he_"--

"A moment, a moment!" cried Don Ippolito, catching his breath. "Will it
ever be possible for me to win something more than honor and friendship
there?"

She looked up at him askingly, confusedly.

"If I am a man, and the time should ever come that a face, a look, a
voice, shall be to me what they are to other men, will _she_ remember
it against me that I have been a priest, when I tell her--say to her,
madamigella--how dear she is to me, offer her my life's devotion, ask
her to be my wife?"...

Florida rose from the seat, and stood confronting him, in a helpless
silence, which he seemed not to notice.

Suddenly he clasped his hands together, and desperately stretched them
towards her.

"Oh, my hope, my trust, my life, if it were you that I loved?"...

"What!" shuddered the girl, recoiling, with almost a shriek. "_You_? _A
priest_!"

Don Ippolito gave a low cry, half sob:--

"His words, his words! It is true, I cannot escape, I am doomed, I must
die as I have lived!"

He dropped his face into his hands, and stood with his head bowed before
her; neither spoke for a long time, or moved.

Then Florida said absently, in the husky murmur to which her voice fell
when she was strongly moved, "Yes, I see it all, how it has been," and
was silent again, staring, as if a procession of the events and scenes
of the past months were passing before her; and presently she moaned
to herself "Oh, oh, oh!" and wrung her hands. The foolish fountain kept
capering and babbling on. All at once, now, as a flame flashes up and
then expires, it leaped and dropped extinct at the foot of the statue.

Its going out seemed somehow to leave them in darkness, and under cover
of that gloom she drew nearer the priest, and by such approaches as one
makes toward a fancied apparition, when his fear will not let him fly,
but it seems better to suffer the worst from it at once than to live in
terror of it ever after, she lifted her hands to his, and gently taking
them away from his face, looked into his hopeless eyes.

"Oh, Don Ippolito," she grieved. "What shall I say to you, what can I do
for you, now?"

But there was nothing to do. The whole edifice of his dreams, his wild
imaginations, had fallen into dust at a word; no magic could rebuild
it; the end that never seems the end had come. He let her keep his cold
hands, and presently he returned the entreaty of her tears with his wan,
patient smile.

"You cannot help me; there is no help for an error like mine. Sometime,
if ever the thought of me is a greater pain than it is at this moment,
you can forgive me. Yes, you can do that for me."

"But who, _who_ will ever forgive me" she cried, "for my blindness! Oh,
you must believe that I never thought, I never dreamt"--

"I know it well. It was your fatal truth that did it; truth too high
and fine for me to have discerned save through such agony as.... You too
loved my soul, like the rest, and you would have had me no priest for
the reason that they would have had me a priest--I see it. But you had
no right to love my soul and not me--you, a woman. A woman must not love
only the soul of a man."

"Yes, yes!" piteously explained the girl, "but you were a priest to me!"

"That is true, madamigella. I was always a priest to you; and now I see
that I never could be otherwise. Ah, the wrong began many years before
we met. I was trying to blame you a little"--

"Blame me, blame me; do!"

--"but there is no blame. Think that it was another way of asking your
forgiveness.... O my God, my God, my God!"

He released his hands from her, and uttered this cry under his breath,
with his face lifted towards the heavens. When he looked at her again,
he said: "Madamigella, if my share of this misery gives me the right to
ask of you"--

"Oh ask anything of me! I will give everything, do everything!"

He faltered, and then, "You do not love me," he said abruptly; "is there
some one else that you love?"

She did not answer.

"Is it ... he?"

She hid her face.

"I knew it," groaned the priest, "I knew that too!" and he turned away.

"Don Ippolito, Don Ippolito--oh, poor, poor Don Ippolito!" cried the
girl, springing towards him. "Is _this_ the way you leave me? Where are
you going? What will you do now?"

"Did I not say? I am going to die a priest."

"Is there nothing that you will let me be to you, hope for you?"

"Nothing," said Don Ippolito, after a moment. "What could you?" He
seized the hands imploringly extended towards him, and clasped them
together and kissed them both. "Adieu!" he whispered; then he opened
them, and passionately kissed either palm; "adieu, adieu!"

A great wave of sorrow and compassion and despair for him swept through
her. She flung her arms about his neck, and pulled his head down upon
her heart, and held it tight there, weeping and moaning over him as over
some hapless, harmless thing that she had unpurposely bruised or killed.
Then she suddenly put her hands against his breast, and thrust him away,
and turned and ran.

Ferris stepped back again into the shadow of the tree from which he had
just emerged, and clung to its trunk lest he should fall. Another seemed
to creep out of the court in his person, and totter across the
white glare of the campo and down the blackness of the calle. In the
intersected spaces where the moonlight fell, this alien, miserable man
saw the figure of a priest gliding on before him.



XVI.


Florida swiftly me anted the terrace steps, but she stopped with her
hand on the door, panting, and turned and walked slowly away to the end
of the terrace, drying her eyes with dashes of her handkerchief, and
ordering her hair, some coils of which had been loosened by her flight.
Then she went back to the door, waited, and softly opened it, Her mother
was not in the parlor where she had left her, and she passed noiselessly
into her own room, where some trunks stood open and half-packed against
the wall. She began to gather up the pieces of dress that lay upon the
bed and chairs, and to fold them with mechanical carefulness and put
them in the boxes. Her mother's voice called from the other chamber, "Is
that you, Florida?"

"Yes, mother," answered the girl, but remained kneeling before one of
the boxes, with that pale green robe in her hand which she had worn on
the morning when Ferris had first brought Don Ippolito to see them. She
smoothed its folds and looked down at it without making any motion to
pack it away, and so she lingered while her mother advanced with one
question after another; "What are you doing, Florida? Where are you? Why
didn't you come to me?" and finally stood in the doorway. "Oh, you're
packing. Do you know, Florida, I'm getting very impatient about going. I
wish we could be off at once."

A tremor passed over the young girl and she started from her languid
posture, and laid the dress in the trunk. "So do I, mother. I would give
the world if we could go to-morrow!"

"Yes, but we can't, you see. I'm afraid we've undertaken a great deal,
my dear. It's quite a weight upon _my_ mind, already; and I don't know
what it _will_ be. If we were free, now, I should say, go to-morrow, by
all means. But we couldn't arrange it with Don Ippolito on our hands."

Florida waited a moment before she replied. Then she said coldly, "Don
Ippolito is not going with us, mother."

"Not going with us? Why"--

"He is not going to America. He will not leave Venice; he is to remain a
priest," said Florida, doggedly.

Mrs. Vervain sat down in the chair that stood beside the door. "Not
going to America; not leave Venice; remain a priest? Florida, you
astonish me! But I am not the least surprised, not the least in the
world. I thought Don Ippolito would give out, all along. He is not what
I should call fickle, exactly, but he is weak, or timid, rather. He is a
good man, but he lacks courage, resolution. I always doubted if he would
succeed in America; he is too much of a dreamer. But this, really,
goes a little beyond anything. I never expected this. What did he say,
Florida? How did he excuse himself?"

"I hardly know; very little. What was there to say?"

"To be sure, to be sure. Did you try to reason with him, Florida?"

"No," answered the girl, drearily.

"I am glad of that. I think you had said quite enough already. You owed
it to yourself not to do so, and he might have misinterpreted it. These
foreigners are very different from Americans. No doubt we should have
had a time of it, if he had gone with us. It must be for the best. I'm
sure it was ordered so. But all that doesn't relieve Don Ippolito from
the charge of black ingratitude, and want of consideration for us. He's
quite made fools of us."

"He was not to blame. It was a very great step for him. And if"....

"I know that. But he ought not to have talked of it. He ought to have
known his own mind fully before speaking; that's the only safe way.
Well, then, there is nothing to prevent our going to-morrow."

Florida drew a long breath, and rose to go on with the work of packing.

"Have you been crying, Florida? Well, of course, you can't help feeling
sorry for such a man. There's a great deal of good in Don Ippolito,
a great deal. But when you come to my age you won't cry so easily, my
dear. It's very trying," said Mrs. Vervain. She sat awhile in silence
before she asked: "Will he come here to-morrow morning?"

Her daughter looked at her with a glance of terrified inquiry.

"Do have your wits about you, my dear! We can't go away without saying
good-by to him, and we can't go away without paying him."

"Paying him?"

"Yes, paying him--paying him for your lessons. It's always been very
awkward. He hasn't been like other teachers, you know: more like a
guest, or friend of the family. He never seemed to want to take the
money, and of late, I've been letting it run along, because I hated so
to offer it, till now, it's quite a sum. I suppose he needs it, poor
fellow. And how to get it to him is the question. He may not come
to-morrow, as usual, and I couldn't trust it to the padrone. We might
send it to him in a draft from Paris, but I'd rather pay him before
we go. Besides, it would be rather rude, going away without seeing
him again." Mrs. Vervain thought a moment; then, "I'll tell you," she
resumed. "If he doesn't happen to come here to-morrow morning, we can
stop on our way to the station and give him the money."

Florida did not answer.

"Don't you think that would be a good plan?"

"I don't know," replied the girl in a dull way.

"Why, Florida, if you think from anything Don Ippolito said that he
would rather not see us again--that it would be painful to him--why, we
could ask Mr. Ferris to hand him the money."

"Oh no, no, no, mother!" cried Florida, hiding her face, "that would be
too horribly indelicate!"

"Well, perhaps it wouldn't be quite good taste," said Mrs. Vervain
perturbedly, "but you needn't express yourself so violently, my dear.
It's not a matter of life and death. I'm sure I don't know what to do.
We must stop at Don Ippolito's house, I suppose. Don't you think so?"

"Yes," faintly assented the daughter.

Mrs. Vervain yawned. "Well I can't think anything more about it
to-night; I'm too stupid. But that's the way we shall do. Will you help
me to bed, my dear? I shall be good for nothing to-morrow."

She went on talking of Don Ippolito's change of purpose till her head
touched the pillow, from which she suddenly lifted it again, and
called out to her daughter, who had passed into the next room: "But Mr.
Ferris----why didn't he come back with you?"

"Come back with me?"

"Why yes, child. I sent him out to call you, just before you came in.
This Don Ippolito business put him quite out of my head. Didn't you see
him? ... Oh! What's that?"

"Nothing: I dropped my candle."

"You're sure you didn't set anything on fire?"

"No! It went dead out."

"Light it again, and do look. Now is everything right?"

"Yes."

"It's queer he didn't come back to _say_ he couldn't find you. What do
you suppose became of him?"

"I don't know, mother."

"It's very perplexing. I wish Mr. Ferris were not so odd. It quite
borders on affectation. I don't know what to make of it. We must send
word to him the very first thing to-morrow morning, that we're going,
and ask him to come to see us."

Florida made no reply. She sat staring at the black space of the doorway
into her mother's room. Mrs. Vervain did not speak again. After a while
her daughter softly entered her chamber, shading the candle with her
hand; and seeing that she slept, softly withdrew, closed the door, and
went about the work of packing again. When it was all done, she flung
herself upon her bed and hid her face in the pillow.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning was spent in bestowing those interminable last touches
which the packing of ladies' baggage demands, and in taking leave with
largess (in which Mrs. Vervain shone) of all the people in the house and
out of it, who had so much as touched a hat to the Vervains during their
sojourn. The whole was not a vast sum; nor did the sundry extortions
of the padrone come to much, though the honest man racked his brain to
invent injuries to his apartments and furniture. Being unmurmuringly
paid, he gave way to his real goodwill for his tenants in many little
useful offices. At the end he persisted in sending them to the station
in his own gondola and could with difficulty be kept from going with
them.

Mrs. Vervain had early sent a message to Ferris, but word came back a
first and a second time that he was not at home, and the forenoon wore
away and he had not appeared. A certain indignation sustained her
till the gondola pushed out into the canal, and then it yielded to an
intolerable regret that she should not see him.

"I _can't_ go without saying good-by to Mr. Ferris, Florida," she said
at last, "and it's no use asking me. He may have been wanting a little
in politeness, but he's been _so_ good all along; and we owe him too
much not to make an effort to thank him before we go. We really must
stop a moment at his house."

Florida, who had regarded her mother's efforts to summon Ferris to them
with passive coldness, turned a look of agony upon her. But in a moment
she bade the gondolier stop at the consulate, and dropping her veil over
her face, fell back in the shadow of the tenda-curtains.

Mrs. Vervain sentimentalized their departure a little, but her daughter
made no comment on the scene they were leaving.

The gondolier rang at Ferris's door and returned with the answer that he
was not at home.

Mrs. Vervain gave way to despair. "Oh dear, oh dear! This is too bad!
What shall we do?"

"We'll lose the train, mother, if we loiter in this way," said Florida.

"Well, wait. I _must_ leave a message at least." "_How could you be
away_," she wrote on her card, "_when we called to say good-by? We've
changed our plans and we're going to-day. I shall write you a nice
scolding letter from Verona--we're going over the Brenner--for your
behavior last night. Who will keep you straight when I'm gone? You've
been very, very kind. Florida joins me in a thousand thanks, regrets,
and good-byes._"

"There, I haven't said anything, after all," she fretted, with tears in
her eyes.

The gondolier carried the card again to the door, where Ferris's servant
let down a basket by a string and fished it up.

"If Don Ippolito shouldn't be in," said Mrs. Vervain, as the boat moved
on again, "I don't know what I _shall_ do with this money. It will be
awkward beyond anything."

The gondola slipped from the Canalazzo into the network of the smaller
canals, where the dense shadows were as old as the palaces that
cast them and stopped at the landing of a narrow quay. The gondolier
dismounted and rang at Don Ippolito's door. There was no response; he
rang again and again. At last from a window of the uppermost story the
head of the priest himself peered out. The gondolier touched his hat and
said, "It is the ladies who ask for you, Don Ippolito."

It was a minute before the door opened, and the priest, bare-headed and
blinking in the strong light, came with a stupefied air across the quay
to the landing-steps.

"Well, Don Ippolito!" cried Mrs. Vervain, rising and giving him her
hand, which she first waved at the trunks and bags piled up in the
vacant space in the front of the boat, "what do you think of this? We
are really going, immediately; _we_ can change our minds too; and I
don't think it would have been too much," she added with a friendly
smile, "if we had gone without saying good-by to you. What in the
world does it all mean, your giving up that grand project of yours so
suddenly?"

She sat down again, that she might talk more at her ease, and seemed
thoroughly happy to have Don Ippolito before her again.

"It finally appeared best, madama," he said quietly, after a quick, keen
glance at Florida, who did not lift her veil.

"Well, perhaps you're partly right. But I can't help thinking that you
with your talent would have succeeded in America. Inventors do get
on there, in the most surprising way. There's the Screw Company of
Providence. It's such a simple thing; and now the shares are worth eight
hundred. Are you well to-day, Don Ippolito?"

"Quite well, madama."

"I thought you looked rather pale. But I believe you're always a little
pale. You mustn't work too hard. We shall miss you a great deal, Don
Ippolito."

"Thanks, madama."

"Yes, we shall be quite lost without you. And I wanted to say this to
you, Don Ippolito, that if ever you change your mind again, and conclude
to come to America, you must write to me, and let me help you just as I
had intended to do."

The priest shivered, as if cold, and gave another look at Florida's
veiled face.

"You are too good," he said.

"Yes, I really think I am," replied Mrs. Vervain, playfully.
"Considering that you were going to let me leave Venice without even
trying to say good-by to me, I think I'm very good indeed."

Mrs. Vervain's mood became overcast, and her eyes filled with tears: "I
hope you're sorry to have us going, Don Ippolito, for you know how very
highly I prize your acquaintance. It was rather cruel of you, I think."

She seemed not to remember that he could not have known of their change
of plan. Don Ippolito looked imploringly into her face, and made a
touching gesture of deprecation, but did not speak.

"I'm really afraid you're _not_ well, and I think it's too bad of us to
be going," resumed Mrs. Vervain; "but it can't be helped now: we are all
packed, don't you see. But I want to ask one favor of you, Don Ippolito;
and that is," said Mrs. Vervain, covertly taking a little _rouleau_ from
her pocket, "that you'll leave these inventions of yours for a while,
and give yourself a vacation. You need rest of mind. Go into the
country, somewhere, do. That's what's preying upon you. But we must
really be off, now. Shake hands with Florida--I'm going to be the last
to part with you," she said, with a tearful smile.

Don Ippolito and Florida extended their hands. Neither spoke, and as
she sank back upon the seat from which she had half risen, she drew more
closely the folds of the veil which she had not lifted from her face.

Mrs. Vervain gave a little sob as Don Ippolito took her hand and kissed
it; and she had some difficulty in leaving with him the rouleau, which
she tried artfully to press into his palm. "Good-by, good-by," she said,
"don't drop it," and attempted to close his fingers over it.

But he let it lie carelessly in his open hand, as the gondola moved off,
and there it still lay as he stood watching the boat slip under a bridge
at the next corner, and disappear. While he stood there gazing at the
empty arch, a man of a wild and savage aspect approached. It was said
that this man's brain had been turned by the death of his brother, who
was betrayed to the Austrians after the revolution of '48, by his wife's
confessor. He advanced with swift strides, and at the moment he reached
Don Ippolito's side he suddenly turned his face upon him and cursed him
through his clenched teeth: "Dog of a priest!"

Don Ippolito, as if his whole race had renounced him in the maniac's
words, uttered a desolate cry, and hiding his face in his hands,
tottered into his house.

The rouleau had dropped from his palm; it rolled down the shelving
marble of the quay, and slipped into the water.

The young beggar who had held Mrs. Vervain's gondola to the shore while
she talked, looked up and down the deserted quay, and at the doors and
windows. Then he began to take off his clothes for a bath.



XVII.


Ferris returned at nightfall to his house, where he had not been since
daybreak, and flung himself exhausted upon the bed. His face was burnt
red with the sun, and his eyes were bloodshot. He fell into a doze and
dreamed that he was still at Malamocco, whither he had gone that morning
in a sort of craze, with some fishermen, who were to cast their nets
there; then he was rowing back to Venice across the lagoon, that seemed
a molten fire under the keel. He woke with a heavy groan, and bade
Marina fetch him a light.

She set it on the table, and handed him the card Mrs. Vervain had left.
He read it and read it again, and then he laid it down, and putting on
his hat, he took his cane and went out. "Do not Wait for me, Marina," he
said, "I may be late. Go to bed."

He returned at midnight, and lighting his candle took up the card and
read it once more. He could not tell whether to be glad or sorry that
he had failed to see the Vervains again. He took it for granted that
Don Ippolito was to follow; he would not ask himself what motive had
hastened their going. The reasons were all that he should never more
look upon the woman so hatefully lost to him, but a strong instinct of
his heart struggled against them.

He lay down in his clothes, and began to dream almost before he began
to sleep. He woke early, and went out to walk. He did not rest all day.
Once he came home, and found a letter from Mrs. Vervain, postmarked
Verona, reiterating her lamentations and adieux, and explaining that the
priest had relinquished his purpose, and would not go to America at all.
The deeper mystery in which this news left him was not less sinister
than before.

In the weeks that followed, Ferris had no other purpose than to reduce
the days to hours, the hours to minutes. The burden that fell upon him
when he woke lay heavy on his heart till night, and oppressed him far
into his sleep. He could not give his trouble certain shape; what was
mostly with him was a formless loss, which he could not resolve into any
definite shame or wrong. At times, what he had seen seemed to him some
baleful trick of the imagination, some lurid and foolish illusion.

But he could do nothing, he could not ask himself what the end was to
be. He kept indoors by day, trying to work, trying to read, marveling
somewhat that he did not fall sick and die. At night he set out on long
walks, which took him he cared not where, and often detained him till
the gray lights of morning began to tremble through the nocturnal blue.
But even by night he shunned the neighborhood in which the Vervains
had lived. Their landlord sent him a package of trifles they had left
behind, but he refused to receive them, sending back word that he did
not know where the ladies were. He had half expected that Mrs. Vervain,
though he had not answered her last letter, might write to him again
from England, but she did not. The Vervains had passed out of his world;
he knew that they had been in it only by the torment they had left him.

He wondered in a listless way that he should see nothing of Don
Ippolito. Once at midnight he fancied that the priest was coming towards
him across a campo he had just entered; he stopped and turned back into
the calle: when the priest came up to him, it was not Don Ippolito.

In these days Ferris received a dispatch from the Department of State,
informing him that his successor had been appointed, and directing him
to deliver up the consular flags, seals, archives, and other property of
the United States. No reason for his removal was given; but as there had
never been any reason for his appointment, he had no right to complain;
the balance was exactly dressed by this simple device of our civil
service. He determined not to wait for the coming of his successor
before giving up the consular effects, and he placed them at once in the
keeping of the worthy ship-chandler who had so often transferred them
from departing to arriving consuls. Then being quite ready at any moment
to leave Venice, he found himself in nowise eager to go; but he began in
a desultory way to pack up his sketches and studies.

One morning as he sat idle in his dismantled studio, Marina came to tell
him that an old woman, waiting at the door below, wished to speak with
him.

"Well, let her come up," said Ferris wearily, and presently Marina
returned with a very ill-favored beldam, who stared hard at him while
he frowningly puzzled himself as to where he had seen that malign visage
before.

"Well?" he said harshly.

"I come," answered the old woman, "on the part of Don Ippolito
Rondinelli, who desires so much to see your excellency."

Ferris made no response, while the old woman knotted the fringe of her
shawl with quaking hands, and presently added with a tenderness in her
voice which oddly discorded with the hardness of her face: "He has been
very sick, poor thing, with a fever; but now he is in his senses again,
and the doctors say he will get well. I hope so. But he is still very
weak. He tried to write two lines to you, but he had not the strength;
so he bade me bring you this word: That he had something to say which it
greatly concerned you to hear, and that he prayed you to forgive his not
coming to revere you, for it was impossible, and that you should have
the goodness to do him this favor, to come to find him the quickest you
could."

The old woman wiped her eyes with the corner of her shawl, and her
chin wobbled pathetically while she shot a glance of baleful dislike
at Ferris, who answered after a long dull stare at her, "Tell him I'll
come."

He did not believe that Don Ippolito could tell him anything that
greatly concerned him; but he was worn out with going round in the same
circle of conjecture, and so far as he could be glad, he was glad of
this chance to face his calamity. He would go, but not at once; he would
think it over; he would go to-morrow, when he had got some grasp of the
matter.

The old woman lingered.

"Tell him I'll come," repeated Ferris impatiently.

"A thousand excuses; but my poor master has been very sick. The doctors
say he will get well. I hope so. But he is very weak indeed; a little
shock, a little disappointment.... Is the signore very, _very_ much
occupied this morning? He greatly desired,--he prayed that if such a
thing were possible in the goodness of your excellency .... But I am
offending the signore!"

"What do you want?" demanded Ferris.

The old wretch set up a pitiful whimper, and tried to possess herself of
his hand; she kissed his coat-sleeve instead. "That you will return with
me," she besought him.

"Oh, I'll go!" groaned the painter. "I might as well go first as last,"
he added in English. "There, stop that! Enough, enough, I tell you!
Didn't I say I was going with you?" he cried to the old woman.

"God bless you!" she mumbled, and set off before him down the stairs and
out of the door. She looked so miserably old and weary that he called a
gondola to his landing and made her get into it with him.

It tormented Don Ippolito's idle neighborhood to see Veneranda arrive
in such state, and a passionate excitement arose at the caffè, where the
person of the consul was known, when Ferris entered the priest's house
with her.

He had not often visited Don Ippolito, but the quaintness of the
place had been so vividly impressed upon him, that he had a certain
familiarity with the grape-arbor of the anteroom, the paintings of the
parlor, and the puerile arrangement of the piano and melodeon. Veneranda
led him through these rooms to the chamber where Don Ippolito had first
shown him his inventions. They were all removed now, and on a bed, set
against the wall opposite the door, lay the priest, with his hands on
his breast, and a faint smile on his lips, so peaceful, so serene, that
the painter stopped with a sudden awe, as if he had unawares come into
the presence of death.

"Advance, advance," whispered the old woman.

Near the head of the bed sat a white-haired priest wearing the red
stockings of a canonico; his face was fanatically stern; but he rose,
and bowed courteously to Ferris.

The stir of his robes roused Don Ippolito. He slowly and weakly turned
his head, and his eyes fell upon the painter. He made a helpless gesture
of salutation with his thin hand, and began to excuse himself, for
the trouble he had given, with a gentle politeness that touched the
painter's heart through all the complex resentments that divided them.
It was indeed a strange ground on which the two men met. Ferris could
not have described Don Ippolito as his enemy, for the priest had
wittingly done him no wrong; he could not have logically hated him as
a rival, for till it was too late he had not confessed to his own heart
the love that was in it; he knew no evil of Don Ippolito, he could not
accuse him of any betrayal of trust, or violation of confidence. He felt
merely that this hapless creature, lying so deathlike before him, had
profaned, however involuntarily, what was sacredest in the world to him;
beyond this all was chaos. He had heard of the priest's sickness with
a fierce hardening of the heart; yet as he beheld him now, he began to
remember things that moved him to a sort of remorse. He recalled again
the simple loyalty with which Don Ippolito had first spoken to him of
Miss Vervain and tried to learn his own feeling toward her; he thought
how trustfully at their last meeting the priest had declared his love
and hope, and how, when he had coldly received his confession, Don
Ippolito had solemnly adjured him to be frank with him; and Ferris could
not. That pity for himself as the prey of fantastically cruel chances,
which he had already vaguely felt, began now also to include the priest;
ignoring all but that compassion, he went up to the bed and took the
weak, chill, nerveless hand in his own.

The canonico rose and placed his chair for Ferris beside the pillow, on
which lay a brass crucifix, and then softly left the room, exchanging a
glance of affectionate intelligence with the sick man.

"I might have waited a little while," said Don Ippolito weakly, speaking
in a hollow voice that was the shadow of his old deep tones, "but you
will know how to forgive the impatience of a man not yet quite master
of himself. I thank you for coming. I have been very sick, as you see;
I did not think to live; I did not care.... I am very weak, now; let
me say to you quickly what I want to say. Dear friend," continued Don
Ippolito, fixing his eyes upon the painter's face, "I spoke to her that
night after I had parted from you."

The priest's voice was now firm; the painter turned his face away.

"I spoke without hope," proceeded Don Ippolito, "and because I must. I
spoke in vain; all was lost, all was past in a moment."

The coil of suspicions and misgivings and fears in which Ferris had
lived was suddenly without a clew; he could not look upon the pallid
visage of the priest lest he should now at last find there that subtle
expression of deceit; the whirl of his thoughts kept him silent; Don
Ippolito went on.

"Even if I had never been a priest, I would still have been impossible
to her. She"....

He stopped as if for want of strength to go on. All at once he cried,
"Listen!" and he rapidly recounted the story of his life, ending with
the fatal tragedy of his love. When it was told, he said calmly, "But
now everything is over with me on earth. I thank the Infinite Compassion
for the sorrows through which I have passed. I, also, have proved the
miraculous power of the church, potent to save in all ages." He gathered
the crucifix in his spectral grasp, and pressed it to his lips. "Many
merciful things have befallen me on this bed of sickness. My uncle, whom
the long years of my darkness divided from me, is once more at peace
with me. Even that poor old woman whom I sent to call you, and who had
served me as I believed with hate for me as a false priest in her heart,
has devoted herself day and night to my helplessness; she has grown
decrepit with her cares and vigils. Yes, I have had many and signal
marks of the divine pity to be grateful for." He paused, breathing
quickly, and then added, "They tell me that the danger of this sickness
is past. But none the less I have died in it. When I rise from this bed
it shall be to take the vows of a Carmelite friar."

Ferris made no answer, and Don Ippolito resumed:--

"I have told you how when I first owned to her the falsehood in which
I lived, she besought me to try if I might not find consolation in the
holy life to which I had been devoted. When you see her, dear friend,
will you not tell her that I came to understand that this comfort, this
refuge, awaited me in the cell of the Carmelite? I have brought so much
trouble into her life that I would fain have her know I have found
peace where she bade me seek it, that I have mastered my affliction by
reconciling myself to it. Tell her that but for her pity and fear for
me, I believe that I must have died in my sins."

It was perhaps inevitable from Ferris's Protestant association of monks
and convents and penances chiefly with the machinery of fiction, that
all this affected him as unreally as talk in a stage-play. His heart was
cold, as he answered: "I am glad that your mind is at rest concerning
the doubts which so long troubled you. Not all men are so easily
pacified; but, as you say, it is the privilege of your church to work
miracles. As to Miss Vervain, I am sorry that I cannot promise to give
her your message. I shall never see her again. Excuse me," he continued,
"but your servant said there was something you wished to say that
concerned me?"

"You will never see her again!" cried the priest, struggling to lift
himself upon his elbow and falling back upon the pillow. "Oh, bereft!
Oh, deaf and blind! It was _you_ that she loved! She confessed it to me
that night."

"Wait!" said Ferris, trying to steady his voice, and failing; "I was
with Mrs. Vervain that night; she sent me into the garden to call her
daughter, and I saw how Miss Vervain parted from the man she did not
love! I saw"....

It was a horrible thing to have said it, he felt now that he had spoken;
a sense of the indelicacy, the shamefulness, seemed to alienate him from
all high concern in the matter, and to leave him a mere self-convicted
eavesdropper. His face flamed; the wavering hopes, the wavering doubts
alike died in his heart. He had fallen below the dignity of his own
trouble.

"You saw, you saw," softly repeated the priest, without looking at him,
and without any show of emotion; apparently, the convalescence that had
brought him perfect clearness of reason had left his sensibilities still
somewhat dulled. He closed his lips and lay silent. At last, he asked
very gently, "And how shall I make you believe that what you saw was not
a woman's love, but an angel's heavenly pity for me? Does it seem hard
to believe this of her?"

"Yes," answered the painter doggedly, "it is hard."

"And yet it is the very truth. Oh, you do not know her, you never knew
her! In the same moment that she denied me her love, she divined the
anguish of my soul, and with that embrace she sought to console me for
the friendlessness of a whole life, past and to come. But I know that I
waste my words on you," he cried bitterly. "You never would see me as I
was; you would find no singleness in me, and yet I had a heart as full
of loyalty to you as love for her. In what have I been false to you?"

"You never were false to me," answered Ferris, "and God knows I have
been true to you, and at what cost. We might well curse the day we met,
Don Ippolito, for we have only done each other harm. But I never meant
you harm. And now I ask you to forgive me if I cannot believe you. I
cannot--yet. I am of another race from you, slow to suspect, slow to
trust. Give me a little time; let me see you again. I want to go away
and think. I don't question your truth. I'm afraid you don't know. I'm
afraid that the same deceit has tricked us both. I must come to you
to-morrow. Can I?"

He rose and stood beside the couch.

"Surely, surely," answered the priest, looking into Ferris's troubled
eyes with calm meekness. "You will do me the greatest pleasure. Yes,
come again to-morrow. You know," he said with a sad smile, referring to
his purpose of taking vows, "that my time in the world is short. Adieu,
to meet again!"

He took Ferris's hand, hanging weak and hot by his side, and drew him
gently down by it, and kissed him on either bearded cheek. "It is our
custom, you know, among _friends_. Farewell."

The canonico in the anteroom bowed austerely to him as he passed
through; the old woman refused with a harsh "Nothing!" the money he
offered her at the door.

He bitterly upbraided himself for the doubts he could not banish, and he
still flushed with shame that he should have declared his knowledge of a
scene which ought, at its worst, to have been inviolable by his speech.
He scarcely cared now for the woman about whom these miseries grouped
themselves; he realized that a fantastic remorse may be stronger than a
jealous love.

He longed for the morrow to come, that he might confess his shame and
regret; but a reaction to this violent repentance came before the night
fell. As the sound of the priest's voice and the sight of his wasted
face faded from the painter's sense, he began to see everything in the
old light again. Then what Don Ippolito had said took a character of
ludicrous, of insolent improbability.

After dark, Ferris set out upon one of his long, rambling walks. He
walked hard and fast, to try if he might not still, by mere fatigue of
body, the anguish that filled his soul. But whichever way he went
he came again and again to the house of Don Ippolito, and at last he
stopped there, leaning against the parapet of the quay, and staring at
the house, as though he would spell from the senseless stones the truth
of the secret they sheltered. Far up in the chamber, where he knew that
the priest lay, the windows were dimly lit.

As he stood thus, with his upturned face haggard in the moonlight, the
soldier commanding the Austrian patrol which passed that way halted his
squad, and seemed about to ask him what he wanted there.

Ferris turned and walked swiftly homeward; but he did not even lie down.
His misery took the shape of an intent that would not suffer him to
rest. He meant to go to Don Ippolito and tell him that his story had
failed of its effect, that he was not to be fooled so easily, and,
without demanding anything further, to leave him in his lie.

At the earliest hour when he might hope to be admitted, he went, and
rang the bell furiously. The door opened, and he confronted the priest's
servant. "I want to see Don Ippolito," said Ferris abruptly.

"It cannot be," she began.

"I tell you I must," cried Ferris, raising his voice. "I tell you."....

"Madman!" fiercely whispered the old woman, shaking both her open hands
in his face, "he's dead! He died last night!"



XVIII.


The terrible stroke sobered Ferris, he woke from his long debauch of
hate and jealousy and despair; for the first time since that night in
the garden, he faced his fate with a clear mind. Death had set his seal
forever to a testimony which he had been able neither to refuse nor to
accept; in abject sorrow and shame he thanked God that he had been kept
from dealing that last cruel blow; but if Don Ippolito had come back
from the dead to repeat his witness, Ferris felt that the miracle could
not change his own passive state. There was now but one thing in the
world for him to do: to see Florida, to confront her with his knowledge
of all that had been, and to abide by her word, whatever it was. At the
worst, there was the war, whose drums had already called to him, for a
refuge.

He thought at first that he might perhaps overtake the Vervains before
they sailed for America, but he remembered that they had left Venice
six weeks before. It seemed impossible that he could wait, but when
he landed in New York, he was tormented in his impatience by a strange
reluctance and hesitation. A fantastic light fell upon his plans; a
sense of its wildness enfeebled his purpose. What was he going to do?
Had he come four thousand miles to tell Florida that Don Ippolito was
dead? Or was he going to say, "I have heard that you love me, but I
don't believe it: is it true?"

He pushed on to Providence, stifling these antic misgivings as he might,
and without allowing himself time to falter from his intent, he set out
to find Mrs. Vervain's house. He knew the street and the number, for she
had often given him the address in her invitations against the time
when he should return to America. As he drew near the house a tender
trepidation filled him and silenced all other senses in him; his heart
beat thickly; the universe included only the fact that he was to look
upon the face he loved, and this fact had neither past nor future.

But a terrible foreboding as of death seized him when he stood before
the house, and glanced up at its close-shuttered front, and round upon
the dusty grass-plots and neglected flower-beds of the door-yard. With
a cold hand he rang and rang again, and no answer came. At last a man
lounged up to the fence from the next house-door. "Guess you won't make
anybody hear," he said, casually.

"Doesn't Mrs. Vervain live in this house?" asked Ferris, finding a husky
voice in his throat that sounded to him like some other's voice lost
there.

"She used to, but she isn't at home. Family's in Europe."

They had not come back yet.

"Thanks," said Ferris mechanically, and he went away. He laughed
to himself at this keen irony of fortune; he was prepared for the
confirmation of his doubts; he was ready for relief from them, Heaven
knew; but this blank that the turn of the wheel had brought, this
Nothing!

The Vervains were as lost to him as if Europe were in another planet.
How should he find them there? Besides, he was poor; he had no money to
get back with, if he had wanted to return.

He took the first train to New York, and hunted up a young fellow of his
acquaintance, who in the days of peace had been one of the governor's
aides. He was still holding this place, and was an ardent recruiter. He
hailed with rapture the expression of Ferris's wish to go into the war.
"Look here!" he said after a moment's thought, "didn't you have some
rank as a consul?"

"Yes," replied Ferris with a dreary smile, "I have been equivalent to a
commander in the navy and a colonel in the army--I don't mean both, but
either."

"Good!" cried his friend. "We must strike high. The colonelcies
are rather inaccessible, just at present, and so are the
lieutenant-colonelcies, but a majorship, now"....

"Oh no; don't!" pleaded Ferris. "Make me a corporal--or a cook. I shall
not be so mischievous to our own side, then, and when the other fellows
shoot me, I shall not be so much of a loss."

"Oh, they won't _shoot_ you," expostulated his friend, high-heartedly.
He got Ferris a commission as second lieutenant, and lent him money to
buy a uniform.

Ferris's regiment was sent to a part of the southwest, where he saw a
good deal of fighting and fever and ague. At the end of two years, spent
alternately in the field and the hospital, he was riding out near the
camp one morning in unusual spirits, when two men in butternut fired
at him: one had the mortification to miss him; the bullet of the other
struck him in the arm. There was talk of amputation at first, but the
case was finally managed without. In Ferris's state of health it was
quite the same an end of his soldiering.

He came North sick and maimed and poor. He smiled now to think of
confronting Florida in any imperative or challenging spirit; but the
current of his hopeless melancholy turned more and more towards her. He
had once, at a desperate venture, written to her at Providence, but he
had got no answer. He asked of a Providence man among the artists in New
York, if he knew the Vervains; the Providence man said that he did know
them a little when he was much younger; they had been abroad a great
deal; he believed in a dim way that they were still in Europe. The young
one, he added, used to have a temper of her own.

"Indeed!" said Ferris stiffly.

The one fast friend whom he found in New York was the governor's dashing
aide. The enthusiasm of this recruiter of regiments had not ceased
with Ferris's departure for the front; the number of disabled officers
forbade him to lionize any one of them, but he befriended Ferris; he
made a feint of discovering the open secret of his poverty, and asked
how he could help him.

"I don't know," said Ferris, "it looks like a hopeless case, to me."

"Oh no it isn't," retorted his friend, as cheerfully and confidently as
he had promised him that he should not be shot. "Didn't you bring back
any pictures from Venice with you?"

"I brought back a lot of sketches and studies. I'm sorry to say that I
loafed a good deal there; I used to feel that I had eternity before me;
and I was a theorist and a purist and an idiot generally. There are none
of them fit to be seen."

"Never mind; let's look at them."

They hunted out Ferris's property from a catch-all closet in the studio
of a sculptor with whom he had left them, and who expressed a polite
pleasure in handing them over to Ferris rather than to his heirs and
assigns.

"Well, I'm not sure that I share your satisfaction, old fellow," said
the painter ruefully; but he unpacked the sketches.

Their inspection certainly revealed a disheartening condition of
half-work. "And I can't do anything to help the matter for the present,"
groaned Ferris, stopping midway in the business, and making as if to
shut the case again.

"Hold on," said his friend. "What's this? Why, this isn't so bad." It
was the study of Don Ippolito as a Venetian priest, which Ferris beheld
with a stupid amaze, remembering that he had meant to destroy it, and
wondering how it had got where it was, but not really caring much. "It's
worse than you can imagine," said he, still looking at it with this
apathy.

"No matter; I want you to sell it to me. Come!"

"I can't!" replied Ferris piteously. "It would be flat burglary."

"Then put it into the exhibition."

The sculptor, who had gone back to scraping the chin of the famous
public man on whose bust he was at work, stabbed him to the heart with
his modeling-tool, and turned to Ferris and his friend. He slanted his
broad red beard for a sidelong look at the picture, and said: "I know
what you mean, Ferris. It's hard, and it's feeble in some ways and it
looks a little too much like experimenting. But it isn't so _infernally_
bad."

"Don't be fulsome," responded Ferris, jadedly. He was thinking in
a thoroughly vanquished mood what a tragico-comic end of the whole
business it was that poor Don Ippolito should come to his rescue in
this fashion, and as it were offer to succor him in his extremity. He
perceived the shamefulness of suffering such help; it would be much
better to starve; but he felt cowed, and he had not courage to take arms
against this sarcastic destiny, which had pursued him with a mocking
smile from one lower level to another. He rubbed his forehead and
brooded upon the picture. At least it would be some comfort to be rid of
it; and Don Ippolito was dead; and to whom could it mean more than the
face of it?

His friend had his way about framing it, and it was got into the
exhibition. The hanging-committee offered it the hospitalities of an
obscure corner; but it was there, and it stood its chance. Nobody
seemed to know that it was there, however, unless confronted with it by
Ferris's friend, and then no one seemed to care for it, much less want
to buy it. Ferris saw so many much worse pictures sold all around it,
that he began gloomily to respect it. At first it had shocked him to see
it on the Academy's wall; but it soon came to have no other relation to
him than that of creatureship, like a poem in which a poet celebrates
his love or laments his dead, and sells for a price. His pride as well
as his poverty was set on having the picture sold; he had nothing to do,
and he used to lurk about, and see if it would not interest somebody at
last. But it remained unsold throughout May, and well into June, long
after the crowds had ceased to frequent the exhibition, and only chance
visitors from the country straggled in by twos and threes.

One warm, dusty afternoon, when he turned into the Academy out of Fourth
Avenue, the empty hall echoed to no footfall but his own. A group of
weary women, who wore that look of wanting lunch which characterizes all
picture-gallery-goers at home and abroad, stood faint before a certain
large Venetian subject which Ferris abhorred, and the very name of which
he spat out of his mouth with loathing for its unreality. He passed them
with a sombre glance, as he took his way toward the retired spot where
his own painting hung.

A lady whose crapes would have betrayed to her own sex the latest touch
of Paris stood a little way back from it, and gazed fixedly at it.
The pose of her head, her whole attitude, expressed a quiet dejection;
without seeing her face one could know its air of pensive wistfulness.
Ferris resolved to indulge himself in a near approach to this unwonted
spectacle of interest in his picture; at the sound of his steps the
lady slowly turned a face of somewhat heavily molded beauty, and from
low-growing, thick pale hair and level brows, stared at him with the sad
eyes of Florida Vervain. She looked fully the last two years older.

As though she were listening to the sound of his steps in the dark
instead of having him there visibly before her, she kept her eyes upon
him with a dreamy unrecognition.

"Yes, it is I," said Ferris, as if she had spoken.

She recovered herself, and with a subdued, sorrowful quiet in her old
directness, she answered, "I supposed you must be in New York," and she
indicated that she had supposed so from seeing this picture.

Ferris felt the blood mounting to his head. "Do you think it is like?"
he asked.

"No," she said, "it isn't just to him; it attributes things that didn't
belong to him, and it leaves out a great deal."

"I could scarcely have hoped to please you in a portrait of Don
Ippolito." Ferris saw the red light break out as it used on the girl's
pale cheeks, and her eyes dilate angrily. He went on recklessly: "He
sent for me after you went away, and gave me a message for you. I never
promised to deliver it, but I will do so now. He asked me to tell
you when we met, that he had acted on your desire, and had tried to
reconcile himself to his calling and his religion; he was going to enter
a Carmelite convent."

Florida made no answer, but she seemed to expect him to go on, and he
was constrained to do so.

"He never carried out his purpose," Ferris said, with a keen glance at
her; "he died the night after I saw him."

"Died?" The fan and the parasol and the two or three light packages she
had been holding slid down one by one, and lay at her feet. "Thank you
for bringing me his last words," she said, but did not ask him anything
more.

Ferris did not offer to gather up her things; he stood irresolute;
presently he continued with a downcast look: "He had had a fever, but
they thought he was getting well. His death must have been sudden." He
stopped, and resumed fiercely, resolved to have the worst out: "I went
to him, with no good-will toward him, the next day after I saw him;
but I came too late. That was God's mercy to me. I hope you have your
consolation, Miss Vervain."

It maddened him to see her so little moved, and he meant to make her
share his remorse.

"Did he blame me for anything?" she asked.

"No!" said Ferris, with a bitter laugh, "he praised you."

"I am glad of that," returned Florida, "for I have thought it all over
many times, and I know that I was not to blame, though at first I
blamed myself. I never intended him anything but good. That is _my_
consolation, Mr. Ferris. But you," she added, "you seem to make yourself
my judge. Well, and what do _you_ blame me for? I have a right to know
what is in your mind."

The thing that was in his mind had rankled there for two years; in
many a black reverie of those that alternated with his moods of abject
self-reproach and perfect trust of her, he had confronted her and flung
it out upon her in one stinging phrase. But he was now suddenly at a
loss; the words would not come; his torment fell dumb before her; in her
presence the cause was unspeakable. Her lips had quivered a little in
making that demand, and there had been a corresponding break in her
voice.

"Florida! Florida!" Ferris heard himself saying, "I loved you all the
time!"

"Oh indeed, did you love me?" she cried, indignantly, while the tears
shone in her eyes. "And was that why you left a helpless young girl to
meet that trouble alone? Was that why you refused me your advice, and
turned your back on me, and snubbed me? Oh, many thanks for your love!"
She dashed the gathered tears angrily away, and went on. "Perhaps you
knew, too, what that poor priest was thinking of?"

"Yes," said Ferris, stolidly, "I did at last: he told me."

"Oh, then you acted generously and nobly to let him go on! It was kind
to him, and very, very kind to me!"

"What could I do?" demanded Ferris, amazed and furious to find himself
on the defensive. "His telling me put it out of my power to act."

"I'm glad that you can satisfy yourself with such a quibble! But I
wonder that you can tell _me_--_any_ woman of it!"

"By Heavens, this is atrocious!" cried Ferris. "Do you think ... Look
here!" he went on rudely. "I'll put the case to you, and you shall judge
it. Remember that I was such a fool as to be in love with you. Suppose
Don Ippolito had told me that he was going to risk everything--going to
give up home, religion, friends--on the ten thousandth part of a chance
that you might some day care for him. I did not believe he had even so
much chance as that; but he had always thought me his friend, and he
trusted me. Was it a quibble that kept me from betraying him? I don't
know what honor is among women; but no _man_ could have done it. I
confess to my shame that I went to your house that night longing to
betray him. And then suppose your mother sent me into the garden to call
you, and I saw ... what has made my life a hell of doubt for the last
two years; what ... No, excuse me! I can't put the case to you after
all."

"What do you mean?" asked Florida. "I don't understand you!"

"What do I mean? You don't understand? Are you so blind as that, or are
you making a fool of me? What could I think but that you had played with
that priest's heart till your own"....

"Oh!" cried Florida with a shudder, starting away from him, "did you
think I was such a wicked girl as that?"

It was no defense, no explanation, no denial; it simply left the case
with Ferris as before. He stood looking like a man who does not know
whether to bless or curse himself, to laugh or blaspheme.

She stooped and tried to pick up the things she had let fall upon
the floor; but she seemed not able to find them. He bent over, and,
gathering them together, returned them to her with his left hand,
keeping the other in the breast of his coat.

"Thanks," she said; and then after a moment, "Have you been hurt?" she
asked timidly.

"Yes," said Ferris in a sulky way. "I have had my share." He glanced
down at his arm askance. "It's rather conventional," he added. "It isn't
much of a hurt; but then, I wasn't much of a soldier."

The girl's eyes looked reverently at the conventional arm; those were
the days, so long past, when women worshipped men for such things. But
she said nothing, and as Ferris's eyes wandered to her, he received a
novel and painful impression. He said, hesitatingly, "I have not asked
before: but your mother, Miss Vervain--I hope she is well?"

"She is dead," answered Florida, with stony quiet.

They were both silent for a time. Then Ferris said, "I had a great
affection for your mother."

"Yes," said the girl, "she was fond of you, too. But you never wrote or
sent her any word; it used to grieve her."

Her unjust reproach went to his heart, so long preoccupied with its own
troubles; he recalled with a tender remorse the old Venetian days and
the kindliness of the gracious, silly woman who had seemed to like him
so much; he remembered the charm of her perfect ladylikeness, and of her
winning, weak-headed desire to make every one happy to whom she spoke;
the beauty of the good-will, the hospitable soul that in an imaginably
better world than this will outvalue a merely intellectual or aesthetic
life. He humbled himself before her memory, and as keenly reproached
himself as if he could have made her hear from him at any time during
the past two years. He could only say, "I am sorry that I gave your
mother pain; I loved her very truly. I hope that she did not suffer much
before"--

"No," said Florida, "it was a peaceful end; but finally it was very
sudden. She had not been well for many years, with that sort of decline;
I used sometimes to feel troubled about her before we came to Venice;
but I was very young. I never was really alarmed till that day I went to
you."

"I remember," said Ferris contritely.

"She had fainted, and I thought we ought to see a doctor; but
afterwards, because I thought that I ought not to do so without speaking
to her, I did not go to the doctor; and that day we made up our minds
to get home as soon as we could; and she seemed so much better, for a
while; and then, everything seemed to happen at once. When we did start
home, she could not go any farther than Switzerland, and in the fall we
went back to Italy. We went to Sorrento, where the climate seemed to
do her good. But she was growing frailer, the whole time. She died in
March. I found some old friends of hers in Naples, and came home with
them."

The girl hesitated a little over the words, which she nevertheless
uttered unbroken, while the tears fell quietly down her face. She
seemed to have forgotten the angry words that had passed between her and
Ferris, to remember him only as one who had known her mother, while she
went on to relate some little facts in the history of her mother's last
days; and she rose into a higher, serener atmosphere, inaccessible to
his resentment or his regret, as she spoke of her loss. The simple tale
of sickness and death inexpressibly belittled his passionate woes, and
made them look theatrical to him. He hung his head as they turned at her
motion and walked away from the picture of Don Ippolito, and down the
stairs toward the street-door; the people before the other Venetian
picture had apparently yielded to their craving for lunch, and had
vanished.

"I have very little to tell you of my own life," Ferris began awkwardly.
"I came home soon after you started, and I went to Providence to find
you, but you had not got back."

Florida stopped him and looked perplexedly into his face, and then moved
on.

"Then I went into the army. I wrote once to you."

"I never got your letter," she said.

They were now in the lower hall, and near the door.

"Florida," said Ferris, abruptly, "I'm poor and disabled; I've no more
right than any sick beggar in the street to say it to you; but I loved
you, I must always love you. I--Good-by!"

She halted him again, and "You said," she grieved, "that you doubted me;
you said that I had made your life a"--

"Yes, I said that; I know it," answered Ferris.

"You thought I could be such a false and cruel girl as that!"

"Yes, yes: I thought it all, God help me!"

"When I was only sorry for him, when it was you that I"--

"Oh, I know it," answered Ferris in a heartsick, hopeless voice. "He
knew it, too. He told me so the day before he died."

"And didn't you believe him?"

Ferris could not answer.

"Do you believe him now?"

"I believe anything you tell me. When I look at you, I can't believe I
ever doubted you."

"Why?"

"Because--because--I love you."

"Oh! That's no reason."

"I know it; but I'm used to being without a reason."

Florida looked gravely at his penitent face, and a brave red color
mantled her own, while she advanced an unanswerable argument: "Then what
are you going away for?"

The world seemed to melt and float away from between them. It returned
and solidified at the sound of the janitor's steps as he came towards
them on his round through the empty building. Ferris caught her hand;
she leaned heavily upon his arm as they walked out into the street. It
was all they could do at the moment except to look into each other's
faces, and walk swiftly on.

At last, after how long a time he did not know, Ferris cried: "Where are
we going, Florida?"

"Why, I don't know!" she replied. "I'm stopping with those friends
of ours at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. We _were_ going on to Providence
to-morrow. We landed yesterday; and we stayed to do some shopping"--

"And may I ask why you happened to give your first moments in America to
the fine arts?"

"The fine arts? Oh! I thought I might find something of yours, there!"

At the hotel she presented him to her party as a friend whom her mother
and she had known in Italy; and then went to lay aside her hat. The
Providence people received him with the easy, half-southern warmth of
manner which seems to have floated northward as far as their city on
the Gulf Stream bathing the Rhode Island shores. The matron of the party
had, before Florida came back, an outline history of their acquaintance,
which she evolved from him with so much tact that he was not conscious
of parting with information; and she divined indefinitely more when she
saw them together again. She was charming; but to Ferris's thinking she
had a fault, she kept him too much from Florida, though she talked of
nothing else, and at the last she was discreetly merciful.

"Do you think," whispered Florida, very close against his face, when
they parted, "that I'll have a bad temper?"

"I hope you will--or I shall be killed with kindness," he replied.

She stood a moment, nervously buttoning his coat across his breast. "You
mustn't let that picture be sold, Henry," she said, and by this touch
alone did she express any sense, if she had it, of his want of feeling
in proposing to sell it. He winced, and she added with a soft pity in
her voice, "He did bring us together, after all. I wish you had believed
him, dear!"

"So do I," said Ferris, most humbly.

       *       *       *       *       *

People are never equal to the romance of their youth in after life,
except by fits, and Ferris especially could not keep himself at what he
called the operatic pitch of their brief betrothal and the early days of
their marriage. With his help, or even his encouragement, his wife might
have been able to maintain it. She had a gift for idealizing him, at
least, and as his hurt healed but slowly, and it was a good while before
he could paint with his wounded arm, it was an easy matter for her to
believe in the meanwhile that he would have been the greatest painter
of his time, but for his honorable disability; to hear her, you would
suppose no one else had ever been shot in the service of his country.

It was fortunate for Ferris, since he could not work, that she had
money; in exalted moments he had thought this a barrier to their
marriage; yet he could not recall any one who had refused the hand of a
beautiful girl because of the accident of her wealth, and in the end he
silenced his scruples. It might be said that in many other ways he was
not her equal; but one ought to reflect how very few men are worthy
of their wives in any sense. After his fashion he certainly loved her
always,--even when she tried him most, for it must be owned that she
really had that hot temper which he had dreaded in her from the first.
Not that her imperiousness directly affected him. For a long time after
their marriage, she seemed to have no other desire than to lose her
outwearied will in his. There was something a little pathetic in this;
there was a kind of bewilderment in her gentleness, as though the
relaxed tension of her long self-devotion to her mother left her without
a full motive; she apparently found it impossible to give herself with a
satisfactory degree of abandon to a man who could do so many things for
himself. When her children came they filled this vacancy, and afforded
her scope for the greatest excesses of self-devotion. Ferris laughed
to find her protecting them and serving them with the same tigerish
tenderness, the same haughty humility, as that with which she used to
care for poor Mrs. Vervain; and he perceived that this was merely the
direction away from herself of that intense arrogance of nature which,
but for her power and need of loving, would have made her intolerable.
What she chiefly exacted from them in return for her fierce devotedness
was the truth in everything; she was content that they should be rather
less fond of her than of their father, whom indeed they found much more
amusing.

The Ferrises went to Europe some years after their marriage, revisiting
Venice, but sojourning for the most part in Florence. Ferris had once
imagined that the tragedy which had given him his wife would always
invest her with the shadow of its sadness, but in this he was mistaken.
There is nothing has really so strong a digestion as love, and this is
very lucky, seeing what manifold experiences love has to swallow and
assimilate; and when they got back to Venice, Ferris found that the
customs of their joint life exorcised all the dark associations of the
place. These simply formed a sombre background, against which their
wedded happiness relieved itself. They talked much of the past, with
free minds, unashamed and unafraid. If it is a little shocking, it is
nevertheless true, and true to human nature, that they spoke of Don
Ippolito as if he were a part of their love.

Ferris had never ceased to wonder at what he called the unfathomable
innocence of his wife, and he liked to go over all the points of their
former life in Venice, and bring home to himself the utter simplicity
of her girlish ideas, motives, and designs, which both confounded and
delighted him.

"It's amazing, Florida," he would say, "it's perfectly amazing that you
should have been willing to undertake the job of importing into America
that poor fellow with his whole stock of helplessness, dreamery, and
unpracticality. What _were_ you about?"

"Why, I've often told you, Henry. I thought he oughtn't to continue a
priest."

"Yes, yes; I know." Then he would remain lost in thought, softly
whistling to himself. On one of these occasions he asked, "Do you think
he was really very much troubled by his false position?"

"I can't tell, now. He seemed to be so."

"That story he told you of his childhood and of how he became a priest;
didn't it strike you at the time like rather a made-up, melodramatic
history?"

"No, no! How can you say such things, Henry? It was too simple not to be
true."

"Well, well. Perhaps so. But he baffles me. He always did, for that
matter."

Then came another pause, while Ferris lay back upon the gondola
cushions, getting the level of the Lido just under his hat-brim.

"Do you think he was very much of a skeptic, after all, Florida?"

Mrs. Ferris turned her eyes reproachfully upon her husband. "Why, Henry,
how strange you are! You said yourself, once, that you used to wonder if
he were not a skeptic."

"Yes; I know. But for a man who had lived in doubt so many years, he
certainly slipped back into the bosom of mother church pretty suddenly.
Don't you think he was a person of rather light feelings?"

"I can't talk with you, my dear, if you go on in that way."

"I don't mean any harm. I can see how in many things he was the soul
of truth and honor. But it seems to me that even the life he lived was
largely imagined. I mean that he was such a dreamer that once having
fancied himself afflicted at being what he was, he could go on and
suffer as keenly as if he really were troubled by it. Why mightn't it
be that all his doubts came from anger and resentment towards those who
made him a priest, rather than from any examination of his own mind? I
don't say it _was_ so. But I don't believe he knew quite what he wanted.
He must have felt that his failure as an inventor went deeper than the
failure of his particular attempts. I once thought that perhaps he had
a genius in that way, but I question now whether he had. If he had, it
seems to me he had opportunity to prove it--certainly, as a priest he
had leisure to prove it. But when that sort of subconsciousness of his
own inadequacy came over him, it was perfectly natural for him to take
refuge in the supposition that he had been baffled by circumstances."

Mrs. Ferris remained silently troubled. "I don't know how to answer you,
Henry; but I think that you're judging him narrowly and harshly."

"Not harshly. I feel very compassionate towards him. But now, even as to
what one might consider the most real thing in his life,--his caring
for you,--it seems to me there must have been a great share of imagined
sentiment in it. It was not a passion; it was a gentle nature's dream of
a passion."

"He didn't die of a dream," said the wife.

"No, he died of a fever."

"He had got well of the fever."

"That's very true, my dear. And whatever his head was, he had an
affectionate and faithful heart. I wish I had been gentler with him. I
must often have bruised that sensitive soul. God knows I'm sorry for it.
But he's a puzzle, he's a puzzle!"

Thus lapsing more and more into a mere problem as the years have passed,
Don Ippolito has at last ceased to be even the memory of a man with a
passionate love and a mortal sorrow. Perhaps this final effect in the
mind of him who has realized the happiness of which the poor priest
vainly dreamed is not the least tragic phase of the tragedy of Don
Ippolito.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Foregone Conclusion" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home