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´╗┐Title: Donna Teresa
Author: Peard, Frances
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Donna Teresa" ***

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Donna Teresa
By Frances Peard
Published by Macmillan and Co Ltd.
This edition dated 1899.

Donna Teresa, by Frances Peard.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
DONNA TERESA, BY FRANCES PEARD.

CHAPTER ONE.

It was sirocco in Rome; sirocco which, as every one knows, brings out a
damp ooze on the pavement, and makes the hills yet more slippery for the
overladen horses and mules; sirocco which disposes man and woman to take
peevish views of life, especially if they have no work on which to
fasten thought; sirocco, in fine, hot, baleful, depressing, sapping the
strength of one and the energy of another, a universal excuse for
whatever untoward may befall a Roman on the days when it makes itself
felt.

In spite of this languor, however, the young Marchesa di Sant'
Eustachio, and her sister Sylvia Brodrick, were walking briskly along
the street which, broken into three names and many hills, stretches the
long distance from the end of the Pincio to the foot of Santa Maria
Maggiore.  There was little likeness between the sisters, in spite of
strangers asserting that it was to be found.  The marchesa, or Donna
Teresa as she preferred to be called--for although no such title, as a
title, actually exists, it is given by courtesy to Italian women of rank
in place of the `signora'--was in mourning, and her face, while
intelligent, was not beautiful.  But Sylvia's almost deserved the word.
A critical observer might have taken exception to a certain absence of
variety, a want of play about the pretty features; that allowed for, the
most grudging would have been unable to deny that the features in
themselves were charming, and the colouring delightful.  Her dress was
absolutely neat, though there was nothing in it particularly to admire,
and perhaps something inharmonious in the lines.

Donna Teresa was the talker, and as she was in the best of spirits, her
talk was eager, and she laughed at small things which would have
scarcely amused her unless she held some inward cause for rejoicing.
She laughed at the placards on the walls, at the goldfish in their
bowls.  There was not an old stone built into a wall, not a bright
cavern of vegetables, not a chestnut roaster stooping over his rusty
tripod and quickening dull embers with fan of turkey feathers, but she
noticed, and pointed them out gaily.  Sirocco might blow, she cared
nothing.  For the first time since she became a woman, she was rejoicing
in the breeziness of freedom, the bliss of living her own life, of
forming plans, and of carrying them out with no one to say her nay.

She had been very young--too young--when she met the marchese at
Florence, and, unfortunately, insisted upon marrying him.  Three
miserable years followed, he being disappointed in two matters, the
amount of her fortune, and the recoil which she experienced from his
religion.  As for her, she was disappointed in everything, and shocked
in a great deal, so that when he unexpectedly died, she felt rather
relief than grief.  Then she blamed herself for the sensation, and in
one of the moments of rash remorse to which she was always liable,
offered to remain at Florence with the marchesa, his mother.  The old
lady had been fairly kind to her, and Teresa had a notion that if she
had been a more forbearing wife, her husband might have been a better
man.  Whether the idea were true or mistaken, it haunted her, and gave
her two more years, if not of such acute misery, at any rate of a
bondage irksome beyond words.  The old marchesa had been a power in her
youth, and in age ruled her house as once she had ruled society, caring
for no visitors except priests, treating Teresa as a lost heretic;
untidy, unpunctual, and recognising neither right of solitude nor
cultivation of gifts in her daughter-in-law.

How long the girl--for she was still little more in years--would have
continued to reproach herself and to endure, is difficult to decide, but
it is certain that by the end of the years her first exalted ideas of
expiation had lost freshness and strength, and were taking refuge in
obstinacy.  Happily, for her, two things came about.  Her
brother-in-law, the marchesa's second son, developed a passion for
travel, and his wife and children were ready and anxious to make the
Palazzo Sant' Eustachio their home.  At the same time Teresa heard that
her grandmother and sister were coming for the winter to Rome, and
wanted her to join them.  She jumped at the opportunity, had a stormy
interview with the old marchesa, left Florence, as she hoped, for ever,
and renouncing palaces and the threadbare state belonging to an
impoverished family, found herself, to her unbounded joy, in a small
apartment in Rome with her grandmother and sister.

They were all poor together, and their apartment had no pretensions to
grandeur; but Teresa, whose artistic longings had been cramped and even
smothered in her Florentine rooms, was wild with joy at finding herself
able to pull the furniture about as she pleased, and to surround herself
with flowers, books, and pictures at will.  Her energy leapt to life
again, and her companions were content to allow her to exercise it as
actively as she chose.  She was a beneficent housekeeper, for she walked
long distances to get the best salad, the best cream, or the best
maritozzi.  She scolded Nina, the good-natured careless untidy servant,
who adored her; she dusted books, bargained, painted, and insisted upon
her sister seeing Rome and Roman functions conscientiously.  It was with
this aim that she was conducting her to the church of San Martino in
Monte, that day in festa.

The difference between the two sisters became more marked as they walked
along the pavement, and now it was to the advantage of Teresa, for she
carried herself with a light grace which was yet firm and decided, while
Sylvia wavered, and seldom knew on which side to pass the people she
met.  Teresa's face, again, changed expression rapidly, and when she
spoke was lit with eager interest, while Sylvia's remained placid, and
if at times her eye became anxious, it never brightened.  Still, she was
unusually pretty.  She adored Teresa without in the least understanding
her, and her mind lumbered heavily after the freakish darts of
imagination in which this other--who had suffered enough to crush a less
elastic nature--revelled.  Generally Sylvia was unconscious that she did
not understand, but there were times when a remark of Teresa's, flung
and forgotten, would leave her painfully struggling to catch its hidden
meaning, so that her very affection kept her as it were on the strain of
tiptoe.

When they had passed the heavy leathern curtain at the door of San
Martino, raised for them by one of the many clamorous beggars who
rattled their tins outside, they saw the large church crowded with such
a shuffling and shifting throng, that it was difficult to find
standing-room except at the back or in the aisles, and Donna Teresa was
obliged to skirt the congregation and pilot her less capable sister
until they reached the steps leading to the choir, where, although there
was no seat, they could lean against a pillar for support, and, as
Sylvia thankfully reflected, thus avoid contact with the children, whose
dirt and rags left her quite indifferent to the splendour of their eyes,
and to a certain unkempt artistic force.  Such a crowd as filled San
Martino was incomparably more picturesque than the straight rows of
worshippers in an English church.  Some stood, some sat, at intervals
all knelt; and the broken headline, the strong contrasts, the columns
and dim distances, the splashes of vivid colour sharply accentuated
against a somewhat misty background, the faces, often remarkable and
seldom insignificant, gave Donna Teresa, well accustomed as she was to
such sights, an immediate gratification.  Sylvia, meanwhile,
concentrated her full attention upon the function.  A cardinal
officiated, and a group of priests were assisting under the direction of
a short fat man, whose duty it was to instruct each what he should do--
to pull one and push another into place, to whisper how the book was to
be held, to indicate to the cardinal where he should read, to show the
boy-server where to stand for the censing, and when to hand the censer
to the cardinal; at all these varied movements Sylvia Brodrick stared
with a riveted attention which assured her sister that she was
interested.  She was, therefore, the more amazed when Sylvia turned upon
her with a whisper which was almost a cry--

"Let us go!  Please let us go!  I can't bear it!"

Donna Teresa was always prompt.  She immediately edged her way out,
asking no questions until they reached more open space at the end of the
church, where her quick eye caught sight of a vacant chair.

"Sit down, Sylvia.  What is the matter?  Are you ill?"

The other shook her head.

"I couldn't stay, it was too dreadful!"

She spoke in a frightened voice, and Teresa flung a hasty glance round
to see what had alarmed her.

"Do tell me," she said encouragingly.

"Oh, all," said Sylvia sighing.  "That cardinal sitting on a stool like
a red idol, having his clothes pulled about and arranged, and that
little fat man.  All!"

Teresa was half relieved, half provoked.

"Was that it?" she said, raising her eyebrows.  "I thought you were
interested."

"I couldn't bear it," said Sylvia dolorously.  "But if you really like
to stay, I can go home by myself of course."

Donna Teresa scarcely heard the words; her vigorous, somewhat impatient
personality found itself every now and then brought up suddenly and
unexpectedly against what could only be compared to a dead wall in her
sister's nature.  She resented it, and then, as usual, smitten with
remorse, and acknowledging some emotion which she was sure was more
delicate and subtile than her own, began impetuously to carry out
Sylvia's wishes.

"Dear, we will go together," she said, "only I am afraid we must get
back to the big entrance.  You needn't look at poor Cardinal Simone, you
know," she added, her smile broadening as she noticed that Sylvia was
indeed keeping her head carefully turned in an opposite direction.  The
sisters were only able to make slow way, for the throng was thick, and
Teresa could never help becoming alertly interested in what was about
her.  She moved on, however, determinedly, until, when pushing out the
heavy leathern door-pad, a man jostled her rudely, passed, and ran down
the steps.  Teresa, sure of what had happened to her, cried, "Oh!" and
felt for her purse.  It was gone.  She exclaimed hastily to Sylvia,
"There is Mrs Scott, join her," and flew after the thief, who was
already out of sight.

By the time she reached the corner he was not far away, and her light
steps quickly overtook him.  He glanced over his shoulder, hesitated,
and when she exclaimed indignantly, "You have my purse!" held it out
silently.  Teresa caught it, but hers was not a nature to let
wrong-doing go free, and she promptly appealed to the bystanders.  A
crowd in Rome will gather with inconceivable swiftness, so that in a
moment a dozen persons were hanging round, by no means actively engaged
in assisting law and order, rather, indeed, sympathising with the other
side, but sufficiently amused and curious to see what would come of this
accusation by a young and solitary lady, to put, for the moment, a few
apparently undesigned obstacles in the way of escape.  These would have
soon vanished if two municipal guardie had not unexpectedly found
themselves where they were wanted, and to them with instinctive though
often disappointed confidence, Teresa breathlessly appealed.

"This man has just stolen my purse as I came out from San Martino," she
said.

"But the signorina holds it," returned one of the guardie, glancing at
it indifferently.

"As you see," broke in the young man violently.  "I pick up this devil
of a purse in the church, the signorina pursues, I hand it to her at
once, and this is how she repays me!  _Ecco_!" and he opened his hands
and looked round insolently.  Teresa was becoming more angry.

"He gave it to me--yes!  But it is probable he first emptied it.  As you
see," she added in her turn, holding it out after brief examination.

"Signorina--" the guardia began again, shrugging his shoulders.

She stopped him haughtily--

"The Marchesa di Sant' Eustachio, if you please."

The mention of her name caused a visible stir of interest, and the
police looked uneasy.  The one who had not spoken drew her on one side.

"Eccellenza," he said civilly, "it is all doubtless as you say; but,
permit me, had you anything in your purse which you could identify?"

"I had next to nothing.  Four or five lire, perhaps.  But how can you
doubt, when it is so perfectly clear?"

"A hundred pardons, eccellenza; it is a great pity you did not catch him
in the act.  Then!  As it is--you heard his story--who knows?"

And he also spread his hands.

By this time Teresa was pale, and very angry indeed, for she saw that
the guardie were afraid.

"If you let him go," she remarked quietly, "I shall certainly report
you."

The officer still hesitated, and the situation was becoming
embarrassing, when a man's voice said in English--

"Can I be of any use?"

The marchesa turned impetuously.

"Oh, Mr Wilbraham, I am so glad to see you!  Please back me up."

"Of course, of course," said Wilbraham hastily.  "Let me first get you
out of this crowd," he added, looking round him with an Englishman's
horror of anything approaching to a scene.

"Not yet," said Teresa.  "That man took my purse in the most barefaced
manner, and they are evidently afraid of him, and inclined to let him
go."

"I'll see to it, only let me put you into a cab."

"Thank you," she was beginning stiffly, when the guardia once more came
to her side.

"With your excellency's permission we will take his name and address,
and keep him under supervision.  We can then lay our hands upon him if
required."

"It is not likely that he will give you the right particulars," said
Donna Teresa scornfully.

"Eccellenza, it is a mere form.  He is very well known."

"As you please.  I cannot oblige you to do your duty, only you must
understand that I shall complain to the questura."

She turned sharply away, without flinging a glance upon Wilbraham, but
when she had gone a few yards she heard one woman say to another--

"Ah, they would not arrest him--not they!"

Teresa stopped.

"Who is he?"

The woman hesitated.

"Eh, madama?"

"So you are afraid, too!" said Teresa imperiously.  "Don't you see it is
over?"

The second woman, who was younger, broke in with an expressive gesture.

"Eh, that it true!  It is over, poor fellow, thanks to the Madonna!  As
for who he is, he is the Cesare who shot his sister a little while ago."

"His sister!" repeated Donna Teresa, shocked.  "Do you mean that he
murdered her?"

"Murdered! _ma che_!" said the woman indignantly.  "He loved her.  He
was an excellent brother.  As for her"--she shrugged her shoulders--"she
was no good, and would not listen, so he shot her--and him.  Only,
unluckily, _he_ was not killed."

Teresa, feeling that she was suddenly rubbing shoulders with a tragedy,
had forgotten her own annoyance and herself.  She asked quickly--

"But why was not this Cesare punished?"

"For what, madama?  He was an excellent brother."

"And my husband said they made the court ring when he was acquitted,"
chimed in the second woman.

There was a momentary silence before Teresa became aware of a voice at
her elbow--

"Hadn't we better--"

"Why does he pick pockets?  Is he so poor?" she demanded abruptly,
paying no attention.

"Oh, it was not he, madama," said the younger woman, with a laugh; "it
was not he.  Probably he picked it up; what did he say?  As for being
poor--yes.  But he would not steal, not Cesare!"

Donna Teresa, asking no more questions, walked, frowning, towards the
church.  Wilbraham, relieved that this part of the episode was ended,
remarked--

"You won't find Miss Brodrick."

She stopped with a laugh.

"I had forgotten.  I suppose I was walking mechanically.  Where is she
then?"

"She drove away with a lady, and asked me to look after you.  I wish I
had reached you a little earlier."

"Oh, it did well enough," said the marchesa absently.

"I hope you didn't lose much?"

"What you would call nothing.  I ought to have been more careful, for
the churches swarm with pickpockets, and the police are quite useless,
as you saw."

"Well, certainly they couldn't be called energetic."

"I thought you took their view of the case?"  But the instant she had
shot her little dart she looked at him, and laughed frankly again.
"Perhaps it was as well.  Perhaps he didn't take it, after all."

"I fancied you were quite sure?"

"Oh--sure?  You were all so lukewarm," retorted Teresa.  "Besides, I
have just heard his history.  Not long ago he shot his sister."

"Accidentally?"

"No; deliberately."

"The villain!" said Wilbraham.  "And is still unhung!"

"Those women considered him a hero.  I am afraid she wasn't very nice."

There was a silence, which he broke by saying--

"I should think that had disposed of your scruples."

"I believe, on the contrary, it has set them going," said Donna Teresa,
gazing reflectively at the ground.  She exclaimed impetuously the next
moment--"Do you really believe that any man who had shared in such an
awful tragedy could go about the world picking pockets?  Think what he
must carry with him!  Think what his thoughts must be!  Though he was
acquitted, it wasn't from any doubt that he did the deed.  And even if
he is able to persuade himself that he was right, he can't believe it
always; there must be dark dreadful hours when her face comes between
him and everything he looks at.  At the best, to have been her
executioner!  I wish--oh, I do wish I had not felt so certain he was the
man!"

Her voice trembled slightly, and Wilbraham's face grew a little hard.

"I should expect the greater to include the less," he returned shortly;
"and I wouldn't waste my compunctions if I were you."

She glanced at him with a change of expression.

"You believe I was right in my first idea?"

"Undoubtedly."

She stopped.

"Then what are you going to do?"

"I'm off to the police office, the questura, or whatever you call it."

"Do you want me?"

"Good heavens, no!" exclaimed Wilbraham, who had just been
congratulating himself on having got her out of the scrimmage.

"Very well," she returned, looking at him with a smile he did not
understand.  "Then you must turn down that street.  But don't be too
hard on Cesare."

CHAPTER TWO.

Donna Teresa walked thoughtfully along the Quattro Fontane.  Had she
been asked for her thoughts, she would have said they were wondering how
Wilbraham, left to himself, would thread the difficulties of the
questura, but, in truth, her mind was filled with problematic
questionings as to Cesare and his character.  Her eye, trained to
observation, held his features pretty faithfully.  He was young--
probably no older than she herself--and pale, with a long face, drooping
nose, and thin resolute jaw.  The head was wide across the forehead, the
brows reached closely towards each other, and between them that slight
wrinkle was already graven which usually comes only to older men.
Teresa thought, and her thought hesitated.  There rose within her, as
there often rose, a vast pity for the poor of Italy, over-taxed,
miserable, and sometimes desperate.  Italy is not the only country where
bribery and corruption help the rich, and leave the poor defenceless,
but in other countries the effect is not, perhaps, as yet so apparent,
and as yet there seems no such awakening of the national conscience as
might give hope for the future.  There is revolt seething in the lower
classes, the revolt of misery.  What is far more dangerous is the
apparent absence of the sense of righteous justice in the upper.  An
upright man is apt to end by being kicked out of his department.

Teresa knew something of these matters; her emotions were swift and
impulsive; she had many times been reproached for them, and it was true
that they had so often led her into pitfalls that she dreaded their
guidance.  This fear it was which gripped her when speaking to
Wilbraham, and induced her to resign matters into his hand.  He, she
reflected, was a man, had common-sense--it looked out all over him--he
had better do what he considered to be right, and she had better stand
aside and let him do it.  And yet if she were wrong?

She passed the great block of the Barberini, and the piazza with the
Triton, went along the Sistina, and, turning up the Porta Pinciana hill,
presently reached her own door.  Neither entrance nor stairs were
inviting, for the house was old, and had not kept pace with the general
embellishment of Rome; but the porter, old also, made up in smiles what
he wanted in tidiness, and now hastened to assure her that the signora
and signorina were both at home.  Teresa was still grave as she climbed
the weary stairs, but when she had turned the key of their flat, her
face grew suddenly radiant.  The wonder and joy of finding herself with
her own people, the intimate delight of owning something which was, to
all intents and purposes, home, the exhilaration of liberty, were as
strong as, or stronger than, they had been in the first breathless
moments of possession, strong enough to sweep all else out of her mind.

An old lady, very small and slight, sat in a low chair knitting.  She
had a charming face, sweet and yet shrewd, with clear blue eyes, a
rose-blush complexion, and wavy white hair.  As Teresa came in, she
stretched out a welcoming hand.

"So here you are, my dear child," she said.  "Sylvia is disturbed about
you.  Sylvia!"

The girl came hurriedly.  Seen thus, without her hat, she looked even
prettier than before.  The lines of her face were delicate, and there
was an appealing expression in her eyes to which a man could scarcely be
indifferent.  She rushed to kiss her sister.

"Oh, Teresa, I hope you did not mind!  I thought I ought to have stayed,
but Mrs Scott was certain you would rather I went with her, and Mr
Wilbraham said he would go after you, and--and--"

"Suppose we hear what Teresa has to say?" put in Mrs Brodrick drily.

"Of course you were right to go," said the marchesa, smiling at her
sister.  "You could not have done any good by staying."

"Did you get your purse?" demanded her grandmother.

"Yes, I did--in a way.  It was empty, though," added Teresa, sitting
down and taking off her hat.

"Then it was the man?"

"I suppose so.  I thought so.  The police were as unsatisfactory as
usual, and Mr Wilbraham has gone to the questura to stir them up."  Her
face darkened again, and she added inconsequently, "I rather wish he
hadn't."

"Oh, let him," returned her grandmother smiling.  "A thief ought to be
punished."

Teresa looked at her reflectively.

"I suppose so," she repeated.  "Certainly he had the purse."

"Proof enough, I should say."

"Yes.  Oh, he must have taken it," she added quickly, with the air of
one who was seeking confidence.  "But he is a man with a story.  He shot
his sister some little time ago.  On purpose, if you understand."

Sylvia cried out, but Mrs Brodrick had lived a long life.

"That is very terrible," she said gravely.

"Terrible.  Granny,"--Teresa knelt by her grandmother's chair--"you know
things.  Do you believe a man could do that, and afterwards go about the
streets picking pockets?  He is young, remember.  Could he?"

Perhaps Mrs Brodrick's beliefs reached higher and lower than Teresa's.
She hesitated.

"What did he say about it himself?"

"He said he picked up the purse in the church."

"Oh, but, Teresa--" cried Sylvia, squeezing her hands together, and
tripping over incoherent words, "he--yes--oh, he did!  Now I remember
looking back just before we went out, and I saw a man stooping down and
couldn't think why.  It was--yes, indeed, of course it was--that very
man!"

Teresa turned pale.  Naturally generous in all her thoughts and
impulses, the dismal experiences of her life had added a more acute
horror of injustice than often belongs to women.  She said in a low
voice--

"I must go to the questura instantly."

"Wait half an hour.  You are so tired," urged Mrs Brodrick.  But the
marchesa had sprung to her feet.

"How can I?" she cried impatiently.

"I don't know what steps Mr Wilbraham may have taken; but it is all my
fault.  I accused the man publicly, and have no right to keep him in
that position a minute later than necessary.  I wish I had left the
horrid purse alone.  His eyes have haunted me ever since."

Mrs Brodrick, slower to move, still looked doubtful.

"I don't like your going alone.  People will talk."

"Let them!"  Donna Teresa drew herself up with a sudden hardening of her
face.  It softened again as she caught her grandmother's look.  "Dear,
remember I am going to forget all about the marchesa.  I have no
children to be hurt by what I do, and don't care the least little bit in
the world for what may be said behind my back.  But I care horribly for
having made an unjust accusation, and it must be unsaid without delay."

"Go, then," said Mrs Brodrick, smiling again.  She added hesitatingly,
"You might take Sylvia."

"Sylvia would not like it.  I'll be extravagant and take a _botte_
instead."

"Here are English letters."

"Oh, let them wait."

She spoke from the door, and looked back to kiss her hand before running
down the grey stone staircase, and calling one of the little open
carriages with which Rome abounds.  They are cheap enough, but she
rarely indulged in such luxuries, for the marchese, her husband, had
squandered what he could of her small fortune, and her grandmother's
income was ridiculously inadequate to all that she contrived to do with
it.  Just now, however, Teresa would not have begrudged a larger outlay,
for she was on thorns at the idea of having committed an injustice.  She
searched the pavements anxiously for Wilbraham, but had gone down the
crowded Tritone, and passed the Trevi, before she caught sight of him.
She stopped the carriage, stepped out, and dismissed it, even at this
moment amusedly conscious of Wilbraham's startled face.

"Well?" she asked quickly.

"I have done all that's necessary," he answered with a touch of
stiffness.  "I don't think there's anything more wanted.  I worked them
up to send to the man's house, and if he hasn't bolted, he'll be
arrested."

"Oh," cried Teresa despairingly, "then I am too late!"

"Too late?  What for?"

"To spare him the disgrace.  What he said was true--isn't it awful?
Sylvia saw him pick up the purse, which, of course, the real thief had
thrown away.  I am so sorry they have sent.  Let us go at once."

Wilbraham did not look pleased.  He hated scenes, and still more hated
women to be mixed up in them.  There was no help for it, however, for
Teresa was already walking rapidly in the direction from whence he had
come, and of course he had to stick to her.

"They don't think much of your friend at the questura," he said drily.

"All the more reason that we should see him through."

Teresa's tone was uncompromising.  Wilbraham half liked her for it, and
was half provoked.  It gave him a slightly malicious pleasure to find at
the questura that all her fluent and impetuous Italian could not obviate
the usual delay.  Wilbraham felt it must be his duty to calm her, as she
walked with an extraordinary swift grace up and down the room in which
they waited; but his efforts failed, and evidently she was neither
thinking of herself nor her companion.  He, on his part, found it
difficult to understand or sympathise with her extreme remorse.  Cesare,
with his excited, somewhat theatrical gestures, seemed to him a man who,
if he had not committed one crime, was probably well up to the throat in
others.  The very reason which had awakened Teresa's compassion--that he
had been the slayer of his sister--at once destroyed any germ of pity in
Wilbraham's mind; his theory of cause and effect being more direct and
more of the nature of a sledgehammer than Teresa's.

Shown into another room, the marchesa hurried eagerly to a gentleman who
was sitting, and who rose courteously.

"The Marchesa di Sant' Eustachio, I believe?" he said, glancing at the
card in his hand.  "You have come, doubtless, eccellenza, about this
affair of your purse?"

"It was all a mistake.  I have come to say how grieved I am," began
Teresa breathlessly.  "When I reached home my sister told me she had
seen the man pick it up; that was what he said.  I am so very, very
sorry that I did not believe him."

The questor looked incredulous.

"She did not speak of this before, however?"

"She had no time.  I missed my purse and ran after him.  When I reached
home she told me.  Pray, signore, do me the kindness to send one of your
men to tell him that it was a mistake."

"As to that, he is already here, marchesa.  This gentleman!"--he bowed
to Wilbraham--"was desirous that no time should be lost, and my own view
coincided with his."

Teresa looked very unhappy.

"May I see him, then?  May I tell him how sorry I am?  Of course he can
be released at once?"

"I regret to say that is impossible.  He was violent and resisted my
men.  They were obliged to handcuff him, and even then he was
troublesome.  Believe me, that a night in a cell will cool his blood."

"Oh!" cried Teresa, squeezing her hands in distress, "pray, pray let him
go!  He was maddened by a false accusation."

The other coughed significantly.

"Excuse me, marchesa," he said; "I could tell you a great deal about the
fellow, which you do not know and would not guess."

"I know," she said, "that he is a most unhappy man."

"He belongs to the advanced socialist party.  He is dangerous."

"I do not care whether he is dangerous or not," she returned
indignantly, for she was growing angry.  "I supposed he was, as your men
were so afraid of him.  Being a socialist has nothing to do with it; he
is here because I accused him falsely, and I don't wonder that he
resisted.  You would have done the same."

The questor shrugged his shoulders stubbornly.  Wilbraham believed that
he was rejoiced to inflict a humiliation upon an enemy of law and order.

"Possibly," he assented.  "Nevertheless, he must be punished."

Teresa changed her manner.

"What will be the punishment?" she asked.

"If he did not take the purse, eccellenza, he will have the option of a
fine or a few days' detention."

"A fine?  That might be paid to-day."

"To-morrow."

"But I will pay it.  I am quite ready to pay it," she exclaimed eagerly.
"Please let him go at once.  You would oblige me very greatly."

The magistrate waved his hand indulgently.

"It is absolutely impossible.  The case cannot be dealt with so
summarily.  The signore will understand that certain formalities have to
be gone through," he added, appealing to the superior intelligence of
the masculine mind.

"I think you'd better let it be as he says," Wilbraham urged, anxious to
get her out of the place.  "I'll be here to-morrow morning, and see it
well through."

Teresa might not have heard.  She stood considering.

"If," she said at last gravely--"if you really have not the power to
release an innocent man--"

"Innocent possibly as to your purse, marchesa.  But he assaulted my
officers," interrupted the questor, stung to retort.  "He deserves a
heavier punishment."

She made a slightly incredulous gesture, but the next moment turned to
him with a charming smile.

"I am unreasonable, and you must forgive me, signore, because it was
really all my fault.  Will you treat him as leniently as possible, and
tell me when I should be here?"

"Perhaps before midday.  Earlier?  Who knows!"  He spread his hands and
bowed.  "I will do what I can."

"I will come at nine," said the young marchesa decidedly.  "And pray let
him know at once of my mistake.  A thousand thanks."

She drew herself up with a little touch of the great lady in her manner,
which brought a greater deference into the official manner, and at the
entrance repeated her intention of being there the next morning.  As
they walked away, Wilbraham again urged her to leave the matter with
him.

"Don't you trust me?" he asked, wounded.  "I assure you he shall have
justice."

"He's had nothing but the other thing so far," she said sharply.  "Thank
you.  It's perverse, I know, but I'd rather go myself."

"Perverse is no word for his opinion of me, granny," she was saying
twenty minutes later.  "The truth is I'm always wanting to shock him,
and he yearns to call me `My dear young lady.'  People who call you that
are absolutely insufferable."

Mrs Brodrick glanced at her.

"He has never said it."

"It's on the tip of his tongue.  Oh, there are the letters.  Have you
read them?"

"Teresa!"

"You might--you may!  But I didn't like the marchesa doing it."

"Ah, the marchesa seems to have often stepped off the path," said Mrs
Brodrick quietly.  But her hand shook.

"It was for the good of my soul," explained Teresa indifferently, "and
it did not much matter, because she could not understand English.
What's this?" she added, taking a letter out of a long envelope, and
turning it over.

"It looks as if it came from a lawyer."  Her grandmother's face changed.
She saw that Teresa was staring blankly at the sheet, and she was
instantly frightened, for, to her, lawyer's letters invariably preceded
some loss of income.  Presently Teresa looked up still blankly.

"I think," she said, drawing a deep breath--"I think there must be some
mistake."

"Lawyers don't often make mistakes," said Mrs Brodrick gravely, after a
momentary silence in which she braced herself.  Teresa was staring at
her now, and frowning.

"It is about Sir James Stanton--" she said in a slow changed voice.

"James Stanton!"  Mrs Brodrick caught both her wrists.  "He has left
you something, Teresa!  And I who thought it was bad news!"

"Yes, something."  She still spoke mechanically, and her grandmother was
surprised at the effect upon her.  The next moment she sprang up and
flung open the bedroom door.  "Sylvia, Sylvia, come here!  Come and
listen, come and tell me I'm really awake;" but before her sister could
answer, she was back and standing before Mrs Brodrick, her hands
clasped behind her, and her eyes beginning to shine.  "Granny, did I
ever see him?"

"James?  Never.  He was your father's cousin.  He knew your mother,
too," she added, with a keen glance and a smile of remembrance.  "And
now!"

"Yes, now," repeated Teresa, catching Sylvia by the waist.  "Now,
guess."

Mrs Brodrick hesitated.

"One mustn't be greedy," she said.  "It would be very nice for you if it
were five hundred pounds."

"That is a good deal," said Teresa, looking queerly at her.

"Yes, it is.  Well, if it is only a hundred or two, it will be very
useful.  Teresa, what is it?"

For she saw that the young marchesa was trembling, and began to think
that the matter must be more considerable than she had imagined.

"He has left me a thousand a year," Teresa said in a very low voice.
There was not a touch of triumph in it, but the thing was amazing
because they were all unaccustomed to good fortune, and they simply
stared at each other.  Sylvia broke the silence--

"A thousand a year!  How rich you will be!"

"How rich we shall all be!" echoed Teresa in a gay unsteady voice.
"Granny, every day of your life you will go for a drive.  No more
thinking whether a fire is necessary or not, or how long a _passo_ of
wood will last.  But do you believe it is quite true?  Not a mistake of
the lawyers?"

And for the first time in her life Mrs Brodrick reflected thankfully
that lawyers did not often make mistakes.  She could not speak, but she
thanked God silently.

"I don't understand it," said Sylvia, laughing vaguely.

"Oh, nor do I!  Don't let us try."

"What will Nina say now?"

"Now--why?"

"Because she was so miserable about your purse.  I think she was crying.
She said," Sylvia went on with a little awe, "that she was sure you
must have met a priest the first thing this morning, and didn't come
back and wait for an hour as you should have done.  And then it is
Tuesday, which is always an unlucky day, don't you know?"

Teresa jumped up and ran to the door.  "Nina!"

"Eccellenza!"

A curious small bright-eyed woman appeared, with rough hair and not too
tidy clothes.  She came from Viterbo, and had a laugh for everything and
sometimes a tear.

"Why did you tell the signorina it was an unlucky day?"

"Eh-h-h-h-h-h!"  Nina's "eh" began on the fourth line, and ran down
chromatically.  Taken with outspread hands and raised shoulders it
implied, "How can the signora ask, when she knows as well as I?"  What
she said was, "Did not the eccellenza lose her purse?"

"But I have had a much bigger one sent to me," said Teresa gravely.

"Then, eccellenza, it is probable that after the priest you met a
hunchback, and she might counteract.  Besides--" she hesitated--"there
is always that unfortunate Cesare."

The marchesa was not surprised, Nina having an extraordinary knack of
knowing whatever went on.  But she was vexed at her thoughts being flung
back upon a subject which gave her a miserable impression of having
behaved ill without intending it.

"What do you know about Cesare?"

Nina screwed her eyes together, and nodded her rough head.

"See here, eccellenza, I should not mind knowing less.  When one meets
such in the street it is best to shut one's eyes and walk on.  If he has
a temper or not!  That poor Camilla!  She was a butterfly, yes, and
foolish, yes--but to be shot all in a minute, without a priest!  What a
brother!"

"They say he loved her."

"Eh-h-h-h-h--h!  So they say.  They came from Sicily alone, these two,
without parents, and he was strict with her, poor little baby, and so--!
It was not a love I should have liked, but as for stealing!  No, no,
no, that is not Cesare."

"Why did not the guardie say so, then?" demanded Teresa impatiently.

"See, eccellenza, they are afraid, and they do not like him.  He is hand
and glove with the fiercest men in Rome, men who would overthrow
anything, everything, king or pope, what you will!  Since Camilla died
it is as if an evil spirit had entered into him--he keeps with those
men, he never hears mass, he is like a lost soul.  What took him into
San Martino, I wonder?  At any rate I wish the eccellenza had had
nothing to do with him," Nina ended, uneasily.

And Teresa wished the same thing with all her heart.  The young violent
face, the passion of the eyes, haunted her.  Her grandmother and sister
were taken up with delight and wonderment over her good fortune.  She
tried to fling herself into it with them, but while she planned, with
all the generosity of her nature, which but yesterday would have leapt
to feel certain galling chains removed, her thoughts wandered away to
the police station, and to Cesare in the lock-up, with a board for his
bed, and the smart of an unjust accusation goading him to yet more
furious rebellion against his fate.

CHAPTER THREE.

If Wilbraham were certain of one thing, it was that Donna Teresa ought
not to be encouraged to go to the police office.  He already called
himself an idiot for having let her do so, but as he had never been
known seriously to take himself for an idiot, this was probably no more
than a figure of speech.  It meant, however, that he disapproved of her
conduct, and especially of her sympathy for Cesare, for even the
knowledge that the last accusation was untrue had not changed his
opinion of the accused.  Perhaps, if anything, the annoyance had
accentuated it.

Yet, the next morning, when he ran over what lay before him, he was not
unwilling to admit that he should be early at Via Porta Pinciana, so as
to make sure that Donna Teresa did not start on any fool's errand
without him.  And with disapproval so active, he might have been more
gratified than he was to hear from Mrs Brodrick that an absolutely
disabling headache obliged the marchesa to leave everything in his
hands.

"Please pay the fine, whatever it is, and see that he is released."

"Better she should keep out of it," said Wilbraham grimly.

"But she wants the man's address."

"Don't let her have it," he said unadvisedly, and then flushed, suddenly
aware that he had spoken too warmly.  "The marchesa is young," he said
hurriedly, "and there are bad parts in Rome, where she really ought not
to go."

"No doubt," returned Mrs Brodrick, smiling.  "But I never interfere
with Teresa's liberty, and she would like the address."

"Certainly," said Wilbraham, stiffening.  He knew that he had gone
farther than his acquaintance justified, and no one hated a false
position more than he.  Sylvia came into the room at this awkward
moment, looking so pretty that her little froth of chatter seemed only
part of the prettiness, particularly when she greeted him warmly.

"Isn't it tiresome for Teresa?  But I told her I was sure you would
manage everything perfectly.  I don't see that she need be so very
unhappy, because if he was not a pickpocket he might have been one, of
course; it was only a mistake, and you will set everything right, won't
you?"

"I'll do my best," he said gravely, but secretly pleased.  Mrs Brodrick
turned away her eyes, and knitted impassively.  She was conscious of
wrong feelings when her youngest grandchild chattered, and there were
times when irritation got the upper hand, and she said something
scathing, the only thing which Teresa ever resented.  For Teresa upheld
Sylvia through thick and thin, and would cheerfully efface herself for
her sister.

Wilbraham walked towards the Trevi with his temper still ruffled, so
that he scarcely glanced at the great fountain dashing its wealth of
waters into the sea at its base.  Passing it, he plunged into a network
of narrow streets leading to the questura.  He did not notice two or
three men, who, standing at the door of the _Avanti_ printing office,
pointed him out to each other with scarcely perceptible gestures.
Reaching his destination he found official feeling running high against
Cesare, who, informed of the marchesa's gracious intention, had returned
passionately that he would not accept it, he preferred prison.  Until
the marchesa's expected arrival he had been remanded in confinement, and
the officer was urgent that he might be left there.

"He is dangerous," he repeated more than once.

Wilbraham was a prejudiced young man, but his English instincts for fair
play rose up promptly.

"That won't do," he said.  "You can't lay him by the heels unless he
does something to deserve it."

The official looked at this stubborn Englishman, and wondered whether he
could influence him to leave well alone by suggesting a personal danger.

"He is not unlikely to stab--some one," he remarked.

"Then some one must look out for himself," said Wilbraham indifferently.
He understood the hint, and it amused him.  "How much is the fine?"
Reading continued unwillingness, he added--"A little more would be paid
to ensure his being let out at once.  He can't keep his lodgings here
against your will, I imagine?"

As it would have been a pity not to allow a mad foreigner the chance of
getting rid of his money, the official named the sum with an added ten
lire, and Wilbraham paid it with some contempt for its smallness.  He
was assured that Cesare would be immediately released; and then
conscientiously and unwillingly obtained his address.  After lingering
to gain a few statistics as to crime in Rome, he went on to a
watchmaker's in the Piazza Venezia, and was returning when he met his
man face to face.  There was no mistaking the young passionate features
or the burning eyes, and evidently Cesare recognised him as quickly.
For an instant he paused, came on, held him with his gaze, and muttered
"Curse you!" as he passed.  Wilbraham only smiled at what seemed to him
a melodramatic incident, but it made him a little more angry with Teresa
for insisting upon following up so violent a character, certain to
reject her good offices.  He scribbled a few lines on a card, left it at
the house in Porta Pinciana, and went away towards his hotel in the
higher and newer part of Rome.

He was his own master, and often came to Italy, which pleased him, and
where he felt himself free from certain annoyances which are apt to
attach themselves to only sons, and are also occasionally imagined when
they do not exist.  Lady Wilbraham blamed herself now for having early
uttered warnings which he had taken too dutifully to heart.  He sniffed
danger afar, and retired so effectually from matchmaking mothers, that
it seemed likely he would never possess a mother-in-law at all.  The
instant it flashed upon him what might be at the root of any expressed
feminine interest, no terrified mollusc could have snapped his shell
more effectually.  In vain they wandered round, seeking for a glimpse,
in vain dinners were got up, possible meetings sought for; so resolved
was he not to present the smallest loophole to the supposed attack, that
he even fell into the unpardonable error of confusing his pursuers with
those who had never flung a glance beyond friendliness in his direction,
and of stoutly barricading himself against some who had not so much as
dreamed of a siege.  That is a crime which a woman never forgives.  So
that here, in this ultra-sensitive dread of giving himself away, lay a
weakness, the more dangerous to his character because it was apt to
deceive him into imagining it strength.

Lady Wilbraham was a keen-sighted woman, even where her affections were
concerned, but this was not a matter in which she could offer advice,
though she often bore the blame of his--what shall we call it?--dislike
of becoming the prey of tongues? coldness, pride? fear of where he might
unwittingly land himself?  Whatever it was, it was apt to hold him in
bonds, and to alienate friends, for the nice women were those who were
naturally the most indignant and who scourged him with their ridicule.
Yet surely his object was exemplary, since above all things he desired
to avoid raising false hopes.  But he was also too much afraid of
himself, too much afraid of becoming interested; too much afraid of
going a step beyond the point from which retreat was not only possible
but natural; too much afraid of, by some mischance, getting out of hand
and allowing himself to be cajoled into a road where, he was certain,
the demon of vain regret would instantly bestride his shoulders.  So far
his heart had invariably had pride for its master, and although there
were those who prophesied rebellion, the reaction was not to be counted
on, since hearts may be starved into powerlessness, or paralysed by want
of use.

Yet it was not marriage itself of which he disliked the idea.  He was
two-and-thirty, a barrister with sufficient practice, and the owner of a
country seat where his mother had lived since his father's death.  He
intended in a year or two to give up law, live at the Court, and stand
for Parliament.  Marriage entered into all these contemplations.  It was
the woman, not the state which he dreaded, for that vague and shadowy.
She, however charming in dreams, became a terror, a warning beacon,
whenever she touched reality or appeared in actual form.  There was
always a something to warn him off, a mother a little indiscreet, a bore
of a brother, a girl who failed, by as little as you please, to reach
his standard of perfection.

Of course the reason was not far to seek.  He was critical, because
never having been in love, he was apt to doubt whether his heart could
be stirred like the hearts of other people, and certainly it had never
yet been strong enough to carry him where he did not wish to go.  The
question as to whether it ever would be strong enough remained
unanswered.  And the reason and the question left one certain thing to
his credit, that unless he owned that inner force he would not have the
courage to marry.

Donna Teresa passed before his mental vision more than once as he walked
away from the Porta Pinciana, but he dismissed her image almost angrily.
Sylvia, however, Sylvia?  She was pretty, and somehow or other he felt
grateful to Sylvia.  If she were not very wise, it just crossed his mind
that he had wisdom enough for two.  His shadowy She had never been
extraordinarily wise.

CHAPTER FOUR.

The misery, want, and degradation of Rome have this advantage over that
of other cities, that they are lodged almost sumptuously in what should
have been palaces.  Those huge and hideous blocks of building which rear
themselves in what are called the new quarters are no tumble-down
age-stricken rabbit-warrens; they have marble staircases, airy rooms,
balconies, ornamental ironwork, lofty doorways.  Built for riches, they
have never represented anything beyond rags, dirt, loathsome crowding,
and, for their owners, bankruptcy; but they are better than dark cellars
and fetid streets; and air, light, and sun, at least, visit their
inhabitants.  Moreover, blots as they are upon the old beauty of Rome,
it is noticeable already from distant points, such as the front of Sant'
Onofrio, or farther along the Janiculum drive, where form is scarcely to
be distinguished, that in colour, at least, they begin to harmonise
better with their surroundings, and that the sun, the great alchemist of
the South, is turning raw whites and greys into tawny gold and amber,
and that soft indescribable tone which is at once the joy and the
despair of the painter.

Seen more closely, however, their aggressive ugliness is appalling, and
Teresa, as she walked along certain streets which lay below the ascent
to San Pietro in Montorio, glanced at the overgrown blocks with extreme
distaste.  She could see something of the emptiness and dirt of the
houses, the strings of ragged clothes fluttering from balconies, the
evil-looking old hags stretching out skinny hands and muttering curses
on her as she passed, the children with pinched and hungry faces,
bare-footed, scantily clothed, with touzled hair and a smile which
belongs to Italy, and Italy only.  "_Un soldo, signorina, un soldo!  Ho
fame_!"  Heaven help them; it was probably true; but Teresa, though she
had soup tickets in her pocket, dared not give them yet, because she
knew the word would pass from street to street, and that when she
reappeared she would be surrounded, almost torn to pieces, by struggling
claimants.

She found the number she was looking for, and picked her way up a broad
staircase thick with accumulations of dirt.  A ragged boy guided her to
a door, at which she knocked.  Another boy opened it, small, sickly, and
lame.  The two children stared at Donna Teresa, and she looked into the
room with interest.  It was fairly clean, miserably bare, and empty as
to the man she wanted.  In answer to her question, the lame boy shook
his head.  Cesare was his brother, he was out, he did not know when he
would return.  Teresa was unconsciously annoyed by a whine in his voice
of the same kind as that which she had just passed through.  She sent
away the first boy, who peeped and listened from round a corner, and
asked questions, getting, oddly enough, exactly the answers she
expected.  Cesare was long absent.  Angelino, his brother, was often
hungry--oh, often, and his back hurt him, but, certainly, that often,
too.  With easiest flexibility of conscience he was prepared to admit
all suggested evils and to invent any others which might affect this
signora in a benevolent direction, so soon as he caught a hint of what
would best serve his purpose.  Teresa was shrewd enough at last to find
this out, and it changed her plan.  Without giving a name she told the
cripple that she would write to his brother, presented him with a lira
for his own amusement, and fled.  On her way home she reflected, with
the result that in the evening a letter went to Cesare Bandinelli,
enclosing five hundred lire and a few words: "Will you remember that I
owe you a reparation, and accept this for Angelo.--T. di Sant' E."

She drew a sigh of relief when it was out of the house.

The next day was yet early when Nina, dumb but expressive, brought her a
packet, which she recognised with a sinking heart.  The money and her
own letter were crammed into an envelope, as if thrust there by
trembling and furious fingers.  Not a word came with them, and Teresa's
face tingled as if she had been struck.  After she had thought about it
all day, she felt there was nothing to do except to accept defeat and to
tell Wilbraham, hating the telling as we hate to repeat an insult, but
forcing herself, under the impression that the incident counted better
for Cesare than for herself.

"I ought not to have done it," she owned.

"No, you ought not," assented Wilbraham coldly.  "He's an ungrateful
hound."

Teresa fired.

"I can't see where ingratitude comes in!  Do you expect him to be
grateful for my mistake?"

"How was he the worse for it?"

"How?  Hasn't he suffered?"

"Suffered!  A night in a police cell!" said Wilbraham with a smile,
which she thought insufferable.  "My dear Donna Teresa, he has probably
made acquaintance with such quarters before--or, at any rate, I will
engage to find you fifty men who, for a hundredth part of what you
offer, would occupy them with all the goodwill in the world."

It is the truth in our opponent's arguments which we find annoying.
Teresa knew that Wilbraham spoke like a man of experience, and was
angry.  She flung up her head.

"You seem to forget that I said the money had been returned.  Perhaps
you will find fifty men to do that?"

"It would require sifting of my scoundrels," laughed Wilbraham.  "I
grant you that only the cleverest would remain."  He sat forward, and
began to drive in his truths.  "Don't you see that the fellow is shrewd
enough to read your thoughts and trade upon them?"

The air in the room had grown heated.  Mrs Brodrick's eyes rested
anxiously for an instant upon the young marchesa's displeased face.
Teresa did not speak.  Wilbraham went on--

"You may be sure he hopes to get more out of you than even your prodigal
five hundred lire.  He proposes to work upon your--what shall I call
it?--sensitiveness."

Teresa was sitting upright, and her eyes were very bright.

"Is that the best you have yet found in human nature?" she said quietly.

"It is what I have most often found," returned Wilbraham with a little
surprise.

She glanced at him so strangely that he felt an odd desire to excuse
himself, almost a new sensation, but before he could speak, Sylvia broke
in with the appealing timidity which he recognised as a pleasant
contrast to her sister's impetuosity.

"I am sure you have done everything you could think of, Teresa, and so
has Mr Wilbraham.  I daresay it will all come right by-and-by, when
Cesare understands that it was only a mistake.  Everybody makes mistakes
now and then, of course."

It was these platitudes, announced as discoveries, which were apt to
irritate Mrs Brodrick.  But she owned that occasionally they had their
uses.  Wilbraham now turned to Sylvia with an air of interest, while
Teresa's face softened.

"Come," she cried more gaily, "let us talk of something else.  Talk of
to-morrow.  Thank goodness, that must always be a new subject.  What
shall we do, good people?  Shall we drive to Ostia?"

Sylvia opened her eyes.  She was opening her mouth as well, when her
grandmother spoke.

"If you do, I think I'll go with you."

"That settles it," said Teresa happily.  She had recovered herself so
completely that even Mrs Brodrick wondered at the swift change,
especially when she turned kindly to Wilbraham.  "You'll come, too,
won't you?  I'll undertake to keep off dangerous subjects, and then I
shan't be cross."

"I'll come if I may."

His tone was still a little stiff, and Teresa, glancing at him, saw that
he was looking at Sylvia.

Except for the Tiber--and that can often be as grim as its history--the
road to Ostia begins wearyingly.  Farther on it grows rapidly in
interest, till, when you reach Ostia itself, you think no more about
beauty or interest, or your own passing sensations--it is too great.
Sad, even in clearest sunshine, with rifled temples, ruined splendour,
and the melancholy of its deserted gods, the sombre weight of centuries
broods over it.  The Tiber--no mere river here, but the symbol of a lost
empire--swirls sullenly by, and as the sun sets and Vulcan's shrine
crimsons in its glow, fever creeps shivering from misty pools and
clutches its victims.  Those who go to Ostia should not linger too long.

But this day, on which Teresa brought her there, the sadness was but
delicately suggestive and not oppressive.  The air was warm, yet fresh
and invigorating, and Teresa herself was in high spirits.

"Come," she cried breathlessly, when she had climbed a steep bank, and
stood looking out at the Tiber, now faintly yellow and grey, "come,
Sylvia, and let us be foolish by ourselves."

"Foolish!" repeated Sylvia startled.

Mrs Brodrick, had she been near enough, would have smiled, but Teresa
nodded gaily.

"As foolish as we like.  Mr Wilbraham can look after granny and improve
her, while we enjoy our ignorance.  It's much better fun to imagine
things than to know them.  Let us run down there to begin with, and peep
behind those columns.  Who knows what might not be hiding there!  Come,
Sylvia!"

And she held out her hand.

But the girl looked round her doubtfully.  She did not like foolishness
when she heard of it, and her sister's imagination was apt to make her
uncomfortable.  Slow doubt crept into her voice.

"If you like--if you're sure it's safe."  She added more quickly, "It's
so very lonely there, isn't it?"

Teresa instantly yielded.

"Let us sit where we are then.  Nothing can be more charming," she went
on, dropping on the short turf and clasping her knees, while Sylvia took
elaborate precautions against the damp she dreaded.  "Oh, Sylvia!"
sighed Teresa, "to think that I should really be sitting here and
talking to you, after that life!"

"At Florence, do you mean?  I suppose the old marchesa was very unkind,
for you to have disliked it so much?"

The other did not answer at once.

"Unkind?  Well, no, she did not mean to be unkind.  Do you know, I
believe you would have got on very well with her.  I'm sometimes so
dreadfully difficult!  But we won't talk about Florence.  We are here,
here, at Ostia, you, and granny, and I!"

"And Mr Wilbraham," put in Sylvia conscientiously.

"Yes, Mr Wilbraham.  You mustn't remind me of him when he is off our
hands."  And Teresa shot a small grimace in his direction.  "Let us talk
of something nice.  What shall we do with all our money?  I shall get a
dog.  What will you have?"

"Do you really mean I can choose something?"

"Oh, silly!  Of course you may.  What's the good of it otherwise?"

"A new hat--"

"Hat, frock, umbrella.  Oh, you do want a new umbrella, Sylvia!  Yours
is in holes.  We'll make a list.  Have you got a watch?"

"No," said Sylvia, in amazement.

Her mouth remained open, while Teresa dragged out a card and jotted down
thing after thing.

"We must find out the best watchmaker," she said thoughtfully.  "We must
ask."

"Mr Wilbraham," suggested Sylvia.

"Mr Wilbraham!  He doesn't know everything."

"Oh, no, I didn't mean that he did."  Sylvia was often prosaically
explanatory, desiring what thoughts she had to be distinctly outlined.
"I meant that he was a man, and heard of things more than we could;
granny said so."

"Well, if it satisfies you, we'll ask him.  He will be so pleased!"

"Why?"

"Why?"  The young marchesa laughed.  "He likes to stand on a pedestal,
that's why, my child."  Seeing Sylvia's puzzled face she dropped the
subject.  "Let us go on.  The last thing was a watch.  Now, what next?
Ivory brushes?"

"Teresa!  Don't get me anything more."

"Then we'll take the other side of the paper for granny.  I'm afraid
she's going to be disappointing," said Teresa gloomily.  "I intend to
order a carriage by the month, of course, but when I ask her about other
things she doesn't seem to care.  She says habits are nicer than
anything else when you're old.  She likes to be frugal, because she's
had to be all her life."

"She loves books about Rome," hazarded the younger girl.

"Oh, so she does!  She shall have them, she shall have them all," said
the marchesa with a fine spread of imagination.  "How clever of you!
Now the next thing is to find out about them."

"Mr Wilbraham would know," said Sylvia, and Teresa, turning upon her
with an impatient laugh, was struck suddenly dumb by catching a wistful
glance flung towards the spot a little way off where Wilbraham stood
patiently pointing out the intricacies of a ruined columned court.  It
seemed to her as if, in the shock of the surprise, her heart stopped
beating.  Most women have intuitions which are not unlike another sense,
for they are as sure and as inexplicable; and hers swept the past days
and took in the result in an instant.  She had not thought of Sylvia
marrying, because of that intangible want, of which she was conscious
herself, while she resented the consciousness in Mrs Brodrick.  Yet,
after all, what was it?  Sylvia was not quite clever--might sometimes be
thought a little tiresome.  A man might condone all that for a look in
her face.

"Shall we go back to the others?" she said hesitatingly.

"Oh, yes!" cried the girl, springing up.

The marchesa, suddenly observant, began to think there was no doubt as
to Sylvia's feelings.  But what of his?

"I must find out," she said to herself gravely.

Her grandmother greeted them with a smile.

"We were coming," she said, "but I have been reading my book, and you
have skipped all the improving pages."

"Do you mean Murray?" asked Sylvia innocently.

"Sylvia knows that my grandmother and her Murray are inseparable,"
hastily interposed Teresa.  She need not have minded.  Wilbraham was
looking at the girl with a pleased satisfaction.  He thought that women
were much alike, except that some were prettier than others.  Mrs
Brodrick laughed, and did not resent her granddaughter's explanation,
but her eyes were grave and looked as if she, too, were observing.
Teresa saw this, and saw that another had hit upon her discovery.  She
was very swift in carrying out her impulses, and she made up her mind
that if Sylvia really liked this man her part must be to smooth matters
for her happiness.  The thought she flung at Wilbraham was tinged with a
slight wonder, but his action was his own affair.  She would do what
seemed best for her sister.

"You are right, granny," she said, "we have wasted our time
disgracefully.  It was my fault.  Sylvia wanted to come and be informed.
So now!"

"Now we will have our food.  All that I have heard has made me hungry."
She spoke lightly, but her old eyes were still grave, and Teresa could
see that what had come to them both was troubling her grandmother.  The
consciousness of this roused a reckless spirit in herself.  Wilbraham,
who was not a keen-witted man where women were concerned, knew nothing
more than that this luncheon of theirs, taken on a grassy hillock with
the river close beneath the bank, and red ruins lying in sunlight, was
pleasanter than anything he had experienced of late.  He connected it
with Sylvia, who sat beside him, and chirruped cheerful truisms.  Mrs
Brodrick, who knew better, watched Teresa.

They strolled about afterwards, and went back through the ruins to fetch
a young guide, who came out to them pale with ague.  Teresa contrived
that Wilbraham and Sylvia should be much together, but never alone.  She
fastened all her attention upon her sister, many times interposing with
some guiding remark, only to slip again easily out of the conversation.
They went into the little temple of Mithras, which interested Wilbraham
immensely.

"Sylvia never heard of Mithras," reflected Teresa uneasily, and, while
the younger girl opened an inquiring mouth, struck in with an
intentionally ignorant question.  Wilbraham answered, and Sylvia drank
in his words without in the least understanding them.  But Wilbraham was
one of those men with whom attention is prized beyond intelligence, or
perhaps supposed to represent the same quality.

Then they talked of the leading impression which touches us in such
places as Ostia, where a far past reigns.

"Sylvia and I are vague," said Teresa boldly.

"Isn't it a wonder that man should so quickly go, and his works so long
outlive him?" asked Wilbraham.

"Isn't it a conviction that that is impossible?" put in Mrs Brodrick.

"Perhaps," said Wilbraham gravely, and glancing at Sylvia.  He was not a
very religious man himself, but he would wish his wife to be religious.
And then he hastily put aside the thought as ridiculous.

CHAPTER FIVE.

"Teresa!"

"Granny!"

The young marchesa, who was moving about the room, touching her flowers,
and musing as to an improved angle for a tall bamboo which had arrived
that morning to fill a lonely corner, turned with a shade of defiance in
voice and manner.

"Do you know what you are doing?"

There was a momentary hesitation before the answer came.

"Who does?"

The defiance was already tinged with uneasiness, and facing the keen old
eyes Teresa dropped her own.

"Then I will tell you," said Mrs Brodrick gravely.  "You are playing a
very dangerous game."

"Everything that is worth anything has its dangers," said Teresa, trying
to speak lightly.

"But we have no right to push other people into them."

"Push!"  Now the marchesa laughed outright.  "Push!  Oh, be just.  Do
you pretend to say it would be possible to push Mr Wilbraham into any
position he hadn't deliberately chosen?  You know better.  He will walk
round and round, and look at it closely from every side, and advance
only when he is convinced it is eminently desirable and safe.  He's a
hundred years old if he's a day."

"That's as you like.  He is a good man."

Teresa, imagining--perhaps with truth--that she detected a shade of
regret in the tone, fired up promptly.

"Not too good for my Sylvia."

"Not too good.  But too clever, too exacting."

"You are never quite fair to Sylvia."

"Nor," said Mrs Brodrick with a quick smile, "are you."

Teresa moved uneasily.

"She is very pretty."

"Very."

"And very good-tempered."

"Very."

Then they paused.

"Well, isn't that enough for any man?"  Teresa asked, with a show of
conviction.

"It will not be enough for Mr Wilbraham."

"That's for him to judge.  Why do you scold me?  I'm doing nothing."

"I should have said you were spending your energies in making ways
smooth and pleasant," her grandmother added after a momentary
hesitation.  "Well?"

"Well, I have a theory that Love cuts his own paths when he wants them."

"Oh, granny," protested Teresa, "but you--you are so romantic!  Things
have changed."

"No, no, they are eternally the same," said Mrs Brodrick, with a smile
at her own failure.

After all, Teresa was not doing her justice, for her fears chiefly
centred on Sylvia.  Wilbraham, she agreed in her mind, could take care
of himself, but if Sylvia suffered an acute sorrow, was her character
strong enough to keep its equilibrium?  She doubted.  And she only
faintly hoped that what she had said might influence Teresa, for, though
it cost her something to offer advice she had very little belief in its
being taken.

She began to wish they were out of Rome.

A month had passed since the day at Ostia; Wilbraham lingered, and had
even arrived at the point of acknowledging to himself that he was
lingering, which is a long step for a cautious man.  It was true that
other friends of his and of Mrs Brodrick's had arrived, and were in a
hotel not far from the Porta Pinciana.  Their advent seemed to fling him
yet more comfortably with his first acquaintances, for a second man put
him at his ease.  Moreover, Colonel and Mrs Maxwell wanted to see
everything, since, although she had been born in Italy, he had never
been in Rome.  Teresa made herself his guide, and Sylvia fell naturally
to Wilbraham.  Teresa was still on the watch to cover blunders, but they
had passed the stage in which she had been afraid to leave her alone
with him.  She even doubted whether he were alive to the difference in
the conversation between Sylvia and Mrs Maxwell, who could talk
brilliantly.  There she was mistaken.  He saw, and, on the whole,
thought he preferred simplicity to brilliancy in a woman.  He would have
resented anything which made him ridiculous; short of that, the girl he
married would require few mental gifts.

There had been talk of the marchesa finding a larger apartment.

"There is all this money to be spent," she said with a laugh, "and
honestly I don't quite know how."

"Do you want to go?" asked her grandmother cheerfully.

"Not I."

"Nina hopes, if you do," remarked Sylvia, looking up from knitting a
sock, "that you will be very careful to take another crooked room; it's
lucky, she says."

"I'll have nothing more to do with Nina's lucky theories," said Teresa.

"Imagine, Mary," she went on to Mrs Maxwell, who was lazily skimming an
Italian newspaper, "on All Saints' Day she brought us horrible biscuits
made like cross-bones, and expected us to eat them!  Biscuits of the
dead, she called the dreadful things, and groaned all day over my want
of devout feeling, when I couldn't look at them."

"I wish you hadn't minded," said Sylvia again, with some uneasiness.

Mrs Brodrick fidgeted.

"And the other day, instead of our Italian paper, she brought word that
the man had sold his out, but that he assured me it didn't matter,
because there was nothing in it."

"Your Nina sounds a hundred times more entertaining than my Peppina,"
remarked Mrs Maxwell.  "She knows nothing, and breaks everything.  But
then she is in love, and when she looks in my face with her beautiful
eyes, and mentions that fact as a reason for all my misfortunes, what am
I to do?"

"Is her lover in Rome?" asked Mrs Brodrick, rather from politeness than
interest.

"Yes.  Every now and then he swoops down upon her, and she insists upon
going out with him.  I point out the inconvenience, and she cries, but
goes.  Then she comes back, and breaks more things.  I wish he weren't
quite such a strong character."

"What is his occupation?" said Teresa, amused.

"So far as I can make out, it is pulling down the kingdom.  This keeps
him exceedingly busy.  He has no money to speak of, and a lame little
brother to support."

"Oh!" cried the marchesa, suddenly intent.

"What is that?" inquired her grandmother, as keenly.

"Why this stir?" said Mrs Maxwell, opening her blue eyes.  "Are you two
by any chance in the conspiracy?"

"Does he live under S.  Pietro in Montorio?  Is he called Cesare
Bandinelli?  And has he a history?"  Teresa questioned breathlessly.
Then she jumped up and closed the window to shut out the noise of the
electric tram and of the men who were crying "O-olive--go-o-omberi!"
with broad intonations.  She came back exclaiming--"This is
extraordinarily interesting.  I know that Cesare, poor fellow!"

"I don't think you ought to call him poor fellow, Teresa," corrected
Sylvia.  "Mr Wilbraham thinks him a very dangerous man."

"Oh, he's dangerous, he's dangerous, I daresay," agreed her sister, "but
in our affair I was the sinner.  Listen, Mary."  And she told her story,
ending oracularly, "So you see!"

Mrs Maxwell was looking at her queerly.

"Yes, I see," she said at last.  "I'm beginning to put things together.
And," she went on, recovering herself with a laugh, "that always happens
after I hear about Cesare."

Teresa was too much interested and excited to notice anything unusual in
Mary Maxwell's manner.  Mrs Brodrick, more experienced, watched her
without asking questions.

"Perhaps we might manage to do something for the boy through Peppina?"
Teresa suggested eagerly.  "I needn't show."

"I think you had better leave it alone," Mrs Maxwell replied slowly.
"But I'll ask my husband," she added, noticing the young marchesa's
disappointment.

"Oh, he'll say the same.  Men do.  Please remember, Mary, that it would
take a weight off my mind."

"I'll remember.  I'll do all I can."  Mrs Maxwell promised so lavishly
that Mrs Brodrick was certain nothing was meant to come of it.  And she
was right, for nothing came of it, though Mrs Maxwell kept her promise
to remember.

"I don't like it," she said to her husband in the evening when they were
alone, and he was admiring a cleverly blackened and altogether worthless
picture, which he had picked up as a great bargain that day, at ten
times its actual value.

"You know nothing about it," he returned in an affronted tone.  "The
light and shade--"

"Light and shade?  Oh!  I didn't mean the picture, I meant Cesare,
Peppina's lover.  Now do you understand?  It must be our Mr Wilbraham
whom he is vowing vengeance against."

Colonel Maxwell's ideas of Italian life were borrowed from the stage.

"Rum chaps.  Always vowing vengeance, aren't they?" he said
indifferently.  "I wouldn't bother about Wilbraham.  He can take care of
himself."

"Well I don't like it," repeated his wife.

"If the fellow's a brute, get rid of Peppina."

"That is absurd."  Mrs Maxwell was not accustomed to have her affairs
interfered with so trenchantly, and she spoke with indignation.  "That
is so like a man.  Peppina--when she isn't breaking things--is the
comfort of my life.  The one comfort," she added emphatically.

"All right."  He stepped back to gaze rapturously at his picture.  "Now
I wonder who's the best man here to trust with this sort of thing.  I
shouldn't be a bit surprised if it turned out a Pinturicchio."

Mrs Maxwell, who knew much better, held revenge in her hand, and yet
somehow could not use it.  It would have been too downright, too brutal.
She looked at him pityingly.

"You had better not trust it to anybody," she said sweetly.  "They might
steal it.  If I were you I should keep to soap and water.  And," she
added, quite inconsequently, as he thought, "Jim, you're a dear old
donkey!"

That ended it.

Mrs Brodrick was restless; Teresa, who could not, or would not,
understand why, chose to insist that her grandmother wanted change of
air, and suggested many manner of places, but places where they might
all go together.

"It would be such a pity to break us up," she said.

For a moment Mrs Brodrick was silent.

"Where are we to go?" she asked a little wearily.

"Oh, darling," cried Teresa, flying to kiss her, "don't say it in such a
tone.  Don't be so tragically sorry!  Everything is arranging itself so
prettily!  And I'll tell you where we'll go," she hurried on, much as if
she wished to block argument.  "Let us have a day or two at Perugia, so
as to see Assisi."

"All?"

"How could we leave any one out?" asked Teresa reproachfully.  "You and
Sylvia and I, of course."

"Of course."

"And the Maxwells, of course."

"Of course."

"And Mr Wilbraham, of course."

But Mrs Brodrick was obstinately silent again.

The drag up to Assisi is long and dusty, yet with Assisi itself lying
always splendidly as a goal in front, it is possible to forget both heat
and dust.  Olive groves straggle all about, chicory and blue thistles
fringe the side of the road; a personality which the world has not yet
forgotten makes itself curiously felt when you come in sight of his
fields, his mountains, his wide skies, and look back at the dome of
Saint Mary of the Angels bathed in soft mist.  A Miss Sandiland, one of
the many single women who go about the world alone, was of the party
which was to spend a night at the Subisio.  Hence they, at once, pursued
by clamorous beggars, climbed the stony streets to the broad arcaded
spaces before the great church, Lombard and Gothic, with its square and
round towers and vast magnificent porch.  Then from the clear sunlight
they turned into darkness--but what darkness!  Darkness out of which
colours glow, colours laid on by Cimabue and Giotto, darkness shrouding
in mystery those strange grave impassible faces looking down into a
world which does not touch them.  Teresa stood silent, squeezing her
hands; Sylvia asked many questions, and Wilbraham answered them; a monk
came forward and pointed out this, that, and the other; another monk
arranged hideous imitation flowers on the central altar.  Presently
Wilbraham came back to where Teresa stood.

"The others are gone," he said.

"Will you come?"

"Gone, gone where?" she said, starting and looking round, "gone away?"

"No, no," he said indulgently, remembering that she was always
scatterbrained, "oh no.  But have you forgotten that there's an upper
church?"

"Yes," returned Teresa briefly, "I had forgotten."

"May I show you the way?"

She followed silently up the stone staircase, and when they reached the
top, he did not see that she again paused and left him to join the
others.

After the gloom of the lower, the almost joyous gaiety of the upper
church contrasts with it so amazingly that the effect must have been
counted upon.  Everything is in light delicate harmony.  Slender columns
of alternate pink and grey; bays roofed with ultramarine dividing others
in which Cimabue's frescoes gleam with strange greens and yellows;
choir-stalls with shell-like canopies, lined with blue and gold,
surmounting grave tarsia work of saints and angels.  There is a small
apse with an arcaded gallery, the shafts of pink and grey, and at the
back great angels stand on guard.  An exquisite small stone pulpit is
placed against the wall by the high altar, the column is cut away to
give it room, and where it begins again is supported by a grasping hand.
Under foot all is pink stone, and round the altar finest cosmatesque
mosaic.  The lower part of the wall is painted in soft reds and golds to
represent looped hangings, and above this, on loveliest blue-green
backgrounds, are the Giottos.  Noble figures of Cimabue's look down from
the roof; stately angels with red wings tipped with light visit Abraham:
the saints' nimbuses are worked out in raised plaster, the great
Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Gregory, talk with monks in their cells; all
is light, colour, glory; and the windows are large, with delicately
stained glass, or, like that at the west, white.

Teresa came up to the others abruptly, and only Mrs Brodrick noticed
that her eyes were wet.

"It's too much," she said with a quick motion of her hand.  "What did
they mean?  Earth and heaven?--struggle and victory?--the church
militant and triumphant?"

"Don't you like it, Teresa?" asked Sylvia anxiously.  "Mr Wilbraham has
been telling me so much about it.  Did you know that Giotto was a
shepherd boy--"

"Was he?" and Teresa, who knew all there is to know about Giotto, shot
down from the heights to come to her sister's help.

"And Cimabue was his master," went on Sylvia, marshalling her little
facts with pride.

"It makes it much more interesting to know about them, doesn't it?" said
the young marchesa, smiling at her, but glancing also at Wilbraham.  She
need not have feared.  His eyes were on Sylvia, he was seeing the young
fair face, with its innocent expression, with lips just parted, and
reading more than there was, and yet less.  What did he care that she
should not have Italian painters at her fingers' ends?  He knew them
himself, and the knowledge did not seem very valuable.  Determination
suddenly fired him, and Teresa seeing the look smiled again, this time
triumphantly, and turned away.

When they came forth into the piazza, Colonel Maxwell's fever for
"picking up" things broke out.

"It's absurd to think one can't find something in a place like this," he
remarked argumentatively.  "I shall have a look at some of the side
streets.  I don't want to drag any of you, you know."

"I must go with him," sighed Mary Maxwell, gathering her dress round her
with the air of a martyr,--"in self-defence.  I don't know otherwise
what awful things he may bring to me to pack.  Don't anybody else come."

"I am coming.  I like experiences," said Miss Sandiland.

So these three went away, and the others set themselves to climb the
steep broken streets towards the ruined Porta S.  Giovanni.

"One is rather breathless, but after all it is not such a long step back
to the Middle Ages as I thought," said Mrs Brodrick, as they passed
between the rough grey stone houses, and turned to look at the sunset.
There before them stretched the great plain, encompassed with hills of
full blue-grey.  A few small clouds, edged dazzlingly with gold, barred
the sun, and hung over the mountains; above these a clear green Perugino
sky melted overhead into the tenderest blue, and, lying across the seas
of light, stretched clouds of most exquisite form and colour, their
edges bright rosy red.  Then they set themselves again to climb steep
streets, past broad, striding arches, low and dark, houses flinging out
vast sheltering eaves, green doors, carnations hanging from windows,
birdcages, squalor, vivid colour, women with their waterpots.

"Where are the others?" said Mrs Brodrick suddenly, as they came out on
the ruined gate.

"Never mind, granny," answered Teresa, smiling softly, "I think they are
doing very well."

"You are like other women," said her grandmother, shaking her head; "you
will only see as much as you want to see."

"At any rate it's too late now to see more."

"How do you know?"

"I don't know.  I'm only convinced.  Really and truly I'm delighted,"
she went on triumphantly, "and so you ought to be.  What could you wish
for better?  We know all about Mr Wilbraham--except--no, I don't know
his Christian name.  Has he one?"

Mrs Brodrick refused to laugh.  Teresa gazed at her with mock anxiety.

"Granny, I shall be really relieved when this affair is finished, I
don't quite like you over it," she sighed.  "Do you dream of anything
dark in the background?  Or if I dislike it ever so much, do you suppose
it could be stopped now?"

"No," admitted her grandmother.  She added whimsically: "But isn't that
rather like starting a rock down hill, and asking whether you can be
expected to stop it?"

"Perhaps," Teresa said.  "I don't think your simile pretty, all the
same," she went on.  "Nobody is going to be crushed; and I believe
you'll see that this being loved is just what Sylvia wanted to give her
confidence.  She'll develop."

Mrs Brodrick wanted to ask what would develop, and didn't dare.  She
thought of Sylvia as a pretty face and a sweet nature masking an
absolutely empty mind, and doubted.  The young marchesa could not be
always at hand to turn a stupid remark into something which did not seem
so stupid after all, and she did not believe that Sylvia could stand on
her own feet.  She had done her best to stop what was happening and had
failed.  Age is tolerant, and there was nothing for it now save to
accept failure.

"You and I," said Teresa, with a caressing hand, "will always live
together."

"Always," said Mrs Brodrick bravely, a smile covering the pain in her
heart.

And she turned to go down.

When they reached the piazza the sky had changed.  All the gold had
gone.  In its stead a long red line stretched across the mountainous
horizon; above it, light deepened into blue, masses of clouds had
suddenly trooped up from the south.  Sylvia and Wilbraham came out quite
unexpectedly from the shadow of the great church.  Sylvia flew to her
sister and caught her hand.

"Teresa, Teresa!" she cried under her breath.

CHAPTER SIX.

Late into the night, facing the window, and the broad starlit sky
stretching over the plain, Teresa sat with Sylvia's hands in hers,
listening.  She said little, she was trying to gather what were the
girl's sensations--whether, as she unconsciously expected, things were
awakening under this new touch.  What perhaps surprised her most, though
nothing would have induced her to own it, was Sylvia's own want of
surprise.  She, who was generally so timid, so scrupulous, seemed to
take all as a matter of course.  Teresa reflected that Wilbraham's
wooing must have been amazingly effective, for Sylvia no longer seemed
to have a doubt about anything.  She talked of "we," she alluded to
plans with innocent egoism, she repeated some of the pretty things he
had said.  Once she jumped up and ran to the funny little looking-glass
stuck against the wall, and came back smiling.

"He thinks my eyes charming," she said frankly.  "You never said much
about them?"

"One waits for lovers to do that," laughed Teresa.

"I don't see why.  Did the marchese admire yours?"

"How could he!"  Teresa spoke with sharp pain, the pain of remembrance.
"I was never pretty, like you, child."

"No," said Sylvia, looking at her with her head on one side, "I suppose
not.  Walter said you were not."

"Oh, Walter.  That's his name, is it?"

Teresa hated herself for speaking with a certain asperity.  It is so
much easier to disparage one's self than to bear with others doing it.
But Sylvia was at last genuinely amazed.

"Do you mean that all this time you never knew _that_?  Why, I have
always known it.  Teresa, how very funny!  You have never thought about
him as Mr Walter Wilbraham?  It is such a beautiful name!  But that you
should not--Teresa, you _are_ funny!"

"I shall know now."

"Of course you will."  The girl gazed at her almost with compassion, as
at one whom Wilbraham had called absent-minded.  "It will be my name,
you know.  At least, I think so, as there is his mother.  Perhaps," she
added pityingly, "perhaps you have forgotten that there is a mother?"

Teresa turned and kissed her impulsively.

"A mother--yes, what does it matter, what does anything matter?  Only be
happy, be happy, dear!"

"I am very happy," said Sylvia simply.  "And I like so much talking to
you about it."

"Always talk to me--not to any one else."

"Not to granny?"

"No, not to granny--not even to granny.  I'm your sister, I can
understand," cried Teresa, with a protective yearning in her heart, a
defiant uprising against Mrs Brodrick's prognostications.

"But I shall talk to Walter first," said Sylvia; "of course, I shall
tell him everything."

"Of course," returned her sister.  Yet her heart sank, and long after
Sylvia was sleeping peacefully in her little bed, Teresa sat at the
window, her hands clasping one knee, while she looked out at the
wonderful night, and wondered how soon Wilbraham, who was not a fool,
would find out that he had indeed reached the bottom of everything.

But by the morning her fears had left her.  By the morning she was her
energetic, suggestive self, with an added touch of cordiality in her
manner towards Wilbraham.  She owned, as they sat at breakfast in the
uninviting feeding-room of the Subisio, that he was a striking-looking
man, taller than most, and broadly made.  There was a greater suggestion
of strength about him than she had yet realised, and, like other women,
Teresa liked strength.  Generally she felt an inclination to contradict
him, but this morning she adopted all his suggestions readily--so
readily, that once Mrs Maxwell, who had not yet been enlightened, and
was unused to seeing Teresa so meek, put down her cup and stared at her.
Teresa laughed a little, and went on being pleasant.

"You'll see how good I am going to be," she said triumphantly to Mary
Maxwell, when she had told her.

"Well, don't turn the man's head," replied her friend.

"My dear, the only thing that can turn a man's head is a pretty face."

"I'm not so sure."

"That's because you've one of your own."

"Oh!" cried Mrs Maxwell delightedly, "you're charming!  I had almost
forgotten what a compliment was like.  If Jim had the sense to throw me
a few, I should be ready to swear all his discoveries were genuine.
Why, why are husbands so foolish?"

Later, when they were clambering again up the stony streets, she caught
Mrs Brodrick alone.

"Let us forget all about Saint Francis for a few minutes and talk about
Saint Sylvia," she said; "she is our heroine to-day, and the best of
creatures, isn't she?"

"As good as gold," assented Mrs Brodrick hastily.

"But the best of creatures may be the least little bit in the world--
tiresome?  Oh, don't let us be quite good ourselves, let us say what is
on the tip of our tongues.  How can any one look at Sylvia when Teresa
is by?"

"When you're my age," said the older woman, "you will have given up
asking questions."

"When I'm your age I shall try to answer other people's," said Mary,
with a laugh.  "Do you believe for a moment that it can go on?--
particularly when Teresa withdraws, as she must, into the background,
and leaves Sylvia to stand alone?"

Our own thoughts are apt to look the uglier, held up by another person,
and Mrs Brodrick would have chosen silence.  As it was she said
quietly:

"Mr Wilbraham is not the man to make mistakes."

Mary Maxwell laughed shrewdly.

"You mean he's not the man to acknowledge them.  There you're right.  I
daresay he will stick to Sylvia rather than own himself in the wrong.
Well, perhaps obstinacy has its uses.  I wonder what they are talking
about now?" she added, wickedly.

At the moment when she asked the question, the two concerned were also
climbing steep streets--since at Assisi you must go up or down--stopping
every now and then to look through narrow vistas of grey stone houses,
towards the fair blue distances which lay beyond.  Wilbraham was not so
much in love that he had not some uncertainty as to how much he ought to
say about it; sometimes, indeed, he felt that he had said but little.
Sylvia, however, was quite satisfied.  She was not exacting, and she had
been brought up in an atmosphere which had given her trustfulness.  When
Wilbraham had once said he loved her, it would not have occurred to her
to doubt the fact.

So, as they went, she babbled cheerfully and disconnectedly, turning to
him from time to time the face which invariably gave him a renewed
feeling of satisfaction.  Had he pulled his own feelings to pieces, he
would have realised that his love was not a sweeping force, but, rather,
intermittent, moving in jerks, or brightening up now and then like a
flame stirred by a sudden current.  As it was, he felt quite
sufficiently sure of himself to be content.

"What charming children!" cried Sylvia, stopping to smile at a group.
"Aren't they sweet?  I always think the Italian children have such
beautiful eyes.  Have you ever noticed it?"

He assured her that he had.

"I like them so much when they don't come _quite_ close, because, do you
know, they are not very clean.  Poor little souls, I daresay they can't
help it, though.  Oh, please, please send them away!"

"Be off!" cried Wilbraham, coming to the rescue.

Sylvia hurried on till she was breathless.

"I can't think why they beg so!" she said piteously.  "They really
frighten one!"

The sweet helpless eyes turned towards him stirred the flame again.  He
took her hand in his.

"My darling," he said tenderly, "you mustn't be frightened when I am by,
and they were very little children."

"They were dreadfully dirty--all rags," she said.

"When we're married, Sylvia--"

"Yes?"

She lifted her face, and he kissed it, forgetting what he was going to
say.

"I suppose there are plenty of schools and things at Blackmere?" she
asked reflectively.

"Oh, I suppose so."

"I hope I shan't have to teach the multiplication tables?"

"Why should you?" he said briefly.  The flame had again died down.

"I fancied people did.  Do you know, I was thinking about it in the
night."

"The multiplication table?"

"I never could learn beyond six times.  Until one came to ten, of
course," she added triumphantly.  "And granny says Teresa could say it
backwards--when she liked."

"I wouldn't trouble my head about it."

"No, I won't," said the girl obediently.

Wandering about a tangle of narrow streets, rugged, uneven, unchanged to
all appearance from those Middle Ages when men's lives and men's
thoughts were both simpler and more frankly expressed than in our
subtler days, they found themselves in the central piazza, where
Minerva's columns have faced the sun of centuries.  Wilbraham had made
his way there the evening before, and had been so much impressed by
their grandeur that he had looked forward to bringing Sylvia.  This
morning he said to himself that they were not what he had imagined them,
and Sylvia hardly glanced in their direction, until he pointed them out.

"I see.  They are very pretty," she commented.  "What did you call
them?"

"They belonged to a temple of Minerva."

Sylvia reflected.

"Then--" she hesitated--"they must be old, I suppose?"

"Very," he said, smiling.

"Ah, I thought so.  I know one used to learn something about Minerva in
one's lesson books."

Wilbraham almost started.  He had accepted the fact that Sylvia was
rather unusually ignorant, but somehow or other until now Teresa had
been there, to toss aside any wonder with a jest.  It had never come
before him in so staringly obtrusive a light.  And Sylvia, anxious to
prove her interest, went on gravely--

"Hadn't she something to do with an owl?"

But, as she said it, kind fate made her turn her face again up towards
his.  He looked, and laughed.

"You've remembered one thing, haven't you, darling?  We'll read up about
Minerva some day.  People do forget their classics."

"I know those gods and goddesses always seemed very silly," she
returned, encouraged.  "They never lived, and the things couldn't have
happened, so why should we think about them?"

Why indeed?  And, with the thought, visions of beautiful myths floated
up before his eyes, and he wondered whether the time would come when he
could as easily dismiss them.  He did not as yet understand that they
had never yet touched her at all, so that it was no question of
dismissal.  And she had her eyes still turned to his.

"You like real history better?  Well, let's go back to Saint Francis;
he's real enough.  Or--" and his voice changed, for love, even a little
love, will show people truths, if only they will let it; and for the
first, the very first time in his life, Wilbraham wondered whether he
were indeed a prig--"or never mind any of them, dear, we'll only think
about to-day."

"Yes," she said happily, drawing a little closer to him as his hand
sought hers, "yes, that is nicer."

And as they strolled round the piazza, and looked--with his eyes--at the
pictures which lived all round them, at shadowy eaves, flowers in dark
windows, bits of carving, children in bright rags, women carrying
pitchers; mules, vegetables, big umbrellas, gourds, maize, tomatoes,
shade, sun, he said again and again to himself, how sweet she was, and
how content a man should be with such a wife.

They were standing at last by an open washing place at the side of the
street, where a group of women thumped and wrung, much to Sylvia's
distress--for it seemed to her a destructive way of washing clothes--
when Teresa and Miss Sandiland came round a corner.

"Oh!" murmured Miss Sandiland, catching sight of them, and slackening
her steps significantly.

But the young marchesa marched on.  When she had not Sylvia before her,
unacknowledged uneasiness fretted her; she was sure that by a look she
could judge how the two were getting on, and whether Sylvia had, as Mrs
Maxwell would have said, yet put her foot in it.

"Well," she called out, "you two got the start of us.  I expect you have
seen everything."

"Yes, everything," said the girl confidently.  "There isn't much, is
there?  It's not like Rome, of course."

"And you've a kinder taskmaster.  Poor Sylvia," she went on to
Wilbraham; "you know the sort of muddle one gets into with too much
sightseeing?  That's where I've landed her.  I worked her too hard, and
I'm not up in things myself, and--I think she's a good deal mixed by
this time," she ended with a laugh.

"Oh, I don't think I am," remonstrated Sylvia, nodding her head; "you
know I can find my way about Rome as well as you."

"So that you won't be like the lady who asked her husband if she'd seen
the Coliseum," put in Wilbraham, smiling at her.

"No-o-o," she said, more doubtfully.

"Did she really?  I wonder she didn't remember that, because it's so
big."

"We're going on to the piazza," said Teresa hastily.  "Please put us in
the way.  Oh, look!"

For across the street beyond them swept, with long strides, the figure
of Colonel Maxwell.  Something--they could not see what--he was clasping
in his arms; and at his heels--laden, one with a piece of stone, another
with a panel of carving; some (and these were naturally the most
clamorous) with only disappointed hopes--ran half-a-dozen or more
children.  Behind the last, at breathless distance, followed his wife.
She waved a despairing greeting to the group, and vanished.

"Actaeon and Diana," said Miss Sandiland, as soon as she could speak.

"Or," suggested Wilbraham, "the Pied Piper."

"Who was he?"  Sylvia asked.

"Oh, he's Browning," Teresa answered promptly, "and Browning's beyond
me."  She observed, with added uneasiness, that Sylvia's changed
circumstances encouraged her to talk and ask more questions than usual.

Curiosity and laughter made them hasten up the hill, and turn into the
street which had engulfed their friends.  Nothing could be seen of the
Maxwells, but two or three of the less lucky of the children were coming
back slowly.  Strangely for Assisi, where the past reigns, and its
stones have set themselves down greyly and determinedly as the earth
itself, a piece of wall had yielded so far to time that it was evidently
held dangerous, and had been propped by one or two not very strong
supports.  The English people passed by it, Wilbraham last.  He glanced
up, and saw a quiver, an ominous bulge.  The wall was falling, and
underneath was a little creature of four or five years old, staring at
him with large unheeding eyes!  There was no time to snatch her away.
Wilbraham was a very strong man, and he shouted, flung his weight
against the falling stones, and for a moment held them back.  Teresa
turned, saw, rushed, caught at the child, dashed her into safety, would
have run back once more, but it was too late; the whole mass was sliding
and crumbling into a heap in the road, and Wilbraham, borne down with
it, lay motionless.

CHAPTER SEVEN.

After the first shock of horror came relief, for Wilbraham was only
momentarily stunned, got up, shook himself, and laughed at their anxious
faces.  Sylvia flew to his side, and was brushing the dust and rubble
from his coat before her face had recovered its colour, or a question
had been asked.  At another time the others would have smiled at the
helpless and incongruous action, but their smiles had been frightened
out of them for a while, and Miss Sandiland was the first to find a
voice.

"You must be hurt--somewhere!" she exclaimed.

Wilbraham laughed ruefully.

"I don't deny it," he said, beginning to feel himself over, and wincing.
"But nothing serious, nothing broken--only bruises.  Let's get out of
it.  Where's the child?  All right?"

A crowd had quickly collected.  There were exclamations, gestures, and
presently a very Babel of grateful cries, which, to Wilbraham's disgust,
pursued them as he limped stiffly away.

"One child more or less," he said grimly.  "Can it matter?"

After they had gone a few steps he remarked: "I didn't do much good.
Who pulled it out?"

Miss Sandiland had a high bird-like voice.  She broke into admiration of
Teresa's courage; Sylvia, recovering her speech, admired them both;
Teresa, who had not yet spoken, began to share Wilbraham's uneasy
shyness, and to hurry on; Miss Sandiland, with a proper sense of leaving
the lovers together, following her closely.  They did not, either of
them, know where they were going, but they found themselves in the
piazza of the great church, and Mrs Brodrick came to meet them from its
porch.

"What is the matter?" she asked, for Teresa's face was still white.

"Nothing," said the girl briefly.  "But there might have been
something."

Miss Sandiland began the story, and Teresa slipped away into the
darkness of the lower church.  She went straight into its deepest gloom,
and knelt, as the peasants kneel, on the stones, worn by the weight of
countless sorrows.  She had been very near death, and she knew it, but
Sylvia had been nearer to what might have crushed the joy out of her
life, and though she thought of the one, she thought a great deal more
of the other deliverance.

Mrs Brodrick was quietly waiting for her when she came into the
sunlight again, and put out her hand.

"My dear!" was all she said.

"Don't pity me," said Teresa, smiling, "I had no time to be frightened.
It was a brave thing for him to do, and I don't know how he got out of
it.  Have you seen him?"

"Yes.  He has hurt his leg, and bruised himself; nothing worse, I hope.
We shall get back to Rome this evening."

"And Sylvia?"

"Sylvia was in a flutter, and I gave her sal volatile."

"Of course; it was worst of all for her," said Teresa, instantly on the
defensive.

"It must have been," agreed her grandmother gravely.  She was glad that
Teresa had not seen Sylvia's queer little ways of showing her agitation,
which she fancied Wilbraham found irritating, although she told herself
constantly that grandmothers were, perhaps, the most ineffective of
people to judge the sensations of a man in love.  But Sylvia had talked
too much, of that she was convinced.  And it was already no longer like
old days, when the girl was hesitating and uncertain of herself.  Now it
would have been difficult to stop her.

Teresa owned this--she owned things occasionally to herself, though she
fought valiantly with others--when she had wearily climbed the stairs to
their room, and found her sister stretched on her bed.  For Sylvia
started up on her elbow, and poured forth a flood of small exclamations,
small lamentations, small congratulations, small wonderings.  What had
been stirred in her?  How deep were the springs? or were there really no
springs, only a little sheet of thin water, giving back the blue of
heaven, it is true, but soon plumbed, and altogether unsatisfying for a
thirsty soul?  Donna Teresa found herself putting this question, and
then ready to beat herself for putting it.  For was Sylvia to-day really
different from yesterday, when she had so longed for the thing which had
come to pass?  Was Wilbraham different that he should have awakened a
sudden sympathy?  And there she paused, for her nature was frankly
honest, and she had to own that his personality had, at least, come home
to her in a different light.  He had done a very brave thing, and he had
done it simply.  Those few moments in which, by sheer force, he had held
back the falling wall, had saved the child's life, and she liked even
the physical strength which he had shown, as a strong woman is pretty
sure to like strength in a man.  It becomes a type to her, and she
almost always idealises it.

So as Sylvia talked, Teresa grew more silent.

Wilbraham treated his hurts too lightly, and had two or three weeks of
lameness after they reached Rome.  Naturally he spent most of his time
in the Porta Pinciana--that beautiful, soft, fresh, early winter-time of
Rome, when day after day the sun shines gaily out, when the sky is of an
ineffable colour, when beyond the broad stretch of the campagna the
bordering mountains take wonderful tints of clear yet veiled blue; and
across the campagna itself flocks of sheep and lambs, guarded by
shepherds in goatskin leggings, wander knee-deep in aromatic pastures,
pale grey thistles, fennel withered into tall and slender stalks of
yellow, and, underneath, a growth of grass and red-brown herbage.  Then,
as the sun goes down in a daffodil sky, wherever you may be you find
some new expression of loveliness: churches and towers stand out against
it; the great dome of Saint Peter's draws all eyes to its splendid
curve; the Palatine ruins stand solemn and deserted; and the brick tower
of Saint Andrea, where by day the pigeons crowd, holds up its flower cap
of a belfry softly dark against rosy bars of cloud.

Mary Maxwell and Teresa were much taken up with their drawing in those
days.  A vague uneasiness which possessed Teresa could best be laid to
rest by the absorption of a sketch.  She no longer watched Sylvia,
having hastily determined that it was an idiotic idea to suppose that
her help was necessary.  Of course Wilbraham was in love, and, being in
love, he would not be annoyed by trifling mistakes.  At any rate--but
this she said quite to herself--he must get used to them.  Sylvia was
happy, that was the great, the real thing, and in spite of such
philosophy she was anxious.  In an indifferent and casual manner she
tried to extract a little information from her grandmother as to what
was talked about, but Mrs Brodrick answered briefly.

"Oh, well," Teresa went on, "everybody says the same thing in the same
circumstances."

"Everybody says the same thing, only some people say it differently."

"Some people are not half so pretty!" cried Teresa triumphantly and
illogically.

She went away into her own room at once lest she should weaken Sylvia's
cause by remaining, and the next moment Sylvia herself appeared.  Her
sister glanced quickly at her.  Were disquieting confidences at hand?
But no; the charming eyes were quite untroubled.

"I heard you come in," she said.

"Yes," said Teresa, sticking up a half-finished sketch for
contemplation.  "All the lights changed, so we had to stop.  What have
you been doing?  Has Mr Wilbraham been here?"

"No.  We are to drive by-and-by, but he had letters to write this
morning--he often has," said Sylvia simply.  "_I_ think it a good thing
that a man should have plenty to do," she added, with the touch of
decision which was now accentuating her truisms.

"There's a discovery!"  Teresa cried gaily, and then was smitten with
compunction.  She need not have minded.

"You don't agree with me," said Sylvia in the same tone, "because you
don't appreciate Walter.  Of course, I understand him better; I
understand him very well indeed.  And I wish you wouldn't call him Mr
Wilbraham, Teresa.  It sounds so funny with your own brother-in-law."

"My dear!  He isn't my brother-in-law yet."

"It's just as if he were," announced the girl calmly.

"Oh," cried Teresa rashly, "but it isn't!  You know people who are
engaged don't always marry.  They find out that they have different
tastes, or that they don't care enough, or--"

She stopped suddenly, wondering what force had laid bare her own fears.

Sylvia smiled pityingly.

"People are silly," she said.

"And," said the marchesa, almost breathlessly--"and you are never
afraid?"

"Of course not.  Why should I be?"

"Why should you be," repeated Teresa, kissing her after a momentary
pause, "when he loves you?"

"Of course he loves me.  He told me so," said Sylvia conclusively.

"What has come to me that I shouldn't be content to let well alone?" her
sister asked herself.  "It would be another matter if I had seen
anything to make me uneasy.  But I haven't.  No, I haven't," she
repeated determinedly.  Then her eager face brightened again.  "Sylvia,"
she said, "I'll try to call him Walter.  If I choke, you won't mind?"

"Why should you choke?" said Sylvia, opening her eyes in surprise.

When she and Wilbraham were driving along the Via Appia that afternoon,
for Wilbraham as yet could not walk without difficulty, she told him,
with satisfaction and a good deal of emphasis, of Teresa's promise.

"Yes," he returned indifferently.  But he began to fidget.  He often
fidgeted over Sylvia's careful explanations.

"Because, you see, it really seemed so strange that you two should not
call each other by your Christian names!  If you're not related, you're
going to be related, quite nearly related, and then I don't see how you
could help it.  Do you?"

"No."

"No.  Exactly.  That's what I said to Teresa,"--Sylvia's voice was very
low and confidential--"I said I thought it sounded so funny for her to
call her brother-in-law Mr Wilbraham, and she said you weren't her
brother-in-law yet."

"And what," he asked, forcing himself into interest, "did you answer to
that obvious fact?"

"Of course I said it was all the same, and she said that sometimes
people who were engaged did not marry, and I said that people were very
silly.  So they are, aren't they?"

There was a twist, a muttered exclamation by her side, and Sylvia turned
anxiously.

"Does your leg hurt you so much to-day?"

"Yes--no!"  The words sounded like a groan, but Wilbraham recovered
himself at once.  "You're too good to me, Sylvia, and I'm--a brute."

She laughed happily.

"I wonder why you all like to call yourselves names?  You and granny and
Teresa so often do it, and I never do.  But I'm so glad you're not
worse.  I don't think you could hide it away from me if you were.  Well,
and don't you want to hear a little more what Teresa said?"

"I don't think I do just now," he said desperately.  "I want you to look
at the mountains.  Stand up, and you'll see them better."

She always did what he suggested.

"How pretty!" she commented.

"And the tombs," he hurried on.  "I expect you can see a good many
behind you."

"It was so funny of them to like to have their tombs out here, and
spread all about.  People are generally buried together, as they should
be," said Sylvia disapprovingly, as she dropped again by Wilbraham's
side.  "Don't let us talk about the tombs, dear.  We were having such a
comfortable chat, and I do so like it!  Now, are you sure your leg is
quite comfortable?"

"Quite," he returned, trying hard to keep impatience out of his voice.

"Quite."

"That's right."  She nestled closer to him, and he hated himself for the
small irritation with which he always received her intonation of the two
words, the first pitched on a higher key than the second.  "I like
coming out here, where no one can interrupt us."

"It's a wonderful place."

"Because we're here together, isn't it?"

"Dear, you mustn't expect me to say too many pretty things."

"Of course not," said the girl simply.

"You've said so many, and of course I remember them all.  I'm not so
silly as to expect you to go on.  Whatever you say and do I like."

"Don't," he said with unusual vehemence, "don't set me up on a pedestal,
whatever you do!  I'm clay.  Poor clay, too."

"Clay?"  She looked bewildered.

A rush of irritable shame was upon him, a nightmare weight as if all
that he did at this time was false.  It had touched him before, but he
had succeeded in arguing with it, for to a man of his self-contained
character it was easy to argue that, after so many precautions and
limitations, it was impossible he should have given himself away.  It
was easy to argue, and he was able to bring incontrovertible reasons to
support his case.  The reasons had not changed.  Sylvia was the same: as
sweet-tempered, as amenable, as pretty as ever.  The same, the same, the
same--why, there lay the sting!  If in three or four weeks this
sameness, this insipidity, was making him sick to death, why, what--oh,
God, what would a whole married lifetime do?  She had not a thought
which branched in a wrong direction, but he said to himself bitterly
that he did not believe she owned anything which could be dignified with
the name of thought; she only made scrappy little applications of other
people's ideas when they reached her in their simplest forms.  His
intellect was judging, despising her, scourging him with the belief that
he had chosen a fool for his wife, mocking his vanity, his hopes,
dropping him into depths of despair.  Time, which brings healings for
most sorrows, looked his worst enemy.  Time--Eternity--and Sylvia!

CHAPTER EIGHT.

Teresa's fortune made less difference in her life than she had expected.
It gave her pleasure to be able to do more than plan for others, but
she was uncertain whether her fresh powers added to their happiness.
There was Sylvia; Sylvia was provided for otherwise, and Wilbraham's
worst enemy would not have accused him of sordid motives.  Perhaps he
was not uninfluenced by social advantages.  Perhaps it had been more
easy for him to fall--coolly and decorously to fall--in love with a girl
who was dressed with care, and no longer tramped along wet pavements,
than with one obliged to study petty and occasionally disfiguring
economies.  But there was another side to this "perhaps," a side which
Donna Teresa was trying not to see, and, at times, successfully
succeeded in suppressing.  Had he ever been really in love?

But she was sure he never could be what she called really in love.

Next to Sylvia came her grandmother.  Her grandmother was old.  Age
wants to have the rugged bits of life's road made smooth for steps no
longer buoyant and unfaltering.  Teresa thought of a hundred ways for
doing this, yet, after all, they came to very little.  For as Mrs
Brodrick had foreseen from the first, we can't wrench off the habits of
a lifetime without hurt.

"My dear," she said with a laugh at herself, "I've always burnt one
candle instead of two.  When you light three my room looks a great deal
nicer, but I'm uneasy.  I blow one out as soon as ever I get the
chance."

"I shall put in electric light," Teresa declared.  "You are a wicked
woman."

"I'm a frugal one if you please, and it's disturbing at my time of life
to find one's virtues turned into vices.  I can't afford it.  I haven't
time to get a new set."

Under the jest there lay earnest, as Teresa's quick sympathy instantly
discovered.

"Granny," she said wistfully, perching herself on the arm of her
grandmother's chair, "is there really nothing I can do?  You're sure it
isn't a horrid mean little feeling of pride?"

"I am sure of nothing," said Mrs Brodrick, smiling, "except that I am
lazy."

Baffled in this direction, Teresa's mind rushed off to farther points,--
doubling, trebling her subscriptions, and searching for objects which
were not long in presenting themselves, all with outstretched hands.
Her money flew, yet left her unsatisfied.  At every turn problems met
her, and when she pushed them impatiently on one side, they still
clamoured in her ears.  She wanted to know more of the real question of
the people, and could not reach it.  She talked to Nina.

"Eh-h-h-h-h!  Misery enough, eccellenza!"

"That I know.  But why?"

"Why?  Who knows?"  Nina spreads her hands.  "There is no work, or if
there is work there is no money to buy it with.  But whether there is no
work or no bread, there is always the tax, tax, tax."

"Is it that the country is so poor?"

"There are many who grow rich on its poverty, eccellenza," Nina replied
significantly.

"What do the people think would make things better?"

"Eh-h-h-h!  Who knows?  There is wild talk."

Teresa was frowning.

"Heaven knows if I were one of them I should talk wildly myself!"

She spoke to Wilbraham, and he answered her gravely and at some length,
for in a theoretical fashion the subject interested him.

"What can you do when there is a mass of bribery on the upper level, and
an undisciplined people below?  Unhappily the nation is a prey to the
miserable system of bargaining, or, as it would be called, of
_combinazione_.  Everything, from the prayers of the Church downwards,
is to be had for a consideration, and without it too often Justice
halts, and Religion makes no sign.  Read their own pictures of their own
deputies.  Until you cure that sore, it seems to me that help is
useless."

"Then you think that bribery and not taxation is the cause of their
misery?"

"No doubt the nation is over-taxed, and in consequence its energies are
largely spent upon efforts to evade taxation.  In this, as may be
conceived, the rich are much more successful than the poor, who have
fewer means of escape, and are forced from wretchedness to wretchedness,
and to yet lower depths again.  The richer man lays out something
judiciously, and his rating sinks accordingly.  The poor man hasn't got
the money to lay out, and he is crushed."

"Ah, poor souls!"  Teresa cried impulsively.

"But," asked her grandmother, "why don't they use their vote to get
reform?"

"I can't conceive," said Wilbraham.  "In spite of never-ceasing murmurs
against the government of the day, they refuse to recognise that to a
large extent they hold the remedy in their own hands.  An incredible
proportion don't go to the polls at all, and it is not only the large
numbers who obey the Vatican instructions to abstain, but hundreds stay
away, I can only suppose, from indifference or hopelessness.  Sometimes
it seems that they are like children, who can't look beyond the hour.
They have a proverb, `An egg to-day is better than a hen to-morrow.'
Contrast this with our `bird in the hand,' which sounds like it and yet
has a very different meaning."

"And still they have such fine qualities!" said Mrs Brodrick.

"Gratitude, for one," added Teresa.

"It is a joy to help them."

"And that leads to pauperising," Wilbraham insisted.  "Even the best of
you do a lot of harm.  There's that young priest out in the San Lorenzo
quarter.  His work in one sense is magnificent.  I admire his
self-devotion tremendously, but I also think he has got hold of the
wrong end of the stick, and is regenerating a few at the cost of
encouraging a seething hot-bed of beggars."

"It's easy to criticise," Teresa said.  "That I own.  As easy as to see
other people's faults.  We've plenty of our own; only at this moment we
were discussing why Italy is not prosperous in spite of an excellent
king and queen."

"And your cure would be to let them starve!" cried Teresa unjustly.  "Do
you ever think of the women and children?"

"Yes; I think of them a good deal," he returned, looking quietly at her.

"Yet can suggest nothing?"

"Except as a spectator.  Is that of any practical use?"

She turned impatiently away, but the next moment was back and holding
out her hand.

"I'm afraid I was very rude," she said, her grey eyes looking frankly
into his.  "I'm all in a puzzle myself, and expect other people to pull
me out of it--in the way _I_ think best, of course," she added with a
laugh.

As his hand closed round hers, Wilbraham was conscious of a strange
unsteadiness in his grasp.  He turned pale, hardly knowing what to
answer.

"I should like to--to help you," was what he lamely said.

"Who can?" said Teresa, shaking her head.  It's my snare that I will
never believe things mayn't be altered--improved--or that I shouldn't
have a finger in the mending.  Sylvia will tell you that, and here she
comes to stop us from quarrelling any further.

"Quarrelling?" cried Sylvia anxiously.

"Well," returned her sister, "at any rate, you arrived in the middle of
an apology, and it was mine."

"Never mind, then," said the girl, nodding her head.  "I know Walter
won't be angry.  Not really angry, you know."

"Don't be too sure," mocked Teresa, going away.  At the door she flung a
shaft at Wilbraham.  "Don't you think before worse comes to worse we
might apply to Cesare?"

She closed the door and stood thinking.  The word was only a half jest,
for she had more than once breathed a wish to enlist a socialist on her
side; to hear at least what his party had to suggest for the mending of
matters which seemed beyond the reach of others.  If she could see--if
she could soften Cesare!--and being a woman and young, she never doubted
that softening would follow the seeing--if, perhaps, she might
indirectly help him, so lifting away the unpleasant remembrance of
having once made him suffer unjustly!  Half reluctantly she called Nina.

"Where shall I find Cesare--Cesare Bandinelli, you know?"

"Where?" echoed Nina.  "_Chi lo sa_!  Wherever there is mischief."

"Is he at the same place?"

"No, eccellenza."

"I want to see him."

"Such as he are better left undisturbed."

The little Viterbo woman knew perfectly where he had gone, but she would
have fenced for an hour and not let it out.  And there was a touch of
disquiet in her manner.

"Then I must ask Peppina?"

"Peppina may know.  Yes, eccellenza, that is true," returned Nina.  She
reflected that Peppina would probably also keep her knowledge to
herself.  "It is certain she may know."

Teresa made no further attempt.  She went down the stairs and out into
the sun.  Her heart grew gay as she felt the warm blessed glow and saw
the clear bright colours of the South.  She was going to the Maxwells'
hotel, but made a round on purpose to breathe the light air, and to have
a look at a vegetable shop which she wanted to paint, where lettuces,
tomatoes, green peas, carrots, rings of endive, orange flesh of gourds,
glowed out of a cavernous darkness.  Then she dawdled round and up the
Spanish steps, greeted by smiles from the models and importunities from
creatures just out of babyhood--all faded olive greens and blues, rags,
and enchanting smiles, with a violet or two twisted shamelessly up for
sale--until she had passed her own street again, and reached the
Maxwells' hotel.

"Is Peppina in?" she asked, after paying a decent tribute of attention
to Mary Maxwell's latest grievances.

"Not she!  She always has something to buy or to ask about.  It seems to
me that is all I pay her for.  Why do you ask?"

"I want to hear of her Cesare."

"Well, she never begrudges talk, I'll say that for her," said Mrs
Maxwell, with a lazy laugh.  "I'm not so sure that she tells you very
much, when all's said and done."

"If she's loyal, I like her the better."

"Hum!  She's in love.  Whether loyalty comes in.  However, you'd better
tell me what you'd like to know."

And she listened in silence while Donna Teresa hastily touched on her
perplexities.

"You see, Mary," she ended--"you see you must allow two points.  Help is
wanted, and it ought to be wise help.  What is wise help?"

"You poor thing!  If you go about asking that question of all your
friends, you will soon have picked up a basketful of ill-assorted
scraps.  I can't imagine any two of them agreeing."

Mrs Maxwell's shrewd common-sense represented a bucket of water dashed
on Teresa's flame.  But she would not give in.

"Scraps are better than nothing," she retorted.  "And Cesare is
certainly no friend."

"No-o," said Mrs Maxwell, drawling the word, and throwing a log on the
fire.  Then she sat up and said with decision, "If I were you, I would
have nothing to do with Cesare."

"Why, he's my chief hope," laughed Teresa.  "So please, Mary, make out
from Peppina where he is to be found, or, better still, get her to
persuade him to come to speak to me.  He must have forgiven me by this
time."

"I wouldn't trust him," replied Mrs Maxwell, shaking her small head.
"Remember, he's a Sicilian."

"And what has that to do with it?  What do you expect him to do to me?
Oh, Mary, really this is too absurd!"

"Very well.  Only don't say you weren't warned," returned the other
huffily.  "What is it that I am to ask?  Oh, the man's address.  As if
he had one!"

But she made no more remonstrances, and indeed exerted herself so far as
to question Peppina that evening.  Peppina answered volubly, and flung
in much extraneous matter.  There was no better workman, no one so
clever, so handsome, so ill-used in all Rome.  It was because he did not
bribe the police that they were hard on him.  Others did what they
liked, and made it square; but Cesare was too honourable for such ways,
and suffered in consequence, poor fellow!  She grew guarded the instant
Teresa's desire was touched upon.  If it had been the signora, now--
Cesare had once seen her, and had ever since called her Peppina's
beautiful signora.  Mrs Maxwell believed this to be a lie; yet was
pleased by it.

"You had better persuade him," she said.

"Sissignora, but why?  Is there money to be had?"

"I daresay.  Yes, I am sure there is.  The marchesa is likely to pay
well for whatever she asks him to undertake."

"Sissignora, I will do all that is possible.  I will try to see him some
day when you do not want me."

And she was in earnest.  She always wanted Cesare to make money, and she
thought if he could but have something to spare for the lottery, he
might draw such a fortune as had fallen to a crier of the _Tribuna_ only
a few months earlier.  With this idea in her head she resolved to use
all her powers of persuasion, and believed in success, because it was
not Donna Teresa whom he hated so much as Wilbraham.

But Wilbraham, meanwhile, had heard of the scheme.

Teresa, who at this time tried to be very cordial with him, spoke that
evening of her visit to the Maxwells.  A wind was blowing with unusual
strength for Rome, banging shutters and driving rainy gusts against the
glass.  Sylvia was nervously afraid of a thunderstorm, and asked many
times whether Wilbraham heard thunder, so many times that Teresa brought
in Cesare as a diversion, making a jest of her intended efforts to tame
him.  Wilbraham did not say much in reply--he could hold his tongue when
he liked--but he listened intently, and the next morning, while the rain
was still falling heavily, and tumbling in sheets from broad eaves on
the passers-by, he in his turn made his way to the Maxwells.

"She must not be allowed to employ that man," he ended emphatically,
after an explanation.

Colonel Maxwell pulled his moustache.

"Must not?"  He laughed.

"Must not," Wilbraham insisted.

"I suppose it's hard on the poor beggar if nobody is to give him a leg
up."

"That's not Teresa's affair," said his wife severely.  "I quite agree--
fully--with Mr Wilbraham.  Teresa is so impulsive that she has to be
protected against herself.  Of course she ought not to be hand and glove
with socialists and murderers."

"That's it," said Wilbraham, delighted.  "And you think you can stop
it?"

"Think?  I am sure.  Five lire will stop anything with Peppina.  But it
really is folly of Teresa."

"Perhaps.  But a generous folly."

Wilbraham spoke hastily.  Mrs

Maxwell leaned back in her chair, and tapped the table with her fingers.

"Well, it has its inconveniences," she remarked drily.  "Sylvia is not
like that.  Sylvia would never rush into extravagances without first
consulting some one."

He stood up, tall and stiff.

"They are different," he said guardedly.

"Oh, yes--they are different."

Mary Maxwell, who loved playing with fire so long as she did not burn
her own fingers, laughed as she spoke, and afterwards enlarged on the
subject to her husband.

"I," she said, "give him a month--one month.  Every one has acted
idiotically in supposing that poor little Sylvia could hold an
affection, and now--see!"

"No one asked him to fall in love.  You make him out a wretched cur,"
returned Colonel Maxwell, from behind the sheets of the _Times_.

"If Teresa did not ask him, she managed that it should be easy; always
dressing up that poor little goose in borrowed plumes.  Heavens!
Imagine being tied for life to a bundle of platitudes!  _You_ can't, you
know; but then you ought not to have left me to say it," she said,
perching herself on the arm of his chair.

"Go along!  I'm reading Christie's sale."

"You needn't suppose _you're_ ever going to have a Christie sale.  Well,
if you're so unsociable, I shall go and speak at once to Peppina.  Do
you hear?"

A grunt replied.  In fact he did not hear, or might have offered sound
advice.  As it was, Mrs Maxwell was both anxious to impress the girl,
and to have it over quickly, so that she did not linger at
preliminaries.  Peppina answered her call with yards of frilling in her
hands.

"About Cesare," Mrs Maxwell began.

"Have you seen him yet?"

"Signora!  By your favour!  And with all this to be done before night!"

She held up her frills.

"Then you need not go."

"Need not go?  Per Bacco, but what has changed, signora?"

"The marchesa will not require Cesare, that is all," said Mrs Maxwell
carelessly.

Peppina was looking hard at her, and there was a queer glitter in her
eyes.  She had been dreaming through the night of the lottery and
possible riches, and she immediately connected Wilbraham's visit with
her disappointment.  There was, however, no use in talking.

"I am sorry, signora," she said, drawing a deep angry breath.  "It would
have been good for the poor fellow."

"He will find something better to do."

"In Rome!"  The girl flung out her hands with a gesture of hopelessness
which made Mrs Maxwell uncomfortable.

"Really, Peppina," she said pettishly, "as you have not told him, I
can't see that there is much harm done.  If I give you five lire for
him, he ought to be delighted."

"The signora is always so generous!" said Peppina.  Her fingers closed
round the note, but her eyes had not lost their dangerous gleam, and her
face was pale.  Mrs Maxwell, quite satisfied with herself, went away,
wondering, it must be confessed, how Teresa would bear this interruption
of her plans for the good of mankind.  But she thought if they all
opposed her wish to enlist Cesare, that she would yield, especially
because, for Sylvia's sake, she avoided anything which Wilbraham
appeared particularly to dislike.

Peppina went that evening to the house of a sister-in-law near the
Piazza Navona, and sent a child to seek for Cesare.  When he came, she
made a sign that she wished to speak to him alone, and they went out
into the piazza.  The south wind fluttered warmly, and the sky was thick
with stars.  She told her story quickly, holding back Donna Teresa's
name, because she had never been sure that he would have worked for her.
As it was, he only heard that a chance had been snatched from him.

"It was the Englishman, I know it!" cried Peppina.  "You were quite
right.  He hates you."

"I will be even with him one day," said Cesare in a low fierce voice.

"He came to the house in all that rain; they talked--talked--I heard
them.  And as soon as he had gone, in comes the signora to me.  She
thought herself so clever, because she did not say his name.  As if I
were a fool!"

Peppina's voice was passionately contemptuous.  They had turned out of
the piazza and were passing along the narrow street at the end of which
is Pasquino's mutilated figure.

"I will be even with him," repeated Cesare.

"There was money in it, English money, too, which is better.  And now
Angelo suffers as well."

"Have I not said that I will be even with him?  Do not throw words
about," he exclaimed, turning sharply on her.  "My blood is hot enough
without your putting fire to it."

"Eh--and those are my thanks!" cried the girl, flinging from him.

He made no answer, and they walked sullenly abreast of each other till
they had passed the tragic block of the Cancellaria where Rossi was
killed.  Then Peppina drew nearer, glancing from time to time at her
lover.

"What shall you do?" she said at last in a low voice.

He did not answer her directly.

"You can find out where he goes, what he does?" he said at last.

"From one or the other--yes."

"He leaves Rome perhaps for Naples?"

"Perhaps.  I do not know.  But not yet."

"I can wait," he said significantly.  They relapsed into silence again,
walking in the shadows.  It was Peppina who at last spoke again.
Cesare's life was so solitary that he felt little need of speech.  All
the money he could earn was spent on Angelo, and in providing himself
with the barest necessaries of life.  He was never seen in a wine-shop.

"I will go to that Nina of those people in the Porta Pinciana," said the
girl.  "The Englishman marries one of them, and she will chatter like a
magpie if I let her.  It will please you if I find out, eh, Cesare mio?"

She touched his arm softly with her finger as she spoke, and turned up
her face to his.  He stooped and kissed her.

"I have told you," he said briefly.  But she missed a passionate ring in
his voice for which she hungered.

"I believe you are thinking only of the Englishman," she said with
reproach.

"That is true," he allowed simply.  "He fills my being.  There seems no
room for anything else, not even for you.  You must wait, Peppina."

If it had been a woman of whom he spoke, her wild blood would have
carried her away.  But she understood and could sympathise when he only
meant revenge.  It seemed quite natural to her.

"I will wait," she said.  "Yes."

CHAPTER NINE.

Mrs Maxwell confessed herself to Teresa on their way back from church
the next morning.  Teresa had a momentary anger, but, as the other had
said, she was very anxious to consider Wilbraham at this time, and
contented herself with a passing outbreak of indignation.

"You are absolutely ridiculous, all of you!  Supposing the man to be
what you say, what possible harm can be done by my speaking to him?
I've a great mind to find him out on my own account.  I have only to go
to the questura."

"You won't," said Mrs Maxwell confidently.

And she did not.  It appeared as if Wilbraham would be annoyed, and for
Sylvia's sake she must walk warily with Wilbraham.  Only in the Palace
of the Caesars, that afternoon, she allowed herself a little mockery
towards him.

"So you've been undermining my projects," she said gaily.  "Did you
expect me to be so meek as to give in?"

He flushed.

"I expected you to be annoyed," he said.

"Why didn't you tell me yourself?"

"Would that have influenced you?"

"Why not?" returned Teresa, surprised.  She went on very gently--"I
hope, if only for Sylvia's sake, that we shall always be friends."

"Did you call me?" said Sylvia, looking round.

Teresa put out her hand to her and smiled.

"I call you now, at any rate," she said.  "I was talking about you."

"And when Walter and I are together, he likes to talk of you," said the
girl happily.

Teresa smiled, thinking only that she was found useful to fill up blank
spaces in the conversation.  Love might idealise Sylvia, but could
hardly go so far as to conjure interest into her talk.  Not looking at
Wilbraham, she was quite unconscious of his embarrassment, and returned
to her subject.

"Mary and you both seem to think Cesare a dangerous man?  Now I believe
that sort of wild talk is mere froth."

"I don't know.  It may be," said Wilbraham, recovering himself with
difficulty.  "I daresay he is not really dangerous, but somehow I don't
like the fellow.  I don't care for you to have to do with him--"

He checked himself, and Teresa waited, expecting him to say more.  As he
was still silent, she remarked thoughtfully and with a slight
hesitation--

"It is so difficult for us to throw ourselves into these foreign
natures.  We insist on judging them by our own standards.  Yet,"--she
laughed and broke off--"I find it dreadfully hard to have one standard
for myself and another for other people, don't you?"

It is doubtful whether Wilbraham had ever attempted it.  What he did not
approve of he banned.  But he was not thinking of this.

"One knows what is right, I'm sure, always," said Sylvia, trying to keep
up with the talk.

"You do, dear, for yourself, I think, always," Teresa returned quickly,
looking at her kindly.  "And what is more, you would do it.  Now I wish
he would say something nice," she said to herself, glancing at
Wilbraham.  He was looking straight ahead, apparently he had not even
heard, and she began to beat her brains, going back to the subject of
characteristics.  "When you think of it," she said, "there is something
remarkable in a race of their standing remaining in many ways so
childlike."

"Very remarkable," said Wilbraham grimly.  "Last summer they chose to be
affronted because the band in the Colonna played Wagner oftener than
pleased their patriotism, so they just fell on the poor chaps, wrecked
the stand, and tore the music into atoms.  Nice sensible proceeding!"

"I think I've heard of just as sensible in London and Paris," retorted
Teresa in a smooth voice.  "Would you like me to mention a few
instances?"

He looked at her and they both laughed.  More softly still, she put in
one further word--

"Other people's folly is so _very_ foolish!"

"_I_ think some of the books one reads are very foolish," Sylvia
proclaimed.

"They talk about things which couldn't possibly happen, just as if they
were real.  So silly!"

Wilbraham quickly looked away.

"It is provoking, sometimes," said Teresa.  "One gets mixed, at least I
do."

She glanced at Wilbraham, not at all understanding what was in his mind,
but wishing that he would be more genial, more natural.  Certainly she
was getting nervous herself, for she had never been so conscious of
Sylvia's deficiencies.  They had never before seemed sufficiently
important to weigh against her beauty and sweetness.  Now the little
prosaic vague speeches disturbed her quite unduly.

She put herself yet more on the defensive.

They wandered round that imperial hill where memories jostle each other,
and even under the divinely blue Roman sky great angry ghosts rise and
stare at the petty intruders whom, in life, one hand-wave would have
swept away.  They sat on a bank, where, behind them, towered the brick
fragment which may have looked on the trial of an apostle, and, before,
lay that little space of crowded ruin of which each stone holds history.
Teresa, foolish short-sighted Teresa, thinking only how best to shield
and show off another, was at her best and brightest, touched each point
with delicate fancies, twisted Sylvia's inanities into playfulness, was
delightful towards Wilbraham.  She was a little surprised at last when
he sprang up.

"I must be off," he said briefly.

"Look here; shall I put you into a carriage, or do you mean to stop
longer?"

"Oh, we will go," answered Teresa, reflecting ruefully that she could
not have been very successful in her valiant attempts to make the
afternoon pleasant to him, when he ended it in such an abrupt fashion.
But Sylvia drove home in excellent spirits.

"I like you to come with us, because Walter likes to talk to you," she
said cheerily.  "You understand him better now, don't you?  I know he
enjoyed himself this afternoon."

"I expect he always enjoys himself when you are there."

"Yes, of course," the girl answered serenely.  "He doesn't say much, but
I talk."

Teresa was silent.  Presently her sister began again.

"Teresa, Mary says that people who marry are sometimes very unhappy.
She says you were unhappy."

"Mary!" exclaimed Teresa angrily.  "Mary says a great deal!"

"But were you?"  Sylvia persisted.  "Yes."

The marchesa kept her face turned away.

"Why, I wonder?  Did you love him?"

"Yes, at first."

"Did he love you?"

"I thought so," said Teresa with difficulty.

There was a pause.

"I don't think I understand," said Sylvia slowly.  "Don't people always
know?"

The carriage rattled over rough stones and tram lines.

"No," said Teresa.  "Not always."

"How funny!  _I_ know."

"I hope you will be very fortunate, dear," replied her sister, looking
wistfully at her, and again over-estimating the power of the sweet face.
"I think you will."

"Of course," Sylvia answered happily.  "You see, Walter told me that he
was fond of me, so I know.  I suppose some people only imagine things?
You must have imagined.  Poor Teresa; and I wonder how you could!  I
think I should have found out."

Donna Teresa that night stood looking from her window.  Above the
houses, Orion, brave hunter, strode across the sky, his dog at his
heels, and soft fleecy clouds flying before him.  For midwinter the air
was extraordinarily mild.  Sylvia's innocent words had stirred gnawing
memories, which never altogether left her.  How miserable she had been!
What humiliations she had endured!  It had been in a certain measure her
remembrance of this, and her dread lest Sylvia's face should attract
another marchese, which had made her, perhaps, unduly anxious for the
solid, unromantic engagement with Wilbraham to come about.  She had
weighed and judged him.  She thought him cold, unsympathetic, reserved,
yet was sure he might be trusted, and never had the least doubt that he
knew his own mind, and would keep to it.  Why was not this still
sufficient for her?  At times it was, land at all times she fell back
upon it for support.  But there were moments when she could not convince
herself, when in comparison with other women--never with herself--poor
Sylvia's limitations stared at her.  Then she flung herself into the
gap.  Then, as this afternoon, she dug into her own stores, brought
forth all her powers, exerted herself, covered Sylvia, and never once
thought that here lay danger.  On the contrary, she believed that she
often failed, and laughed ruefully at the remembrance of Wilbraham's
sudden movement of escape.

But if it were all in vain!  If he were beginning to realise a dreadful
mistake!  If before Sylvia there lay long unloved years, and before
Wilbraham the heavyweight of weary disappointment--what then?

And all Teresa's reflections ended in this.  _If_--what then?

CHAPTER TEN.

Peppina, Mrs Maxwell's maid, having, as she often had, a note to take
to the Marchesa di Sant' Eustachio, turned in for some words with Nina,
now promoted to the position of head of the kitchen, with a staff of two
assistants, whom she governed merrily.  The kitchen was still untidy.
Assunta smilingly dragged out a chair from behind a barricade of heaped
baskets; Fernanda, showing her white teeth, bore away in her arms a huge
brown jar of vinegar.  Nina had not been content until she had got two
or three of these jars from Viterbo, of coarse highly-glazed pottery,
with a fine free design of yellow on the brown.  She now pointed out her
treasure to Peppina with joyous pride.

"And our marchesa has two in the sala with all her other beautiful
things,"--Nina exalted her family to the skies--"she took them away from
me and left me nothing for the wine.  But that, see you, was because she
could find nothing like them in Rome.  Rome is a poor place, for all
they talk so much, and make one pay, pay, pay.  Eh-h-h-h-h!  Blessed
Virgin, whether one has to pay!  Spinach, _tre soldi_, onions, _due
soldi_, a slice of gourd, a pepperino--I ask you what a pepperino is
worth?  Well, believe it or not, that great Mariaccia--daughter of a Jew
I call her--when she brought her basket this morning, she asked _quattro
soldi!  Quattro soldi_!--Fernanda, child, there is the bell, fly!  Here,
stay!  Take off thy apron, which the signora said should only be worn in
the kitchen--the saints alone know why--and remember to say, `_Buon
giorno eccellenza_.'--_Quattro soldi, Peppina mia_, true as that I sit
here, and at Viterbo--ah, at Viterbo they do not rob like that."

"It is true," said Peppina, sighing.  "In Rome it is hard to live."

"But not for you.  You are like me.  Eh-h-h-h-h!  It was a good day for
me when Signora Bianco at the laundry told me these angels wanted a
donna."  Peppina still looked gloomy.

"Why should you be their donna?  Why should some have so much money, and
others none at all?"

Nina's funny little face squeezed itself into innumerable lines as she
nodded her head sagaciously.

"Ah, that is Cesare, eh?  That is what he says."

"Yes," acknowledged the other, glancing at her.  "That is what Cesare
says.  And he is very clever.  All the world knows that he is very
clever?"

"Perhaps," returned Nina, shutting her mouth obstinately.  "But, see
here, how much good has he done himself with his cleverness?"

"Because he is always thinking of others.  You do not understand--no one
understands!" cried the girl passionately.  She sprang up and stood
leaning against the table, her breast heaving, her splendid eyes on
fire.  "He is not working for himself, he is not working for you or for
me, or for this one or for that--it is for the whole world.  When he
comes and talks to me of his thoughts, his plans, he seems,"--she flung
out her hands--"to set the whole of me in a blaze."

"Eh-h-h-h-h!"  Nina's shrewd little eyes narrowed.  "The whole world.
And you like that?"

"Who would not?"

"Not I."

"You!  You!"

Peppina's look rested on her with a touch of contempt, but Nina's gay
laugh bubbled on.

"If I were you I should not care to share all these good things which
Cesare is going to get, with--Elena Cianchetti, for instance."

The girl started as if she had been stung.

"The Cianchetti!  She is a viper."

Nina nodded her head, and began to wash her lettuces.

"Perhaps.  But Cesare did not always think her a viper."

"Oh!"  Peppina flung out her hands, flung her rival and the whole world
on one side.  "If he spoke to her, I could kill him.  But he will not."

"It seems to me that when we are going to do good to everybody, there
are always a few we mean to leave out.  Perhaps, in that way we should
all be left out.  Who knows?" remarked the philosopher, still nodding
like a mandarin.  The girl's socialism had received a check.  Nina
glanced at her and turned the subject.  "The English signore, who will
marry our signorina, his leg is not well yet, after all these long days.
It is because he travelled on a Tuesday--an unlucky day."

"Ah!" said Peppina indifferently.  She was always alert when Wilbraham
was spoken of, because Cesare had ordered her to bring him what news she
could, but she was well on her guard against betraying special interest
to her present companion, and she no longer talked to Mrs Maxwell.  "So
it is true they are to be married?"

"True?  Did I not tell you?"

"I had forgotten," lied the girl.  "She is pretty."

"As pretty and as innocent as the angels.  And our marchesa, who has
grown suddenly very rich, would give her everything in the world if she
wished it."

"If your marchesa is rich, I would have chosen her if I had been the
Englishman."

"She might not have said yes," returned Nina with a snort.  "She has had
enough of what you all think the most wonderful thing you can get.
Eh-h-h-h-h, my Pietro was not the worst, though he will need many masses
to give him a little ease, that is certain; but after he had been to the
wine-shop--(Fernanda, _figlia mia_, slip out and buy some fresh ricotta
for the signora, it pleases her)--and I had to do my work with a black
eye and a swelled face, _ecco_!"--Nina's eyebrows, shoulders, hands,
shot up expressively--"I do not want another Pietro.  And our marchesa
is like me."

"Did he beat her?" asked Peppina, stretching herself and yawning.  She
was still thinking of Elena Cianchetti, and she wished to get back and
brood upon Nina's words, but she reflected that the best way of binding
Cesare to herself was to be useful to him.  She loved him passionately,
and would have been unscrupulous towards any one who stood between them.

"Those people do not give black eyes.  They strike at hearts, and that
hurts worse."

"Yes," said the girl comprehendingly, looking at the older woman, and
surprised that such knowledge had come to her.  "Yes, it does.  But the
signorina, she does not fear?"

"The English are different."

"Yes, they are cold--hard," cried Peppina passionately.  "They go on
their way without caring.  Yes, that is what--"

She stopped.  She had been going to quote Cesare, and he had always
warned her to keep his name out of the way when she was trying to pick
up information for him.  But, quick as she was, Nina was quicker, and
had no difficulty in reading what had so nearly escaped her lips.  It
made her angry.

"It is easy to call white black," she said sharply.

"And they have voices--ee-ee-ee--like little canary birds," mimicked the
girl contemptuously.  Her own voice was harsh, and the other flung a
withering glance at her.

"That is better than to scream like a jay."

"Well, I do not like them."

"I should think not."

"Why?" asked the girl, suddenly suspicious, and conscious that she had
let her temper sweep her farther than she intended.

"Because if you liked them you would be grateful, eh?  And gratitude is
as rare as a white ant.  _Ecco_!"

Nina smoothed out her skirts and flirted some water towards her
lettuces, spilling a good deal over Peppina in the process.  She was
always horribly untidy.  Peppina looked angrily at her, and drew her
skirts out of the wet.  She hesitated whether to go away in a rage, or
to linger and try to hear something more definite.  Fernanda's return,
carrying on green leaves a great piece of the snow-white ricotta (curd
of sheep's milk), and in her other hand a stick of spiked arbutus
berries, relieved the tension.

"It is for our marchesa," she said proudly, exhibiting the scarlet
berries.

"Do they stay all the winter?" asked Peppina, knowing this to be one of
the points on which Cesare was curious, and so swallowing her
displeasure.

"Who knows?  They do as they like," returned Nina.  "All the forestieri
do as they like, and why should ours be different?"

"Perhaps they will go to Naples?"

"Perhaps, or to Sicily," said the older woman, looking keenly at her.
"In that case--"

"Yes?" said Peppina, eagerly leaning forward.

"Cesare might tell them a little about the Mafia.  Eh?"

The girl drew suddenly back, her face white.  It took her a minute to
recover herself.

"The Mafia?  What is that?" she said, trying to speak carelessly and
failing, for her voice shook.

"Who knows?  Ask Cesare.--Assunta, in there, will you never have done
with those unfortunate dishes?  Go, Fernanda, go and see if she is
sleeping."

Peppina went away quickly.  She told herself that she would be very
careful not to mention the word Mafia to Cesare, as he would be sure to
think she had been in some way to blame for its name having been so much
as breathed.  Those who have to do with such secret societies as the
Camorra or the Mafia do not talk of them, and to the ignorant world the
names convey a theatrical rather than a real meaning.  This does not
prevent their existing, and in a more extended network than we might
conceive possible.  The Mafia, indeed, exists, and has existed since the
time of the Moors in Sicily, when, law and justice being unattainable,
the secret society was formed to apply them in a rough and ready
fashion.  Then it was probably useful; now it serves only for private
revenge.  And as private revenge is an unfailing incentive, a society
which allows its members to strike, and then protects it by the terror
of its name, will never want adherents or the help of the devil.

Peppina was not thinking of all this as she went back to the hotel,
swinging her body from the hips with the free lithe gait of a Trastevere
woman.  She was only reflecting how she could best adapt the little she
had gathered from Nina to Cesare's wishes.  Her love for him was
passionate, but it was so largely mixed with fear--particularly since
that dark episode in his life--that it was doubtful which excitement was
at any time uppermost.  She lied to him as readily as to any one else,
only she took more care not to be found out.  As she reached the end of
the Sistina she stopped to buy a few hot chestnuts, and Cesare at the
same moment came up the Tritone.

"Did I startle you?" he said, taking the chestnuts she held out to him.

"No; why should you?" asked the girl simply.  "Am I not always thinking
of you?  Where are you going?"

"To the station to meet a man."

"I will walk with you," she said, turning to cross the sunny piazza by
his side.  "Those people do not want me."

"No," said Cesare bitterly.  "They pay for what they do not want, so
that we who want have nothing with which to pay.  And your priests tell
you that is right!"

"Do not let us talk of the priests," said the girl, hastily crossing
herself unseen to him.  Acts were not much, but it always frightened her
to hear him speak against religion.  To get him away from this subject
she was ready to invent freely.  "I have been with that Nina--over
there," and she flung her dark head on one side in the direction from
whence she had come, "and I have heard something."

"Ah!"  The "Ah" was greedy.  He had brooded over Wilbraham's
high-handedness until he had come to see in him a representative of the
injustices which he maintained society had inflicted upon him, and he
hated the Englishman with a hatred out of all proportion with his
wrongs.

"She is a poor idiot," Peppina went on contemptuously, "without ideas.
But she talks."

Cesare nodded.  If any one had noticed they might have observed that he
never now flung out a word against women.

"She talks of her angels.  They are all angels with her.  And I think
they are going away.  Not now, but later.  I believe it will be to
Naples or Sicily."

"Good!" he cried, and her heart gave a leap of delight at seeing his
eyes brighten.  The next moment he turned on her.  "You did not tell her
it was I who wanted to know?"

"_Altro_!" exclaimed the girl indignantly.  "Am I a fool?  I did not
even ask the question myself.  I tell you she talks.  But you are
pleased, dear one?" she went on, her voice changing into deep
tenderness.

He stretched his hands to her, and they stood still for an instant
looking into each other's eyes.  The warm sunlight was round them; by
their side a man was urging his miserable overladen mule up the
Tolentino hill with the long "A-a-a-a-a-o-o!" which had been the cry of
his forefathers in the old amphitheatre days.  For a moment Peppina let
herself go, dizzy with almost intolerable delight, the next a thought
stung her, the more sharply for this very delight; she held back from
him and cried passionately--

"When did you see the Cianchetti?"

"The Cianchetti!"  He was surprised and displeased, so that he flushed
under the girl's piercing look.  But he looked back at her.  "At her
window this morning," he said unhesitatingly.

"This morning!"

Peppina was pale as death, and trembling all over.  Her burning eyes put
the question so insistently that he answered as if she had spoken--

"Why do you ask?  She is nothing to me."

The girl told too many lies herself to recognise truth in others.  His
words brought back the blood from her heart, and to a certain extent
relieved her.  But she did not quite believe, although she pretended
that she did.  She was going to strike out at Nina, and say that she had
accused him, when she remembered that she had just denied mentioning his
name.

"I knew you had seen her.  I felt it here," she answered, pressing her
heart.  "But of course if you say that--"

"When do they go to Sicily?" he demanded presently, reverting to a more
absorbing topic.

"Who knows?  They don't say.  It will be in the spring no doubt."

He nodded.  She looked at him and thought he was thinner than ever.

"Cesare!  Is there nothing?  Is there no hope?"

He laughed grimly.

"_Ma che_!  Of course there is hope.  That is always left, though it
grows mouldy with time.  They have promised me something on the _Avanti_
staff.  And besides,"--his eyes kindled--"there may be a great stroke
struck before long."

"What stroke?  Tell me."

"No, no, carina," he said, not unkindly.  "There will be no telling."

She reflected.

"Cesare, truly, what have you eaten to-day?"

"Your chestnuts."

She was turning out her pocket the next moment and pressing a five lire
note upon him.

"Blessed Virgin, that it should be so bad as that!  But the saints
themselves sent me out with this in my pocket.  Cesare, caro, you shall!
For Angelo, for Angelo!"

He had pushed it away with almost violence, but at this appeal looked
down at it, and his hand hesitated.  Peppina saw her advantage.

"The child must be hungry, and it is so bad for a child to be hungry.
Take it, take it!"

He caught her wrist.

"Peppina, swear.  Is it your own?"

"Is it my own!  Whose else should it be?  Yes, yes, yes, I tell you!"

He drew a long breath.

"I had begun to think of a pan of charcoal.  There seemed nothing else,
only there were one or two affairs I wanted to have arranged first."

"Now you will get food?"

"Yes."

"For you both.  Promise."

"I promise."

The Sant' Angelo gun boomed out, and all the church bells began to
clang.  Peppina stood still.

"I must go," she said, "_A rividerti_."  She wanted to say that the
Cianchetti could not have done so well for him, but she was afraid, and
hurried away down the Venti Settembre.  She swung along, her heart full
of Cesare, and hot tears in her eyes.  "He has so many enemies, this
Englishman and all," she cried vehemently, "and only me on his side.  A
pan of charcoal!  Oh, it would kill me!  What should I have done if the
signora had not given me that money for the washing?  Madonna
santissima, I will carry a candle to thee at Sant' Agostino this very
day."  So she went on with her thoughts, a medley of passionate love,
jealousy, and fear, until she reached the hotel and went upstairs.  At
the door of the Maxwell's sala she paused.  "I shall say I lost it," she
remarked cheerfully.  "Madonna santissima, _two_ candles!"

CHAPTER ELEVEN.

A couple of months passed without apparent change.  To Wilbraham they
had seemed to drag like lead, yet, looking back, their swiftness
appalled him.  The wedding would be after Easter, and now that the new
year had come, it brought a date which had been remote, measurably
nearer.  He had gone through a bad fierce time of repulsion, of anger
with his own amazing folly, with fate, with everything and everybody,
with Sylvia worst of all.  Then pride had come to his aid, and he
determined resolutely to make the best of the situation.  The strong
pride of a very self-controlled man was able to do this more thoroughly
than he had even hoped.  He set his teeth now and then to avoid showing
irritation at Sylvia's futile remarks, but he always had succeeded in
keeping under outward signs of impatience, and devoutly trusted that the
power would never fail him.  He was helped along by the girl's own
contentment.  She asked so little!  On the other hand this very trait
sometimes annoyed him, for in the moments when the desire to break his
bonds grew all but overpowering, he felt that the little he gave could
not for a day have satisfied another woman.

What was really a sign of danger, if only he had recognised it, was,
that in spite of his increasing dread of his marriage, he did not
dislike his hours in the Porta Pinciana.  Teresa, in her fear for the
wreck of Sylvia's happiness, told herself that she must take care he did
not dislike them.  She was not a vain woman.  The failure of her
marriage had knocked any belief in her own charms out of her, and left
only an exaggerated conviction of the immense power of beauty.  It never
entered her head that a constant contrast between her quick, clever, and
sympathetic talk and poor Sylvia's platitudes might be perilous.  She
did not think of Wilbraham on her own account at all, only and entirely
as affecting Sylvia, although she had liked him better since the day at
Assisi.  Once or twice she had looked critically at him, and said to
herself that his face had gained something in losing an expression of
cool superiority, which used to annoy her.  He was not handsome--his
chin was too square, his nose too thick, his hair too straight; but
there was strength in every movement, and she was sure he might be
trusted.  She dwelt much on that quality, at times, when she looked
anxiously at Sylvia.  For she had her anxieties, sometimes trying to set
them at rest for ever, by questioning the girl in a roundabout way.

"There's nothing you want, Sylvia?"

"Yes," said the girl, "I want a little wool if you are going out."

"We must begin to think of the clothes--the important clothes," said
Teresa with a laugh, but watching her all the time.  "I mean you to have
yours from Paris."

"There is no good in wasting money," Sylvia returned practically.  "Why
do people always think they must do that when they marry?  It's silly."

"Well, one isn't married every day of one's life," pleaded the marchesa.
Suddenly she said, with a quick change of voice, "Dear, you do want to
marry your Walter, don't you?"

"Of _course_!"  The girl stared blankly in her face.  "When people are
engaged, of course they marry.  How funny you are, Teresa!"

"Well, then," cried the other gaily, "none of your horrid little
economical scruples for me!  What's the good of having more money than I
know what to do with, if one mayn't spend it?  I shall order the frocks,
and they shall be lovely."

"I think you had better consult Walter."

"Then I won't.  He can dress you after you are married; I shall do it
before.  Tell him so, if you like."

"Oh, we don't talk of dress."

"What _do_ you talk of?" asked Teresa with sudden curiosity.

"I--I don't know," vaguely.  "I think--sometimes--places."

The young marchesa who believed in romance, though her own was ended,
looked at her anxiously.

"Is that all?"

"It's a good deal.  You can't think how much there seems to say about
Rome.  And besides, he reads the newspaper."

"Oh!" cried Teresa sharply.

"I don't care about newspapers, generally, of course," Sylvia went on,
with her little air of finality, "but I like him to read them, because I
can knit all the time, and count the stitches.  One needn't always
attend."

On the whole there was not much comfort to be got out of this
conversation, except that the girl was quite unruffled by doubts.
Teresa would have liked to have been as sure of Wilbraham, for her
sympathies were too lively not to have often alarmed her.  She tried to
close her eyes, and to make the house as pleasant as she could for him,
succeeding only too well.

"Let us go to-morrow to Villa Madama," she said one Friday evening.
Fernanda, with her broad smile, had just brought in the coffee, a log
fire burnt merrily in the open stove, from the street rose a stir of
voices, cracking of whips, cries of "_Tribuna!  Ecco Tribu--u--na_!"
"_Polenti_!" "_Cerini, un sol' cerini_!" and the great hum of the
electric tram, rushing up and down the hill like remorseless fate.
"We'll get the two Maxwells."

Teresa rose up and stood before the fire, so that its glow fell on her
white dress.  Mrs Brodrick moved uneasily in her chair, for she saw
that although Wilbraham was sitting on a sofa beside Sylvia, he was
watching Teresa.

"I don't know if Mary can come, but I am sure she would like it."

"Then," said Wilbraham, "she will.  She always does what she likes."

"She does what she likes," agreed Mrs Brodrick smiling, "but she
doesn't always like what she does."

"Who does?"  Wilbraham said, with a queer quick ring in the question.
Teresa caught it, and twisted the conversation.

"Colonel Maxwell picked up a Garofalo to-day--signed and all."

"Then he will be happy for a week," said her grandmother.

"Unless Mary shakes him out of his convictions.  It's idiotic of her,
but she says she can't help it after a day's ravings."

"Idiotic," repeated Wilbraham.

"What's idiotic?" asked Sylvia, standing up by the lamp to recover a
dropped stitch.

There was a momentary pause.

"To open a man's eyes to his mistakes, so long as he's pleased.  It's so
unnecessary," Wilbraham answered sharply.

"Then what ought one to do?"

"Leave them.  He'll find them out for himself, soon enough."

Sylvia so rarely took an independent line that they were surprised to
see her shaking her head.

"I'd rather be told," she said, still examining her work.

Teresa moved uneasily.

"Are we to go to the Villa Madama, or not?" she asked almost sharply.
"Say yes or no, some one."

"We all say yes," said Mrs Brodrick, with something of effort in the
words.  She, too, had been listening.  Teresa went quickly to Sylvia and
put her hand on her shoulder, the two young heads bending together.

"How beautifully you knit!" cried Teresa, taking the work in her other
hand.  "I can never keep the silk so even.  Do you know your fairy
godmother must have been an exceedingly neat person?"

Once in her hearing, Wilbraham had inveighed against untidiness.

"Oh, Teresa, as if anybody ever had a fairy godmother!"

"Ah, you weren't brought up on a course of fairy stories, or you'd know
better--Sylvia never once told a fib in her life," she added to
Wilbraham--"so she wouldn't listen to anything which couldn't be
guaranteed as true.  I was so unscrupulous that I used to take her in
whenever I could."

"Teresa, you didn't!" cried the girl, shocked, and turning honest
helpless eyes with appeal in them to Wilbraham.  Her sister laughed.

"Don't be afraid, I can bear the burden of those sins.  Granny, I wish
you'd let me burn that horrid sketch you've stuck up there.  It's all
wrong."

Sylvia returned to her knitting; Teresa, a slim white figure, hands
clasped behind her, had wandered off to stand before an easel in a dim
corner.  Wilbraham felt an unaccountable longing to make her turn
towards him again.

"I saw your Cesare to-day," he said.

"Did you?"  She came quickly out of the shadows, and dropped on a chair.
"Tell me about him, please."

"There's little to tell.  He was talking to a man near the Trevi."

"How did he look?  Hungry?"

"Well, yes--poor," Wilbraham admitted, "and as big a ruffian as ever."

Teresa glanced at him mischievously.

"Do you always determine what your eyes mean to see beforehand?"

"I don't wear rose-coloured glasses, at any rate."  He had certainly
changed a good deal, for he now liked to spar with her, and his tone was
eager.

"Poor Cesare!" she sighed.  "Did he glare?"

"Like a Trojan."

"Well, you can't expect him to like you."

"You might say, _us_."

"Oh no," she said carelessly.  "I was the first sinner, I own; but I did
try to apologise, and you didn't.  You wounded his--"

"Vanity," put in Wilbraham with a laugh.  "So be it.  I shall have to
bear the consequences as best I can."

Teresa was restless this evening.  She got up again.

"There's the ten-o'clock bell."

"Does that mean that I'm to go?" he asked, rising in his turn.

"It means that I am going."

"And to-morrow?"

"Oh, settle with Sylvia," she said impatiently.

They filled two carriages, a big and a little one.  Teresa was with
Colonel Maxwell in the smaller, and he thought her preoccupied when he
thought about it, which was not often.  It was true that she did not
comment as freely as usual upon what they passed, though masses of
lovely flowers were grouped round the Boat fountain, models sat about on
the Trinita steps, a man in the piazza was binding together rough and
ready brooms for his dust-cart out of a sort of golden ling, a line of
scarlet German students lit up the gloomy Babuino, and out in the Popolo
they came upon a blaze of sunshine, hot enough even to warm the heart of
the old obelisk.

"By Jove, when all's said and done, it's a fine world!" commented
Colonel Maxwell suddenly.

"A very tangled one," threw back Teresa.  "I wish you would tell me what
to do with it?"

"I?" he laughed.  "That's a largish order.  You seem to be doing it
tolerably well between you, just at present.  A fortune and a wedding
all in one winter.  Wilbraham's a very good chap," he added, thinking
she might require reassurance.  "He wants knowing, as I daresay you've
found out, but he's worth the trouble.  And a happy marriage will give
him just what he needs to rub off pounds of his mother's spoiling."
Teresa hesitated.  She was in a perplexed mood, and advice seemed the
one thing to help her, as it sometimes seems until we have got it.

"Do you think him clever?" she asked with apparent inconsequence.

"Don't you?"

"I suppose so."

"Well, if you really ask me, I should put my opinion a bit stronger.  Of
course he's no ass.  He did a lot at college."

"Oh, those are often the stupidest men!"  Teresa said sharply.

"In that case, he's stupid."

But from the look she turned on him he suddenly realised that she was
very much in earnest, and began to speak seriously, while the thought
shot through his mind, "Great Scott!  She's ambitious for that poor
little nonentity!"  He said aloud, "You know Sir Henry Thurstone by
name?  He told me last year he believed Wilbraham could do anything he
liked, and he doesn't say that sort of thing freely.  They're all
anxious he should go into Parliament, and I suppose he will when he's
once married."

She kept her eyes fixed on him while he spoke, and while she slowly
answered--

"Of course Sylvia--is not exactly clever."

"Well, wives don't have to be clever," said Maxwell, trying to find
something that would not sound brutal.

"No."

"And she's awfully pretty.  No doubt about that."  He went on
hurriedly--"See that wine-cart?  A great picturesque blob of colour,
isn't it, with the horse hung all over with red tassels?"

But Donna Teresa was silent.  She turned away her head, and did not
utter more than a few curt sentences until they all got out at the gate
of Villa Madama.

There Maxwell collected his enthusiasms, and forgot his conversation;
Wilbraham was taciturn.  Not Sylvia's ignorance, but her incapability of
understanding, weighed on him.  She might easily have known nothing of
Margaret of Austria, even, conceivedly, as little of Charles the Fifth;
it was far more depressing to perceive that when an idea of either was
presented to her, she could not grasp it, because there was apparently
no substance into which it could sink.  In the frescoes and delicate
plaster mouldings she saw no beauty, but was aware of damp on the walls
and the emptiness of the vast rooms, and wondered whether the white owl
nailed against the door meant anything.  Wilbraham found himself wincing
when he heard her little fatuous remarks.  Wincing.  It had come to
this.

Villa Madama, unfinished, a mere beautiful shell, hangs, as every one
knows, on the side of a wooded hill, above the Tiber, and facing the
mountains, which on that day had put on their loveliest colours, and lay
a dream of soft lilac amethyst against a yet softer sky.  Here and there
a whiter gleam marked Tivoli or the near villages, and stretching to the
north couched the Leonessa, sheeted with snow.  It was from the square
melancholy garden behind the house that they looked at these things.
Running down the hill before them were grey olives, dotted with olive
presses, and close beneath the low wall stretched a great cistern, in
which the frogs were croaking.  The Villa, facing the east, is soon left
by the sun, and the sadness of the garden becomes accentuated.  Tall
withered campagna-like weeds have filled it, a great cipollino
sarcophagus adds to the inexpressibly deserted impression; even the
pretty fountain at the back, where the hill water runs out between moss
and ferns, and through a grey elephant's head, is choked into
melancholy.  And at the far end, flanking an old garden gate, two
immense stone figures, battered, grey, mutilated, but still curiously
expressive, stand and look down upon the desolation which belongs to
them, and them only, with an air of cynical mockery.  Mrs Maxwell
turned her back on them.

"I don't think they're nice," she said in her soft determined voice.
"Do you?"

Teresa glanced up.

"Why not?" she said.  "They've a very good time of it there, look on,
needn't interfere, and needn't feel."

"That's what I complain of," said Mrs Maxwell reflectively.  "It puts
them in such an unfairly superior position.  Here are we, torn by a
dozen petty anxieties; I am sure I am, for I don't in the least know
where in Rome to get a decent hat.  Now, my dear--just think, what would
a hat seem to them?"

Mrs Brodrick laughed.  Mrs Maxwell talked on.

"Still, I'm not so sure.  I don't know that I should like never to be in
the dance.  And if they do get at all interested, existence must be so
scrappy.  There is Sylvia, pretty, and young, and in love.  They've seen
it all before, a hundred times--isn't this the place for lovers to
come?--but don't tell me that the poor grey old things wouldn't be
curious to know how it's going on.  And it must be so seldom that they
get their sequels.  No," she waved her hand to them, Roman fashion,
shaking it rapidly, palm downwards--"no, I'm not going to swallow your
superior airs.  You're dying of jealousy, you'd _like_ to know about my
hat, and Sylvia's wedding.  And you're not one bit superior.  You're
just like other men, pretending to be cynical, because you can't get
what you want, and I see through you.  There!"  Two minutes later she
had hold of Teresa's wrist and was strolling along a weedy path.  "I
want to speak to you," she said.

"What about?" demanded the marchesa quickly.

"I'm bored," said Mrs Maxwell with gloom.  "Bored."

Teresa dropped into ease at once.

"Here?"

"Here?  Oh no.  It's more serious, bigger.  I've had too much Rome, too
many stones, bricks, sarcophaguses, instructive people.  Then I'm not
thinking so much of myself as of Jem.  Do you wish to see him buy up all
the rubbish in the place?"

"Well, go!" said Teresa, laughing.

"And be as dull as ditch-water in some forlorn place!  Thank you."

"What do you want, then?"

Teresa knew Mary Maxwell of old, and felt sure that she was fully
possessed with what she intended to do, although she did not often, as
now, admit a personal motive.  She was very attractive and spoilt, and
had really convinced herself that she made others her first
consideration.

"Look at Sylvia," she went on.

"Sylvia is a girl who shows up better in the country than in these--
these very learned places."

"Never mind Sylvia," said the young marchesa quietly.  But she knew it
was true.

"And Sicily is charming."

"Are we to go to Sicily then?"

"Peppina has told me a great deal about it," Mrs Maxwell continued,
unheeding, "and I know it will be the very place to suit you.  Let us go
while the almond blossom is out.  Next month.  There, there--it's
settled; you'll all bless me."

Teresa ended by promising to consult her grandmother.  But, in the
restless fit which had come upon her, she owned that the idea was
pleasant.

CHAPTER TWELVE.

"Wasn't I right?  Come, confess that I was right?"

The question came of course from triumphant Mrs Maxwell, the centre of
a group standing on the steps of the Greek theatre at Taormina.  They
looked on one side, over the rose-red ruins, at Etna, sweeping
magnificently upwards into snow, at his purple slopes, his classic
shore, then, facing round, they headed a sea divinely full of light, and
saw across it aerial mountain ridges faintly cut against the sky.

"Oh, you were right," said Wilbraham presently.  "You deserve a splendid
chorus in your honour, and this is the place in which to raise it."

"There's a German down there already declaiming Shakespeare to his
wife," announced Teresa, running to look over the edge on tiptoe.

"So long as you give me the credit, I'll let you off the chorus," said
Mrs Maxwell, magnanimously; "and I'll own more, I'll own that if it
hadn't been for Peppina I should never have stood out.  She knows how to
get round me," she added with a sigh.

"Nina, on the contrary, hasn't come willingly at all."

"She upset the oil just before starting yesterday," said Sylvia
hurriedly, "and that's _so_ unlucky!  Wasn't it unfortunate?"

"Very," Wilbraham said drily.

"Look," interposed Teresa--"look at that sheet of pink against the blue.
That's almond blossom.  Oh, I must have some!"

When she went into her room at the Castello-a-mare before dinner, there
lay bunches of the beautiful blossoms.  She gave a cry of delight, and
fell to sticking them about in all imaginable places.  Nina, who came
after her, explained that Wilbraham had brought them himself.

"Arms full," she said, spreading out her own with a gay laugh.

And Teresa was touched, thinking that it must have cost him something to
turn himself into a maypole for her pleasure.  He was improving.  She
decked Sylvia with several of the pink flowers before going in to
dinner, for only a pleasant Hungarian doctor and his wife would be there
besides themselves, and twisted some into her own dress.  The sisters
went in together.  Wilbraham was standing alone at the end of the room.

"Thank you for the almond blossom," Teresa called out cheerfully.
"There you see the result."

And she made a little movement of her hand towards Sylvia, who stood
like a charming woodland picture of Spring, all white and pink.  But
Wilbraham glanced coldly.

"I sent them to you," he said with a touch of reproach in his tone which
made Teresa open her eyes.

"Brought them, I hear," she said teasingly.  "It was heroic of you.  How
many `Buon giorno's' and `Porto io's' had you to face?  I didn't believe
I could so quickly have got tired of the words.  As we came along I
heard mothers urging tiny shy babies of two or three--`_Vai, vai, di
buon giorno, un soldo signora_!'  They are so pretty, too!  And the
creatures, pertinacious as they are, bear no malice when one is cross;
just laugh and make way for another troop."

"Walter says that one ought not to give to beggars," Sylvia announced.

"Ah!  I shall, though, when a baby says `Bon zorno!'"

"For pity's sake don't make me out a prig, Sylvia!"

He spoke almost roughly, and Teresa fired.

"You should be flattered at her remembering your commands!"

"Was I rude?  I beg your pardon," said Wilbraham quickly.

But had Mrs Brodrick been in the room, she would have observed that he
begged his pardon from Teresa.

If the first day carried with it a touch of uneasiness, those that
followed swept by for some of them in a dream of enchantment.

The Castello-a-mare, where they were, stands a little out of the town,
perched on the very top of the road which zigzags up from the station.
And the view!  There, ever-changing in colour, its blue and opal and
tenderest green melting through each other or growing into dazzling
brightness, lies the most classical of seas; far away behind a fine
sweep of coast is Syracuse, a nearer promontory marks the first
settlement of Greeks in Calypso's lovely island; to your right, sweeps
up the great volcano, with heart of fire and crest of snow, and all the
foreground is broken and steep, with growth of almonds, and fennel, and
tree-spurge.  Sometimes the outlook is radiant beyond words; it is often
so at sunrise, when Etna has flung off clouds, and his eternal snows
flush rosy pink above the soft blue mists of the plain.  Then everything
is so light, so fresh, so sparkling, that it will make even a tired
heart believe the old world and all its life is young again.  But there
are other times when storms rush madly forwards, and the sea grows grey,
and the slopes of Etna are sullen purple, and wind and rain battle each
other passionately on the heights of Taormina.  You look with fear, and
lo, the fierce southern rage is over, the clouds are gone, and, faint
and lovely at first, presently out laughs the ethereal blue again.

A sketching fever possessed Donna Teresa.  The others, clambering up and
down the dirty, narrow, stony lanes, would come upon her sitting alone
and profoundly content before some arcaded window set in a wall, an
orange-tree peeping from behind the dainty centre shaft, unbroken blue
above.  Or she might be found under Duca Stefano's tower, peaceful now
after, so says tradition, its strange and wicked cruelties, where, for a
few soldi, you may rest undisturbed in a wilderness garden, and look
through palms at a luminous sea, or at queer corners of houses with deep
eaves and wooden balconies, where bright rags flutter, vines clamber,
and women lean for gossip.  High behind is a sweep of arid hill, rough
with prickly pear, and catching the shadow of every passing cloud and
the glory of the sun as it sinks behind Etna.

And it was for these minutes that Wilbraham--as yet unconsciously--
lived.

Then one day he came upon her in the Greek theatre.

Little of the Greek is left, except here and there a white pillar, or a
slab built into the wall, for where marble had shone the Romans have set
their brickwork.  But who can quarrel with brick which takes such glory
of colour and offers such crannies for tufted weeds, hanging in delicate
masses of yellow, white, and green?  Teresa had laid down her brushes,
and with her chin resting on her hands was looking through a
nobly-rounded arch at that view which is surely all but satisfying.
White clouds wrapped Etna, but between them pierced an occasional
whiteness which was not cloud, and, below, the purple slopes swept in
great curves, taking strange greens and violets as they advanced.  Only
one building broke their line, the Dominican monastery, and that, with
the mysterious gloom of fading day upon it, and the ground falling
precipitously in front, did no more than add a suggestive human interest
to the grandeur it shared.

The spot always moved Teresa, but she liked to keep her emotions to
herself; and as Wilbraham came towards her, she sprang to her feet, and
began to gather two or three of the dwarf irises which starred the
grass.

"Are you going?" he said in a disappointed tone.  "Have you finished
painting so soon?"

"I refuse to caricature, and so I haven't begun," she replied with a gay
laugh.  "What have you done with Sylvia?"

"Gone to tea."

"Oh, tea!"--she looked at her watch.

"And what brought you here?  Were you afraid I should be briganded
between the Messina gate and the hotel?"

"Not in the least.  I should as soon expect you to have an encounter
with the shade of Dionysios."

She began to stroll round the face of the grass slope which sweeps up to
where the poorer people stood to see the plays.

"Nina would not agree with you," she said suddenly; "she throws out
mysterious hints of bad characters in Sicily."

"I daresay.  If one went into the interior and out of the beaten track,
for instance; but here, where strangers are their best harvest, they
wouldn't be disposed to snipe them.  Self-interest would go hand-in-hand
with law and order, you see."

"And that's the best you'll say?"

"Oh, well," he allowed carelessly, "I own they're wretchedly poor and I
shouldn't like to live myself on a hunch of bread and a root of fennel.
Won't you sit down?"

She turned to answer, hesitated, finally dropped on the grass.  A
lighter, tenderer view lay before them here.  For now the sea filled the
openings between the brickwork--the many-coloured sea along which
Ulysses rowed--and there was the line of coast above which Polyphemus
herded his flocks, and flung Cyclopean rocks at his tormentors.

"I can't," she said unexpectedly.

"Can't what?"

"Realise their misery with all this beauty around.  It's heartless,
hateful, but one pushes out the other."

"Let it go," he said, watching her changing face.

"It must," she smiled.  "All the same I shall hush up my conscience in
ways which will shock you.  Look!"  She drew from her pocket a handful
of soldi.  "I mean the children to have a real good time, in spite of
you and Sylvia."

She tossed pennies into the air and caught them, without noticing that a
sudden silence had fallen.

Wilbraham had gone on day after day refusing to look before him,
refusing to go beyond the events of the day.  He was often irritated or
provoked by Sylvia; but often, alas, he was happy, without asking
himself why.  Now, all of a sudden it flashed upon him that it was
Teresa's nearness, and with the knowledge rushed a wild, scarcely
controllable, impulse to strain her in his arms.  The self-control of
all his years luckily came to his help, and the young marchesa, looking
out at the lovely world before her, and thinking of nothing less than
her companion, except as he touched Sylvia's life, was quite unconscious
of the struggle in the man's heart.

"We ought to go--I suppose," she said reluctantly, without moving.

Wilbraham was silent.  Unseen by her, he was fingering a fold of her
dress which lay on the grass close to him.  Teresa laughed lightly the
next minute.

"It is a pity, isn't it, that one never can enjoy an exquisite moment
without thinking what has to be done in the next?  At least I can't."

"Why should one think?" he said.  His voice sounded so queerly in his
own ears that he half hoped, half feared, she must detect something,
"No; as I say, it's a pity, it's stupid.  I suppose it's the penalty one
has to pay for the drive of life."

"Tell me--" he began and suddenly stopped.  She looked round, surprised.

"Tell you what?"

"No, I won't say it."

She thought he might be going to ask something about Sylvia, and
wondered how she could help him.

"As we are here," she said, "we may as well see the sunset."

For already there was a throb of pink in the clear western sky, pink, of
which the almond blossom seemed the reflection.  Teresa's face was
turned from him to watch it grow, and for a long time neither spoke.  It
was a dangerous silence, had she but known it.  At last she drew a deep
breath.

"There must be a golden sea on the other side of Etna," she said, "and I
wish I was there.  Don't you?"

"No.  I'm content."

She laughed, and sprang up.

"No?  Well this ought to content one, certainly.  But to punish you for
not fretting after the unattainable, I am going back."

He followed silently, and they said very little as they went down the
uneven street, past the Palazzo Corvaij, where slender columns support
Gothic arches, and bands of black lava contrast with yellow stone, past
the vast dark holes in which the people live and die and have shops and
make merry, and so out of the little hillside town by the Messina gate.
But just as they reached a great sumach-tree in a bend of the road,
Teresa, who had been thinking, put an imprudent question--

"Do you really never want the unattainable?"

Wilbraham's hands were clenched, his face turned away.

"Oh, my God!" he cried, under his breath, "do I not!"

CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

Mrs Brodrick was sitting under an awning on the broad terrace when Mrs
Maxwell stepped out of the window.  She was never very comfortable at
having Mary Maxwell alone.  It seemed to her that her shrewd eyes saw
too many things.  But she put down her book and welcomed her.

"They haven't bestowed much of a shade upon you," said Mrs Maxwell,
glancing up.

"I don't take much.  Age shrinks."  She moved her chair, smiling.

"Don't talk about age.  It's an unpleasant subject," Mrs Maxwell
complained, dropping into a chair.  "And as for you, you are younger
than any of us.  It's only people of the same standing who would call
you old.  Don't you know?  Elderly people always talk about their
contemporaries as `old Mr Smith,' `old Mr Jones.'  It's their way of
pretending to be still young."

"Well, I won't pretend," said Mrs Brodrick.  "But I know the temptation
so well, that I very often go away and read my Rabbi Ben Ezra.  I was
noticing to-day that my shadow looked old, and that's a great step."

"Oh, granny, nonsense!"

"And, after all, it is always interesting to reach new experiences.  For
instance, I have just found out that one is less seldom disappointed,
but sooner discouraged."

She was keeping the talk upon herself only because she was afraid of its
drifting elsewhere; but Mrs Maxwell had a purpose.

"Where is Sylvia?" she asked suddenly.

"Isn't she picking irises in the garden behind me?"

"I see.  Where's Teresa?"

"Sketching."

"And Mr Wilbraham?"

"Really, I don't know," said Mrs Brodrick, with a touch of displeasure.
"Probably with your husband."

"Oh, my husband!  My husband is worshipping a silly forged Greek coin,"
said Mrs Maxwell irrepressibly.

"Each one seems to be having a solitary time of it."

"I wish you and Teresa were improving it by meditating on your
imprudences.  No, really I must speak.  I get frightened for poor
Sylvia.  Don't you see?  Those two _are_ so unsuited!"

"Really?"  Mrs Brodrick drew herself up.

"Oh, you know it!" cried Mrs Maxwell, in a transport of self-sacrifice.
"I hate speaking so brutally, but one must do horrid things for those
one cares for; and I am sure, unless you interfere, there will be some
awful denouement.  He isn't thinking about Sylvia."

"Mary!"

"He isn't.  He is awaking to a much bigger emotion; and you know, as
well as I do, that Sylvia, with all her prettiness, isn't the girl to
inspire a great passion.  If it's not Sylvia, who is it?"

Mrs Brodrick remained silent.  Mary Maxwell came and knelt by her side,
laying her head on her lap.

"Granny, don't be angry!  You know you're frightened, and you know I
care about you all.  But you're dreadfully high-minded.  Isn't there
anything you can do?"

Mrs Brodrick suddenly collapsed.

"Nothing," she said miserably.  "How can any one move?  It rests between
him and Sylvia, and Sylvia, poor child, is absolutely--piteously
content.  She doesn't see."

"And never will!" thought Mrs Maxwell; "Heaven help us, for there must
be some way out of this tangle, if one could only find it!"  She said
aloud, hesitatingly, "Could Teresa speak to her?"

"Could she?"  Mrs Brodrick turned a pallid face, and Mrs Maxwell shook
her head.

"True--impossible.  Teresa must be kept out of it.  Is there _any_ hint
that Sylvia would accept?  Granny, you might try."

"As if I hadn't tried--twenty times!"

"And she won't take it?"

"It isn't that she _won't_.  She doesn't realise that there can be
anything I want to say."

Mary Maxwell already felt better for having extracted a confidence which
proved her to be in the right.

"It's awful," she said cheerfully.  "All

[Two pages missing here: pp 240,241.]

purple and white irises, stopped lazily to watch the lizards darting in
and out of the sun-baked wall, and then gone in to write a letter.  She
had few correspondents, but there was an old nurse who thought all the
world of her, and was made happy by a sheet of unformed, straggling
writing, and bare bones of fact, always supported by a dictionary, and
unimpeded by stops.

"It is very pleasant here," Sylvia wrote; "there are so many flowers.
We make expeditions"--_sh_ decided against by help of the
dictionary--"and the weather is beautiful Granny and Teresa are quite
well I am very happy--" She had reached so far when Wilbraham came in.
She flung down her pen and jumped up joyfully.

"Oh, Walter, where have you been?  I was wondering so!"

"Down by the shore."

There was a set, hunted look on his face, as if he had not slept, which
was true.  He had extracted the key of a side door from the chambermaid,
and had wandered for hours through the mystical southern night.

"Oh, you promised to take me to the shore when you went."

"Did I?"

"Never mind.  I will go next time," said Sylvia happily.  Whatever he
did or did not do contented her.  "I have been very busy."

"Yes?"

"Yes; picking flowers.  They are all ready now for Teresa to put in when
she comes.  Have you seen her?"

"No."

"She does wander so far by herself; I wonder she isn't afraid.  Shall we
go and look for her?  I have nearly finished, Walter.  I have written
all this to Dobbin.  Look!"  She held up the sprawly sheet for his
admiration.  "Haven't I been good?"

"You are always good," he said remorsefully.  And he glanced at her,
thinking for the hundredth time how pretty she was, and wondering why
everything she said should be so flatly ineffective.  But he had
something to tell her, and he dashed at it hurriedly--

"I'm afraid, I'm very much afraid, that I shall have to go back to
England."

"To England!"  She looked at him incredulously.

"Yes.  I'm wanted there."

"But not yet.  You've had no letters to-day."

He cursed his want of premeditation.  He had forgotten that every now
and then Sylvia developed an odd practical shrewdness.

"Not to-day."

"Not to-day, and only two from your mother since we've been here."

"I must go all the same," he said, taking refuge in obstinacy.  "I've
been pleasuring too long."

Evidently and unusually she was puzzled.

"But," she said slowly, at last, "but--I don't understand.  You can't go
all in a minute.  We have to see Syracuse and Palermo, and--a great many
things.  Indeed, Walter, you can't!  It wouldn't be right.  Why should
you?  I remember you told me you would not go home until you took me."

"Things change."

"What has changed?"

He looked at her, and thought bitterly how little she knew that she was
pleading against herself--against his better self.  The other half of
him wanted to stay, swore it was folly to give up an hour of the only
happiness which life still held, and all for a scruple.  He was going to
stick to Sylvia.  That much stood firm amid the general earthquake.

"I'd better go," he said doggedly.

"Oh, no," returned Sylvia decidedly; "you mustn't."  After a momentary
pause she added, "It would be so odd!"

"Would it?"  He flung hasty thought at what the others would say on the
matter, and his leaving immediately looked so suspicious in his own
eyes, that he felt as if it must proclaim his secret to the world.  He
forced a laugh, however.

"What's odd in having business to see after?"

"Oh, but they all know you haven't."

Silence.

"I wish I knew what makes you want to go home," said Sylvia wonderingly.
"I can't think!  Won't you tell me?"

Wilbraham moved uneasily.  He could not lie to her, and the truth was
impossible.  He chose a middle course.

"If you really dislike it so much, I'll stay.  It shall make no
difference," he promised his conscience.

"I was sure you would not go," was all she said, and he was vaguely
surprised, expecting delight and surprise in a gush, but thankful they
were not lavished upon him.

Through that day and the next, and the next, he kept iron hands on
himself, close to Sylvia's side.  Teresa was too well pleased to see him
there so much as to wonder why once or twice he avoided her--almost
rudely.  She went on her way light-heartedly, and began to sing when she
was alone.  She painted here, there, everywhere, the women carrying
their empty pitchers to the fountain lengthways on their heads, or
coming back upright, supple, with the heavy weight poised securely; the
old people hurrying with their chairs to a little homely church, sunk in
a narrow street; the Catania Gate, with its long flight of outer steps,
and its odd crooked arches; walls blistered by sun, and overhung by
grey-green prickly pear and red shoots of pomegranate; Gothic arches,
rose windows; sunrise and sunset; glory of noonday; flash of falling
rain, and sullen overshadowing of thunder-cloud.  The little city,
hanging on its hillside, had for her a charm which never wearied.

The only one who seemed restless and dissatisfied was Nina.  Teresa
began to be sorry that she had brought her, though she had imagined it
would make travelling easier for her grandmother.  But the little
Viterbo woman frankly hated the place, and Italians of her class are too
much like children to attempt to disguise their feelings.  Then she had
spilt oil on the day of their departure, and only the Madonna knew what
disasters that might not bring!  There was a bottle of wine close by,
and why should not that have been knocked over instead, when such an
upset would have ensured good luck?  For want of other listeners, she
talked of this to Peppina, and watched the girl's face as she spoke.
Peppina shrugged her shoulders.

"Eh, who knows?" she answered carelessly.  "For that you have to take
your chance with the rest."

Peppina had learnt from Cesare to mock at omens which came to others,
but she could not help being still terrified when she encountered them
herself.

"That is news!" retorted Nina scornfully.  "If it was not for the chance
it would be easy."

"You or another.  There are enough of you!  One, two, three, four,
five," the girl counted on her fingers.  "Five chances.  Try the cards
if you want to know which."

"Who it comes from, rather," said the other with significance.

Peppina darted a look from under her long eyelashes, and her voice
slightly shook.

"Will they tell you that?  I do not believe it."

"Will they?  _Altro_!  One as much as the other," said Nina, enjoying
her uneasiness.  "And I say an apoplexy upon whoever it is!  An
apoplexy!"

"Be quiet!" cried Peppina angrily, a spasm crossing her face, and her
hand almost unconsciously signing against the evil eye; "be quiet with
your jay's voice, when my signora is trying to sleep above.  Who talks
of apoplexies?"

Nina was too well pleased with the effect she had produced to be
affronted.

"Is she ill then?"

"Her head aches.  It wants to be amused."

Peppina was uncomfortably aware that she had said too much once more.
She yawned intentionally, flinging her arms over her head.  "Diamine, I
could sleep myself," she added drowsily, but looking at Nina through
half-closed lids.

"Well, sleep--sleep if you will.  There is nothing to be done--not so
much as a ricotta making in this nest of owls," said Nina, waving
Taormina away from her with disdain.  "You will wake in time to see
Cesare."

"Cesare!"  Peppina started up as if struck with a whip.  "What do you
say?"

"Did you not know he was here?  Then I am wiser than you, for once.  He
should have been to see you before--a pretty girl like you!  But there--
those men!"  Nina shook her head sympathetically.  "There is the
Cianchetti, of course."

"Hold your tongue!  If he is here, he will come, beyond a doubt!" cried
the girl, eyeing her furiously, and panting to acknowledge that she had
passed an hour with her lover the evening before.  "The Cianchetti!  A
creature like that!"

"A creature, as you say, but then she is pretty.  And that he should be
here and not tell you!"

Nina held up her hands, perfectly aware of what was struggling in
Peppina's breast, and amused at her easy victory.

"I tell you he will come!" exclaimed the girl breathlessly.

"We shall see."

Nina nodded many times, and there was a short pause, in which Peppina's
fear grew stronger than her vanity.

"How do you know he is here?"

"Eh-h-h-h-h!  One has eyes," answered Nina carelessly.  "Why does he
come?"

"Who knows?" said the girl, wary again.

"What it is to have money for travelling!" exclaimed Nina, who was sure
that Peppina had somehow got the money from Mrs Maxwell.  "It is wine
he must have upset, not oil like me."

"Do you still think of it?" said Peppina, anxious to turn the
conversation.

"I shall sort the cards to-night, and try to find out who the ill-luck
comes from.  Whoever it is, an apoplexy on him!" cried Nina vengefully.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

There had been a slight, a very slight change in Sylvia since the day
when Wilbraham so abruptly announced that he was going to England.  She
was not quite so confident; once or twice Mrs Brodrick had fancied she
was not confident at all.  Teresa, blinded by art and sunshine, flung
off her cares, and enjoyed herself to the full.  Mrs Maxwell, growing
slightly bored, began to talk of going on to Syracuse.  She said it was
because Mrs Brodrick looked pale.

"I shall be so sorry to go myself.  It's a delightful place," she
declared, yawning.

"A rare good hole for Greek coins," said her husband, "and a lot more
coming next week.  I want to see them."

She glanced at him pityingly.

"Ten days more?" pleaded Teresa.  "Come, that will carry us over Easter
and the processions.  Think of a procession in the streets of Taormina!"
Mrs Maxwell, who liked to see everything, reflected and agreed.

"But I'm very uncomfortable here," she added.  "I should wish you all to
know that Peppina is really no good to me at all.  See how she's done my
hair to-day.  A perfect fright, in spite of the lessons I showered upon
her."

"Our servants are not quite successful.  Nina looks as she looked when
she had toothache, and I can't say more!  She is prejudiced against
Sicily."

"They might consider us a little," said Mrs Maxwell.  "But your Nina
does serve you faithfully.  Now, Peppina would not care what happened to
me, so long as she clutched the lire.  Why don't I part with her?  Oh,
she's so pleasant, I can't.  She makes up for all Jem's shortcomings,
and they're many.  He always stumps about when I've a headache."

"What's that?" asked Colonel Maxwell.

"Nothing.  I only said if I were weighed against a Greek coin--forged,
my dear, that's the sting of it," she whispered to Teresa--"I shouldn't
have a chance."

But her eyes smiled kindly as she looked at her big husband, whom she
teased and adored.

Teresa laughed, and went back to get her drawing things.  Nina carried
them for her, almost the only personal service which the marchesa
accepted.  She looked so miserable that Teresa began to question her--

"What is the matter, Nina?  Have you, perhaps, toothache again?"

"It is an ache here, eccellenza," said Nina, laying her hand
dramatically on her heart.  "It is because there are bad people in the
world."

In spite of herself Donna Teresa laughed.

"At that rate I don't know when the ache will stop.  Have you met with
any specially bad people at Taormina?"

"_Altro_!"  Nina cried emphatically.  "It is an evil place.  See here,
eccellenza, do not permit the signorina's Englishman to walk at night.
The nights are not wholesome."

"Not wholesome?  You mean dangerous?  _Ma, che_!  What absurdity!"  She
altered her tone a little.  "If you are so unhappy away from Rome, I
will send you back."

"What good will that do the Englishman?" asked Nina gloomily.  "Send
Peppina, that might be better, eccellenza."

"Peppina!"  Teresa laughed again.

She knew that the two disagreed, and thought that Nina was inclined to
be hard on the girl.  "And why?"

"She is hot-headed, and the air here is not good for that illness."

"The air?  It is perfect."

"Not at night, eccellenza.  It has been known to carry a man off as
quickly as if--"

"As if?"

"As if he had had a knife in his heart," Nina said slowly, in a low
whisper, and glancing round.  Two men were coming up behind, and she
immediately raised her voice to a more cheerful key.  "Is it to be the
blessed Santa Caterina to-day, eccellenza?  Not that I believe she can
have anything to say to such ignorant people as these, but it is more
lucky to sit where a saint looks down upon you, since she might be
obliged to do something for her own credit."

She talked so persistently all the rest of the way that it was evident
she meant to say nothing more on the subject of unwholesome air.
Teresa, who knew her prejudices, was quite undisturbed by her hints, and
occupied in her drawing.  She sat in a little angle of the long street,
which the Arabs called El Kasr--so linking it with the Luxor of Egypt--
facing the beautiful doorway of Santa Caterina's Church.  The colouring
is exquisite, for the wood has been faded by sun and soft winds into a
grey blue--the exact shade of Saint Peter's dome--veined here and there
by pink, while high above door and cornice stands a small graceful
figure of the saint, leaning on her wheel, and shaded by delicate
grasses.

Teresa's eagerness about whatever interest absorbed her was apt to leave
other impressions in the lurch.  She was very well content to believe
that things were greatly improved between Sylvia and Wilbraham, and that
there was no need for her to waste uneasiness in that direction; indeed,
she had persuaded herself that her past uneasiness had been born of mere
over-anxiety.  All along she had ranked the girl's prettiness unduly
high in its effect, but now she was sure that her after qualms were
unnecessary.  As for Nina's chatter, that she dismissed with all the
Tuesdays and Fridays, hunchbacks and oil-spilling, which haunted the
little Viterbo woman's days.  She was, indeed, unusually gay at heart,
probably from her out-of-door life in that delicious air, which was now
gently sweeping off the almond petals on the hillside.

Mrs Maxwell was very much disappointed by the processions in Holy Week.
After waiting for days, as she said, to see them, she _had_ expected
something better than a few white-hooded men straggling before the
baldacchino.  Yet the Duomo, empty of interest as it is--except to those
who penetrate to the embroideries in the sacristy--lends itself
picturesquely to effect, with its fine doorways and its red marble
steps.  And on Good Friday, as she, Sylvia, and Wilbraham waited in a
little piazza just inside an inner gate, Teresa saw something which she
will never forget.

A church stands on one side, facing Etna and the many-coloured sea.
Here the procession began to gather, and out of the church and down the
steps was borne an inexpressibly scarred and forbidding-looking dead
Christ on his bier.  Through the gate it was carried towards the Duomo,
while down a steep and stony lane the Madonna, high uplifted, came to
join her divine Son.  So far, though interesting, there was nothing very
striking or impressive in the scene, but when the procession crept out
again from the shadow of the Duomo, and, making its way back, wound
slowly along the whole length of Taormina, it was different.  The
narrowness of the street, with its balconies and leaning figures, the
white-draped, white-hooded men, the multitude of moving twinkling
lights, the flashes here and there of colour, the priests in their
vestments, the swaying baldacchino--smote home, overpowered sordid
details.  Teresa looked at it with wet eyes.

Wilbraham was standing mutely next her; Sylvia, full of exclamations,
beyond him.  Suddenly Teresa became aware that one of the hooded figures
had turned his head towards them.  There was no more than a slit for the
eyes, yet she knew without seeing that some gaze, fierce and menacing,
burnt behind the hood.  So sure was she, that she spoke impetuously to
Wilbraham when the figure had passed--

"Did you see?  Who was it?"

"Some fellow who means to know me again," he said after a momentary
pause.

"No.  It was some one who hated you," she answered with a trembling
voice.  Nina's words, "a knife in the heart," came driving back, and
moved her strangely.

His head whirled.  In unconscious excitement she had pressed a little
closely to him, her sleeve brushed his.  He was forced to guard his
voice, lest it should betray joy that his possible danger should have so
moved her.  Sylvia spoke twice and he did not hear.

"Thank you," he said in a low voice.  "Thank you."

Something of strained repression in his voice startled her.  She looked
at him in sudden dismay, and the revelation was so impossible, so
astounding, that it for the instant left her dazed.  She felt as if a
cold hand had been laid upon her heart.  The next moment the
consciousness of Sylvia gave her back herself.  Had she seen?  Did she
know?  It was of Sylvia that she must think, it was Sylvia whom she must
protect, it was to her she spoke very gently--

"I'm going back now, and you will come when you like."  Amazement, not
emotion, had shaken her, and, afraid lest he should think she was in any
degree sharing his, she looked coolly in his face.  "Don't let Sylvia
overtire herself," she said.  "That would be much more serious than for
a man to stare at us behind his hood."

But, as she walked swiftly along the white road, fear and amazement at
her discovery swept over her again.  The odiousness of the situation
appalled her.  She raged against herself, beginning to realise her folly
in trying to bolster up Wilbraham's short-lived love.  She had put
Sylvia in the best positions, hidden the emptiness of the girl's mind by
her own quickness, been kind to Wilbraham for her sister's sake until
now, now--

Mrs Brodrick was startled by Teresa, white-faced and shaken, appearing
suddenly in her room.

"Granny," she began breathlessly and flinging herself by her side,
"things are going very badly indeed."

And their eyes met, full of understanding.

"It had to come," said Mrs Brodrick with a sigh.

"But not this.  Nothing so wretched as this!  I don't think I _can_ tell
you," she went on, flinging her head back and staring dismally at her
grandmother.  Mrs Brodrick met her look without a vestige of the
surprise she expected.

"Poor Teresa!" she said, laying her hand on hers.  "Has he been making
love to you instead of to Sylvia?  What has he done?"

There was a certain relief in not having to explain the first miserable
discovery, and she told her tale in short gasps which ended in a
half-laugh of contempt.

"Nina was so odd in her warnings," she explained, "that although I did
not mind them at the time, when I saw that man glaring I was seized with
terror.  Something--of course it was a ridiculous fancy--made me think
it was Cesare.  And, granny,--I shall never forgive myself!--I was
frightened, and I suppose he thought I cared for him.  But how could he!
How could he!"

"It had to come," Mrs Brodrick repeated, but a perplexed frown gathered
on her forehead, for she was trying to think what would come next.  "Put
yourself out of your thoughts, dear," she added after a moment's pause.
"It does not much matter what has brought the climax.  What matters a
great deal is the effect upon--Sylvia.  She--she does not see so quickly
as some girls would."

"I know, and I know that I am to blame," said Donna Teresa very humbly.
"I will do anything you think best.  Must she be told?" she suggested
hesitatingly.  "It takes so little to make her happy!"

"There are two to make happy," answered her grandmother, smiling sadly.

The young marchesa flung up her head haughtily.

"He!  I do not think of him!"

"Then you do not really blame yourself, for it is he whom you have
injured."

"Oh," cried Teresa with an angry light in her eyes, "I shall never
forgive him!"

Mrs Brodrick took no notice.

"It always comes back to one fact," she said presently.  "I suppose you
or I will have to speak to poor Sylvia."

Teresa sprang up, and began to walk about the room.

"What can we say?" she asked, stopping.  "Not everything?"

"No, certainly.  You mustn't come into it.  We must tell her that--that
we think there has been a mistake.  That perhaps she should give him
back his word--"

"Tell her she ought," Teresa broke in drearily.  "Sylvia is so good, she
will do anything she thinks she ought.  Why is it the good people who
always have to suffer?  Little Sylvia!  And I meant her to be so happy!
Granny, be very, very kind to her.  Must it be to-day?"

"No," said Mrs Brodrick, considering.  "Let us wait a day."

"Till Monday."

"Well--till Monday.  Perhaps he will speak.  Perhaps something will come
to her.  Do you think that man was really Cesare?"

"What do I care if it was?"

But in spite of her indifference her grandmother, without mentioning the
incident, asked Mrs Maxwell whether Peppina's lover was in Taormina.

"I wonder?" returned Mrs Maxwell meditatively.  "She broke a scent
bottle this morning--I believe he is."

Peppina, however, asked casually where her lover now was, swore with so
much detail that her Cesare, poor fellow, was in Rome, working on the
_Avanti_ staff; that her sister had seen him the day before and had
heard from him how he had been obliged to have the doctor for Angelo,
the poor cripple, and the doctor had said it was good broth the creature
wanted--but how could Cesare, with his wages, get good broth?--that Mrs
Maxwell melted into conviction and five lire.

No one thought of asking Nina, and no one except she was aware that on
that same night Peppina was leaning over a wall, under a golden moon,
talking to a man whose movements were very like those of Cesare.  She
was pressing something into his hand.

"Diamine," she was saying, "and why not, when I tell you I have more
than I want?"

"But how, how?  That is my question.  You do not ask for it?" he added
suddenly, his anger rising.

"And if I did, what is that to you?" she retorted, swinging away.  "But
I do not.  They raise my wages."

"Again?" said Cesare, still suspicious.  "Per Bacco, and for what?"

"For what?  For nothing.  I tell you they fling their money, they have
so much.  To me, or to others, what does it matter?  And so long as you
want it and do not waste it on--the Cianchetti, for instance--"

Her breath came shortly; but Cesare, who had grown used to these hints,
for which indeed Nina only was responsible, took no notice, and as her
moods changed quickly and she was impressionable the soft stillness of
the night calmed her.

"Cesare mio, what are you going to do?  Do not be rash.  There is danger
with these cold-blooded English," she went on, speaking very tenderly.

"I am not afraid.  There is no danger here.  And if there were, I do not
know that I care.  Now or then, what does it matter?  But I am not
afraid.  I have friends."

She swayed towards him whispering a word in his ear, and the next moment
his hand was on her lips, and roughly.

"Mother of Heaven," he exclaimed, "be quiet!  I will not have you speak
of that, do you hear?  I will not!"

She pushed away his hand and laughed.

"You and the lizards.  There is no other to be the wiser."

He stood silent for some minutes, presently reverting to what she had
said--

"They fling their money, do they?  And on Monday I went to the Bianchis'
house--you know the Bianchi?"

She nodded.

"Livia is ill--the little white one who always suffers, always!  But now
she is worse.  I tell you she has nothing.  She lies on the floor and
moans till your heart swells.  They took her to the hospital, the one at
Sant' Onofrio--"

Peppina nodded again.

"The Bambino Gesu, yes."

"And they shut the door in their faces.  There was room, but no money.
They are good women, I do not blame them.  But no money.  And these,
these fling theirs here, there, where they will, while we die."  He went
on gloomily, "We shall change all that before we have done."

"Eh," said the girl happily, "and then you will be rich in your turn."

She closed her eyes, lapping herself in delicious thoughts of how she
would have a dress which should outshine the Cianchetti's wildest
attempts, and plenty of good things to eat without working for them.
Cesare was clever.  But he must not be imprudent.  And she did not mean
to ask him what was in his mind.  She could forgive him anything except
love for the Cianchetti.

Perhaps Cesare had not heard her last words.  His worn and eager eyes
looked out over the almond-trees to where dark Etna lay stretched along
the land.  There were things he saw in the night of which he never spoke
to Peppina; often a haunting girl's face changing from laughter into
sudden terrible reproach.  He did not regret his deed.  He looked upon
himself as a righteous executioner despising ordered law, and believing
that he and others of his own way of thinking were bound to execute
judgment where it was called for.  But his belief did not shut out the
face, and he had now a curious thought that any other eyes looking out
of the darkness would be more bearable than hers, so long--so long as
they were not a woman's.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

One day, two days, passed.  Mrs Brodrick and Teresa felt like
conspirators watching for a sign.  As they did not get one, the telling
Sylvia on the appointed day grew more disquieting in prospect.
Evidently she was not quick enough to read faces, or she must have
discovered for herself that something was wrong, that Wilbraham was
gloomy, Teresa angry, and her grandmother uneasy.  On Tuesday they were
to go to Syracuse.

"And we shall see him depart in another direction," said Teresa with
decision.

"If," said her grandmother--"if all this had never happened, do you
believe you might some day have liked him?"

The question had been on her lips more than once.  The young marchesa
hesitated.

"Perhaps," she answered frankly.  "Perhaps--I don't know.  I liked him
better at Assisi."

"He has been a fool," thought Mrs Brodrick, turning away.

At this moment Sylvia came hurriedly into the room.

"Is Mary here?" she asked.

"No; she is watching Peppina pack.  Where are you going?"

Teresa with a heavy heart tried to speak playfully, and failed.

"Past the cemetery, and down towards the sea."

"Ah, I never get you to myself nowadays."

"But you know I love you, don't you, Teresa?" said the girl anxiously.

"My dear!" cried the marchesa, still with a poor pretence at gaiety.
She looked at her grandmother.

"Must you go?  Or can you first come to my room for half an hour?" asked
Mrs Brodrick in a voice a little tremulous, and with lines showing
suddenly in her face.

"Oh, I can't, granny, I can't now," Sylvia returned; "Walter is waiting
for me.  When I come back I shall have plenty of time.  Oh, please!"

"Well, go then," said Mrs Brodrick with a sigh.

Sylvia went down the long room, putting one or two things in tidy order
as she passed.  Wilbraham was waiting for her in the little look-out
place behind the hotel.  The ground, dotted with great prickly-pear
clumps, fell very steeply towards the water, and folds of blue hills
stretched from Monte Venere towards Messina.  Across a radiant sea, snow
gleamed on Aspromonte.  Two fishermen were coming up a narrow pathway.

"Where are we going?  By the cemetery?" asked Sylvia.

Wilbraham roused himself with a start.

"That's as good a way as any--and the end of all things," he muttered
under his breath, so that she did not hear.  "But if she had heard," he
reflected bitterly, "she would not have understood."  He scarcely now
took the trouble to conceal things from her, always feeling secure that
she would not understand.

They went away together down stony tracks.  The gate of the little
burying-place was open; they could see its great bushes of scarlet
geranium, and yellow daisies, and ugly staring tombs lying in sunshine.
Sylvia wondered a great deal, as usual, whether people lived a long time
at Taormina, whether there was a doctor, whether the children went to
school.  To all, Wilbraham answered impatiently that he did not know.

Every now and then, however, she was silent, which was unusual, but
struck him as a relief.

They skirted the wall, fennel towering high on the other side, and
turned into a small steep path running down through flowery banks and
fields, sheeted with red and blue vetches.

"How funny it is to have fields like these!"

Sylvia's remarks were above all things wanting in suggestiveness.
Answers did not spring from them, but had to begin an altogether
separate existence.

"Are you tired?" asked Wilbraham, "or shall we go down to the shore?  I
think you wanted to see the caves?"

"I wanted so much to see a flying-fish.  I think it must look so odd,
don't you?  But then, of course, if we went, we might not see one.
Shall we sit on this bank?"

"If you like."

"And talk?"

"That too--if you like."

"I wanted to say something."

He bit his lip, used to Sylvia's utterances.

"Well, my dear child, I'm listening."

He was not thinking of her.  His mind had shot away to Teresa, Teresa
with an angry light in her eyes, for which he loved her the more.
Hopeless, he would not have had her different; but different--to him--
what might she not have been!  Suddenly, unexpectedly, a word of
Sylvia's caught his attention.

"I don't think that people ought to marry unless they love each other.
Every one always says they ought not," she was remarking in a nervously
excited voice.  "I think we had better give it up."

"Give it up?  Do you mean break off our engagement?" he faltered.
"Sylvia!"

She was twisting a few blades of grass into a plait, and looking down at
that.  But his words evidently distressed her.

"Oh, don't you think we had better?" she exclaimed, with the appeal of a
child.

He had been conscious of so exquisite a relief that his honour took
alarm.

"Why?" he said, leaning forward.  "What is your reason?"

She looked up at him, evidently troubled; the prettiness of her face
pathetically touched with the quite new struggle to explain a feeling.

"Don't you know what I mean?  I can't say it exactly, Walter.  I thought
you would be sure to understand.  Don't you know?  People must be _very_
fond of each other, mustn't they?"

All the better part of him was quickened by a perception of her
sweetness and humility.  But the devil set him answering with conscious
untruth, and almost roughness--

"So, Sylvia, you've never cared for me!"

Her distress shamed him.

"I did, I did, you know I did, Walter!  Of course I did.  And I have
been so happy!  Oh, please, don't say you don't think so.  What can I
say, what can I do, to make you know?  _Do_ know, _do_ understand."

All her body was working with quick excited movements, all her heart was
in her eyes.  Wilbraham covered his own.

"God forgive me, you poor little girl!" he groaned brokenly.

"Ah! then you do know," she said in a voice that was almost pleased.  A
little pride in her rose up, because she had been able to convince him,
for generally she never attempted to argue, accepting dutifully whatever
view of the situation he or Teresa took.  This time it was she herself
who had made the impression.  She put her hand into his.

"Oh, don't be sorry," she said consolingly.

"But if you--if you love me?"

"Still, we've both got to do it, haven't we?" she said, and looked at
him doubtfully.  Was she perhaps mistaken after all?  Walter had
believed her when she reassured him, and so--if he were to say the same
to her, well, then certainly she must believe him, too.  And how glad
she would be!  How very very glad!  She looked at him again.  He was
sorry, not pleased.

"Walter?"  She hesitated.

"Yes, Sylvia?"

"Will you tell me?"

"What?"

"If I am right.  I want to do what's right, but it's so funny, it
doesn't seem to be quite easy.  I thought one always knew."

She sighed--an odd disjointed little sigh, and any sigh was so unlike
Sylvia, that Wilbraham cursed himself again.  But what a question she
was putting.

"How can I help you?  Ask your own heart."

Always literal, she tried to obey him, but in a few minutes turned a
puzzled face.

"I don't think I know how to do it.  My heart doesn't say anything
different--at least, _I_ don't say anything, if that's the same thing?
It is, isn't it?  It's you that must tell me."

"I'll make you happy.  I swear I will!"

And he meant it.

"Yes," said the girl, speaking more slowly than was usual with her.
"Oh, I should be happy, of course."

"Well, then?"

"But that isn't it, is it?  It isn't my being happy--I wish you could
help me," she added, twisting her fingers nervously, and frowning--"I
wish you could tell me."

He started up, then flung himself down by her side, burying his face.

"For God's sake, Sylvia, what do you want me to say?"

"Why, what you would like, of course," she returned simply.  "We ought
both of us to love each other, oughtn't we?"

He made a slight movement of his head.

"One--isn't enough?"

Silence.  But Sylvia must always have an answer.

"Is it, Walter?"

He twisted himself.

"Oh, I don't know."

"Why, you know everything," she said proudly.  "Of course you know.  And
please tell me, because I get so puzzled when I have to settle things
for myself--"

Suddenly he caught her hands.

"You told no one what you were going to say to me?"

"There was no one I could quite ask," she replied drearily.  "I thought
granny would be too old."

Teresa's name she did not mention.  Why not? he wondered guiltily.

"And so it is you who must tell me.  Have you forgotten what it is?"

"No, I haven't forgotten," he stammered, hot with shame.  "If I don't
love you as much as I should, Sylvia, I--I think we should get along all
right.  I'd do my best."

"Oh! of course you would."  She looked away.  "I suppose people can't
always help making those mistakes, can they?  How funny it is they
should!"

She sighed, trying to smile.

"And there is something else to ask you."

He felt as if another of these problems would drive him mad.

"What shall I call you now?" said Sylvia, staring at him.  "I suppose I
mustn't say Walter, and Mr Wilbraham sounds so odd!"

The pathos and the pettiness of it!  The little mind casting about for
props, and following so faithfully where those she had guided her!

"Sylvia," he blurted out, "I've been a brute--try me once more, dear.
I'll do better, I swear it."

She shook her head, smiling sadly.

"You see, I'm not clever like Teresa; but I am quite sure no two people
ought to marry unless they love each other very much.  I thought you
meant you did, and so I don't suppose I asked you questions enough.
Then we might have found out, of course; but I didn't.  We needn't say
any more about it, need we?"

"I'll rid you of my company to-morrow."

"Won't you come to Syracuse?  Oh, but you wanted to see something there,
didn't you?  It seems such a pity you should not see it!  If you come, I
shan't tease you, indeed.  Granny will be very glad to have me to walk
with her.  And if once or twice I do forget and call you Walter, I hope
you won't mind much?"

"My God, Sylvia," he cried, "you punish me!"

"Punish you!  Oh!" she exclaimed in distress--"but haven't I explained
rightly?  I thought we should all be just as we were before Assisi.  You
used to walk about with us then, don't you know, and I don't see why
this should make any difference."  She stood up.  "Shall we go back, or
did you want to go on farther?"

Go on!  He had a revulsion of feeling which swept remorse into the
background.  If she could say all this--if there was no more than a bare
surface an inch deep to be stirred, he need not scourge himself with
having troubled it for a few weeks.  She could suggest his remaining
with them, could bear to see him day by day, could ask at this moment
whether he would not like to walk farther!  This was not love.  To lose
this could cost nothing.  She was a little pale--that was all.

"I think we had better go back," he said in a cold voice.

As they clambered up the steep flowery path--Sylvia in her pretty pale
green frock, chosen carefully by Teresa, looking the very creature to be
moving through this flower-laden earth--he was already feeling a breezy
exultation, a sense of freedom, which sent the blood coursing joyfully.
And gradually, as this possessed him, other possibilities rushed into
his vision.  Surely Teresa would see for herself, would understand, that
he was not so much to blame?  She, if any one, must be aware of Sylvia's
shallowness, must recognise that a man could not be content to pass
through life with no other companion, would excuse, forgive--ah, if he
could but make her love him, how much would not she forgive?

And poor Sylvia--already forgotten, because she had not the power of
impressing her little individuality--stumbled in front, while he walked
on air behind.  She was so unhappy that now and then she could not see
the path for tears which blurred her eyes; but her only fear was lest
Wilbraham might find them out and blame himself.  There was something
heroic--or, if you will, true womanly--about the simple, unaffected
manner in which she had done what she had determined ought to be done.
She threw no thought at her own wrongs; cast no reproach at Wilbraham;
did not look forward or shudder at the picture of dull grey days, such
as have been known to drive women to despair; did not exaggerate her
sorrows.

And so, perhaps, even in hearing her story, there are few who will pity
her.

They had met no one, and had only noticed a few peasants working in the
fields; yet, as they again passed the cemetery gate, a man was walking
not far behind.  A labourer, gnawing a root of fennel, paused as he saw
him, and made a movement of his head.

"That way," he said significantly.

"I know," returned the man, without quickening his steps.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

Teresa was in her room--the room the sisters shared--when Sylvia came
in.  The girl's steps dragged with a suggestion of weariness, but she
was smiling, and gave Teresa no impression of anything serious or sad
having touched her life.

"Where is Nina?" she asked.

"Nina is going about singing mournfully--

"Venerdi e di di Marte Non si sposa, e non si parte.

"We shall break Nina's heart with all the bad luck we set to work to
bring down on our devoted heads.  To-morrow is Tuesday, and we travel."

"Must we?" said Sylvia uneasily.

"Oh, baby!"  She kissed her.  "Well, I'm glad you're at home.  I believe
there's a thunderstorm on the way.  Look at Etna."

Clouds--dark, splendid clouds--were rolling up behind the great
mountain.  The light seemed suddenly to die out of the room.

"I hope it won't come in the night," said the girl.  "Do you think it
will?  Of course, you don't know; but I do think one sees it more in the
dark."

Teresa's thoughts were not with the storm.  They tenderly wrapped
Sylvia, wondering how deep the pain would go.

"Darling, didn't granny say she wanted you?  Perhaps you'd better go to
her; and then, then, mind you come back to me.  To me," she repeated
tenderly.

"There'll be time before dinner," Sylvia objected without moving.

"She's waiting, dear."

"I'd rather talk to you, Teresa, please.  There's something I want to
say.  And it's all so funny!" she went on, breaking into a nervous
laugh.

The laugh reassured Teresa.  The first words had sent the blood back to
her heart.

"I'm listening," she said gaily.  "I hope it's very, very funny."

"Well, it is.  At least I suppose most people would think so.  Oh yes,
it's funny, of course.  Teresa, you will marry him, won't you?"

The marchesa turned a whitely-amazed face to her sister.

"I?  Marry!  Who--what?"

"Walter.  Oh, I shall be able to call him Walter then, of course," said
Sylvia, laughing again and nodding.  And suddenly the laugh frightened
Teresa.  She laid her two hands on the girl's shoulders and looked into
her eyes.

"Don't laugh, please, dear," she said gravely; "but tell me what you
have in your mind.  Has Walter said anything to you?"

"_I_ told him," Sylvia answered proudly.

"What?"

"That we ought not to marry unless we both loved each other.  You know,
Teresa, that is quite right; and you know, too, that he isn't fond of me
any more, so, of course, we couldn't.  He thought we could.  He thought
perhaps it would do if I was happy; but I was sure I ought to say no.
And so--" she drew a long breath--"I said it."

"Ah, my poor dear!" cried Teresa, pulling down the pretty head upon her
shoulder, and kissing her again.  For the moment she had forgotten
Sylvia's first question, and it was the girl herself who reminded her.

"So now you will marry him, won't you?"

Teresa had to keep check on herself, for she saw that Sylvia was in a
state of tremulous excitement, and that she must speak very quietly,
though inwardly fuming.

"What has put such a thing into your head--such an amazing thing?  What
could make you imagine that, under any possibility, I could marry Walter
Wilbraham?"

"Because he likes _you_," said Sylvia simply.

"Likes me?  Likes everybody, I suppose!"--scornfully.

"Not me.  If he did, of course we should be married.  Now it will be
much better that he should marry you."

Teresa felt sick with the difficulty of convincing, and the remembrance
of Wilbraham's look.  Sylvia's ideas came but rarely, but once come it
was next to impossible to dislodge them.  She lifted the girl's chin,
and looked steadily into her eyes while she spoke.

"Listen, dear," she said slowly.  "I want you to understand very
clearly.  You have made a great mistake.  He is nothing to me, nothing,
nothing--he never can be anything."

"He likes you," repeated Sylvia obstinately.

"Don't say such horrid things!"  Teresa cried more hotly.

"And I should like him to have what he wants.  I shall be so sorry if he
goes away to-morrow."

"Of course he must go."

"Why?"

"Sylvia, I could shake you!  Because if he is to be nothing to you,
nobody else wants him."

Sylvia stood staring out at the gathering clouds.

"Oh, but I want him," she said at last.

"Dear!  Why?  How can you?"

"Of course I want him to be happy.  When you are fond of any one--"

Teresa stared at her.  What could she say?  She saw that the girl was
over-strained--nervous; but this firm grasp of the one point she had
seized was not to be loosened.

"Ah, her love was worth something!" thought her sister, turning away
with a sigh.  She perceived that she must temporise.

"Dear, Mr Wilbraham--Walter--will do what he himself thinks best; we
can't possibly decide for him--"

"Please, ask him to stay," Sylvia interrupted without heeding.

"Ah, that I can't do."

The girl twisted her fingers.

"Then I must," she said.  "I'm afraid I shan't persuade him, because, of
course, I never can--but I must try.  It's all so funny, isn't it?"

"It's horribly sad," said Teresa to herself, "but certainly there will
be no fear of the man staying.  If it had been earlier in the day, he
might have packed himself off at once.  As it is, for a few hours, one
must make the best of him and of it, and be thankful,"--she
sighed--"that it has ended.  I never wish to see him again.  Oh, Sylvia,
my little Sylvia!  And I daresay he is persuading himself she doesn't
feel."

"I think I shall go and talk to Nina," said the girl.  Her eyes looked
bright, and a feverish spot burned in each cheek.

"Dear--stay here."

"Must I?"  The old wistful dependence upon Teresa had come back.  "I
think it's going to thunder, and that always frightens me.  Nina says
things which are nice."

"Lie down on your bed.  I'll hang up something over the window; Nina
shall come and sit with you, and you'll find yourself asleep before you
know where you are.  I'll come back before dinner."

"Nina is going to make me some _latte di gallina_ to-night," said
Sylvia, unresisting.

Teresa made her lie down, covered, coaxed, kissed her, then shrouded the
window, guiltless of shutters.  Nothing could be seen of Etna behind
heavy menacing clouds which swept stormily up, and drifted sullenly
along the purple slopes.  The sea was lashing its white wild waves,
which raced and plunged and flung themselves each on the other.  Sylvia
chattered about a hundred trifles--what Mary Maxwell had heard from
England; whether her hat could not go in with Teresa's; whether they had
really better start on a Tuesday.  If Teresa succeeded in stopping her,
she quickly began again.  Her sister decided at last that Nina might
manage better, and was going to seek her.  But when she reached the
door, there was a sharp sudden terrified cry from Sylvia.

"Teresa!  Don't go!  Don't leave me here by myself!"

She had started up.  Her sister instantly went back.

"I won't, dear, I won't.  I was only going to find Nina, because there
isn't the ghost of a bell in the house."

"Yes, I should like Nina," said the girl, settling down again.  Teresa
called from the door, and the little woman hurried in with her long
"Eh-h-h-h-h!" at sight of the darkened room.

"It is the storm," Teresa explained.

"Eh, the storm?  It will not come yet," said Nina, with the almost
unerring certainty by which an Italian peasant foretells the weather.
"The signorina may sleep, and I will be here, but the storm not yet.
_Ecco_!"

Sylvia seemed content.  Teresa flew to her grandmother's room, longing
to give vent to her pent-up indignation.  She felt herself in the most
hateful position in the world, and, woman-like, flung the whole weight
of blame on Wilbraham.  But Mrs Brodrick, whose eyes had long been
open, was juster.

"It was time it ended," she said.  "It has been a dreary mistake from
first to last, and every day would have made it worse."

"I suppose so.  And yet, and yet--"

"Yes?"

"If you had heard!  Not one of us could have taken it so well.  I don't
think she once remembered that it was hard on herself.  Oh, I shall
never forgive him!"

"Ah!"

"He had no right, no right!" cried Teresa hotly.

"Ah!"

"I--who have only tried to look at him with Sylvia's eyes, for Sylvia's
sake!"

"There you have it," said Mrs Brodrick, with a smile.  "The poor man
was bewildered between two sets of eyes.  I'm much more charitable, and
so I'm not surprised."

"You're very nearly as bad as he!" cried Teresa indignantly.  "And, oh,
what shall we do to stop Mary Maxwell's remarks!"

"Let her make them, I suppose; they will finish the sooner."

"There will be a great many to endure before they finish."

"Life is made up of such endurances," said her grandmother patiently.
"She can talk to me.  I am old and dull; but a figure-head will serve at
a stretch for a listener, and always has the advantage of not answering
back again."

"And after all," said Teresa hopefully, "her being with us is more
cheerful for Sylvia.  I think, poor dear, we shall be able to make her
happy again in a little while--when he is well out of the way, as he
will be soon."

Mrs Brodrick took up her knitting.

"Shall you speak to him?" she asked carelessly.

"If he wishes it.  Certainly."

Teresa had thrown her head back like a spirited horse as she spoke, and
at the same moment a knock came at the door.  The English gentleman
would be obliged if her excellency would give him a few words on the
terrace.

"Her excellency will," she returned, flinging a defiant look at her
grandmother, and resenting a shadow of doubt in her manner.  She went
out of the room quickly and silently, and Wilbraham, who was watching
the windows from the end of the terrace, threw away his cigar and came
to meet her.  She saw that he was very pale, and her own manner was hard
as she stood waiting for him to speak.

"I feel that I owe you an explanation," he began.

"I thought, on the contrary, that you might be asking for one from us,"
said Teresa at once coldly.  "Sylvia has broken her engagement, she
tells me."

He hesitated, and turned away his look.

"I should have tried to make her happy," he said, weighing his words.

"You have failed, however, so far."

"It seems so."  He had hesitated again.

"It is a pity," went on Teresa relentlessly, "that you had not
discovered the extent of your powers before attempting to apply them.
You might have been saved this--"

"Humiliation?"

"Humiliation."

She stood upright, a slim dark figure, her eyes judging him gravely and
coldly.  Behind her were the thunder-clouds of Etna.

"If humiliation were all, it would be nothing," he said, his breath
coming shortly.  Perhaps he hoped she would have questioned him further.
But her thoughts were with Sylvia.

"No," she said, "nothing."

"Of course,"--the words shot out from him in spite of himself--"you only
see one side.  I suppose I can't induce you to judge fairly?"

"I cannot see that my opinion is concerned.  The affair is my sister's.
She has decided for herself.  Absolutely independently," she added, with
the desire to drive home Sylvia's capability.

"But you approve?"

"I think she has acted for her own happiness," said Teresa guardedly.

He looked gloomily at her.

"Some day you may be kinder to me."

"Do you think so?"  Her tone was not pleasant.  "You will leave us
to-morrow, of course, and it is unlikely that we shall often meet
again."

He walked away a few steps and returned.

"I tell you we will!" he said in a sharp passionate voice, which stung
Teresa's anger like a lash.  She flung back her head and cried.

"I never wish to see you again."

"That may be."  His words breathed thickly.  "But I will see you."

A sudden dread of a scene swept over her, and forced self-control.

"Whether we meet or not is of no possible consequence," she said coolly.
"I do not think it would be pleasant, and I hope you will have left
Rome when we return.  Meanwhile you and Sylvia must get through this
evening as best you can.  You have misunderstood her hitherto, and I
suppose you will misunderstand her to the end."

She nodded and left him, not without thankfulness that he did not
follow.  It had been a sharp interview, charged with dangerous feeling,
which enraged her against him.  The _table d'hote_ hour was near, and
she went to her own room, hoping to find Sylvia sleeping.  As she opened
the door, however, she heard her chatter.

"Oh, Sylvia," she said reproachfully--"when I wanted you to rest!  And
you haven't even the excuse of a thunderstorm," she added, pulling down
her defence from the window, "for it has not come."

"But it is coming, eccellenza," said Nina, joining her and speaking in a
low voice.  "It is coming in less than three hours.  And there will be
enough of it.  It will keep people in the house to-night, that is one
good thing."

"Why?" laughed Teresa.

Nina's face expressed blank unconsciousness.

"Why?  Who knows!  We have a saying in my country, eccellenza, that
where the eye does not see, mischief will not reach.  A foolish saying,
eh-h-h-h-h!  But there are foolish ones everywhere, even at Viterbo."

"Get up and dress, Sylvia," said her sister cheerfully.  "And put on
your prettiest frock."

But Sylvia for once was determined to wear nothing but a black which she
generally hated.

"What does it matter?" reflected Teresa.  And yet she was wrong.

Two or three Austrians had arrived that afternoon, so that there was a
larger company than usual at the table, where great bunches of white and
purple irises were stuck at intervals.  The Maxwells came in late and
tired, having climbed to the castle at the back of Taormina.  Teresa was
glad that Mary was thinking more of her fatigue and her dinner than of
Sylvia's affairs, and that the talk contrived to be general.  It grew
early dark, for the sky was by this time heavy with cloud, and thunder
was muttering.  The little Hungarian doctor and his wife were smoking
cigarettes.  Maxwell and Wilbraham had got hold of an English newspaper;
Maxwell was confounding his own luck in not having his juniors' chances
over some of the little wars which England was waging, and Wilbraham
answering at long intervals.  Teresa took Mary Maxwell in hand, and
goaded herself into sympathy over an account of her woes with her
mother-in-law, hoping to leave Sylvia to talk or not as she liked.  She
found her work hard, for Mrs Maxwell was far too shrewd to put up with
a perfunctory attention, and Teresa's own mind was running through many
sensations.  She could not be sure how much Sylvia felt, how it would
affect her; whether the kind of light chatter, into which she heard her
break, acted as a relief or carried danger.  She was sure that Wilbraham
would construe it into the indifference of a trivial nature, and was
torn between her desire that he should hold Sylvia less lightly and
satisfaction that he could not believe himself mourned.  The idea that
it was she, she, whom ironical fate had chosen to interpose between
Sylvia's image and Wilbraham's heart, made her coldly, cruelly
contemptuous.  That he should dream!

"I shall go to bed," yawned Mrs Maxwell, "though I don't believe I
shall be able to sleep a wink.  Shall I take Jem away?  He is such a
blind old goose, he never sees that he is monopolising our lovers.  But
Sylvia is in high spirits to-night."

"Oh, don't disturb anybody," implored Teresa.  "The thunder is getting
nearer, and I shall have to sweep away Sylvia in ten seconds; she hates
it so!  I'll come up for a minute afterwards if I may speak to you."

"Haven't we been speaking?" laughed Mrs Maxwell, opening her eyes.
"But come, come, by all means."

Her movement brought about others.  Her husband went after her to fetch
some newly-acquired treasure, which he wanted to show to the Hungarians;
Wilbraham stood up, flung a hesitating glance on the group near the
table, and stepped out on the terrace.  Sylvia instantly and
unexpectedly followed him.  Teresa half rose, but Mrs Brodrick pulled
her back.

"Leave her," she said.  "It is her right.  What a flash!  What--"

They stared at each other.  Before the almost instantaneous answer of
the thunder rolled out, a sharp short report anticipated it.  The
Hungarian doctor sprang up and dashed through the window, Teresa only a
step behind him.

"My God!  Who is shot?" she heard him cry.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

Dazzled by the lightning glare, for a few instants Teresa could
distinguish nothing but a heap of blackness.  Then she saw Wilbraham
kneeling on the ground with Sylvia in his arms.

"Hold her--she's hurt!" he cried hoarsely.

As the doctor and Teresa raised her, he sprung to his feet and dashed
into the gaping darkness.

Teresa never could remember how the next few minutes passed.  The shot
must have startled others, for Nina, the padrone, Colonel Maxwell, all
came running.  Mrs Brodrick, too, was there.

"Take her through the window to her room," she said quietly.

"Come on then," said Colonel Maxwell, trying to speak cheerfully;
"somebody open the window on the other side, and we shall soon see
what's wrong.  Tell them, for Heaven's sake, not to make such a
confounded row," he added to the Hungarian, who knew a little English.

Teresa was voiceless, though all that was to be done she did with
absolute precision.  She helped to raise her, helped to lay her on the
bed, sent the others away, and stayed alone with the doctor and her
dead.

For Sylvia was dead.

The shot, which might have missed Wilbraham, had struck her full in the
heart.  Probably, in her black dress, undistinguishable in the darkness,
she had been altogether unseen.  There had not been time for a cry, a
quiver.  The life had gone out of her before she dropped.

The little Hungarian doctor, his rosy face strangely moved, raised
himself, and looked pitifully at Teresa, who held the candle.  She
stopped his faltering words, putting up her hand.

"I know," she said.  "I knew it from the first."

He wanted very much to comfort her.

"There could have been no pain, no consciousness--"

"Oh yes, there was pain enough--as much as she could bear!"  Teresa
cried, the words wrung from her by the torture of an almost unbearable
anguish.  "If only she had died yesterday!"

The doctor looked at her, and realised that here was something he could
not understand, and had better not question.

"You are overdone, Donna Teresa, and no wonder, after such a terrible
shock," he said quietly.  "And there is also your grandmother to be
considered.  Will you go to her room, and take what I will send you?  I
will inform the others, and see to the necessary details.  Indeed, you
should not remain here."

His mind ran professionally forward to all that had to be done: the
police, the strangers who would have to come and see for themselves.
For this was no quiet death-bed where the mourners might sit silent in
the hush of sorrow.  Already there was a clamour of weeping outside the
door--Peppina's the loudest--and Teresa's strange words made him afraid
for her brain, so that he pressed her again.

"Send in your own woman.  She has got her wits about her.  Afterwards, I
give you my word, you shall come back."

Teresa waved him aside with a quiet gesture full of strength.

"I shall not leave her," she said, "and you need have no fears for me.
There must be a great deal for you to do.  Please see to it, and let
Colonel Maxwell help you.  Will you go to my grandmother first, and ask
her to come to me in ten minutes?  She and Nina--no one else."

So she had ten minutes alone with her dead--ten minutes in which to
stand and gaze at the fair young face, unmarred by the withering finger
of illness, still round, still soft, still smiling, yet suddenly
invested with that great dignity which Death alone can give to those he
calls.  Never before had Sylvia looked inscrutable, mysterious, far
away, far above them all.  Teresa touched her, kissed her, strained her
in her arms.  She was not yet cold; her young limbs were still supple.
Teresa could have believed life was lingering but for that look--the
look of something more than life, something into which life had suddenly
sprung, something which came back across a gulf.  In one little moment,
Sylvia, ignorant Sylvia, had solved the great problem, and smiled at
them from beyond an immeasurable vastness.  Teresa stretched out her
arms--speechless--and grasped air.

A sound disturbed her, and she looked round.  There stood Wilbraham,
haggard, breathless, drenched to the skin, changed almost out of
recognition.  At the door Nina had tried to stop him, but he pushed her
aside.  The two eyed each other.

"Too--late?"

Teresa only just caught the whisper.

"It was momentary."  Her quiet amazed herself.

His eyes persistently held away from Sylvia.  He raised his hand to his
wet hair, fingering it impatiently.

"I did not catch him."

"Him?  Who?"

"The fellow who shot her--who shot at me."

"Who?"  Teresa frowned, trying to remember.  In the rush of the tragedy,
she had forgotten that some one was responsible for it.  "Oh," she cried
desperately, "what of that!"

She turned away again.  Against his will, Wilbraham's blood-shot eyes
followed hers to where Sylvia lay, serenely lifted above his level.

"God forgive me!" he groaned.

And before that supreme look of her dead, Teresa's anger dropped into
pity, and the saving tears rushed to her eyes.

"And she, too!--She does, she does!" she cried brokenly, stretching out
her hands.

He seized them.

"And you?"

"And I."

He had his forgiveness.  He would never have more.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The End.





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