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Title: Cosmopolis — Volume 2
Author: Bourget, Paul
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 "Cosmopolis — Volume 2" ***

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COSMOPOLIS

By PAUL BOURGET



BOOK 2.


CHAPTER IV

APPROACHING DANGER

"I could not act differently," repeated Dorsenne on the evening of that
eventful day.  He had given his entire afternoon to caring for Gorka.  He
made him lunch.  He made him lie down.  He watched him.  He took him in a
closed carriage to Portonaccio, the first stopping-place on the Florence
line.  Indeed, he made every effort not to leave alone for a moment the
man whose frenzy he had rather suspended than appeased, at the price,
alas, of his own peace of mind!  For, once left alone, in solitude and in
the apartments on the Place de la Trinite, where twenty details testified
to the visit of Gorka, the weight of the perjured word of honor became a
heavy load to the novelist, so much the more heavy when he discovered the
calculating plan followed by Boleslas.  His tardy penetration permitted
him to review the general outline of their conversation.  He perceived
that not one of his interlocutor's sentences, not even the most agitated,
had been uttered at random.  From reply to reply, from confidence to
confidence, he, Dorsenne, had become involved in the dilemma without
being able to foresee or to avoid it; he would either have had to accuse
a woman or to lie with one of those lies which a manly conscience does
not easily pardon.  He did not forgive himself for it.

"It is so much worse," said he to himself, "as it will prevent nothing.
A person vile enough to pen anonymous letters will not stop there.  She
will find the means of again unchaining the madman....  But who wrote
those letters?  Gorka may have forged them in order to have an
opportunity to ask me the question he did....  And yet, no....  There are
two indisputable facts--his state of jealousy and his extraordinary
return.  Both would lead one to suppose a third, a warning.  But given by
whom?....  He told me of twelve anonymous letters....  Let us assume that
he received one or two....  But who is the author of those?"

The immediate development of the drama in which Julien found himself
involved was embodied in the answer to the question.  It was not easy to
formulate.  The Italians have a proverb of singular depth which the
novelist recalled at that moment.  He had laughed a great deal when he
heard sententious Egiste Brancadori repeat it.  He repeated it to
himself, and he understood its meaning.  'Chi non sa fingersi amico, non
sa essere nemico.  "He who does not know how to disguise himself as a
friend, does not know how to be an enemy."  In the little corner of
society in which Countess Steno, the Gorkas and Lincoln Maitland moved,
who was hypocritical and spiteful enough to practise that counsel?

"It is not Madame Steno," thought Julien; "she has related all herself to
her lover.  I knew a similar case.  But it involved degraded Parisians,
not a Dogesse of the sixteenth century found intact in the Venice of
today, like a flower of that period preserved.  Let us strike her off.
Let us strike off, too, Madame Gorka, the truthful creature who could not
even condescend to the smallest lie for a trinket which she desires.  It
is that which renders her so easily deceived.  What irony!....  Let us
strike off Florent.  He would allow himself to be killed, if necessary,
like a Mameluke at the door of the room where his genial brother-in-law
was dallying with the Countess....  Let us strike off the American
himself.  I have met such a case, a lover weary of a mistress, denouncing
himself to her in order to be freed from his love-affair.  But he was a
roue, and had nothing in common with this booby, who has a talent for
painting as an elephant has a trunk--what irony!  He married this
octoroon to have money.  But it was a base act which freed him from
commerce, and permitted him to paint all he wanted, as he wanted.
He allows Steno to love him because she is diabolically pretty,
notwithstanding her forty years, and then she is, in spite of all, a real
noblewoman, which flattered him.  He has not one dollar's-worth of moral
delicacy in his heart.  But he has an abundance of knavery....  Let us,
too, strike out his wife.  She is such a veritable slave whom the mere
presence of a white person annihilates to such a degree that she dares
not look her husband in the face....  It is not Hafner.  The sly fox is
capable of doing anything by cunning, but is he capable of undertaking a
useless and dangerous piece of rascality?  Never....  Fanny is a saint
escaped from the Golden Legend, no matter what Montfanon thinks!  I have
now reviewed the entire coterie....  I was about to forget Alba....  It
is too absurd even to think of her....  Too absurd?  Why?"

Dorsenne was, on formulating that fantastic thought, upon the point of
retiring.  He took up, as was his habit, one of the books on his table,
in order to read a few pages, when once in bed.  He had thus within his
reach the works by which he strengthened his doctrine of intransitive
intellectuality; they were Goethe's Memoirs; a volume of George Sand's
correspondence, in which were the letters to Flaubert; the 'Discours de
la Methode' by Descartes, and the essay by Burckhart on the Renaissance.

But, after turning over the leaves of one of those volumes, he closed it
without having read twenty lines.  He extinguished his lamp, but he could
not sleep.  The strange suspicion which crossed his mind had something
monstrous about it, applied thus to a young girl.  What a suspicion and
what a young girl!  The preferred friend of his entire winter, she on
whose account he had prolonged his stay in Rome, for she was the most
graceful vision of delicacy and of melancholy in the framework of a
tragical and solemn past.  Any other than Dorsenne would not have
admitted such an idea without being inspired with horror.  But Dorsenne,
on the contrary, suddenly began to dive into that sinister hypothesis, to
help it forward, to justify it.  No one more than he suffered from a
moral deformity which the abuse of a certain literary work inflicts on
some writers.  They are so much accustomed to combining artificial
characters with creations of their imaginations that they constantly
fulfil an analogous need with regard to the individuals they know best.
They have some friend who is dear to them, whom they see almost daily,
who hides nothing from them and from whom they hide nothing.  But if they
speak to you of him you are surprised to find that, while continuing to
love that friend, they trace to you in him two contradictory portraits
with the same sincerity and the same probability.

They have a mistress, and that woman, even in the space sometimes of one
day, sees them, with fear, change toward her, who has remained the same.
It is that they have developed in them to a very intense degree the
imagination of the human soul, and that to observe is to them only a
pretext to construe.  That infirmity had governed Julien from early
maturity.  It was rarely manifested in a manner more unexpected than in
the case of charming Alba Steno, who was possibly dreaming of him at the
very moment when, in the silence of the night, he was forcing himself to
prove that she was capable of that species of epistolary parricide.

"After all," he said to himself, for there is iconoclasm in the
excessively intellectual, and they delight in destroying their dearest
moral or sentimental idols, the better to prove their strength, "after
all, have I really understood her relations toward her mother?  When I
came to Rome in November, when I was to be presented to the Countess,
what did not only one, but nine or ten persons tell me?  That Madame
Steno had a liaison with the husband of her daughter's best friend, and
that the little one was grieving about it.  I went to the house.  I saw
the child.  She was sad that evening.  I had the curiosity to wish to
read her heart....  It is six months since then.  We have met almost
daily, often twice a day.  She is so hermetically sealed that I am no
farther advanced than I was on the first day.  I have seen her glance at
her mother as she did this morning, with loving, admiring eyes.  I have
seen her turn pale at a word, a gesture, on her part.  I have seen her
embrace Maud Gorka, and play tennis with that same friend so gayly, so
innocently.  I have seen that she could not bear the presence of Maitland
in a room, and yet she asked the American to take her portrait....
Is she guileless?.... Is she a hypocrite?  Or is she tormented by doubt-
divining, not divining-believing, not believing in-her mother?  Is she
underhand in any case, with her eyes the color of the sea?  Has she the
ambiguous mind at once of a Russian and an Italian?....  This would be a
solution of the problem, that she was a girl of extraordinary inward
energy, who, both aware of her mother's intrigues and detesting them with
an equal hatred, had planned to precipitate the two men upon each other.
For a young girl the undertaking is great.  I will go to the Countess's
to-morrow night, and I will amuse myself by watching Alba, to see.  .  .
If she is innocent, my deed will be inoffensive.  If perchance she is
not?"

It is vain to profess to one's own heart a complaisant dandyism of
misanthropy.  Such reflections leave behind them a tinge of a remorse,
above all when they are, as these, absolutely whimsical and founded on a
simple paradox of dilettantism.  Dorsenne experienced a feeling of shame
when he awoke the following morning, and, thinking of the mystery of the
letters received by Gorka, he recalled the criminal romance he had
constructed around the charming and tender form of his little friend;
happily for his nerves, which were strained by the consideration of the
formidable problem.  If it is not some one in the Countess's circle, who
has written those letters?  He received, on rising, a voluminous package
of proofs with the inscription: "Urgent."  He was preparing to give to
the public a collection of his first articles, under the title of
'Poussiere d'Idees.'

Dorsenne was a faithful literary worker.  Usually, involved titles serve
to hide in a book-stall shop--made goods, and romance writers or dramatic
authors who pride themselves on living to write, and who seek inspiration
elsewhere than in regularity of habits and the work-table, have their
efforts marked from the first by sterility.  Obscure or famous, rich or
poor, an artist must be an artisan and practise these fruitful virtues--
patient application, conscientious technicality, absorption in work.
When he seated himself at his table Dorsenne was heart and soul in his
business.  He closed his door, he opened no letters nor telegrams, and he
spent ten hours without taking anything but two eggs and some black
coffee, as he did on this particular day, when looking over the essays of
his twenty-fifth year with the talent of his thirty-fifth, retouching
here a word, rewriting an entire page, dissatisfied here, smiling there
at his thought.  The pen flew, carrying with it all the sensibility of
the intellectual man who had completely forgotten Madame Steno, Gorka,
Maitland, and the calumniated Contessina, until he should awake from his
lucid intoxication at nightfall.  As he counted, in arranging the slips,
the number of articles prepared, he found there were twelve.

"Like Gorka's letters," said he aloud, with a laugh.  He now felt
coursing through his veins the lightness which all writers of his kind
feel when they have labored on a work they believe good.  "I have earned
my evening," he added, still in a loud voice.  "I must now dress and go
to Madame Steno's.  A good dinner at the doctor's.  A half-hour's walk.
The night promises to be divine.  I shall find out if they have news of
the Palatine,"--the name he gave Gorka in his moments of gayety.
"I shall talk in a loud voice of anonymous letters.  If the author of
those received by Boleslas is there, I shall be in the best position to
discover him; provided that it is not Alba....  Decidedly--that would be
sad!"

It was ten o'clock in the evening, when the young man, faithful to his
programme, arrived at the door of the large house on the Rue du Vingt
Septembre occupied by Madame Steno.  It was an immense modern structure,
divided into two distinct parts; to the left a revenue building and to
the right a house on the order of those which are to be seen on the
borders of Park Monceau.  The Villa Steno, as the inscription in gold
upon the black marble door indicated, told the entire story of the
Countess's fortune--that fortune appraised by rumor, with its habitual
exaggeration, now at twenty, now at thirty, millions.  She had in reality
two hundred and fifty thousand francs' income.  But as, in 1873, Count
Michel Steno, her husband, died, leaving only debts, a partly ruined
palace at Venice and much property heavily mortgaged, the amount of that
income proved the truth of the title, "superior woman," applied by her
friends to Alba's mother.  Her friends likewise added: "She has been the
mistress of Hafner, who has aided her with his financial advice," an
atrocious slander which was so much the more false as it was before ever
knowing the Baron that she had begun to amass her wealth.  This is how
she managed it:

At the close of 1873, when, as a young widow, living in retirement in the
sumptuous and ruined dwelling on the Grand Canal, she was struggling with
her creditors, one of the largest bankers in Rome came to propose to her
a very advantageous scheme.  It dealt with a large piece of land which
belonged to the Steno estate, a piece of land in Rome, in one of the
suburbs, between the Porta Salara and the Porta Pia, a sort of village
which the deceased Cardinal Steno, Count Michel's uncle, had begun to lay
out.  After his demise, the land had been rented in lots to kitchen-
gardeners, and it was estimated that it was worth about forty centimes a
square metre.  The financier offered four francs for it, under the
pretext of establishing a factory on the site.  It was a large sum of
money.  The Countess required twenty-four hours in which to consider,
and, at the end of that time, she refused the offer, which won for her
the admiration of the men of business who knew of the refusal.  In 1882,
less than ten years later, she sold the same land for ninety francs a
metre.  She saw, on glancing at a plan of Rome, and in recalling the
history of modern Italy, first, that the new masters of the Eternal City
would centre all their ambition in rebuilding it, then that the portion
comprised between the Quirinal and the two gates of Salara and Pia would
be one of the principal points of development; finally, that if she
waited she would obtain a much greater sum than the first offer.  And she
had waited, applying herself to watching the administration of her
possessions like the severest of intendants, depriving herself, stopping
up gaps with unhoped-for profits.  In 1875, she sold to the National
Gallery a suite of four panels by Carpaccio, found in one of her country
houses, for one hundred and twenty thousand francs.  She had been as
active and practical in her material life as she had been light and
audacious in her sentimental experiences.  The story circulated of her
infidelity to Steno with Werekiew at St. Petersburg, where the
diplomatist was stationed, after one year of marriage, was confirmed by
the wantonness of her conduct, of which she gave evidence as soon as
free.

At Rome, where she lived a portion of the year after the sale of her
land, out of which she retained enough to build the double house, she
continued to increase her fortune with the same intelligence.  A very
advantageous investment in Acqua Marcia enabled her to double in five
years the enormous profits of her first operation.  And what proved still
more the exceptional good sense with which the woman was endowed, when
love was not in the balance, she stopped on those two gains, just at the
time when the Roman aristocracy, possessed by the delirium of
speculation, had begun to buy stocks which had reached their highest
value.

To spend the evening at the Villa Steno, after spending all the morning
of the day before at the Palais Castagna, was to realize one of those
paradoxes of contradictory sensations such as Dorsenne loved, for poor
Ardea had been ruined in having attempted to do a few years later that
which Countess Catherine had done at the proper moment.  He, too, had
hoped for an increase in the value of property.  Only he had bought the
land at seventy francs a metre, and in '90 it was not worth more than
twenty-five.  He, too, had calculated that Rome would improve, and on the
high-priced land he had begun to build entire streets, imagining he could
become like the Dukes of Bedford and of Westminster in London, the owner
of whole districts.  His houses finished, they did not rent, however.
To complete the rest he had to borrow.  He speculated in order to pay his
debts, lost, and contracted more debts in order to pay the difference.
His signature, as the proprietor of the Marzocco had said, was put to
innumerable bills of exchange.  The result was that on all the walls of
Rome, including that of the Rue Vingt Septembre on which was the Villa
Steno, were posted multi-colored placards announcing the sale, under the
management of Cavalier Fossati, of the collection of art and of furniture
of the Palais Castagna.

"To foresee is to possess power," said Dorsenne to himself, ringing at
Madame Steno's door and summing up thus the invincible association of
ideas which recalled to him the palace of the ruined Roman Prince at the
door of the villa of the triumphant Venetian: "It is the real Alpha and
Omega."

The comparison between the lot of Madame Steno and that of the heir of
the Castagnas had almost caused the writer to forget his plan of inquiry
as to the author of the anonymous letters.  It was to be impressed upon
him, however, when he entered the hall where the Countess received every
evening.  Ardea himself was there, the centre of a group composed of Alba
Steno, Madame Maitland, Fanny Hafner and the wealthy Baron, who, standing
aloof and erect, leaning against a console, seemed like a beneficent and
venerable man in the act of blessing youth.  Julien was not surprised on
finding so few persons in the vast salon, any more than he was surprised
at the aspect of the room filled with old tapestry, bric-a-brac,
furniture, flowers, and divans with innumerable cushions.

He had had the entire winter in which to observe the interior of that
house, similar to hundreds of others in Vienna, Madrid, Florence, Berlin,
anywhere, indeed, where the mistress of the house applies herself to
realizing an ideal of Parisian luxury.  He had amused himself many an
evening in separating from the almost international framework local
features, those which distinguished the room from others of the same
kind.  No human being succeeds in being absolutely factitious in his home
or in his writings.  The author had thus noted that the salon bore a
date, that of the Countess's last journey to Paris in 1880.  It was to be
seen in the plush and silk of the curtains.  The general coloring, in
which green predominated, a liberty egotistical in so brilliant a blonde,
had too warm a tone and betrayed the Italian.  Italy was also to be found
in the painted ceiling and in the frieze which ran all around, as well as
in several paintings scattered about.  There were two panels by Moretti
de Brescia in the second style of the master, called his silvery manner,
on account of the delicate and transparent fluidity of the coloring;
a 'Souper chez le Pharisien' and a 'Jesus ressuscite sur le rivage',
which could only have come from one of the very old palaces of a very
ancient family.  Dorsenne knew all that, and he knew, too, for what
reasons he found almost empty at that time of the year the hall so
animated during the entire winter, the hall through which he had seen
pass a veritable carnival of visitors: great lords, artists, political
men, Russians and Austrians, English and French--pellmell.  The Countess
was far from occupying in Rome the social position which her
intelligence, her fortune and her name should have assured her.  For,
having been born a Navagero, she combined on her escutcheon the cross of
gold of the Sebastien Navagero who was the first to mount the walls of
Lepante, with the star of the grand Doge Michel.

But one particular trait of character had always prevented her from
succeeding on that point.  She could not bear ennui nor constraint, nor
had she any vanity.  She was positive and impassioned, in the manner of
the men of wealth to whom their meditated--upon combinations serve to
assure the conditions of their pleasures.  Never had Madame Steno
displayed diplomacy in the changes of her passions, and they had been
numerous before the arrival of Gorka, to whom she had remained faithful
two years, an almost incomprehensible thing!  Never had she, save in her
own home, observed the slightest bounds when there was a question of
reaching the object of her desire.  Moreover, she had not in Rome to
support her any member of the family to which she belonged, and she had
not joined either of the two sets into which, since 1870, the society of
the city was divided.  Of too modern a mind and of a manner too bold, she
had not been received by the admirable woman who reigns at the Quirinal,
and who had managed to gather around her an atmosphere of such noble
elevation.

These causes would have brought about a sort of semi-ostracism, had the
Countess not applied herself to forming a salon of her own, the recruits
for which were almost altogether foreigners.  The sight of new faces, the
variety of conversation, the freedom of manner, all in that moving world,
pleased the thirst for diversion which, in that puissant, spontaneous,
and almost manly immoral nature, was joined with very just clear-
sightedness.  If Julien paused for a moment surprised at the door of the
hall, it was not, therefore, on finding it empty at the end of the
season; it was on beholding there, among the inmates, Peppino Ardea, whom
he had not met all winter.  Truly, it was a strange time to appear in new
scenes when the hammer of the appraiser was already raised above all
which had been the pride and the splendor of his name.  But the grand-
nephew of Urban VII, seated between sublime Fanny Hafner, in pale blue,
and pretty Alba Steno, in bright red, opposite Madame Maitland, so
graceful in her mauve toilette, had in no manner the air of a man crushed
by adversity.

The subdued light revealed his proud manly face, which had lost none of
its gay hauteur.  His eyes, very black, very brilliant, and very
unsteady, seemed almost in the same glance to scorn and to smile, while
his mouth, beneath its brown moustache, wore an expression of disdain,
disgust, and sensuality.  The shaven chin displayed a bluish shade, which
gave to the whole face a look of strength, belied by the slender and
nervous form.  The heir of the Castagnas was dressed with an affectation
of the English style, peculiar to certain Italians.  He wore too many
rings on his fingers, too large a bouquet in his buttonhole, and above
all he made too many gestures to allow for a moment, with his dark
complexion, of any doubt as to his nationality.  It was he who, of all
the group, first perceived Julien, and he said to him, or rather called
out familiarly:

"Ah, Dorsenne!  I thought you had gone away.  We have not seen you at the
club for fifteen days."

"He has been working," replied Hafner, "at some new masterpiece, at a
romance which is laid in Roman society, I am sure.  Mistrust him, Prince,
and you, ladies, disarm the portrayer."

"I," resumed Ardea, laughing pleasantly, "will give him notes upon
myself, if he wants them, as long as this, and I will illustrate his
romance into the bargain with photographs which I once had a rage for
taking....  See, Mademoiselle," he added, turning to Fanny, "that is how
one ruins one's self.  I had a mania for the instantaneous ones.  It was
very innocent, was it not?  It cost me thirty thousand francs a year, for
four years."

Dorsenne had heard that it was a watchword between Peppino Ardea and his
friends to take lightly the disaster which came upon the Castagna family
in its last and only scion.  He was not expecting such a greeting.  He
was so disconcerted by it that he neglected to reply to the Baron's
remark, as he would have done at any other time.  Never did the founder
of the 'Credit Austyr-Dalmate' fail to manifest in some such way his
profound aversion for the novelist.  Men of his species, profoundly
cynical and calculating, fear and scorn at the same time a certain
literature.  Moreover, he had too much tact not to be aware of the
instinctive repulsion with which he inspired Julien.  But to Hafner, all
social strength was tariffed, and literary success as much as any other.
As he was afraid, as on the staircase of the Palais Castagna, that he had
gone too far, he added, laying his hand with its long, supple fingers
familiarly upon the author's shoulder:

"This is what I admire in him: It is that he allows profane persons,
such as we are, to plague him, without ever growing angry.  He is the
only celebrated author who is so simple....  But he is better than an
author; he is a veritable man-of-the-world."

"Is not the Countess here?"  asked Dorsenne, addressing Alba Steno,
and without replying any more to the action, so involuntarily insulting,
of the Baron than he had to his sly malice or to the Prince's facetious
offer.  Madame Steno's absence had again inspired him with an
apprehension which the young girl dissipated by replying:

"My mother is on the terrace....  We were afraid it was too cool for
Fanny."....  It was a very simple phrase, which the Contessina uttered
very simply, as she fanned herself with a large fan of white feathers.
Each wave of it stirred the meshes of her fair hair, which she wore
curled upon her rather high forehead.  Julien understood her too well not
to perceive that her voice, her gestures, her eyes, her entire being,
betrayed a nervousness at that moment almost upon the verge of sadness.

Was she still reserved from the day before, or was she a prey to one of
those inexplicable transactions, which had led Dorsenne in his
meditations of the night to such strange suspicions?  Those suspicions
returned to him with the feeling that, of all the persons present, Alba
was the only one who seemed to be aware of the drama which undoubtedly
was brewing.  He resolved to seek once more for the solution of the
living enigma which that singular girl was.  How lovely she appeared to
him that evening with, those two expressions which gave her an almost
tragical look!  The corners of her mouth drooped somewhat; her upper lip,
almost too short, disclosed her teeth, and in the lower part of her pale
face was a bitterness so prematurely sad!  Why?  It was not the time to
ask the question.  First of all, it was necessary for the young man to go
in search of Madame Steno on the terrace, which terminated in a paradise
of Italian voluptuousness, the salon furnished in imitation of Paris.
Shrubs blossomed in large terra-cotta vases.  Statuettes were to be seen
on the balustrade, and, beyond, the pines of the Villa Bonaparte outlined
their black umbrellas against a sky of blue velvet, strewn with large
stars.  A vague aroma of acacias, from a garden near by, floated in the
air, which was light, caressing, and warm.  The soft atmosphere sufficed
to convict of falsehood the Contessina, who had evidently wished to
justify the tete-a-tete of her mother and of Maitland.  The two lovers
were indeed together in the perfume, the mystery and the solitude of the
obscure and quiet terrace.

It took Dorsenne, who came from the bright glare of the salon, a moment
to distinguish in the darkness the features of the Countess who, dressed
all in white, was lying upon a willow couch with soft cushions of silk.
She was smoking a cigarette, the lighted end of which, at each breath she
drew, gave sufficient light to show that, notwithstanding the coolness of
the night, her lovely neck, so long and flexible, about which was clasped
a collar of pearls, was bare, as well as her fair shoulders and her
perfect arms, laden with bracelets, which were visible through her wide,
flowing sleeves.  On advancing, Julien recognized, through the vegetable
odors of that spring night, the strong scent of the Virginian tobacco
which Madame Steno had used since she had fallen in love with Maitland,
instead of the Russian "papyrus" to which Gorka had accustomed her.
It is by such insignificant traits that amorous women recognize a love
profoundly, insatiably sensual, the only one of which the Venetian was
capable.  Their passionate desire to give themselves up still more leads
them to espouse, so to speak, the slightest habits of the men whom they
love in that way.  Thus are explained those metamorphoses of tastes, of
thoughts, even of appearance, so complete, that in six months, in three
months of separation they become like different people.  By the side of
that graceful and supple vision, Lincoln Maitland was seated on a low
chair.  But his broad shoulders, which his evening coat set off in their
amplitude, attested that before having studied "Art"--and even while
studying it--he had not ceased to practise the athletic sports of his
English education.  As soon as he was mentioned, the term "large" was
evoked.  Indeed, above the large frame was a large face, somewhat red,
with a large, red moustache, which disclosed, in broad smiles, his large,
strong teeth.

Large rings glistened on his large fingers.  He presented a type exactly
opposite to that of Boleslas Gorka.  If the grandson of the Polish
Castellan recalled the dangerous finesse of a feline, of a slender and
beautiful panther, Maitland could be compared to one of those mastiffs in
the legends, with a jaw and muscles strong enough to strangle lions.  The
painter in him was only in the eye and in the hand, in consequence of a
gift as physical as the voice to a tenor.  But that instinct, almost
abnormal, had been developed, cultivated to excess, by the energy of will
in refinement, a trait so marked in the Anglo-Saxons of the New World
when they like Europe, instead of detesting it.  For the time being, the
longing for refinement seemed reduced to the passionate inhalations of
that divine, fair rose of love which was Madame Steno, a rose almost too
full-blown, and which the autumn of forty years had begun to fade.  But
she was still charming.  And how little Maitland heeded the fact that his
wife was in the room near by, the windows of which cast forth a light
which caused to stand out more prominently the shadow of the voluptuous
terrace!  He held his mistress's hand within his own, but abandoned it
when he perceived Dorsenne, who took particular pains to move a chair
noisily on approaching the couple, and to say, in a loud voice, with a
merry laugh:

"I should have made a poor gallant abbe of the last century, for at night
I can really see nothing.  If your cigarette had not served me as a
beacon-light I should have run against the balustrade."

"Ah, it is you, Dorsenne," replied Madame Steno, with a sharpness
contrary to her habitual amiability, which proved to the novelist that
first of all he was the "inconvenient third" of the classical comedies,
then that Hafner had reported his imprudent remarks of the day before.

"So much the better," thought he, "I shall have forewarned her.  On
reflection she will be pleased.  It is true that at this moment there is
no question of reflection."  As he said those words to himself, he talked
aloud of the temperature of the day, of the probabilities of the weather
for the morrow, of Ardea's good-humor.  He made, indeed, twenty trifling
remarks, in order to manage to leave the terrace and to leave the lovers
to their tete-a-tete, without causing his withdrawal to become noticeable
by indiscreet haste, as disagreeable as suggestive.

"When may we come to your atelier to see the portrait finished,
Maitland?"  he asked, still standing, in order the better to manage his
retreat.

"Finished?"  exclaimed the Countess, who added, employing a diminutive
which she had used for several weeks: "Do you then not know that Linco
has again effaced the head?"

"Not the entire head," said the painter, "but the face is to be done
over.  You remember, Dorsenne, those two canvases by Pier delta
Francesca, which are at Florence, Duc Federigo d'Urbino and his wife
Battista Sforza.  Did you not see them in the same room with La Calomnie
by Botticelli, with a landscape in the background?  It is drawn like
this," and he made a gesture with his thumb, "and that is what I am
trying to obtain, the necessary curve on which all faces depend.  There
is no better painter in Italy."

"And Titian and Raphael?"  interrupted Madame Steno.

"And the Sienese and the Lorenzetti, of whom you once raved?  You wrote
to me of them, with regard to my article on your exposition of 'eighty-
six; do you remember?"  inquired the writer.

"Raphael?"  replied Maitland....  "Do you wish me to tell you what
Raphael really was?  A sublime builder.  And Titian?  A sublime
upholsterer.  It is true, I admired the Sienese very much," he added,
turning toward Dorsenne.  "I spent three months in copying the Simone
Martini of the municipality, the Guido Riccio, who rides between two
strongholds on a gray heath, where there is not a sign of a tree or a
house, but only lances and towers.  Do I remember Lorenzetti?  Above all,
the fresco at San Francesco, in which Saint Francois presents his order
to the Pope, that was his best work....  Then, there is a cardinal, with
his fingers on his lips, thus!" another gesture.  "Well, I remember it,
you see, because there is an anecdote.  It is portrayed on a wall--oh,
a grand portrayal, but without the subject, flutt!"....  and he made a
hissing sound with his lips, "while Pier della Francesca, Carnevale,
Melozzo,"....  he paused to find a word which would express the very
complicated thought in his head, and he concluded: "That is painting."

"But the Assumption by Titian, and the Transfiguration by Raphael,"
resumed the Countess, who added in Italian, with an accent of enthusiasm:
"Ah, the bellezza!"

"Do not worry, Countess," said Dorsenne, laughing heartily, "those are an
artist's opinions.  Ten years ago, I said that Victor Hugo was an amateur
and Alfred de Musset a bourgeois.  But," he added, "as I am not descended
from the Doges nor the Pilgrim Fathers, I, a poor, degenerate Gallo-
Roman, fear the dampness on account of my rheumatism, and ask your
permission to reenter the house."  Then, as he passed through the door of
the salon: "Raphael, a builder!  Titian, an upholsterer!  Lorenzetti, a
reproducer!"  he repeated to himself.  "And the descendant of the Doges,
who listened seriously to those speeches, her ideal should be a madonna
en chromo!  Of the first order!  As for Gorka, if he had not made me lose
my entire day yesterday, I should think I had been dreaming, so little is
there any question of him....  And Ardea, who continues to laugh at his
ruin.  He is not bad for an Italian.  But he talks too much about his
affairs, and it is in bad taste!"....  Indeed, as he turned toward the
group assembled in a corner of the salon, he heard the Prince relating a
story about Cavalier Fossati, to whom was entrusted the charge of the
sale:

"How much do you think will be realized on all?"  I asked him, finally.
"Oh," he replied, "very little....  But a little and a little more end by
making a great deal.  With what an air he added: 'E gia il moschino e
conte'--Already the gnat is a count.'  The gnat was himself.  'A few more
sales like yours, my Prince, and my son, the Count of Fossati, will have
half a million.  He will enter the club and address you with the familiar
'thou' when playing 'goffo' against you.  That is what there is in this
gia (already)....  On my honor, I have not been happier than since I
have, not a sou."

"You are an optimist, Prince," said Hafner, "and whatsoever our friend
Dorsenne here present may claim, it is necessary to be optimistic."

"You are attacking him again, father," interrupted Fanny, in a tone of
respectful reproach.

"Not the man," returned the Baron, "but his ideas--yes, and above all
those of his school....  Yes, yes," he continued, either wishing to
change the conversation, which Ardea persisted in turning upon his ruin,
or finding very well organized a world in which strokes like that of the
Credit Austro-Dalmate are possible, he really felt a deep aversion to the
melancholy and pessimism with which Julien's works were tinged.  And he
continued: "On listening to you, Ardea, just now, and on seeing this
great writer enter, I am reminded by contrast of the fashion now in vogue
of seeing life in a gloomy light."

"Do you find it very gay?"  asked Alba, brusquely.

"Good," said Hafner; "I was sure that, in talking against pessimism,
I should make the Contessina talk....  Very gay?"  he continued.  "No.
But when I think of the misfortunes which might have come to all of us
here, for instance, I find it very tolerable.  Better than living in
another epoch, for example.  One hundred and fifty years ago, Contessina,
in Venice, you would have been liable to arrest any day under a warrant
of the Council of Ten....  And you, Dorsenne, would have been exposed to
the cudgel like Monsieur de Voltaire, by some jealous lord....  And
Prince d'Ardea would have run the risk of being assassinated or beheaded
at each change of Pope.  And I, in my quality of Protestant, should have
been driven from France, persecuted in Austria, molested in Italy, burned
in Spain."

As can be seen, he took care to choose between his two inheritances.  He
had done so with an enigmatical good-nature which was almost ironical.
He paused, in order not to mention what might have come to Madame
Maitland before the suppression of slavery.  He knew that the very pretty
and elegant young lady shared the prejudices of her American compatriots
against negro blood, and that she made every effort to hide the blemish
upon her birth to the point of never removing her gloves.  It may,
however, in justice be added, that the slightly olive tinge in her
complexion, her wavy hair, and a vague bluish reflection in the whites of
her eyes would scarcely have betrayed the mixture of race.  She did not
seem to have heeded the Baron's pause, but she arranged, with an absent
air, the folds of her mauve gown, while Dorsenne replied: "It is a fine
and specious argument....  Its only fault is that it has no foundation.
For I defy you to imagine yourself what you would have been in the epoch
of which you speak.  We say frequently, 'If I had lived a hundred years
ago.'  We forget that a hundred years ago we should not have been the
same; that we should not have had the same ideas, the same tastes, nor
the same requirements.  It is almost the same as imagining that you could
think like a bird or a serpent."

"One could very well imagine what it would be never to have been born,"
interrupted.  Alba Steno.

She uttered the sentence in so peculiar a manner that the discussion
begun by Hafner was nipped in the bud.

The words produced their effect upon the chatter of the idlers who only
partly believed in the ideas they put forth.  Although there is always a
paradox in condemning life amid a scene of luxury when one is not more
than twenty, the Contessina was evidently sincere.  Whence came that
sincerity?  From what corner of her youthful heart, wounded almost to
death?  Dorsenne was the only person who asked himself the question, for
the conversation turned at once, Lydia Maitland having touched with her
fan the sleeve of Alba, who was two seats from her, to ask her this
question with an irony as charming, after the young girl's words, as it
was involuntary:

"It is silk muslin, is it not?"

"Yes," replied the Contessina, who rose and leaned over, to offer to the
curious gaze of her pretty neighbor her arm, which gleamed frail,
nervous, and softly fair through the transparent red material, with a bow
of ribbon of the same color tied at her slender shoulder and her graceful
wrist, while Ardea, by the side of Fanny, could be heard saying to the
daughter of Baron Justus, more beautiful than ever that evening, in her
pallor slightly tinged with pink by some secret agitation:

"You visited my palace yesterday, Mademoiselle?"

"No," she replied.

"Ask her why not, Prince," said Hafner.

"Father!"  cried Fanny, with a supplication in her black eyes which Ardea
had the delicacy to obey, as he resumed:

"It is a pity.  Everything there is very ordinary.  But you would have
been interested in the chapel.  Indeed, I regret that the most, those
objects before which my ancestors have prayed so long and which end by
being listed in a catalogue....  They even took the reliquary from me,
because it was by Ugolina da Siena.  I will buy it back as soon as I can.
Your father applauds my courage.  I could not part from those objects
without real sorrow."

"But it is the feeling she has for the entire palace," said the Baron.

"Father!"  again implored Fanny.

"Come, compose yourself, I will not betray you," said Hafner, while Alba,
taking advantage of having risen, left the group.  She walked toward a
table at the other extremity of the room, set in the style of an English
table, with tea and iced drinks, saying to Julien, who followed her:

"Shall I prepare your brandy and soda, Dorsenne?"

"What ails you, Contessina?"  asked the young man, in a whisper, when
they were alone near the plateau of crystal and the collection of silver,
which gleamed so brightly in the dimly lighted part of the room.

"Yes," he persisted, "what ails you?  Are you still vexed with me?"

"With you?"  said she.  "I have never been.  Why should I be?"  she
repeated.  "You have done nothing to me."

"Some one has wounded you?"  asked Julien.

He saw that she was sincere, and that she scarcely remembered the ill-
humor of the preceding day.  "You can not deceive a friend such as I am,"
he continued.  "On seeing you fan yourself, I knew that you had some
annoyance.  I know you so well."

"I have no annoyance," she replied, with an impatient frown.  "I can not
bear to hear lies of a certain kind.  That is all!"

"And who has lied?"  resumed Dorsenne.

"Did you not hear Ardea speak of his chapel just now, he who believes in
God as little as Hafner, of whom no one knows whether he is a Jew or a
Gentile!....  Did you not see poor Fanny look at him the while?  And did
you not remark with what tact the Baron made the allusion to the delicacy
which had prevented his daughter from visiting the Palais Castagna with
us?  And did that comedy enacted between the two men give you no food for
thought?"

"Is that why Peppino is here?"  asked Julien.  "Is there a plan on foot
for the marriage of the heiress of Papa Hafner's millions and the grand-
nephew of Pope Urban VII?  That will furnish me with a fine subject of
conversation with some one of my acquaintance!"....  And the mere thought
of Montfanon learning such news caused him to laugh heartily, while he
continued, "Do not look at me so indignantly, dear Contessina.

But I see nothing so sad in the story.  Fanny to marry Peppino?  Why not?
You yourself have told me that she is partly Catholic, and that her
father is only awaiting her marriage to have her baptized.  She will be
happy then.  Ardea will keep the magnificent palace we saw yesterday, and
the Baron will crown his career in giving to a man ruined on the Bourse,
in the form of a dowry, that which he has taken from others."

"Be silent," said the young girl, in a very grave voice, "you inspire me
with horror.  That Ardea should have lost all scruples, and that he
should wish to sell his title of a Roman prince at as high a price as
possible, to no matter what bidder, is so much the more a matter of
indifference, for we Venetians do not allow ourselves to be imposed upon
by the Roman nobility.  We all had Doges in our families when the fathers
of these people were bandits in the country, waiting for some poor monk
of their name to become Pope.  That Baron Hafner sells his daughter as he
once sold her jewels is also a matter of indifference to me.  But you do
not know her.  You do not know what a creature, charming and
enthusiastic, simple and sincere, she is, and who will never, never
mistrust that, first of all, her father is a thief, and, then, that he is
selling her like a trinket in order to have grand-children who shall be
at the same time grandnephews of the Pope, and, finally, that Peppino
does not love her, that he wants her dowry, and that he will have for her
as little feeling as they have for her."  She glanced at Madame Maitland.
"It is worse than I can tell you," she said, enigmatically, as if vexed
by her own words, and almost frightened by them.

"Yes," said Julien, "it would be very sad; but are you sure that you do
not exaggerate the situation?  There is not so much calculation in life.
It is more mediocre and more facile.  Perhaps the Prince and the Baron
have a vague project."

"A vague project?"  interrupted Alba, shrugging her shoulders.  "There is
never anything vague with a Hafner, you may depend.  What if I were to
tell you that I am positive--do you hear--positive that it is he who
holds between his fingers the largest part of the Prince's debts, and
that he caused the sale by Ancona to obtain the bargain?"

"It is impossible!"  exclaimed Dorsenne.  "You saw him yourself yesterday
thinking of buying this and that object."

"Do not make me say any more," said Alba, passing over her brow and her
eyes two or three times her hand, upon which no ring sparkled--that hand,
very supple and white, whose movements betrayed extreme nervousness.
"I have already said too much.  It is not my business, and poor Fanny
is only to me a recent friend, although I think her very attractive and
affectionate....  When I think that she is on the point of pledging
herself for life, and that there is no one, that there can be no one,
to cry: They lie to you!  I am filled with compassion.  That is all.
It is childish!"

It is always painful to observe in a young person the exact perception of
the sinister dealings of life, which, once entered into the mind, never
allows of the carelessness so natural at the age of twenty.

The impression of premature disenchantment Alba Steno had many times
given to Dorsenne, and it had indeed been the principal attraction to the
curious observer of the feminine character, who still was struck by the
terrible absence of illusion which such a view of the projects of Fanny's
father revealed.  Whence did she know them?  Evidently from Madame Steno
herself.  Either the Baron and the Countess had talked of them before the
young girl too openly to leave her in any doubt, or she had divined what
they did not tell her, through their conversation.  On seeing her thus,
with her bitter mouth, her bright eyes, so visibly a prey to the fever of
suppressed loathing, Dorsenne again was impressed by the thought of her
perfect perspicacity.  It was probable that she had applied the same
force of thought to her mother's conduct.  It seemed to him that on
raising, as she was doing, the wick of the silver lamp beneath the large
teakettle, that she was glancing sidewise at the terrace, where the end
of the Countess's white robe could be seen through the shadow.  Suddenly
the mad thoughts which had so greatly agitated him on the previous day
possessed him again, and the plan he had formed of imitating his model,
Hamlet, in playing in Madame Steno's salon the role of the Danish prince
before his uncle occurred to him.  Absently, with his customary air of
indifference, he continued:

"Rest assured, Ardea does not lack enemies.  Hafner, too, has plenty of
them.  Some one will be found to denounce their plot, if there is a plot,
to lovely Fanny.  An anonymous letter is so quickly written."

He had no sooner uttered those words than he interrupted himself with the
start of a man who handles a weapon which he thinks unloaded and which
suddenly discharges.

It was, really, to discharge a duty in the face of his own scepticism
that he had spoken thus, and he did not expect to see another shade of
sadness flit across Alba's mobile and proud face.

There was in the corners of her mouth more disgust, her eyes expressed
more scorn, while her hands, busy preparing the tea, trembled as she
said, with an accent so agitated that her friend regretted his cruel
plan:

"Ah!  Do not speak of it!  It would be still worse than her present
ignorance.  At least, now she knows nothing, and if some miserable person
were to do as you say she would know in part without being sure....
How could you smile at such a supposition?....  No!  Poor, gentle Fanny!
I hope she will receive no anonymous letters.  They are so cowardly and
make so much trouble!"

"I ask your pardon if I have wounded you," replied Dorsenne.  He had
touched, he felt it, a tender spot in that heart, and perceived with
grief that not only had Alba Steno not written the anonymous letters
addressed to Gorka, but that, on the contrary, she had received some
herself.  From whom?  Who was the mysterious denunciator who had warned
in that abominable manner the daughter of Madame Steno after the lover?
Julien shuddered as he continued: "If I smiled, it was because I believe
Mademoiselle Hafner, in case the misfortune should come to her, sensible
enough to treat such advice as it merits.  An anonymous letter does not
deserve to be read.  Any one infamous enough to make use of weapons of
that sort does not deserve that one should do him the honor even to
glance at what he has written."

"Is it not so?"  said the girl.  There was in her eyes, the pupils of
which suddenly dilated, a gleam of genuine gratitude which convinced her
companion that he had seen correctly.  He had uttered just the words of
which she had need.  In the face of that proof, he was suddenly
overwhelmed by an access of shame and of pity--of shame, because in his
thoughts he had insulted the unhappy girl--of pity, because she had to
suffer a blow so cruel, if, indeed, her mother had been exposed to her.
It must have been on the preceding afternoon or that very morning that
she had received the horrible letter, for, during the visit to the Palais
Castagna, she had been, by turns, gay and quiet, but so childish, while
on that particular evening it was no longer the child who suffered, but
the woman.  Dorsenne resumed:

"You see, we writers are exposed to those abominations.  A book which
succeeds, a piece which pleases, an article which is extolled, calls
forth from the envious unsigned letters which wound us or those whom we
love.  In such cases, I repeat, I burn them unread, and if ever in your
life such come to you, listen to me, little Countess, and follow the
advice of your friend, Dorsenne, for he is your friend; you know it, do
you not, your true friend?"

"Why should I receive anonymous letters?"  asked the girl, quickly.  "I
have neither fame, beauty, nor wealth, and am not to be envied."

As Dorsenne looked at her, regretting that he had said so much, she
forced her sad lips to smile, and added: "If you are really my friend,
instead of making me lose time by your advice, of which I shall probably
never have need, for I shall never become a great authoress, help me to
serve the tea, will you?  It should be ready."  And with her slender
fingers she raised the lid of the kettle, saying: "Go and ask Madame
Maitland if she will take some tea this evening, and Fanny, too....
Ardea takes whiskey and the Baron mineral water....  You can ring for his
glass of vichy....  There....  You have delayed me....  There are more
callers and nothing is ready....  Ah," she cried, "it is Maud!"--then,
with surprise, "and her husband!"

Indeed, the folding doors of the hall opened to admit Maud Gorka, a
robust British beauty, radiant with happiness, attired in a gown of black
crepe de Chine with orange ribbons, which set off to advantage her fresh
color.  Behind her came Boleslas.  But he was no longer the traveller
who, thirty-six hours before, had arrived at the Place de la Trinite-des-
Monts, mad with anxiety, wild with jealousy, soiled by the dust of
travel, his hair disordered, his hands and face dirty.  It was, though
somewhat thinner, the elegant Gorka whom Dorsenne had known--tall,
slender, and perfumed, in full dress, a bouquet in his buttonhole, his
lips smiling.  To the novelist, knowing what he knew, the smile and the
composure had something in them more terrible than the frenzy of the day
before.  He comprehended it by the manner in which the Pole gave him his
hand.  One night and a day of reflection had undermined his work, and if
Boleslas had enacted the comedy to the point of lulling his wife's
suspicions and of deciding on the visit of that evening, it was because
he had resolved not to consult any one and to lead his own inquiry.
He was succeeding in the beginning; he had certainly perceived Madame
Steno's white gown upon the terrace, while radiant Maud explained his
unexpected return with her usual ingenuousness.

"This is what comes of sending to a doting father accounts of our boy's
health....  I wrote him the other day that Luc had a little fever.  He
wrote to ask about its progress.  I did not receive his letter.  He
became uneasy, and here he is."

"I will tell mamma," said Alba, passing out upon the terrace, but her
haste seemed too slow to Dorsenne.  He had such a presentiment of danger
that he did not think of smiling, as he would have done on any other
occasion, at the absolute success of the deception which he and Boleslas
had planned on the preceding day, and of which the Count had said, with a
fatuity now proven: "Maud will be so happy to see me that she will
believe all."

It was a scene both simple and tragical--of that order in which in
society the most horrible incidents occur without a sound, without a
gesture, amid phrases of conventionality and in a festal framework!  Two
of the spectators, at least, besides Julien, understood its importance-
Ardea and Hafner.  For neither the one nor the other had failed to notice
the relations between Madame Steno and Maitland, much less her position
with regard to Gorka.  The writer, the grand seigneur, and the business
man had, notwithstanding the differences of age and of position, a large
experience of analogous circumstances.

They knew of what presence of mind a courageous woman was capable, when
surprised, as was the Venetian.  All these have declared since that they
had never imagined more admirable self-possession, a composure more
superbly audacious, than that displayed by Madame Steno, at that decisive
moment.  She appeared on the threshold of the French window, surprised
and delighted, just in the measure she conformably should be.  Her fair
complexion, which the slightest emotion tinged with carmine, was
bewitchingly pink.  Not a quiver of her long lashes veiled her deep blue
eyes, which gleamed brightly.  With her smile, which exhibited her lovely
teeth, the color of the large pearls which were twined about her neck,
with the emeralds in her fair hair, with her fine shoulders displayed by
the slope of her white corsage, with her delicate waist, with the
splendor of her arms from which she had removed the gloves to yield them
to the caresses of Maitland, and which gleamed with more emeralds, with
her carriage marked by a certain haughtiness, she was truly a woman of
another age, the sister of those radiant princesses whom the painters of
Venice evoke beneath the marble porticoes, among apostles and martyrs.
She advanced to Maud Gorka, whom she embraced affectionately, then,
pressing Boleslas's hand, she said in a voice so warm, in which at times
there were deep tones, softened by the habitual use of the caressing
dialect of the lagoon:

"What a surprise!  And you could not come to dine with us?  Well, sit
down, both of you, and relate to me the Odyssey of the traveller," and,
turning toward Maitland, who had followed her into the salon with the
insolent composure of a giant and of a lover:

"Be kind, my little Linco, and fetch me my fan and my gloves, which I
left on the couch."

At that moment Dorsenne, who had only one fear, that of meeting Gorka's
eyes--he could not have borne their glance--was again by the side of Alba
Steno.  The young girl's face, just now so troubled, was radiant.  It
seemed as if a great weight had been lifted from the pretty Contessina's
mind.

"Poor child," thought the writer, "she would not think her mother could
be so calm were she guilty.  The Countess's manner is the reply to the
anonymous letter.  Have they written all to her?  My God! Who can it be?"

And he fell into a deep revery, interrupted only by the hum of the
conversation, in which he did not participate.  It would have satisfied
him had he observed, instead of meditated, that the truth with regard to
the author of the anonymous letters might have become clear to him, as
clear as the courage of Madame Steno in meeting danger--as the blind
confidence of Madame Gorka--as the disdainful imperturbability of
Maitland before his rival and the suppressed rage of that rival--as the
finesse of Hafner in sustaining the general conversation--as the
assiduous attentions of Ardea to Fanny--as the emotion of the latter--
as clear as Alba's sense of relief.  All those faces, on Boleslas's
entrance, had expressed different feelings.  Only one had, for several
minutes, expressed the joy of crime and the avidity of ultimately
satisfied hatred.  But as it was that of little Madame Maitland, the
silent creature, considered so constantly by him as stupid and
insignificant, Dorsenne had not paid more attention to it than had the
other witnesses the surprising reappearance of the betrayed lover.

Every country has a metaphor to express the idea that there is no worse
water than that which is stagnant.  Still waters run deep, say the
English, and the Italians, Still waters ruin bridges.

These adages would not be accurate if one did not forget them in
practise, and the professional analyst of the feminine heart had entirely
forgotten them on that evening.



CHAPTER V

COUNTESS STENO

A woman less courageous than the Countess, less capable of looking a
situation in the face and of advancing to it, such an evening would have
marked the prelude to one of those nights of insomnia when the mind
exhausts in advance all the agonies of probable danger.  Countess Steno
did not know what weakness and fear were.

A creature of energy and of action, who felt herself to be above all
danger, she attached no meaning to the word uneasiness.  So she slept,
on the night which followed that soiree, a sleep as profound,
as refreshing, as if Gorka had never returned with vengeance in his
heart, with threats in his eyes.  Toward ten o'clock the following
morning, she was in the tiny salon, or rather, the office adjoining her
bedroom, examining several accounts brought by one of her men of
business.  Rising at seven o'clock, according to her custom, she had
taken the cold bath in which, in summer as well as winter, she daily
quickened her blood.  She had breakfasted, 'a l'anglaise', following the
rule to which she claimed to owe the preservation of her digestion, upon
eggs, cold meat, and tea.  She had made her complicated toilette, had
visited her daughter to ascertain how she had slept, had written five
letters, for her cosmopolitan salon compelled her to carry on an immense
correspondence, which radiated between Cairo and New York,
St. Petersburg and Bombay, taking in Munich, London, and Madeira,
and she was as faithful in friendship as she was inconstant in love.
Her large handwriting, so elegant in its composition, had covered pages
and pages before she said: "I have a rendezvous at eleven o'clock with
Maitland.  Ardea will be here at ten to talk of his marriage.  I have
accounts from Finoli to examine.  I hope that Gorka will not come, too,
this morning."....  Persons in whom the feeling of love is very complete,
but very physical, are thus.  They give themselves and take themselves
back altogether.  The Countess experienced no more pity than fear in
thinking of her betrayed lover.  She had determined to say to him, "I no
longer love you," frankly, openly, and to offer him his choice between a
final rupture or a firm friendship.

The only annoyance depended upon the word of explanation, which she
desired to see postponed until afternoon, when she would be free,
an annoyance which, however, did not prevent her from examining with her
usual accuracy the additions and multiplications of her intendant,
who stood near her with a face such as Bonifagio gave to his Pharisees.
He managed the seven hundred hectares of Piove, near Padua, Madame
Steno's favorite estate.  She had increased the revenue from it tenfold,
by the draining of a sterile and often malignant lagoon, which, situated
a metre below the water-level, had proved of surprising fertility; and
she calculated the probable operations for weeks in advance with the
detailed and precise knowledge of rural cultivation which is the
characteristic of the Italian aristocracy and the permanent cause of its
vitality.

"Then you estimate the gain from the silkworms at about fifty kilos of
cocoons to an ounce?"

"Yes, Excellency," replied the intendant.

"One hundred ounces of yellow; one hundred times fifty makes five
thousand," resumed the Countess.  "At four francs fifty?"

"Perhaps five, Excellency," said the intendant.

"Let us say twenty-two thousand five hundred," said the Countess, "and as
much for the Japanese....  That will bring us in our outlay for
building."

"Yes, Excellency.  And about the wine?"

"I am of the opinion, after what you have told me of the vineyard, that
you should sell as quickly as possible to Kauffmann's agent all that
remains of the last crop, but not at less than six francs.  You know it
is necessary that our casks be emptied and cleaned after the month of
August....  If we were to fail this time, for the first year that we
manufacture our wine with the new machine, it would be too bad."

"Yes, Excellency.  And the horses?"

"I think that is an opportunity we should not let escape.  My advice is
that you take the express to Florence to-day at two o'clock.  You will
reach Verona to-morrow morning.  You will conclude the bargain.  The
horses will be sent to Piove the same evening....

We have finished just in time," she continued, arranging the intendant's
papers.  She put them herself in their envelope, which she gave him.
She had an extremely delicate sense of hearing, and she knew that the
door of the antechamber opened.  It seemed that the administrator took
away in his portfolio all the preoccupation of this extraordinary woman.
For, after concluding that dry conversation, or rather that monologue,
she had her clearest and brightest smile with which to receive the new
arrival, who was, fortunately, Prince d'Ardea.  She said to the servant:

"I wish to speak with the Prince.  If any one asks for me, do not admit
him and do not send any one hither.  Bring me the card."  Then, turning
toward the young man, "Well, Simpaticone," it was the nickname she gave
him, "how did you finish your evening?"

"You would not believe me," replied Peppino Ardea, laughing; "I, who no
longer have anything, not even my bed.  I went to the club and I
played....  For the first time in my life I won."

He was so gay in relating his childish prank, he jested so merrily about
his ruin, that the Countess looked at him in surprise, as he had looked
at her on entering....  We understand ourselves so little, and we know so
little about our own singularities of character, that each one was
surprised at finding the other so calm.  Ardea could not comprehend that
Madame Steno should not be at least uneasy about Gorka's return and the
consequences which might result therefrom.  She, on the other hand,
admired the strange youth who, in his misfortune, could find such
joviality at his command.  He had evidently expended as much care upon
his toilette as if he had not to take some immediate steps to assure his
future, and his waistcoat, the color of his shirt, his cravat, his yellow
shoes, the flower in his buttonhole, all united to make of him an amiable
and incorrigibly frivolous dandy.  She felt the need which strong
characters have in the presence of weak ones; that of acting for the
youth, of aiding him in spite of himself, and she attacked at once the
question of marriage with Fanny Hafner.  With her usual common-sense,
and with her instinct of arranging everything, Madame Steno perceived in
the union so many advantages for every one that she was in haste to
conclude it as quickly as if it involved a personal affair.

The marriage was earnestly desired by the Baron, who had spoken of it to
her for months.  It suited Fanny, who would be converted to Catholicism
with the consent of her father.  It suited the Prince, who at one stroke
would be freed from his embarrassment.  Finally, it suited the name of
Castagna.  Although Peppino was its only representative at that time,
and as, by an old family tradition, he bore a title different from the
patronymic title of Pope Urban VII, the sale of the celebrated palace had
called forth a scandal to which it was essential to put an end.  The
Countess had forgotten that she had assisted, without a protestation,
in that sale.  Had she not known through Hafner that he had bought at a
low price an enormous heap of the Prince's bills of exchange?  Did she
not know the Baron well enough to be sure that M. Noe Ancona, the
implacable creditor who sold the palace, was only the catspaw of this
terrible friend?  In a fit of ill-humor at the Baron, had she not herself
accused him in Alba's presence of this very simple plan, to bring Ardea
to a final catastrophe in order to offer him salvation in the form of the
union with Fanny, and to execute at the same time an excellent operation?
For, once freed from the mortgages which burdened them, the Prince's
lands and buildings would regain their true value, and the imprudent
speculator would find himself again as rich, perhaps richer.

"Come," said Madame Steno to the Prince, after a moment's silence and
without any preamble, "it is now time to talk business.  You dined by the
side of my little friend yesterday; you had the entire evening in which
to study her.  Answer me frankly, would she not make the prettiest little
Roman princess who could kneel in her wedding-gown at the tomb of the
apostles?  Can you not see her in her white gown, under her veil,
alighting at the staircase of Saint Peter's from the carriage with the
superb horses which her father has given her?  Close your eyes and see
her in your thoughts.  Would she not be pretty?  Would she not?"

"Very pretty," replied Ardea, smiling at the tempting vision Madame
Steno had conjured up, "but she is not fair.  And you know, to me, a
woman who is not fair--ah, Countess!  What a pity that in Venice, five
years ago, on a certain evening--do you remember?"

"How much like you that is!"  interrupted she, laughing her deep, clear
laugh.  "You came to see me this morning to talk to me of a marriage,
unhoped for with your reputation of gamester, of supper-giver,
of 'mauvais sujet'; of a marriage which fulfils conditions most
improbable, so perfect are they--beauty, youth, intelligence, fortune,
and even, if I have read my little friend aright, the beginning of an
interest, of a very deep interest.  And, for a little, you would make a
declaration to me.  Come, come!"  and she extended to him for a kiss her
beautiful hand, on which gleamed large emeralds.  "You are forgiven.  But
answer--yes or no.  Shall I make the proposal?  If it is yes, I will go
to the Palace Savorelli at two o'clock.  I will speak to my friend
Hafner.  He will speak to his daughter, and it will not depend upon me
if you have not their reply this evening or to-morrow morning.  Is it
yes?  Is it no?"

"This evening?  To-morrow?"  exclaimed the Prince, shaking his head with
a most comical gesture.  "I can not decide like that.  It is an ambush!
I come to talk, to consult you."

"And on what?"  asked Madame Steno, with a vivacity almost impatient.
"Can I tell you anything you do not already know?  In twenty-four hours,
in forty-eight, in six months, what difference will there be, I pray you?
We must look at things as they are, however.  To-morrow, the day after,
the following days, will you be less embarrassed?"

"No," said the Prince, "but--"

"There is no but," she resumed, allowing him to say no more than she had
allowed her intendant.  The despotism natural to puissant personalities
scorned to be disguised in her, when there were practical decisions in
which she was to take part.  "The only serious objection you made to me
when I spoke to you of this marriage six months ago was that Fanny was
not a Catholic.  I know today that she has only to be asked to be
converted.  So do not let us speak of that."

"No," said the Prince, "but--"

"As for Hafner," continued the Countess, "you will say he is my friend
and that I am partial, but that partiality even is an opinion.  He is
precisely the father-in-law you need.  Do not shake your head.  He will
repair all that needs repairing in your fortune.  You have been robbed,
my poor Peppino.  You told me so yourself....  Become the Baron's son-in-
law, and you will have news of your robbers.  I know.... There is the
Baron's origin and the suit of ten years ago with all the 'pettogolezzi'
to which it gave rise.  All that has not the common meaning.  The Baron
began life in a small way.  He was from a family of Jewish origin--you
see, I do not deceive you--but converted two generations back, so that
the story of his change of religion since his stay in Italy is a calumny,
like the rest.  He had a suit in which he was acquitted.  You would not
require more than the law, would you?"

"No, but--"

"For what are you waiting, then?"  concluded Madame Steno.  "That it may
be too late?  How about your lands?"

"Ah!  let me breathe, let me fan myself," said Ardea, who, indeed, took
one of the Countess's fans from the desk.  "I, who have never known in
the morning what I would do in the evening, I, who have always lived
according to my pleasure, you ask me to take in five minutes the
resolution to bind myself forever!"

"I ask you to decide what you wish to do," returned the Countess.  "It is
very amusing to travel at one's pleasure.  But when it is a question of
arranging one's life, this childishness is too absurd.  I know of only
one way: to see one's aim and to march directly to it.  Yours is very
clear--to get out of this dilemma.  The way is not less clear; it is
marriage with a girl who has five millions dowry.  Yes or no, will you
have her?....  Ah," said she, suddenly interrupting herself, "I shall not
have a moment to myself this morning, and I have an appointment at eleven
o'clock!"....  She looked at the timepiece on her table, which indicated
twenty-five minutes past ten.  She had heard the door open.  The footman
was already before her and presented to her a card upon a salver.  She
took the card, looked at it, frowned, glanced again at the clock, seemed
to hesitate, then: "Let him wait in the small salon, and say that I will
be there immediately," said she, and turning again toward Ardea: "You
think you have escaped.  You have not.  I do not give you permission to
go before I return.  I shall return in fifteen minutes.  Would you like
some newspapers?  There are some.  Books?  There are some.  Tobacco?
This box is filled with cigars....  In a quarter of an hour I shall be
here and I will have your reply.  I wish it, do you hear?  I wish it"....
And on the threshold with another smile, using that time a term of patois
common in Northern Italy and which is only a corruption of 'schiavo' or
servant: 'Ciao Simpaticone.'

"What a woman!"  said Peppino Ardea, when the door was closed upon the
Countess.  "Yes, what a pity that five years ago in Venice I was not
free!  Who knows?  If I had dared, when she took me to my hotel in her
gondola.  She was about to leave San Giobbe.  She had not yet accepted
Boleslas.  She would have advised--have directed me.  I should have
speculated on the Bourse, as she did, with Hafner's counsel.  But not in
the quality of son-in-law.  I should not have been obliged to marry.  And
she would not now have such bad tobacco."....  He was on the point of
lighting one of the Virginian cigarettes, a present from Maitland.  He
threw it away, making a grimace with his air of a spoiled child, at the
risk of scorching the rug which lay upon the marble floor; and he passed
into the antechamber in order to fetch his own case in the pocket of the
light overcoat he had prudently taken on coming out after eight o'clock.

As he lighted one of the cigarettes in that case, filled with so-called
Egyptian tobacco, mixed with opium and saltpetre, which he preferred to
the tobacco of the American, he mechanically glanced at the card which
the servant had left on going from the room-the card of the unknown
visitor for whom Madame Steno had left him.

Ardea read upon it, with astonishment, these words:

Count Boleslas Gorka.

"She is better than I thought her," said he, on reentering the deserted
office.  "She had no need to bid me not to go.  I think I should wait to
see her return from that conversation."

It was indeed Boleslas whom the Countess found in the salon, which she
had chosen as the room the most convenient for the stormy explanation
she anticipated.  It was isolated at the end of the hall, and was like
a pendant to the terrace.  It formed, with the dining-room, the entire
ground-floor, or, rather, the entresol of the house.  Madame Steno's
apartments, as well as the other small salon in which Peppino was, were
on the first floor, together with the rooms set apart for the Contessina
and her German governess, Fraulein Weber, for the time being on a
journey.

The Countess had not been mistaken.  At the first glance exchanged on the
preceding day with Gorka, she had divined that he knew all.  She would
have suspected it, nevertheless, since Hafner had told her the few words
indiscreetly uttered by Dorsenne on the clandestine return of the Pole to
Rome.  She had not at that time been mistaken in Boleslas's intentions,
and she had no sooner looked in his face than she felt herself to be in
peril.  When a man has been the lover of a woman as that man had been
hers, with the vibrating communion of a voluptuousness unbroken for two
years, that woman maintains a sort of physiological, quasi-animal
instinct.  A gesture, the accent of a word, a sigh, a blush, a pallor,
are signs for her that her intuition interprets with infallible
certainty.  How and why is that instinct accompanied by absolute oblivion
of former caresses?  It is a particular case of that insoluble and
melancholy problem of the birth and death of love.  Madame Steno had no
taste for reflection of that order.  Like all vigorous and simple
creatures, she acknowledged and accepted it.  As on the previous day,
she became aware that the presence of her former lover no longer touched
in her being the chord which had rendered her so weak to him during
twenty-five months, so indulgent to his slightest caprices.  It left her
as cold as the marble of the bas-relief by Mino da Fiesole fitted into
the wall just above the high chair upon which he leaned.

Boleslas, notwithstanding the paroxysm of lucid fury which he suffered at
that moment, and which rendered him capable of the worst violence, had on
his part a knowledge of the complete insensibility in which his presence
left her.  He had seen her so often, in the course of their long liaison,
arrive at their morning rendezvous at that hour, in similar toilettes,
so fresh, so supple, so youthful in her maturity, so eager for kisses,
tender and ardent.  She had now in her blue eyes, in her smile, in her
entire person, some thing at once so gracious and so inaccessible, which
gives to an abandoned lover the mad longing to strike, to murder, a woman
who smiles at him with such a smile.  At the same time she was so
beautiful in the morning light, subdued by the lowered blinds, that she
inspired him with an equal desire to clasp her in his arms whether she
would or no.  He had recognized, when she entered the room, the aroma of
a preparation which she had used in her bath, and that trifle alone had
aroused his passion far more than when the servant told him Madame Steno
was engaged, and he wondered whether she was not alone with Maitland.
Those impassioned, but suppressed, feelings trembled in the accent of the
very simple phrase with which he greeted her.  At certain moments, words
are nothing; it is the tone in which they are uttered.  And to the
Countess that of the young man was terrible.

"I am disturbing you?"  he asked, bowing and barely touching with the
tips of his fingers the hand she had extended to him on entering.
"Excuse me, I thought you alone.  Will you be pleased to name another
time for the conversation which I take the liberty of demanding?"

"No, no," she replied, not permitting him to finish his sentence.  "I was
with Peppino Ardea, who will await me," said she, gently.  "Moreover, you
know I am in all things for the immediate.  When one has something to
say, it should be said, one, two, three?....  First, there is not much to
say, and then it is better said....  There is nothing that will sooner
render difficult easy explanations and embroil the best of friends than
delay and maintaining silence."

"I am very happy to find you in such a mind," replied Boleslas, with a
sarcasm which distorted his handsome face into a smile of atrocious
hatred.  The good-nature displayed by her cut him to the heart, and he
continued, already less self-possessed: "It is indeed an explanation
which I think I have the right to ask of you, and which I have come to
claim."

"To claim, my dear?"  said the Countess, looking him fixedly in the face
without lowering her proud eyes, in which those imperative words had
kindled a flame.

If she had been admirable the preceding evening in facing as she had done
the return of her discarded lover, on coming direct from the tete-a-tete
with her new one, perhaps, at that moment, she was doubly so, when she
did not have her group of intimate friends to support her.  She was not
sure that the madman who confronted her was not armed, and she believed
him perfectly capable of killing her, while she could not defend herself.
But a part had to be played sooner or later, and she played it without
flinching.  She had not spoken an untruth in saying to Peppino Ardea:
"I know only one way: to see one's aim and to march directly to it."  She
wanted a definitive rupture with Boleslas.  Why should she hesitate as to
the means?

She was silent, seeking for words.  He continued:

"Will you permit me to go back three months, although that is, it seems,
a long space of time for a woman's memory?  I do not know whether you
recall our last meeting?  Pardon, I meant to say the last but one, since
we met last night.  Do you concede that the manner in which we parted
then did not presage the manner in which we met?"

"I concede it," said the Countess, with a gleam of angry pride in her
eyes, "although I do not very much like your style of expression.  It is
the second time you have addressed me as an accuser, and if you assume
that attitude it will be useless to continue."

"Catherine!"....  That cry of the young man, whose anger was increasing,
decided her whom he thus addressed to precipitate the issue of a
conversation in which each reply was to be a fresh burst of rancor.

"Well?"  she inquired, crossing her arms in a manner so imperious that
he paused in his menace, and she continued: "Listen, Boleslas, we have
talked ten minutes without saying anything, because neither of us has the
courage to put the question such as we know and feel it to be.  Instead
of writing to me, as you did, letters which rendered replies impossible
to me; instead of returning to Rome and hiding yourself like a
malefactor; instead of coming to my home last night with that threatening
face; instead of approaching me this morning with the solemnity of a
judge, why did you not question me simply, frankly, as one who knows that
I have loved him very, very much?....  Having been lovers, is that a
reason for detesting each other when we cease those relations?"

"'When we cease those relations!'" replied Gorka.  "So you no longer love
me?  Ah, I knew it; I guessed it after the first week of that fatal
absence!  But to think that you should tell it to me some day like that,
in that calm voice which is a horrible blasphemy for our entire past.
No, I do not believe it.  I do not yet believe it.  Ah, it is too
infamous."

"Why?"  interrupted the Countess, raising her head with still more
haughtiness....  "There is only one thing infamous in love, and that is
a falsehood.  Ah, I know it.  You men are not accustomed to meeting true
women, who have the respect, the religion of their sentiment.  I have
that respect; I practise that religion.  I repeat that I loved you a
great deal, Boleslas.  I did not hide it from you formerly.  I was as
loyal to you as truth itself.  I have the consciousness of being so
still, in offering you, as I do, a firm friendship, the friendship of man
for man, who only asks to prove to you the sincerity of his devotion."

"I, a friendship with you, I--I--I?"  exclaimed Boleslas.  "Have I had
enough patience in listening to you as I have listened?  I heard you lie
to me and scented the lie in the same breath.  Why do you not ask me as
well to form a friendship for him with whom you have replaced me?  Ah, so
you think I am blind, and you fancy I did not see that Maitland near you,
and that I did not know at the first glance what part he was playing in
your life?  You did not think I might have good reasons for returning as
I did?  You did not know that one does not dally with one whom one loves
as I love you?....  It is not true....  You have not been loyal to me,
since you took this man for a lover while you were still my mistress.
You had not the right, no, no, no, you had not the right!....  And what
a man!....  If it had been Ardea, Dorsenne, no matter whom, that I might
not blush for you....  But that brute, that idiot, who has nothing in his
favor, neither good looks, birth, elegance, mind nor talent, for he has
none--he has nothing but his neck and shoulders of a bull....  It is as
if you had deceived me with a lackey.... No.....  it is too terrible....
Ah, Catherine, swear to me that it is not true.  Tell me that you no
longer love me, I will submit, I will go away, I will accept all,
provided that you swear to me you do not love that man--swear, swear!"...
he added, grasping her hands with such violence that she uttered a slight
exclamation, and, disengaging herself, said to him:

"Cease; you pain me.  You are mad, Gorka; that can be your sole
excuse....  I have nothing to swear to you.  What I feel, what I think,
what I do no longer concerns you after what I have told you....  Believe
what it pleases you to believe....  But," and the irritation of an
enamored woman, wounded in the man she adores, possessed her, "you shall
not speak twice of one of my friends as you have just spoken.  You have
deeply offended me, and I will not pardon you.  In place of the
friendship I offered you so honestly, we will have no further connections
excepting those of society.  That is what you desired....  Try not to
render them impossible to yourself.  Be correct at least in form.
Remember you have a wife, I have a daughter, and that we owe it to them
to spare them the knowledge of this unhappy rupture....  God is my
witness, I wished to have it otherwise."

"My wife!  Your daughter!"  cried Boleslas with bitterness.  "This is
indeed the hour to remember them and to put them between you and my just
vengeance!  They never troubled you formerly, the two poor creatures,
when you began to win my love?....  It was convenient for you that they
should be friends!  And I lent myself to it!....  I accepted such
baseness--that to-day you might take shelter behind the two innocents!...
No, it shall not be.... you shall not escape me thus.  Since it is the
only point on which I can strike you, I will strike you there.  I hold
you by that means, do you hear, and I will keep you.  Either you dismiss
that man, or I will no longer respect anything.  My wife shall know all!
Her!  So much the better!  For some time I have been stifled by my
lies....  Your daughter, too, shall know all.  She shall judge you now as
she would judge you one day."

As he spoke he advanced to her with a manner so cruel that she recoiled.
A few more moments and the man would have carried out his threat.
He was about to strike her, to break objects around him, to call forth
a terrible scandal.  She had the presence of mind of an audacity more
courageous still.  An electric bell was near at hand.  She pressed it,
while Gorka said to her, with a scornful laugh, "That was the only
affront left you to offer me--to summon your servants to defend you."

"You are mistaken," she replied.  "I am not afraid.  I repeat you are
mad, and I simply wish to prove it to you by recalling you to the reality
of your situation....  Bid Mademoiselle Alba come down," said she to the
footman whom her ring had summoned.  That phrase was the drop of cold
water which suddenly broke the furious jet of vapor.  She had found the
only means of putting an end to the terrible scene.  For, notwithstanding
his menace, she knew that Maud's husband always recoiled before the young
girl, the friend of his wife, of whose delicacy and sensibility he was
aware.

Gorka was capable of the most dangerous and most cruel deeds, in an
excess of passion augmented by vanity.

He had in him a chivalrous element which would paralyze his frenzy before
Alba.  As for the immorality of that combination of defence which
involved her daughter in her rupture with a vindictive lover, the
Countess did not think of that.  She often said: "She is my comrade, she
is my friend."....  And she thought so.  To lean upon her in that
critical moment was only natural to her.  In the tempest of indignation
which shook Gorka, the sudden appeal to innocent Alba appeared to him the
last degree of cynicism.  During the short space of time which elapsed
between the departure of the footman and the arrival of the young girl,
he only uttered these words, repeating them as he paced the floor, while
his former mistress defied him with her bold gaze:

"I scorn you, I scorn you; ah, how I scorn you!"  Then, when he heard the
door open: "We will resume our conversation, Madame."

"When you wish," replied Countess Steno, and to her daughter, who
entered, she said: "You know the carriage is to come at ten minutes to
eleven, and it is now the quarter.  Are you ready?"

"You can see," replied the young girl, displaying her pearl-gray gloves,
which she was just buttoning, while on her head a large hat of black
tulle made a dark and transparent aureole around her fair head.  Her
delicate bust was displayed to advantage in the corsage Maitland had
chosen for her portrait, a sort of cuirass of a dark-blue material,
finished at the neck and wrists with bands of velvet of a darker shade.
The fine lines of cuffs and a collar gave to that pure face a grace of
youth younger than her age.

She had evidently come at her mother's call, with the haste and the smile
of that age.  Then, to see Gorka's expression and the feverish brilliance
of the Countess's eyes had given her what she called, in an odd but very
appropriate way, the sensation of "a needle in the heart," of a sharp,
fine point, which entered her breast to the left.  She had slept a sleep
so profound, after the soiree of the day before, on which she had thought
she perceived in her mother's attitude between the Polish count and the
American painter a proof of certain innocence.

She admired her mother so much, she thought her so intelligent, so
beautiful, so good, that to doubt her was a thought not to be borne!
There were times when she doubted her.  A terrible conversation about the
Countess, overheard in a ballroom, a conversation between two men, who
did not know Alba to be behind them, had formed the principal part of the
doubt, which, by turns, had increased and diminished, which had abandoned
and tortured her, according to the signs, as little decisive as Madame
Steno's tranquillity of the preceding day or her confusion that morning.
It was only an impression, very rapid, instantaneous, the prick of a
needle, which merely leaves after it a drop of blood, and yet she had a
smile with which to say to Boleslas:

"How did Maud rest?  How is she this morning?  And my little friend Luc?"

"They are very well," replied Gorka.  The last stage of his fury,
suddenly arrested by the presence of the young girl, was manifested, but
only to the Countess, by the simple phrase to which his eyes and his
voice lent an extreme bitterness: "I found them as I left them....  Ah!
They love me dearly....  I leave you to Peppino, Countess," added he,
walking toward the door.  "Mademoiselle, I will bear your love to Maud."
....He had regained all the courtesy which a long line of savage 'grands
seigneurs', but 'grands seigneurs' nevertheless, had instilled in him.
If his bow to Madame Steno was very ceremonious, he put a special grace
in the low bow with which he took leave of the Contessina.  It was merely
a trifle, but the Countess was keen enough to perceive it.  She was
touched by it, she whom despair, fury, and threats had found so
impassive.  For an instant she was vaguely humiliated by the success
which she had gained over the man whom she would, voluntarily, five
minutes before, have had cast out of doors by her servants.  She was
silent, oblivious even of her daughter's presence, until the latter
recalled her to herself by saying:

"Shall I put on my veil and fetch my parasol?"

"You can join me in the office, whither I am going to talk with Ardea,"
replied her mother; adding, "I shall perhaps have some news to tell you
in the carriage which will give you pleasure!"....  She had again her
bright smile, and she did not mistrust while she resumed her conversation
with Peppino that poor Alba, on reentering her chamber, wiped from her
pale cheeks two large tears, and that she opened, to re-read it, the
infamous anonymous letter received the day before.  She knew by heart all
the perfidious phrases.  Must it not have been that the mind which had
composed them was blinded by vengeance to such a degree that it had no
scruples about laying before the innocent child a denunciation which ran
thus:

     "A true friend of Mademoiselle Steno warns her that she is
     compromised, more than a marriageable young girl should be, in
     playing, with regard to M. Maitland the role she has already played
     with regard to M. Goyka.  There are conditions of blindness so
     voluntary that they become complicity."

Those words, enigmatical to any one else, but to the Contessina horribly
clear, had been, like the letters of which Boleslas had told Dorsenne,
cut from a journal and pasted on a sheet of paper.  How had Alba trembled
on reading that note for the first time, with an emotion increased by the
horror of feeling hovering over her and her mother a hatred so
relentless!  Later in the day how much had the words exchanged with
Dorsenne comforted her, and how reassured had she been by the Countess's
imperturbability on the entrance of Boleslas Gorka!  Fragile peace, which
had vanished when she saw her mother and the husband of her best friend
face to face, with traces in their eyes, in their gestures, upon their
countenances, of an angry scene!  The thought "Why were they thus!  What
had they said?"  again occurred to her to sadden her.  Suddenly she
crushed in her hand with violence the anonymous letter, which gave a
concrete form to her sorrow and her suspicion, and, lighting a taper, she
held it to the paper, which the flames soon reduced to ashes.  She ran
her fingers through the debris until there was very little left, and
then, opening the window, she cast it to the winds.

She looked at her glove after doing this--her glove, a few moments
before, of so delicate a gray, now stained by the smoky dust.  It was
symbolical of the stain which the letter, even when destroyed, had left
upon her mind.  The gloves, too, inspired her with horror.  She hastily
drew them off, and, when she descended to rejoin Madame Steno, it was not
any more possible to perceive on those hands, freshly gloved, the traces
of that tragical childishness, than it was possible to discern, beneath
the large veil which she had tied over her hat, the traces of tears.
She found the mother for whom she was suffering so much, wearing, too,
a large sun-hat, but a white one with a white veil, beneath which could
be seen her fair hair, her sparkling blue eyes and pink-and-white
complexion; her form was enveloped in a gown of a material and cut more
youthful than her daughter's, while, radiant with delight, she said to
Peppino Ardea:

"Well, I congratulate you on having made up your mind.  The step shall be
taken to-day, and you will be grateful to me all your life!"

"Yet," replied the young man, "I understand myself.  I shall regret my
decision all the afternoon.  It is true," he added, philosophically,
"that I should regret it just as much if I had not made it."

"You have guessed that we were talking of Fanny's marriage," said Madame
Steno to her daughter several minutes later, when they were seated side
by side, like two sisters, in the victoria which was bearing them toward
Maitland's studio.

"Then," asked the Contessina, "you think it will be arranged?"

"It is arranged," gayly replied Madame Steno.  "I am commissioned to make
the proposition....  How happy all three will be!....  Hafner has aimed
at it this long time!  I remember how, in 1880, after his suit, he came
to see me in Venice--you and Fanny played on the balcony of the palace--
he questioned me about the Quirinal, the Vatican and society....  Then he
concluded, pointing to his daughter, 'I shall make a Roman princess of
the little one!"

The 'dogaresse' was so delighted at the thought of the success of her
negotiations, so delighted, too, to go, as she was going, to Maitland's
studio, behind her two English cobs, which trotted so briskly, that she
did not see on the sidewalk Boleslas Gorka, who watched her pass.

Alba was so troubled by that fresh proof of her mother's lack of
conscience that she did not notice Maud's husband either.  Baron Hafner's
and Prince d'Ardea's manner toward Fanny had inspired her the day before
with a dolorous analogy between the atmosphere of falsehood in which that
poor girl lived and the atmosphere in which she at times thought she
herself lived.  That analogy again possessed her, and she again felt the
"needle in the heart" as she recalled what she had heard before from the
Countess of the intrigue by which Baron Justus Hafner had, indeed,
ensnared his future son-in-law.  She was overcome by infinite sadness,
and she lapsed into one of her usual silent moods, while the Countess
related to her Peppino's indecision.  What cared she for Boleslas's anger
at that moment?  What could he do to her?  Gorka was fully aware of her
utter carelessness of the scene which had taken place between them, as
soon as he saw the victoria pass.  For some time he remained standing,
watching the large white and black hats disappear down the Rue du Vingt
Septembre.

This thought took possession of him at once.  Madame Steno and her
daughter were going to Maitland's atelier....  He had no sooner conceived
that bitter suspicion than he felt the necessity of proving it at once.
He entered a passing cab, just as Ardea, having left the Villa, Steno
after him, sauntered up, saying:

"Where are you going?  May I go with you that we may have a few moments'
conversation?"

"Impossible," replied Gorka.  "I have a very urgent appointment, but in
an hour I shall perhaps have occasion to ask a service of you.  Where
shall I find you?"

"At home," said Peppino, "lunching."

"Very well," replied Boleslas, and, raising himself, he whispered in the
cabman's ear, in a voice too low for his friend to hear what he said:
"Ten francs for you if in five minutes you drive me to the corner of the
Rue Napoleon III and the Place de la Victor-Emmanuel."

The man gathered up his reins, and, by some sleight-of-hand, the jaded
horse which drew the botte was suddenly transformed into a fine Roman
steed, the botte itself into a light carriage as swift as the Tuscan
carrozzelle, and the whole disappeared in a cross street, while Peppino
said to himself:

"There is a fine fellow who would do so much better to remain with his
friend Ardea than to go whither he is going.  This affair will end in a
duel.  If I had not to liquidate that folly," and he pointed out with the
end of his cane a placard relative to the sale of his own palace, "I
would amuse myself by taking Caterina from both of them.  But those
little amusements must wait until after my marriage."

As we have seen, the cunning Prince had not been mistaken as to the
course taken by the cab Gorka had hailed.  It was indeed into the
neighborhood of the atelier occupied by Maitland that the discarded lover
hastened, but not to the atelier.  The madman wished to prove to himself
that the exhibition of his despair had availed him nothing, and that,
scarcely rid of him, Madame Steno had repaired to the other.  What would
it avail him to know it and what would the evidence prove?  Had the
Countess concealed those sittings--those convenient sittings--as the
jealous lover had told Dorsenne?  The very thought of them caused the
blood to flow in his veins much more feverishly than did the thoughts of
the other meetings.  For those he could still doubt, notwithstanding the
anonymous letters, notwithstanding the tete-a-tete on the terrace,
notwithstanding the insolent "Linco," whom she had addressed thus before
him, while of the long intimacies of the studio he was certain.  They
maddened him, and, at the same time, by that strange contradiction which
is characteristic of all jealousy, he hungered and thirsted to prove
them.

He alighted from his cab at the corner he had named to his cabman, and
from which point he could watch the Rue Leopardi, in which was his
rival's house.  It was a large structure in the Moorish style, built by
the celebrated Spanish artist, Juan Santigosa, who had been obliged to
sell all five years before--house, studio, horses, completed paintings,
sketches begun--in order to pay immense losses at gaming.  Florent
Chapron had at the time bought the sort of counterfeit Alhambra, a
portion of which he rented to his brother-in-law.  During the few moments
that he stood at the corner, Boleslas Gorka recalled having visited that
house the previous year, while taking, in the company of Madame Steno,
Alba, Maud, and Hafner, one of those walks of which fashionable women are
so fond in Rome as well as in Paris.  An irrational instinct had rendered
the painter and his paintings antipathetic to him at their first meeting.
Had he had sufficient cause?  Suddenly, on leaning forward in such a
manner as to see without being seen, he perceived a victoria which
entered the Rue Leopardi, and in that victoria the black hat of
Mademoiselle Steno and the light one of her mother.  In two minutes more
the elegant carriage drew up at the Moorish structure, which gleamed
among the other buildings in that street, for the most part unfinished,
with a sort of insolent, sumptuousness.

The two ladies alighted and disappeared through the door, which closed
upon them, while the coachman started up his horses at the pace of
animals which are returning to their stable.  He checked them that they
might not become overheated, and the fine cobs trembled impatiently in
their harnesses.  Evidently the Countess and Alba were in the studio for
a long sitting.  What had Boleslas learned that he did not already know?
Was he not ridiculous, standing upon the sidewalk of the square in the
centre of which rose the ruin of an antique reservoir, called, for a
reason more than doubtful, the trophy of Marius.  With one glance the
young man took in this scene--the empty victoria turning in the opposite
direction, the large square, the ruin, the row of high houses, his cab.
He appeared to himself so absurd for being there to spy out that of which
he was only too sure, that he burst into a nervous laugh and reentered
his cab, giving his own address to the cabman: Palazzetto Doria, Place de
Venise.  The cab that time started off leisurely, for the man
comprehended that the mad desire to arrive hastily no longer possessed
his fare.  By a sudden metamorphosis, the swift Roman steed became a
common nag, and the vehicle a heavy machine which rumbled along the
streets.  Boleslas yielded to depression, the inevitable reaction of an
excess of violence such as he had just experienced.  His composure could
not last.  The studio, in which was Madame Steno, began to take a clear
form in the jealous lover's mind in proportion as he drove farther from
it.  In his thoughts he saw his former mistress walking about in the
framework of tapestry, armor, studies begun, as he had frequently seen
her walking in his smoking-room, with the smile upon her lips of an
amorous woman, touching the objects among which her lover lives.  He saw
impassive Alba, who served as chaperon in the new intrigue of her
mother's with the same naivete she had formerly employed in shielding
their liaison.  He saw Maitland with his indifferent glance of the day
before, the glance of a preferred lover, so sure of his triumph that he
did not even feel jealous of the former lover.

The absolute tranquillity of one who replaces us in an unfaithful
mistress's affections augments our fury still more if we have the
misfortune to be placed in a position similar to Gorka's.  In a moment
his rival's evocation became to him impossible to bear.  He was very near
his own home, for he was just at that admirable square encumbered with
the debris of basilica, the Forum of Trajan, which the statue of St.
Peter at the summit of the column overlooks.  Around the base of the
sculptured marble, legends attest the triumph of the humble Galilean
fisherman who landed at the port of the Tiber 1800 years ago, unknown,
persecuted, a beggar.  What a symbol and what counsel to say with the
apostle: "Whither shall we go, Lord?  Thou alone hast the words of
eternal life!"

But Gorka was neither a Montfanon nor a Dorsenne to hear within his heart
or his mind the echo of such precepts.  He was a man of passion and of
action, who only saw his passion and his actions in the position in which
fortune threw him.  A fresh access of fury recalled to him Maitland's
attitude of the preceding day.  This time he would no longer control
himself.  He violently pulled the surprised coachman's sleeve, and called
out to him the address of the Rue Leopardi in so imperative a tone that
the horse began again to trot as he had done before, and the cab to go
quickly through the labyrinth of streets.  A wave of tragical desire
rolled into the young man's heart.  No, he would not bear that affront.
He was too bitterly wounded in the most sensitive chords of his being, in
his love as well as his pride.  Both struggled within him, and another
instinct as well, urging him to the mad step he was about to take.  The
ancient blood of the Palatines, with regard to which Dorsenne always
jested, boiled in his veins.  If the Poles have furnished many heroes for
dramas and modern romances, they have remained, through their faults, so
dearly atoned for, the race the most chivalrously, the most madly brave
in Europe.  When men of so intemperate and so complex an excitability are
touched to a certain depth, they think of a duel as naturally as the
descendants of a line of suicides think of killing themselves.

Joyous Ardea, with his Italian keenness, had seen at a glance the end to
which Gorka's nature would lead him.  The betrayed lover required a duel
to enable him to bear the treason.  He might wound, he might, perhaps,
kill his rival, and his passion would be satisfied, or else he would risk
being killed himself, and the courage he would display braving death
would suffice to raise him in his own estimation.  A mad thought
possessed him and caused him to hasten toward the Rue Leopardi, to
provoke his rival suddenly and before Madame Steno!  Ah, what pleasure it
would give him to see her tremble, for she surely would tremble when she
saw him enter the studio!  But he would be correct, as she had so
insolently asked him to be.  He would go, so to speak, to see Alba's
portrait.  He would dissemble, then he would be better able to find a
pretext for an argument.  It is so easy to find one in the simplest
conversation, and from an argument a quarrel is soon born.  He would
speak in such a manner that Maitland would have to answer him.  The rest
would follow.  But would Alba Steno be present?  Ha, so much the better!
He would be so much more at ease, if the altercation arose before her,
to deceive his own wife as to the veritable reason of the duel.  Ah, he
would have his dispute at any price, and from the moment that the seconds
had exchanged visits the American's fate would be decided.  He knew how
to render it impossible for the fellow to remain longer in Rome.  The
young man was greatly wrought up by the romance of the provocation and
the duel.

"How it refreshes the blood to be avenged upon two fools," said he to
himself, descending from his cab and inquiring at the door of the Moorish
house.

"Monsieur Maitland?"  he asked the footman, who at one blow dissipated
his excitement by replying with this simple phrase, the only one of which
he had not thought in his frenzy:

"Monsieur is not at home."

"He will be at home to me," replied Boleslas.  "I have an appointment
with Madame and Mademoiselle Steno, who are awaiting me."

"Monsieur's orders are strict," replied the servant.

Accustomed, as are all servants entrusted with the defence of an artist's
work, to a certain rigor of orders, he yet hesitated, in the face of the
untruth which Gorka had invented on the spur of the moment, and he was
about to yield to his importunity when some one appeared on the staircase
of the hall.  That some one was none other than Florent Chapron.  Chance
decreed that the latter should send for a carriage in which to go to
lunch, and that the carriage should be late.  At the sound of wheels
stopping at the door, he looked out of one of the windows of his
apartment, which faced the street.  He saw Gorka alight.  Such a visit,
at such an hour, with the persons who were in the atelier, seemed to him
so dangerous that he ran downstairs immediately.  He took up his hat and
his cane, to justify his presence in the hall by the very natural excuse
that he was going out.  He reached the middle of the staircase just in
time to stop the servant, who had decided to "go and see," and, bowing to
Boleslas with more formality than usual:

"My brother-in-law is not there, Monsieur," said he; and he added,
turning to the footman, in order to dispose of him in case an altercation
should arise between the importunate visitor and himself, "Nero, fetch me
a handkerchief from my room.  I have forgotten mine."

"That order could not be meant for me, Monsieur," insisted Boleslas.
"Monsieur Maitland has made an appointment with me, with Madame Steno,
in order to show us Alba's portrait."

"It is no order," replied Florent.  "I repeat to you that my brother-in-
law has gone out.  The studio is closed, and it is impossible for me to
undertake to open it to show you the picture, since I have not the key.
As for Madame and Mademoiselle Steno, they have not been here for several
days; the sittings have been interrupted."

"What is still more extraordinary, Monsieur," replied the other, "is that
I saw them with my own eyes, five minutes ago, enter this house and I,
too, saw their carriage drive away."....  He felt his anger increase and
direct itself altogether against the watch-dog so suddenly raised upon
the threshold of his rival's house.

Florent, on his part, had begun to lose patience.  He had within him the
violent irritability of the negro blood, which he did not acknowledge,
but which slightly tinted his complexion.  The manner of Madame Steno's
former lover seemed to him so outrageous that he replied very dryly, as
he opened the door, in order to oblige the caller to leave:

"You are mistaken,--Monsieur, that is all."

"You are aware, Monsieur," replied Boleslas, "of the fact that you just
addressed me in a tone which is not the one which I have a right to
expect from you....  When one charges one's self with a certain business,
it is at least necessary to introduce a little form."

"And I, Monsieur," replied Chapron, "would be very much obliged to you if,
when you address me, you would not do so in enigmas.  I do not know what
you mean by 'a certain business,' but I know that it is unbefitting a
gentleman to act as you have acted at the door of a house which is not
yours and for reasons that I can not comprehend."

"You will comprehend them very soon, Monsieur," said Boleslas, beside
himself, "and you have not constituted yourself your brother's slave
without motives."

He had no sooner uttered that sentence than Florent, incapable any longer
of controlling himself, raised his cane with a menacing gesture, which
the Polish Count arrested just in time, by seizing it in his right hand.
It was the work of a second, and the two men were again face to face,
both pale with anger, ready to collar one another rudely, when the sound
of a door closing above their heads recalled to them their dignity.  The
servant descended the stairs.  It was Chapron who first regained his
self-possession, and he said to Boleslas, in a voice too low to be heard
by any one but him:

"No scandal, Monsieur, eh?  I shall have the honor of sending two of my
friends to you."

"It is I, Monsieur," replied Gorka, "who will send you two.  You shall
answer to me for your manner, I assure you."

"Ha!  Whatsoever you like," said the other.  "I accept all your
conditions in advance....  But one thing I ask of you," he added, "that
no names be mentioned.  There would be too many persons involved.  Let it
appear that we had an argument on the street, that we disagreed, and that
I threatened you."

"So be it," said Boleslas, after a pause.  "You have my word.  There is a
man," said he to himself five minutes later, when again rolling through
the streets in his cab, after giving the cabman the address of the Palais
Castagna.  "Yes, there is a man....  He was very insolent just now, and I
lacked composure.  I am too nervous.  I should be sorry to injure the
boy.  But, patience, the other will lose nothing by waiting."



CHAPTER VI

THE INCONSISTENCY OF AN OLD CHOUAN

While the madman, Boleslas, hastened to Ardea to ask his cooperation in
the most unreasonable of encounters, with a species of savage delight,
Florent Chapron was possessed by only one thought: at any price to
prevent his brother-in-law from suspecting his quarrel with Madame
Steno's former lover and the duel which was to be the result.  His
passionate friendship for Lincoln was so strong that it prevented the
nervousness which usually precedes a first duel, above all when he who
appears upon the ground has all his life neglected practising with the
sword or pistol.  To a fencer, and to one accustomed to the use of
firearms, a duel means a number of details which remove the thought of
danger.  The man conceives the possibilities of the struggle, of a deed
to be bravely accomplished.  That is sufficient to inspire him with a
composure which absolute ignorance can not inspire, unless it is
supported by one of those deep attachments often so strong within us.
Such was the case with Florent.

Dorsenne's instinct, which could so easily read the heart, was not
mistaken there; the painter had in his wife's brother a friend of self-
sacrificing devotion.  He could exact anything of the Mameluke, or,
rather, of that slave, for it was the blood of the slaves, of his
ancestors, which manifested itself in Chapron by so total an absorption
of his personality.  The atavism of servitude has these two effects which
are apparently contradictory: it produces fathomless capacities of
sacrifice or of perfidy.  Both of these qualities were embodied in the
brother and in the sister.  As happens, sometimes, the two
characteristics of their race were divided between them; one had
inherited all the virtue of self-sacrifice, the other all the puissance
of hypocrisy.

But the drama called forth by Madame Steno's infidelity, and finally by
Gorka's rashness, would only expose to light the moral conditions which
Dorsenne had foreseen without comprehending.  He was completely ignorant
of the circumstances under which Florent had developed, of those under
which Maitland and he had met, of how Maitland had decided to marry
Lydia; finally an exceptional and lengthy history which it is necessary
to sketch here at least, in order to render clear the singular relations
of those three beings.

As we have seen, the allusion coarsely made by Boleslas to negro blood
marked the moment when Florent lost all self-control, to the point even
of raising his cane to his insolent interlocutor.  That blemish, hidden
with the most jealous care, represented to the young man what it had
represented to his father, the vital point of self-love, secret and
constant humiliation.  It was very faint, the trace of negro blood which
flowed in their veins, so faint that it was necessary to be told of it,
but it was sufficient to render a stay in America so much the more
intolerable to both, as they had inherited all the pride of their name,
a name which the Emperor mentioned at St. Helena as that of one of his
bravest officers.  Florent's grandfather was no other, indeed, than the
Colonel Chapron who, as Napoleon desired information, swam the Dnieper on
horseback, followed a Cossack on the opposite shore, hunted him like a
stag, laid him across his saddle and took him back to the French camp.
When the Empire fell, that hero, who had compromised himself in an
irreparable manner in the army of the Loire, left his country and,
accompanied by a handful of his old comrades, went to found in the
southern part of the United States, in Alabama, a sort of agricultural
colony, to which they gave the name--which it still preserves--of Arcola,
a naive and melancholy tribute to the fabulous epoch which, however, had
been dear to them.

Who would have recognized the brilliant colonel, who penetrated by the
side of Montbrun the heart of the Grande Redoute, in the planter of
forty-five, busy with his cotton and his sugar-cane, who made a fortune
in a short time by dint of energy and good sense?  His success, told of
in France, was the indirect cause of another emigration to Texas, led by
General Lallemand, and which terminated so disastrously.  Colonel Chapron
had not, as can be believed, acquired in roaming through Europe very
scrupulous notions an the relations of the two sexes.  Having made the
mother of his child a pretty and sweet-tempered mulattress whom he met on
a short trip to New Orleans, and whom he brought back to Arcola, he
became deeply attached to the charming creature and to his son, so much
the more so as, with a simple difference of complexion and of hair, the
child was the image of him.  Indeed, the old warrior, who had no
relatives in his native land, on dying, left his entire fortune to that
son, whom he had christened Napoleon.  While he lived, not one of his
neighbors dared to treat the young man differently from the way in which
his father treated him.

But it was not the same when the prestige of the Emperor's soldier was
not there to protect the boy against that aversion to race which is
morally a prejudice, but socially interprets an instinct of preservation
of infallible surety.  The United States has grown only on that
condition.

     [Those familiar with the works of Bourget will recognize here again
     his well known antipathy for the United States of America.  Mark
     Twain in the late 1800's felt obliged to rebut some of Bourget's
     prejudice: "What Paul Bourget thinks of us."  D.W.]

The mixture of blood would there have dissolved the admirable Anglo-Saxon
energy which the struggle against a nature at once very rich and very
mutinous has exalted to such surprising splendor.  It is not necessary to
ask those who are the victims of such an instinct to comprehend the legal
injustice.  They only feel its ferocity.  Napoleon Chapron, rejected in
several offers of marriage, thwarted in his plans, humiliated under
twenty trifling circumstances by the Colonel's former companions, became
a species of misanthrope.  He lived, sustained by a twofold desire, on
the one hand to increase his fortune, and on the other to wed a white
woman.  It was not until 1857, at the age of thirty-five, that he
realized the second of his two projects.  In the course of a trip to
Europe, he became interested on the steamer in a young English governess,
who was returning from Canada, summoned home by family troubles.  He met
her again in London.  He helped her with such delicacy in her distress,
that he won her heart, and she consented to become his wife.  From that
union were born, one year apart, Florent and Lydia.

Lydia had cost her mother her life, at the moment when the War of
Secession jeoparded the fortune of Chapron, who, fortunately for him,
had, in his desire to enrich himself quickly, invested his money a little
on all sides.  He was only partly ruined, but that semi-ruin prevented
him from returning to Europe, as he had intended.  He was compelled to
remain in Alabama to repair that disaster, and he succeeded, for at his
death, in 1880, his children inherited more than four hundred thousand
dollars each.  The incomparable father's devotion had not limited itself
to the building up of a large fortune.  He had the courage to deprive
himself of the presence of the two beings whom he adored, to spare them
the humiliation of an American school, and he sent them after their
twelfth year to England, the boy to the Jesuits of Beaumont, the girl to
the convent of the Sacred Heart, at Roehampton.  After four years there,
he sent them to Paris, Florent to Vaugirard, Lydia to the Rue de Varenne,
and just at the time that he had realized the amount he considered
requisite, when he was preparing to return to live near them in a country
without prejudices, a stroke of apoplexy took him off suddenly.  The
double wear of toil and care had told upon one of those organisms which
the mixture of the black and white races often produces, athletic in
appearance, but of a very keen sensibility, in which the vital resistance
is not in proportion to the muscular vigor.

Whatever care the man, so deeply grieved by the blemish upon his birth,
had taken to preserve his children from a similar experience, he had not
been able to do so, and soon after his son entered Beaumont his trials
began.  The few boys with whom Florent was thrown in contact, in the
hotels or in his walks, during his sojourn in America, had already made
him feel that humiliation from which his father had suffered so much.
The youth of twelve, silent and absurdly sensitive, who made his
appearance on the lawn of the peaceful English college on an autumn
morning, brought with him a self-love already bleeding, to whom it was a
delightful surprise to find himself among comrades of his age who did not
even seem to suspect that any difference separated them from him.  It
required the perception of a Yankee to discern, beneath the nails of the
handsome boy with the dark complexion, the tiny drops of negro blood, so
far removed.  Between an octoroon and a creole a European can never tell
the difference.  Florent had been represented as what he really was, the
grandson of one of the Emperor's best officers.  His father had taken
particular pains to designate him as French, and his companions only saw
in him a pupil like themselves, coming from Alabama--that is to say, from
a country almost as chimerical as Japan or China.

All who in early youth have known the torture of apprehension will be
able to judge of the poor child's agony when, after four months of a life
amid the warmth of sympathy, one of the Jesuit fathers who directed the
college announced to him, thinking it would afford him pleasure, the
expected arrival of an American, of young Lincoln Maitland.  This was
to Florent so violent a shock that he had a fever for forty-eight hours.
In after years he could remember what thoughts possessed him on the day
when he descended from his room to the common refectory, sure that as
soon as he was brought face to face with the new pupil he would have to
sustain the disdainful glance suffered so frequently in the United
States.  There was no doubt in his mind that, his origin once discovered,
the atmosphere of kindness in which he moved with so much surprise would
soon be changed to hostility.  He could again see himself crossing the
yard; could hear himself called by Father Roberts--the master who had
told him of the expected new arrival--and his surprise when Lincoln
Maitland had given him the hearty handshake of one demi-compatriot who
meets another.  He was to learn later that that reception was quite
natural, coming from the son of an Englishman, educated altogether by his
mother, and taken from New York to Europe before his fifth year, there to
live in a circle as little American as possible.  Chapron did not reason
in that manner.  He had an infinitely tender heart.  Gratitude entered
it--gratitude as impassioned as had been his fear.  One week later
Lincoln Maitland and he were friends, and friends so intimate that they
never parted.

The affection, which was merely to the indifferent nature of Maitland a
simple college episode, became to Florent the most serious, most complete
sentiment of his life.  Those fraternities of election, the loveliest and
most delicate of the heart of man, usually dawn thus in youth.  It is the
ideal age of passionate friendship, that period between ten and sixteen,
when the spirit is so pure, so fresh, still so virtuous, so fertile in
generous projects for the future.  One dreams of a companionship almost
mystical with the friend from whom one has no secret, whose character one
sees in such a noble light, on whose esteem one depends as upon the
surest recompense, whom one innocently desires to resemble.  Indeed,
they are, between the innocent lads who work side by side on a problem
of geometry or a lesson in history, veritable poems of tenderness at
which the man will smile later, finding so far different from him in all
his tastes, him whom he desired to have for a brother.  It happens,
however, in certain natures of a sensibility particularly precocious and
faithful at the same time, that the awakening of effective life is so
strong, so encroaching, that the impassioned friendship persists, first
through the other awakening, that of sensuality, so fatal to all the
senses of delicacy, then through the first tumult of social experience,
not less fatal to our ideal of youth.

That was the case with Florent Chapron, whether his character, at once
somewhat wild and yet submissive, rendered him more qualified for that
renunciation of his personality than friendship demands, whether, far
from his father and his sister and not having any mother, his loving
heart had need of attaching itself to some one who could fill the place
of his relatives, or whether Maitland exercised over him a special
prestige by his opposite qualities.  Fragile and somewhat delicate, was
he seduced by the strength and dexterity which his friend exhibited in
all his exercises?  Timid and naturally taciturn, was he governed by the
assurance of that athlete with the loud laugh, with the invincible
energy?  Did the surprising tendency toward art which the other one
showed conquer him, as well as sympathy for the misfortunes which were
confided to him and which touched him more than they touched him who
experienced them?

Gordon Maitland, Lincoln's father, of an excellent family of New York,
had been killed at the battle of Chancellorsville, during the same war
which had ruined Florent's father in part.  Mrs. Maitland, the poor
daughter of a small rector of a Presbyterian church at Newport, and who
had only married her husband for his money, had but one idea, when once a
widow--to go abroad.  Whither?  To Europe, vague and fascinating spot,
where she fancied she would be distinguished by her intelligence and her
beauty.  She was pretty, vain and silly, and that voyage in pursuit of a
part to play in the Old World caused her to pass two years first in one
hotel and then in another, after which she married the second son of a
poor Irish peer, with the new chimera of entering that Olympus of British
aristocracy of which she had dreamed so much.  She became a Catholic, and
her son with her, to obtain the result which cost her dear, for not only
was the lord who had given her his name brutal, a drunkard and cruel, but
he added to all those faults that of being one of the greatest gamblers
in the entire United Kingdom.  He kept his stepson away from home, beat
his wife, and died toward 1880, after dissipating the poor creature's
fortune and almost all of Lincoln's.  At that time the latter, whom his
stepfather had naturally left to develop in his own way, and who, since
leaving Beaumont, had studied painting at Venice, Rome and Paris, was in
the latter city and one of the first pupils in Bonnat's studio.  Seeing
his mother ruined, without resources at forty-four years of age,
persuaded himself of his glorious future, he had one of those magnificent
impulses such as one has in youth and which prove much less the
generosity than the pride of life.  Of the fifteen thousand francs of
income remaining to him, he gave up to his mother twelve thousand five
hundred.  It is expedient to add that in less than a year afterward he
married the sister of his college friend and four hundred thousand
dollars.  He had seen poverty and he was afraid of it.  His action with
regard to his mother seemed to justify in his own eyes the purely
interested character of the combination which freed his brush forever.
There are, moreover, such artistic consciences.  Maitland would not have
pardoned himself a concession of art.  He considered rascals the painters
who begged success by compromise in their style, and he thought it quite
natural to take the money of Mademoiselle Chapron, whom he did not love,
and for whom, now that he had grown to manhood and knew several of her
compatriots, he likewise felt the prejudice of race.  "The glory of the
colonel of the Empire and friendship for that good Florent," as he said,
"covered all."

Poor and good Florent!  That marriage was to him the romance of his youth
realized.  He had desired it since the first week that Maitland had given
him the cordial handshake which had bound them.  To live in the shadow of
his friend, become at once his brother-in-law and his ideal--he did not
dream of any other solution of his own destiny.  The faults of Maitland,
developed by age, fortune, and success--we recall the triumph of his
'Femme en violet et en jeune' in the Salon of 1884--found Florent as
blind as at the epoch when they played cricket together in the fields at
Beaumont.  Dorsenne very justly diagnosed there one of those hypnotisms
of admiration such as artists, great or small, often inspire around them.
But the author, who always generalized too quickly, had not comprehended
that the admirer with Florent was grafted on a friend worthy to be
painted by La Fontaine or by Balzac, the two poets of friendship, the one
in his sublime and tragic Cousin Pons, the other in that short but fine
fable, in which is this verse, one of the most tender in the French
language:

          Vous metes, en dormant, un peu triste apparu.

Florent did not love Lincoln because he admired him; he admired him
because he loved him.  He was not wrong in considering the painter as one
of the most gifted who had appeared for thirty years.  But Lincoln would
have had neither the bold elegance of his drawing, nor the vivid strength
of coloring, nor the ingenious finesse of imagination if the other had
lent himself with less ardor to the service of the work and to the glory
of the artist.  When Lincoln wanted to travel he found his brother-in-law
the most diligent of couriers.  When he had need of a model he had only
to say a word for Florent to set about finding one.  Did Lincoln exhibit
at Paris or London, Florent took charge of the entire proceeding--seeing
the journalists and picture dealers, composing letters of thanks for the
articles, in a handwriting so like that of the painter that the latter
had only to sign it.  Lincoln desired to return to Rome.  Florent had
discovered the house on the Rue Leopardi, and he settled it even before
Maitland, then in Egypt, had finished a large study begun at the moment
of the departure of the other.

Florent had, by virtue of the affection felt for his brother-in-law, come
to comprehend the paintings as well as the painter himself.  These words
will be clear to those who have been around artists and who know what a
distance separates them from the most enlightened amateur.  The amateur
can judge and feel.  The artist only, who has wielded the implements,
knows, before a painting, how it is done, what stroke of the brush has
been given, and why; in short, the trituration of the matter by the
workman.  Florent had watched Maitland work so much, he had rendered him
so many effective little services in the studio, that each of his
brother-in-law's canvases became animated to him, even to the slightest
details.  When he saw them on the wall of the gallery they told him of an
intimacy which was at once his greatest joy and his greatest pride.  In
short, the absorption of his personality in that of his former comrade
was so complete that it had led to this anomaly, that Dorsenne himself,
notwithstanding his indulgence for psychological singularities, had not
been able to prevent himself from finding almost monstrous: Florent was
Lincoln's brother-in-law, and he seemed to find it perfectly natural that
the latter should have adventures outside, if the emotion of those
adventures could be useful to his talent!

Perhaps this long and yet incomplete analysis will permit us the better
to comprehend what emotions agitated the young man as he reascended the
staircase of his house--of their house, Lincoln's and his--after his
unexpected dispute with Boleslas Gorka.  It will attenuate, at least with
respect to him, the severity of simple minds.  All passion, when
developed in the heart, has the effect of etiolating around it the vigor
of other instincts.  Chapron was too fanatical a friend to be a very
equitable brother.  It seemed to him very simple and very legitimate that
his sister should be at the service of the genius of Lincoln, as he
himself was.  Moreover, if, since the marriage with her brother's friend,
his sister had been stirred by the tempest of a moral tragedy, Florent
did not suspect it.  When had he studied Lydia, the silent, reserved
Lydia, of whom he had once for all formed an opinion, as is the almost
invariable custom of relative with relative?  Those who have seen us when
young are like those who see us daily.  The images which they trace of us
always reproduce what we were at a certain moment--scarcely ever what we
are.  Florent considered his sister very good, because he had formerly
found her so; very gentle, because she had never resisted him; not
intelligent, because she did not seem sufficiently interested in the
painter's work; as for the suffering and secret rebellion of the
oppressed creature, crushed between his blind partiality and the
selfishness of a scornful husband, he did not even suspect them, much
less the terrible resolution of which that apparent resignation was
capable.

If he had trembled when Madame Steno began to interest herself in
Lincoln, it was solely for the work of the latter, so much the more as
for a year he had perceived not a decline but a disturbance in the
painting of that artist, too voluntary not to be unequal.  Then Florent
had seen, on the other hand, the nerve of Maitland reawakened in the
warmth of that little intrigue.

The portrait of Alba promised to be a magnificent study, worthy of being
placed beside the famous 'Femme en violet et en jaune,' which those
envious of Lincoln always remembered.  Moreover, the painter had finished
with unparalleled ardor two large compositions partly abandoned.  In the
face of that proof of a fever of production more and more active, how
would not Florent have blessed Madame Steno, instead of cursing her, so
much the more that it sufficed him to close his eyes and to know that his
conscience was in repose when opposite his sister?  He knew all, however.
The proof of it was in his shudder when Dorsenne announced to him the
clandestine arrival in Rome of Madame Steno's other lover, and one proof
still more certain, the impulse which had precipitated him upon Boleslas,
who was parleying with the servant, and now it was he who had accepted
the duel which an exasperated rival had certainly come to propose to his
dear Lincoln, and he thought only of the latter.

"He must know nothing until afterward.  He would take the affair upon
himself, and I have a chance to kill him, that Gorka--to wound him, at
least.  In any case, I will arrange it so that a second duel will be
rendered difficult to that lunatic....  But, first of all, let us make
sure that we have not spoken too loudly and that they have not heard
upstairs the ill-bred fellow's loud voice."

It was in such terms that he qualified his adversary of the morrow.  For
very little more he would have judged Gorka unpardonable not to thank
Lincoln, who had done him the honor to supplant him in the Countess's
favor!

In the meantime, let us cast a glance at the atelier!  When the friend,
devoted to complicity, but also to heroism, entered the vast room, he
could see at the first glance that he had been mistaken and that no sound
of voices had reached that peaceful retreat.

The atelier of the American painter was furnished with a harmonious
sumptuousness which real artists know how to gather around them.  The
large strip of sky seen through the windows looked down upon a corner
veritably Roman--of the Rome of to-day, which attests an uninterrupted
effort toward forming a new city by the side of the old one.  One could
see an angle of the old garden and the fragment of an antique building,
with a church steeple beyond.  It was on a background of azure, of
verdure and of ruins, in a horizon larger and more distant, but composed
of the same elements, that was to arise the face of the young girl,
designed after the manner, so sharp and so modelled, of the 'Pier della
Francesca', with whom Maitland had been preoccupied for six months.

All great composers, of an originality more composite than genitive, have
these infatuations.

Maitland was at his easel, dressed with that correct elegance which is
the almost certain mark of Anglo-Saxon artists.  With his little
varnished shoes, his fine black socks, spotted with red, his coat of
quilted silk, his light cravat and the purity of his linen, he had the
air of a gentleman who applied himself to an amateur effort, and not of
the patient and laborious worker he really was.  But his canvases and his
studies, hung on all sides, among tapestries, arms and trinkets, bespoke
patient labor.  It was the history of an energy bent upon the,
acquisition of a personality constantly fleeting.  Maitland manifested in
a supreme degree the trait common to almost all his compatriots, even
those who came in early youth to Europe, that intense desire not to lack
civilization, which is explained by the fact that the American is a being
entirely new, endowed with an activity incomparable, and deprived of
traditional saturation.  He is not born cultivated, matured, already
fashioned virtually, if one may say so, like a child of the Old World.
He can create himself at his will.  With superior gifts, but gifts
entirely physical, Maitland was a self-made man of art, as his grand
father had been a self-made man of money, as his father had been a self-
made man of war.  He had in his eye and in his hand two marvellous
implements for painting, and in his perseverence in developing a still
more marvellous one.  He lacked constantly the something necessary and
local which gives to certain very inferior painters the inexpressible
superiority of a savor of soil.  It could not be said that he was not
inventive and new, yet one experienced on seeing no matter which one of
his paintings that he was a creature of culture and of acquisition.  The
scattered studies in the atelier first of all displayed the influence of
his first master, of solid and simple Bonnat.  Then he had been tempted
by the English pre-Raphaelites, and a fine copy of the famous 'Song of
Love', by Burne-Jones, attested that reaction on the side of an art more
subtle, more impressed by that poetry which professional painters treat
scornfully as literary.  But Lincoln was too vigorous for the languors of
such an ideal, and he quickly turned to other teachings.  Spain conquered
him, and Velasquez, the colorist of so peculiar a fancy that, after a
visit to the Museum of the Prado, one carries away the idea that one has
just seen the only painting worthy of the name.

The spirit of the great Spaniard, that despotic stroke of the brush which
seems to draw the color in the groundwork of the picture, to make it
stand out in almost solid lights, his absolute absence of abstract
intentions and his newness which affects entirely to ignore the past, all
in that formula of art, suited Maitland's temperament.  To him, too, he
owed his masterpiece, the 'Femme en violet et en jaune', but the restless
seeker did not adhere to that style.  Italy and the Florentines next
influenced him, just those the most opposed to Velasquez; the Pollajuoli,
Andrea del Castagna, Paolo Uccello and Pier delta Francesca.  Never would
one have believed that the same hand which had wielded with so free a
brush the color of the 'Femme en violet...' could be that which sketched
the contour of the portrait of Alba with so severe, so rigid a drawing.

At the moment Florent entered the studio that work so completely absorbed
the attention of the painter that he did not hear the door open any more
than did Madame Steno, who was smoking cigarettes, reclining indolently
and blissfully upon the divan, her half-closed eyes fixed upon the man
she loved.  Lincoln only divined another presence by a change in Alba's
face.  God!  How pale she was, seated in the immobility of her pose in a
large, heraldic armchair, with a back of carved wood, her hands grasping
the arms, her mouth so bitter, her eyes so deep in their fixed glance!...
Did she divine that which she could not, however, know, that her fate was
approaching with the visitor who entered, and who, having left the studio
fifteen minutes before, had to justify his return by an excuse.

"It is I," said he.  "I forgot to ask you, Lincoln, if you wish to buy
Ardea's three drawings at the price they offer."

"Why did you not tell me of it yesterday, my little Linco?"  interrupted
the Countess.  "I saw Peppino again this morning....  I would have from
him his lowest figure."

"That would only be lacking," replied Maitland, laughing his large laugh.
"He does not acknowledge those drawings, dear dogaresse....  They are a
part of the series of trinkets he carefully subtracted from his
creditor's inventory and put in different places.  There are some at
seven or eight antiquaries', and we may expect that for the next ten
years all the cockneys of my country will be allured by this phrase,
'This is from the Palais Castagna.  I have it by a little arrangement.'"

His eyes sparkled as he imitated one of the most celebrated bric-a-brac
dealers in Rome, with the incomparable art of imitation which
distinguishes all the old habitues of Parisian studios.

"At present these three drawings are at an antiquary's of Babuino, and
very authentic."

"Except when they are represented as Vincis," said Florent, "when
Leonardo was left-handed, and their hatchings are made from left to
right."

"And you think Ardea would not agree with me in it?" resumed the
Countess.

"Not even with you," said the painter.  "He had the assurance last night,
when I mentioned them before him, to ask me the address in order to go to
see them."

"How did you learn their production?"  questioned Madame Steno.

"Ask him," said Maitland, pointing to Chapron with the end of his brush.
"When there is a question of enriching his old Maitland's collection, he
becomes more of a merchant than the merchants themselves.  They tell him
all....  Vinci or no Vinci, it is the pure Lombard style.  Buy them.
I want them."

"I will go, then," replied Florent.  "Countess.  .  .  .  Contessina."

He bowed to Madame Steno and her daughter.  The mother bestowed upon him
her pleasantest smile.  She was not one of those mistresses to whom their
lovers' intimate friends are always enemies.  On the contrary, she
enveloped them in the abundant and blissful sympathy which love awoke in
her.  Besides, she was too cunning not to feel that Florent approved of
her love.  But, on the other hand, the intense aversion which Alba at
that moment felt toward her mother's suspected intrigues was expressed by
the formality with which she inclined her head in response to the
farewell of the young man, who was too happy to have found that the
dispute had not been heard.

"From now until to-morrow," thought he, on redescending the staircase,
"there will be no one to warn Lincoln....  The purchase of the drawings
was an invention to demonstrate my tranquillity....Now I must find two
discreet seconds."

Florent was a very deliberate man, and a man who had at his command
perfect evenness of temperament whenever it was not a question of his
enthusiastic attachment to his brother-in-law.  He had the power of
observation habitual to persons whose sensitive amour propre has
frequently been wounded.  He therefore deferred until later his difficult
choice and went to luncheon, as if nothing had happened, at the
restaurant where he was expected.  Certainly the proprietor did not
mistrust, in replying to the questions of his guest relative to the most
recent portraits of Lenbach, that the young man, so calm, so smiling, had
on hand a duel which might cost him his life.  It was only on leaving the
restaurant that Florent, after mentally reviewing ten of his older
acquaintances, resolved to make a first attempt upon Dorsenne.  He
recalled the mysterious intelligence given him by the novelist, whose
sympathy for Maitland had been publicly manifested by an eloquent
article.  Moreover, he believed him to be madly in love with Alba Steno.
That was one probability more in favor of his discretion.

Dorsenne would surely maintain silence with regard to a meeting in
connection with which, if it were known, the cause of the contest would
surely be mentioned.  It was only too clear that Gorka and Chapron had no
real reason to quarrel and fight a duel.  But at ten-thirty, that is to
say, three hours after the unreasonable altercation in the vestibule,
Florent rang at the door of Julien's apartments.  The latter was at home,
busy upon the last correction of the proofs of 'Poussiere d'Idees'.  His
visitor's confidence upset him to such a degree that his hands trembled
as he arranged his scattered papers.  He remembered the presence of
Boleslas on that same couch, at the same time of the day, forty-eight
hours before.  How the drama would progress if that madman went away in
that mood!  He knew only too well that Maitland's brother-in-law had not
told him all.

"It is absurd," he cried, "it is madness, it is folly!....  You are not
going to fight about an argument such as you have related to me?  You
talked at the corner of the street, you exchanged a few angry words, and
then, suddenly, seconds, a duel....  Ah, it is absurd."

"You forget that I offered him a violent insult in raising my cane to
him," interrupted Florent, "and since he demands satisfaction I must give
it to him."

"Do you believe," said the writer, "that the public will be contented
with those reasons?  Do you think they will not look for the secret
motives of the duel?  Do I know the story of a woman?....  You see, I ask
no questions.  I rely upon what you confide in me.  But the world is the
world, and you will not escape its remarks."

"It is precisely for that reason that I ask absolute discretion of you,"
replied Florent, "and for that reason that I have come to ask you to
serve me as a second....  There is no one in whom I trust as implicitly
as I do in you....  It is the only excuse for my step."

"I thank you," said Dorsenne.  He hesitated a moment.  Then the image of
Alba, which had haunted him since the previous day, suddenly presented
itself to his mind.  He recalled the sombre anguish he had surprised in
the young girl's eyes, then her comforted glance when her mother smiled
at once upon Gorka and Maitland.  He recalled the anonymous letter and
the mysterious hatred which impended over Madame Steno.  If the quarrel
between Boleslas and Florent became known, there was no doubt that it
would be said generally that Florent was fighting for his brother-in-law
on account of the Countess.  No doubt, too, that the report would reach
the poor Contessina.  It was sufficient to cause the writer to reply:
"Very well!  I accept.  I will serve you.  Do not thank me.  We are
losing valuable time.  You will require another second.  Of whom have you
thought?"

"Of no one," returned Florent.  "I confess I have counted on you to aid
me."

"Let us make a list," said Julien.  "It is the best way, and then cross
off the names."

Dorsenne wrote down a number of their acquaintances, and they indeed
crossed them off, according to his expression, so effectually that after
a minute examination they had rejected all of them.  They were then as
much perplexed as ever, when suddenly Dorsenne's eyes brightened, he
uttered a slight exclamation, and said brusquely:

"What an idea!  But it is an idea!....  Do you know the Marquis de
Montfanon?"  he asked Florent.

"He with one arm?"  replied the latter.  "I saw him once with reference
to a monument I put up at Saint Louis des Francais."

"He told me of it," said Dorsenne.  "For one of your relatives, was it
not?"

"Oh, a distant cousin," replied Florent; "one Captain Chapron, killed in
'forty-nine in the trenches before Rome."

"Now, to our business," cried Dorsenne, rubbing his hands.  "It is
Montfanon who must be your second.  First of all, he is an experienced
duellist, while I have never been on the ground.  That is very important.
You know the celebrated saying: 'It is neither swords nor pistols which
kill; it is the seconds.'....  And then if the matter has to be arranged,
he will have more prestige than your servant."

"It is impossible," said Florent; "Marquis de Montfanon....  He will
never consent.  I do not exist for him."

"That is my affair," cried Dorsenne.  "Let me take the necessary steps in
my own name, and then if he agrees you can make it in yours....  Only we
have no time to lose.  Do not leave your house until six o'clock.  By
that time I shall know upon what to depend."

If, at first, the novelist had felt great confidence in the issue of his
strange attempt with reference to his old friend, that confidence changed
to absolute apprehension when he found himself, half an hour later, at
the house which Marquis Claude Francois occupied in one of the oldest
parts of Rome, from which location he could obtain an admirable view of
the Forum.  How many times had Julien come, in the past six months, to
that Marquis who dived constantly in the sentiment of the past, to gaze
upon the tragical and grand panorama of the historical scene!  At the
voice of the recluse, the broken columns rose, the ruined temples were
rebuilt, the triumphal view was cleared from its mist.  He talked, and
the formidable epopee of the Roman legend was evoked, interpreted by the
fervent Christian in that mystical and providential sense, which all,
indeed, proclaims in that spot, where the Mamertine prison relates the
trial of St.  Peter, where the portico of the temple of Faustine serves
as a pediment to the Church of St. Laurent, where Ste.-Marie-Liberatrice
rises upon the site of the Temple of Vesta--'Sancta Maria, libera nos a
poenis inferni'--Montfanon always added when he spoke of it, and he
pointed out the Arch of Titus, which tells of the fulfilment of the
prophecies of Our Lord against Jerusalem, while, opposite, the groves
reveal the out lines of a nunnery upon the ruins of the dwellings of the
Caesars.  And, at the extreme end, the Coliseum recalls to mind the
ninety thousand spectators come to see the martyrs suffer.

Such were the sights where lived the former pontifical zouave, and, on
ringing the bell of the third etage, Julien said to himself: "I am a
simpleton to come to propose to such a man what I have to propose.  Yet
it is not to be a second in an ordinary duel, but simply to prevent an
adventure which might cost the lives of two men in the first place, then
the honor of Madame Steno, and, lastly, the peace of mind of three
innocent persons, Madame Gorka, Madame Maitland and my little friend
Alba....  He alone has sufficient authority to arrange all.  It will be
an act of charity, like any other....  I hope he is at home," he
concluded, hearing the footstep of the servant, who recognized the
visitor and who anticipated all questions.

"The Marquis went out this morning before eight o'clock.  He will not
return until dinner-time."

"Do you know where he has gone?"

"To hear mass in a catacomb, and to be present at a procession," replied
the footman, who took Dorsenne's card, adding: "The Trappists of Saint
Calixtus certainly know where the Marquis is.... He lunched with them."

"We shall see," said the young man to himself, somewhat disappointed.
His carriage rolled in the direction of Porte St. Sebastien, near which
was the catacomb and the humble dwelling contiguous to it--the last
morsel of the Papal domains kept by the poor monks.  "Montfanon will have
taken communion this morning," thought he, "and at the very word duel he
will listen to nothing more.  However, the matter must be arranged; it
must be....  What would I not give to know the truth of the scene between
Gorka and Florent?  By what strange and diabolical ricochet did the
Palatine hit upon the latter when his business was with the brother-in-
law?....  Will he be angry that I am his adversary's second?....  Bah!...
After our conversation of the other day our friendship is ended....
Good, I am already at the little church of 'Domine, quo vadis.'--[Lord,
whither art thou going?"]-- I might say to myself: 'Juliane, quo vadis?'
'To perform an act a little better than the majority of my actions,' I
might reply."

That impressionable soul which vibrated at the slightest contact was
touched by the souvenir of one of the innumerable pious legends which
nineteen centuries of Catholicism have suspended at all the corners of
Rome and its surrounding districts.  He recalled the touching story of
St. Peter flying from persecution and meeting our Lord: "Lord, whither
art thou going?"  asked the apostle.  "To be crucified a second time,"
replied the Saviour, and Peter was ashamed of his weakness and returned
to martyrdom.  Montfanon himself had related that episode to the
novelist, who again began to reflect upon the Marquis's character and the
best means of approaching him.  He forgot to glance at the vast solitude
of the Roman suburbs before him, and so deep was his reverie that he
almost passed unheeded the object of his search.  Another disappointment
awaited him at the first point in his voyage of exploration.

The monk who came at his ring to open the door of the inclosure
contiguous to St. Calixtus, informed him that he of whom he was in
search had left half an hour before.

"You will find him at the Basilica of Saint Neree and Saint Achilles,"
added the Trappist; "it is the fete of those two saints, and at five
o'clock there will be a procession in their catacombs....  It is a
fifteen minutes' ride from here, near the tower Marancia, on the Via
Ardeatina."

"Shall I miss him a third time?"  thought Dorsenne, alighting from the
carriage finally, and proceeding on foot to the opening which leads to
the subterranean Necropolis dedicated to the two saints who were the
eunuchs of Domitilla, the niece of Emperor Vespasian.  A few ruins and a
dilapidated house alone mark the spot where once stood the pious
Princess's magnificent villa.  The gate was open, and, meeting no one who
could direct him, the young man took several steps in the subterranean
passage.  He perceived that the long gallery was lighted.  He entered
there, saying to himself that the row of tapers, lighted every ten paces,
assuredly marked the line which the procession would follow, and which
led to the central basilica.  Although his anxiety as to the issue of his
undertaking was extreme, he could not help being impressed by the
grandeur of the sight presented by the catacomb thus illuminated.  The
uneven niches reserved for the dead, asleep in the peace of the Lord for
so many centuries, made recesses in the corridors and gave them a solemn
and tragical aspect.  Inscriptions were to be seen there, traced on the
stone, and all spoke of the great hope which those first Christians had
cherished, the same which believers of our day cherish.

Julien knew enough of symbols to understand the significance of the
images between which the persecuted of the primitive church had laid
their fathers.  They are so touching and so simple!  The anchor
represents safety in the storm; the gentle dove and the ewe, symbols of
the soul, which flies away and seeks its shepherd; the phoenix, whose
wings announce the resurrection.  Then there were the bread and the wine,
the branches of the olive and the palm.  The silent cemetery was filled
with a faint aroma of incense, noticed by Dorsenne on entering.  High
mass, celebrated in the morning, left the sacred perfume diffused among
those bones, once the forms of human beings who kneeled there amid the
same holy aroma.  The contrast was strong between that spot, where
everything spoke of things eternal, and the drama of passion, worldly and
culpable, the progress of which agitated even Dorsenne.  At that moment
he appeared to himself in the light of a profaner, although he was
obeying generous and humane instincts.  He experienced a sense of relief
when, at a bend in one of the corridors which he had selected from among
many others, he found himself face to face with a priest, who held in his
hand a basket filled with the petals of flowers, destined, no doubt, for
the procession.  Dorsenne inquired of him the way to the Basilica in
Italian, while the reply was given in perfect French.

"Perhaps you know the Marquis de Montfanon, father?"  asked the novelist.

"I am one of the chaplains of Saint Louis," said the priest, with a
smile, adding: "You will find him in the Basilica."

"Now, the moment has come," thought Dorsenne, "I must be subtle....
After all, it is charity I am about to ask him to do....  Here I am.
I recognize the staircase and the opening above."

A corner of the sky, indeed, was to be seen, and a ray of light entered
which permitted the writer to distinguish him whom he was seeking among
the few persons assembled in the ruined chapel, the most venerable of all
those which encircle Rome with a hidden girdle of sanctuaries.
Montfanon, too recognizable, alas!  by the empty sleeve of his black
redingote, was seated on a chair, not very far from the altar, on which
burned enormous tapers.  Priests and monks were arranging baskets filled
with petals, like those of the chaplain, whom Dorsenne had just met.  A
group of three curious visitors commented in whispers upon the paintings,
scarcely visible on the discolored stucco of the ceiling.  Montfanon was
entirely absorbed in the book which he held in his one hand.  The large
features of his face, ennobled and almost transfigured by the ardor of
devotion, gave him the admirable expression of an old Christian soldier.
'Bonus miles Christi'--a good soldier of Christ--had been inscribed upon
the tomb of the chief under whom he had been wounded at Patay.  One would
have taken him for a guardian layman of the tombs of the martyrs, capable
of confessing his faith like them, even to the death.  And when Julien
determined to approach and to touch him lightly on the shoulder, he saw
that, in the nobleman's clear, blue eyes, ordinarily so gay, and
sometimes so choleric, sparkled unshed tears.  His voice, too, naturally
sharp, was softened by the emotion of the thought which his reading, the
place, the time, the occupation of his day had awakened within him.

"Ah, you here?"  said he to his young friend, without any astonishment.
"You have come for the procession.  That is well.  You will hear sung the
lovely lines: 'Hi sunt quos fatue mundus abhorruit."  He pronounced ou as
u, 'a l'Italienne'; for his liturgic training had been received in Rome.
"The season is favorable for the ceremonies.  The tourists have gone.
There will only be people here who pray and who feel, like you....  And
to feel is half of prayer.  The other half is to believe.  You will
become one of us.  I have always predicted it.  There is no peace but
here."

"I would gladly have come only for the procession," replied Dorsenne,
"but my visit has another motive, dear friend," said he, in a still lower
tone.  "I have been seeking for you for more than an hour, that you might
aid me in rendering a great service to several people, in preventing a
very great misfortune, perhaps."

"I can help you to prevent a very great misfortune?"  repeated Montfanon.

"Yes," replied Dorsenne, "but this is not the place in which to explain
to you the details of the long and terrible adventure....  At what hour
is the ceremony?  I will wait for you, and tell it to you on leaving
here."

"It does not begin until five o'clock-five-thirty," said Montfanon,
looking at his watch, "and it is now fifteen minutes past four.  Let us
leave the catacomb, if you wish, and you can repeat your story to me up
above.  A very great misfortune?  Well," he added, pressing the hand of
the young man whom, personally, he liked as much as he detested his
views, "rest assured, my dear child, we will prevent it!"

There was in the manner in which he uttered those words the tranquillity
of a mind which knows not uneasiness, that of a believer who feels sure
of always accomplishing all that he wishes to do.  It would not have been
Montfanon, that is to say, a species of visionary, who loved to argue
with Dorsenne, because he knew that in spite of all he was understood,
if he had not continued, as they walked along the lighted corridor,
while remounting toward daylight:

"If it is all the same to you, sir apologist of the modern world, I
should like to pause here and ask you frankly: Do you not feel yourself
more contemporary with all the dead who slumber within these walls than
with a radical elector or a free-mason deputy?  Do you not feel that if
these martyrs had not come to pray beneath these vaults eighteen hundred
years ago, the best part of your soul would not exist?  Where will you
find a poetry more touching than that of these symbols and of these
epitaphs?  That admirable De Rossi showed me one at Saint Calixtus last
year.  My tears flow as I recall it.  'Pete pro Phoebe et pro virginio
ejus'.  Pray for Phoebus and for--How do you translate the word
'virginius', the husband who has known only one wife, the virgin husband
of a virgin spouse?  Your youth will pass, Dorsenne.  You will one day
feel what I feel, the happiness which is wanting on account of bygone
errors, and you will comprehend that it is only to be found in Christian
marriage, whose entire sublimity is summed up in thus prayer: 'Pro
virginio ejus'....  You will be like me then, and you will find in this
book," he held up 'l'Eucologe', which he clasped in his hand, "something
through which to offer up to God your remorse and your regrets.  Do you
know the hymn of the Holy Sacrament, 'Adoro te, devote'?  No.  Yet you
are capable of feeling what is contained in these lines.  Listen.  It is
this idea: That on the cross one sees only the man, not the God; that in
the host one does not even see the man, and that yet one believes in the
real presence.

               In cruce latebat sola Deitas.
               At hic latet simul et humanitas.
               Ambo tamen credens atque confitens....

"And now this last verse:

               Peto quod petivit latro poenitens!

          [I ask that which the penitent thief asked.]

"What a cry!  Ah, but it is beautiful!  It is beautiful!  What words to
say in dying!  And what did the poor thief ask, that Dixmas of whom the
church has made a saint for that one appeal: 'Remember me, Lord, in Thy
kingdom!'  But we have arrived.  Stoop, that you may not spoil your hat.
Now, what do you want with me?  You know the motto of the Montfanons:
'Excelsior et firmior'--Always higher and always firmer.... One can never
do too many good deeds.  If it be possible, 'present', as we said to the
rollcall."

A singular mixture of fervor and of good-nature, of enthusiastic
eloquence and of political or religious fanaticism, was Montfanon.  But
the good-nature rapidly vanished from his face, at once so haughty and so
simple, in proportion as Dorsenne's story proceeded.  The writer, indeed,
did not make the error of at once formulating his proposition.  He felt
that he could not argue with the pontifical zouave of bygone days.
Either the latter would look upon it as monstrous and absurd, or he would
see in it a charitable duty to be accomplished, and then, whatever
annoyance the matter might occasion him, he would accept it, as he would
bestow alms.  It was that chord of generosity which Julien, diplomatic
for once in his life, essayed to touch by his confidence.  Gaining
authority by their conversation of a few days before, he related all he
could of Gorka's visit, concealing the fact of that word of honor so
falsely given, which still oppressed him with a mortal weight.  He told
how he had soothed the madman, how he conducted him to the station, then
he described the meeting of the two rivals twenty-four hours later.  He
dwelt upon Alba's manner that evening and the infamy of the anonymous
letters written to Madame Steno's discarded lover and to her daughter.
And after he had reported the mysterious quarrel which had suddenly
arisen between Gorka and Chapron:

"I, therefore, promised to be his second," he concluded, "because I
believe it my absolute duty to do all I can to prevent the duel from
taking place.  Only think of it.  If it should take place, and if one of
them is killed or wounded, how can the affair be kept secret in this
gossiping city of Rome?  And what remarks it will call forth!  It is
evident that these two boys have quarrelled only on account of the
relations between Madame Steno and Maitland.  By what strange
coincidence?  Of that I know nothing.

"But there will not be a doubt in public opinion.  And can you not see
additional anonymous letters written to Alba, Madame Gorka, Madame
Maitland?....  The men I do not care for....  Two out of three merit all
that comes to them.  But those innocent creatures--is it not frightful?"

"Frightful, indeed," replied Montfanon; "it is that which renders those
adulterous adventures so hideous.  There are many people who are affected
by it besides the guilty ones....  You see that, you who thought that
society so pleasant, so refined, so interesting, the day before
yesterday?  But it does no good to recriminate.  I understand.  You have
come to ask me to advise you in your role of second.  My follies of youth
will enable me to direct you....  Correctness in the slightest detail and
no nerves, when one has to arrange a duel.  Oh!  You will have trouble.
Gorka is mad.  I know the Poles.  They have great faults, but they are
brave.  Lord, but they are brave!  And little Chapron, I know him, too;
he has one of those stubborn natures, which would allow their breasts to
be pierced without saying 'Ouf!'  And 'amour propre'.  He has good
soldier's blood in his veins, that child, notwithstanding the mixture.
And with that mixture, do you not see what a hero the first of the three
Dumas, the mulatto general, has been?....  Yes.  You have there a hard
job, my good Dorsenne....  You will need another second to assist you,
who will have the same views as you and--pardon me--more experience,
perhaps."

"Marquis," replied Julien, whose voice trembled with anxiety, "there is
only one person in Rome who would be respected enough, venerated by all,
so that his intervention in that delicate and dangerous matter be
decisive, one person who could suggest excuses to Chapron, or obtain them
from the other....  In short, there is only one person who has the
authority of a hero before whom they will remain silent when he speaks of
honor, and that person is you."

"I," exclaimed Montfanon, "I, you wish me to be--"

"One of Chapron's seconds," interrupted Dorsenne.  "Yes.  It is true.  I
come on his part and for that.  Do not tell me what I already know, that
your position will not allow of such a step.  It is because it is what it
is, that I thought of coming to you.  Do not tell me that your religious
principles are opposed to duels.  It is that there may be no duel that I
conjure you to accept....  It is essential that it does not take place.
I swear to you, that the peace of too many innocent persons is
concerned."

And he continued, calling into service at that moment all the
intelligence and all the eloquence of which he was capable.  He could
follow on the face of the former duellist, who had become the most ardent
of Catholics and the most monomaniacal of old bachelors, twenty diverse
expressions.  At length Montfanon laid his hand with veritable solemnity
on his interlocutor's arm and said to him:

"Listen, Dorsenne, do not tell me any more....  I consent to what you ask
of me, but on two conditions.  They are these: The first is that Monsieur
Chapron will trust absolutely to my judgment, whatsoever it may be; the
second is that you will retire with me if these gentlemen persist in
their childishness....  I promise to aid you in fulfilling a mission of
charity, and not anything else; I repeat, not anything else.  Before
bringing Monsieur Chapron to me you will repeat to him what I have said,
word for word."

"Word for word," replied the other, adding: "He is at home awaiting the
result of my undertaking."

"Then," said the Marquis, "I will return to Rome with you at once.  He
has probably already received Gorka's seconds, and if they really wish to
arrange a duel the rule is not to put it off....  I shall not see my
procession, but to prevent misfortune is to do a good deed, and it is one
way of praying to God."

"Let me press your hand, my noble friend," said Dorsenne; "never have I
better understood what a truly brave man is."

When the writer alighted, three-quarters of an hour later, at the house
on the Rue Leopardi, after having seen Montfanon home, he felt sustained
by such moral support that was almost joyous.  He found Florent in his
species of salon-smoking-room, arranging his papers with methodical
composure.

"He accepts," were the first words the young men uttered, almost
simultaneously, while Dorsenne repeated Montfanon's words.

"I depend absolutely on you two," replied the other.  "I have no thirst
for Monsieur de Gorka's blood....  But that gentleman must not accuse the
grandson of Colonel Chapron of cowardice....  For that I rely upon the
relative of General Dorsenne and on the old soldier of Charette."

As he spoke, Florent handed a letter to Julien, who asked: "From whom is
this?"

"This," said Florent, "is a letter addressed to you, on this very table
half an hour ago by Baron Hafner....  There is some news.  I have
received my adversary's seconds.  The Baron is one, Ardea the other."

"Baron Hafner!"  exclaimed Dorsenne.  "What a singular choice!"  He
paused, and he and Florent exchanged glances.  They understood one
another without speaking.  Boleslas could not have found a surer means of
informing Madame Steno as to the plan he intended to employ in his
vengeance.  On the other hand, the known devotion of the Baron for the
Countess gave one chance more for a pacific solution, at the same time
that the fanaticism of Montfanon would be confronted with Fanny's father,
an episode of comedy suddenly cast across Gorka's drama of jealousy.

Julien resumed with a smile: "You must watch Montfanon's face when we
inform him of those two witnesses.  He is a man of the fifteenth century,
you know, a Montluc, a Duc d'Alba, a Philippe II.  I do not know which he
detests the most, the Freemasons, the Free-thinkers, the Protestants, the
Jews, or the Germans.  And as this obscure and tortuous Hafner is a
little of everything, he has vowed hatred against him!....  Leaving that
out of the question, he suspects him of being a secret agent in the
service of the Triple Alliance!  But let us see the letter."

He opened and glanced through it.  "This craftiness serves for something,
it is equivalent almost to kindness.  He, too, has felt that it is
necessary to end our affair, were it only to avoid scandal.  He appoints
a meeting at his house between six and seven o'clock with me and your
second.  Come, time is flying.  You must come to the Marquis to make your
request officially.  Begin this way.  Obtain his promise before
mentioning Hafner's name.  I know him.  He will not retract his word.
But it is just."

The two friends found Montfanon awaiting them in his office, a large room
filled with books, from which could be obtained a fine view of the
panorama of the Forum, more majestic still on that afternoon when the
shadows of the columns and arches grew longer on the sidewalk.  The room
with its brick floor had no other comfort than a carpet under the large
desk littered with papers--no doubt fragments of the famous work on the
relations of the French nobility and the Church.  A crucifix stood upon
the desk.  On the wall were two engravings, that of Monseigneur Pie, the
holy Bishop of Poitiers, and that of General de Sonis, on foot, with his
wooden leg, and a painting representing St. Francois, the patron of the
house.  Those were the only artistic decorations of the modest
habitation.  The nobleman often said: "I have freed myself from the
tyranny of objects."  But with that marvellous background of grandiose
ruins and that sky, the simple spot was an incomparable retreat in which
to end in meditation and renouncement a life already shaken by the
tempests of the senses and of the world.

The hermit of that Thebaide rose to greet his two visitors, and pointing
out to Chapron an open volume on his table, he said to him:

"I was thinking of you.  It is Chateauvillars's book on duelling.  It
contains a code which is not very complete.  I recommend it to you,
however, if ever you have to fulfil a mission like ours," and he pointed
to Dorsenne and himself, with a gesture which constituted the most
amicable of acceptations.  "It seems you had too hasty a hand....  Ha!
ha!  Do not defend yourself.  Such as you see me, at twenty-one I threw
a plate in the face of a gentleman who bantered Comte de Chambord before
a number of Jacobins at a table d'hote in the provinces.  See," continued
he, raising his white moustache and disclosing a scar, "this is the
souvenir.  The fellow was once a dragoon; he proposed the sabre.  I
accepted, and this is what I got, while he lost two fingers....  That
will not happen to us this time at least....  Dorsenne has told you our
conditions."

"And I replied that I was sure I could not intrust my honor to better
hands," replied Florent.

"Cease!"  replied Montfanon, with a gesture of satisfaction.  "No more
phrases.  It is well.  Moreover, I judged you, sir, from the day on which
you spoke to me at Saint Louis.  You honor your dead.  That is why I
shall be happy, very happy, to be useful to you."

"Now tell me very clearly the recital you made to Dorsenne."

Then Florent related concisely that which had taken place between him and
Gorka--that is to say, their argument and his passion, carefully omitting
the details in which the name of his brother-in-law would be mixed.

"The deuce!" said Montfanon, familiarly, "the affair looks bad, very
bad....  You see, a second is a confessor.  You have had a discussion in
the street with Monsieur Gorka, but about what?  You can not reply?  What
did he say to you to provoke you to the point of wishing to strike him?
That is the first key to the position."

"I can not reply," said Florent.

"Then," resumed the Marquis, after a silence, "there only remains to
assert that the gesture on your part was--how shall I say?  Unmeditated
and unfinished.  That is the second key to the position....  You have no
special grudge against Monsieur Gorka?"

"None."

"Nor he against you?"

"None."

"The affair looks better," said Montfanon, who was silent for a time, to
resume, in the voice of a man who is talking to himself, "Count Gorka
considers himself offended?  But is there any offence?  It is that which
we should discuss....  An assault or the threat of an assault would
afford occasion for an arrangement....  But a gesture restrained, since
it was not carried into effect....  Do not interrupt me," he continued.

"I am trying to understand it clearly....  We must arrive at a solution.
We shall have to express our regret, leaving the field open to another
reparation, if Gorka requires it....  And he will not require it.  The
entire problem now rests on the choice of his seconds....  Whom will he
select?"

"I have already received visits from them," said Florent.  "Half an hour
ago.  One is Prince d'Ardea."

"He is a gentleman," replied Montfanon.  "I shall not be sorry to see him
to tell him my feelings with regard to the public sale of his palace, to
which he should never have allowed himself to be driven....  And the
other?"

"The other?"  interrupted Dorsenne.  "Prepare yourself for a blow....
I swear to you I did not know his name when I went in search of you at
the catacomb.  It is--in short--it is Baron Hafner."

"Baron Hafner!"  exclaimed Montfanon.  "Boleslas Gorka, the descendant of
the Gorkas, of that grand Luc Gorka who was Palatine of Posen and Bishop
of Cujavie, has chosen for his second Monsieur Justus Hafner, the thief,
the scoundrel, who had the disgraceful suit!....  No, Dorsenne, do not
tell me that; it is not possible."  Then, with the air of a combatant:
"We will challenge him; that is all, for his lack of honor.  I take it
upon myself, as well as to tell of his deeds to Boleslas.  We will spend
an enjoyable quarter of an hour there, I promise you."

"You will not do that," said Dorsenne, quickly.  "First, with regard to
official honor, there is only one law, is there not?  Hafner was
acquitted and his adversaries condemned.  You told me so the other
day....  And then, you forget the conversation we just had."

"Pardon," interrupted Florent, in his turn.  "Monsieur de Montfanon, in
promising to assist me, has done me a great honor, which I shall never
forget.  If there should result from it any annoyance to him I should be
deeply grieved, and I am ready to release him from his promise."

"No," said the Marquis, after another silence.  "I will not take it
back."....  He was so magnanimous when his two or three hobbies were not
involved that the slightest delicacy awoke an echo in him.  He again
extended his hand to Chapron and continued, but with an accent which
betrayed suppressed irritation: "After all, it does not concern us if
Monsieur Gorka has chosen to be represented in an affair of honor by one
whom he should not even salute....  You will, then, give our two names to
those two gentlemen....  and Dorsenne and I will await them, as is the
rule....  It is their place to come, since they are the proxies of the
person insulted."

"They have already arranged a meeting for this evening," replied
Chapron.

"What's arranged?  With whom?  For whom?"  exclaimed Montfanon, a prey to
a fresh access of choler.  "With you?....  For us?....  Ah, I do not like
such conduct where such grave matters are concerned....  The code is
absolute on that subject....  Their challenge once made, to which you,
Monsieur Chapron, have to reply by yes or no, these gentlemen should
withdraw immediately....  It is not your fault, it is Ardea's, who has
allowed that dabbler in spurious dividends to perform his part of
intriguer....  But we will rectify all in the right way, which is the
French....  And where is the rendezvous?"

"I will read to you the letter which the Baron left for me with Florent,"
said Dorsenne, who indeed read the very courteous note Hafner had written
to him, in which he excused himself for choosing his own house as a
rendezvous for the four witnesses.  "One can not ignore so polite a
note."

"There are too many dear sirs, and too many compliments," said
Montfanon, brusquely.  "Sit here," he continued, relinquishing his
armchair to Florent, "and inform the two men of our names and address,
adding that we are at their service and ignoring the first inaccuracy on
their part.  Let them return!....  And you, Dorsenne, since you are
afraid of wounding that gentleman, I will not prevent you from going to
his house--personally, do you hear--to warn him that Monsieur Chapron,
here present, has chosen for his first second a disagreeable person, an
old duellist, anything you like, but who desires strict form, and, first
of all, a correct call made upon us by them, in order to settle
officially upon a rendezvous."

"What did I tell you?"  asked Dorsenne, when he with Florent descended
Montfanon's staircase.  "He is a different man since you mentioned the
Baron to him.  The discussion between them will be a hot one.  I hope he
will not spoil all by his folly.  On my honor, if I had guessed whom
Gorka would choose I should not have suggested to you the old leaguer,
as I call him."

"And I, if Monsieur de Montfanon should make me fight at five paces,"
replied Chapron, with a laugh, "would be grateful to you for having
brought me into relations with him.  He is a whole-souled man, as was my
poor father, as is Maitland.  I adore such people."

"Is there no means of having at once heart and head?"  said Julien to
himself, on reaching the Palais Savorelli, where Hafner lived, and
recalling the Marquis's choler on the one hand, and on the other the
egotism of Maitland, of which Florent's last words reminded him.  His
apprehension of the afternoon returned in a greater degree, for he knew
Montfanon to be very sensitive on certain points, and it was one of those
points which would be wounded to the quick by the forced relations with
Gorka's witnesses.  "I do not trust Hafner," thought he; "if the cunning
fellow has accepted the mission utterly contrary to his tastes, his
habits, almost to his age, it must be to connive with his future son-in-
law and to conciliate all.  Perhaps even the marriage had been already
settled?  I hope not.  The Marquis would be so furious he would require
the duel to a letter."

The young man had guessed aright.  Chance, which often brings one event
upon another, decreed that Ardea, at the very moment that he was
deliberating with Gorka as to the choice of another second, received a
note from Madame Steno containing simply these words: "Your proposal has
been made, and the answer is yes.  May I be the first to embrace you,
Simpaticone?"

An ingenious idea occurred to him; to have arranged by his future father-
in-law the quarrel which he considered at once absurd, useless, and
dangerous.  The eagerness with which Gorka had accepted Hafner's name,
proved, as Dorsenne and Florent had divined, his desire that his
perfidious mistress should be informed of his doings.  As for the Baron,
he consented--oh, irony of coincidences!--by saying to Peppino Ardea
words almost identical with those which Montfanon had uttered to
Dorsenne:

"We will draw up, in advance, an official plan of conciliation, and, if
the matter can not be arranged, we will withdraw."

It was in such terms that the memorable conversation was concluded, a
conversation truly worthy of the combinazione which poor Fanny's marriage
represented.  There had been less question of the marriage itself than
that of the services to be rendered to the infidelity of the woman who
presided over the sorry traffic!  Is it necessary to add that neither
Ardea nor his future father-in-law had made the shadow of an allusion to
the true side of the affair?  Perhaps at any other time the excessive
prudence innate to the Baron and his care never to compromise himself
would have deterred him from the possible annoyances which might arise
from an interference in the adventure of an exasperated and discarded
lover.  But his joy at the thought that his daughter was to become a
Roman princess--and with what a name!--had really turned his brain.

He had, however, the good sense to say to the stunned Ardea: "Madame
Steno must know nothing of it, at least beforehand.  She would not fail
to inform Madame Gorka, and God knows of what the latter would be
capable."

In reality, the two men were convinced that it was essential, directly or
indirectly, to beware of warning Maitland.  They employed the remainder
of the afternoon in paying their visit to Florent, then in sending
telegram after telegram to announce the betrothal, with which charming
Fanny seemed more satisfied since Cardinal Guerillot had consented, at
simply a word from her, to preside at her baptism.  The Baron, in the
face of that consent, could not restrain his joy.  He loved his daughter,
strange man, somewhat in the manner in which a breeder loves a favorite
horse which has won the Grand Prix for him.  When Dorsenne arrived,
bearing Chapron's note and Montfanon's message, he was received with a
cordiality and a complaisance which at once enlightened him upon the
result of the matrimonial intrigue of which Alba had spoken to him.

"Anything that your friend wishes, my dear sir....  Is it not so,
Peppino?"  said the Baron, seating himself at his table.  "Will you
dictate the letter yourself, Dorsenne?....  See, is this all right?  You
will understand with what sentiments we have accepted this mission when
you learn that Fanny is betrothed to Prince Ardea, here present.  The
news dates from three o'clock.  So you are the first to know it, is he
not, Peppino?"  He had drawn up not less than two hundred despatches.
"Return whenever you like with the Marquis....  I simply ask, under the
circumstances, that the interview take place, if it be possible, between
six and seven, or between nine and ten, in order not to interfere with
our little family dinner."

"Let us say nine o'clock," said Dorsenne.  "Monsieur de Montfanon is
somewhat formal.  He would like to have your reply by letter."

"Prince Ardea to marry Mademoiselle Hafner!"  That cry which the news
brought by Julien wrested from Montfanon was so dolorous that the young
man did not think of laughing.  He had thought it wiser to prepare his
irascible friend, lest the Baron might make some allusion to the grand
event during the course of the conversation, and that the other might not
make some impulsive remark.

"Did I not tell you that the girl's Catholicism was a farce?  Did I not
tell Monseigneur Guerillot?  This was what she aimed at all those years,
with such perfect hypocrisy?  It was the Palais Castagna.  And she will
enter there as mistress!....  She will bring there the dishonor of that
pirated gold on which there are stains of blood!  Warn them, that they do
not speak to me of it, or I will not answer for myself....  The second of
a Gorka, the father-in-law of an Ardea, he triumphs, the thief who should
by rights be a convict!....  But we shall see.  Will not all the other
Roman princes who have no blots upon their escutcheons, the Orsinis, the
Colonnas, the Odeschalchis, the Borgheses, the Rospigliosis, not combine
to prevent this monstrosity?  Nobility is like love, those who buy those
sacred things degrade them in paying for them, and those to whom they are
given are no better than mire....  Princess d'Ardea!  That creature!
Ah, what a disgrace!....  But we must remember our engagement relative to
that brave young Chapron.  The boy pleases me; first, because very
probably he is going to fight for some one else and out of a devotion
which I can not very well understand!  It is devotion all the same, and
it is chivalry!....  He desires to prevent that miserable Gorka from
calling forth a scandal which would have warned his sister....  And then,
as I told him, he respects the dead....  Let us....  I have my wits no
longer about me, that intelligence has so greatly disturbed me....
Princess d'Ardea!....  Well, write that we will be at Monsieur Hafner's
at nine o'clock....  I do not want any of those people at my house....
At yours it would not be proper; you are too young.  And I prefer going
to the father-in-law's rather than to the son-inlaw's.  The rascal has
made a good bargain in buying what he has bought with his stolen
millions.  But the other....  And his great-great-uncle might have been
Jules Second, Pie Fifth, Hildebrand; he would have sold all just the
same!....  He can not deceive himself!  He has heard the suit against
that man spoken of!  He knows whence come those millions!  He has heard
their family, their lives spoken of!  And he has not been inspired with
too great a horror to accept the gold of that adventurer.  Does he not
know what a name is?  Our name!  It is ourselves, our honor, in the
mouths, in the thoughts, of others!  How happy I am, Dorsenne, to have
been fifty-two years of age last month.  I shall be gone before having
seen what you will see, the agony of all the aristocrats and royalties.
It was only in blood that they fell!  But they do not fall.  Alas!  They
fix themselves upon the ground, which is the saddest of all.  Still, what
matters it?  The monarchy, the nobility, and the Church are everlasting.
The people who disregard them will die, that is all.  Come, write your
letter, which I will sign.  Send it away, and you will dine with me.  We
must go into the den provided with an argument which will prevent this
duel, and sustaining our part toward our client.  There must be an
arrangement which I would accept myself.  I like him, I repeat."

The excitement which began to startle Dorsenne was only augmented during
dinner, so much the more so as, on discussing the conditions of that
arrangement he hoped to bring about, the recollection of his terrible
youth filled the thoughts and the discourse of the former duellist.  Was
it, indeed, the same personage who recited the verses of a hymn in the
catacombs a few hours before?  It only required the feudal in him to be
reawakened to transform him.  The fire in his eyes and the color in his
face betrayed that the duel in which he had thought best to engage, out
of charity, intoxicated him on his own statement.  It was the old
amateur, the epicure of the sword, very ungovernable, which stirred
within that man of faith, in whom passion had burned and who had loved
all excitement, including that of danger, as to-day he loved his ideas,
as he loved his flagi mmoderately.  He no longer thought of the three
women to be spared suspicion, nor of the good deed to be accomplished.
He saw all his old friends and their talent for fighting, the thrusts of
this one, the way another had of striking, the composure of a third, and
then this refrain interrupted constantly his warlike anecdotes: "But why
the deuce has Gorka chosen that Hafner for his second?....  It is
incomprehensible."....  On entering the carriage which was to bear them
to their interview, he heard Dorsenne say to the coachman: "Palais
Savorelli."

"That is the final blow," said he, raising his arm and clenching his
fist.  "The adventurer occupies the Pretender's house, the house of the
Stuarts."....  He repeated: "The house of the Stuarts!"  and then lapsed
into a silence which the writer felt to be laden with more storminess
than his last denunciation.  He did not emerge from his meditations until
ushered into the salon of the ci-devant jeweller, now a grand seigneur--
into one of the salons, rather, for there were five.  There Montfanon
began to examine everything around him, with an air of such contempt and
pride that, notwithstanding his anxiety, Dorsenne could not resist
laughing and teasing him by saying:

"You will not pretend to say that there are no pretty things here?  These
two paintings by Moroni, for example?"

"Nothing that is appropriate," replied Montfanon.  "Yes, they are two
magnificent portraits of ancestors, and this man has no ancestors!....
There are some weapons in that cupboard, and he has never touched a
sword!  And there is a piece of tapestry representing the miracles of the
loaves, which is a piece of audacity!  You may not believe me, Dorsenne,
but it is making me ill to be here....  I am reminded of the human toil,
of the human soul in all these objects, and to end here, paid for how?
Owned by whom?  Close your eyes and think of Schroeder and of the others
whom you do not know.  Look into the hovels where there is neither
furniture, fire, nor bread.  Then, open your eyes and look at this."

"And you, my dear friend," replied the novelist, "I conjure you to think
of our conversation in the catacombs, to think of the three ladies in
whose names I besought you to aid Florent."

"Thank you," said Montfanon, passing his hand over his brow, "I promise
you to be calm."

He had scarcely uttered those words when the door opened, disclosing to
view another room, lighted also, and which, to judge by the sound of
voices, contained several persons.  No doubt Madame Steno and Alba,
thought Julien; and the Baron entered, accompanied by Peppino Ardea.
While going through the introductions, the writer was struck by the
contrast offered between his three companions.  Hafner and Ardea in
evening dress, with buttonhole bouquets, had the open and happy faces of
two citizens who had clear consciences.  The usually sallow complexion of
the business man was tinged with excitement, his eyes, as a rule so hard,
were gentler.  As for the Prince, the same childish carelessness lighted
up his jovial face, while the hero of Patay, with his coarse boots, his
immense form enveloped in a somewhat shabby redingote, exhibited a face
so contracted that one would have thought him devoured by remorse.
A dishonest intendant, forced to expose his accounts to generous and
confiding masters, could not have had a face more gloomy or more anxious.
He had, moreover, put his one arm behind his back in a manner so formal
that neither of the two men who entered offered him their hands.  That
appearance was without doubt little in keeping with what the father and
the fiance of Fanny had expected; for there was, when the four men were
seated, a pause which the Baron was the first to break.  He began in his
measured tones, in a voice which handles words as the weight of a usurer
weighs gold pieces to the milligramme:

"Gentlemen, I believe I shall express our common sentiment in first of
all establishing a point which shall govern our meeting....  We are here,
it is understood, to bring about the work of reconciliation between two
men, two gentlemen whom we know, whom we esteem--I might better say, whom
we all love."....  He turned, in pronouncing those words, successively to
each of his three listeners, who all bowed, with the exception of the
Marquis.  Hafner examined the nobleman, with his glance accustomed to
read the depths of the mind in order to divine the intentions.  He saw
that Chapron's first witness was a troublesome customer, and he
continued: "That done, I beg to read to you this little paper."  He drew
from his pocket a sheet of folded paper and placed upon the end of his
nose his famous gold 'lorgnon': "It is very trifling, one of those
directives, as Monsieur de Moltke says, which serve to guide operations,
a plan of action which we will modify after discussion.  In short, it is
a landmark that we may not launch into space."

"Pardon, sir," interrupted Montfanon, whose brows contracted still more
at the mention of the celebrated field-marshal, and, stopping by a
gesture the reader, who, in his surprise, dropped his lorgnon upon the
table on which his elbow rested.  "I regret very much," he continued, "to
be obliged to tell you that Monsieur Dorsenne and I"--here he turned to
Dorsenne, who made an equivocal gesture of vexation"--can not admit the
point of view in which you place yourself....  You claim that we are here
to arrange a reconciliation.  That is possible....  I concede that it is
desirable....  But I know nothing of it and, permit me to say, you do not
know any more.  I am here--we are here, Monsieur Dorsenne and I, to
listen to the complaints which Count Gorka has commissioned you to
formulate to Monsieur Florent Chapron's proxies.  Formulate those
complaints, and we will discuss them.  Formulate the reparation you claim
in the name of your client and we will discuss it.  The papers will
follow, if they follow at all, and, once more, neither you nor we know
what will be the issue of this conversation, nor should we know it,
before establishing the facts."

"There is some misunderstanding, sir," said Ardea, whom Montfanon's words
had irritated somewhat.  He could not, any more than Hafner, understand
the very simple, but very singular, character of the Marquis, and he
added: "I have been concerned in several 'rencontres'--four times as
second, and once as principal--and I have seen employed without
discussion the proceeding which Baron Hafner has just proposed to you,
and which of itself is, perhaps, only a more expeditious means of
arriving at what you very properly call the establishment of facts."

"I was not aware of the number of your affairs, sir," replied Montfanon,
still more nervous since Hafner's future son-in-law joined in the
conversation; "but since it has pleased you to tell us I will take the
liberty of saying to you that I have fought seven times, and that I have
been a second fourteen....  It is true that it was at an epoch when the
head of your house was your father, if I remember right, the deceased
Prince Urban, whom I had the honor of knowing when I served in the
zouaves.  He was a fine Roman nobleman, and did honor to his name.  What
I have told you is proof that I have some competence in the matter of a
duel....  Well, we have always held that seconds were constituted to
arrange affairs that could be arranged, but also to settle affairs, as
well as they can, that seem incapable of being arranged.  Let us now
inquire into the matter; we are here for that, and for nothing else."

"Are these gentlemen of that opinion?"  asked Hafner in a conciliatory
voice, turning first to Dorsenne, then to Ardea: "I do not adhere to my
method," he continued, again folding his paper.  He slipped it into his
vest-pocket and continued: "Let us establish the facts, as you say.
Count Gorka, our friend, considers himself seriously, very seriously,
offended by Monsieur Florent Chapron in the course of the discussion in a
public street.  Monsieur Chapron was carried away, as you know, sirs,
almost to--what shall I say?--hastiness, which, however, was not followed
by consequences, thanks to the presence of mind of Monsieur Gorka....
But, accomplished or not, the act remains.  Monsieur Gorka was insulted,
and he requires satisfaction....  I do not believe there is any doubt
upon that point which is the cause of the affair, or, rather, the whole
affair."

"I again ask your pardon, sir," said Montfanon, dryly, who no longer took
pains to conceal his anger, "Monsieur Dorsenne and I can not accept your
manner of putting the question....  You say that Monsieur Chapron's
hastiness was not followed by consequences by reason of Monsieur Gorka's
presence of mind.  We claim that there was only on the part of Monsieur
Chapron a scarcely indicated gesture, which he himself restrained.  In
consequence you attribute to Monsieur Gorka the quality of the insulted
party; you are over-hasty.  He is merely the plaintiff, up to this time.
It is very different."

"But by rights he is the insulted party," interrupted Ardea.  "Restrained
or not, it constitutes a threat of assault.  I did not wish to claim to
be a duellist by telling you of my engagements.  But this is the A B C of
the 'codice cavalleresco', if the insult be followed by an assault, he
who receives the blow is the offended party, and the threat of an assault
is equivalent to an actual assault.  The offended party has the choice of
a duel, weapons and conditions.  Consult your authors and ours:
Chateauvillars, Du Verger, Angelini and Gelli, all agree."

"I am sorry for their sakes," said Montfanon, and he looked at the Prince
with a contraction of the brows almost menacing, "but it is an opinion
which does not hold good generally, nor in this particular case.  The
proof is that a duellist, as you have just said," his voice trembled as
he emphasized the insolence offered by the other, "a bravo, to use the
expression of your country, would only have to commit a justifiable
murder by first insulting him at whom he aims with rude words.  The
insulted person replies by a voluntary gesture, on the signification of
which one may be mistaken, and you will admit that the bravo is the
offended party, and that he has the choice of weapons."

"But, Marquis," resumed Hafner, with evident disgust, so greatly did the
cavilling and the ill-will of the nobleman irritate him, "where are you
wandering to?  What do you mean by bringing up chicanery of this sort?"

"Chicanery!"  exclaimed Montfanon, half rising.

"Montfanon!"  besought Dorsenne, rising in his turn and forcing the
terrible man to be seated.

"I retract the word," said the Baron, "if it has insulted you.  Nothing
was farther from my thoughts....  I repeat that I apologize, Marquis....
But, come, tell us what you want for your client, that is very simple....
And then we will do all we can to make your demands agree with those of
our client.... It is a trifling matter to be adjusted."

"No, sir," said Montfanon, with insolent severity, "it is justice to be
rendered, which is very different.  What we, Monsieur Dorsenne and I,
desire," he continued in a severe voice, "is this: Count Gorka has
gravely insulted Monsieur Chapron.  Let me finish," he added upon a
simultaneous gesture on the part of Ardea and of Hafner.  "Yes, sirs,
Monsieur Chapron, known to us all for his perfect courtesy, must have
been very gravely insulted, even to make the improper gesture of which
you just spoke.  But it was agreed upon between these two gentlemen, for
reasons of delicacy which we had to accept--it was agreed, I say, that
the nature of the insult offered by Monsieur Gorka to Monsieur Chapron
should not be divulged....  We have the right, however, and I may add the
duty devolves upon us, to measure the gravity of that insult by the
excess of anger aroused in Monsieur Chapron....  I conclude from it that,
to be just, the plan of reconciliation, if we draw it up, should contain
reciprocal concessions.  Count Gorka will retract his words and Monsieur
Chapron apologize for his hastiness."

"It is impossible," exclaimed the Prince; "Gorka will never accept that."

"You, then, wish to have them fight the duel?"  groaned Hafner.

"And why not?"  said Montfanon, exasperated.  "It would be better than
for the one to nurse his insults and the other his blow."

"Well, sirs," replied the Baron, rising after the silence which followed
that imprudent whim of a man beside himself, "we will confer again with
our client.  If you wish, we will resume this conversation tomorrow at
ten o'clock, say here or in any place convenient to you....  You will
excuse me, Marquis.  Dorsenne has no doubt told you under what
circumstances--"

"Yes, he has told me," interrupted Montfanon, who again glanced at the
Prince, and in a manner so mournful that the latter felt himself blush
beneath the strange glance, at which, however, it was impossible to feel
angry.  Dorsenne had only time to cut short all other explanations by
replying to Justus Hafner himself.

"Would you like the meeting at my house?  We shall have more chance to
escape remarks."

"You have done well to change the place," said Montfanon, five minutes
later, on entering the carriage with his young friend.

They had descended the staircase without speaking, for the brave and
unreasonable Marquis regretted his strangely provoking attitude of the
moment before.

"What would you have?"  he added.  "The profaned palace, the insolent
luxury of that thief, the Prince who has sold his family, the Baron whose
part is so sinister.  I could no longer contain myself!  That Baron,
above all, with his directives!  Words to repeat when one is German,
to a French soldier who fought in 1870, like those words of Monsieur de
Moltke!  His terms, too, applied to honor and that abominable politeness
in which there is servility and insolence!.... Still, I am not satisfied
with myself.  I am not at all satisfied."

There was in his voice so much good-nature, such evident remorse at not
having controlled himself in so grave a situation, that Dorsenne pressed
his hand instead of reproaching him, as he said:

"It will do to-morrow.... We will arrange all; it has only been
postponed."

"You say that to console me," said the Marquis, "but I know it was very
badly managed.  And it is my fault!  Perhaps we shall have no other
service to render our brave Chapron than to arrange a duel for him under
the most dangerous conditions.  Ah, but I became inopportunely angry!....
But why the deuce did Gorka select such a second?  It is
incomprehensible!....  Did you see what the cabalistic word gentleman
means to those rascals: Steal, cheat, assassinate, but have carriages
perfectly appointed, a magnificent mansion, well-served dinners, and fine
clothes!....  No, I have suffered too much!  Ah, it is not right; and on
what a day, too?  God!  That the old man might die!"....  he added, in a
voice so low that his companion did not hear his words.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Conditions of blindness so voluntary that they become complicity
Despotism natural to puissant personalities
Egyptian tobacco, mixed with opium and saltpetre
Have never known in the morning what I would do in the evening
I no longer love you
Imagine what it would be never to have been born
Melancholy problem of the birth and death of love
Only one thing infamous in love, and that is a falsehood
Words are nothing; it is the tone in which they are uttered





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