A Rainy June by Ouida

From the Principe di San Zenone, Claridge's, London, to the Duchessa dell'Aquila Fulva, Monterone, near Val d'Aosta, Italy.

'Carissima Teresa—I received your letter, which is delightful to me because it is yours, and terrible to me because it scolds me, abuses me, flies at me, makes me feel like a schoolboy who has had a scolding. Yes; it is quite true. I cannot help it. She has bewitched me. She is a lily made into a woman. I feared you would be angry, especially angry because she is a foreigner; but the hour of fate has struck. You will not wonder when you see her. She is as blonde as the dawn and as pure as a pearl. It seems to me that I have never loved any woman at all in my life before. To love her is like plunging one's hand in cool spring water on a midsummer noon. She is such repose; such innocence; such holiness! In the midst of this crowded, over-coloured, vulgar London life—for it is very vulgar at its highest—she seems like some angel of purity. I saw her first standing with a knot of roses in her hand under a cedar tree, at one of their afternoon clubs on the river. She was drinking a cup of tea; they are always drinking tea. And she is so white. I never saw anything so white except the snow on the Leonessa. She is not in the least like the fast young ladies of England, of whom one sees so much in the winter at Rome. I do not like their fast young women. If you want a woman who is fast, a Parisienne is best, or even an American. Englishwomen overdo it. She is just like a primrose; like a piece of porcelain; like a soft, pale star shining in the morning. I write all kinds of poetry when I think of her. And then, there is something Sainte Nitouche about her which is delicious, because it is so real. The only thing which was wanting in her was that she ought to have been shut up in a convent, and I ought to have had to imperil my soul for all eternity by getting her over a stone wall with a silken ladder. But it is a prosaic age, and this is a very prosaic country. London amuses me, but it is such a crowd, and it is frightfully ugly. I cannot think how people who are so enormously rich as the English can put up with such ugliness. The houses are all too small, even the big ones. I have not seen a good ballroom; they say there are good ones in the country houses. The clubs are admirable, but life in general seems to me hurried, costly, ungraceful, very noisy, and almost entirely consecrated to eating. It is made up of a scramble and a mass of food. People engage themselves for dinners a month in advance. Everybody's engagement book is so full that it is the burden of their days. They accept everything, and, at the eleventh hour, pick out what they prefer, and, to use their own language, "throw over" the rest. I do not think it is pretty behaviour, but nobody seems to object to it. I wonder that the women do not do so, but they seem to be afraid of losing their men altogether if they exact good manners from them. People here are not at all well-mannered, to my taste; neither the men nor the women. They are brusque and negligent, and have few petits soins. You should have come over for my marriage to show them all what an exquisite creature a Venetian patrician beauty can be. Why would you marry that Piedmontese? Only two things seem to be of any importance in England—they are, eating and politics. They eat all day long, and are always talking of their politics. Half of them say some person I never heard of is the destruction of England, the other half say the same person is the salvation of England. Myself, I don't care the least which he is; only I know they cannot keep him out of their conversation, one way or another, for five minutes; which, to an unprejudiced foreigner, is a seccatura. But to-morrow I go down into the country with my primrose—all alone; to-morrow she will be mine altogether and unalterably, and I shall hear nothing about their detestable politics or anything that is tiresome. Of course, you are wondering that I should take this momentous step. I wonder myself, but then if I did not marry I should be compelled to say an eternal farewell to the Lenten Lily. She has such a spiked wall around her of male relatives and family greatness! It is not the convent wall; there is no ladder that will go over it; one must enter by the big front door, or not at all. Felicitate me, and yet compassionate me! I am going to Paradise, no doubt; but I have the uncomfortable doubt as to whether it will suit me, which all people who are going to Paradise always do feel. Why? Because we are mortal or because we are sinners? A reverderci, cara mia Teresina! Write to me at my future Eden: it is called Coombe Bysset, near Luton, Bedfordshire. We are to be there a month. It is the choice of my primrose.'

From the Lady Mary Bruton, Belgrave Square, London, to Mrs d'Arcy, British Embassy, Berlin.

'The season has been horribly dull; quantities of marriages—people always will marry, however dull it is. The one most talked about is that of the Cowes' second daughter, Lady Gladys, with the Prince of San Zenone. She is one of the beauties, but a very simple girl, quite old-fashioned, indeed. She has refused Lord Hampshire, and a good many other people, and then fallen in love in a week with this Roman, who is certainly as handsome as a picture. But Cowes didn't like it at all; he gave in because he couldn't help it, but he was dreadfully vexed that the Hampshire affair did not come off instead. Hampshire is such a good creature, and his estates are close to theirs. It is certainly very provoking for them that this Italian must take it into his head to spend a season in London, and lead the cotillon so beautifully that all the young women talked of nothing else but his charms.'

From the Lady Mona St Clair, Grosvenor Square, London, to Miss Burns, Schooner-yacht Persephone, off Cherbourg.

'The wedding was very pretty yesterday. We had frocks of tussore silk, with bouquets of orchids and Penelope Boothby caps. She looked as white as her gown—such a goose!—it was ivory satin, with point de Venise. He is quite too handsome, and I cannot think what he could see in her! He gave us each a locket with her portrait inside. I wished it had been his! I daresay Hampshire would have been better for her, and worn longer than Romeo. Lord Cowes is furious about Romeo. He detests the religion and all that, and he could hardly make himself look pleasant even at church. Of course, there were two ceremonies. The Cardinal had consented at last, though I believe he had made all kinds of fuss first. Lady Gladys, you know, is very, very High Church, and I suppose that reconciled a little the very irreconcilable Prelate. She thinks of nothing but the Church and her missions and her poor people. I am afraid the Roman Prince will get dreadfully bored. And they are going down into Bedfordshire, of all places, to be shut up for a month! It is very stupid of her, and such a wet season as it is! They are going to Coombe Bysset, her aunt, Lady Caroline's place. I fancy Romeo will soon be bored, and I don't think Coombe Bysset at all judicious. I would have gone to Homburg, or Deauville, or Japan.'

From the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, Luton, Beds., to the Countess of Cowes, London.

'Dearest Mother,—I am too, too, too happy. It is no use writing about it. I would if I could, but I can't. He is delighted with Coombe, and says the verdure is something wonderful. We got here just as the sun was setting. There were all Aunt Carrie's school children out to meet us, with baskets of roses. Piero said they looked like bigger roses themselves. He is enchanted with our rural England. It is very fine to-day, and I do so hope it won't rain, but the glass is falling. Forgive a hurried word like this. I am going to take Piero on the lake. I know you haven't liked it, dear; but I am sure when you see how happy I am you will say there was never anyone like him on earth.

'He is an angel. We ride in the morning, we sing and play in the evening. We adore each other all the twenty-four hours through. I wonder however I could have lived without him. I am longing to see all he tells me about his great marble palaces, and his immense dreamlike villas, and his gardens with their multitude of statues, and the wonderful light that is over it all. He protests it is always twilight with us in England. It seems so absurd, when nowadays everybody knows everything about everywhere, that I should never have been to Italy. But we were such country mice down at dear, old, dull, green, muddy Ditchworth. Lanciano, the biggest of all their big places, must be like a poem. It is a great house, all of different coloured marbles, set amidst ilex groves on the mountain side, with cascades like Terni, and gardens that were planned by Giulio Romano, and temples that were there in the days of Horace. I long to see it all, and yet I hope he will not want to leave Coombe yet. There is no place like the place where one is first happy. And somehow, I fancy I look better in these homely, low rooms of Aunt Carrie's, with their Chippendale furniture and their smell of dry rose leaves, than I shall do in those enormous palaces which want a Semiramis or a Cleopatra. They were kind enough to make a fuss about me in London, but I never thought much of myself, and I am afraid I must feel rather dull to Piero, who is so brilliant himself, and has all kinds of talents.'

From the Countess of Cowes, Cowes House, London, to the Duchess of Dunne, Wavernake, Worcestershire.

'No, I confess I do not approve of the marriage; it will take her away from us, and I am afraid she won't be happy. She has always had such very exaggerated ideas. She is not in the least the girl of the period. Of course, she was taken by his picturesque face and his admirable manners. His manners are really wonderful in these days, when our men have none at all; and he has charmingly caressing and deferential ways which even win me. I cannot wonder at her, poor child, but I am afraid; candidly, I am afraid! He makes all our men look like ploughboys. And it was all done in such tremendous haste that she had no time to reason or reflect; and I don't think they have said two serious words to each other. If only it had been dear old Hampshire, whom we have known all our lives, and whose lands march with ours! But that was too good to be, I suppose, and there was no positive objection we could raise to San Zenone. We could not refuse his proposals merely because he is too good-looking, isn't an Englishman, and has a mother who is reputed maîtresse femme! Gladys writes from Coombe as from the seventh heaven. They have been married three days! But I fear she will have trouble before her. I fear he is weak and unstable, and will not back her up amongst his own people when she goes amongst them; and though, now-a-days, a man and woman, once wedded, see so little of each other, Gladys is not quite of the time in her notions. She will take it all very seriously, poor child, and expect the idyl to be prolonged over the honeymoon. And she is very English in her tastes, and has been so very little out of England. However, every girl in London is envying her; it is only her father and I who see these little black specks on the fruit she has plucked. They are gone to Coombe by her wish. I think it would have been wiser not to subject an Italian to such an ordeal as a wet English June in an utterly lonely country house. You know, even Englishmen, who can always find such refuge and comfort in prize pigs and strawyards, and unusually big mangolds, get bored if they are in the country when there is nothing to shoot, and Englishmen are used to being drenched to the skin every time they move out. He is not. Lord Cowes says love is like a cotton frock—very pretty as long as the sun shines, but it won't stand a wetting. I wish you had been here; Gladys looked quite lovely. The Cardinal most kindly relented, and the whole thing went off very well. Of the San Zenone family, there was only present Don Fabrizio, the younger son, a very good-looking young man. The terrible Duchess didn't come, on account, I think, of her sulks. She hates the marriage on her side as much as we do on ours, I am sure. Really, one must believe a little bit in fate. I do think that Gladys would soon have resigned herself to accepting Hampshire, out of sheer fatigue at saying "No," and, besides, she knew that we are so fond of him, and to live in the same county was such an attraction. But this irresistible young Roman must take it into his head that he wished to see a London season, and when once they had met (it was one afternoon at Ranelagh) there was no more chance for our poor, dear, good, stupid neighbour. Well, we must hope for the best!'

From the Principe Piero di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, to the Duchessa dell'Aquila Fulva, Palazzo Fulva, Rome.

'Carissima Mia,—There are quantities of birds in little green nests at this season. I am in a green nest. I never saw anything so green as this Paradise of mine. It is certainly Paradise. If I feel a little like a fish out of water instead of a happy bird in it, it is only because I have been such a sinner. No doubt it is only that. Paradise is chilly; this is its only fault. It is the sixth of June and we have fires. Fires in the dressing-rooms, fires in the drawing-rooms, fires at both ends of the library, fires on both sides of the hall, fires everywhere; and with all of them I shiver. I cannot help shivering, and I feel convinced that in my rapture I have mistaken the month—it must be December! It is all extraordinarily trim and neat here; the whole place looks in such perfect order that it might have been taken out of a box of German toys last night. I have a little the sensation of being always at church. That, no doubt, is the effect of the first step towards virtue that I have ever made. Pray do not think that I am not perfectly happy. I should be more sensible of my happiness, no doubt, if I had not quite such a feeling, due to the dampness of the air, of having been put into an aquarium, like a jelly-fish. But Gladys is adorable in every way; and if she were not quite so easily scared, would be perfection. It was that little air of hers, like that of some irresistible Alpine flower, which bewitched me. But when one has got the Alpine flower, one cannot live for ever on it!—however ma basta! I was curious to know what a northern woman was like; I know now. She is exquisite, but a little monotonous, and a little prudish. Certainly she will never compromise me; but then, perhaps, she will never let me compromise myself, and that will be terrible! I am ungrateful; all men are ungrateful; but, then, is it not a little the women's fault? They do keep so very close to one. Now, an angel, you know, becomes tiresome if one never gets out of the shadow of its wings—here, at Coombe Bysset, the angel fills the horizon, and one's distance is a Botticelli picture!'

From the Duchessa dell'Aquila Fulva, Palazzo Fulva, Rome, to the Principe Piero di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, Luton, Beds., England.

'Caro mio Pierino,—Are you sure you have an angel? People have a trick of always calling very commonplace women angels. "She is an angel" is a polite way of saying "she is a bore." I am not sure either that I should care to live with a veritable angel. One would see too much of the wings, as you say; and even a guardian angel must be the terzo incommodo sometimes. Why would you marry an English girl? I daresay she is so good-tempered that she never contradicts you, and you grow peevish out of sheer weariness at having everything your own way. If you had married Nicoletta, as I wanted you to do, she would have flown at you, like a little tigress, a dozen times a week, and kept you on the qui vive to please her. We know what our own men want. I have half a mind to write to your wife and tell her that no Italian is comfortable unless he has his ears boxed twice a day. If your wife would be a little disagreeable, probably you would adore her. But it is a great mistake, Pierino mio, to confuse marriage and love. In reality, they have no more to do with one another than a horse chestnut and a chestnut horse; than the zuccone that means a vegetable, and the zuccone that means a simpleton. I should imagine that your wet English bird's-nest will force you to realise this truth with lamentable rapidity.'

From the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, Luton, Beds., to Lady Gwendoline Dormer, British Embassy, Vienna.

'Dearest Gwen,—I did promise, I know, to write to you at once, and tell you everything; and a whole week is gone and I couldn't do it, I really couldn't; and even now I don't know where to begin. I suppose I am dreadfully vieux jeu. I suppose you will only laugh at me, and say "spoons." How glad I am Piero cannot say a word of English, and so I never hear that dreadful jargon which I do think so ugly and so vulgar, though you are all so fond of it. I ought not to have come to Coombe Bysset; at least, they all said it was silly. Nessie Fitzgerald was back in London before the week was out, and doing a play. To be sure she was married in October, and she didn't care a bit about him, and I suppose that made all the difference. To me, it seems so much more natural to shut one's self up, and Piero thought so too; but I am half afraid he finds it a little dull now. You see, we knew very little of one another. He came for a month of the London season, and he met me at Ranelagh, and he danced the cotillon with me at a good many houses, and we cared for one another in a week, and were married in a month, as you know. Papa hated it because it wasn't Lord Burlington or Lord Hampshire. But he couldn't really object, because the San Zenone are such a great Roman family, and all the world knows them; and they are Spanish dukes as well as Italian princes. And Piero is such a grand gentleman, and made quite superb settlements; much more, Papa said, than he could have expected, so poor as we are. But what I meant was, meeting like that in the rush of the season, at balls and dinners and garden parties, and luncheons at Hurlingham, and being married to one another just before Ascot, we really knew nothing at all of each other's tastes or habits or character. And when, on the first morning at Coombe, we realised that we were together for life, I think we both felt very odd. We adored one another, but we didn't know what to talk about; we never had talked to each other; we never had time. And I am afraid there is something of this feeling with him. I am afraid he is dreadfully bored, and I told him so, and he answered, "My dear little angel, your admirable countrymen are not bored in the country because they are always eating. They eat a big breakfast, they eat a big luncheon, they eat a big dinner, they are always eating. Myself, I have not that resource. Give me a little coffee and a little wine, and let me eat only once a day. You never told me I was expected to absorb continually food like the crocodiles." What would he say if he saw a hunting breakfast in the shires? I suppose life is very material in England. I think it is why there is so much typhoid fever. Do you know, he wasn't going to dress for dinner because we were alone. As if that was any reason! I told him it would look so odd to the servants if he didn't dress, so he has done so since. But he says it was a seccatura (this means, I believe, a bore), and he told me we English sacrifice our whole lives to fuss, form and the outside of things. There is a good deal of truth in this. What numbers of people one knows who are ever so poor, and who yet, for the sake of the look of the thing, get into debt over their ears! And then, quantities of them go to church for the form of the thing, when they don't believe one atom; they will tell you at luncheon that they don't. I fancy Italians are much more honest than we are in this sort of way. Piero says if they are poor, they don't mind saying so, and if they have no religion, they don't pretend to have any. He declares we English spoil all our lives because we fancy it is our duty to pretend to be something we are not. Now, isn't that really very true? I am sure you would delight in all he says. He is so original, so unconventional; our people think him ignorant, because he doesn't read, and doesn't care a straw about politics. But I assure you he is as clever as anything can be; and he doesn't get his ideas out of newspapers; nor repeat like a parrot what his chief of party tells him. I do wish you could have come over and could have seen him. It was so unkind of you to be ill just at the very time of my marriage. You know that it is only to you that I ever say quite what I feel about things. The girls are too young, and Mamma doesn't understand. She never could see why I would not marry poor Hampshire. She always said that I should care for him in time. I don't think Mamma can ever have been in love with anybody. I wonder what she married for—don't you?'

From the Principe Piero di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, to the Count Zazzari, Italian Legation, London.

'Caro Gigi,—Pray send me all the French novels you can find, and a case of Turkish cigarettes. I am in Paradise, but Paradise is a little dull, and exceedingly damp, at least in England. Does it always rain in this country? It has rained here without stopping for seventeen days and a half. I produce upon myself the impression of being one of those larks who sit behind wires on a little square of wet grass. I should like to run up to London. I see you have Sarah and Coquelin and the others; but I suppose it would be against all the unwritten canons of a honeymoon. What a strange institution. A honeymoon! Who first invented it?'

From the Principe di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, Luton, Beds., to the Duchessa dell'Aquila Fulva, Palazzo Fulva, Milano.

'Cara Teresina,—I ought to have written to you long since, but you know I am not fond of writing. I really, also, have nothing to say. Happy the people who have no history! I am like that people. I was made happy two weeks ago; I have been happy ever since. It is slightly monotonous. How can you vary happiness, except by quarrelling a little? And then it would not be happiness any longer. It seems to me that happiness is like an omelette, best impromptu.

'Do not think that I am ungrateful, however, either to fate or to the charming innocent who has become my companion. We have not two ideas in common. She is lovely to look at, to caress, to adore; but what to say to her I confess I have no notion. Love ought never to have to find dinner-table conversation. He ought to climb up by a ladder, and get over a balcony, and, when his ecstasies are ended, he ought to go the same way. I fancy she is much better educated than I am, but, as that would be a discovery fatal to our comfort, I endeavour not to make it. She is extraordinarily sweet-tempered: indeed, so much so, that it makes me angry; it gives one no excuse for being impatient. She is divine, exquisite, nymph-like; but, alas, she is a prude!

'Never was any creature on earth so exquisitely sensitive, so easily shocked. To live with her is to walk upon eggshells. Of course, it is very nice in a wife; very "proper," as the English say; but it is not amusing. It amused me at first, but now it seems to me a defect. She has brought me down to this terribly damp and very green place, where it rains every day and night. There is a library without novels; there is a cellar without absinthe; there is a cuisine without tomatoes, or garlic, or any oil at all; there is an admirably-ordered establishment, so quiet that I fancy I am in a penitentiary. There are some adorably fine horses, and there are acres of glasshouses used to grow fruits that we throw in Italy to the pigs. By the way, there are also several of our field flowers in the conservatories. We eat pretty nearly all day; there is nothing else to do. Outside, the scenery is oppressively green, the green of spinach; there is no variety, there are no ilexes and there are no olives. I understand now why the English painters give such staring colours; unless the colours scream, you don't see them in this aqueous, dim atmosphere. That is why a benign Providence has made the landscape a purée aux epinards.

'I think the air here, inside and out, must weigh heavily; it lies on one's lungs like a sponge. I once went down in a diving-bell when I was a boy; I have the sensation in this country of being always down in a diving-bell. The scamp Toniello, whom you may remember as having played Leporello to my Don Giovanno ever since we were lads, amuses himself with making love to all the pretty maidens in the village; but, then, I must not do that—now. They are not very pretty either. They have very big teeth, and very long upper lips. Their skins, however, are admirable. For a horse's skin and a woman's, there is no land comparable to England. It is the country of grooming.'

From the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, to Lady Gwendolen Chichester, British Embassy, Petersburg.

'He laughed at me because I went to church yesterday, and really I only went because I thought it right. We have been here a fortnight, and I have never been to church at all till yesterday, and you know how very serious dear Aunt Carrie is. To-day, as it is the second Sunday I have been here, I thought I ought to go just once, and I did go; but it was dreadfully pompous and lonely in the big red pew, and the villagers stared so, and all the little girls of the village giggled, and looked at me from under their sun-bonnets. Dear Mr Coate preached a sermon on Marriage. It was very kind of him; but, oh, how I wished he hadn't! When I got back, Piero was playing billiards with his servant. I wondered what Mr Coate would have thought of him. To be sure, English clergymen have to get used to fast Sundays now, when the country houses are full. It is such a dear little yew walk to the church from the house here, not twenty yards long, and all lined with fuchsia. Do you remember it? Even Piero admits that it is very pretty, only he says it is a vignette prettiness, which, I suppose, is true. "You can see no horizon, only a green wall," he keeps complaining; and his beautiful, lustrous eyes look as if they were made to gaze through endless fields of light. When I asked him yesterday what he really thought of England, what do you suppose he said? He said, "Mia cara, I think it would be a most delightful country if it had one-fifth of its population, one-half of its houses, a tithe of its dinners, a quarter of its machinery, none of its factories, none of its tramways, and a wholly different atmosphere!" I suppose this means that he dislikes it. I think him handsomer than ever. I sent you his photograph, but that can give you no idea of him. He is like one of his own marble statues. We came to Coombe Bysset directly after the ceremony, and we are here still. I could stay on for ever. It is so lovely in these Bedfordshire woods in mid-June. But I am afraid—just the very least bit afraid—that Piero may get bored with me—me—me—nothing but me.

'You know I never was clever, and really—really—I haven't an idea what to talk to him about when we don't talk about ourselves. And then the weather provokes him. We have hardly had one fine day since we came; and no doubt it seems very grey and chilly to an Italian. "It cannot be June!" he says a dozen times a week. And when the whole day is rainy, as it is very often, for our Junes are such wet ones nowadays, I can see he gets impatient. He doesn't care for reading; he is fond of billiards, but I don't play a good enough game to be any amusement to him. And though he sings divinely, as I told you, he sings as the birds do; only just when the mood is on him. He does not care about music as a science in the least. He laughed when I said so. He declared it was no more a science than love is. Perhaps love ought to be a science too, in a way, or else it won't last? There has been a scandal in the village, caused by his servant, Toniello. An infuriated father came up to the house this morning about it. He is named John Best; he has one of Aunt Carrie's biggest farms. He was in such a dreadful rage, and I had to talk to him, because, of course, Piero couldn't understand him. Only when I translated what he said, Piero laughed till he cried, and offered him a cigarette, and called him "figlio mio," which only made Mr John Best purple with fury, and he went away in a greater rage than he had been in when he came, swearing he "would do for the Papist." I have sent for the steward. I am afraid Aunt Carrie will be terribly annoyed. It has always been such a model village. Not a public-house near for six miles, and all the girls such demure, quiet little maidens. This terrible Roman valet, with his starry eyes and his mandoline, and his audacities, has been like Mephistopheles in the opera to this secluded and innocent little hamlet. I beg Piero to send him away, but he looks unutterably reproachful, and declares he really cannot live without Toniello; and what can I say?'

From the Lady Gwendolen Chichester, S. Petersburg, to the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset.

'You are quite in the wrong, my poor pet. If you were only a little older, and ever so much wiser, you would have telegraphed to the libraries yourself for the French books; you would have laughed at them when he laughed, and instead of taking Mr John Best as a tragedy, you would have made him into a little burlesque, which would have amused your husband for five minutes, as much as Gyp or Jean Richepin. I begin to think I should have married your Roman prince, and you should have married my good, dull George, whom a perverse destiny has shoved into diplomacy. Your Roman scandalises you, and my George bores me. Such is marriage, my dear, all the world over. What is the old story? That Jove split all the walnuts in two, and each half is always uselessly seeking its fellow.'

From the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, Luton, Beds., to the Lady Gwendolen Chichester, British Embassy, S. Petersburg.

'But, surely, if he loved me, he would be as perfectly happy with me alone as I am with him alone? I want no other companion—no other interest—no other thought.'

From the Lady Gwendolen Chichester, British Embassy S. Petersburg, to the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, Luton, Beds.

'Of course you do not, because you are a woman. San Zenone is your god, your idol, your ideal, your universe. But you are only one out of the many women who have pleased him, and attached to the pleasure you afford him is the very uncomfortable conviction that he will never be able to get away from you. My dear child, I have no patience with any woman when she says, "He does not love me." If he does not, it is probably the woman's fault. Probably she has worried him. Love dies directly it is worried, quite naturally. Poor Gladys! You were always such a good child; you were always devoted to your old women, and your queer little orphans, and your pet cripples, and your East-End missions. It certainly is hard that you should have fallen into the hands of a soulless Italian, who reads naughty novels all day long and sighs for the flesh-pots of Egypt! But, my child, in reason's name, what did you expect? Did you think that all in a moment he would sigh to hear Canon Farrar; the excellent vicar's sermons; take his guitar to a village concert, and teach Italian to the lodge-keeper's children? Be reasonable, and let your poor caged bird fly out of Coombe Bysset; which will certainly be your worst enemy if you shut him up in it much longer.'

From the Principe di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, to the Duchessa dell'Aquila Fulva, Monterone, Val d'Aosta.

'I am still in my box of wet moss. I have been in it two weeks, four days, and eleven hours, by the calendar and the clocks. I have read all my novels. I have spelled through my Figaro, from the title to the printer's address, every morning. I have smoked twenty cigarettes every twenty minutes, and I have yawned as many times. This is Paradise, I know it; I tell myself so; but still I cannot help it—I yawn. There is a pale, watery sun, which shines fitfully. There is a quantity of soaked hay, which they are going to dry by machinery. There is a great variety of muddy lanes in which to ride. There is a post-office seven miles off, and a telegraph station fifteen miles further off. The ensemble is not animated. When you go out you see very sleek cattle, very white sheep, very fat children. You may meet, at intervals, labouring people, very round shouldered and very sulky. You also meet, if you are in luck's way, with a traction engine; and wherever you look you perceive a church steeple. It is all very harmless, except the traction engine; but it is not animated or enlivening. You will not wonder that I soon came to the end of my French novels. The French novels have enabled me to discover that my angel is very easily ruffled. In fact, she is that touchy thing—a saint. I had no idea that she was a saint when I saw her drinking her cup of tea in that garden on the Thames. True, she had her lovely little serene, holy, noli me tangere air, but I thought that would pass; it does not pass. And when I wanted her to laugh with me at Gyp's 'Autour du Mariage', she blushed up to the eyes, and was offended. What am I to do? I am no saint. I cannot pretend to be one. I am not worse than other men, but I like to amuse myself. I cannot go through life singing a miserere. I am afraid we shall quarrel. You think that very wholesome. But there are quarrels and quarrels. Some clear the air like thunderstorms. Ours are little irritating differences which end in her bursting into tears, and in myself looking ridiculous and feeling a brute. She has cried quite a number of times in the last fortnight. I daresay if she went into a rage, as you justly say Nicoletta would do, and you might have added you have done, it would rouse me, and I should be ready to strike her, and should end in covering her with kisses. But she only turns her eyes on me like a dying fawn, bursts into tears, and goes out of the room. Then she comes in again—to dinner, perhaps, or to that odd ceremony, five o'clock tea—with her little sad, stiff, reproachful air as of a martyr; answers meekly, and makes me again feel a brute. The English sulk a long time, I think. We are at daggers drawn one moment, but then we kiss and forget the next. We are more passionate, but we are more amiable. I want to get away, to go to Paris, Homburg, Trouville, anywhere; but I dare not propose it. I only drop adroit hints. If I should die of ennui, and be buried under the wet moss for ever, weep for me.'

From the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, to Lady Gwendolen Chichester, S. Petersburg.

'Coombe is quite too lovely now. It does rain sometimes, certainly, but between the showers it is so delicious. I asked Piero to come out and hear the nightingale; there really is one in the home wood, and he laughed at the idea. He said, "We have hundreds of nightingales shouting all day and all night at Lanciano. We don't think about them, we eat them in pasta; they are very good." Fancy eating a nightingale! You might as well eat Romeo and Juliet. Piero has got a number of French books from London, and he lies about on the couches and reads them. He wants me to listen to naughty bits of fun out of them, but I will not, and then he calls me a prude, and gets angry. I don't see why he shouldn't laugh as much as he likes himself without telling me why he laughed. I dislike that sort of thing. I am horribly afraid I shall care for nothing but him all my life, while he—he yawned yesterday! Papa said to me, before we were married, "My dear little girl, San Zenone put on such a lot of steam at first, he'll be obliged to ease his pace after a bit. Don't be vexed if you find the thing cooling!" Now, Papa speaks so oddly; always that sort of floundering, bald metaphor, you remember it; but I knew what he meant. Nobody could go on being such a lover as Piero was. Ah, dear, is it in the past already? No, I don't quite mean that. He is Romeo still very often, and he sings me the divinest love songs, lying at my feet on cushions in the moonlight. But it is not quite the same thing as it was at first. He found fault with one of my gowns this morning, and said I don't know how de me faire valoir. I am terribly frightened lest Coombe has bored him too much. I would come here. I wanted to be utterly out of the world, and so did he; and I'm sure there isn't a lover's nest anywhere comparable to Coombe in midsummer. You remember the rose garden, and the lime avenues, and the chapel ruins by the little lake? When Aunt Carrie offered it to us for this June I was so delighted, but now I am half afraid the choice of it was a mistake, and that he does not know what to do with himself. He is dépaysé. I cried a little yesterday; it was too silly, but I couldn't help it. He laughed at me, but he got a little angry. "Enfin que veux tu?" he said impatiently; "je suis à toi, bien à toi, beaucoup trop à toi!" He seemed to me to regret being mine. I told him so; he was more angry. It was, I suppose, what you would call a scene. In five minutes he was penitent, and caressed me as only he can do; and the sun came out, and we went into the woods and heard the nightingale; but the remembrance of it alarms me. If he can say as much as this in a month, what can he say in a year? I do not think I am silly. I had two London seasons, and all those country houses show one the world. I know people, when they are married, are always glad to get away from one another—they are always flirting with other people. But I should be miserable if I thought it would ever be like that with Piero and me. I worship his very shadow, and he does—or he did—worship mine. Why should that change? Why should it not go on for ever, as it does in poems? If it can't, why doesn't one die?'

From the Lady Gwendolen Chichester, S. Petersburg, to the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset.

'What a goose you are, you dearest Gladys! You were always like that. To all you have said I can only reply, connu. When girls are romantic (and you always were, though it was quite gone out ages before our time), they always expect husbands to remain lovers. Now, my pet, you might just as well expect hay to remain grass. Papa was quite right. When there is such a lot of steam on, it must go off by degrees. I am afraid, too, you have begun with the passion, and the rapture, and the mutual adoration, and all the rest of it, which is quite, quite gone out. People don't feel in that sort of way nowadays. Nobody cares much; a sort of good-humoured liking is the utmost one sees. But you were always such a goose! And now you must marry an Italian, and expect it all to be balconies and guitars and moonlight for ever and ever. I think it quite natural he should want to get to Paris. You should never have taken him to Coombe. I do remember the rose gardens, and the lime avenues, and the ruins; and I remember being sent down there when I had too strong a flirtation with Philip Rous, who was in F. O., and had nothing a year. You were a baby then, and I remember that I was bored to the very brink of suicide; that I have detested the smell of a lime tree ever since. I can sympathise with the Prince, if he longs to get away. There can't be anything for him to do, all day long, except smoke. The photo of him is wonderfully handsome, but can you live all your life, my dear, on a profile?'

From the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, to the Lady Gwendolen Chichester, S. Petersburg.

'Because almost all Englishmen have snub noses, Englishwomen always think there is something immoral and delusive about a good profile. At all events, you will admit that the latter is the more agreeable object of contemplation. It still rains, rains dreadfully. The meadows are soaked, and they can't get the hay in, and we can't get out of the house. Piero does smoke, and he does yawn. He has been looking in the library for a French novel, but there is nothing except Mrs Craven's goody-goody books, and a boy's tale by Jules Verne. I am afraid you and Mamma are right. Coombe, in a wet June, is not the place for a Roman who knows his Paris by heart, and doesn't like the country anywhere. We seem to do nothing but eat. I put on an ulster and high boots, and I don't mind the rain a bit; but he screams when he sees me in an ulster. "You have no more figure in that thing than if you were a Bologna sausage," he says to me; and certainly ulsters are very ugly. But I had a delicious fortnight with the Duchess in a driving tour in Westmeath. We only took our ulsters with us, and it poured all the time, and we stayed in bed in the little inns while our things dried, and it was immense fun; the Duke drove us. But Piero would not like that sort of thing. He is like a cat about rain. He likes to shut the house up early, and have the electric light lit, and forget that it is all slop and mist outside. He declares that we have made a mistake in the calendar, and that it is November, not June. I change my gowns three times a day, just as if there were a large house party, but I feel I look awfully monotonous to him. I am afraid I never was amusing. I always envy those women who are all chic and "go," who can make men laugh so at rubbish. They seem to carry about with them a sort of exhilarating ether. I don't think they are the best sort of women, but they do so amuse the men. I would give twenty years of my life if I could amuse Piero. He adores me, but that is another thing. That does not prevent him shaking the barometer and yawning. He seems happiest when he is talking Italian with his servant, Toniello. Toniello is allowed to play billiards with him sometimes. He is a very gay, merry, saucy, brown-eyed Roman. He has made all the maids in the house, and all the farmers' daughters round Coombe, in love with him, and I told you how he had scandalised one of the best tenants, Mr John Best. The Bedford rustics all vow vengeance against him, but he twangs his mandoline, and sings away at the top of his voice, and doesn't care a straw that the butler loathes him, the house steward abhors him, the grooms would horsewhip him if they dare, and the young farmers audibly threaten to duck him in the pond. Toniello is very fond of his master, but he does not extend his allegiance to me. Do you remember Mrs Stevens, Aunt Caroline's model housekeeper? You should see her face when she chances to hear Piero laughing and talking with Toniello. I think she believes that the end of the world has come. Piero calls Toniello "figliolo mio" and "caro mio," just as if they were cousins or brothers. It appears this is the Italian way. They are very proud in their own fashion, but it isn't our fashion. However, I am glad the man is there when I hear the click of the billiard balls, and the splash of the raindrops on the window panes. "We have been here just three weeks. Dio! It seems three years," Piero said, when I reminded him of it this morning. For me, I don't know whether it is like a single day's dream or a whole eternity. You know what I mean. But I wish—I wish—it seemed either the day's dream or the eternity of Paradise to him! I daresay it is all my fault in coming to these quiet, bay-windowed, Queen Anne rooms, and the old-fashioned servants, and the dreary look-out over the drenched hay-fields. But the sun does come out sometimes, and then the wet roses smell so sweet, and the wet lime blossoms glisten in the light, and the larks sing overhead, and the woods are so green and so fresh. Still, I don't think he likes it even then, it is all too moist, too windy, too dim for him. When I put a rose in his button-hole this morning, it shook the drops over him, and he said, "Mais quel pays!—même une fleur c'est une douche d'eau froide!" Last month, if I had put a dandelion in his coat, he would have sworn it had the odour of the magnolia and the beauty of the orchid! It is just twenty-two days ago since we came here, and for the first four or five days, he never cared whether it rained or not; he only cared to lie at my feet, really, literally. We were all in all to each other, just like Cupid and Psyche. And now—he will play billiards with Toniello to pass the time, and he is longing for his petits théâtres! Is it my fault? I torment myself with a thousand self-accusations. Is it possible I can have been tiresome, dull, over-exacting? Is it possible he can be disappointed in me?'

From the Lady Gwendolen Chichester, S. Petersburg, to the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset.

'No, it isn't your fault, you dear little donkey; it is only the natural sequence of things. Men are always like that when the woman loves them; when she don't, they behave much better. My dear, this is just what is so annoying about love; the man's is always going slower and slower towards a dead stop, as the woman's is "coaling" and getting steam up. I borrow Papa's admirably accurate metaphor, nothing can be truer. It is a great pity, but I suppose the fault is Nature's. Entre nous, I don't think Nature ever contemplated marriage, any more than she did crinolettes, pearl powder, or the electric light. There is no doubt that Nature intended to adjust the thing on the butterfly and buttercup system; on the je reste, tu t'en vas, principle. And nothing would be easier or nicer, only there are children and poverty. So the butterfly has to be pinned down by the buttercup. That is why the Communists and Anarchists always abolish Property and Marriage together. The one is evolved out of the other, just as the dear scientists say the horse was evolved out of a bird, which I never can see makes the matter any easier of comprehension; but, still—what was I saying? Oh, I meant to say this: you are only lamenting, as a special defalcation and disloyalty in San Zenone, what is merely his unconscious and involuntary and perfectly natural alteration from a lover into a husband. The butterfly is beginning to feel the pin, which has been run through him to stick him down. It is not your fault, my sweet little girl; it is the fault, if at all, of the world, which has decreed that the butterfly, to flirt legitimately with the buttercup, must suffer the corking pin. Now, take my advice: the pin is in, don't worry if he writhe on it a little bit! It is only what the beloved scientists again call automatic action. And do try and beat into your little head the fact that a man may love you very dearly, and yet yearn a little for the petits théâtres in the silent recesses of his manly breast. Of course, I know this sort of rough awakening from delightful dreams is harder for you than it is for most, because you began at such tremendous altitudes. You had your Ruy Blas and Petrarca, and the mandoline and the moonlight, and the love-philtres, all mixed up in an intoxicating draught. You have naturally a great deal more disillusion to go through than if you had married a country squire, or a Scotch laird, who would never have suggested any romantic delights. One cannot go near Heaven without coming down with a crash, like the poor men in the balloons. You have been up in your balloon, and you are now coming down. Ah, my dear, everything depends on how you come down. You will think me a monster for saying so, but it will rest so much in your own hands. You won't believe it, but it will. If you come down with tact and good-humour, it will all be right afterwards; but if you show temper, as men say of their horses, why, then, the balloon will lie prone, a torn, empty, useless bag, that will never again get off the ground. To speak plainly, dear, if you will receive with resignation and sweetness the unpleasant discovery that San Zenone is mortal, you won't be unhappy, and you will soon get used to it; but if you perpetually fret about it, you won't alter him, and you will both be miserable; or, if not miserable, you will do something worse; you will each find your amusement in somebody else. I know you so well, my poor, pretty Gladys; you want such an immense quantity of sympathy and affection, but you won't get it, my dear child. I quite understand that the Prince looks like a picture, and he has made life an erotic poem for you for a month, and the inevitable reaction which follows seems dull as ditch water, you would even say as cruel as the grave. But it is nothing new. Do try and get that well in your mind. Try, too, and be as light-hearted as you can. Men hate an unamusable woman. Make believe to laugh at the French novels, if you can't really do it; if you don't, dear, he will go to somebody else who will. Why do those demi-monde women get such preference over us? Only because they don't bore their men. A man would sooner we flung a champagne glass at his head than cried for five minutes. We can't fling champagne glasses; the prejudices of our education are against it. It is an immense loss to us; we must make up for it as much as we can by being as agreeable as we know how to be. We shall always be a dozen lengths behind those others who do fling the glasses. By the way, you said in one of your earliest notes that you wondered why our mother ever married. I am not sufficiently au courant with pre-historic times to be able to tell you why, but I can see what she has done since she did marry. She has always effaced herself in the very wisest and most prudent manner. She has never begrudged Papa his Norway fishing, or his August yachting, though she knew he could ill afford them. She has never bored him with herself, or about us. She has constantly urged him to go away and enjoy himself, and when he is down with her in the country she always takes care that all the women he admires, and all the men who best amuse him, shall be invited in relays, to prevent his being dull or feeling teased for a moment. I am quite sure she has never cared the least about her own wishes, but has only studied his. This is what I call being a clever woman and a good woman. But I fear such women are as rare as blue roses. Try and be like her, my dear. She was quite as young as you are now when she married. But unfortunately, in truth, you are a terrible little egotist. You want to shut up this beautiful Roman all alone with you in a kind of attitude of perpetual adoration—of yourself. That is what women call affection; you are not alone in your ideas. Some men submit to this sort of demand, and go about for ever held tight in a leash, like unslipped pointers. The majority—well, the majority bolt. And I am sure I should if I were one of them. I do not think you could complain if your beautiful Romeo did. I can see you so exactly, with your pretty, little, grave face, and your eyes that have such a fatal aptitude for tears, and your solemn little views about matrimony and its responsibilities, making yourself quite odious to this mirthful Apollo of yours, and innocently believing all the while that you are pleasing Heaven and saving your own dignity by being so remarkably unpleasant! Are you very angry with me? I am afraid so. Myself, I would much sooner have an unfaithful man than a dull one; the one may be bored by you, but the other bores you, which is immeasurably worse.'

From the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, to the Lady Gwendolen Chichester, S. Petersburg.

"Dear Gwen,—How can you possibly tell what Mamma did when she was young? I daresay she fretted dreadfully. Now, of course, she has got used to it—like all other miserable women. If people marry only to long to be with other people, what is the use of being married at all? I said so to Piero, and he answered, very insolently, "Il n'y a point! Si on le savait!" He sent for some more dreadful French books, Gyp's and Richepin's and Gui de Maupassant's, and he lies about reading them all day long when he isn't asleep. He is very often asleep in the daytime. He apologises when he is found out, but he yawns as he does so. You say I should amuse him, but I can't amuse him. He doesn't care for any English news, and he is beginning to get irritable because I cannot talk to him in Italian, and he declares my French detestable, and there is always something dreadful happening. There has been such a terrible scene in the village. Four of the Coombe Bysset men, two blacksmiths, a carpenter, and a labourer, have ducked Toniello in the village pond on account of his attention to their womenkind; and Toniello, when he staggered out of the weeds and the slime, drew his knife on them and stabbed two very badly. Of course, he has been taken up by the constables, and the men he hurt moved to the county hospital. The magistrates are furious and scandalised; and Piero!—Piero has nobody to play billiards with him. When the magistrates interrogated him about Toniello, as, of course, they were obliged to do, he got into a dreadful passion because one of them said that it was just like a cowardly Italian to carry a knife and make use of it. Piero absolutely hissed at the solemn old gentleman who mumbled this. "And your people," he cried, "are they so very courageous? Is it better to beat a man into a jelly, or kick a woman with nailed boots, as your English mob does? Where is there anything cowardly? He was one against four. In my country there is not a night that goes by without a rissa of that sort, but nobody takes any notice. The jealous persons are left to fight it out as best they may; after all, it is the women's fault." And then he said some things that really I cannot repeat, and it was a mercy that, as he spoke in the most rapid and furious French, the old gentleman did not, I think, understand a syllable. But they saw he was in a passion, and that scandalised them, because, you know, English people always think that you should keep your bad temper for your own people at home. Meantime, of course, Toniello is in prison, and I am afraid they won't let us take him out on bail, because he has hurt one of the blacksmiths dreadfully. Aunt Carrie's solicitors are doing what they can for him, to please me, but I can see they consider it all peines perdues for a rogue who ought to be hanged. "And to think," cries Toniello, "that in my own country I should have all the populace with me. The very carabineers themselves would have been with me! Accidente a tutti quei grulli," which means, "may apoplexy seize these fools." "They were only the women's husbands," he adds, with scorn; "they are well worth making a fuss about, certainly!" Then Piero consoles him, and gives him cigarettes, and is obliged to leave him sobbing and tearing his hair, and lying face downward on his bed of sacking. I thought Piero would not leave the poor fellow alone in prison, and so I supposed he would give up all idea of going from here, and so I began to say to myself, "A quelque chose malheur est bon." But to-day, at luncheon, Piero said "Sai carina! It was bad enough with Toniello, but without him, I tell you frankly, I cannot stand any more of it. With Toniello one could laugh and forget a little. But now—anima mia, if you do not wish me to kill somebody, and be lodged beside Toniello by your worthy law-givers, you must really let me go to Trouville." "Alone!" I said; and I believe it is what he did mean, only the horror in my voice frightened him from confessing it. He sighed and got up. "I suppose I shall never be alone any more," he said impatiently. "If only men knew what they do when they marry—on ne nous prendrait jamais. No—no. Of course, I meant that you will, I hope, consent to come away with me somewhere out of this intolerable place, which is made up of fog and green leaves. Let us go to Paris to begin with; there is not a soul there, and the theatres are en rélache, but it is always delightful, and then in a week or so we will go down to Trouville, all the world is there." I couldn't answer him for crying. Perhaps that was best, for I am sure I should have said something wicked, which might have divided us for ever. And then what would people have thought?'

From the Lady Gwendolen Chichester, S. Petersburg, to the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset.

'My poor little Dear,—Are you already beginning to be miserable about what people will think? Then, indeed, your days of joy are numbered. If I were to write to you fifty times I could only repeat what I have always written. You are not wise, and you are doing everything you ought not to do. Of two people who are married, there is always one who has the delusion that he or she is necessary and delightful to the life of the other. The other generally thinks just the contrary. The result is not peace. This gay, charming, handsome son of Rome has become your entire world, but don't suppose for a moment, my child, that you will ever be his. It is not in reason, not in Nature, that you should be. If you have the intelligence, the tact, and the forbearance required, you may become his friend and counsellor, but I fear you never will have these. You fret, you weep, and you understand nothing of the masculine temperament. "I see snakes," as the Americans observe; and you will not have either the coolness or the wisdom required to scotch a snake, much less to kill it. Once for all, my poor pet, go cheerfully to Paris, Trouville, and all the pleasure places in the world. Affect enjoyment if you feel it not, and try to remember, beyond everything, that affection is not to be retained or revived by either coercion or lamentation. Once dead, it is not to be awakened by all the "crooning" of its mourner. It is a corpse, for ever and aye. Myself, I fail to see how you could expect a young Italian, who has all the habits of the great world, and the memories of his vie de garçon, to be cheerful or contented in a wet June in an isolated English country house, with nobody to look at but yourself. Believe me, my dear child, it is the inordinate vanity of a woman which makes her imagine that she can be sufficient for her husband. Nothing but vanity. The cleverer a woman is, the more fully she recognises her own insufficiency for the amusement of a man, and the more carefully (if she be wise) does she take care that this deficiency in her shall never be forced upon his observation. Now, if you shut a man up with you in a country house, with the rain raining every day, as in Longfellow's poem, you do force it upon him most conspicuously. If you were not his wife, I daresay he would not tire of you, and he might even prefer a grey sky to a blue one. But as his wife!—oh, my dear, why, why don't you try and understand what a terrible penalty-weight you carry in the race? Write and tell me all about it. I shall be anxious. I am so afraid, my sweet little sister, that you think love is all moonlight and kisses, and forget that there are clouds in the sky and quarrels on earth. May Heaven save you from both. P.S.—Do remember that this same love requires just as delicate handling as a cobweb does. If a rough touch break the cobweb, all the artists in the world can't mend it. There is a wholesome truth for you. If you prevent his going to Paris now, he will go in six months' time, and perhaps, then, he will go without you. You are not wise, my poor pet; you should make him feel that you sympathise with his pleasures, not that you and his pleasures are enemies. But it is no use to instil wisdom into you; you are very young, and very much in love. You look on all the natural distractions which he inclines to, as on so many rivals. So they may be, but we don't beat our rivals by abusing them. The really wise way is to tacitly show that we can be more attractive than they; if we cannot be so, we may sulk or sigh as we will, we shall be vanquished by them. You will think me very preachy-preachy, and, perhaps, you will throw me in the fire unread; but I must say just one word more. Dear, you are in love with Love, but underneath Love there is a real man, and real men are far from ideal creatures. Now, it is the real man that you want to consider, to humour, to study. If the real man be pleased, Love will take care of himself; whereas if you bore the real man, Love will fly away. If you had been wise, my poor pet, I repeat, you would have found nothing so delightful as Gyp and Octave de Mirbeau, and you would have declared that the Paris asphalte excelled all the English lawns in the world. He does not love you the less because he wants to be dans le mouvement, to hear what other men are saying, and to smoke his cigar amongst his fellow-creatures.'

From the Duchessa dell'Aquila Fulva, Hotel des Roches Noires, Trouville, France, to the Principe di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, Luton, Beds., England.

'Poor flower, in your box of wet moss, what has become of you? Are you dead, and dried in your wife's hortus siccus? She would be quite sure of you then, and I daresay much happier than if you were set forth in anybody else's bouquet. I try in vain to imagine you in that "perfectly proper" atmosphere (is not that correct English, "perfectly proper"?) Will you be dreadfully changed when one sees you again? There is a French proverb which says that "the years of joy count double." The days of ennui certainly count for years, and give us grey hairs before we are five-and-twenty. But you know I cannot pity you. You would marry an English girl because she looked pretty sipping her tea. I told you beforehand that you would be miserable with her, once shut up in the country. The episode of Toniello is enchanting. What people!—to put him in prison for a little bit of chiasso like that! You should never have taken his bright eyes and his mandoline to that doleful and damp land of precisians. What will they do with him? And what can you do without him? The weather here is admirable. There are numbers of people one knows. It is really very amusing. I go and dance every night, and then we play—usually "bac" or roulette. Everybody is very merry. We all talk often of you, and say the De Profundis over you, my poor Piero. Why did your cruel destiny make you see a Sainte Nitouche drinking tea under a lime tree? I suppose Sainte Nitouche would not permit it, else, why not exchange the humid greenness of your matrimonial prison for the Rue des Planches and the Casino?'

From the Principe di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, to the Duchessa dell'Aquila Fulva, Trouville.

'Carissima Mia,—I have set light to the fuse! I have frankly declared that if I do not get out of this damp and verdant Bastile, I shall perish of sheer inanition and exhaustion. The effect of the declaration was for the moment such, that I hoped, actually hoped, that she was going to get into a passion! It would have been so refreshing! After twenty-six days of dumb acquiescence and silent tears, it would have been positively delightful to have had a storm. But, no! For an instant she looked at me with unspeakable reproach; the next her dove's eyes filled, she sighed, she left the room! Do they not say that feather beds offer an admirable defence against bullets? I feel like the bullet which has been fired into the feather bed. The feather bed is victorious. I see the Rue des Planches through the perspective of the watery atmosphere; the Casino seems to smile at me from the end of the interminable lime tree avenue, which is one of the chief beauties of this house; but, alas! they are both as far off as if Trouville were in the moon. What could they do to me if I came alone? Do you know what they could do? I have not the remotest idea, but I imagine something frightful. They shut up their public-houses by force, and their dancing places. Perhaps they would shut up me. In England, they have a great belief in creating virtue by Act of Parliament. In myself, this enforced virtue creates such a revolt that I shall tirer sur le mors, and fly before very long. The admired excellence of this beautiful estate is that it lies in a ring-fence. I feel that I shall take a leap over that ring-fence. Do not mistake me, cara mia Teresina, I am exceedingly fond of my wife. I think her quite lovely, simple, saintly, and truly womanlike. She is exquisitely pretty, and entirely without vanity, and I am certain she is immeasurably my superior morally, and possibly mentally too. But—there is always such a long and melancholy "but" attached to marriage—she does not amuse me in the least. She is always the same. She is shocked at nearly everything that is natural or diverting. She thinks me unmanly because I dislike rain. She buttons about her a hideous, straight, waterproof garment, and walks out in a deluge. She blushes if I try to make her laugh at Figaro, and she goes out of the room when I mention Trouville. What am I to do with a woman like this? It is an admirable type, no doubt. Possibly if she had not shut me up in a country-house in a wet June, with the thermometer at 10 R., and the barometer fixedly at the word Rainy, I might have been always charmed with this S. Dorothea-like attitude, and never have found out the monotony of it. But, as it is—I yawn till I dislocate my neck. She thinks me a heathen already. I am convinced that very soon she will think me a brute. And I am neither. I only want to get out, like the bird in the cage. It is a worn simile, but it is such a true one!'

From the Duchessa dell'Aquila Fulva, Roches Noires, Trouville, to the Principe di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset.

'Piero Mio,—In marriage, the male bird is always wanting to get out when the female bird does not want him to get out; also, she is for ever tightening the wires over his head, and declaring that nothing can be more delightful than the perch which she sits on herself. Come to us here. There are any quantities of birds here who ought to be in their cages, but are not, and manage to enjoy themselves quand même. If only you had married Nicoletta! She might have torn your hair occasionally, but she would never have bored you. There is only one supreme art necessary for a woman: it is to thoroughly understand that she must never be a seccatura. A woman may be beautiful, admirable, a paragon of virtue, a marvel of intellect, but if she be a seccatura—addio! Whereas, she may be plain, small, nothing to look at in any way, and a very monster of sins, big and little, but if she know how to amuse your dull sex, she is mistress of you all. It is evident that this great art is not studied at Coombe Bysset.'

From the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, to the Lady Gwendolen Chichester, S. Petersburg.

'Oh, my dear Gwen,—It is too dreadful, and I am so utterly wretched. I cannot tell you what I feel. He is quite determined to go to Trouville by Paris at once, and just now it is such exquisite weather. It has only rained three times this week, and the whole place is literally a bower of roses of every kind. He has been very restless the last few days, and at last, yesterday, after dinner, he said straight out, that he had had enough of Coombe, and he thought we might be seen at Homburg or Trouville next week. And he pretended to want every kind of thing that is to be bought at Paris and nowhere else. Paris—when we have been together just twenty-nine days to-day! Paris—I don't know why, but I feel as if it would be the end of everything! Paris—we shall dine at restaurants; we shall stay at the Bristol; we shall go to theatres; he will be at his club, he belongs to the Petit Cercle and the Mirliton; we shall be just like anybody else; just like all the million and one married people who are always in a crowd! To take one's new-born happiness to an hotel! It is as profane as it would be to say your prayers on the top of a drag. To me, it is quite horrible. And it will be put in Galignani directly, of course, that the "Prince and Princess San Zenone have arrived at the Hotel Bristol." And then, all the pretty women who tried to flirt with him before will laugh, and say: "There, you see, she has bored him already." Everybody will say so, for they all know I wished to spend the whole summer at Coombe. If he would only go to his own country I would not say a word. I am really longing to see his people, and his palaces, and the wonderful gardens with their statues and their ilex woods, and the temples that are as old as the days of Augustus, and the fire-flies and the magnolia groves, and the peasants who are always singing. But he won't go there. He says it is a seccatura. Everything is a seccatura. He only likes places where he can meet all the world. "Paris will be a solitude, too, never fear," he said, very petulantly; "but there will be all the petits théâtres and the open-air concerts, and we can dine in the Bois and down the river, and we can run to Trouville. It will be better than rain, rain, rain, and nothing to look at except your amiable aunt's big horses and big trees. I adore horses, and trees are not bad if they are planted away from the house, but, viewed as eternal companions, one may have too much of them." And I am his eternal companion, but it seems already I don't count! I have not said anything. I know one oughtn't. But Piero saw how it vexed me, and it made him cross. "Cara mia," he said, "why did you not tell me before we married that you intended me to be buried for ever in a box under wet leaves like a rose that is being sent to the market? I should have known what to expect, and I do not like wet leaves." I could not help reminding him that he had been ever, ever so anxious to come to Coombe. Then he laughed, but he was very cross too. "Could I tell, anima mia," he cried, "that Coombe was situated in a succession of lagoons, contains not one single French novel, is seven miles asunder from its own railway station, and is blessed with a population of sulky labourers? What man have I seen since I have been here except your parish priest, who mumbles, wears spectacles, and tries to give me a tract against the Holy Father? In this country you do not know what it is to be warm. You do not know what sunshine is like. You take an umbrella when you go in the garden. You put on a waterproof to go and hear one little, shivering nightingale sing in a wet elder bush. I tell you I am tired of your country, absolutely tired. You are an angel. No doubt you are an angel; but you cannot console me for the intolerable emptiness of this intolerable life, where there is nothing on earth to do but to eat, drink, and sleep, and drive in a dog-cart." All this he said in one breath, in a flash of forked lightning, as it were. Now that I write it down, it does not seem so very dreadful; but as he, with the most fiery scorn, the most contemptuous passion, said it, I assure you it was terrible. It revealed, just as the flash of lightning would show a gravel pit, how fearfully bored he has been all the time I thought he was happy!'

From the Lady Gwendolen Chichester, S. Petersburg, to the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset.

'Men are very easily bored, my dear, if they have any brains. It is only the dull ones who are not.'

From the Principessa di San Zenone to the Lady Gwendolen Chichester.

'If I believed what your cynical letter says, I should leave him to-morrow. I would never live through a succession of disillusions and of insults.'

From the Lady Gwendolen Chichester to the Principessa di San Zenone.

'Where are your principles? Where are your duties? My dear little girl, you have married him; you must submit to him as he is. Marriages wouldn't last two days if, just because the man yawned, the woman ran away. Men always yawn when they are alone with their wives. Hitherto, all San Zenone's faults appear to consist in the very pardonable fact that, being an Italian, he is not alive to the charms of bucolic England in rainy weather, and that, being a young man, he wants to see his Paris again. Neither of these seem to me irreparable crimes. Go to Paris and try to enjoy yourself. After all, if his profile be so beautiful, you ought to be sufficiently happy in gazing at it from the back of a baignoir. I grant that it is not the highest amatory ideal—to rush about the boulevards in a daument, and eat delicious little dinners in the cafés, and laugh at naughty little plays afterwards; but l'amour peut se nicher anywhere. And Love won't be any the worse for having his digestion studied by good cooks, and his possible ennui exorcised by good players. You see for yourself that the great passion yawns after a time. Turn back to what you call my cynical letter, and re-read my remarks upon Nature. By the way, I entirely deny that they are cynical. On the contrary, I inculcate on you patience, sweetness of temper, and adaptability to circumstances; three most amiable qualities. If I were a cynic, I should say to you that Marriage is a Mistake, and two capital letters could hardly emphasise this melancholy truth sufficiently. But, as there are men and women, and, as I before observed, property in the world, nothing better for the consolidation of rents and freeholds has, as yet, been discovered. I daresay some Anarchist in his prison could devise something better, but they are afraid of trying Anarchism. So we all jog on in the old routine, vaguely conscious that we are all blunderers, but indisposed for such a drastic remedy as would alone cure us. Just you remark to any lawyer that marriage is a mistake, as I have said before, and see what answer you will get. He will certainly reply to you that there is no other way of securing the transmission of property safely. I confess that this view of wealth makes me, for one, a most desperate Radical. Only think, if there were no property we should all be frisking about in our happy valleys as free and as merry as little kids. I shouldn't now be obliged to put on all my war-paint and beads, like a savage, and go out to a dreadful Court dinner, four hours long, because George has a "career," and thinks my suffering advances it. Oh, you happy child, to have nothing worse to do than to rattle down the Bois in a milord, and sup off a matelote by the lake with your Romeo!'

From the Principessa di San Zenone, Coombe Bysset, to the Lady Gwendolen Chichester, S. Petersburg.

'We are to leave for Paris and Trouville to-morrow. I have yielded—as you and Mamma seemed to think it was my duty to do. But my life is over. I shall say farewell to all happiness when the gates of Coombe Bysset close upon me. Henceforth we shall be like everybody else. However, you cannot reproach me any longer with being selfish, nor can he. There is a great friend of his, the Duchess of Aquila Fulva, at Trouville. She writes to him very often, I know. He never offers to show me her letters. I believe the choice of Trouville is her doing. Write to me at Paris, at the Windsor.'

From the Lady Gwendolen Chichester, S. Petersburg, to the Principessa di San Zenone, Hotel Windsor, Paris.

'My poor Child,—Has the green-eyed monster already invaded your gentle soul because he doesn't show you his own letters? My dear, no man who was not born a cur would show a woman's letters to his wife. Surely you wish your hero to know the A B C of gentle manners? I am delighted you are going into the world; but if you only go as "a duty," I am afraid the results won't be sunshiny. "Duty" is such a very disagreeable thing. It always rolls itself up like a hedgehog with all its prickles out, turning for ever round and round on the axle of its own self-admiration. If you go to Trouville (and wherever else you do go) as a martyr, my dear, you will give the mischievous Duchess, if she be mischievous, a terrible advantage over you at starting. If you mean to be silent, unpleasant, and enwrapped in a gloomy contemplation of your own merits and wrongs, don't blame him if he spend his time at the Casino with his friend, or somebody worse. I am quite sure you mean to be unselfish, and you fancy you are so, and all the rest of it, quite honestly; but, in real truth, as I told you before, you are only an egotist. You would rather keep this unhappy Piero on thorns beside you, than see him enjoy himself with other people. Now, I call that shockingly selfish, and if you go in that spirit to Trouville, he will soon begin to wish, my dear child, that he had never had a fancy to come over to a London season. I can see you so exactly! Too dignified to be cross, too offended to be companionable; silent, reproachful, terrible!'

From the Lady Mary Bruton, Roches Noires, Trouville, to Mrs d'Arcy, British Embassy, Berlin.

'15th July.

'... Amongst the new arrivals here are the San Zenone. You remember my telling you of their marriage some six weeks ago. It was quite the marriage of the season. They really were immensely in love with each other, but that stupid month down in the country has done its usual work. In a rainy June, too! Of course, any poor Cupid would emerge from his captivity bedraggled, dripping and disenchanted. She is really very pretty, quite lovely, indeed; but she looks fretful and dull; her handsome husband, on the contrary, is as gay as a lark which has found the door of its cage wide open one morning. There is here a great friend of his, a Duchessa dell'Aquila Fulva. She is very gay, too; she is always perfectly dressed, and chattering from morning to night in shrill Italian or voluble French. She is the cynosure of all eyes as she goes to swim in a rose-coloured maillot, with an orange and gold eastern burnous flung about her artistically. She has that wonderful Venetian colouring, which can stand a contrast and glow of colour which would simply kill any other woman. She is very tall, and magnificently made, and yet uncommonly graceful. Last night she was persuaded to dance a salterello with San Zenone at the Maison Persane, and it was marvellous. They are both such handsome people, and threw such wonderful brio, as they would call it, into the affair. The poor, little, pretty Princess, looking as fair and as dull as a primrose in a shower, sat looking on dismally. Stupid little thing!—as if that would do her any good! A few days ago Lord Hampshire arrived off here in his yacht. He was present at the salterello, and as I saw him out in the gardens afterwards with the neglected one, sitting beside her in the moonlight, I presume he was offering her sympathy and consolation. He is a heavy young fellow, but exceedingly good-humoured and kind-hearted. He would have been in Heaven in the wet June at Coombe Bysset—but she refused him, silly little thing! I am quite angry with her; she has had her own way and she won't make the best of that. I met her, and her rejected admirer, riding together this morning towards Villerville, while the beautiful Prince was splashing about in the water with his Venetian friend. I see a great many eventual complications ahead. Well, they will all be the fault of that Rainy June!'