A FEARFUL RESPONSIBILITY
AND OTHER STORIES
WILLIAM D. HOWELLS
AUTHOR OF "THE LADY OF THE AROOSTOOK," "THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY," ETC.
JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY
By W. D. Howells.
All rights reserved.
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge.
A Fearful Responsibility
At the Sign of the Savage
A FEARFUL RESPONSIBILITY.
Every loyal American who went abroad during the first years of our great
war felt bound to make himself some excuse for turning his back on his
country in the hour of her trouble. But when Owen Elmore sailed, no one
else seemed to think that he needed excuse. All his friends said it was
the best thing for him to do; that he could have leisure and quiet over
there, and would be able to go on with his work.
At the risk of giving a farcical effect to my narrative, I am obliged to
confess that the work of which Elmore's friends spoke was a projected
history of Venice. So many literary Americans have projected such a work
that it may now fairly be regarded as a national enterprise. Elmore was
too obscure to have been announced in the usual way by the newspapers as
having this design; but it was well known in his town that he was
collecting materials when his professorship in the small inland college
with which he was connected lapsed through the enlistment of nearly all
the students. The president became colonel of the college regiment; and
in parting with Elmore, while their boys waited on the campus without,
he had said, "Now, Elmore, you must go on with your history of Venice.
Go to Venice and collect your materials on the spot. We're coming
through this all right. Mr. Seward puts it at sixty days, but I'll give
them six months to lay down their arms, and we shall want you back at
the end of the year. Don't you have any compunctions about going. I know
how you feel; but it is perfectly right for you to keep out of it.
Good-by." They wrung each other's hands for the last time,—the
president fell at Fort Donelson; but now Elmore followed him to the
door, and when he appeared there one of the boyish captains shouted,
"Three cheers for Professor Elmore!" and the president called for the
tiger, and led it, whirling his cap round his head.
Elmore went back to his study, sick at heart. It grieved and vexed him
that even these had not thought that he should go to the war, and that
his inward struggle on that point had been idle so far as others were
concerned. He had been quite earnest in the matter; he had once almost
volunteered as a private soldier: he had consulted his doctor, who
sternly discouraged him. He would have been truly glad of any accident
that forced him into the ranks; but, as he used afterward to say, it was
not his idea of soldiership to enlist for the hospital. At the distance
of five hundred miles from the scene of hostilities, it was absurd to
enter the Home Guard; and, after all, there were, even at first, some
selfish people who went into the army, and some unselfish people who
kept out of it. Elmore's bronchitis was a disorder which active service
would undoubtedly have aggravated; as it was, he made a last effort to
be of use to our Government as a bearer of dispatches. Failing such an
appointment, he submitted to expatriation as he best could; and in Italy
he fought for our cause against the English, whom he found everywhere
all but in arms against us.
He sailed, in fine, with a very fair conscience. "I should be perfectly
at ease," he said to his wife, as the steamer dropped smoothly down to
Sandy Hook, "if I were sure that I was not glad to be getting away."
"You are not glad," she answered.
"I don't know, I don't know," he said, with the weak persistence of a
man willing that his wife should persuade him against his convictions;
"I wish that I felt certain of it."
"You are too sick to go to the war; nobody expected you to go."
"I know that, and I can't say that I like it. As for being too sick,
perhaps it's the part of a man to go if he dies on the way to the field.
It would encourage the others," he added, smiling faintly.
She ignored the tint from Voltaire in replying: "Nonsense! It would do
no good at all. At any rate, it's too late now."
"Yes, it's too late now."
The sea-sickness which shortly followed formed a diversion from his
accusing thoughts. Each day of the voyage removed them further, and with
the preoccupations of his first days in Europe, his travel to Italy, and
his preparations for a long sojourn in Venice, they had softened to a
pensive sense of self-sacrifice, which took a warmer or a cooler tinge
according as the news from home was good or bad.
He lost no time in going to work in the Marcian Library, and he early
applied to the Austrian authorities for leave to have transcripts made
in the archives. The permission was negotiated by the American consul
(then a young painter of the name of Ferris), who reported a mechanical
facility on the part of the authorities,—as if, he said, they were used
to obliging American historians of Venice. The foreign tyranny which
cast a pathetic glamour over the romantic city had certainly not
appeared to grudge such publicity as Elmore wished to give her heroic
memories, though it was then at its most repressive period, and formed a
check upon the whole life of the place. The tears were hardly yet dry in
the despairing eyes that had seen the French fleet sail away from the
Lido, after Solferino, without firing a shot in behalf of Venice; but
Lombardy, the Duchies, the Sicilies, had all passed to Sardinia, and the
Pope alone represented the old order of native despotism in Italy. At
Venice the Germans seemed tranquilly awaiting the change which should
destroy their system with the rest; and in the meantime there had
occurred one of those impressive pauses, as notable in the lives of
nations as of men, when, after the occurrence of great events, the
forces of action and endurance seem to be gathering themselves against
the stress of the future. The quiet was almost consciously a truce and
not a peace; and this local calm had drawn into it certain elements that
picturesquely and sentimentally heightened the charm of the place. It
was a refuge for many exiled potentates and pretenders; the gondolier
pointed out on the Grand Canal the palaces of the Count of Chambord, the
Duchess of Parma, and the Infante of Spain; and one met these fallen
princes in the squares and streets, bowing with distinct courtesy to any
that chose to salute them. Every evening the Piazza San Marco was filled
with the white coats of the Austrian officers, promenading to the
exquisite military music which has ceased there forever; the patrol
clanked through the footways at all hours of the night, and the lagoon
heard the cry of the sentinel from fort to fort, and from gunboat to
gunboat. Through all this the demonstration of the patriots went on,
silent, ceaseless, implacable, annulling every alien effort at gayety,
depopulating the theatres, and desolating the ancient holidays.
There was something very fine in this, as a spectacle, Elmore said to
his young wife, and he had to admire the austere self-denial of a people
who would not suffer their tyrants to see them happy; but they secretly
owned to each other that it was fatiguing. Soon after coming to Venice
they had made some acquaintance among the Italians through Mr. Ferris,
and had early learned that the condition of knowing Venetians was not to
know Austrians. It was easy and natural for them to submit,
theoretically. As Americans, they must respond to any impulse for
freedom, and certainly they could have no sympathy with such a system as
that of Austria. By whatever was sacred in our own war upon slavery,
they were bound to abhor oppression in every form. But it was hard to
make the application of their hatred to the amiable-looking people whom
they saw everywhere around them in the quality of tyrants, especially
when their Venetian friends confessed that personally they liked the
Austrians. Besides, if the whole truth must be told, they found that
their friendship with the Italians was not always of the most
penetrating sort, though it had a superficial intensity that for a while
gave the effect of lasting cordiality. The Elmores were not quite able
to decide whether the pause of feeling at which they arrived was through
their own defect or not. Much was to be laid to the difference of race,
religion, and education; but something, they feared, to the personal
vapidity of acquaintances whose meridional liveliness made them yawn,
and in whose society they did not always find compensation for the
sacrifices they made for it.
"But it is right," said Elmore. "It would be a sort of treason to
associate with the Austrians. We owe it to the Venetians to let them see
that our feelings are with them."
"Yes," said his wife pensively.
"And it is better for us, as Americans abroad, during this war, to be
"Well, we are retired," said Mrs. Elmore.
"Yes, there is no doubt of that," he returned.
They laughed, and made what they could of chance American acquaintances
at the caffès. Elmore had his history to occupy him, and doubtless he
could not understand how heavy the time hung upon his wife's hands. They
went often to the theatre, and every evening they went to the Piazza,
and ate an ice at Florian's. This was certainly amusement; and routine
was so pleasant to his scholarly temperament that he enjoyed merely
that. He made a point of admitting his wife as much as possible into his
intellectual life; he read her his notes as fast as he made them, and he
consulted her upon the management of his theme, which, as his research
extended, he found so vast that he was forced to decide upon a much
lighter treatment than he had at first intended. He had resolved upon a
history which should be presented in a series of biographical studies,
and he was so much interested in this conclusion, and so charmed with
the advantages of the form as they developed themselves, that he began
to lose the sense of social dulness, and ceased to imagine it in his
A sort of indolence of the sensibilities, in fact, enabled him to endure
ennui that made her frantic, and he was often deeply bored without
knowing it at the time, or without a reasoned suffering. He suffered as
a child suffers, simply, almost ignorantly: it was upon reflection that
his nerves began to quiver with retroactive anguish. He was also able to
idealize the situation when his wife no longer even wished to do so. His
fancy cast a poetry about these Venetian friends, whose conversation
displayed the occasional sparkle of Ollendorff-English on a dark ground
of lagoon-Italian, and whose vivid smiling and gesticulation she
wearied herself in hospitable efforts to outdo. To his eyes their
historic past clothed them with its interest, and the long patience of
their hope and hatred under foreign rule ennobled them, while to hers
they were too often only tiresome visitors, whose powers of silence and
of eloquence were alike to be dreaded. It did not console her as it did
her husband to reflect that they probably bored the Italians as much in
their turn. When a young man, very sympathetic for literature and the
Americans, spent an evening, as it seemed to her, in crying nothing but
"Per Bácco!" she owned that she liked better his oppressor, who once
came by chance, in the figure of a young lieutenant, and who unbuckled
his wife, as he called his sword, and, putting her in a corner, sat up
on a chair in the middle of the room and sang like a bird, and then told
ghost-stories. The songs were out of Heine, and they reminded her of her
girlish enthusiasm for German. Elmore was troubled at the lieutenant's
visit, and feared it would cost them all their Italian friends; but she
said boldly that she did not care; and she never even tried to believe
that the life they saw in Venice was comparable to that of their little
college town at home, with its teas and picnics, and simple, easy social
gayeties. There she had been a power in her way; she had entertained,
and had helped to make some matches: but the Venetians ate nothing, and
as for young people, they never saw each other but by stealth, and their
matches were made by their parents on a money-basis. She could not adapt
herself to this foreign life; it puzzled her, and her husband's
conformity seemed to estrange them, as far as it went. It took away her
spirit, and she grew listless and dull. Even the history began to lose
its interest in her eyes; she doubted if the annals of such a people as
she saw about her could ever be popular.
There were other things to make them melancholy in their exile. The war
at home was going badly, where it was going at all. The letters now
never spoke of any term to it; they expressed rather the dogged patience
of the time when it seemed as if there could be no end, and indicated
that the country had settled into shape about it, and was pushing
forward its other affairs as if the war did not exist. Mrs. Elmore felt
that the America which she had left had ceased to be. The letters were
almost less a pleasure than a pain, but she always tore them open, and
read them with eager unhappiness. There were miserable intervals of days
and even weeks when no letters came, and when the Reuter telegrams in
the Gazette of Venice dribbled their vitriolic news of Northern
disaster through a few words or lines, and Galignani's long columns were
filled with the hostile exultation and prophecy of the London press.
They had passed eighteen months of this sort of life in Venice when one
day a letter dropped into it which sent a thousand ripples over its
stagnant surface. Mrs. Elmore read it first to herself, with gasps and
cries of pleasure and astonishment, which did not divert her husband
from the perusal of some notes he had made the day before, and had
brought to the breakfast-table with the intention of amusing her. When
she flattened it out over his notes, and exacted his attention, he
turned an unwilling and lack-lustre eye upon it; then he looked up at
"Did you expect she would come?" he asked, in ill-masked dismay.
"I don't suppose they had any idea of it at first. When Sue wrote me
that Lily had been studying too hard, and had to be taken out of school,
I said that I wished she could come over and pay us a visit. But I don't
believe they dreamed of letting her—Sue says so—till the Mortons'
coming seemed too good a chance to be lost. I am so glad of it, Owen!
You know how much they have always done for me; and here is a chance now
to pay a little of it back."
"What in the world shall we do with her?" he asked.
"Do? Everything! Why, Owen," she urged, with pathetic recognition of his
coldness, "she is Susy Stevens's own sister!"
"Oh, yes—yes," he admitted.
"And it was Susy who brought us together!"
"Why, of course."
"And oughtn't you to be glad of the opportunity?"
"I am glad—very glad."
"It will be a relief to you instead of a care. She's such a bright,
intelligent girl that we can both sympathize with your work, and you
won't have to go round with me all the time, and I can matronize her
"I see, I see," Elmore replied, with scarcely abated seriousness.
"Perhaps, if she is coming here for her health, she won't need much
"Oh, pshaw! She'll be well enough for that! She's overdone a little at
school. I shall take good care of her, I can tell you; and I shall make
her have a real good time. It's quite flattering of Susy to trust her
to us, so far away, and I shall write and tell her we both think so."
"Yes," said Elmore, "it's a fearful responsibility."
There are instances of the persistence of husbands in certain moods or
points of view on which even wheedling has no effect. The wise woman
perceives that in these cases she must trust entirely to the softening
influences of time, and as much as possible she changes the subject; or
if this is impossible she may hope something from presenting a still
worse aspect of the affair. Mrs. Elmore said, in lifting the letter from
the table: "If she sailed the 3d in the City of Timbuctoo, she will be
at Queenstown on the 12th or 13th, and we shall have a letter from her
by Wednesday saying when she will be at Genoa. That's as far as the
Mortons can bring her, and there's where we must meet her."
"Meet her in Genoa! How?"
"By going there for her," replied Mrs. Elmore, as if this were the
simplest thing in the world. "I have never seen Genoa."
Elmore now tacitly abandoned himself to his fate. His wife continued: "I
needn't take anything. Merely run on, and right back."
"When must we go?" he asked.
"I don't know yet; but we shall have a letter to-morrow. Don't worry on
my account, Owen. Her coming won't be a bit of care to me. It will give
me something to do and to think about, and it will be a pleasure all the
time to know that it's for Susy Stevens. And I shall like the
Elmore looked at his wife in surprise, for it had not occurred to him
before that with his company she could desire any other companionship.
He desired none but hers, and when he was about his work he often
thought of her. He supposed that at these moments she thought of him,
and found society, as he did, in such thoughts. But he was not a jealous
or exacting man, and he said nothing. His treatment of the approaching
visit from Susy Stevens's sister had not been enthusiastic, but a spark
had kindled his imagination, and it burned warmer and brighter as the
days went by. He found a charm in the thought of having this fresh young
life here in his charge, and of teaching the girl to live into the great
and beautiful history of the city: there was still much of the
school-master in him, and he intended to make her sojourn an education
to her; and as a literary man he hoped for novel effects from her mind
upon material which he was above all trying to set in a new light before
When the time had arrived for them to go and meet Miss Mayhew at Genoa,
he was more than reconciled to the necessity. But at the last moment,
Mrs. Elmore had one of her old attacks. What these attacks were I find
myself unable to specify, but as every lady has an old attack of some
kind, I may safely leave their precise nature to conjecture. It is
enough that they were of a nervous character, that they were accompanied
with headache, and that they prostrated her for several days. During
their continuance she required the active sympathy and constant presence
of her husband, whose devotion was then exemplary, and brought up long
arrears of indebtedness in that way.
"Well, what shall we do?" he asked, as he sank into a chair beside the
lounge on which Mrs. Elmore lay, her eyes closed, and a slice of lemon
placed on each of her throbbing temples with the effect of a new sort of
blinders. "Shall I go alone for her?"
She gave his hand the kind of convulsive clutch that signified,
"Impossible for you to leave me."
He reflected. "The Mortons will be pushing on to Leghorn, and somebody
must meet her. How would it do for Mr. Hoskins to go?"
Mrs. Elmore responded with a clutch tantamount to "Horrors! How could
you think of such a thing?"
"Well, then," he said, "the only thing we can do is to send a valet de
place for her. We can send old Cazzi. He's the incarnation of
respectability; five francs a day and his expenses will buy all the
virtues of him. She'll come as safely with him as with me."
Mrs. Elmore had applied a vividly thoughtful pressure to her husband's
hand; she now released it in token of assent, and he rose.
"But don't be gone long," she whispered.
On his way to the caffè which Cazzi frequented, Elmore fell in with the
By this time a change had taken place in the consular office. Mr.
Ferris, some months before, had suddenly thrown up his charge and gone
home; and after the customary interval of ship-chandler, the California
sculptor, Hoskins, had arrived out, with his commission in his pocket,
and had set up his allegorical figure of The Pacific Slope in the room
where Ferris had painted his too metaphysical conception of A Venetian
Priest. Mrs. Elmore had never liked Ferris; she thought him cynical and
opinionated, and she believed that he had not behaved quite well towards
a young American lady,—a Miss Vervain, who had stayed awhile in Venice
with her mother. She was glad to have him go; but she could not admire
Mr. Hoskins, who, however good-hearted, was too hopelessly Western. He
had had part of one foot shot away in the nine months' service, and
walked with a limp that did him honor; and he knew as much of a consul's
business as any of the authors or artists with whom it is the tradition
to fill that office at Venice. Besides he was at least a
fellow-American, and Elmore could not forbear telling him the trouble he
was in: a young girl coming from their town in America as far as Genoa
with friends, and expecting to be met there by the Elmores, with whom
she was to pass some months; Mrs. Elmore utterly prostrated by one of
her old attacks, and he unable to leave her, or to take her with him to
Genoa; the friends with whom Miss Mayhew travelled unable to bring her
to Venice; she, of course, unable to come alone. The case deepened and
darkened in Elmore's view as he unfolded it.
"Why," cried the consul sympathetically, "if I could leave my post I'd
"Oh, thank you!" cried Elmore eagerly, remembering his wife. "I couldn't
think of letting you."
"Look here!" said the consul, taking an official letter, with the seal
broken, from his pocket. "This is the first time I couldn't have left my
post without distinct advantage to the public interests, since I've been
here. But with this letter from Turin, telling me to be on the lookout
for the Alabama, I couldn't go to Genoa even to meet a young lady. The
Austrians have never recognized the rebels as belligerents: if she
enters the port of Venice, all I've got to do is to require the deposit
of her papers with me, and then I should like to see her get out again.
I should like to capture her. Of course, I don't mean Miss Mayhew,"
said the consul, recognizing the double sense in which his language
could be taken.
"It would be a great thing for you," said Elmore,—"a great thing."
"Yes, it would set me up in my own eyes, and stop that infernal clatter
inside about going over and taking a hand again."
"Yes," Elmore assented, with a twinge of the old shame. "I didn't know
you had it too."
"If I could capture the Alabama, I could afford to let the other fellows
fight it out."
"I congratulate you, with all my heart," said Elmore sadly, and he
walked in silence beside the consul.
"Well," said the latter, with a laugh at Elmore's pensive rapture, "I'm
as much obliged to you as if I had captured her. I'll go up to the
Piazza with you, and see Cazzi."
The affair was easily arranged; Cazzi was made to feel by the consul's
intervention that the shield of American sovereignty had been extended
over the young girl whom he was to escort from Genoa, and two days later
he arrived with her. Mrs. Elmore's attack now was passing off, and she
was well enough to receive Miss Mayhew half-recumbent on the sofa where
she had been prone till her arrival. It was pretty to see her fond
greeting of the girl, and her joy in her presence as they sat down for
the first long talk; and Elmore realized, even in his dreamy withdrawal,
how much the bright, active spirit of his wife had suffered merely in
the restriction of her English. Now it was not only English they spoke,
but that American variety of the language of which I hope we shall grow
less and less ashamed; and not only this, but their parlance was
characterized by local turns and accents, which all came welcomely back
to Mrs. Elmore, together with those still more intimate inflections
which belonged to her own particular circle of friends in the little
town of Patmos, N. Y. Lily Mayhew was of course not of her own set,
being five or six years younger; but women, more easily than men, ignore
the disparities of age between themselves and their juniors; and in Susy
Stevens's absence it seemed a sort of tribute to her to establish her
sister in the affection which Mrs. Elmore had so long cherished. Their
friendship had been of such a thoroughly trusted sort on both sides that
Mrs. Stevens (the memorably brilliant Sue Mayhew in her girlish days)
had felt perfectly free to act upon Mrs. Elmore's invitation to let Lily
come out to her; and here the child was, as much at home as if she had
just walked into Mrs. Elmore's parlor out of her sister's house in Patmos.
They briefly dispatched the facts relating to Miss Mayhew's voyage, and
her journey to Genoa, and came as quickly as they could to all those
things which Mrs. Elmore was thirsting to learn about the town and its
people. "Is it much changed? I suppose it is," she sighed. "The war
"Oh, you don't notice the war much," said Miss Mayhew. "But Patmos is
gay,—perfectly delightful. We've got one of the camps there now; and
such times as the girls have with the officers! We have lots of fun
getting up things for the Sanitary. Hops on the parade-ground at the
camp, and going out to see the prisoners,—you never saw such a place."
"The prisoners?" murmured Mrs. Elmore.
"Why, yes!" cried Lily, with a gay laugh. "Didn't you know that we had
a prison-camp too? Some of the Southerners look real nice. I pitied
them," she added, with unabated gayety.
"Your sister wrote to me," said Mrs. Elmore; "but I couldn't realize it,
I suppose, and so I forgot it."
"Yes," pursued Lily, "and Frank Halsey's in command. You would never
know by the way he walks that he had a cork leg. Of course he can't
dance, though, poor fellow. He's pale, and he's perfectly fascinating.
So's Dick Burton, with his empty sleeve; he's one of the recruiting
officers, and there's nobody so popular with the girls. You can't think
how funny it is, Professor Elmore, to see the old college buildings used
for barracks. Dick says it's much livelier than it was when he was a
"I suppose it must be," dreamily assented the professor. "Does he find
plenty of volunteers?"
"Well, you know," the young girl explained, "that the old style of
volunteering is all over."
"No, I didn't know it."
"Yes. It's the bounties now that they rely upon, and they do say that it
will come to the draft very soon, now. Some of the young men have gone
to Canada. But everybody despises them. Oh, Mrs. Elmore, I should
think you'd be so glad to have the professor off here, and honorably
out of the way!"
"I'm dishonorably out of the way; I can never forgive myself for not
going to the war," said Elmore.
"Why, how ridiculous!" cried Lily. "Nobody feels that way about it
now! As Dick Burton says, we've come down to business. I tell you,
when you see arms and legs off in every direction, and women going about
in black, you don't feel that it's such a romantic thing any more. There
are mighty few engagements now, Mrs. Elmore, when a regiment sets off;
no presentation of revolvers in the town hall; and some of the widows
have got married again; and that I don't think is right. But what can
they do, poor things? You remember Tom Friar's widow, Mrs. Elmore?"
"Tom Friar's widow! Is Tom Friar dead?"
"Why, of course! One of the first. I think it was Ball's Bluff. Well,
she's married. But she married his cousin, and as Dick Burton says,
that isn't so bad. Isn't it awful, Mrs. Clapp's losing all her
boys,—all five of them? It does seem to bear too hard on some
families. And then, when you see every one of those six Armstrongs going
through without a scratch!"
"I suppose," said Elmore, "that business is at a standstill. The streets
must look rather dreary."
"Business at a standstill!" exclaimed Lily. "What has Sue been
writing you all this time? Why, there never was such prosperity in
Patmos before! Everybody is making money, and people that you wouldn't
hardly speak to a year ago are giving parties and inviting the old
college families. You ought to see the residences and business blocks
going up all over the place. I don't suppose you would know Patmos now.
You remember George Fenton, Mrs. Elmore?"
"Mr. Haskell's clerk?"
"Yes. Well, he's made a fortune out of an army contract; and he's going
to marry—the engagement came out just before I left—Bella Stearns."
At these words Mrs. Elmore sat upright,—the only posture in which the
fact could be imagined. "Lily!"
"Oh, I can tell you these are gay times in America," triumphed the young
girl. She now put her hand to her mouth and hid a yawn.
"You're sleepy," said Mrs. Elmore. "Well, you know the way to your room.
You'll find everything ready there, and I shall let you go alone. You
shall commence being at home at once."
"Yes, I am sleepy," assented Lily; and she promptly said her
good-nights and vanished; though a keener eye than Elmore's might have
seen that her promptness had a color—or say light—of hesitation in it.
But he only walked up and down the room, after she was gone, in
unheedful distress. "Gay times in America! Good heavens! Is the child
utterly heartless, Celia, or is she merely obtuse?"
"She certainly isn't at all like Sue," sighed Mrs. Elmore, who had not
had time to formulate Lily's defence. "But she's excited now, and a
little off her balance. She'll be different to-morrow. Besides, all
America seems changed, and the people with it. We shouldn't have noticed
it if we had stayed there, but we feel it after this absence."
"I never realized it before, as I did from her babble! The letters have
told us the same thing, but they were like the histories of other times.
Camps, prisoners, barracks, mutilation, widowhood, death, sudden gains,
social upheavals,—it is the old, hideous story of war come true of our
day and country. It's terrible!"
"She will miss the excitement," said Mrs. Elmore. "I don't know exactly
what we shall do with her. Of course, she can't expect the attentions
she's been used to in Patmos, with those young men."
Elmore stopped, and stared at his wife. "What do you mean, Celia?"
"We don't go into society at all, and she doesn't speak Italian. How
shall we amuse her?"
"Well, upon my word, I don't know that we're obliged to provide her
amusement! Let her amuse herself. Let her take up some branch of study,
or of—of—research, and get something besides 'fun' into her head, if
possible." He spoke boldly, but his wife's question had unnerved him,
for he had a soft heart, and liked people about him to be happy. "We can
show her the objects of interest. And there are the theatres," he added.
"Yes, that is true," said Mrs. Elmore. "We can both go about with her. I
will just peep in at her now, and see if she has everything she wants."
She rose from her sofa and went to Lily's room, whence she did not
return for nearly three quarters of an hour. By this time Elmore had got
out his notes, and, in their transcription and classification, had
fallen into forgetfulness of his troubles. His wife closed the door
behind her, and said in a low voice, little above a whisper, as she sank
very quietly into a chair, "Well, it has all come out, Owen."
"What has all come out?" he asked, looking up stupidly.
"I knew that she had something on her mind, by the way she acted. And
you saw her give me that look as she went out?"
"No—no, I didn't. What look was it? She looked sleepy."
"She looked terribly, terribly excited, and as if she would like to say
something to me. That was the reason I said I would let her go to her
"Of course she would have felt awfully if I had gone straight off with
her. So I waited. It may never come to anything in the world, and I
don't suppose it will; but it's quite enough to account for everything
you saw in her."
"I didn't see anything in her,—that was the difficulty. But what is
it—what is it, Celia? You know how I hate these delays."
"Why, I'm not sure that I need tell you, Owen; and yet I suppose I had
better. It will be safer," said Mrs. Elmore, nursing her mystery to the
last, enjoying it for its own sake, and dreading it for its effect upon
her husband. "I suppose you will think your troubles are beginning
pretty early," she suggested.
"Is it a trouble?"
"Well, I don't know that it is. If it comes to the very worst, I dare
say that every one wouldn't call it a trouble."
Elmore threw himself back in his chair in an attitude of endurance.
"What would the worst be?"
"Why, it's no use even to discuss that, for it's perfectly absurd to
suppose that it could ever come to that. But the case," added Mrs.
Elmore, perceiving that further delay was only further suffering for her
husband, and that any fact would now probably fall far short of his
apprehensions, "is simply this, and I don't know that it amounts to
anything; but at Peschiera, just before the train started, she looked
out of the window, and saw a splendid officer walking up and down and
smoking; and before she could draw back he must have seen her, for he
threw away his cigar instantly, and got into the same compartment. He
talked awhile in German with an old gentleman who was there, and then he
spoke in Italian with Cazzi; and afterwards, when he heard her speaking
English with Cazzi, he joined in. I don't know how he came to join in at
first, and she doesn't, either; but it seems that he knew some English,
and he began speaking. He was very tall and handsome and
distinguished-looking, and a perfect gentleman in his manners; and she
says that she saw Cazzi looking rather queer, but he didn't say
anything, and so she kept on talking. She told him at once that she was
an American, and that she was coming here to stay with friends; and, as
he was very curious about America, she told him all she could think of.
It did her good to talk about home, for she had been feeling a little
blue at being so far away from everybody. Now, I don't see any harm in
it; do you, Owen?"
"It isn't according to the custom here; but we needn't care for that. Of
course it was imprudent."
"Of course," Mrs. Elmore admitted. "The officer was very polite; and
when he found that she was from America, it turned out that he was a
great sympathizer with the North, and that he had a brother in our
army. Don't you think that was nice?"
"Probably some mere soldier of fortune, with no heart in the cause,"
"And very likely he has no brother there, as I told Lily. He told her he
was coming to Padua; but when they reached Padua, he came right on to
Venice. That shows you couldn't place any dependence upon what he
said. He said he expected to be put under arrest for it; but he didn't
care,—he was coming. Do you believe they'll put him under arrest?"
"I don't know—I don't know," said Elmore, in a voice of grief and
apprehension, which might well have seemed anxiety for the officer's
"I told her it was one of his jokes. He was very funny, and kept her
laughing the whole way, with his broken English and his witty little
remarks. She says he's just dying to go to America. Who do you suppose
it can be, Owen?"
"How should I know? We've no acquaintance among the Austrians," groaned
"That's what I told Lily. She's no idea of the state of things here, and
she was quite horrified. But she says he was a perfect gentleman in
everything. He belongs to the engineer corps,—that's one of the highest
branches of the service, he told her,—and he gave her his card."
"Gave her his card!"
Mrs. Elmore had it in the hand which she had been keeping in her pocket,
and she now suddenly produced it; and Elmore read the name and address
of Ernst von Ehrhardt, Captain of the Royal-Imperial Engineers,
Peschiera. "She says she knows he wanted hers, but she didn't offer to
give it to him; and he didn't ask her where she was going, or anything."
"He knew that he could get her address from Cazzi for ten soldi as soon
as her back was turned," said Elmore cynically. "What then?"
"Why, he said—and this is the only really bold thing he did do—that
he must see her again, and that he should stay over a day in Venice in
hopes of meeting her at the theatre or somewhere."
"It's a piece of high-handed impudence!" cried Elmore. "Now, Celia, you
see what these people are! Do you wonder that the Italians hate them?"
"You've often said they only hate their system."
"The Austrians are part of their system. He thinks he can take any
liberty with us because he is an Austrian officer! Lily must not stir
out of the house to-morrow."
"She will be too tired to do so," said Mrs. Elmore.
"And if he molests us further, I will appeal to the consul." Elmore
began to walk up and down the room again.
"Well, I don't know whether you could call it molesting, exactly,"
suggested Mrs. Elmore.
"What do you mean, Celia? Do you suppose that she—she—encouraged this
"Owen! It was all in the simplicity and innocence of her heart!"
"Well, then, that she wishes to see him again?"
"Certainly not! But that's no reason why we should be rude about it."
"Rude about it? How? Is simply avoiding him rudeness? Is proposing to
protect ourselves from his impertinence rudeness?"
"No. And if you can't see the matter for yourself, Owen, I don't know
how any one is to make you."
"Why, Celia, one would think that you approved of this man's
behavior,—that you wished her to meet him again! You understand what
the consequences would be if we received this officer. You know how all
the Venetians would drop us, and we should have no acquaintances here
outside of the army."
"Who has asked you to receive him, Owen? And as for the Italians
dropping us, that doesn't frighten me. But what could he do if he did
meet her again? She needn't look at him. She says he is very
intelligent, and that he has read a great many English books, though he
doesn't speak it very well, and that he knows more about the war than
she does. But of course she won't go out to-morrow. All that I hate is
that we should seem to be frightened into staying at home."
"She needn't stay in on his account. You said she would be too tired to
"I see by the scattering way you talk, Owen, that your mind isn't on the
subject, and that you're anxious to get back to your work. I won't keep
"Celia, Celia! Be fair, now!" cried Elmore. "You know very well that I'm
only too deeply interested in this matter, and that I'm not likely to
get back to my work to-night, at least. What is it you wish me to do?"
Mrs. Elmore considered a while. "I don't wish you to do anything," she
returned placably. "Of course, you're perfectly right in not choosing to
let an acquaintance begun in that way go any further. We shouldn't at
home, and we sha'n't here. But I don't wish you to think that Lily has
been imprudent, under the circumstances. She doesn't know that it was
anything out of the way, but she happened to do the best that any one
could. Of course, it was very exciting and very romantic; girls like
such things, and there's no reason they shouldn't. We must manage,"
added Mrs. Elmore, "so that she shall see that we appreciate her
conduct, and trust in her entirely. I wouldn't do anything to wound her
pride or self-confidence. I would rather send her out alone to-morrow."
"Of course," said Elmore.
"And if I were with her when she met him, I believe I should leave it
entirely to her how to behave."
"Well," said Elmore, "you're not likely to be put to the test. He'll
hardly force his way into the house, and she isn't going out."
"No," said Mrs. Elmore. She added, after a silence, "I'm trying to
think whether I've ever seen him in Venice; he's here often. But there
are so many tall officers with fair complexions and English beards. I
should like to know how he looks! She said he was very
"Yes, it's a fine type," said Elmore. "They're all nobles, I believe."
"But after all, they're no better looking than our boys, who come up out
"Ours are Americans," said Elmore.
"And they are the best husbands, as I told Lily."
Elmore looked at his wife, as she turned dreamily to leave the room; but
since the conversation had taken this impersonal turn he would not say
anything to change its complexion. A conjecture vaguely taking shape in
his mind resolved itself to nothing again, and left him with only the
ache of something unascertained.
In the morning Lily came to breakfast as blooming as a rose. The sense
of her simple, fresh, wholesome loveliness might have pierced even the
indifference of a man to whom there was but one pretty woman in the
world, and who had lived since their marriage as if his wife had
absorbed her whole sex into herself: this deep, unconscious constancy
was a noble trait in him, but it is not so rare in men as women would
have us believe. For Elmore, Miss Mayhew merely pervaded the place in
her finer way, as the flowers on the table did, as the sweet butter, the
new eggs, and the morning's French bread did; he looked at her with a
perfectly serene ignorance of her piquant face, her beautiful eyes and
abundant hair, and her trim, straight figure. But his wife exulted in
every particular of her charm, and was as generously glad of it as if it
were her own; as women are when they are sure that the charm of others
has no designs. The ladies twittered and laughed together, and as he
was a man without small talk, he soon dropped out of the conversation
into a reverie, from which he found himself presently extracted by a
question from his wife.
"We had better go in a gondola, hadn't we, Owen?" She seemed to be, as
she put this, trying to look something into him. He, on his part, tried
his best to make out her meaning, but failed.
He simply asked, "Where? Are you going out?"
"Yes. Lily has some shopping she must do. I think we can get it at
Pazienti's in San Polo."
Again she tried to pierce him with her meaning. It seemed to him a
sudden advance from the position she had taken the night before in
regard to Miss Mayhew's not going out; but he could not understand his
wife's look, and he feared to misinterpret if he opposed her going. He
decided that she wished him for some reason to oppose the gondola, so he
said, "I think you'd better walk, if Lily isn't too tired."
"Oh, I'm not tired at all!" she cried.
"I can go with you, in that direction, on my way to the library," he
"Well, that will be very nice," said Mrs. Elmore, discontinuing her
look, and leaving her husband with an uneasy sense of wantonly assumed responsibility.
"She can step into the Frari a moment, and see those tombs," he said. "I
think it will amuse her."
Lily broke into a laugh. "Is that the way you amuse yourselves in
Venice?" she asked; and Mrs. Elmore hastened to reassure her.
"That's the way Mr. Elmore amuses himself. You know his history makes
every bit of the past fascinating to him."
"Oh, yes, that history! Everybody is looking out for that," said Lily.
"Is it possible," said Elmore, with a pensive sarcasm in which an
agreeable sense of flattery lurked, "that people still remember me and
"Yes, indeed!" cried Miss Mayhew. "Frank Halsey was talking about it the
night before I left. He couldn't seem to understand why I should be
coming to you at Venice, because he said it was a history of Florence
you were writing. It isn't, is it? You must be getting pretty near the
end of it, Professor Elmore."
"I'm getting pretty near the beginning," said Elmore sadly.
"It must be hard writing histories; they're so awfully hard to read,"
said Lily innocently. "Does it interest you?" she asked, with unaffected
"Yes," he said, "far more than it will ever interest anybody else."
"Oh, I don't believe that!" she cried sweetly, seizing the occasion to
get in a little compliment.
Mrs. Elmore sat silent, while things were thus going against Miss
Mayhew, and perhaps she was then meditating the stroke by which she
restored the balance to her own favor as soon as she saw her husband
alone after breakfast. "Well, Owen," she said, "you've done it now."
"Done what?" he demanded.
"Oh, nothing, perhaps!" she answered, while she got on her things for
the walk with unusual gayety; and, with the consciousness of unknown
guilt depressing him, he followed the ladies upon their errand, subdued,
distraught, but gradually forgetting his sin, as he forgot everything
but his history. His wife hated to see him so miserable, and whispered
at the shop-door where they parted, "Don't be troubled, Owen! I didn't
"Oh, if you've forgotten, never mind!" she cried; and she and Miss
Mayhew disappeared within.
It was two hours later when he next saw them, after he had turned over
the book he wished to see, and had found the passage which would enable
him to go on with his work for the rest of the day at home. He was
fitting his key into the house-door when he happened to look up the
little street toward the bridge that led into it, and there, defined
against the sky on the level of the bridge, he saw Mrs. Elmore and Miss
Mayhew receiving the adieux of a distinguished-looking man in the
Austrian uniform. The officer had brought his heels together in the
conventional manner, and with his cap in his right hand, while his left
rested on the hilt of his sword, and pressed it down, he was bowing from
the hips. Once, twice, and he was gone.
The ladies came down the calle with rapid steps and flushed faces, and
Elmore let them in. His wife whispered as she brushed by his elbow, "I
want to speak with you instantly, Owen. Well, now!" she added, when they
were alone in their own room and she had shut the door, "what do you say
"What do I say now, Celia?" retorted Elmore, with just indignation.
"It seems to me that it is for you to say something—or nothing."
"Why, you brought it on us."
Elmore merely glanced at his wife, and did not speak, for this passed
all force of language.
"Didn't you see me looking at you when I spoke of going out in a
gondola, at breakfast?"
"What did you suppose I meant?"
"I didn't know."
"When I was trying to make you understand that if we took a gondola we
could go and come without being seen! Lily had to do her shopping. But
if you chose to run off on some interpretation of your own, was I to
blame, I should like to know? No, indeed! You won't get me to admit it,
Elmore continued inarticulate, but he made a low, miserable sibillation
between his set teeth.
"Such presumption, such perfect audacity I never saw in my life!" cried
Mrs. Elmore, fleetly changing the subject in her own mind, and leaving
her husband to follow her as he could. "It was outrageous!" Her words
were strong, but she did not really look affronted; and it is hard to
tell what sort of liberty it is that affronts a woman. It seems to
depend a great deal upon the person who takes the liberty.
"That was the man, I suppose," said Elmore quietly.
"Yes, Owen," answered his wife, with beautiful candor, "it was." Seeing
that he remained unaffected by her display of this virtue, she added,
"Don't you think he was very handsome?"
"I couldn't judge, at such a distance."
"Well, he is perfectly splendid. And I don't want you to think he was
disrespectful at all. He wasn't. He was everything that was delicate
"Did you ask him to walk home with you?"
Mrs. Elmore remained speechless for some moments. Then she drew a long
breath, and said firmly: "If you won't interrupt me with gratuitous
insults, Owen, I will tell you all about it, and then perhaps you will
be ready to do me justice. I ask nothing more." She waited for his
contrition, but proceeded without it, in a somewhat meeker strain: "Lily
couldn't get her things at Pazienti's, and we had to go to the Merceria
for them. Then of course the nearest way home was through St. Mark's
Square. I made Lily go on the Florian side, so as to avoid the officers
who were sitting at the Quadri, and we had got through the square and
past San Moïsè, as far as the Stadt Gratz. I had never thought of how
the officers frequented the Stadt Gratz, but there we met a most
magnificent creature, and I had just said, 'What a splendid officer!'
when she gave a sort of stop and he gave a sort of stop, and bowed very
low, and she whispered, 'It's my officer.' I didn't dream of his joining
us, and I don't think he did, at first; but after he took a second look
at Lily, it really seemed as if he couldn't help it. He asked if he
might join us, and I didn't say anything."
"Didn't say anything!"
"No! How could I refuse, in so many words? And I was frightened and
confused, any way. He asked if we were going to the music in the
Giardini Pubblici; and I said No, that Miss Mayhew was not going into
society in Venice, but was merely here for her health. That's all there
is of it. Now do you blame me, Owen?"
"Do you blame her?"
"Well, I don't see how he was to blame."
"The transaction was a little irregular, but it was highly creditable to
all parties concerned."
Mrs. Elmore grew still meeker under this irony. Indignation and censure
she would have known how to meet; but his quiet perplexed her: she did
not know what might not be coming. "Lily scarcely spoke to him," she
pursued, "and I was very cold. I spoke to him in German."
"Is German a particularly repellent tongue?"
"No. But I was determined he should get no hold upon us. He was very
polite and very respectful, as I said, but I didn't give him an atom of
encouragement; I saw that he was dying to be asked to call, but I parted
from him very stiffly."
"Is it possible?"
"Owen, what is there so wrong about it all? He's clearly fascinated
with her; and as the matter stood, he had no hope of seeing her or
speaking with her except on the street. Perhaps he didn't know it was
wrong,—or didn't realize it."
"I dare say."
"What else could the poor fellow have done? There he was! He had stayed
over a day, and laid himself open to arrest, on the bare chance—one in
a hundred—of seeing Lily; and when he did see her, what was he to do?"
"Obviously, to join her and walk home with her."
"You are too bad, Owen! Suppose it had been one of our own poor boys? He
looked like an American."
"He didn't behave like one. One of 'our own poor boys,' as you call
them, would have been as far as possible from thrusting himself upon
you. He would have had too much reverence for you, too much
self-respect, too much pride."
"What has pride to do with such things, my dear? I think he acted very
naturally. He acted upon impulse. I'm sure you're always crying out
against the restraints and conventionalities between young people, over
here; and now, when a European does do a simple, unaffected thing—"
Elmore made a gesture of impatience. "This fellow has presumed upon your
being Americans—on your ignorance of the customs here—to take a
liberty that he would not have dreamed of taking with Italian or German
ladies. He has shown himself no gentleman."
"Now there you are very much mistaken, Owen. That's what I thought when
Lily first told me about his speaking to her in the cars, and I was very
much prejudiced against him; but when I saw him to-day, I must say that
I felt that I had been wrong. He is a gentleman; but—he is desperate."
"Yes," said Mrs. Elmore, shrinking a little under her husband's
sarcastic tone. "Why, Owen," she pleaded, "can't you see anything
romantic in it?"
"I see nothing but a vulgar impertinence in it. I see it from his
standpoint as an adventure, to be bragged of and laughed over at the
mess-table and the caffè. I'm going to put a stop to it."
Mrs. Elmore looked daunted and a little bewildered. "Well, Owen," she
said, "I put the affair entirely in your hands."
Elmore never could decide upon just what theory his wife had acted; he
had to rest upon the fact, already known to him, of her perfect truth
and conscientiousness, and his perception that even in a good woman the
passion for manœuvring and intrigue may approach the point at which
men commit forgery. He now saw her quelled and submissive; but he was by
no means sure that she looked at the affair as he did, or that she
"All that I ask is that you won't do anything that you'll regret
afterward. And as for putting a stop to it, I fancy it's put a stop to
already. He's going back to Peschiera this afternoon, and that'll
probably be the last of him."
"Very well," said Elmore, "if that is the last of him, I ask nothing
better. I certainly have no wish to take any steps in the matter."
But he went out of the house very unhappy and greatly perplexed. He
thought at first of going to the Stadt Gratz, where Captain Ehrhardt was
probably staying for the tap of Vienna beer peculiar to that hostelry,
and of inquiring him out, and requesting him to discontinue his
attentions; but this course, upon reflection, was less high-handed than
comported with his present mood, and he turned aside to seek advice of
his consul. He found Mr. Hoskins in the best humor for backing his
quarrel. He had just received a second dispatch from Turin, stating that
the rumor of the approaching visit of the Alabama was unfounded; and he
was thus left with a force of unexpended belligerence on his hands which
he was glad to contribute to the defence of Mr. Elmore's family from the
pursuit of this Austrian officer.
"This is a very simple affair, Mr. Elmore,"—he usually said "Elmore,"
but in his haughty frame of mind, he naturally threw something more of
state into their intercourse,—"a very simple affair, fortunately. All
that I have to do is to call on the military governor, and state the
facts of the case, and this fellow will get his orders quietly and
definitively. This war has sapped our influence in Europe,—there's no
doubt of it; but I think it's a pity if an American family living in
this city can't be safe from molestation; and if it can't, I want to
know the reason why."
This language was very acceptable to Elmore, and he thanked the consul.
At the same time he felt his own resentment moderated, and he said, "I'm
willing to let the matter rest if he goes away this afternoon."
"Oh, of course," Hoskins assented, "if he clears out, that's the end of
it. I'll look in to-morrow, and see how you're getting along."
"Don't—don't give them the impression that I've—profited by your
kindness," suggested Elmore at parting.
"You haven't yet. I only hope you may have the chance."
"Thank you; I don't think I do."
Elmore took a long walk, and returned home tranquillized and clarified
as to the situation. Since it could be terminated without difficulty and
without scandal in the way Hoskins had explained, he was not unwilling
to see a certain poetry in it. He could not repress a degree of sympathy
with the bold young fellow who had overstepped the conventional
proprieties in the ardor of a romantic impulse, and he could see how
this very boldness, while it had a terror, would have a charm for a
young girl. There was no necessity, except for the purpose of holding
Mrs. Elmore in check, to look at it in an ugly light. Perhaps the
officer had inferred from Lily's innocent frankness of manner that this
sort of approach was permissible with Americans, and was not amusing
himself with the adventure, but was in love in earnest. Elmore could
allow himself this view of a case which he had so completely in his own
hands; and he was sensible of a sort of pleasure in the novel
responsibility thrown upon him. Few men at his age were called upon to
stand in the place of a parent to a young girl, to intervene in her
affairs, and to decide who was and who was not a proper person to
pretend to her acquaintance.
Feeling so secure in his right, he rebelled against the restraint he had
proposed to himself, and at dinner he invited the ladies to go to the
opera with him. He chose to show himself in public with them, and to
check any impression that they were without due protection. As usual,
the pit was full of officers, and between the acts they all rose, as
usual, and faced the boxes, which they perused through their
lorgnettes till the bell rang for the curtain to rise. But Mrs.
Elmore, having touched his arm to attract his notice, instructed him, by
a slow turning of her head, that Captain Ehrhardt was not there. After
that he undoubtedly breathed freer, and, in the relaxation from his
sense of bravado, he enjoyed the last acts of the opera more than the
first. Miss Mayhew showed no disappointment; and she bore herself with
so much grace and dignity, and yet so evidently impressed every one with
her beauty, that he was proud of having her in charge. He began himself
to see that she was pretty.
The next day was Sunday, and in going to church they missed a call from
Hoskins, whom Elmore felt bound to visit the following morning on his
way to the library, and inform of his belief that the enemy had quitted
Venice, and that the whole affair was probably at an end. He was
strengthened in this opinion by Mrs. Elmore's fear that she might have
been colder than she supposed; she hoped that she had not hurt the poor
young fellow's feelings; and now that he was gone, and safely out of the
way, Elmore hoped so too.
On his return from the library, his wife met him with an air of mystery
before which his heart sank. "Owen," she said, "Lily has a letter."
"Not bad news from home, Celia!"
"No; a letter which she wishes to show you. It has just come. As I don't
wish to influence you, I would rather not be present." Mrs. Elmore
slipped out of the room, and Miss Mayhew glided gravely in, holding an
open note in her hand, and looking into Elmore's eyes with a certain
unfathomable candor, of which she had the secret.
"Here," she said, "is a letter which I think you ought to see at once,
Professor Elmore"; and she gave him the note with an air of unconcern,
which he afterward recalled without being able to determine whether it
was real indifference or only the calm resulting from the transfer of
the whole responsibility to him. She stood looking at him while he read:
In this evening I am just arrived from Venise, 4 hours afterwards I
have had the fortune to see you and to speake with you—and to
favorite me of your gentil acquaintanceship at rail-away. I never
forgeet the moments I have seen you. Your pretty and nice figure
had attached my heard so much, that I deserted in the hopiness to
see you at Venise. And I was so lukely to speak with you cut too
short, and in the possibility to understand all. I wished to go
also in this Sonday to Venise, but I am sory that I cannot,
beaucause I must feeled now the consequences of the desertation.
Pray Miss to agree the assurance of my lov, and perhaps I will be
so lukely to receive a notice from you Miss if I can hop a little
(hapiness) sympathie. Très humble
E. von Ehrhardt.
Elmore was not destitute of the national sense of humor; but he read
this letter not only without amusement in its English, but with intense
bitterness and renewed alarm. It appeared to him that the willingness
of the ladies to put the affair in his hands had not strongly manifested
itself till it had quite passed their own control, and had become a most
embarrassing difficulty,—when, in fact, it was no longer a merit in
them to confide it to him. In the resentment of that moment, his
suspicions even accused his wife of desiring, from idle curiosity and
sentiment, the accidental meeting which had resulted in this fresh
"Why did you show me this letter?" he asked harshly.
"Mrs. Elmore told me to do so," Lily answered.
"Did you wish me to see it?"
"I don't suppose I wished you to see it: I thought you ought to see
Elmore felt himself relenting a little. "What do you want done about
it?" he asked more gently.
"That is what I wished you to tell me," replied the girl.
"I can't tell you what you wish me to do, but I can tell you this, Miss
Mayhew: this man's behavior is totally irregular. He would not think of
writing to an Italian or German girl in this way. If he desired
to—to—pay attention to her, he would write to her father."
"Yes, that's what Mrs. Elmore said. She said she supposed he must think
it was the American way."
"Mrs. Elmore," began her husband; but he arrested himself there, and
said, "Very well. I want to know what I am to do. I want your full and
explicit authority before I act. We will dismiss the fact of
irregularity. We will suppose that it is fit and becoming for a
gentleman who has twice met a young lady by accident—or once by
accident, and once by his own insistence—to write to her. Do you wish
to continue the correspondence?"
Elmore looked into the eyes which dwelt full upon him, and, though they
were clear as the windows of heaven, he hesitated. "I must do what you
say, no matter what you mean, you know?"
"I mean what I say."
"Perhaps," he suggested, "you would prefer to return him this letter
with a few lines on your card."
"No. I should like him to know that I have shown it to you. I should
think it a liberty for an American to write to me in that way after such
a short acquaintance, and I don't see why I should tolerate it from a
foreigner, though I suppose their customs are different."
"Then you wish me to write to him?"
"And make an end of the matter, once for all?"
"Very well, then." Elmore sat down at once, and wrote:—
Sir,—Miss Mayhew has handed me your note of yesterday, and begs me
to express her very great surprise that you should have ventured to
address her. She desires me also to add that you will consider at
an end whatever acquaintance you suppose yourself to have formed
Your obedient servant,
He handed the note to Lily. "Yes, that will do," she said, in a low,
steady voice. She drew a deep breath, and, laying the letter softly
down, went out of the room into Mrs. Elmore's.
Elmore had not had time to kindle his sealing-wax when his wife appeared
swiftly upon the scene.
"I want to see what you have written, Owen," she said.
"Don't talk to me, Celia," he replied, thrusting the wax into the
candle-light. "You have put this affair entirely in my hands, and Lily
approves of what I have written. I am sick of the thing, and I don't
want any more talk about it."
"I must see it," said Mrs. Elmore, with finality, and possessed
herself of the note. She ran it through, and then flung it on the table
and dropped into a chair, while the tears started to her eyes. "What a
cold, cutting, merciless letter!" she cried.
"I hope he will think so," said Elmore, gathering it up from the table,
and sealing it securely in its envelope.
"You're not going to send it!" exclaimed his wife.
"Yes, I am."
"I didn't suppose you could be so heartless."
"Very well, then, I won't send it," said Elmore. "I put the affair in
your hands. What are you going to do about it?"
"On the contrary, I'm perfectly serious. I don't see why you shouldn't
manage the business. The gentleman is an acquaintance of yours. I
don't know him." Elmore rose and put his hands in his pockets. "What do
you intend to do? Do you like this clandestine sort of thing to go on? I
dare say the fellow only wishes to amuse himself by a flirtation with a
pretty American. But the question is whether you wish him to do so. I'm
willing to lay his conduct to a misunderstanding of our customs, and to
suppose that he thinks this is the way Americans do. I take the matter
at its best: he speaks to Lily on the train without an introduction; he
joins you in your walk without invitation; he writes to her without
leave, and proposes to get up a correspondence. It is all perfectly
right and proper, and will appear so to Lily's friends when they hear of
it. But I'm curious to know how you're going to manage the sequel. Do
you wish the affair to go on, and how long do you wish it to go on?"
"You know very well that I don't wish it to go on."
"Then you wish it broken off?"
"Of course I do."
"I think there is such a thing as acting kindly and considerately. I
don't see anything in Captain Ehrhardt's conduct that calls for savage
treatment," said Mrs. Elmore.
"You would like to have him stopped, but stopped gradually. Well, I
don't wish to be savage, either, and I will act upon any suggestion of
yours. I want Lily's people to feel that we managed not only wisely but
humanely in checking a man who was resolved to force his acquaintance
Mrs. Elmore thought a long while. Then she said: "Why, of course, Owen,
you're right about it. There is no other way. There couldn't be any
kindness in checking him gradually. But I wish," she added sorrowfully,
"that he had not been such a complete goose; and then we could have
done something with him."
"I am obliged to him for the perfection which you regret, my dear. If he
had been less complete, he would have been much harder to manage."
"Well," said Mrs. Elmore, rising, "I shall always say that he meant
well. But send the letter."
Her husband did not wait for a second bidding. He carried it himself to
the general post-office that there might be no mistake and no delay
about it; and a man who believed that he had a feeling and tender heart
experienced a barbarous joy in the infliction of this pitiless snub. I
do not say that it would not have been different if he had trusted at
all in the sincerity of Captain Ehrhardt's passion; but he was glad to
discredit it. A misgiving to the other effect would have complicated the
matter. But now he was perfectly free to disembarrass himself of a
trouble which had so seriously threatened his peace. He was responsible
to Miss Mayhew's family, and Mrs. Elmore herself could not say, then or
afterward, that there was any other way open to him. I will not contend
that his motives were wholly unselfish. No doubt a sense of personal
annoyance, of offended decorum, of wounded respectability, qualified the
zeal for Miss Mayhew's good which prompted him. He was still a young
and inexperienced man, confronted with a strange perplexity: he did the
best he could, and I suppose it was the best that could be done. At any
rate, he had no regrets, and he went cheerfully about the work of
interesting Miss Mayhew in the monuments and memories of the city.
Since the decisive blow had been struck, the ladies seemed to share his
relief. The pursuit of Captain Ehrhardt, while it flattered, might well
have alarmed, and the loss of a not unpleasant excitement was made good
by a sense of perfect security. Whatever repining Miss Mayhew indulged
was secret, or confided solely to Mrs. Elmore. To Elmore himself she
appeared in better spirits than at first, or at least in a more equable
frame of mind. To be sure, he did not notice very particularly. He took
her to the places and told her the things that she ought to be
interested in, and he conceived a better opinion of her mind from the
quick intelligence with which she entered into his own feelings in
regard to them, though he never could see any evidence of the over-study
for which she had been taken from school. He made her, like Mrs. Elmore,
the partner of his historical researches; he read his notes to both of
them now; and when his wife was prevented from accompanying him, he went
with Lily alone to visit the scenes of such events as his researches
concerned, and to fill his mind with the local color which he believed
would give life and character to his studies of the past. They also went
often to the theatre; and, though Lily could not understand the plays,
she professed to be entertained, and she had a grateful appreciation of
all his efforts in her behalf that amply repaid him. He grew fond of her
society; he took a childish pleasure in having people in the streets
turn and glance at the handsome girl by his side, of whose beauty and
stylishness he became aware through the admiration looked over the
shoulders of the Austrians, and openly spoken by the Italian populace.
It did not occur to him that she might not enjoy the growth of their
acquaintance in equal degree, that she fatigued herself with the
appreciation of the memorable and the beautiful, and that she found
these long rambles rather dull. He was a man of little conversation;
and, unless Mrs. Elmore was of the company, Miss Mayhew pursued his
pleasures for the most part in silence. One evening, at the end of the
week, his wife asked, "Why do you always take Lily through the Piazza on
the side farthest from where the officers sit? Are you afraid of her
meeting Captain Ehrhardt?"
"Oh, no! I consider the Ehrhardt business settled. But you know the
Italians never walk on the officers' side."
"You are not an Italian. What do you gain by flattering them up? I
should think you might suppose a young girl had some curiosity."
"I do; and I do everything I can to gratify her curiosity. I went to San
Pietro di Castello to-day, to show her where the Brides of Venice were
"The oldest and dirtiest part of the city! What could the child care
for the Brides of Venice? Now be reasonable, Owen!"
"It's a romantic story. I thought girls liked such things,—about
"And that's the reason you took her yesterday to show her the Bucentaur
that the doges wedded the Adriatic in! Well, what was your idea in going
with her to the Cemetery of San Michele?"
"I thought she would be interested. I had never been there before
myself, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to verify a passage
I was at work on. We always show people the cemetery at home."
"That was considerate. And why did you go to Canarregio on Wednesday?"
"I wished her to see the statue of Sior Antonio Rioba; you know it was
the Venetian Pasquino in the Revolution of '48—"
"And the Campo di Giustizia, where the executions used to take place."
"And—and—the house of Tintoretto," faltered Elmore.
"Delicious! She cares so much for Tintoretto! And you've been with her
to the Jewish burying-ground at the Lido, and the Spanish synagogue in
the Ghetto, and the fish-market at the Rialto, and you've shown her the
house of Othello and the house of Desdemona, and the prisons in the
ducal palace; and three nights you've taken us to the Piazza as soon as
the Austrian band stopped playing, and all the interesting promenading
was over, and those stuffy old Italians began to come to the caffès.
Well, I can tell you that's no way to amuse a young girl. We must do
something for her, or she will die. She has come here from a country
where girls have always had the best time in the world, and where the
times are livelier now than they ever were, with all this excitement of
the war going on; and here she is dropped down in the midst of this
absolute deadness: no calls, no picnics, no parties, no dances—nothing!
We must do something for her."
"Shall we give her a ball?" asked Elmore, looking round the pretty little apartment.
"There's nothing going on among the Italians. But you might get us
invited to the German Casino."
"I dare say. But I will not do that."
"Then we could go to the Luogotenenza, to the receptions. Mr. Hoskins
could call with us, and they would send us cards."
"That would make us simply odious to the Venetians, and our house would
be thronged with officers. What I've seen of them doesn't make me
particularly anxious for the honor of their further acquaintance."
"Well, I don't ask you to do any of these things," said Mrs. Elmore, who
had, in fact, mentioned them with the intention of insisting upon an
abated claim. "But I think you might go and dine at one of the
hotels—at the Danieli—instead of that Italian restaurant; and then
Lily could see somebody at the table d'hôte, and not simply perish of
"I—I didn't suppose it was so bad as that," said Elmore.
"Why, of course, she hasn't said anything,—she's far too well-bred for
that; but I can tell from my own feelings how she must suffer. I have
you, Owen," she said tenderly, "but Lily has nobody. She has gone
through this Ehrhardt business so well that I think we ought to do all
we can to divert her mind."
"Well, now, Celia, you see the difficulty of our position,—the nature
of the responsibility we have assumed. How are we possibly, here in
Venice, to divert the mind of a young lady fresh from the parties and
picnics of Patmos?"
"We can go and dine at the Danieli," replied Mrs. Elmore.
"Very well, let us go, then. But she will learn no Italian there. She
will hear nothing but English from the travellers and bad French from
the waiters; while at our restaurant—"
"Pshaw!" cried Mrs. Elmore, "what does Lily care for Italian? I'm sure
I never want to hear another word of it."
At this desperate admission, Elmore quite gave way; he went to the
Danieli the next morning, and arranged to begin dining there that day.
There is no denying that Miss Mayhew showed an enthusiasm in prospect of
the change that even the sight of the pillar to which Foscarini was
hanged head downwards for treason to the Republic had not evoked. She
made herself look very pretty, and she was visibly an impression at the
table d'hôte when she sat down there. Elmore had found places opposite
an elderly lady and quite a young gentleman, of English speech, but of
not very English effect otherwise, who bowed to Lily in acknowledgment
of some former meeting. The old lady said, "So you've reached Venice at
last? I'm very pleased, for your sake," as if at some point of the
progress thither she had been privy to anxieties of Lily about arriving
at her destination; and, in fact, they had been in the same hotels at
Marseilles and Genoa. The young gentleman said nothing, but he looked at
Lily throughout the dinner, and seemed to take his eyes from her only
when she glanced at him; then he dropped his gaze to his neglected plate
and blushed. When they left the table, he made haste to join the Elmores
in the reading-room, where he contrived, with creditable skill, to get
Lily apart from them for the examination of an illustrated newspaper, at
which neither of them looked; they remained chatting and laughing over
it in entire irrelevancy till the elderly lady rose and said, "Herbert,
Herbert! I am ready to go now," upon which he did not seem at all so,
but went submissively.
"Who are those people, Lily?" asked Mrs. Elmore, as they walked towards
Florian's for their after-dinner coffee. The Austrian band was playing
in the centre of the Piazza, and the tall, blond German officers
promenaded back and forth with dark Hungarian women, who looked each
like a princess of her race. The lights glittered upon them, and on the
brilliant groups spread fan-wise out into the Piazza before the caffès;
the scene seemed to shake and waver in the splendor, like something
"Oh, their name is Andersen, or something like that; and they're from
Helgoland, or some such place. I saw them first in Paris, but we didn't
speak till we got to Marseilles. That's his aunt; they're English
subjects, someway; and he's got an appointment in the civil service—I
think he called it—in India, and he doesn't want to go; and I told him
he ought to go to America. That's what I tell all these Europeans."
"It's the best advice for them," said Mrs. Elmore.
"They don't seem in any great haste to act upon it," laughed Miss
Mayhew. "Who was the red-faced young man that seemed to know you, and
"That's an English artist who is staying here. He has a curious
name,—Rose-Black; and he is the most impudent and pushing man in the
world. I wouldn't introduce him, because I saw he was just dying for
Miss Mayhew laughed, as she laughed at everything, not because she was
amused, but because she was happy; this childlike gayety of heart was
great part of her charm.
Elmore had quieted his scruples as a good Venetian by coming inside of
the caffè while the band played, instead of sitting outside with the bad
patriots; but he put the ladies next the window, and so they were not
altogether sacrificed to his sympathy with the dimostrazione.
The next morning Elmore was called from his bed—at no very early hour,
it must be owned, but at least before a nine o'clock breakfast—to see a
gentleman who was waiting in the parlor. He dressed hurriedly, with a
thousand exciting speculations in his mind, and found Mr. Rose-Black
looking from the balcony window. "You have a pleasant position here," he
said easily, as he turned about to meet Elmore's look of indignant
demand. "I've come to ask all about our friends the Andersens."
"I don't know anything about them," answered Elmore. "I never saw them
"Aöh!" said the painter. Elmore had not invited him to sit down, but now
he dropped into a chair, with the air of asking Elmore to explain
himself. "The young lady of your party seemed to know them. How
uncommonly pretty all your American young girls are! But I'm told they
fade very soon. I should like to make up a picnic party with you all for the Lido."
"Thank you," replied Elmore stiffly. "Miss Mayhew has seen the Lido."
"Aöh! That's her name. It's a pretty name." He looked through the open
door into the dining-room, where the table was set for breakfast, with
the usual water-goblet at each plate. "I see you have beer for
breakfast. There's nothing so nice, you know. Would you—would you mind
giving me a glahs?"
Through an undefined sense of the duties of hospitality, Elmore was
surprised by this impudence into sending out to the next caffè for a
pitcher of beer. Rose-Black poured himself out one glass and another
till he had emptied the pitcher, conversing affably meanwhile with his
"Why didn't you turn him out of doors?" demanded Mrs. Elmore, as soon
as the painter's departure allowed her to slip from the closed door
behind which she had been imprisoned in her room.
"I did everything but that," replied her husband, whom this interview
had saddened more than it had angered.
"You sent out for beer for him!"
"I didn't know but it might make him sick. Really, the thing is
incredible. I think the man is cracked."
"He is an Englishman, and he thinks he can take any kind of liberty with
us because we are Americans."
"That seems to be the prevalent impression among all the European
nationalities," said Elmore. "Let's drop him for the present, and try to
be more brutal in the future."
Mrs. Elmore, so far from dropping him, turned to Lily, who entered at
that moment, and recounted the extraordinary adventure of the morning,
which scarcely needed the embellishment of her fancy; it was not really
a gallon of beer, but a quart, that Mr. Rose-Black had drunk. She
enlarged upon previous aggressions of his, and said finally that they
had to thank Mr. Ferris for his acquaintance.
"Ferris couldn't help himself," said Elmore. "He apologized to me
afterward. The man got him into a corner. But he warned us about him as
soon he could. And Rose-Black would have made our acquaintance, any way.
I believe he's crazy."
"I don't see how that helps the matter."
"It helps to explain it," concluded Elmore, with a sigh. "We can't refer
everything to our being American lambs, and his being a ravening
"Of course he came round to find out about Lily," said Mrs. Elmore.
"The Andersens were a mere blind."
"Oh, Mrs. Elmore!" cried Lily in deprecation.
The bell jangled. "That is the postman," said Mrs. Elmore.
There was a home-letter for Lily, and one from Lily's sister enclosed to
Mrs. Elmore. The ladies rent them open, and lost themselves in the
cross-written pages; and neither of them saw the dismay with which
Elmore looked at the handwriting of the envelope addressed to him. His
wife vaguely knew that he had a letter, and meant to ask him for it as
soon as she should have finished her own. When she glanced at him again,
he was staring at the smiling face of Miss Mayhew, as she read her
letter, with the wild regard of one who sees another in mortal peril,
and can do nothing to avert the coming doom, but must dumbly await the
"What is it, Owen?" asked his wife in a low voice.
He started from his trance, and struggled to answer quietly. "I've a
letter here which I suppose I'd better show to you first."
They rose and went into the next room, Miss Mayhew following them with a
bright, absent look, and then dropping her eyes again to her letter.
Elmore put the note he had received into his wife's hands without a
Sir,—My position permitted me to take a woman. I am a soldier, but
I am an engineer—operateous, and I can exercise wherever my
profession in the civil life. I have seen Miss Mayhew, and I have
great sympathie for she. I think I will be lukely with her, if Miss
Mayhew would be of the same intention of me.
If you believe, Sir, that my open and realy proposition will not
offendere Miss Mayhew, pray to handed to her this note. Pray sir to
excuse me the liberty to fatigue you, and to go over with silence
if you would be of another intention.
Your obedient servant,
E. von Ehrhardt.
Mrs. Elmore folded the letter carefully up and returned it to her
husband. If he had perhaps dreaded some triumphant outburst from her, he
ought to have been content with the thoroughly daunted look which she
lifted to his, and the silence in which she suffered him to do justice
to the writer.
"This is the letter of a gentleman, Celia," he said.
"Yes," she responded faintly.
"It puts another complexion on the affair entirely."
"Yes. Why did he wait a whole week?" she added.
"It is a serious matter with him. He had a right to take time for
thinking it over." Elmore looked at the date of the Peschiera postmark,
and then at that of Venice on the back of the envelope. "No, he wrote at
once. This has been kept in the Venetian office, and probably read there
by the authorities."
His wife did not heed the conjecture. "He began all wrong," she grieved.
"Why couldn't he have behaved sensibly?"
"We must look at it from another point of view now," replied Elmore. "He
has repaired his error by this letter."
"No, no; he hasn't."
"The question is now what to do about the changed situation. This is an
offer of marriage. It comes in the proper way. It's a very sincere and
manly letter. The man has counted the whole cost: he's ready to leave
the army and go to America, if she says so. He's in love. How can she
"Perhaps she isn't in love with him," said Mrs. Elmore.
"Oh! That's true. I hadn't thought of that. Then it's very simple."
"But I don't know that she isn't," murmured Mrs. Elmore.
"Well, ask her."
"How could she tell?"
"How could she tell?"
"Yes. Do you suppose a child like that can know her own mind in an
"I should think she could."
"Well, she couldn't. She liked the excitement,—the romanticality of it;
but she doesn't know any more than you or I whether she cares for him. I
don't suppose marriage with anybody has ever seriously entered her head
"It will have to do so now," said Elmore firmly. "There's no help for
"I think the American plan is much better," pouted Mrs. Elmore. "It's
horrid to know that a man's in love with you, and wants to marry you,
from the very start. Of course it makes you hate him."
"I dare say the American plan is better in this as in most other things.
But we can't discuss abstractions, Celia. We must come down to business.
What are we to do?"
"I don't know."
"We must submit the question to her."
"To that innocent, unsuspecting little thing? Never!" cried Mrs. Elmore.
"Then we must decide it, as he seems to expect we may, without reference
to her," said her husband.
"No, that won't do. Let me think." Mrs. Elmore thought to so little
purpose that she left the word to her husband again.
"You see we must lay the matter before her."
"Couldn't—couldn't we let him come to see us awhile? Couldn't we
explain our ways to him, and allow him to pay her attentions without
letting her know about this letter?"
"I'm afraid he wouldn't understand,—that we couldn't make it clear to
him," said Elmore. "If we invited him to the house he would consider it
as an acceptance. He wants a categorical answer, and he has a right to
it. It would be no kindness to a man with his ideas to take him on
probation. He has behaved honorably, and we're bound to consider him."
"Oh, I don't think he's done anything so very great," said Mrs. Elmore,
with that disposition we all have to disparage those who put us in
"He's done everything he could do," said Elmore. "Shall I speak to Miss
"No, you had better let me," sighed his wife. "I suppose we must. But I
think it's horrid! Everything could have gone on so nicely if he hadn't
been so impatient from the beginning. Of course she won't have him now.
She will be scared, and that will be the end of it."
"I think you ought to be just to him, Celia. I can't help feeling for
him. He has thrown himself upon our mercy, and he has a claim to right
and thoughtful treatment."
"She won't have anything to do with him. You'll see."
"I shall be very glad of that," Elmore began.
"Why should you be glad of it?" demanded his wife.
He laughed. "I think I can safely leave his case in your hands. Don't go
to the other extreme. If she married a German, he would let her black
his boots,—like that general in Munich."
"Who is talking of marriage?" retorted Mrs. Elmore.
"Captain Ehrhardt and I. That's what it comes to; and it can't come to
anything else. I like his courage in writing English, and it's wonderful
how he hammers his meaning into it. 'Lukely' isn't bad, is it? And 'my
position permitted me to take a woman'—I suppose he means that he has
money enough to marry on—is delicious. Upon my word, I have a good deal
of sympathie for he!"
"For shame, Owen! It's wicked to make fun of his English."
"My dear, I respect him for writing in English. The whole letter is
touchingly brave and fine. Confound him! I wish I had never heard of
him. What does he come bothering across my path for?"
"Oh, don't feel that way about it, Owen!" cried his wife. "It's cruel."
"I don't. I wish to treat him in the most generous manner; after all, it
isn't his fault. But you must allow, Celia, that it's very annoying and
extremely perplexing. We can't make up Miss Mayhew's mind for her.
Even if we found out that she liked him, it would be only the beginning
of our troubles. We've no right to give her away in marriage, or let
her involve her affections here. But be judicious, Celia."
"It's easy enough to say that!"
"I'll be back in an hour," said Elmore. "I'm going to the Square. We
mustn't lose time."
As he passed out through the breakfast-room, Lily was sitting by the
window with her letter in her lap, and a happy smile on her lips. When
he came back she happened to be seated in the same place; she still had
a letter in her lap, but she was smiling no longer; her face was turned
from him as he entered, and he imagined a wistful droop in that corner
of her mouth which showed on her profile.
But she rose very promptly, and with a heightened color said, "I am
sorry to trouble you to answer another letter for me, Professor Elmore.
I manage my correspondence at home myself, but here it seems to be
"It needn't be different here, Lily," said Elmore kindly. "You can
answer all the letters you receive in just the way you like. We don't
doubt your discretion in the least. We will abide by any decision of
yours, on any point that concerns yourself."
"Thank you," replied the girl; "but in this case I think you had better
write." She kept slipping Ehrhardt's letter up and down between her
thumb and finger against the palm of her left hand, and delayed giving
it to him, as if she wished him to say something first.
"I suppose you and Celia have talked the matter over?"
"And I hope you have determined upon the course you are going to take,
"Oh, quite so."
"I feel bound to tell you," said Elmore, "that this gentleman has now
done everything that we could expect of him, and has fully atoned for
any error he committed in making your acquaintance."
"Yes, I understand that. Mrs. Elmore thought he might have written
because he saw he had gone too far, and couldn't think of any other way
out of it."
"That occurred to me, too, though I didn't mention it. But we're bound
to take the letter on its face, and that's open and honorable. Have you
made up your mind?"
"Do you wish for delay? There is no reason for haste."
"There's no reason for delay, either," said the girl. Yet she did not
give up the letter, or show any signs of intending to terminate the
interview. "If I had had more experience, I should know how to act
better; but I must do the best I can, without the experience. I think
that even in a case like this we should try to do right, don't you?"
"Yes, above all other cases," said Elmore, with a laugh.
She flushed in recognition of her absurdity. "I mean that we oughtn't to
let our feelings carry us away. I saw so many girls carried away by
their feelings, when the first regiments went off, that I got a horror
of it. I think it's wicked: it deceives both; and then you don't know
how to break the engagement afterward."
"You're quite right, Lily," said Elmore, with a rising respect for the
"Professor Elmore, can you believe that, with all the attentions I've
had, I've never seriously thought of getting married as the end of it
all?" she asked, looking him freely in the eyes.
"I can't understand it,—no man could, I suppose,—but I do believe it.
Mrs. Elmore has often told me the same thing."
"And this—letter—it—means marriage."
"That and nothing else. The man who wrote it would consider himself
cruelly wronged if you accepted his attentions without the distinct
purpose of marrying him."
She drew a deep breath. "I shall have to ask you to write a refusal for
me." But still she did not give him the letter.
"Have you made up your mind to that?"
"I can't make up my mind to anything else."
Elmore walked unhappily back and forth across the room. "I have seen
something of international marriages since I've been in Europe," he
said. "Sometimes they succeed; but generally they're wretched failures.
The barriers of different race, language, education, religion,—they're
terrible barriers. It's very hard for a man and woman to understand
each other at the best; with these differences added, it's almost a
"Yes; that's what Mrs. Elmore said."
"And suppose you were married to an Austrian officer stationed in Italy.
You would have no society outside of the garrison. Every other human
creature that looked at you would hate you. And if you were ordered to
some of those half barbaric principalities,—Moldavia or Wallachia, or
into Hungary or Bohemia,—everywhere your husband would be an instrument
for the suppression of an alien or disaffected population. What a fate
for an American girl!"
"If he were good," said the girl, replying in the abstract, "she needn't
"If he were good, you needn't care. No. And he might leave the Austrian
service, and go with you to America, as he hints. What could he do
there? He might get an appointment in our army, though that's not so
easy now; or he might go to Patmos, and live upon your friends till he
found something to do in civil life."
Lily began a laugh. "Why, Professor Elmore, I don't want to marry him!
What in the world are you arguing with me for?"
"Perhaps to convince myself. I feel that I oughtn't to let these
considerations weigh as a feather in the balance if you are at all—at
all—ahem! excuse me!—attached to him. That, of course, outweighs
"But I'm not!" cried the girl "How could I be? I've only met him
twice. It would be perfectly ridiculous. I know I'm not. I ought to
know that if I know anything."
Years afterward it occurred to Elmore, when he awoke one night, and his
mind without any reason flew back to this period in Venice, that she
might have been referring the point to him for decision. But now it only
seemed to him that she was adding force to her denial; and he observed
nothing hysterical in the little laugh she gave.
"Well, then, we can't have it over too soon. I'll write now, if you will
give me his letter."
She put it behind her. "Professor Elmore," she said, "I am not going to
have you think that he ever behaved in the least presumingly. And
whatever you think of me, I must tell you that I suppose I talked very
freely with him,—just as freely, as I should with an American. I didn't
know any better. He was very interesting, and I was homesick, and so
glad to see any one who could speak English. I suppose I was a goose;
but I felt very far away from all my friends, and I was grateful for
his kindness. Even if he had never written this last letter, I should
always have said that he was a true gentleman."
"That is all. I can't have him treated as if he were an adventurer."
"You want him dismissed?"
"A man can't distinguish as to the terms of a dismissal. They're always
insolent,—more insolent than ever if you try to make them kindly. I
should merely make this as short and sharp as possible."
"Yes," she said breathlessly, as if the idea affected her respiration.
"But I will show it to you, and I won't send it without your approval."
"Thank you. But I shall not want to see it. I'd rather not." She was
going out of the room.
"Will you leave me his letter? You can have it again."
She turned red in giving it him. "I forgot. Why, it's written to you,
anyway!" she cried, with a laugh, and put the letter on the table.
The two doors opened and closed: one excluded Lily, and the other
admitted Mrs. Elmore.
"Owen, I approve of all you said, except that about the form of the
refusal. I will read what you say. I intend that it shall be made
"Very well. I'll copy a letter of yours, or write from your dictation."
"No; you write it, and I'll criticise it."
"Oh, you talk as if I were eager to write the letter! Can't you imagine
it's being a very painful thing to me?" he demanded.
"It didn't seem to be so before."
"Why, the situation wasn't the same before he wrote this letter!"
"I don't see how. He was as much in earnest then as he is now, and you
had no pity for him."
"Oh, my goodness!" cried Elmore desperately. "Don't you see the
difference? He hadn't given any proof before"—
"Oh, proof, proof! You men are always wanting proof! What better proof
could he have given than the way he followed her about? Proof, indeed! I
suppose you'd like to have Lily prove that she doesn't care for him!"
"Yes," said Elmore sadly, "I should like very much to have her prove
"Well, you won't get her to. What makes you think she does?"
"I don't. Do you?"
"N-o," answered Mrs. Elmore reluctantly.
"Celia, Celia, you will drive me mad if you go on in this way! The girl
has told me, over and over, that she wishes him dismissed. Why do you
think she doesn't?"
"I don't. Who hinted such a thing? But I don't want you to enjoy doing
"Enjoy it? So you think I enjoy it! What do you suppose I'm made of?
Perhaps you think I enjoyed catechizing the child about her feelings
toward him? Perhaps you think I enjoy the whole confounded affair? Well,
I give it up. I will let it go. If I can't have your full and hearty
support, I'll let it go. I'll do nothing about it."
He threw Ehrhardt's letter on the table, and went and sat down by the
window. His wife took the letter up and read it over. "Why, you see he
asks you to pass it over in silence if you don't consent."
"Does he?" asked Elmore. "I hadn't noticed that."
"Perhaps you'd better read some of your letters, Owen, before you answer
"Really, I had forgotten. I had forgotten that the letter was written to
me at all. I thought it was to Lily, and she had got to thinking so too.
Well, then, I won't do anything about it." He drew a breath of relief.
"Perhaps," suggested his wife, "he asked that so as to leave himself
some hope if he should happen to meet her again."
"And we don't wish him to have any hope."
Mrs. Elmore was silent.
"Celia," cried her husband indignantly, "I can't have you playing fast
and loose with me in this matter!"
"I suppose I may have time to think?" she retorted.
"Yes, if you will tell me what you do think; but that I must know.
It's a thing too vital in its consequences for me to act without your
full concurrence. I won't take another step in it till I know just how
far you have gone with me. If I may judge of what this man's influence
upon Lily would be by the fact that he has brought us to the verge of
the only real quarrel we've ever had"—
"Who's quarrelling, Owen?" asked Mrs. Elmore meekly. "I'm not."
"Well, well! we won't dispute about that. I want to know whether you
thought with me that it was improper for him to address her in the car?"
"And still more improper for him to join you in the street?"
"Yes. But he was very gentlemanly."
"No matter about that. You were just as much annoyed as I was by his
letter to her?"
"I don't know about annoyed. It scared me."
"Very well. And you approved of my answering it as I did?"
"I had nothing to do with it. I thought you were acting conscientiously.
I'll say that much."
"You've got to say more. You have got to say you approved of it; for you
know you did."
"Oh—approved of it? Yes!"
"That's all I want. Now I agree with you that if we pass this letter in
silence, it will leave him with some hope. You agree with me that in a
marriage between an American girl and an Austrian officer the chances
would be ninety-nine to a hundred against her happiness at the best."
"There are a great many unhappy marriages at home," said Mrs. Elmore
"That isn't the point, Celia, and you know it. The point is whether you
believe the chances are for or against her in such a marriage. Do you?"
"Do I what?"
"Agree with me?"
"Yes; but I say they might be very happy. I shall always say that."
Elmore flung up his hands in despair. "Well, then, say what shall be
This was perhaps just what Mrs. Elmore did not choose to say. She was
silent a long time,—so long that Elmore said, "But there's really no
haste about it," and took some notes of his history out of a drawer, and
began to look them over, with his back turned to her.
"I never knew anything so heartless!" she cried. "Owen, this must be
attended to at once! I can't have it hanging over me any longer. It will
make me sick."
He turned abruptly round, and, seating himself at the table, wrote a
note, which he pushed across to her. It acknowledged the receipt of
Captain von Ehrhardt's letter, and expressed Miss Mayhew's feeling that
there was nothing in it to change her wish that the acquaintance should
cease. In after years, the terms of this note did not always appear to
Elmore wisely chosen or humanely considered; but he stood at bay, and he
struck mercilessly. In spite of the explicit concurrence of both Miss
Mayhew and his wife, he felt as if they were throwing wholly upon him a
responsibility whose fearfulness he did not then realize. Even in his
wife's "Send it!" he was aware of a subtile reservation on her part.
Mrs. Elmore and Lily again rose buoyantly from the conclusive event, but
he succumbed to it. For the delicate and fastidious invalid, keeping his
health evenly from day to day upon the condition of a free and peaceful
mind, the strain had been too much. He had a bad night, and the next day
a gastric trouble declared itself which kept him in bed half the week,
and left him very weak and tremulous. His friends did not forget him
during this time. Hoskins came regularly to see him, and supplied his
place at the table d'hôte of the Danieli, going to and fro with the
ladies, and efficiently protecting them from the depredations of the
Austrian soldiery. From Mr. Rose-Black he could not protect them; and
both the ladies amused Elmore with a dramatization of how the Englishman
had boldly outwitted them, and trampled all their finessing under foot,
by simply walking up to them in the reading-room, and saying, "This is
Miss Mayhew, I suppose," and putting himself at once on the footing of
an old family friend. They read to Elmore, and they put his papers in
order, so that he did not know where to find anything when he got well;
but they always came home from the hotel with some lively gossip, and
this he liked. They professed to recognize an anxiety on the part of Mr.
Andersen's aunt that his mind should not be diverted from the civil
service in India by thoughts of young American ladies; but she sent some
delicacies to Elmore, and one day she even came to call with her nephew,
in extreme reluctance and anxiety as they pretended to him.
The next afternoon the young man called alone, and Elmore, who was now
on foot, received him in the parlor, before the ladies came in. Mr.
Andersen had a bunch of flowers in one hand, and a small wooden box
containing a little turtle on a salad-leaf in the other; the poor
animals are sold in the Piazza at Venice for souvenirs of the city, and
people often carry them away. Elmore took the offerings simply, as he
took everything in life, and interpreted them as an expression, however
odd, of Mr. Andersen's sympathy with his recent sufferings, of which he
gave him some account; but he practised a decent self-denial, here, and
they were already talking of the weather when the ladies appeared. He
hastened to exhibit the tokens of Mr. Andersen's kind remembrance, and
was mystified by the young man's confusion, and the impatient, almost
contemptuous, air with which his wife listened to him. Hoskins came in
at that moment to ask about Elmore's health, and showed the hostile
civility to Andersen which young men use toward each other in the
presence of ladies; and then, seeing that the latter had secured the
place at Miss Mayhew's side on the sofa, he limped to the easy chair
near Mrs. Elmore, and fell into talk with her about Rose-Black's
pictures, which he had just seen. They were based upon an endeavor to
trace the moral principles believed by Mr. Ruskin to underlie Venetian
art, and they were very queer, so Hoskins said; he roughly sketched an
idea of some of them on a block he took from his pocket.
Mr. Andersen and Lily went out upon one of the high-railed balconies
that overhung the canal, and stood there, with their backs to the
others. She seemed to be listening, with averted face, while he, with
his cheek leaning upon one hand and his elbow resting on the balcony
rail, kept a pensive attitude after they had apparently ceased to speak.
Something in their pose struck the sculptor's fancy, and he made a hasty
sketch of them, and was showing it to the Elmores when Lily suddenly
descended into the room again, and, saying something about its being
quite dark, went out, and left Mr. Andersen to make his adieux to the
others. He startled them by saying that he was to set off for India in
the morning, and he went away very melancholy.
"Well, I don't know," said Hoskins, thoughtfully retouching his sketch,
"that I should feel very lively about going out to India myself."
"He seems to be a very affectionate young fellow," observed Elmore, "and
I've no doubt he will feel the separation from his friends. But I really
don't know why he should have brought me a bouquet, and a small turtle
in a box, on the eve of his departure."
"What?" cried Hoskins, with a rude guffaw; and when Elmore had showed
his gifts, Hoskins threw back his head and laughed indecently. His
behavior nettled Elmore, and it sent Mrs. Elmore prematurely out of the
room; for, not content with his explosions of laughter, he continued for
some time to amuse himself by touching up with the point of his pencil
the tail of the turtle which he had turned out of its box upon the
table. At Mrs. Elmore's withdrawal he stopped, and presently said
good-night rather soberly.
Then she returned. "Owen," she asked sadly, "did you really think these
flowers and that turtle were for you?"
"Why, yes," he answered.
"Well, I don't know whether I wouldn't almost rather it had been a joke.
I believe that I would rather despise your heart than your head. Why
should Mr. Andersen bring you flowers and a turtle?"
"Upon my word, I don't know."
"They were for Lily! And your mistake has added another pang to the poor
young fellow's suffering. She has just refused him," she said; and as
Elmore continued to glare blankly at her, she added: "She was refusing
him there on the balcony while that disgusting Mr. Hoskins was sketching
them; and he had his hand up, that way, because he was crying."
"This is horrible, Celia!" cried Elmore. The scent of the flowers lying
on the table seemed to choke him; the turtle clawing about on the smooth
surface looked demoniacal. "Why——"
"Now, don't ask me why she refused him, Owen. Of course she couldn't
care for a boy like that. But he can't realize it, and it's just as
miserable for him as if he were a thousand years old."
Elmore hung his head. "It was all a mistake. But how should I know any
better? I am a straightforward man, Celia; and I am unfit for the care
that has been thrown upon me. It's more than I can bear. No, I'm not
fit for it!" he cried at last; and his wife, seeing him so crushed, now
said something to console him.
"I know you're not. I see it more and more. But I know that you will do
the best you can, and that you will always act from a good motive. Only
do try to be more on your guard."
"I will—I will," he answered humbly.
He had a temptation, the next time he visited Hoskins, to tell him the
awful secret, and to see how the situation of that night, with this
lurid light upon it, affected him: it could do poor Andersen, now on his
way to India, no harm. He yielded to his temptation, at the same time
that he confessed his own blunder about the flowers.
Hoskins whistled. "I tell you what," he said, after a long pause, "there
are some things in history that I never could realize,—like Mary, Queen
of Scots, for instance, putting on her best things, and stepping down
into the front parlor of that castle to have her head off. But a thing
like this, happening on your own balcony, helps you to realize it."
"It helps you to realize it," assented Elmore, deeply oppressed by the
"He's just beginning to feel it about now," said Hoskins, with strange
sang froid. "I reckon it's a good deal like being shot. I didn't fully
appreciate my little hit under a couple of days. Then I began to find
out that something had happened. Look here," he added, "I want to show
you something;" and he pulled the wet cloth off a breadth of clay which
he had set up on a board stayed against the wall. It was a bas-relief
representing a female figure advancing from the left corner over a
stretch of prairie towards a bulk of forest on the right; bison, bear,
and antelope fled before her; a lifted hand shielded her eyes; a star
lit the fillet that bound her hair.
"That's the best thing you've done, Hoskins," said Elmore. "What do you
"Well, I haven't settled yet. I have thought of 'Westward the Star of
Empire,' but that's rather long; and I've thought of 'American
Enterprise.' I ain't in any hurry to name it. You like it, do you?"
"I like it immensely!" cried Elmore. "You must let me bring the ladies
to see it."
"Well, not just yet," said the sculptor, in some confusion. "I want to
get it a little further along first."
They stood looking together at the figure; and when Elmore went away he
puzzled himself about something in it,—he could not tell exactly what.
He thought he had seen that face and figure before, but this is what
often occurs to the connoisseur of modern sculpture. His mind heavily
reverted to Lily and her suitors. Take her in one way, especially in her
subordination to himself, the girl was as simply a child as any in the
world,—good-hearted, tender, and sweet, and, as he could see, without
tendency to flirtation. Take her in another way, confront her with a
young and marriageable man, and Elmore greatly feared that she
unconsciously set all her beauty and grace at work to charm him; another
life seemed to inform her, and irradiate from her, apart from which she
existed simple and childlike still. In the security of his own deposited
affections, it appeared to him cruelly absurd that a passion which any
other pretty girl might, and some other pretty girl in time must, have
kindled, should cling, when once awakened, so inalienably to the pretty
girl who had, in a million chances, chanced to awaken it. He wondered
how much of this constancy was natural, and how much merely attributive
and traditional, and whether human happiness or misery were increased by
it on the whole.
In the respite which followed the dismissal of Andersen, the English
painter, Rose-Black, visited the Elmores as often as the servant, who
had orders in his case to say that they were impediti, failed of her
duty. They could not always escape him at the caffè, and they would have
left off dining at the hotel but for the shame of feeling that he had
driven them away. If he had been an Englishman repelling their advances,
instead of an Englishman pursuing them, he could not have been more
offensive. He affronted their national as well as personal self-esteem;
he early declared himself a sympathizer with the Southrons (as the
London press then called them), and he expressed the current belief of
his compatriots, that we were going to the dogs.
"What do you really make of him, Owen?" asked Mrs. Elmore, after an
evening that, in its improbable discomfort, had passed quite like a
"Well, I've been thinking a good deal about him. I have been wondering
if, in his phenomenal way, he is not a final expression of the national
genius,—the stupid contempt for the rights of others; the tacit denial
of the rights of any people who are at English mercy; the assumption
that the courtesies and decencies of life are for use exclusively
This was in that embittered old war-time: we have since learned how
forbearing and generous and amiable Englishmen are; how they never take
advantage of any one they believe stronger than themselves, or fail in
consideration for those they imagine their superiors; how you have but
to show yourself successful in order to win their respect, and even
But for the present Mrs. Elmore replied to her husband's perverted
ideas, "Yes, it must be so," and she supported him in the ineffectual
experiment of deferential politeness, Christian charity, broad humanity,
and savage rudeness upon Rose-Black. It was all one to Rose-Black.
He took an air of serious protection towards Mrs. Elmore, and often gave
her advice, while he practised an easy gallantry with Lily, and ignored
Elmore altogether. His intimacy was superior to the accidents of their
moods, and their slights and snubs were accepted apparently as
interesting expressions of a civilization about which he was insatiably
curious, especially as regarded the relations of young people. There was
no mistaking the fact that Rose-Black in his way had fallen under the
spell which Elmore had learned to dread; but there was nothing to be
done, and he helplessly waited. He saw what must come; and one evening
it came, when Rose-Black, in more than usually offensive patronage,
lolled back upon the sofa at Miss Mayhew's side, and said, "About
flirtations, now, in America,—tell me something about flirtations.
We've heard so much about your American flirtations. We only have them
with married ladies, on the continent, and I don't suppose Mrs. Elmore
would think of one."
"I don't know what you mean," said Lily. "I don't know anything about
This seemed to amuse Rose-Black as an uncommonly fine piece of American
humor, which was then just beginning to make its way with the English.
"Oh, but come, now, you don't expect me to believe that, you know. If
you won't tell me, suppose you show me what an American flirtation is
like. Suppose we get up a flirtation. How should you begin?"
The girl rose with a more imposing air than Elmore could have imagined
of her stature; but almost any woman can be awful in emergencies. "I
should begin by bidding you good-evening," she answered, and swept out
of the room.
Elmore felt as if he had been left alone with a man mortally hurt in
combat, and were likely to be arrested for the deed. He gazed with
fascination upon Rose-Black, and wondered to see him stir, and at last
rise, and with some incoherent words to them, get himself away. He dared
not lift his gaze to the man's eyes, lest he should see there some
reflection of the pain that filled his own. He would have gone after
him, and tried to say something in condolence, but he was quite helpless
to move; and as he sat still, gazing at the door through which
Rose-Black disappeared, Mrs. Elmore said quietly:—
"Well, really, I think that ought to be the last of him. You see, she's
quite able to take care of herself when she knows her ground. You can't
say that she has thrown the brunt of this affair upon you, Owen."
"I am not so sure of that," sighed Elmore. "I think I suffer less when I
do it than when I see it. It's horrible."
"He deserved it, every bit," returned his wife.
"Oh, I dare say," Elmore granted. "But the sight even of justice isn't
pleasant, I find."
"I don't understand you, Owen. How can you care so much for this
impudent wretch's little snub, and yet be so indifferent about refusing
"I'm not indifferent about it, my dear. I know that I did right, but I
don't know that I could do right under the same circumstances again."
In fact there were times when Elmore found almost insupportable the
absolute conclusion to which that business had come. It is hard to
believe that anything has come to an end in this world. For a time,
death itself leaves the ache of an unsatisfied expectation, as if
somehow the interrupted life must go on, and there is no change we make
or suffer which is not denied by the sensation of daily habit. If
Ehrhardt had really come back from the vague limbo to which he had been
so inexorably relegated, he might only have restored the original
situation in all its discomfort and apprehension; yet maintaining, as he
did, this perfect silence and absence, he established a hold upon
Elmore's imagination which deepened because he could not discuss the
matter frankly with his wife. He weakly feared to let her know what was
passing in his thoughts, lest some misconception of hers should turn
them into self-accusal or urge him to some attempt at the reparation
towards which he wavered. He really could have done nothing that would
not have made the matter worse, and he confined himself to speculating
upon the character and history of the man whom he knew only by the
incoherent hearsay of two excited women, and by the brief record of hope
and passion left in the notes which Lily treasured somewhere among the
archives of a young girl's triumphs. He had a morbid curiosity to see
these letters again, but he dared not ask for them; and indeed it would
have been an idle self-indulgence: he remembered them perfectly well.
Seeing Lily so indifferent, it was characteristic of him, in that safety
from consequences which he chiefly loved, that he should tacitly
constitute himself, in some sort, the champion of her rejected suitor,
whose pain he luxuriously fancied in all its different stages and
degrees. His indolent pity even developed into a sort of self-righteous
abhorrence of the girl's hardness. But this was wholly within himself,
and could work no sort of harm. If he never ventured to hint these
feelings to his wife, he was still further from confessing them to Lily;
but once he approached the subject with Hoskins in a well-guarded
generality relating to the different kinds of sensibility developed by
the European and American civilization. A recent suicide for love which
excited all Venice at that time—an Austrian officer hopelessly
attached to an Italian girl had shot himself—had suggested their talk,
and given fresh poignancy to the misgivings in Elmore's mind.
"Well," said Hoskins, "those Dutch are queer. They don't look at women
as respectfully as we do, and they mix up so much cabbage with their
romance that you don't know exactly how to take them; and yet here you
find this fellow suffering just as much as a white man because the
girl's folks won't let her have him. In fact, I don't know but he
suffered more than the average American citizen. I think we have a great
deal more common sense in our love-affairs. We respect women more than
any other people, and I think we show them more true politeness; we let
'em have their way more, and get their finger into the pie right along,
and it's right we should: but we don't make fools of ourselves about
them, as a general rule. We know they're awfully nice, and they know we
know it; and it's a perfectly understood thing all round. We've been
used to each other all our lives, and they're just as sensible as we
are. They like a fellow, when they do like him, about as well as any of
'em; but they know he's a man and a brother after all, and he's got ever
so much human nature in him. Well, now, I reckon one of these Dutch
chaps, the first time he gets a chance to speak with a pretty girl,
thinks he's got hold of a goddess, and I suppose the girl feels just so
about him. Why, it's natural they should,—they've never had any chance
to know any better, and your feelings are apt to get the upper hand of
you, at such times, anyway. I don't blame 'em. One of 'em goes off and
shoots himself, and the other one feels as if she was never going to get
over it. Well, now, look at the way Miss Lily acted in that little
business of hers: one of these girls over here would have had her head
completely turned by that adventure; but when she couldn't see her way
exactly clear, she puts the case in your hands, and then stands by what
you do, as calm as a clock."
"It was a very perplexing thing. I did the best I knew," said Elmore.
"Why, of course you did," cried Hoskins, "and she sees that as well as
you or I do, and she stands by you accordingly. I tell you, that girl's
got a cool head."
In his soul Elmore ungratefully and inconsistently wished that her heart
were not equally cool; but he only said, "Yes, she is a good and
sensible girl. I hope the—the—other one is equally resigned."
"Oh, he'll get along," answered Hoskins, with the indifference of one
man for the sufferings of another in such matters. We are able to offer
a brother very little comfort and scarcely any sympathy in those unhappy
affairs of the heart which move women to a pretty compassion for a
disappointed sister. A man in love is in no wise interesting to us for
that reason; and if he is unfortunate, we hope at the farthest that he
will have better luck next time. It is only here and there that a
sentimentalist like Elmore stops to pity him; and it is not certain that
even he would have sighed over Captain Ehrhardt if he had not been the
means of his disappointment. As it was, he came away, feeling that
doubtless Ehrhardt had "got along," and resolved at least to spend no
more unavailing regrets upon him.
The time passed very quietly now, and if it had not been for Hoskins,
the ladies must have found it dull. He had nothing to do, except as he
made himself occupation with his art, and he willingly bestowed on them
the leisure which Elmore could not find. They went everywhere with him,
and saw the city to advantage through his efforts. Doors, closed to
ordinary curiosity, opened to the magic of his card, and he showed a
pleasure in using such little privileges as his position gave him for
their amusement. He went upon errands for them; he was like a brother,
with something more than a brother's pliability; he came half the time
to breakfast with them, and was always welcome to all. He had the gift
of extracting comfort from the darkest news about the war; he was a
prophet of unfailing good to the Union cause, and in many hours of
despondency they willingly submitted to the authority of his greater
experience, and took heart again.
"I like your indomitable hopefulness, Hoskins," said Elmore, on one of
those occasions when the consul was turning defeat into victory.
"There's a streak of unconscious poetry in it, just as there is in your
taking up the subjects you do. I imagine that, so far as the judgment of
the world goes, our fortunes are at the lowest ebb just now—"
"Oh, the world is wrong!" interrupted the consul. "Those London papers
are all in the pay of the rebels."
"I mean that we have no sort of sympathy in Europe; and yet here you
are, embodying in your conception of 'Westward' the arrogant faith of
the days when our destiny seemed universal union and universal dominion.
There is something sublime to me in your treatment of such a work at
such a time. I think an Italian, for instance, if his country were
involved in a life and death struggle like this of ours, would have
expressed something of the anxiety and apprehension of the time in it;
but this conception of yours is as serenely undisturbed by the facts of
the war as if secession had taken place in another planet. There is
something Greek in that repose of feeling, triumphant over circumstance.
It is like the calm beauty which makes you forget the anguish of the
"Is that so, Professor?" said Hoskins, blushing modestly, as an artist
often must in these days of creative criticism. He seemed to reflect
awhile before he added, "Well, I reckon you're partly right. If we ever
did go to smash, it would take us a whole generation to find it out. We
have all been raised to put so much dependence on Uncle Sam, that if the
old gentleman really did pass in his checks we should only think he was
lying low for a new deal. I never happened to think it out before, but
I'm pretty sure it's so."
"Your work wouldn't be worth half so much to me if you had 'thought it
out,'" said Elmore. "It's the unconsciousness of the faith that makes
its chief value, as I said before; and there is another thing about it
that interests and pleases me still more."
"What's that?" asked the sculptor.
"The instinctive way in which you have given the figure an entirely
American quality. There was something very familiar to me in it, the
first time you showed it, but I've only just been able to formulate my
impression: I see now that while the spirit of your conception is Greek,
you have given it, as you ought, the purest American expression. Your
'Westward' is no Hellenic goddess: she is a vivid and self-reliant
At these words, Hoskins reddened deeply, and seemed not to know where to
look. Mrs. Elmore had the effect of escaping through the door into her
own room, and Miss Mayhew ran out upon the balcony. Hoskins followed
each in turn with a queer glance, and sat a moment in silence. Then he
said, "Well, I reckon I must be going," and went rather abruptly,
without offering to take leave of the ladies.
As soon as he was gone, Lily came in from the balcony, and whipped into
Mrs. Elmore's room, from which she flashed again in swift retreat to her
own, and was seen no more; and then Mrs. Elmore came back, with a
flushed face, to where her husband sat mystified.
"My dear," he said gravely, "I'm afraid you've hurt Mr. Hoskins's
"Do you think so?" she asked; and then she burst into a wild cry of
laughter. "O, Owen, Owen! you will kill me yet!"
"Really," he replied with dignity, "I don't see any occasion in what I
said for this extraordinary behavior."
"Of course you don't, and that's just what makes the fun of it. So you
found something familiar in Mr. Hoskins's statue from the first, did
you?" she asked. "And you didn't notice anything particular in it?"
"Particular, particular?" he demanded, beginning to lose his patience at
"Oh," she exclaimed, "couldn't you see that it was Lily, all over
Elmore laughed in turn. "Why, so it is; so it is! That accounts for
everything that puzzled me. I don't wonder my maunderings amused you. It
was ridiculous, to be sure! When in the world did she give him the
sittings, and how did you manage to keep it from me so well?"
"Owen!" cried his wife, with terrible severity. "You don't think that
Lily would let him put her into it?"
"Why, I supposed—I didn't know—I don't see how he could have done it
"He did it without leave or license," said Mrs. Elmore. "We saw it all
along, but he never 'let on,' as he would say, about it, and we never
meant to say anything, of course."
"Then," replied Elmore, delighted with the fact, "it has been a purely
unconscious piece of cerebration."
"Cerebration!" exclaimed Mrs. Elmore, with more scorn than she knew how
to express. "I should think as much!"
"Well, I don't know," said Elmore, with the pique of a man who does not
care to be quite trampled under foot. "I don't see that the theory is so
"Oh, not at all!" mocked his wife. "It's philosophical to the last
degree. Be as philosophical as you please, Owen; I shall love you still
the same." She came up to him where he sat, and twisting her arm round
his face, patronizingly kissed him on top of the head. Then she released
him, and left him with another burst of derision.
After this Elmore had such an uncomfortable feeling that he hated to see
Hoskins again, and he was relieved when the sculptor failed to make his
usual call, the next evening. He had not been at dinner either, and he
did not reappear for several days. Then he merely said that he had been
spending the time at Chioggia, with a French painter who was making some
studies down there, and they all took up the old routine of their
friendly life without embarrassment.
At first it seemed to Elmore that Lily was a little shy of Hoskins, and
he thought that she resented his using her charm in his art; but before
the evening wore away, he lost this impression. They all got into a long
talk about home, and she took her place at the piano and played some of
the war-songs that had begun to supersede the old negro melodies. Then
she wandered back to them, with fingers that idly drifted over the keys,
and ended with "Stop dat knockin'," in which Hoskins joined with his
powerful bass in the recitative "Let me in," and Elmore himself had half
a mind to attempt a part. The sculptor rose as she struck the keys with
a final crash, but lingered, as his fashion was when he had something to
propose: if he felt pretty sure that the thing would be liked, he
brought it in as if he had only happened to remember it. He now drew out
a large, square, ceremonious-looking envelope, at which he glanced as
if, after all, he was rather surprised to see it, and said, "Oh, by the
by, Mrs. Elmore, I wish you'd tell me what to do about this thing.
Here's something that's come to me in my official capacity, but it isn't
exactly consular business,—if it was I don't believe I should ask any
lady for instructions,—and I don't know exactly what to do. It's so
long since I corresponded with a princess that I don't even know how to
answer her letter."
The ladies perhaps feared a hoax of some sort, and would not ask to see
the letter; and then Hoskins recognized his failure to play upon their
curiosity with a laugh, and gave the letter to Mrs. Elmore. It was an
invitation to a mask ball, of which all Venice had begun to speak. A
great Russian lady, who had come to spend the winter in the Lagoons, and
had taken a whole floor at one of the hotels, had sent out her cards,
apparently to all the available people in the city, for the event which
was to take place a fortnight later. In the mean time, a thrill of
preparation was felt in various quarters, and the ordinary course of
life was interrupted in a way that gave some idea of the old times, when
Venice was the capital of pleasure, and everything yielded there to the
great business of amusement. Mrs. Elmore had found it impossible to get
a pair of fine shoes finished until after the ball; a dress which Lily
had ordered could not be made; their laundress had given notice that for
the present all fluting and quilling was out of the question; one
already heard that the chief Venetian perruquier and his assistants were
engaged for every moment of the forty-eight hours before the ball, and
that whoever had him now must sit up with her hair dressed for two
nights at least. Mrs. Elmore had a fanatical faith in these stories; and
while agreeing with her husband, as a matter of principle, that mask
balls were wrong, and that it was in bad taste for a foreigner to insult
the sorrow of Venice by a festivity of the sort at such a time, she had
secretly indulged longings which the sight of Hoskins's invitation
rendered almost insupportable. Her longings were not for herself, but
for Lily: if she could provide Lily with the experience of a masquerade
in Venice, she could overpay all the kindnesses that the Mayhews had
ever done her. It was an ambition neither ignoble nor ungenerous, and it
was with a really heroic effort that she silenced it in passing the
invitation to her husband, and simply saying to Hoskins, "Of course you
"I don't know about that," he answered. "That's the point I want some
advice on. You see this document calls for a lady to fill out the bill."
"Oh," returned Mrs. Elmore, "you will find some Americans at the hotels.
You can take them."
"Well, now, I was thinking, Mrs. Elmore, that I should like to take
"Take me!" she echoed tremulously. "What an idea! I'm too old to go to
"You don't look it," suggested Hoskins.
"Oh, I couldn't go," she sighed. "But it's very, very kind."
Hoskins dropped his head, and gave the low chuckle with which he
confessed any little bit of humbug. "Well, you or Miss Lily."
Lily had retired to the other side of the room as soon as the parley
about the invitation began. Without asking or seeing, she knew what was
in the note, and now she felt it right to make a feint of not knowing
what Mrs. Elmore meant when she asked, "What do you say, Lily?"
When the question was duly explained to her, she answered languidly, "I
don't know. Do you think I'd better?"
"I might as well make a clean breast of it, first as last," said
Hoskins. "I thought perhaps Mrs. Elmore might refuse, she's so stiff
about some things,"—here he gave that chuckle of his,—"and so I came
prepared for contingencies. It occurred to me that it mightn't be quite
the thing, and so I went round to the Spanish consul and asked him how
he thought it would do for me to matronize a young lady if I could get
one, and he said he didn't think it would do at all." Hoskins let this
adverse decision sink into the breasts of his listeners before he added:
"But he said that he was going with his wife, and that if we would come
along she could matronize us both. I don't know how it would work," he
They all looked at Elmore, who stood holding the princess's missive in
his hand, and darkly forecasting the chances of consent and denial. At
the first suggestion of the matter, a reckless hope that this ball might
bring Ehrhardt above their horizon again sprang up in his heart, and
became a desperate fear when the whole responsibility of action was, as
usual, left with him. He stood, feeling that Hoskins had used him very ill.
"I suppose," began Mrs. Elmore very thoughtfully, "that this will be
something quite in the style of the old masquerades under the Republic."
"Regular Ridotto business, the Spanish consul says," answered Hoskins.
"It might be very useful to you, Owen," she resumed, "in an historical
way, if Lily were to go and take notes of everything; so that when you
came to that period you could describe its corruptions intelligently."
Elmore laughed. "I never thought of that, my dear," he said, returning
the invitation to Hoskins. "Your historical sense has been awakened
late, but it promises to be very active. Lily had better go, by all
means, and I shall depend upon her coming home with very full notes upon
They laughed at the professor's sarcasm, and Hoskins, having undertaken
to see that the last claims of etiquette were satisfied by getting an
invitation sent to Miss Mayhew through the Spanish consul, went off, and
left the ladies to the discussion of ways and means. Mrs. Elmore said
that of course it was now too late to hope to get anything done, and
then set herself to devise the character that Lily would have appeared
in if there had been time to get her ready, or if all the work-people
had not been so busy that it was merely frantic to think of anything.
She first patriotically considered her as Columbia, with the customary
drapery of stars and stripes and the cap of liberty. But while holding
that she would have looked very pretty in the dress, Mrs. Elmore decided
that it would have been too hackneyed; and besides, everybody would have
known instantly who it was.
"Why not have had her go in the character of Mr. Hoskins's 'Westward'?"
suggested Elmore, with lazy irony.
"The very thing!" cried his wife. "Owen, you deserve great credit for
thinking of that; no one else would have done it! No one will dream what
it means, and it will be great fun, letting them make it out. We must
keep it a dead secret from Mr. Hoskins, and let her surprise him with it
when he comes for her that evening. It will be a very pretty way of
returning his compliment, and it will be a sort of delicate
acknowledgement of his kindness in asking her, and in so many other
ways. Yes, you've hit it exactly, Owen; she shall go as 'Westward.'"
"Go?" echoed Elmore, who had with difficulty realized the rapid change
of tense. "I thought you said you couldn't get her ready."
"We must manage somehow," replied Mrs. Elmore. And somehow a shoemaker
for the sandals, a seamstress for the delicate flowing draperies, a
hair-dresser for the adjustment of the young girl's rebellious abundance
of hair beneath the star-lit fillet, were actually found,—with the help
of Hoskins, as usual, though he was not suffered to know anything of the
character to whose make-up he contributed. The perruquier, a personage
of lordly address naturally, and of a dignity heightened by the demand
in which he found himself came early in the morning, and was received by
Elmore with a self-possession that ill-comported with the solemnity of
the occasion. "Sit down," said Elmore easily, pushing him a chair. "The
ladies will be here presently."
"But I have no time to sit down, signore!" replied the artist, with an
imperious bow, "and the ladies must be here instantly."
Mrs. Elmore always said that if she had not heard this conversation, and
hurried in at once, the perruquier would have left them at that point.
But she contrived to appease him by the manifestation of an intelligent
sympathy; she made Lily leave her breakfast untasted, and submit her
beautiful head to the touch of this man, with whom it was but a head of
hair and nothing more; and in an hour the work was done. The artist
whisked away the cloth which covered her shoulders, and crying,
"Behold!" bowed splendidly to the spectators, and without waiting for
criticism or suggestion, took his napoleon and went his way. All that
day the work of his skill was sacredly guarded, and the custodian of the
treasure went about with her head on her shoulders, as if it had been
temporarily placed in her keeping, and were something she was not at all
used to taking care of. More than once Mrs. Elmore had to warn her
against sinister accidents. "Remember, Lily," she said, "that if
anything did happen, nothing could be done to save you!" In spite of
himself Elmore shared these anxieties, and in the depths of his wonted
studies he found himself pursued and harassed by vague apprehensions,
which upon analysis proved to be fears for Miss Lily's hair. It was a
great moment when the robe came home—rather late—from the
dressmaker's, and was put on over Lily's head; but from this thrilling
rite Elmore was of course excluded, and only knew of it afterwards by
hearsay. He did not see her till she came out just before Hoskins
arrived to fetch her away, when she appeared radiantly perfect in her
dress, and in the air with which she meant to carry it off. At Mrs.
Elmore's direction she paraded dazzlingly up and down the room a number
of times, bending over to see how her dress hung, as she walked. Mrs.
Elmore, with her head on one side, scrutinized her in every detail, and
Elmore regarded her young beauty and delight with a pride as innocent as
her own. A dim regret, evaporating in a long sigh, which made the others
laugh, recalled him to himself, as the bell rang and Hoskins appeared.
He was received in a preconcerted silence, and he looked from one to the
other with his queer, knowing smile, and took in the whole affair
without a word.
"Isn't it a pretty idea?" said Mrs. Elmore. "Studied from an antique
bas-relief, or just the same as an antique,—full of the anguish and the
repose of the Laocoön."
"Mrs. Elmore," said the sculptor, "you're too many for me. I reckon the
procession had better start before I make a fool of myself. Well!" This
was all Hoskins could say; but it sufficed. The ladies declared
afterwards that if he had added a word more, it would have spoiled it.
They had expected him to go to the ball in the character of a miner
perhaps, or in that of a trapper of the great plains; but he had chosen
to appear more naturally as a courtier of the time of Louis XIV. "When
you go in for a disguise," he explained, "you can't make it too
complete; and I consider that this limp of mine adds the last touch."
"It's no use to sit up for them," Mrs. Elmore said, when she and her
husband had come in from calling good wishes and last instructions after
them from the balcony, as their gondola pushed away. "We sha'n't see
anything more of them till morning. Now this," she added, "is
something like the gayety that people at home are always fancying in
Europe. Why, I can remember when I used to imagine that American
tourists figured brilliantly in salons and conversazioni, and spent
their time in masking and throwing confetti in carnival, and going to
balls and opera. I didn't know what American tourists were, then, and
how dismally they moped about in hotels and galleries and churches. And
I didn't know how stupid Europe was socially,—how perfectly dead and
buried it was, especially for young people. It would be fun if things
happened so that Lily never found it out! I don't think two offers
already,—or three, if you count Rose-Black,—are very bad for any
girl; and now this ball, coming right on top of it, where she will see
hundreds of handsome officers! Well, she'll never miss Patmos, at this
rate, will she?"
"Perhaps she had better never have left Patmos," suggested Elmore
"I don't know what you mean, Owen," said his wife, as if hurt.
"I mean that it's a great pity she should give herself up to the same
frivolous amusements here that she had there. The only good that Europe
can do American girls who travel here is to keep them in total exile
from what they call a good time,—from parties and attentions and
flirtations; to force them, through the hard discipline of social
deprivation, to take some interest in the things that make for
civilization,—in history, in art, in humanity."
"Now, there I differ with you, Owen. I think American girls are the
nicest girls in the world, just as they are. And I don't see any harm in
the things you think are so awful. You've lived so long here among your
manuscripts that you've forgotten there is any such time as the present.
If you are getting so Europeanized, I think the sooner we go home the
"I getting Europeanized!" began Elmore indignantly.
"Yes, Europeanized! And I don't want you to be so severe with Lily,
Owen. The child stands in terror of you now; and if you keep on in this
way, she can't draw a natural breath in the house."
There is always something flattering, at first, to a gentle and
peaceable man in the notion of being terrible to any one; Elmore melted
at these words, and at the fear that he might have been, in some way
that he could not think of, really harsh.
"I should be very sorry to distress her," he began.
"Well, you haven't distressed her yet," his wife relented. "Only you
must be careful not to. She was going to be very circumspect, Owen, on
your account, for she really appreciates the interest you take in her,
and I think she sees that it won't do to be at all free with strangers
over here. This ball will be a great education for Lily,—a great
education. I'm going to commence a letter to Sue about her costume, and
all that, and leave it open to finish up when Lily gets home."
When she went to bed, she did not sleep till after the time when the
girl ought to have come; and when she awoke to a late breakfast, Lily
had still not returned. By eleven o'clock she and Elmore had passed the
stage of accusing themselves, and then of accusing each other, for
allowing Lily to go in the way they had; and had come to the question of
what they had better do, and whether it was practicable to send to the
Spanish consulate and ask what had become of her. They had resigned
themselves to waiting for one half-hour longer, when they heard her
voice at the water-gate, gayly forbidding Hoskins to come up; and
running out upon the balcony, Mrs. Elmore had a glimpse of the
courtier, very tawdry by daylight, re-entering his gondola, and had only
time to turn about when Lily burst laughing into the room.
"Oh, don't look at me, Professor Elmore!" she cried. "I'm literally
danced to rags!"
Her dress and hair were splashed with drippings from the wax candles;
she was wildly decorated with favors from the German, and one of these
had been used to pin up a rent which the spur of a hussar had made in
her robe; her hair had escaped from its fastenings during the night, and
in putting it back she had broken the star in her fillet; it was now
kept in place by a bit of black-and-yellow cord which an officer had
lent her. "He said he should claim it of me the first time we met," she
exclaimed excitedly. "Why, Professor Elmore," she implored with a laugh,
"don't look at me so!"
Grief and indignation were in his heart. "You look like the spectre of
last night," he said with dreamy severity, and as if he saw her merely
as a vision.
"Why, that's the way I feel!" she answered; and with a reproachful
"Owen!" his wife followed her flight to her room.
Elmore went out for a long walk, from which he returned disconsolate at
dinner. He was one of those people, common enough in our Puritan
civilization, who would rather forego any pleasure than incur the
reaction which must follow with all the keenness of remorse; and he
always mechanically pitied (for the operation was not a rational one)
such unhappy persons as he saw enjoying themselves. But he had not meant
to add bitterness to the anguish which Lily would necessarily feel in
retrospect of the night's gayety; he had not known that he was
recognizing, by those unsparing words of his, the nervous misgivings in
the girl's heart. He scarcely dared ask, as he sat down at table with
Mrs. Elmore alone, whether Lily were asleep.
"Asleep?" she echoed, in a low tone of mystery. "I hope so."
"Celia, Celia!" he cried in despair. "What shall I do? I feel terribly
at what I said to her."
"Sh! At what you said to her? Oh yes! Yes, that was cruel. But there is
so much else, poor child, that I had forgotten that."
He let his plate of soup stand untasted. "Why—why," he faltered,
"didn't she enjoy herself?" And a historian of Venice, whose mind should
have been wholly engaged in philosophizing the republic's difficult
past, hung abjectly upon the question whether a young girl had or had
not had a good time at a ball.
"Yes. Oh, yes! She enjoyed herself—if that's all you require,"
replied his wife. "Of course she wouldn't have stayed so late if she
hadn't enjoyed herself."
"No," he said in a tone which he tried to make leading; but his wife
refused to be led by indirect methods. She ate her soup, but in a manner
to carry increasing bitterness to Elmore with every spoonful.
"Come, Celia!" he cried at last, "tell me what has happened. You know
how wretched this makes me. Tell me it, whatever it is. Of course, I
must know it in the end. Are there any new complications?"
"No new complications," said his wife, as if resenting the word. "But
you make such a bugbear of the least little matter that there's no
encouragement to tell you anything."
"Excuse me," he retorted, "I haven't made a bugbear of this."
"You haven't had the opportunity." This was so grossly unjust that
Elmore merely shrugged his shoulders and remained silent. When it
finally appeared that he was not going to ask anything more, his wife
added: "If you could listen, like any one else, and not interrupt with
remarks that distort all one's ideas"—Then, as he persisted in his
silence, she relented still further. "Why, of course, as you say, you
will have to know it in the end. But I can tell you, to begin with,
Owen, that it's nothing you can do anything about, or take hold of in
any way. Whatever it is, it's done and over; so it needn't distress you
"Ah, I've known some things done and over that distressed me a great
deal," he suggested.
"The princess wasn't so very young, after all," said Mrs. Elmore, as if
this had been the point in dispute, "but very fat and jolly, and very
kind. She wasn't in costume; but there was a young countess with her,
helping receive, who appeared as Night,—black tulle, you know, with
silver stars. The princess seemed to take a great fancy to Lily,—the
Russians always have sympathized with us in the war,—and all the time
she wasn't dancing, the princess kept her by her, holding her hand and
patting it. The officers—hundreds of them, in their white uniforms and
those magnificent hussar dresses—were very obsequious to the princess,
and Lily had only too many partners. She says you can't imagine how
splendid the scene was, with all those different costumes, and the rooms
a perfect blaze of waxlights; the windows were battened, so that you
couldn't tell when it came daylight, and she hadn't any idea how the
time was passing. They were not all in masks; and there didn't seem to
be any regular hour for unmasking. She can't tell just when the supper
was, but she thinks it must have been towards morning. She says Mr.
Hoskins got on capitally, and everybody seemed to like him, he was so
jolly and good-natured; and when they found out that he had been wounded
in the war, they made quite a belle of him, as he called it. The
princess made a point of introducing all the officers to Lily that came
up after they unmasked. They paid her the greatest attention, and you
can easily see that she was the prettiest girl there."
"I can believe that without seeing," said Elmore, with magnanimous pride
in the loveliness that had made him so much trouble. "Well?"
"Well, they couldn't any of them get the hang, as Mr. Hoskins said, of
the character she came in, for a good while; but when they did, they
thought it was the best idea there: and it was all your idea, Owen,"
said Mrs. Elmore, in accents of such tender pride that he knew she must
now be approaching the difficult passage of her narration. "It was so
perfectly new and unconventional. She got on very well speaking Italian
with the officers, for she knew as much of it as they did."
Here Mrs. Elmore paused, and glanced hesitatingly at her husband. "They
only made one little mistake; but that was at the beginning, and they
soon got over it." Elmore suffered, but he did not ask what it was, and
his wife went on with smooth caution. "Lily thought it was just as it is
at home, and she mustn't dance with any one unless they had been
introduced. So after the first dance with the Spanish consul, as her
escort, a young officer came up and asked her; and she refused, for she
thought it was a great piece of presumption. Afterwards the princess
told her she could dance with any one, introduced or not, and so she
did; and pretty soon she saw this first officer looking at her very
angrily, and going about speaking to others and glancing toward her. She
felt badly about it, when she saw how it was; and she got Mr. Hoskins to
go and speak to him. Mr. Hoskins asked him if he spoke English, and the
officer said No; and it seems that he didn't know Italian either, and
Mr. Hoskins tried him in Spanish,—he picked up a little in New
Mexico,—but the officer didn't understand it; and all at once it
occurred to Mr. Hoskins to say, 'Parlez-vous Français?' and says the
officer instantly, 'Oui, monsieur.'"
"Of course the man knew French. He ought to have tried him with that in
the beginning. What did Hoskins say then?" asked Elmore impatiently.
"He didn't say anything: that was all the French he knew."
Elmore broke into a cry of laughter, and laughed on and on with the wild
excess of a sad man when once he unpacks his heart in that way. His wife
did not, perhaps, feel the absurdity as keenly as he, but she gladly
laughed with him, for it smoothed her way to have him in this humor.
"Mr. Hoskins just took him by the arm, and said, 'Here! you come along
with me,' and led him up to the princess, where Lily was sitting; and
when the princess had explained to him, Lily rose, and mustered up
enough French to say, 'Je vous prie, monsieur, de danser avec moi,' and
after that they were the greatest friends."
"That was very pretty in her; it was sovereignly gracious," said Elmore.
"Oh, if an American girl is left to manage for herself she can always
manage!" cried Mrs. Elmore.
"Well, and what else?" asked her husband.
"Oh, I don't know that it amounts to anything," said Mrs. Elmore; but
she did not delay further.
It appeared from what she went on to say that in the German, which began
not long after midnight, there was a figure fancifully called the
symphony, in which musical toys were distributed among the dancers in
pairs; the possessor of a small pandean pipe, or tin horn, went about
sounding it, till he found some lady similarly equipped, when he
demanded her in the dance. In this way a tall mask, to whom a penny
trumpet had fallen, was stalking to and fro among the waltzers, blowing
the silly plaything with a disgusted air, when Lily, all unconscious of
him, where she sat with her hand in that of her faithful princess,
breathed a responsive note. The mask was instantly at her side, and she
was whirling away in the waltz. She tried to make him out, but she had
already danced with so many people that she was unable to decide whether
she had seen this mask before. He was not disguised except by the little
visor of black silk, coming down to the point of his nose; his blond
whiskers escaped at either side, and his blond moustache swept beneath,
like the whiskers and moustaches of fifty other officers present, and he
did not speak. This was a permissible caprice of his, but if she were
resolved to make him speak, this also was a permissible caprice. She
made a whole turn of the room in studying up the Italian sentence with
which she assailed him: "Perdoni, Maschera; ma cosa ha detto? Non ho ben
"Speak English, Mask," came the reply. "I did not say anything." It came
certainly with a German accent, and with a foreigner's deliberation; but
it came at once, and clearly.
The English astonished her, and somehow it daunted her, for the mask
spoke very gravely; but she would not let him imagine that he had put
her down, and she rejoined laughingly, "Oh, I knew that you hadn't
spoken, but I thought I would make you."
"You think you can make one do what you will?" asked the mask.
"Oh, no. I don't think I could make you tell me who you are, though I
should like to make you."
"And why should you wish to know me? If you met me in Piazza, you would
not recognize my salutation."
"How do you know that?" demanded Lily. "I don't know what you mean."
"Oh, it is understood yet already," answered the mask. "Your compatriot,
with whom you live, wishes to be well seen by the Italians, and he would
not let you bow to an Austrian."
"That is not so," exclaimed Lily indignantly.
"Professor Elmore wouldn't be so mean; and if he would, I shouldn't."
She was frightened, but she felt her spirit rising, too. "You seem to
know so well who I am: do you think it is fair for you to keep me in
"I cannot remain masked without your leave. Shall I unmask? Do you
"Oh, no," she replied. "You will have to unmask at supper, and then I
shall see you. I'm not impatient. I prefer to keep you for a mystery."
"You will be a mystery to me even when you unmask," replied the mask
Lily was ill at ease, and she gave a little, unsuccessful laugh. "You
seem to take the mystery very coolly," she said in default of anything
"I have studied the American manner," replied the mask. "In America they
take everything coolly: life and death, love and hate—all things."
"How do you know that? You have never been in America."
"That is not necessary, if the Americans come here to show us."
"They are not true Americans, if they show you that," cried the girl.
"But I see that you are only amusing yourself."
"And have you never amused yourself with me?"
"How could I," she demanded, "if I never saw you before?"
"But are you sure of that?" She did not answer, for in this masquerade
banter she had somehow been growing unhappy. "Shall I prove to you that
you have seen me before? You dare not let me unmask."
"Oh, I can wait till supper. I shall know then that I have never seen
you before. I forbid you to unmask till supper! Will you obey?" she
"I have obeyed in harder things," replied the mask.
She refused to recognize anything but meaningless badinage in his words.
"Oh, as a soldier, yes!—you must be used to obeying orders." He did not
reply, and she added, releasing her hand and slipping it into his arm,
"I am tired now; will you take me back to the princess?"
He led her silently to her place, and left her with a profound bow.
"Now," said the princess, "they shall give you a little time to breathe.
I will not let them make you dance every minute. They are indiscreet.
You shall not take any of their musical instruments, and so you can
fairly escape till supper."
"Thank you," said Lily absently, "that will be the best way"; and she
sat languidly watching the dancers. A young naval officer who spoke
English ran across the floor to her.
"Come," he cried, "I shall have twenty duels on my hands if I let you
rest here, when there are so many who wish to dance with you." He threw
a pipe into her lap, and at the same moment a pipe sounded from the
other side of the room.
"This is a conspiracy!" exclaimed the girl. "I will not have it! I am
not going to dance any more." She put the pipe back into his hands; he
placed it to his lips, and sounded it several times, and then dropped it
into her lap again with a laugh, and vanished in the crowd.
"That little fellow is a rogue," said the princess. "But he is not so
bad as some of them. Monsieur," she cried in French to the
fair-whiskered, tall mask who had already presented himself before Lily,
"I will not permit it, if it is for a trick. You must unmask. I will
dispense mademoiselle from dancing with you."
The mask did not reply, but turned his eyes upon Lily with an appeal
which the holes of the visor seemed to intensify. "It is a promise," she
said to the princess, rising in a sort of fascination. "I have forbidden
him to unmask before supper."
"Oh, very well," answered the princess, "if that is the case. But make
him bring you back soon: it is almost time."
"Did you hear, Mask?" asked the girl, as they waltzed away. "I will only
make two turns of the room with you."
"This is too bad!" she exclaimed. "I will not be trifled with in this
way. Either speak English, or unmask at once."
The mask again answered in Italian, with a repeated apology for not
understanding. "You understand very well," retorted Lily, now really
indignant, "and you know that this passes a jest."
"Can you speak German?" asked the mask in that tongue.
"Yes, a little, but I do not choose to speak it. If you have anything to
say to me you can say it in English."
"I cannot understand English," replied the mask, still in German, and
now Lily thought the voice seemed changed; but she clung to her belief
that it was some hoax played at her expense, and she continued her
efforts to make him answer her in English. The two turns round the room
had stretched to half a dozen in this futile task, but she felt herself
powerless to leave the mask, who for his part betrayed signs of
embarrassment, as if he had undertaken a ruse of which he repented. A
confused movement in the crowd and a sudden cessation of the music
recalled her to herself, and she now took her partner's arm and hurried
with him toward the place where she had left the princess. But the
princess had already gone into the supper-room, and she had no other
recourse than to follow with the stranger.
As they entered the supper-room she removed her little visor, and she
felt, rather than saw, the mask put up his hand and lift away his own:
he turned his head, and looked down upon her with the face of a man she
had never seen before.
"Ah, you are there!" she heard the princess's voice calling to her from
one of the tables. "How tired you look! Here—here! I will make you
drink this glass of wine."
The officer who brought her the wine gave her his arm and led her to the
princess, and the late mask mixed with the two-score other tall blond
The night which stretched so far into the day ended at last, and she
followed Hoskins down to their gondola. He entered the boat first, to
give her his hand in stepping from the riva; at the same moment she
involuntarily turned at the closing of the door behind her, and found
at her side the tall blond mask, or one of the masks, if there were two
who had danced with her. He caught her hand suddenly to his lips, and
"Adieu—forgive!" he murmured in English, and then vanished indoors
"Owen," said Mrs. Elmore dramatically at the end of her narration, "who
do you think it could have been?"
"I have no doubt as to who it was, Celia," replied Elmore, with a heat
evidently quite unexpected to his wife, "and if Lily has not been
seriously annoyed by the matter, I am glad that it has happened. I have
had my regrets—my doubts—whether I did not dismiss that man's
pretensions too curtly, too unkindly. But I am convinced now that we did
exactly right, and that she was wise never to bestow another thought
upon him. A man capable of contriving a petty persecution of this
sort—of pursuing a young girl who had rejected him in this shameless
fashion,—is no gentleman."
"It was a persecution," said Mrs. Elmore, with a dazed air, as if this
view of the case had not occurred to her.
"A miserable, unworthy persecution!" repeated her husband.
"And we are well rid of him. He has relieved me by this last
performance, immensely; and I trust that if Lily had any secret
lingering regrets, he has given her a final lesson. Though I must say,
in justice to her, poor girl, she didn't seem to need it."
Mrs. Elmore listened with a strange abeyance; she looked beaten and
bewildered, while he vehemently uttered these words. She could not meet
his eyes, with her consciousness of having her intended romance thrown
back upon her hands; and he seemed in nowise eager to meet hers, for
whatever consciousness of his own. "Well, it isn't certain that he was
the one, after all," she said.
Long after the ball Lily seemed to Elmore's eye not to have recovered
her former tone. He thought she went about languidly, and that she was
fitful and dreamy, breaking from moods of unwonted abstraction in bursts
of gayety as unnatural. She did not talk much of the ball; he could not
be sure that she ever recurred to it of her own motion. Hoskins
continued to come a great deal to the house, and she often talked with
him for a whole evening; Elmore fancied she was very serious in these
He wondered if Lily avoided him, or whether this was only an illusion of
his; but in any case, he was glad that the girl seemed to find so much
comfort in Hoskins's company, and when it occurred to him he always said
something to encourage his visits. His wife was singularly quiescent at
this time, as if, having accomplished all she wished in Lily's presence
at the princess's ball, she was willing to rest for a while from further
social endeavor. Life was falling into the dull routine again, and
after the past shocks his nerves were gratefully clothing themselves in
the old habits of tranquillity once more, when one day a letter came
from the overseers of Patmos University, offering him the presidency of
that institution on condition of his early return. The board had in view
certain changes, intended to bring the university abreast with the
times, which they hoped would meet his approval.
Among these was a modification of the name, which was hereafter to be
Patmos University and Military Institute. The board not only believed
that popular feeling demanded the introduction of military drill into
the college, but they felt that a college which had been closed at the
beginning of the Rebellion, through the dedication of its president and
nearly all its students to the war, could in no way so gracefully
recognize this proud fact of its history as by hereafter making war one
of the arts which it taught. The board explained that of course Mr.
Elmore would not be expected to take charge of this branch of
instruction at once. A competent military assistant would be provided,
and continued under him as long as he should deem his services
essential. The letter closed with a cordial expression of the desire of
Elmore's old friends to have him once more in their midst, at the close
of labors which they were sure would do credit to the good old
university and to the whole city of Patmos.
Elmore read this letter at breakfast, and silently handed it to his
wife: they were alone, for Lily, as now often happened, had not yet
risen. "Well?" he said, when she had read it in her turn. She gave it
back to him with a look in her dimmed eyes which he could not mistake.
"I see there is no doubt of your feeling, Celia," he added.
"I don't wish to urge you," she replied, "but yes, I should like to go
back. Yes, I am homesick. I have been afraid of it before, but this
chance of returning makes it certain."
"And you see nothing ridiculous in my taking the presidency of a
"They say expressly that they don't expect you to give instruction in
"No, not immediately, it seems," he said, with his pensive irony. "And
"Haven't you almost got notes enough?"
Elmore laughed sadly. "I have been here two years. It would take me
twenty years to write such a history of Venice as I ought not to be
ashamed to write; it would take me five years to scamp it as I thought
of doing. Oh, I dare say I had better go back. I have neither the time
nor the money to give to a work I never was fit for,—of whose
magnitude even I was unable to conceive."
"Don't say that!" cried his wife, with the old sympathy. "You will write
it yet, I know you will. I would rather spend all my days in
this—watery mausoleum than have you talk so, Owen!"
"Thank you, my dear; but the work won't be lost even if I give it up at
this point. I can do something with my material, I suppose. And you know
that if I didn't wish to give up my project I couldn't. It's a sign of
my unfitness for it that I'm able to abandon it. The man who is born to
write the history of Venice will have no volition in the matter: he
cannot leave it, and he will not die till he has finished it." He feebly
crushed a bit of bread in his fingers as he ended with this burst of
feeling, and he shook his head in sad negation to his wife's tender
protest,—"Oh, you will come back some day to finish it!"
"No one ever comes back to finish a history of Venice," he said.
"Oh, yes, you will," she returned. "But you need the rest from this kind
of work, now, just as you needed rest from your college work before. You
need a change of standpoint,—and the American standpoint will be the
very thing for you."
"Perhaps so, perhaps so," he admitted. "At any rate, this is a handsome
offer, and most kindly made, Celia. It's a great compliment. I didn't
suppose they valued me so much."
"Of course they valued you, and they will be very glad to get you. I
call it merely letting the historic material ripen in your mind, or else
I shouldn't let you accept. And I shall be glad to go home, Owen, on
Lily's account. The child is getting no good here: she's drooping."
"Yes. Don't you see how she mopes about?"
"I'm afraid—that—I have—noticed."
He was going to ask why she was drooping; but he could not. He said,
recurring to the letter of the overseers, "So Patmos is a city."
"Of course it is by this time," said his wife, "with all that
Now that they were determined to go, their little preparations for
return were soon made; and a week after Elmore had written to accept the
offer of the overseers, they were ready to follow his letter home. Their
decision was a blow to Hoskins under which he visibly suffered; and they
did not realize till then in what fond and affectionate friendship he
held them. He now frankly spent his whole time with them; he
disconsolately helped them pack, and he did all that a consul can do to
secure free entry for some objects of Venice that they wished to get in
without payment of duties at New York.
He said a dozen times, "I don't know what I will do when you're gone";
and toward the last he alarmed them for his own interests by beginning
to say, "Well, I don't see but what I will have to go along."
The last night but one Lily felt it her duty to talk to him very
seriously about his future and what he owed to it. She told him that he
must stay in Italy till he could bring home something that would honor
the great, precious, suffering country for which he had fought so nobly,
and which they all loved. She made the tears come into her eyes as she
spoke, and when she said that she should always be proud to be
associated with one of his works, Hoskins's voice was quite husky in
replying: "Is that the way you feel about it?" He went away promising to
remain at least till he finished his bas-relief of Westward, and his
figure of the Pacific Slope; and the next morning he sent around by a
facchino a note to Lily.
She ran it through in the presence of the Elmores, before whom she
received it, and then, with a cry of "I think Mr. Hoskins is too bad!"
she threw it into Mrs. Elmore's lap, and, catching her handkerchief to
her eyes, she broke into tears and went out of the room. The note
Dear Miss Lily,—Your kind interest in me gives me courage to say
something that will very likely make me hateful to you forevermore.
But I have got to say it, and you have got to know it; and it's all
the worse for me if you have never suspected it. I want to give my
whole life to you, wherever and however you will have it. With you
by my side, I feel as if I could really do something that you would
not be ashamed of in sculpture, and I believe that I could make you
happy. I suppose I believe this because I love you very dearly, and
I know the chances are that you will not think this is reason
enough. But I would take one chance in a million, and be only too
glad of it. I hope it will not worry you to read this: as I said
before, I had to tell you. Perhaps it won't be altogether a
surprise. I might go on, but I suppose that until I hear from you I
had better give you as little of my eloquence as possible.
"Well, upon my word," said Elmore, to whom his wife had transferred the
letter, "this is very indelicate of Hoskins! I must say, I expected
something better of him." He looked at the note with a face of disgust.
"I don't know why you had a right to expect anything better of him, as
you call it," retorted his wife. "It's perfectly natural."
"Natural!" cried Elmore. "To put this upon us at the last moment, when
he knows how much trouble I've——"
Lily re-entered the room as precipitately as she had left it, and saved
him from betraying himself as to the extent of his confidences to
Hoskins. "Professor Elmore," she said, bending her reddened eyes upon
him, "I want you to answer this letter for me; and I don't want you to
write as you—I mean, don't make it so cutting—so—so—Why, I like
Mr. Hoskins! He's been so kind! And if you said anything to wound his
"I shall not do that, you may be sure; because, for one reason, I shall
say nothing at all to him," replied Elmore.
"You won't write to him?" she gasped.
"Why, what shall I do-o-o-o?" demanded Lily, prolonging the syllable in
a burst of grief and astonishment.
"I don't know," answered Elmore.
"Owen," cried his wife, interfering for the first time, in response to
the look of appeal that Lily turned upon her, "you must write!"
"Celia," he retorted boldly, "I won't write. I have a genuine regard
for Hoskins; I respect him, and I am very grateful to him for all his
kindness to you. He has been like a brother to you both."
"Why, of course," interrupted Lily, "I never thought of him as anything
but a brother."
"And though I must say I think it would have been more thoughtful
and—and—more considerate in him not to do this—"
"We did everything we could to fight him off from it," interrupted Mrs.
Elmore, "both of us. We saw that it was coming, and we tried to stop it.
But nothing would help. Perhaps, as he says, he did have to do it."
"I didn't dream of his—having any such—idea," said Elmore. "I felt so
perfectly safe in his coming; I trusted everything to him."
"I suppose you thought his wanting to come was all unconscious
cerebration," said his wife disdainfully. "Well, now you see it wasn't."
"Yes; but it's too late now to help it; and though I think he ought to
have spared us this, if he thought there was no hope for him, still I
can't bring myself to inflict pain upon him, and the long and the short
of it is, I won't."
"But how is he to be answered?"
"I don't know. You can answer him."
"I could never do it in the world!"
"I own it's difficult," said Elmore coldly.
"Oh, I will answer him—I will answer him," cried Lily, "rather than
have any trouble about it. Here,—here," she said, reaching blindly for
pen and paper, as she seated herself at Elmore's desk, "give me the ink,
quick. Oh, dear! What shall I say? What date is it?—the 25th? And it
doesn't matter about the day of the week. 'Dear Mr. Hoskins—Dear Mr.
Hoskins—Dear Mr. Hosk'—Ought you to put Clay Hoskins, Esq., at the top
or the bottom—or not at all, when you've said Dear Mr. Hoskins? Esquire
seems so cold, anyway, and I won't put it! 'Dear Mr.
Hoskins'—Professor Elmore!" she implored reproachfully, "tell me what
"That would be equivalent to writing the letter," he began.
"Well, write it, then," she said, throwing down the pen. "I don't ask
you to dictate it. Write it,—write anything,—just in pencil, you know;
that won't commit you to anything; they say a thing in pencil isn't
legal,—and I'll copy it out in the first person."
"Owen," said his wife, "you shall not refuse! It's inhuman, it's
inhospitable, when Lily wants you to, so! Why, I never heard of such a
Elmore desperately caught up the sheet of paper on which Lily had
written "Dear Mr. Hoskins," and groaning out "Well, well!" he added,—
I have your letter. Come to the station to-morrow and say good-by
to her whom you will yet live to thank for remaining only
"There! there, that will do beautifully—beautifully! Oh, thank you,
Professor Elmore, ever and ever so much! That will save his feelings,
and do everything," said Lily, sitting down again to copy it; while Mrs.
Elmore, looking over her shoulder, mingled her hysterical excitement
with the girl's, and helped her out by sealing the note when it was
finished and directed.
It accomplished at least one purpose intended. It kept Hoskins away till
the final moment, and it brought him to the station for their adieux
just before their train started. A consciousness of the absurdity of his
part gave his face a humorously rueful cast. But he came pluckily to the
mark. He marched straight up to the girl. "It's all right, Miss Lily,"
he said, and offered her his hand, which she had a strong impulse to cry
over. Then he turned to Mrs. Elmore, and while he held her hand in his
right, he placed his left affectionately on Elmore's shoulder, and,
looking at Lily, he said, "You ought to get Miss Lily to help you out
with your history, Professor; she has a very good style,—quite a
literary style, I should have said, if I hadn't known it was hers. I
don't like her subjects, though." They broke into a forlorn laugh
together; he wrung their hands once more, without a word, and, without
looking back, limped out of the waiting-room and out of their lives.
They did not know that this was really the last of Hoskins,—one never
knows that any parting is the last,—and in their inability to conceive
of a serious passion in him, they quickly consoled themselves for what
he might suffer. They knew how kindly, how tenderly even, they felt
towards him, and by that juggle with the emotions which we all practise
at times, they found comfort for him in the fact. Another interest,
another figure, began to occupy the morbid fancy of Elmore, and as they
approached Peschiera his expectation became intense. There was no reason
why it should exist; it would be by the thousandth chance, even if
Ehrhardt were still there, that they should meet him at the railroad
station, and there were a thousand chances that he was no longer in
Peschiera. He could see that his wife and Lily were restive too: as the
train drew into the station they nodded to each other, and pointed out
of the window, as if to identify the spot where Lily had first noticed
him; they laughed nervously, and it seemed to Elmore that he could not
endure their laughter.
During that long wait which the train used to make in the old Austrian
times at Peschiera, while the police authorities viséd the passports
of those about to cross the frontier, Elmore continued perpetually
alert. He was aware that he should not know Ehrhardt if he met him; but
he should know that he was present from the looks of Lily and Mrs.
Elmore, and he watched them. They dined well in waiting, while he
impatiently trifled with the food, and ate next to nothing; and they
calmly returned to their places in the train, to which he remounted
after a last despairing glance around the platform in a passion of
disappointment. The old longing not to be left so wholly to the effect
of what he had done possessed him to the exclusion of all other
sensations, and as the train moved away from the station he fell back
against the cushions of the carriage, sick that he should never even
have looked on the face of the man in whose destiny he had played so fatal a part.
In America, life soon settled into form about the daily duties of
Elmore's place, and the daily pleasures and cares which his wife assumed
as a leader in Patmos society. Their sojourn abroad conferred its
distinction; the day came when they regarded it as a brilliant episode,
and it was only by fitful glimpses that they recognized its essential
dulness. After they had been home a year or two, Elmore published his
Story of Venice in the Lives of her Heroes, which fell into a ready
oblivion; he paid all the expenses of the book, and was puzzled that, in
spite of this, the final settlement should still bring him in debt to
his publishers. He did not understand, but he submitted; and he accepted
the failure of his book very meekly. If he could have chosen, he would
have preferred that the Saturday Review, which alone noticed it in
London with three lines of exquisite slight, should have passed it in
silence. But after all, he felt that the book deserved no better fate.
He always spoke of it as unphilosophized and incomplete, without any
just claim to being.
Lily had returned to her sister's household, but though she came home in
the heyday of her young beauty, she failed somehow to take up the story
of her life just where she had left it in Patmos. On the way home she
had refused an offer in London, and shortly after her arrival in America
she received a letter from a young gentleman whom she had casually seen
in Geneva, and who had found exile insupportable since parting with her,
and was ready to return to his native land at her bidding; but she said
nothing of these proposals till long afterwards to Professor Elmore,
who, she said, had suffered enough from her offers. She went to all the
parties and picnics, and had abundant opportunities of flirtation and
marriage; but she neither flirted nor married. She seemed to have
greatly sobered; and the sound sense which she had always shown became
more and more qualified with a thoughtful sweetness. At first, the
relation between her and the Elmores lost something of its intimacy; but
when, after several years, her health gave way, a familiarity, even
kinder than before, grew up. She used to like to come to them, and talk
and laugh fondly over their old Venetian days. But often she sat
pensive and absent, in the midst of these memories, and looked at Elmore
with a regard which he found hard to bear: a gentle, unconscious wonder
it seemed, in which he imagined a shade of tender reproach.
When she recovered her health, after a journey to the West one winter,
they saw that, by some subtile and indefinable difference, she was no
longer a young girl. Perhaps it was because they had not met her for
half a year. But perhaps it was age,—she was now thirty. However it
was, Elmore recognized with a pang that the first youth at least had
gone out of her voice and eyes. She only returned to arrange for a long
sojourn in the West. She liked the climate and the people, she said; and
she seemed well and happy. She had planned starting a Kindergarten
school in Omaha with another young lady; she said that she wanted
something to do. "She will end by marrying one of those Western
widowers," said Mrs. Elmore.
"I wonder she didn't take poor old Hoskins," mused Elmore aloud.
"No, you don't, dear," said his wife, who had not grown less direct in
dealing with him. "You know it would have been ridiculous; besides, she
never cared anything for him,—she couldn't. You might as well wonder
why she didn't take Captain Ehrhardt after you dismissed him."
"I dismissed him?"
"You wrote to him, didn't you?"
"Celia," cried Elmore, "this I cannot bear. Did I take a single step
in that business without her request and your full approval? Didn't you
both ask me to write?"
"Yes, I suppose we did."
"Well, we did,—if you want me to say it. And I'm not accusing you of
anything. I know you acted for the best. But you can see yourself, can't
you, that it was rather sudden to have it end so quickly—"
She did not finish her sentence, or he did not hear the close in the
miserable absence into which he lapsed. "Celia," he asked at last, "do
you think she—she had any feeling about him?"
"Oh," cried his wife restively, "how should I know?"
"I didn't suppose you knew," he pleaded. "I asked if you thought so."
"What would be the use of thinking anything about it? The matter can't
be helped now. If you inferred from anything she said to you—"
"She told me repeatedly, in answer to questions as explicit as I could
make them, that she wished him dismissed."
"Well, then, very likely she did."
"Very likely, Celia?"
"Yes. At any rate, it's too late now."
"Yes, it's too late now." He was silent again, and he began to walk the
floor, after his old habit, without speaking. He was always mute when he
was in pain, and he startled her with the anguish in which he now broke
forth. "I give it up! I give it up! Celia, Celia, I'm afraid I did
wrong! Yes, I'm afraid that I spoiled two lives. I ventured to lay my
sacrilegious hands upon two hearts that a divine force was drawing
together, and put them asunder. It was a lamentable blunder,—it was a
"Why, Owen, how strangely you talk! How could you have done any
differently under the circumstances?"
"Oh, I could have done very differently. I might have seen him, and
talked with him brotherly, face to face. He was a fearless and generous
soul! And I was meanly scared for my wretched little decorums, for my
responsibility to her friends, and I gave him no chance."
"We wouldn't let you give him any," interrupted his wife.
"Don't try to deceive yourself, don't try to deceive me, Celia! I know
well enough that you would have been glad to have me show mercy; and I
would not even show him the poor grace of passing his offer in silence,
if I must refuse it. I couldn't spare him even so much as that!"
"We decided—we both decided—that it would be better to cut off all
hope at once," urged his wife.
"Ah, it was I who decided that—decided everything. Leave me to deal
honestly with myself at last, Celia! I have tried long enough to believe
that it was not I who did it!" The pent-up doubt of years, the
long-silenced self-accusal, burst forth in his words. "Oh, I have
suffered for it! I thought he must come back, somehow, as long as we
stayed in Venice. When we left Peschiera without a glimpse of him—I
wonder I outlived it. But even if I had seen him there, what use would
it have been? Would I have tried to repair the wrong done? What did I do
but impute unmanly and impudent motives to him when he seized his chance
to see her once more at that masquerade—"
"No, no, Owen! He was not the one. Lily was satisfied of that long ago.
It was nothing but a chance, a coincidence. Perhaps it was some one he
had told about the affair—"
"No matter! no matter! If I thought it was he, my blame is the same. And
she, poor girl,—in my lying compassion for him, I used to accuse her of
cold-heartedness, of indifference! I wonder she did not abhor the sight
of me. How has she ever tolerated the presence, the friendship, of a man
who did her this irreparable wrong? Yes, it has spoiled her life, and it
was my work. No, no, Celia! you and she had nothing to do with it,
except as I forced your consent—it was my work; and, however I have
tried openly and secretly to shirk it, I must bear this fearful
He dropped into a chair, and hid his face in his hands, while his wife
soothed him with loving excuses for what he had done, with tender
protests against the exaggerations of his remorse. She said that he had
done the only thing he could do; that Lily wished it, and that she never
had blamed him. "Why, I don't believe she would ever have married
Captain Ehrhardt, anyhow. She was full of that silly fancy of hers about
Dick Burton, all the time,—you know how she used always to be talking
about him; and when she came home and found she had outgrown him, she
had to refuse him, and I suppose it's that that's made her rather
melancholy." She explained that Major Burton had become extremely fat,
that his moustache was too big and black, and his laugh too loud; there
was nothing left of him, in fact, but his empty sleeve, and Lily was too
conscientious to marry him merely for that.
In fact, Elmore's regret did reflect a monstrous and distorted image of
his conduct. He had really acted the part of a prudent and conscientious
man; he was perfectly justifiable at every step: but in the retrospect
those steps which we can perfectly justify sometimes seem to have cost
so terribly that we look back even upon our sinful stumblings with
better heart. Heaven knows how such things will be at the last day; but
at that moment there was no wrong, no folly of his youth, of which
Elmore did not think with more comfort than of this passage in which he
had been so wise and right.
Of course the time came when he saw it all differently again; when his
wife persuaded him that he had done the best that any one could do with
the responsibilities that ought never to have been laid on a man of his
temperament and habits; when he even came to see that Lily's feeling was
a matter of pure conjecture with him, and that so far as he knew she had
never cared anything for Ehrhardt. Yet he was glad to have her away; he
did not like to talk of her with his wife; he did not think of her if he
could help it.
They heard from time to time through her sister that her little
enterprise in Omaha was prospering, and that she was very contented out
West; at last they heard directly from her that she was going to be
married. Till then, Elmore had been dumbly tormented in his sombre moods
with the solution of a problem at which his imagination vainly
toiled,—the problem of how some day she and Ehrhardt should meet again
and retrieve the error of the past for him. He contrived this encounter
in a thousand different ways by a thousand different chances; what he so
passionately and sorrowfully longed for accomplished itself continually
in his dreams, but only in his dreams.
In due course Lily married, and from all they could understand, very
happily. Her husband was a clergyman, and she took particular interest
in his parochial work, which her good heart and clear head especially
qualified her to share with him. To connect her fate any longer with
that of Ehrhardt was now not only absurd, it was improper; yet Elmore
sometimes found his fancy forgetfully at work as before. He could not at
once realize that the tragedy of this romance, such as it was, remained
to him alone, except perhaps as Ehrhardt shared it. With him, indeed,
Elmore still sought to fret his remorse and keep it poignant, and his
final failure to do so made him ashamed. But what lasting sorrow can one
have from the disappointment of a man whom one has never seen? If Lily
could console herself, it seemed probable that Ehrhardt too had "got
AT THE SIGN OF THE SAVAGE.
As they bowled along in the deliberate German express train through the
Black Forest, Colonel Kenton said he had only two things against the
region: it was not black, and it was not a forest. He had all his life
heard of the Black Forest, and he hoped he knew what it was. The
inhabitants burned charcoal, high up the mountains, and carved toys in
the winter when shut in by the heavy snows; they had Easter eggs all the
year round, with overshot mill-wheels in the valleys, and cherry-trees
all about, always full of blossoms or ripe fruit, just as you liked to
think. They were very poor people, but very devout, and lived in little
villages on a friendly intimacy with their cattle. The young women of
these hamlets had each a long braid of yellow hair down her back, blue
eyes, and a white bodice with a cat's-cradle lacing behind; the men had
bell-crowned hats and spindle-legs: they buttoned the breath out of
their bodies with round pewter buttons on tight, short crimson
"Now, here," said the colonel, breathing on the window of the car and
rubbing a little space clear of the frost, "I see nothing of the sort.
Either I have been imposed upon by what I have heard of the Black
Forest, or this is not the Black Forest. I'm inclined to believe that
there is no Black Forest, and never was. There isn't," he added, looking
again, so as not to speak hastily, "a charcoal-burner, or an Easter egg,
or a cherry blossom, or a yellow braid, or a red waistcoat, to enliven
the whole desolate landscape. What are we to think of it, Bessie?"
Mrs. Kenton, who sat opposite, huddled in speechless comfort under her
wraps and rugs, and was just trying to decide in her own mind whether it
was more delicious to let her feet, now that they were thoroughly warm,
rest upon the carpet-covered cylinder of hot water, or hover just a
hair's breadth above it without touching it, answered a little
impatiently that she did not know. In ordinary circumstances she would
not have been so short with the colonel's nonsense. She thought that was
the way all men talked when they got well acquainted with you; and, as
coming from a sex incapable of seriousness, she could have excused it if
it had not interrupted her in her solution of so nice a problem.
Colonel Kenton, however, did not mind. He at once possessed himself of
much more than his share of the cylinder, extorting a cry of indignation
from his wife, who now saw herself reduced from a fastidious choice of
luxuries to a mere vulgar strife for the necessaries of life,—a thing
any woman abhors.
"Well, well," said the colonel, "keep your old hot-water bottle. If
there was any other way of warming my feet, I wouldn't touch it. It
makes me sick to use it; I feel as if the doctor was going to order me
some boneset tea. Give me a good red-hot patent car-heater, that
smells enough of burning iron to make your head ache in a minute, and
sets your car on fire as soon as it rolls over the embankment. That's
what I call comfort. A hot-water bottle shoved under your feet—I
should suppose I was a woman, and a feeble one at that. I'll tell you
what I think about this Black Forest business, Bessie: I think it's
part of a system of deception that runs through the whole German
character. I have heard the Germans praised for their sincerity and
honesty, but I tell you they have got to work hard to convince me of it,
from this out. I am on my guard. I am not going to be taken in any
It became the colonel's pleasure to develop and exemplify this idea at
all points of their progress through Germany. They were going to Italy,
and as Mrs. Kenton had had enough of the sea in coming to Europe, they
were going to Italy by the only all-rail route then existing,—from
Paris to Vienna, and so down through the Simmering to Trieste and
Venice. Wherever they stopped, whatever they did before reaching Vienna,
Colonel Kenton chose to preserve his guarded attitude. "Ah, they pretend
this is Stuttgart, do they?" he said on arriving at the Suabian capital.
"A likely story! They pretended that was the Black Forest, you know,
Bessie." At Munich, "And this is Munich!" he sneered, whenever the
conversation flagged during their sojourn. "It's outrageous, the way
they let these swindling little towns palm themselves off upon the
traveller for cities he's heard of. This place will be calling itself
Berlin, next." When his wife, guide-book in hand, was struggling to heat
her admiration at some cold history of Kaulbach, and in her failure
clinging fondly to the fact that Kaulbach had painted it, "Kaulbach!"
the colonel would exclaim, and half close his eyes and slowly nod his
head and smile. "What guide-book is that you've got, Bessie?" looking
curiously at the volume he knew so well. "Oh!—Baedeker! And are you
going to let a Black Forest Dutchman like Baedeker persuade you that
this daub is by Kaulbach? Come! That's a little too much!" He rejected
the birthplaces of famous persons one and all; they could not drive
through a street or into a park, whose claims to be this or that street
or park he did not boldly dispute; and he visited a pitiless incredulity
upon the dishes of the table d'hôte, concerning which he always
answered his wife's questions: "Oh, he says it's beef," or veal, or
fowl, as the case might be; and though he never failed to relish his own
dinner, strange fears began to affect the appetite of Mrs. Kenton. It
happened that he never did come out with these sneers before other
travellers, but his wife was always expecting him to do so, and
afterwards portrayed herself as ready to scream, the whole time. She was
not a nervous person, and regarding the colonel's jokes as part of the
matrimonial contract, she usually bore them, as I have hinted, with
severe composure; accepting them all, good, bad, and indifferent, as
something in the nature of man which she should understand better after
they had been married longer. The present journey was made just after
the close of the war; they had seen very little of each other while he
was in the army, and it had something of the fresh interest of a bridal
tour. But they sojourned only a day or two in the places between
Strasburg and Vienna; it was very cold and very unpleasant getting
about, and they instinctively felt what every wise traveller knows, that
it is folly to be lingering in Germany when you can get into Italy; and
so they hurried on.
It was nine o'clock one night when they reached Salzburg; and when their
baggage had been visited and their passports examined, they had still
half an hour to wait before the train went on. They profited by the
delay to consider what hotel they should stop at in Vienna, and they
advised with their Bradshaw on the point. This railway guide gave in its
laconic fashion several hotels, and specified the Kaiserin Elisabeth as
one at which there was a table d'hôte, briefly explaining that at most
hotels in Vienna there was none.
"That settles it," said Mrs. Kenton. "We will go to the Kaiserin
Elisabeth, of course. I'm sure I never want the bother of ordering
dinner in English, let alone German, which never was meant for human
beings to speak."
"It's a language you can't tell the truth in," said the colonel
thoughtfully. "You can't call an open country an open country; you have
to call it a Black Forest." Mrs. Kenton sighed patiently. "But I don't
know about this Kaiserin Elisabeth business. How do we know that's the
real name of the hotel? How can we be sure that it isn't an alias,
an assumed name, trumped up for the occasion? I tell you, Bessie, we
can't be too cautious as long as we're in this fatherland of lies. What
guide-book is this? Baedeker? Oh! Bradshaw. Well, that's some comfort.
Bradshaw's an Englishman, at least. If it had been Baedeker"—
"Oh, Edward, Edward!" Mrs. Kenton burst out. "Will you never give that
up? Here you've been harping on it for the last four days, and worrying
my life out with it. I think it's unkind. It's perfectly bewildering me.
I don't know where or what I am, any more." Some tears of vexation
started to her eyes, at which Colonel Kenton put the shaggy arm of his
overcoat round her, and gave her an honest hug.
"Well," he said, "I give it up, from this out. Though I shall always say
that it was a joke that wore well. And I can tell you, Bessie, that it's
no small sacrifice to give up a joke that you've just got into prime
working order, so that you can use it on almost anything that comes up.
But that's a thing that you can never understand. Let it all pass. We'll
go to the Kaiserin Elisabeth, and submit to any sort of imposition
they've a mind to practise upon us. I shall not breathe freely, I
suppose, till we get into Italy, where people mean what they say. Haw,
haw, haw!" laughed the colonel, "honest Iago's the man I'm after."
The doors of the waiting-room were thrown open, and cries of "Erste
Klasse! Zweite Klasse! Dritte Klasse!" summoned the variously assorted
passengers to carriages of their several degrees. The colonel lifted his
little wife into a non-smoking first-class carriage, and established her
against the cushioned barrier dividing the two seats, so that her feet
could just reach the hot-water bottle, as he called it, and tucked her
in and built her up so with wraps that she was a prodigy of comfort; and
then folding about him the long fur-lined coat which she had bought him
at Munich (in spite of his many protests that the fur was artificial),
he sat down on the seat opposite, and proudly enjoyed the perfect
content that beamed from Mrs. Kenton's face, looking so small from her
heap of luxurious coverings.
"Well, Bessie, this would be very pleasant—if you could believe in it,"
he said, as the train smoothly rolled out of the station. "But of course
it can't be genuine. There must be some dodge about it. I've no doubt
you'll begin to feel perfectly horrid, the first thing you know."
Mrs. Kenton let him go on, as he did at some length, and began to
drowse, while he amused himself with a gross parody of things she had
said during the past four days. In those years while their wedded bliss
was yet practically new, Colonel Kenton found his wife an inexhaustible
source of mental refreshment. He prized beyond measure the feminine
inadequacy and excess of her sayings; he had stored away such a variety
of these that he was able to talk her personal parlance for an hour
together; indeed, he had learned the trick of inventing phrases so much
in her manner that Mrs. Kenton never felt quite safe in disowning any
monstrous thing attributed to her. Her drowse now became a little nap,
and presently a delicious doze, in which she drifted far away from
actual circumstance into a realm where she seemed to exist as a mere
airy thought of her physical self; suddenly she lost this thought, and
slept through all stops at stations and all changes of the hot-water
cylinder, to renew which the guard, faithful to Colonel Kenton's bribe,
alone opened the door.
"Wake up, Bessie!" she heard her husband saying. "We're at Vienna."
It seemed very improbable, but she did not dispute it. "What time is
it?" she asked, as she suffered herself to be lifted from the carriage
into the keen air of the winter night.
"Three o'clock," said the colonel, hurrying her into the waiting-room,
where she sat, still somewhat remote from herself but getting nearer and
nearer, while he went off about the baggage. "Now, then!" he cried
cheerfully when he returned; and he led his wife out and put her into a
fiacre. The driver bent from his perch and arrested the colonel, as he
was getting in after Mrs. Kenton, with words in themselves
unintelligible, but so probably in demand for neglected instructions
that the colonel said, "Oh! Kaiserin Elisabeth!" and again bowed his
head towards the fiacre door, when the driver addressed further speech
to him, so diffuse and so presumably unnecessary that Colonel Kenton
merely repeated, with rising impatience, "Kaiserin Elisabeth,—Kaiserin
Elisabeth, I tell you!" and getting in shut the fiacre door after him.
The driver remained a moment in mumbled soliloquy; then he smacked his
whip and drove rapidly away. They were aware of nothing outside but the
starlit winter morning in unknown streets, till they plunged at last
under an archway and drew up at a sort of lodge door, from which issued
an example of the universal gold-cap-banded continental hotel portier,
so like all others in Europe that it seemed idle for him to be leading
an individual existence. He took the colonel's passport and summoned a
waiter, who went bowing before them up a staircase more or less
grandiose, and led them to a pleasant chamber, whither he sent directly
a woman servant. She bade them a hearty good morning in her tongue, and,
kneeling down before the tall porcelain stove, kindled from her apronful
of blocks and sticks a fire that soon penetrated the travellers with a
rich comfort. It was of course too early yet to think of breakfast, but
it was fortunately not too late to think of sleep. They were both very
tired, and it was almost noon when they woke. The colonel had the fire
rekindled, and he ordered breakfast to be served them in their room.
"Beefsteak and coffee—here!" he said, pointing to the table; and as he
made Mrs. Kenton snug near the stove he expatiated in her own terms upon
the perfect loveliness of the whole affair, and the touch of nature that
made coffee and beefsteak the same in every language. It seemed that the
Kaiserin Elisabeth knew how to serve such a breakfast in faultless
taste; and they sat long over it, in that sense of sovereign
satisfaction which beefsteak and coffee in your own room can best give.
At last the colonel rose briskly and announced the order of the day.
They were to go here, they were to stop there; they were to see this,
they were to do that.
"Nothing of the kind," said Mrs. Kenton. "I am not going out at all
to-day. It's too cold; and if we are to push on to Trieste to-morrow, I
shall need the whole day to get a little rested. Besides, I have some
jobs of mending to do that can't be put off any longer."
The colonel listened with an air of joyous admiration. "Bessie," said
he, "this is inspiration. I don't want to see their old town; and I
shall ask nothing better than to spend the day with you here at our own
fireside. You can sew, and I—I'll read to you, Bessie!" This was a
little too gross; even Mrs. Kenton laughed at this, the act of reading
being so abhorrent to Colonel Kenton's active temperament that he was
notorious for his avoidance of all literature except newspapers. In
about ten minutes, passed in an agreeable idealization of his purpose,
which came in that time to include the perusal of all the books on Italy
he had picked up on their journey, the colonel said he would go down and
ask the portier if they had the New York papers.
When he returned, somewhat disconsolate, to say they had not, and had
apparently never heard of the Herald or Tribune, his wife smiled subtly:
"Then I suppose you'll have to go to the consul's for them."
"Why, Bessie, it isn't a thing I should have suggested; I can't bear
the thoughts of leaving you here alone; but as you say! No, I'll tell
you: I'll not go for the New York papers, but I will just step round and
call upon the representative of the country—pay my respects to him, you
know—if you wish it. But I'd far rather spend the time here with you,
Bessie, in our cosy little boudoir; I would, indeed."
Mrs. Kenton now laughed outright, and—it was a tremendous sarcasm for
her—asked him if he were not afraid the example of the Black Forest was
"Oh, come now, Bessie; no joking," pleaded the colonel, in mock
distress. "I'll tell you what, my dear, the head waiter here speaks
English like a—an Ollendorff; and if you get to feeling a little
lonesome while I'm out, you can just ring and order something from him,
you know. It will cheer you up to hear the sound of your native tongue
in a foreign land. But, pshaw! I sha'nt be gone a minute!"
By this time the colonel had got on his overcoat and gloves, and had his
hat in one hand, and was leaning over his wife, resting the other hand
on the back of the chair in which she sat warming the toes of her
slippers at the draft of the stove. She popped him a cheery little kiss
on his mustache, and gave him a small push: "Stay as long as you like,
Ned. I shall not be in the least lonesome. I shall do my mending, and
then I shall take a nap, and by that time it will be dinner. You needn't
come back before dinner. What hour is the table d'hôte?"
"Oh!" cried the colonel guiltily. "The fact is, I wasn't going to tell
you, I thought it would vex you so much: there is no table d'hôte here
and never was. Bradshaw has been depraved by the moral atmosphere of
Germany. I'd as soon trust Baedeker after this."
"Well, never mind," said Mrs. Kenton. "We can tell them to bring us what
they like for dinner, and we can have it whenever we like."
"Bessie!" exclaimed the colonel, "I have not done justice to you, and I
supposed I had. I knew how bright and beautiful you were, but I didn't
think you were so amiable. I didn't, indeed. This is a real surprise,"
he said, getting out at the door. He opened it to add that he would be
back in an hour, and then he went his way, with the light heart of a
husband who has a day to himself with his wife's full approval.
At the consulate a still greater surprise awaited Colonel Kenton. This
was the consul himself, who proved to be an old companion-in-arms, and
into whose awful presence the colonel was ushered by a Hausmeister in
a cocked hat and a gold-braided uniform finer than that of all the
American major-generals put together. The friends both shouted "Hollo!"
and "You don't say so!" and threw back their heads and laughed.
"Why, didn't you know I was here?" demanded the consul when the hard
work of greeting was over. "I thought everybody knew that."
"Oh, I knew you were rusting out in some of these Dutch towns, but I
never supposed it was Vienna. But that doesn't make any difference, so
long as you are here." At this they smacked each other on the knees,
and laughed again. That carried them by a very rough point in their
astonishment, and they now composed themselves to the pleasure of
telling each other how they happened to be then and there, with glances
at their personal history when they were making it together in the
"Well, now, what are you going to do the rest of the day?" asked the
consul at last, with a look at his watch. "As I understand it, you 're
going to spend it with me, somehow. The question is, how would you like
to spend it?"
"This is a handsome offer, Davis; but I don't see how I'm to manage
exactly," replied the colonel, for the first time distinctly recalling
the memory of Mrs. Kenton. "My wife wouldn't know what had become of me,
"Oh, yes, she would," retorted the consul, with a bachelor's ignorant
ease of mind on a point of that kind. "We'll go round and take her with
The colonel gravely shook his head. "She wouldn't go, old fellow. She's
in for a day's rest and odd jobs. I'll tell you what, I'll just drop
round and let her know I've found you, and then come back again. You'll
dine with us, won't you?" Colonel Kenton had not always found old
comradeship a bond between Mrs. Kenton and his friends, but he believed
he could safely chance it with Davis, whom she had always rather
liked,—with such small regard as a lady's devotion to her husband
leaves her for his friends.
"Oh, I'll dine with you fast enough," said his friend. "But why don't
you send a note to Mrs. Kenton to say that we'll be round together, and
save yourself the bother? Did you come here alone?"
"Bless your heart, no! I forgot him. The poor devil's out there, cooling
his heels on your stairs all this time. I came with a complete guide to
Vienna. Can't you let him in out of the weather a minute?"
"We'll have him in, so that he can take your note back; but he doesn't
expect to be decently treated: they don't, here. You just sit down and
write it," said the consul, pushing the colonel into his own chair
before his desk; and when the colonel had superscribed his note, he
called in the Lohndiener,—patient, hat in hand,—and, "Where are you
stopping?" he asked the colonel.
"Oh, I forgot that. At the Kaiserin Elisabeth. I'll just write it"—
"Never mind; we'll tell him where to take it. See here," added the
consul in a serviceable Viennese German of his own construction. "Take
this to the Kaiserin Elisabeth, quick;" and as the man looked up in a
dull surprise, "Do you hear? The Kaiserin Elisabeth!"
"I don't know what it is about that hotel," said the colonel, when the
man had meekly bowed himself away, with a hat that swept the ground in
honor of a handsome drink-money; "but the mention of it always seems to
awaken some sort of reluctance in the minds of the lower classes. Our
driver wanted to enter into conversation with me about it this morning
at three o'clock, and I had to be pretty short with him. If you don't
know the language, it isn't so difficult to be short in German as I've
heard. And another curious thing is that Bradshaw says the Kaiserin
Elisabeth has a table d'hôte, and the head-waiter says she hasn't, and
never did have."
"Oh, you can't trust anybody in Europe," said the consul sententiously.
"I'd leave Bradshaw and the waiter to fight it out among themselves.
We'll get back in time to order a dinner; it's always better, and then
we can dine alone, and have a good time."
"They couldn't keep us from having a good time at a table d'hôte, even.
But I don't mind."
By this time they had got on their hats and coats and sallied forth.
They first went to a café and had some of that famous Viennese coffee;
and then they went to the imperial and municipal arsenals, and viewed
those collections of historical bricabrac, including the head of the
unhappy Turkish general who was strangled by his sovereign because he
failed to take Vienna in 1683. This from familiarity had no longer any
effect upon the consul, but it gave Colonel Kenton prolonged pause. "I
should have preferred a subordinate position in the sultan's army, I
believe," he said. "Why, Davis, what a museum we could have had out of
the Army of the Potomac alone, if Lincoln had been as particular as that
From the arsenals they went to visit the parade-ground of the garrison,
and came in time to see a manœuvre of the troops, at which they
looked with the frank respect and reserved superiority with which our
veterans seem to regard the military of Europe. Then they walked about
and noted the principal monuments of the city, and strolled along the
promenades and looked at the handsome officers and the beautiful women.
Colonel Kenton admired the life and the gay movement everywhere; since
leaving Paris he had seen nothing so much like New York. But he did not
like their shovelling up the snow into carts everywhere and dumping all
that fine sleighing into the Danube. "By the way," said his friend,
"let's go over into Leopoldstadt, and see if we can't scare up a sleigh
for a little turn in the suburbs."
"It's getting late, isn't it?" asked the colonel.
"Not so late as it looks. You know we haven't the high American sun,
Colonel Kenton was having such a good time that he felt no trouble about
his wife, sitting over her mending in the Kaiserin Elisabeth; and he
yielded joyfully, thinking how much she would like to hear about the
suburbs of Vienna: a husband will go through almost any pleasure in
order to give his wife an entertaining account of it afterwards;
besides, a bachelor companionship is confusing: it makes many things
appear right and feasible which are perhaps not so. It was not till
their driver, who had turned out of the beaten track into a wayside
drift to make room for another vehicle, attempted to regain the road by
too abrupt a movement, and the shafts of their sledge responded with a
loud crick-crack, that Colonel Kenton perceived the error into which he
had suffered himself to be led. At three miles' distance from the city,
and with the winter twilight beginning to fall, he felt the pang of a
sudden remorse. It grew sorer with every homeward step and with each
successive failure to secure a conveyance for their return. In fine,
they trudged back to Leopoldstadt, where an absurd series of
discomfitures awaited them in their attempts to get a fiacre over into
the main city. They visited all the stands known to the consul, and then
they were obliged to walk. But they were not tired, and they made their
distance so quickly that Colonel Kenton's spirits rose again. He was
able for the first time to smile at their misadventure, and some
misgivings as to how Mrs. Kenton might stand affected towards a guest
under the circumstances yielded to the thought of how he should make her
laugh at them both. "Good old Davis!" mused the colonel, and
affectionately linked his arm through that of his friend; and they
stamped through the brilliantly lighted streets gay with uniforms and
the picturesque costumes with which the Levant at Vienna encounters the
London and Paris fashions. Suddenly the consul arrested their movement.
"Didn't you say you were stopping at the Kaiserin Elisabeth?"
"Why, yes; certainly."
"Well, it's just around the corner, here." The consul turned him about,
and in another minute they walked under an archway into a court-yard,
and were met by the portier at the door of his room with an inquiring
Colonel Kenton started. The cap and the cap-band were the same, and it
was to all intents and purposes the same portier who had bowed him away
in the morning; but the face was different. On noting this fact Colonel
Kenton observed so general a change in the appointments and even
architecture of the place that, "Old fellow," he said to the consul,
"you've made a little mistake; this isn't the Kaiserin Elisabeth."
The consul referred the matter to the portier. Perfectly; that was the
Kaiserin Elisabeth. "Well, then," said the colonel, "tell him to have us
shown to my room." The portier discovered a certain embarrassment when
the colonel's pleasure was made known to him, and ventured something in
reply which made the consul smile.
"Look here, Kenton," he said, "you've made a little mistake, this
time. You're not stopping at the Kaiserin Elisabeth!"
"Oh, pshaw! Come now! Don't bring the consular dignity so low as to
enter into a practical joke with a hotel porter. It won't do. We got
into Vienna this morning at three, and drove straight to the Kaiserin
Elisabeth. We had a room and fire, and breakfast about noon. Tell him
who I am, and what I say."
The consul did so, the portier slowly and respectfully shaking his head
at every point. When it came to the name, he turned to his books, and
shook his head yet more impressively. Then he took down a letter,
spelled its address, and handed it to the colonel; it was his own note
to Mrs. Kenton. That quite crushed him. He looked at it in a dull,
mechanical way, and nodded his head with compressed lips. Then he
scanned the portier, and glanced round once more at the bedevilled
architecture. "Well," said he, at last, "there's a mistake somewhere.
Unless there are two Kaiserin Elisabeths—. Davis, ask him if there are
two Kaiserin Elisabeths."
The consul compassionately put the question, received with something
like grief by the portier. Impossible!
"Then I'm not stopping at either of them," continued the colonel. "So
far, so good,—if you want to call it good. The question is now, if
I'm not stopping at the Kaiserin Elisabeth," he demanded, with sudden
heat, and raising his voice, "how the devil did I get there?"
The consul at this broke into a fit of laughter so violent that the
portier retired a pace or two from these maniacs, and took up a safe
position within his doorway. "You didn't—you didn't—get there!"
shrieked the consul. "That's what made the whole trouble. You—you meant
well, but you got somewhere else." He took out his handkerchief and
wiped the tears from his eyes.
The colonel did not laugh; he had no real pleasure in the joke. On the
contrary, he treated it as a serious business. "Very well," said he, "it
will be proved next that I never told that driver to take me to the
Kaiserin Elisabeth, as it appears that I never got there and am not
stopping there. Will you be good enough to tell me," he asked, with
polished sarcasm, "where I am stopping, and why, and how?'
"I wish with all my heart I could," gasped his friend, catching his
breath, "but I can't, and the only way is to go round to the principal
hotels till we hit the right one. It won't take long. Come!" He passed
his arm through that of the colonel, and made an explanation to the
portier, as if accounting for the vagaries of some harmless eccentric he
had in charge. Then he pulled his friend gently away, who yielded after
a survey of the portier and the court-yard with a frown in which an
indignant sense of injury quite eclipsed his former bewilderment. He had
still this defiant air when they came to the next hotel, and used the
portier with so much severity on finding that he was not stopping there,
either, that the consul was obliged to protest: "If you behave in that
way, Kenton, I won't go with you. The man's perfectly innocent of your
stopping at the wrong place; and some of these hotel people know me, and
I won't stand your bullying them. And I tell you what: you've got to let
me have my laugh out, too. You know the thing's perfectly ridiculous,
and there's no use putting any other face on it." The consul did not
wait for leave to have his laugh out, but had it out in a series of
furious gusts. At last the colonel himself joined him ruefully.
"Of course," said he, "I know I'm an ass, and I wouldn't mind it on my
own account. I would as soon roam round after that hotel the rest of
the night as not, but I can't help feeling anxious about my wife. I'm
afraid she'll be getting very uneasy at my being gone so long. She's all
alone, there, wherever it is, and—"
"Well, but she's got your note. She'll understand—"
"What a fool you are, Davis! There's my note!" cried the colonel,
opening his fist and showing a very small wad of paper in his palm.
"She'd have got my note if she'd been at the Kaiserin Elisabeth; but
she's no more there than I am."
"Oh!" said his friend, sobered at this. "To be sure! Well?"
"Well, it's no use trying to tell a man like you; but I suppose that
she's simply distracted by this time. You don't know what a woman is,
and how she can suffer about a little matter when she gives her mind to
"Oh!" said the consul again, very contritely. "I'm very sorry I laughed;
but"—here he looked into the colonel's gloomy face with a countenance
contorted with agony—"this only makes it the more ridiculous, you
know;" and he reeled away, drunk with the mirth which filled him from
head to foot. But he repented again, and with a superhuman effort so far
subdued his transports as merely to quake internally, and tremble all
over, as he led the way to the next hotel, arm in arm with the
bewildered and embittered colonel. He encouraged the latter with much
genuine sympathy, and observed a proper decorum in his interviews with
one portier after another, formulating the colonel's story very neatly,
and explaining at the close that this American Herr, who had arrived at
Vienna before daylight and directed his driver to take him to the
Kaiserin Elisabeth, and had left his hotel at one o'clock in the belief
that it was the Kaiserin Elisabeth, felt now an added eagerness to know
what his hotel really was from the circumstance that his wife was there
quite alone and in probable distress at his long absence. At first
Colonel Kenton took a lively interest in this statement of his case, and
prompted the consul with various remarks and sub-statements; he was
grateful for the compassion generally shown him by the portiers, and he
strove with himself to give some account of the exterior and locality of
his mysterious hotel. But the fact was that he had not so much as looked
behind him when he quitted it, and knew nothing about its appearance;
and gradually the reiteration of the points of his misadventure to one
portier after another began to be as "a tale of little meaning, though
the words are strong." His personation of an American Herr in great
trouble of mind was an entire failure, except as illustrating the
national apathy of countenance when under the influence of strong
emotion. He ceased to take part in the consul's efforts in his behalf;
the whole abominable affair seemed as far beyond his forecast or
endeavor as some result of malign enchantment, and there was no such
thing as carrying off the tragedy with self-respect. Distressing as it
was, there could be no question but it was entirely ridiculous; he hung
his head with shame before the portiers at being a party to it; he no
longer felt like resenting Davis's amusement; he only wondered that he
could keep his face in relating the idiotic mischance. Each successive
failure to discover his lodging confirmed him in his humiliation and
despair. Very likely there was a way out of the difficulty, but he did
not know it. He became at last almost an indifferent spectator of the
consul's perseverance. He began to look back with incredulity at the
period of his life passed before entering the fatal fiacre that morning.
He received the final portier's rejection with something like a personal
"That's the last place I can think of," said the consul, wiping his brow
as they emerged from the court-yard, for he had grown very warm with
walking so much.
"Oh, all right," said the colonel languidly.
"But we won't give it up. Let's go in here and get some coffee, and
think it over a bit." They were near one of the principal cafés, which
was full of people smoking, and drinking the Viennese mélange out of
"By all means," assented Colonel Kenton with inconsequent courtliness,
"think it over. It's all that's left us."
Matters did not look so dark, quite, after a tumbler of coffee with
milk, but they did not continue to brighten so much as they ought with
the cigars. "Now let us go through the facts of the case," said the
consul, and the colonel wearily reproduced his original narrative with
every possible circumstance. "But you know all about it," he concluded.
"I don't see any end of it. I don't see but I'm to spend the rest of my
life in hunting up a hotel that professes to be the Kaiserin Elisabeth,
and isn't. I never knew anything like it."
"It certainly has the charm of novelty," gloomily assented the consul:
it must be owned that his gloom was a respectful feint. "I have heard of
men running away from their hotels, but I never did hear of a hotel
running away from a man before now. Yes—hold on! I have, too. Aladdin's
palace—and with Mrs. Aladdin in it, at that! It's a parallel case."
Here he abandoned himself as usual, while Colonel Kenton viewed his
mirth with a dreary grin. When he at last caught his breath, "I beg
your pardon, I do, indeed," the consul implored. "I know just how you
feel, but of course it's coming out right. We've been to all the hotels
I know of, but there must be others. We'll get some more names and start
at once; and if the genie has dropped your hotel anywhere this side of
Africa we shall find it. If the worst comes to the worst, you can stay
at my house to-night and start new to-m—Oh, I forgot!—Mrs. Kenton!
Really, the whole thing is such an amusing muddle that I can't seem to
get over it." He looked at Kenton with tears in his eyes, but contained
himself and decorously summoned a waiter, who brought him whatever
corresponds to a city directory in Vienna. "There!" he said, when he had
copied into his note-book a number of addresses, "I don't think your
hotel will escape us this time;" and discharging his account he led the
way to the door, Colonel Kenton listlessly following.
The wretched husband was now suffering all the anguish of a just
remorse, and the heartlessness of his behavior in going off upon his own
pleasure the whole afternoon and leaving his wife alone in a strange
hotel to pass the time as she might was no less a poignant reproach,
because it seemed so inconceivable in connection with what he had
always taken to be the kindness and unselfishness of his character. We
all know the sensation; and I know none, on the whole, so disagreeable,
so little flattering, so persistent when once it has established itself
in the ill-doer's consciousness. To find out that you are not so good or
generous or magnanimous as you thought is, next to having other people
find it out, probably the unfriendliest discovery that can be made. But
I suppose it has its uses. Colonel Kenton now saw the unhandsomeness of
his leaving his wife at all, and he beheld in its true light his
shabbiness in not going back to tell her he had found his old friend and
was to bring him to dinner. The Lohndiener would of course have taken
him straight to his hotel, and he would have been spared this shameful
exposure, which, he knew well enough, Davis would never forget, but
would tell all his life with an ever-increasing garniture of fiction. He
cursed his weakness in allowing himself to dawdle about those arsenals
and that parade-ground, and to be so far misguided by a hardened
bachelor as to admire certain yellow-haired German and black-haired
Hungarian women on the promenade; when he came to think of going out in
that sledge, it was with anathema maranatha. He groaned in spirit, but
he owned that he was rightly punished, though it seemed hard that his
wife should be punished too. And then he went on miserably to figure
first her slight surprise at his being gone so long; then her vague
uneasiness and her conjectures; then her dawning apprehensions and her
helplessness; her probable sending to the consulate to find out what had
become of him; her dismay at learning nothing of him there; her waiting
and waiting in wild dismay as the moments and hours went by; her
frenzied running to the door at every step and her despair when it
proved not his. He had seen her suffering from less causes. And where
was she? In what low, shabby tavern had he left her? He choked with rage
and grief, and could hardly speak to the gentleman, a naturalized
fellow-citizen of Vienna, to whom he found the consul introducing him.
"I wonder if you can't help us," said the consul. "My friend here is the
victim of a curious annoyance;" and he stated the case in language so
sympathetic and decorous as to restore some small shreds of the
"Ah," said their new acquaintance, who was mercifully not a man of
humor, or too polite to seem so, "that's another trick of those scamps
of fiacre-drivers. He took you purposely to the wrong hotel, and was
probably feed by the landlord for bringing you. But why should you make
yourselves so much trouble? You know Colonel Kenton's landlord had to
send his name to the police as soon as he came, and you can get his
address there at once."
"Good-by!" said the consul very hastily, with a crestfallen air. "Come
"What did he send my name to the police for?" demanded the colonel, in
the open air.
"Oh, it's a form. They do it with all travellers. It's merely to secure
the imperial government against your machinations."
"And do you mean to say you ought to have known," cried the colonel,
halting him, "that you could have found out where I was from the police
at once, before we had walked all over this moral vineyard, and wasted
half a precious lifetime?"
"Kenton," contritely admitted the other, "I never happened to think of
"Well, Davis, you're a pretty consul!" That was all the colonel said,
and though his friend was voluble in self-exculpation and condemnation,
he did not answer him a word till they arrived at the police office. A
few brief questions and replies between the commissary and the consul
solved the long mystery, and Colonel Kenton had once more a hotel over
his head. The commissary certified to the respectability of the place,
but invited the colonel to prosecute the driver of the fiacre in behalf
of the general public,—which seemed so right a thing that the colonel
entered into it with zeal, and then suddenly relinquished it,
remembering that he had not the rogue's number, that he had not so much
as looked at him, and that he knew no more what manner of man he was
than his own image in a glass. Under the circumstances, the commissary
admitted that it was impossible, and as to bringing the landlord to
justice, nothing could be proved against him.
"Will you ask him," said the colonel, "the outside price of a
first-class assault and battery in Vienna?"
The consul put as much of this idea into German as the language would
contain, which was enough to make the commissary laugh and shake his
"It wouldn't do, he says, Kenton; it isn't the custom of the country."
"Very well, then, I don't see why we should occupy his time." He gave
his hand to the commissary, whom he would have liked to embrace, and
then hurried forth again with the consul. "There is one little thing
that worries me still," he said. "I suppose Mrs. Kenton is simply crazy
by this time."
"Is she of a very—nervous—disposition?" faltered the consul.
"Nervous? Well, if you could witness the expression of her emotions in
regard to mice, you wouldn't ask that question, Davis."
At this desolating reply the consul was mute for a moment. Then he
ventured: "I've heard—or read, I don't know which—that women have more
real fortitude than men, and that they find a kind of moral support in
an actual emergency that they wouldn't find in—mice."
"Pshaw!" answered the colonel. "You wait till you see Mrs. Kenton."
"Look here, Kenton," said the consul seriously, and stopping short.
"I've been thinking that perhaps—I—I had better dine with you some
other day. The fact is, the situation now seems so purely domestic that
a third person, you know—"
"Come along!" cried the colonel. "I want you to help me out of this
scrape. I'm going to leave that hotel as soon as I can put my things
together, and you've got to browbeat the landlord for me while I go up
and reassure my wife long enough to get her out of that den of thieves.
What did you say the scoundrelly name was?"
"The Gasthof zum Wilden Manne."
"And what does Wildun Manny mean?"
"The Sign of the Savage, we should make it, I suppose,—the Wild Man."
"Well, I don't know whether it was named after me or not; but if I'd
found that sign anywhere for the last four or five hours, I should have
known it for home. There hasn't been any wilder man in Vienna since the
town was laid out, I reckon; and I don't believe there ever was a wilder
woman anywhere than Mrs. Kenton is at this instant."
Arrived at the Sign of the Savage, Colonel Kenton left his friend below
with the portier, and mounting the stairs three steps at a time flew to
his room. Flinging open the door, he beheld his wife dressed in one of
her best silks, before the mirror, bestowing some last prinks, touching
her back hair with her hand and twitching the bow at her throat into
perfect place. She smiled at him in the glass, and said, "Where's
"Captain Davis?" gasped the colonel, dry-tongued with anxiety and
fatigue. "Oh! He's down there. He'll be up directly."
She turned and came forward to him: "How do you like it?" Then she
advanced near enough to encounter the moustache: "Why, how heated and
tired you look!"
"Yes, yes,—we've been walking. I—I'm rather late, ain't I, Bessie?"
"About an hour. I ordered dinner at six, and it's nearly seven now." The
colonel started; he had not dared to look at his watch, and he had
supposed it must be about ten o'clock; it seemed years since his search
for the hotel had begun. But he said nothing; he felt that in some
mysterious and unmerited manner Heaven was having mercy upon him, and he
accepted the grace in the sneaking way we all accept mercy. "I knew
you'd stay longer than you expected, when you found it was Davis."
"How did you know it was Davis?" asked the colonel, blindly feeling his
Mrs. Kenton picked up her Almanach de Gotha. "It has all the consular
and diplomatic corps in it."
"I won't laugh at it any more," said the colonel, humbly. "Weren't
"No. I mended away, here, and fussed round the whole afternoon, putting
the trunks to rights; and I got out this dress and ran a bit of lace
into the collar; and then I ordered dinner, for I knew you'd bring the
captain; and I took a nap, and by that it was nearly dinner-time."
"Oh!" said the colonel.
"Yes; and the head-waiter was as polite as peas; they've all been very
attentive. I shall certainly recommend everybody to the Kaiserin
"Yes," assented the wretched man. "I reckon it's about the best hotel in
"Well, now, go and get Captain Davis. You can bring him right in here;
we're only travellers. Why, what makes you act so queerly? Has anything
happened?" Mrs. Kenton was surprised to find herself gathered into her
husband's arms and embraced with a rapture for which she could see no
"Bessie," said her husband, "I told you this morning that you were
amiable as well as bright and beautiful; I now wish to add that you are
sensible. I'm awfully ashamed of being gone so long. But the fact is we
had a little accident. Our sleigh broke down out in the country, and we
had to walk back."
"Oh, you poor old fellow! No wonder you look tired."
He accepted the balm of her compassion like a candid and innocent man:
"Yes, it was pretty rough. But I didn't mind it, except on your
account. I thought the delay would make you uneasy." With that he went
out to the head of the stairs and called, "Davis!"
"Yes!" responded the consul; and he ascended the stairs in such
trepidation that he tripped and fell part of the way up.
"Have you been saying anything to that man about my going away?"
"No, I've simply been blowing him up on the fiacre driver's account. He
swears they are innocent of collusion. But of course they're not."
"Well, all right. Mrs. Kenton is waiting for us to go to dinner. And
look here," whispered the colonel, "don't you open your mouth, except to
put something into it, till I give you the cue."
The dinner was charming, and had suffered little or nothing from the
delay. Mrs. Kenton was in raptures with it, and after a thimbleful of
the good Hungarian wine had attuned her tongue, she began to sing the
praises of the Kaiserin Elisabeth.
"The K——" began the consul, who had hitherto guarded himself very
well. But the colonel arrested him at that letter with a terrible look.
He returned the look with a glance of intelligence, and resumed: "The
Kaiserin Elisabeth has the best cook in Vienna."
"And everybody about has such nice, honest faces," said Mrs. Kenton.
"I'm sure I couldn't have felt anxious if you hadn't come till midnight:
I knew I was perfectly secure here."
"Quite right, quite right," said the consul. "All classes of the
Viennese are so faithful. Now, I dare say you could have trusted that
driver of yours, who brought you here before daylight this morning, with
untold gold. No stranger need fear any of the tricks ordinarily
practised upon travellers in Vienna. They are a truthful, honest,
virtuous population,—like all the Germans in fact."
"There, Ned! What do you say to that, with your Black Forest nonsense?"
triumphed Mrs. Kenton.
Colonel Kenton laughed sheepishly: "Well, I take it all back, Bessie. I
wasn't quite satisfied with the appearance of the Black Forest country
when I came to it," he explained to the consul, "and Mrs. Kenton and I
had our little joke about the fraudulent nature of the Germans."
"Our little joke!" retorted his wife. "I wish we were going to stay
longer in Vienna. They say you have to make bargains for everything in
Italy, and here I suppose I could shop just as at home."
"Precisely," said the consul; the Viennese shopkeepers being the most
notorious Jews in Europe.
"Oh, we can't stop longer than till the morning," remarked the colonel.
"I shall be sorry to leave Vienna and the Kaiserin Elizabeth, but we must go."
"Better hang on awhile; you won't find many hotels like it, Kenton,"
observed his friend.
"No, I suppose not," sighed the colonel; "but I'll get the address of
their correspondent in Venice and stop there."
Thus these craven spirits combined to delude and deceive the helpless
woman of whom half an hour before they had stood in such abject terror.
If they had found her in hysterics they would have pitied and respected
her; but her good sense, her amiability, and noble self-control
subjected her to their shameless mockery.
Colonel Kenton followed the consul downstairs when he went away, and
pretended to justify himself. "I'll tell her one of these days," he
said, "but there's no use distressing her now."
"I didn't understand you at first," said the other. "But I see now it
was the only way."
"Yes; saves needless suffering. I say, Davis, this is about an even
thing between us? A United States consul ought to be of some use to his
fellow-citizens abroad; and if he allows them to walk their legs off
hunting up a hotel which he could have found at the first police-station
if he had happened to think of it, he won't be very anxious to tell
the joke, I suppose?"
"I don't propose to write home to the papers about it."
"All right." So, in the court-yard of the Wild Man, they parted.
Long after that Mrs. Kenton continued to recommend people to the
Kaiserin Elisabeth. Even when the truth was made known to her she did
not see much to laugh at. "I'm sure I was always very glad the colonel
didn't tell me at once," she said, "for if I had known what I had been
through, I certainly should have gone distracted."
There was no richer man in Venice than Tommaso Tonelli, who had enough
on his florin a day; and none younger than he, who owned himself
forty-seven years old. He led the cheerfullest life in the world, and
was quite a monster of content; but when I come to sum up his pleasures,
I fear that I shall appear to my readers to be celebrating a very
insipid and monotonous existence. I doubt if even a summary of his
duties could be made attractive to the conscientious imagination of
hard-working people; for Tonelli's labors were not killing, nor, for
that matter, were those of any Venetian that I ever knew. He had a
stated employment in the office of the notary Cenarotti; and he passed
there so much of every working day as lies between nine and five
o'clock, writing upon deeds and conveyances and petitions and other
legal instruments for the notary, who sat in an adjoining room, secluded
from nearly everything in this world but snuff. He called Tonelli by the
sound of a little bell; and, when he turned to take a paper from his
safe, he seemed to be abstracting some secret from long-lapsed
centuries, which he restored again, and locked back among the dead ages
when his clerk replaced the document in his hands. These hands were very
soft and pale, and their owner was a colorless old man, whose silvery
hair fell down a face nearly as white; but, as he has almost nothing to
do with the present affair, I shall merely say that, having been
compromised in the last revolution, he had been obliged to live ever
since in perfect retirement, and that he seemed to have been blanched in
this social darkness as a plant is blanched by growth in a cellar. His
enemies said that he was naturally a timid man, but they could not deny
that he had seen things to make the brave afraid, or that he had now
every reason from the police to be secret and cautious in his life. He
could hardly be called company for Tonelli, who must have found the day
intolerably long but for the visit which the notary's pretty
granddaughter contrived to pay every morning in the cheerless mezzà.
She commonly appeared on some errand from her mother, but her chief
business seemed to be to share with Tonelli the modest feast of rumor
and hearsay which he loved to furnish forth for her, and from which
doubtless she carried back some fragments of gossip to the family
apartments. Tonelli called her, with that mingled archness and
tenderness of the Venetians, his Paronsina; and, as he had seen her grow
up from the smallest possible of Little Mistresses, there was no shyness
between them, and they were fully privileged to each other's society by
her mother. When she flitted away again, Tonelli was left to a stillness
broken only by the soft breathing of the old man in the next room, and
by the shrill discourse of his own loquacious pen, so that he was
commonly glad enough when it came five o'clock. At this hour he put on
his black coat, that shone with constant use, and his faithful silk hat,
worn down to the pasteboard with assiduous brushing, and caught up a
very jaunty cane in his hand. Then, saluting the notary, he took his way
to the little restaurant, where it was his custom to dine, and had his
tripe soup and his risotto, or dish of fried liver, in the austere
silence imposed by the presence of a few poor Austrian captains and
lieutenants. It was not that the Italians feared to be overheard by
these enemies; but it was good dimostrazione to be silent before the
oppressor, and not let him know that they even enjoyed their dinners
well enough, under his government, to chat sociably over them. To tell
the truth, this duty was an irksome one to Tonelli, who liked far better
to dine, as he sometimes did, at a cook-shop, where he met the folk of
the people (gente del popolo), as he called them; and where, though
himself a person of civil condition, he discoursed freely with the other
guests, and ate of their humble but relishing fare. He was known among
them as Sior Tommaso; and they paid him a homage, which they enjoyed
equally with him, as a person not only learned in the law, but a poet of
gift enough to write wedding and funeral verses, and a veteran who had
fought for the dead Republic of Forty-eight. They honored him as a most
travelled gentleman, who had been in the Tyrol, and who could have
spoken German, if he had not despised that tongue as the language of the
ugly Croats, like one born to it. Who, for example, spoke Venetian more
elegantly than Sior Tommaso? or Tuscan, when he chose? and yet he was
poor,—a man of that genius! Patience! When Garibaldi came, we should
see! The facchini and gondoliers, who had been wagging their tongues
all day at the church corners and ferries, were never tired of talking
of this gifted friend of theirs, when, having ended some impressive
discourse or some dramatic story, he left them with a sudden adieu, and
walked quickly away toward the Riva degli Schiavoni.
Here, whether he had dined at the cook-shop, or at his more genteel and
gloomy restaurant of the Bronze Horses, it was his custom to lounge an
hour or two over a cup of coffee and a Virginia cigar at one of the many
caffès, and to watch all the world as it passed to and fro on the quay.
Tonelli was gray, he did not disown it; but he always maintained that
his heart was still young, and that there was, moreover, a great
difference in persons as to age, which told in his favor. So he loved to
sit there, and look at the ladies; and he amused himself by inventing a
pet name for every face he saw, which he used to teach to certain
friends of his, when they joined him over his coffee. These friends were
all young enough to be his sons, and wise enough to be his fathers; but
they were always glad to be with him, for he had so cheery a wit and so
good a heart that neither his years nor his follies could make any one
sad. His kind face beamed with smiles, when Pennellini, chief among the
youngsters in his affections, appeared on the top of the nearest bridge,
and thence descended directly towards his little table. Then it was that
he drew out the straw which ran through the centre of his long Virginia,
and lighted the pleasant weed, and gave himself up to the delight of
making aloud those comments on the ladies which he had hitherto stifled
in his breast. Sometimes he would feign himself too deeply taken with a
passing beauty to remain quiet, and would make his friend follow with
him in chase of her to the Public Gardens. But he was a fickle lover,
and wanted presently to get back to his caffè, where, at decent
intervals of days or weeks, he would indulge himself in discovering a
spy in some harmless stranger, who, in going out, looked curiously at
the scar Tonelli's cheek had brought from the battle of Vicenza in 1848.
"Something of a spy, no?" he asked at these times of the waiter, who,
flattered by the penetration of a frequenter of his caffè, and the
implication that it was thought seditious enough to be watched by the
police, assumed a pensive importance, and answered, "Something of a spy,
Upon this Tonelli was commonly encouraged to proceed: "Did I ever tell
you how I once sent one of those ugly muzzles out of a caffè? I knew him
as soon as I saw him,—I am never mistaken in a spy,—and I went with my
newspaper, and sat down close at his side. Then I whispered to him
across the sheet, 'We are two.' 'Eh?' says he. 'It is a very small
caffè, and there is no need of more than one,' and then I stared at him
and frowned. He looks at me fixedly a moment, then gathers up his hat
and gloves, and takes his pestilency off."
The waiter, who had heard this story, man and boy, a hundred times, made
a quite successful show of enjoying it, as he walked away with Tonelli's
fee of half a cent in his pocket. Tonelli then had left from his day's
salary enough to pay for the ice which he ate at ten o'clock, but which
he would sometimes forego, in order to give the money in charity, though
more commonly he indulged himself, and put off the beggar with, "Another
time, my dear. I have no leisure now to discuss those matters with
On holidays this routine of Tonelli's life was varied. In the forenoon
he went to mass at St. Mark's, to see the beauty and fashion of the
city; and then he took a walk with his four or five young friends, or
went with them to play at bowls, or even made an excursion to the main
land, where they hired a carriage, and all those Venetians got into it,
like so many seamen, and drove the horse with as little mercy as if he
had been a sail-boat. At seven o'clock Tonelli dined with the notary,
next whom he sat at table, and for whom his quaint pleasantries had a
zest that inspired the Paronsina and her mother to shout them into his
dull ears, that he might lose none of them. He laughed a kind of faded
laugh at them, and, rubbing his pale hands together, showed by his act
that he did not think his best wine too good for his kindly guest. The
signora feigned to take the same delight shown by her father and
daughter in Tonelli's drolleries; but I doubt if she had a great sense
of his humor, or, indeed, cared anything for it save as she perceived
that it gave pleasure to those she loved. Otherwise, however, she had a
sincere regard for him, for he was most useful and devoted to her in her
quality of widowed mother; and if she could not feel wit, she could feel
gratitude, which is perhaps the rarer gift, if not the more respectable.
The Little Mistress was dependent upon him for nearly all the pleasures
and for the only excitements of her life. As a young girl she was at
best a sort of caged bird, who had to be guarded against the youth of
the other sex as if they, on their part, were so many marauding and
ravening cats. During most days of the year the Paronsina's parrot had
almost as much freedom as she. He could leave his gilded prison when he
chose, and promenade the notary's house as far down as the marble well
in the sunless court, and the Paronsina could do little more. The
signora would as soon have thought of letting the parrot walk across
their campo alone as her daughter, though the local dangers, either to
bird or beauty, could not have been very great. The green-grocer of
that sequestered campo was an old woman, the apothecary was gray, and
his shop was haunted by none but superannuated physicians; the baker,
the butcher, the waiters at the caffè were all professionally, and, as
purveyors to her family, out of the question; the sacristan, who
sometimes appeared at the perruquier's to get a coal from under the
curling-tongs to kindle his censer, had but one eye, which he kept
single to the service of the Church, and his perquisite of
candle-drippings; and I hazard little in saying that the Paronsina might
have danced a polka around Campo San Giuseppe without jeopardy so far as
concerned the handsome wood-carver, for his wife always sat in the shop
beside him. Nevertheless, a custom is not idly handed down by mother to
daughter from the dawn of Christianity to the middle of the nineteenth
century; and I cannot deny that the local perruquier, though stricken in
years, was still so far kept fresh by the immortal youth of the wax
heads in his window as to have something beauish about him; or that,
just at the moment the Paronsina chanced to go into the campo alone, a
leone from Florian's might not have been passing through it, when he
would certainly have looked boldly at her, perhaps spoken to her, and
possibly pounced at once upon her fluttering heart. So by day the
Paronsina rarely went out, and she never emerged unattended from the
silence and shadow of her grandfather's house.
If I were here telling a story of the Paronsina, or indeed any story at
all, I might suffer myself to enlarge somewhat upon the daily order of
her secluded life, and show how the seclusion of other Venetian girls
was the widest liberty as compared with hers; but I have no right to
play with the reader's patience in a performance that can promise no
excitement of incident, no charm of invention. Let him figure to
himself, if he will, the ancient and half-ruined palace in which the
notary dwelt, with a gallery running along one side of its inner court,
the slender pillars supporting upon the corroded sculpture of their
capitals a clinging vine, that dappled the floor with palpitant light
and shadow in the afternoon sun. The gate, whose exquisite Saracenic
arch grew into a carven flame, was surmounted by the armorial bearings
of a family that died of its sins against the Serenest Republic long
ago; the marble cistern which stood in the middle of the court had still
a ducal rose upon either of its four sides; and little lions of stone
perched upon the posts at the head of the marble stairway climbing to
the gallery, their fierce aspects worn smooth and amiable by the contact
of hands that for many ages had mouldered in tombs. Toward the canal
the palace windows had been immemorially bricked up for some reason or
caprice, and no morning sunlight, save such as shone from the bright
eyes of the Paronsina, ever looked into the dim halls. It was a fit
abode for such a man as the notary, exiled in the heart of his native
city, and it was not unfriendly in its influences to a quiet vegetation
like the signora's; but to the Paronsina it was sad as Venice itself,
where, in some moods, I have wondered that any sort of youth could have
the courage to exist. Nevertheless, the Paronsina had contrived to grow
up here a child of the gayest and archest spirit, and to lead a life of
due content, till after her return home from the comparative freedom and
society of Madame Prateux's school, where she spent three years in
learning all polite accomplishments, and whence she came, with brilliant
hopes and romances ready imagined, for any possible exigency of the
future. She adored all the modern Italian poets, and read their verse
with that stately and rhythmical fulness of voice which often made it
sublime and always pleasing. She was a relentless patriot, an
Italianissima of the vividest green, white, and red; and she could
interpret the historical novels of her countrymen in their subtilest
application to the modern enemies of Italy. But all the Paronsina's
gifts and accomplishments were to poor purpose, if they brought no young
men a-wooing under her balcony; and it was to no effect that her fervid
fancy peopled the palace's empty halls with stately and gallant company
out of Marco Visconti, Nicolò de' Lapi, Margherita Pusterla, and the
other romances, since she could not hope to receive any practicable
offer of marriage from the heroes thus assembled. Her grandfather
invited no guests of more substantial presence to his house. In fact,
the police watched him too narrowly to permit him to receive society,
even had he been so minded, and for kindred reasons his family paid few
visits in the city. To leave Venice, except for the autumnal
villeggiatura was almost out of the question; repeated applications at
the Luogotenenza won the two ladies but a tardy and scanty grace; and
the use of the passport allowing them to spend a few weeks in Florence
was attended with so much vexation, in coming and going upon the
imperial confines, and when they returned home they were subject to so
great fear of perquisition from the police, that it was after all rather
a mortification than a pleasure that the government had given them. The
signora received her few acquaintances once a week; but the Paronsina
found the old ladies tedious over their cups of coffee or tumblers of
lemonade, and declared that her mamma's reception days were a
martyrdom,—actually a martyrdom, to her. She was full of life and the
beautiful and tender longing of youth; she had a warm heart and a
sprightly wit; but she led an existence scarce livelier than a ghost's,
and she was so poor in friends and resources that she shuddered to think
what must become of her if Tonelli should die. It was not possible,
thanks to God! that he should marry.
The signora herself seldom cared to go out, for the reason that it was
too cold in winter and too hot in summer. In the one season she clung
all day to her wadded arm-chair, with her scaldino in her lap; and in
the other season she found it a sufficient diversion to sit in the great
hall of the palace, and be fanned by the salt breeze that came from the
Adriatic through the vine-garlanded gallery. But besides this habitual
inclemency of the weather, which forbade out-door exercise nearly the
whole year, it was a displeasure to walk in Venice on account of the
stairways of the bridges; and the signora much preferred to wait till
they went to the country in the autumn, when she always rode to take the
air. The exceptions to her custom were formed by those after-dinner
promenades which she sometimes made on holidays, in summer. Then she put
on her richest black, and the Paronsina dressed herself in her best, and
they both went to walk on the Molo, before the pillars of the lion and
the saint, under the escort of Tonelli.
It often happened that, at the hour of their arrival on the Molo, the
moon was coming up over the low bank of the Lido in the east, and all
that prospect of ship-bordered quay, island, and lagoon, which, at its
worst, is everything that heart can wish, was then at its best, and far
beyond words to paint. On the right stretched the long Giudecca, with
the domes and towers of its Palladian church, and the swelling foliage
of its gardens, and its line of warehouses—painted pink, as if even
Business, grateful to be tolerated amid such lovely scenes, had striven
to adorn herself. In front lay San Giorgio, picturesque with its church
and pathetic with its political prisons; and, farther away to the east
again, the gloomy mass of the madhouse at San Servolo, and then the
slender campanili of the Armenian convent rose over the gleaming and
tremulous water. Tonelli took in the beauty of the scene with no more
consciousness than a bird; but the Paronsina had learnt from her
romantic poets and novelists to be complimentary to prospects, and her
heart gurgled out in rapturous praises of this. The unwonted freedom
exhilarated her; there was intoxication in the encounter of faces on the
promenade, in the dazzle and glimmer of the lights, and even in the
music of the Austrian band playing in the Piazza, as it came purified to
her patriotic ear by the distance. There were none but Italians upon the
Molo, and one might walk there without so much as touching an officer
with the hem of one's garment; and, a little later, when the band ceased
playing, she should go with the other Italians and possess the Piazza
for one blessed hour. In the mean time, the Paronsina had a sharp little
tongue; and, after she had flattered the landscape, and had, from her
true heart, once for all, saluted the promenaders as brothers and
sisters in Italy, she did not mind making fun of their peculiarities of
dress and person. She was signally sarcastic upon such ladies as Tonelli
chanced to admire, and often so stung him with her jests that he was
glad when Pennellini appeared, as he always did exactly at nine o'clock,
and joined the ladies in their promenade, asking and answering all those
questions of ceremony which form Venetian greeting. He was a youth of
the most methodical exactness in his whole life, and could no more have
arrived on the Molo a moment before or after nine than the bronze
giants on the clock-tower could have hastened or lingered in striking
the hour. Nature, which had made him thus punctual and precise, gave him
also good looks, and a most amiable kindness of heart. The Paronsina
cared nothing at all for him in his quality of handsome young fellow;
but she prized him as an acquaintance whom she might salute, and be
saluted by, in a city where her grandfather's isolation kept her strange
to nearly all the faces she saw. Sometimes her evenings on the Molo
wasted away without the exchange of a word save with Tonelli, for her
mother seldom talked; and then it was quite possible her teasing was
greater than his patience, and that he grew taciturn under her tongue.
At such times she hailed Pennellini's appearance with a double delight;
for, if he never joined in her attacks upon Tonelli's favorites, he
always enjoyed them, and politely applauded them. If his friend
reproached him for this treason, he made him every amend in answering,
"She is jealous, Tonelli,"—a wily compliment, which had the most
intense effect in coming from lips ordinarily so sincere as his.
The signora was weary of the promenade long before the Austrian music
ceased in the Piazza, and was very glad when it came time for them to
leave the Molo, and go and sit down to an ice at the Caffè Florian.
This was the supreme hour to the Paronsina, the one heavenly excess of
her restrained and eventless life. All about her were scattered tranquil
Italian idlers, listening to the music of the strolling minstrels who
had succeeded the military band; on either hand sat her friends, and she
had thus the image of that tender devotion without which a young girl is
said not to be perfectly happy; while the very heart of adventure seemed
to bound in her exchange of glances with a handsome foreigner at a
neighboring table. On the other side of the Piazza a few officers still
lingered at the Caffè Quadri; and at the Specchi sundry groups of
citizens in their dark dress contrasted well with these white uniforms;
but, for the most part, the moon and gas-jets shone upon the broad,
empty space of the Piazza, whose loneliness the presence of a few
belated promenaders only served to render conspicuous. As the giants
hammered eleven upon the great bell, the Austrian sentinel, under the
Ducal Palace, uttered a long, reverberating cry; and soon after a patrol
of soldiers clanked across the Piazza, and passed with echoing feet
through the arcade into the narrow and devious streets beyond. The young
girl found it hard to rend herself from the dreamy pleasure of the
scene, or even to turn from the fine impersonal pain which the presence
of the Austrians in the spectacle inflicted. All gave an impression
something like that of the theatre, with the advantage that here one's
self was part of the pantomime; and in those days, when nearly
everything but the puppet-shows was forbidden to patriots, it was
altogether the greatest enjoyment possible to the Paronsina. The pensive
charm of the place imbued all the little company so deeply that they
scarcely broke it, as they loitered slowly homeward through the deserted
Merceria. When they reached the Campo San Salvatore, on many a lovely
summer's midnight, their footsteps seemed to waken a nightingale whose
cage hung from a lofty balcony there; for suddenly, at their coming, the
bird broke into a wild and thrilling song, that touched them all, and
suffused the tender heart of the Paronsina with an inexpressible pathos.
Alas! she had so often returned thus from the Piazza, and no stealthy
footstep had followed hers homeward with love's persistence and
diffidence! She was young, she knew, and she thought not quite dull or
hideous; but her spirit was as sole in that melancholy city as if there
were no youth but hers in the world. And a little later than this, when
she had her first affair, it did not originate in the Piazza, nor at
all respond to her expectations in a love-affair. In fact, it was
altogether a business affair, and was managed chiefly by Tonelli, who
having met a young doctor, laurelled the year before at Padua, had heard
him express so pungent a curiosity to know what the Paronsina would have
to her dower, that he perceived he must be madly in love with her. So
with the consent of the signora he had arranged a correspondence between
the young people; and all went on well at first,—the letters from both
passing through his hands. But his office was anything but a sinecure,
for while the Doctor was on his part of a cold temperament, and disposed
to regard the affair merely as a proper way of providing for the natural
affections, the Paronsina cared nothing for him personally, and only
viewed him favorably as abstract matrimony,—as the means of escaping
from the bondage of her girlhood and the sad seclusion of her life into
the world outside her grandfather's house. So presently the
correspondence fell almost wholly upon Tonelli, who worked up to the
point of betrothal with an expense of finesse and sentiment that would
have made his fortune in diplomacy or poetry. What should he say now?
that stupid young Doctor would cry in a desperation, when Tonelli
delicately reminded him that it was time to answer the Paronsina's last
note. Say this, that, and the other, Tonelli would answer, giving him
the heads of a proper letter, which the Doctor took down on square bits
of paper, neatly fashioned for writing prescriptions. "And for God's
sake, caro dottore, put a little warmth into it!" The poor Doctor would
try, but it must always end in Tonelli's suggesting and almost dictating
every sentence; and then the letter, being carried to the Paronsina made
her laugh: "This is very pretty, my poor Tonelli, but it was never my
onoratissimo dottore who thought of these tender compliments. Ah! that
allusion to my mouth and eyes could only have come from the heart of a
great poet. It is yours, Tonelli, don't deny it." And Tonelli, taken in
his weak point of literature, could make but a feeble pretence of
disclaiming the child of his fancy, while the Paronsina, being in this
reckless humor, more than once responded to the Doctor in such fashion
that in the end the inspiration of her altered and amended letter was
Tonelli's. Even after the betrothal, the lovemaking languished, and the
Doctor was indecently patient of the late day fixed for the marriage by
the notary. In fact, the Doctor was very busy; and, as his practice
grew, the dower of the Paronsina dwindled in his fancy, till one day he
treated the whole question of their marriage with such coldness and
uncertainty in his talk with Tonelli, that the latter saw whither his
thoughts were drifting, and went home with an indignant heart to the
Paronsina, who joyfully sat down and wrote her first sincere letter to
the Doctor, dismissing him.
"It is finished," she said, "and I am glad. After all, perhaps, I don't
want to be any freer than I am; and while I have you, Tonelli, I don't
want a younger lover. Younger? Diana! You are in the flower of youth,
and I believe you will never wither. Did that rogue of a Doctor, then,
really give you the elixir of youth for writing him those letters? Tell
me, Tonelli, as a true friend, how long have you been forty-seven? Ever
since your fiftieth birthday? Listen! I have been more afraid of losing
you than my sweetest Doctor. I thought you would be so much in love with
lovemaking that you would go break-neck and court some one in earnest on
your own account!"
Thus the Paronsina made a jest of the loss she had sustained; but it was
not pleasant to her, except as it dissolved a tie which love had done
nothing to form. Her life seemed colder and vaguer after it, and the
hour very far away when the handsome officers of her king (all good
Venetians in those days called Victor Emanuel "our king") should come to
drive out the Austrians, and marry their victims. She scarcely enjoyed
the prodigious privilege, offered her at this time in consideration of
her bereavement, of going to the comedy, under Tonelli's protection and
along with Pennellini and his sister, while the poor signora afterwards
had real qualms of patriotism concerning the breach of public duty
involved in this distraction of her daughter. She hoped that no one had
recognized her at the theatre, otherwise they might have a warning from
the Venetian Committee. "Thou knowest," she said to the Paronsina, "that
they have even admonished the old Conte Tradonico, who loves the comedy
better than his soul, and who used to go every evening. Thy aunt told
me, and that the old rogue, when people ask him why he doesn't go to the
play, answers, 'My mistress won't let me.' But fie! I am saying what
young girls ought not to hear."
After the affair with the Doctor, I say, life refused to return exactly
to its old expression, and I suppose that, if what presently happened
was ever to happen, it could not have occurred at a more appropriate
time for a disaster, or at a time when its victims were less able to
bear it I do not know whether I have yet sufficiently indicated the
fact, but the truth is both the Paronsina and her mother had from long
use come to regard Tonelli as a kind of property of theirs, which had
no right in any way to alienate itself. They would have felt an attempt
of this sort to be not only very absurd, but very wicked, in view of
their affection for him and dependence upon him; and while the Paronsina
thanked God that he would never marry, she had a deep conviction that he
ought not to marry, even if he desired. It was at the same time
perfectly natural, nay, filial, that she should herself be ready to
desert this old friend, whom she felt so strictly bound to be faithful
to her loneliness. As matters fell out, she had herself primarily to
blame for Tonelli's loss; for, in that interval of disgust and ennui
following the Doctor's dismissal, she had suffered him to seek his own
pleasure on holiday evenings; and he had thus wandered alone to the
Piazza, and so, one night, had seen a lady eating an ice there, and
fallen in love without more ado than another man should drink a
This facility came of habit, for Tonelli had now been falling in love
every other day for some forty years; and in that time had broken the
hearts of innumerable women of all nations and classes. The prettiest
water-carriers in his neighborhood were in love with him, as their
mothers had been before them, and ladies of noble condition were
believed to cherish passions for him. Especially, gay and beautiful
foreigners, as they sat at Florian's, were taken with hopeless love of
him; and he could tell stories of very romantic adventure in which he
figured as hero, though nearly always with moral effect. For example,
there was the countess from the mainland,—she merited the sad
distinction of being chief among those who had vainly loved him, if you
could believe the poet who both inspired and sang her passion. When she
took a palace in Venice, he had been summoned to her on the pretended
business of a secretary; but when she presented herself with those idle
accounts of her factor and tenants on the mainland, her household
expenses and her correspondence with her advocate, Tonelli perceived at
once that it was upon a wholly different affair that she had desired to
see him. She was a rich widow of forty, of a beauty supernaturally
preserved and very great. "This is no place for thee, Tonelli mine," the
secretary had said to himself, after a week had passed, and he had
understood all the waywardness of that unhappy lady's intentions. "Thou
art not too old, but thou art too wise, for these follies, though no
saint"; and so had gathered up his personal effects, and secretly
quitted the palace. But such was the countess's fury at his escape that
she never paid him his week's salary; nor did she manifest the least
gratitude that Tonelli, out of regard for her son, a very honest young
man, refused in any way to identify her, but, to all except his closest
friends, pretended that he had passed those terrible eight days on a
visit to the country village where he was born. It showed Pennellini's
ignorance of life that he should laugh at this history; and I prefer to
treat it seriously, and to use it in explaining the precipitation with
which Tonelli's latest inamorata returned his love.
Though, indeed, why should a lady of thirty, and from an obscure country
town, hesitate to be enamored of any eligible suitor who presented
himself in Venice? It is not my duty to enter upon a detail or summary
of Carlotta's character or condition, or to do more than indicate that,
while she did not greatly excel in youth, good looks, or worldly gear,
she had yet a little property, and was of that soft prettiness which is
often more effective than downright beauty. There was, indeed, something
very charming about her; and, if she was a blonde, I have no reason to
think she was as fickle as the Venetian proverb paints that complexion
of woman; or that she had not every quality which would have excused any
one but Tonelli for thinking of marrying her.
After their first mute interview in the Piazza, the two lost no time in
making each other's acquaintance; but though the affair was vigorously
conducted, no one could say that it was not perfectly in order. Tonelli
on the following day, which chanced to be Sunday, repaired to St. Mark's
at the hour of the fashionable mass, where he gazed steadfastly at the
lady during her orisons, and whence, at a discreet distance, he followed
her home to the house of the friends whom she was visiting. Somewhat to
his discomfiture at first, these proved to be old acquaintances of his;
and when he came at night to walk up and down under their balconies, as
bound in true love to do, they made nothing of asking him indoors, and
presenting him to his lady. But the pair were not to be entirely balked
of their romance, and they still arranged stolen interviews at church,
where one furtively whispered word had the value of whole hours of
unrestricted converse under the roof of their friends. They quite
refused to take advantage of their anomalously easy relations, beyond
inquiry on his part as to the amount of the lady's dower, and on hers as
to the permanence of Tonelli's employment. He in due form had Pennellini
to his confidant, and Carlotta unbosomed herself to her hostess; and the
affair was thus conducted with such secrecy that not more than two
thirds of Tonelli's acquaintance knew anything about it when their
engagement was announced.
There were now no circumstances to prevent their early union, yet the
happy conclusion was one to which Tonelli urged himself after many
secret and bitter displeasures of spirit. I am persuaded that his love
for Carlotta must have been most ardent and sincere, for there was
everything in his history and reason against marriage. He could not
disown that he had hitherto led a joyous and careless life, or that he
was exactly fitted for the modest delights, the discreet variety, of his
present state,—for his daily routine at the notary's, his dinner at the
Bronze Horses or the cook-shop, his hour at the caffè, his walks and
excursions, for his holiday banquet with the Cenarotti, and his formal
promenade with the ladies of that family upon the Molo. He had a good
employment, with a salary that held him above want, and afforded him the
small luxuries already named; and he had fixed habits of work and of
relaxation, which made both a blessing. He had his chosen circle of
intimate equals, who regarded him for his good-heartedness and wit and
foibles; and his little following of humble admirers, who looked upon
him as a gifted man in disgrace with fortune. His friendships were as
old as they were secure and cordial; he was established in the
kindliness of all who knew him; and he was flattered by the dependence
of the Paronsina and her mother, even when it was troublesome to him.
He had his past of sentiment and war, his present of story-telling and
romance. He was quite independent: his sins, if he had any, began and
ended in himself, for none was united to him so closely as to be hurt by
them; and he was far too imprudent a man to be taken for an example by
any one. He came and went as he listed, he did this or that without
question. With no heart chosen yet from the world of woman's love, he
was still a young man, with hopes and affections as pliable as a boy's.
He had, in a word, that reputation of good-fellow which in Venice gives
a man the title of buon diavolo, but on which he does not anywhere
turn his back with impunity, either from his own consciousness or from
public opinion. There never was such a thing in the world as both good
devil and good husband; and even with his betrothal Tonelli felt that
his old, careless, merry life of the hour ended, and that he had tacitly
recognized a future while he was yet unable to cut the past. If one has
for twenty years made a jest of women, however amiably and insincerely,
one does not propose to marry a woman without making a jest of one's
self. The avenging remembrance of elderly people whose late matrimony
had furnished food for Tonelli's wit now rose up to torment him, and in
his morbid fancy the merriment he had caused was echoed back in his own
It shocked him to find how quickly his secret took wing, and it annoyed
him that all his acquaintances were so prompt to felicitate him. He
imagined a latent mockery in their speeches, and he took them with an
argumentative solemnity. He reasoned separately with his friends; to all
who spoke to him of his marriage he presented elaborate proofs that it
was the wisest thing he could possibly do, and tried to give the affair
a cold air of prudence. "You see, I am getting old; that is to say, I am
tired of this bachelor life in which I have no one to take care of me,
if I fall sick, and to watch that the doctors do not put me to death. My
pay is very little, but, with Carlotta's dower well invested, we shall
both together live better than either of us lives alone. She is a
careful woman, and will keep me neat and comfortable. She is not so
young as some women I had thought to marry,—no, but so much the better;
nobody will think her half so charming as I do, and at my time of life
that is a great point gained. She is good, and has an admirable
disposition. She is not spoiled by Venice, but as innocent as a dove. O,
I shall find myself very well with her!"
This was the speech which with slight modification Tonelli made over
and over again to all his friends but Pennellini. To him he unmasked,
and said boldly that at last he was really in love; and being gently
discouraged in what seemed his folly, and incredulously laughed at, he
grew angry, and gave such proofs of his sincerity that Pennellini was
convinced, and owned to himself, "This madman is actually
enamored,—enamored,—like a cat! Patience! What will ever those
In a little while poor Tonelli lost the philosophic mind with which he
had at first received the congratulations of his friends, and, from
reasoning with them, fell to resenting their good wishes. Very little
things irritated him, and pleasantries which he had taken in excellent
part, time out of mind, now raised his anger. His barber had for many
years been in the habit of saying, as he applied the stick of fixature
to Tonelli's mustache, and gave it a jaunty upward curl, "Now we will
bestow that little dash of youthfulness"; and it both amazed and hurt
him to have Tonelli respond with a fierce "Tsit!" and say that this jest
was proper in its antiquity to the times of Romulus rather than our own
period, and so go out of the shop without that "Adieu, old fellow,"
which he had never failed to give in twenty years. "Capperi!" said the
barber, when he emerged from a profound revery into which this outbreak
had plunged him, and in which he had remained holding the nose of his
next customer, and tweaking it to and fro in the violence of his
emotions, regardless of those mumbled maledictions which the lather
would not permit the victim to articulate. "If Tonelli is so savage in
his betrothal, we must wait for his marriage to tame him. I am sorry. He
was always such a good devil."
But if many things annoyed Tonelli, there were some that deeply wounded
him, and chiefly the fact that his betrothal seemed to have fixed an
impassable gulf of years between him and all those young men whose
company he loved so well. He had really a boy's heart, and he had
consorted with them because he felt himself nearer their age than his
own. Hitherto they had in no wise found his presence a restraint. They
had always laughed, and told their loves, and spoken their young men's
thoughts, and made their young men's jokes, without fear or shame,
before the merry-hearted sage, who never offered good advice, if indeed
he ever dreamed that there was a wiser philosophy than theirs. It had
been as if he were the youngest among them; but now, in spite of all
that he or they could do, he seemed suddenly and irretrievably aged.
They looked at him strangely, as if for the first time they saw that
his mustache was gray, that his brow was not smooth like theirs, that
there were crow's-feet at the corners of his kindly eyes. They could not
phrase the vague feeling that haunted their hearts, or they would have
said that Tonelli, in offering to marry, had voluntarily turned his back
upon his youth; that love, which would only have brought a richer bloom
to their age, had breathed away forever the autumnal blossom of his.
Something of this made itself felt in Tonelli's own consciousness,
whenever he met them, and he soon grew to avoid these comrades of his
youth. It was therefore after a purely accidental encounter with one of
them, and as he was passing into the Campo Sant' Angelo, head down, and
supporting himself with an inexplicable sense of infirmity upon the cane
he was wont so jauntily to flourish, that he heard himself addressed
with, "I say, master!" He looked up, and beheld the fat madman who
patrols that campo, and who has the license of his affliction to utter
insolences to whomsoever he will, leaning against the door of a
tobacconist's shop, with his arms folded, and a lazy, mischievous smile
loitering down on his greasy face. As he caught Tonelli's eye he nodded,
"Eh! I have heard, master"; while the idlers of that neighborhood, who
relished and repeated his incoherent pleasantries like the mots of
some great diner-out, gathered near with expectant grins. Had Tonelli
been altogether himself, as in other days, he would have been far too
wise to answer, "What hast thou heard, poor animal?"
"That you are going to take a mate when most birds think of flying
away," said the madman. "Because it has been summer a long time with
you, master, you think it will never be winter. Look out: the wolf
doesn't eat the season."
The poor fool in these words seemed to utter a public voice of
disapprobation and derision; and as the pitiless bystanders, who had
many a time laughed with Tonelli, now laughed at him, joining in the
applause which the madman himself led off, the miserable good devil
walked away with a shiver, as if the weather had actually turned cold.
It was not till he found himself in Carlotta's presence that the long
summer appeared to return to him. Indeed, in her tenderness and his real
love for her he won back all his youth again; and he found it of a truer
and sweeter quality than he had known even when his years were few,
while the gay old-bachelor life he had long led seemed to him a period
of miserable loneliness and decrepitude. Mirrored in her fond eyes, he
saw himself alert and handsome; and, since for the time being they were
to each other all the world, we may be sure there was nothing in the
world then to vex or shame Tonelli. The promises of the future, too,
seemed not improbable of fulfilment, for they were not extravagant
promises. These people's castle in the air was a house furnished from
Carlotta's modest portion, and situated in a quarter of the city not too
far from the Piazza, and convenient to a decent caffè, from which they
could order a lemonade or a cup of coffee for visitors. Tonelli's
stipend was to pay the housekeeping, as well as the minute wage of a
servant-girl from the country; and it was believed that they could save
enough from that, and a little of Carlotta's money at interest, to go
sometimes to the Malibran theatre or the Marionette, or even make an
excursion to the mainland upon a holiday; but if they could not, it was
certainly better Italianism to stay at home; and at least they could
always walk to the Public Gardens. At one time, religious differences
threatened to cloud this blissful vision of the future; but it was
finally agreed that Carlotta should go to mass and confession as often
as she liked, and should not tease Tonelli about his soul; while he, on
his part, was not to speak ill of the pope except as a temporal prince,
or of any of the priesthood except of the Jesuits when in company, in
order to show that marriage had not made him a codino. For the like
reason, no change was to be made in his custom of praising Garibaldi and
reviling the accursed Germans upon all safe occasions.
As Tonelli had nothing in the world but his salary and his slender
wardrobe, Carlotta eagerly accepted the idea of a loss of family
property during the revolution. Of Tonelli's scar she was as proud as
When she came to speak of the acquaintance of all those young men, it
seemed again like a breath from the north to her betrothed; and he
answered, with a sigh, that this was an affair that had already finished
itself. "I have long thought them too boyish for me," he said, "and I
shall keep none of them but Pennellini, who is even older than I,—who,
I believe, was never born, but created middle-aged out of the dust of
the earth, like Adam. He is not a good devil, but he has every good
While he thus praised his friend, Tonelli was meditating a service,
which when he asked it of Pennellini, had almost the effect to destroy
their ancient amity. This was no less than the composition of those
wedding-verses, without which, printed and exposed to view in all the
shop-windows, no one in Venice feels himself adequately and truly
married. Pennellini had never willingly made a verse in his life; and
it was long before he understood Tonelli, when he urged the delicate
request. Then in vain he protested, recalcitrated. It was all an offence
to Tonelli's morbid soul, already irritated by his friend's obtuseness,
and eager to turn even the reluctance of nature into insult. He took his
refusal for a sign that he, too, deserted him; and must be called back,
after bidding Pennellini adieu, to hear the only condition on which the
accursed sonnet would be furnished, namely, that it should not be signed
Pennellini, but An Affectionate Friend. Never was sonnet cost poet so
great anguish as this: Pennellini went at it conscientiously as if it
were a problem in mathematics; he refreshed his prosody, he turned over
Carrer, he toiled a whole night, and in due time appeared as Tonelli's
affectionate friend in all the butchers' and bakers' windows. But it had
been too much to ask of him, and for a while he felt the shock of
Tonelli's unreason and excess so much that there was a decided coolness
This important particular arranged, little remained for Tonelli to do
but to come to that open understanding with the Paronsina and her mother
which he had long dreaded and avoided. He could not conceal from himself
that his marriage was a kind of desertion of the two dear friends so
dependent upon his singleness, and he considered the case of the
Paronsina with a real remorse. If his meditated act sometimes appeared
to him a gross inconsistency and a satire upon all his former life, he
had still consoled himself with the truth of his passion, and had found
love its own apology and comfort; but in its relation to these lonely
women, his love itself had no fairer aspect than that of treason, and he
shrank from owning it before them with a sense of guilt. Some wild
dreams of reconciling his future with his past occasionally haunted him;
but in his saner moments, he perceived their folly. Carlotta, he knew,
was good and patient, but she was nevertheless a woman, and she would
never consent that he should be to the Cenarotti all that he had been;
these ladies also were very kind and reasonable, but they too were
women, and incapable of accepting a less perfect devotion. Indeed, was
not his proposed marriage too much like taking her only son from the
signora and giving the Paronsina a stepmother? It was worse, and so the
ladies of the notary's family viewed it, cherishing a resentment that
grew with Tonelli's delay to deal frankly with them; while Carlotta, on
her part, was wounded that these old friends should ignore his future
wife so utterly. On both sides evil was stored up.
When Tonelli would still make a show of fidelity to the Paronsina and
her mother, they accepted his awkward advances, the latter with a cold
visage, the former with a sarcastic face and tongue. He had managed
particularly ill with the Paronsina, who, having no romance of her own,
would possibly have come to enjoy the autumnal poetry of his love if he
had permitted. But when she first approached him on the subject of those
rumors she had heard, and treated them with a natural derision, as
involving the most absurd and preposterous ideas, he, instead of
suffering her jests, and then turning her interest to his favor,
resented them, and closed his heart and its secret against her. What
could she do, thereafter, but feign to avoid the subject, and adroitly
touch it with constant, invisible stings? Alas! it did not need that she
should ever speak to Tonelli with the wicked intent she did; at this
time he would have taken ill whatever most innocent thing she said. When
friends are to be estranged, they do not require a cause. They have but
to doubt one another, and no forced forbearance or kindness between them
can do aught but confirm their alienation. This is on the whole
fortunate, for in this manner neither feels to blame for the broken
friendship, and each can declare with perfect truth that he did all he
could to maintain it. Tonelli said to himself, "If the Paronsina had
treated the affair properly at first!" and the Paronsina thought, "If he
had told me frankly about it to begin with!" Both had a latent heartache
over their trouble, and both a sense of loss the more bitter because it
was of loss still unacknowledged.
As the day fixed for Tonelli's wedding drew near, the rumor of it came
to the Cenarotti from all their acquaintance. But when people spoke to
them of it, as of something they must be fully and particularly informed
of, the signora answered coldly, "It seems that we have not merited
Tonelli's confidence"; and the Paronsina received the gossip with an air
of clearly affected surprise, and a "Davvero!" that at least
discomfited the tale-bearers.
The consciousness of the unworthy part he was acting toward these ladies
had come at last to poison the pleasure of Tonelli's wooing, even in
Carlotta's presence; yet I suppose he would still have let his
wedding-day come and go, and been married beyond hope of atonement, so
loath was he to inflict upon himself and them the pain of an
explanation, if one day, within a week of that time, the notary had not
bade his clerk dine with him on the morrow. It was a holiday, and as
Carlotta was at home, making ready for the marriage, Tonelli consented
to take his place at the table from which he had been a long time
absent. But it turned out such a frigid and melancholy banquet as never
was known before. The old notary, to whom all things came dimly, finally
missed the accustomed warmth of Tonelli's fun, and said, with a little
shiver, "Why, what ails you, Tonelli? You are as moody as a man in
The notary had been told several times of Tonelli's affair, but it was
his characteristic not to remember any gossip later than that of
The Paronsina burst into a laugh full of the cruelty and insult of a
woman's long-smothered sense of injury. "Caro nonno," she screamed into
her grandfather's dull ear, "he is really in despair how to support his
happiness. He is shy, even of his old friends,—he has had so little
experience. It is the first love of a young man. Bisogna compatire la
gioventù, caro nonno." And her tongue being finally loosed, the
Paronsina broke into incoherent mockeries, that hurt more from their
purpose than their point, and gave no one greater pain than herself.
Tonelli sat sad and perfectly mute under the infliction, but he said in
his heart, "I have merited worse."
At first the signora remained quite aghast; but when she collected
herself, she called out peremptorily, "Madamigella, you push the affair
a little beyond. Cease!"
The Paronsina, having said all she desired, ceased, panting.
The old notary, for whose slow sense all but her first words had been
too quick, though all had been spoken at him, said dryly, turning to
Tonelli, "I imagine that my deafness is not always a misfortune."
It was by an inexplicable, but hardly less inevitable, violence to the
inclinations of each that, after this miserable dinner, the signora, the
Paronsina, and Tonelli should go forth together for their wonted
promenade on the Molo. Use, which is the second, is also very often the
stronger nature, and so these parted friends made a last show of union
and harmony. In nothing had their amity been more fatally broken than in
this careful homage to its forms; and now, as they walked up and down in
the moonlight, they were of the saddest kind of apparitions,—not mere
disembodied spirits, which, however, are bad enough, but disanimated
bodies, which are far worse, and of which people are not more afraid
only because they go about in society so commonly. As on many and many
another night of summers past, the moon came up and stood over the Lido,
striking far across the glittering lagoon, and everywhere winning the
flattered eye to the dark masses of shadow upon the water; to the trees
of the Gardens, to the trees and towers and domes of the cloistered and
templed isles. Scene of pensive and incomparable loveliness! giving even
to the stranger, in some faint and most unequal fashion, a sense of the
awful meaning of exile to the Venetian, who in all other lands in the
world is doubly an alien, from their unutterable unlikeness to his sole
and beautiful city. The prospect had that pathetic unreality to the
friends which natural things always assume to people playing a part, and
I imagine that they saw it not more substantial than it appears to the
exile in his dreams. In their promenade they met again and again the
unknown, wonted faces; they even encountered some acquaintances, whom
they greeted, and with whom they chatted for a while; and when at nine
the bronze giants beat the hour upon their bell,—with as remote effect
as if they were giants of the times before the flood,—they were aware
of Pennellini, promptly appearing like an exact and methodical spectre.
But to-night the Paronsina, who had made the scene no compliments, did
not insist as usual upon the ice at Florian's; and Pennellini took his
formal leave of the friends under the arch of the Clock Tower, and they
walked silently homeward through the echoing Merceria.
At the notary's gate Tonelli would have said good-night, but the signora
made him enter with them, and then abruptly left him standing with the
Paronsina in the gallery, while she was heard hurrying away to her own
apartment. She reappeared, extending toward Tonelli both hands, upon
which glittered and glittered manifold skeins of the delicate chain of
She had a very stately and impressive bearing, as she stood there in the
moonlight, and addressed him with a collected voice. "Tonelli," she
said, "I think you have treated your oldest and best friends very
cruelly. Was it not enough that you should take yourself from us, but
you must also forbid our hearts to follow you even in sympathy and good
wishes? I had almost thought to say adieu forever to-night; but," she
continued, with a breaking utterance, and passing tenderly to the
familiar form of address, "I cannot part so with thee. Thou hast been
too like a son to me, too like a brother to my poor Clarice. Maybe thou
no longer lovest us, yet I think thou wilt not disdain this gift for thy
wife. Take it, Tonelli, if not for our sake, perhaps then for the sake
of sorrows that in times past we have shared together in this unhappy
Here the signora ended perforce the speech, which had been long for
her, and the Paronsina burst into a passion of weeping,—not more at her
mamma's words than out of self-pity and from the national sensibility.
Tonelli took the chain, and reverently kissed it and the hands that gave
it. He had a helpless sense of the injustice the signora's words and the
Paronsina's tears did him; he knew that they put him with feminine
excess further in the wrong than even his own weakness had; but he tried
to express nothing of this,—it was but part of the miserable maze in
which his life was involved. With what courage he might he owned his
error, but protested his faithful friendship, and poured out all his
troubles,—his love for Carlotta, his regret for them, his shame and
remorse for himself. They forgave him, and there was everything in their
words and will to restore their old friendship, and keep it; and when
the gate with a loud clang closed upon Tonelli, going from them, they
all felt that it had irrevocably perished.
I do not say that there was not always a decent and affectionate bearing
on the part of the Paronsina and her mother towards Tonelli and his
wife; I acknowledge that it was but too careful and faultless a
tenderness, ever conscious of its own fragility. Far more natural was
the satisfaction they took in the delayed fruitfulness of Tonelli's
marriage, and then in the fact that his child was a girl, and not a boy.
It was but human that they should doubt his happiness, and that the
signora should always say, when hard pressed with questions upon the
matter: "Yes, Tonelli is married; but if it were to do again, I think he
would do it to-morrow rather than to-day."