THE LADY PARAMOUNT
By HENRY HARLAND
JOHN LANE: THE BODLEY HEAD
LONDON & NEW YORK — MCMII
BY JOHN LANE
All rights reserved
The Lady Paramount
On the twenty-second anniversary of Susanna's birth, old Commendatore
Fregi, her guardian, whose charge, by the provisions of her father's
will, on that day terminated, gave a festa in her honour at his villa
in Vallanza. Cannon had been fired in the morning: two-and-twenty
salvoes, if you please, though Susanna had protested that this was
false heraldry, and that it advertised her, into the bargain, for an
old maid. In the afternoon there had been a regatta. Seven tiny
sailing-boats, monotypes,—the entire fleet, indeed, of the Reale Yacht
Club d'Ilaria—had described a triangle in the bay, with Vallanza,
Presa, and Veno as its points; and I need n't tell anyone who knows the
island of Sampaolo that the Marchese Baldo del Ponte's Mermaid,
English name and all, had come home easily the first. Then, in the
evening, there was a dinner, followed by a ball, and fire-works in the
Susanna was already staying at the summer palace on Isola Nobile, for
already—though her birthday falls on the seventeenth of April—the
warm weather had set in; and when the last guests had gone their way,
the Commendatore escorted her and her duenna, the Baroness Casaterrena,
down through the purple Italian night, musical with the rivalries of a
hundred nightingales, to the sea-wall, where, at his private
landing-stage, in the bat-haunted glare of two tall electric lamps, her
launch was waiting. But as he offered Susanna his hand, to help her
aboard, she stepped quickly to one side, and said, with a charming
indicative inclination of the head, "The Baronessa."
The precedence, of course, was rightfully her own. How like her, and
how handsome of her, thought the fond old man, thus to waive it in
favour of her senior. So he transferred his attention to the Baroness.
She was a heavy body, slow and circumspect in her motions; but at
length she had safely found her place among the silk cushions in the
stern, and the Commendatore, turning back, again held out his hand to
his sometime ward. As he was in the act of doing so, however, his ears
were startled by a sound of puffing and of churning which caused him
abruptly to face about.
"Hi! Stop!" he cried excitedly, for the launch was several yards out
in the bay; and one could hear the Baroness, equally excited,
expostulating with the man at the machine:
"He! Ferma, ferma!"
"It's all right," said Susanna, in that rather deep voice of hers,
tranquil and leisurely; "my orders."
And the launch, unperturbed, held its course towards the glow-worm
lights of Isola Nobile.
The Commendatore stared. . . .
For a matter of five seconds, his brows knitted together, his mouth
half open, the Commendatore stared, now at Susanna, now after the
bobbing lanterns of the launch,—whilst, clear in the suspension, the
choir of nightingales sobbed and shouted.
"Your orders?" he faltered at last. Many emotions were concentrated
in the pronoun.
"Yes," said Susanna, with a naturalness that perhaps was studied. "The
first act of my reign."
He had never known her to give an order before, without asking
permission; and this, in any case, was such an incomprehensible order.
How, for instance, was she to get back to the palace?
"But how on earth," he puzzled, "will you get back to——"
"Oh, I 'm not returning to Isola Nobile tonight," Susanna jauntily
mentioned, her chin a little perked up in the air. Then, with the
sweetest smile—through which there pierced, perhaps, just a faint
glimmer of secret mischief?—"I 'm starting on my wander-year," she
added, and waved her hand imperially towards the open sea.
It was a progression of surprises for the tall, thin old Commendatore.
No sooner had Susanna thus bewilderingly spoken, than the rub and dip
of oars became audible, rhythmically nearing; and a minute after, from
the outer darkness, a row-boat, white and slender, manned by two rowers
in smart nautical uniforms, shot forward into the light, and drew up
alongside the quay.
"A boat from the Fiorimondo," he gasped, in stupefaction.
"Yes," said Susanna, pleasantly. "The Fiorimondo takes me as far as
Venice. There I leave it for the train."
The Commendatore's faded old blue eyes flickered anxiously.
"I can't think I am dreaming," he remarked, with a kind of vague
plaintiveness; "and of course you are not serious. My dear, I don't
"Oh, I 'm as serious as mathematics," she assured him.
She gave her head a little pensive movement of affirmation, and lifted
her eyes to his, bright with an expression of trustful candour. This
was an expression she was somewhat apt to assume when her mood was a
teasing one; and it generally had the effect of breaking down the
Commendatore's gravity. "You are a witch," he would laugh, availing
himself without shame of the way-worn reproach, "a wicked, irresistible
"The thing," she explained, "is as simple as good-day. I 'm starting
on my travels—to see the world—Paris, which I have only seen
once—London, which I have never seen—the seaports of Bohemia, the
mountains of Thule, which I have often seen from a distance, in the
mists on the horizon. The Fiorimondo takes me as far as Venice.
That is one of the advantages of owning a steam-yacht. Otherwise, I
should have to go by the Austrian-Lloyd packet; and that would n't be
half so comfortable."
Her eyes, still raised to the Commendatore's, melted in a smile;—a
smile seemingly all innocence, persuasiveness, tender appeal for
approbation, but (I 'm afraid) with an undergleam that was like a
He, perforce, smiled too, though with manifest reluctance; and at the
same time he frowned.
"My dear, if it were possible, I should be angry with you. This is
scarcely an appropriate hour for mystifications."
"That it is n't," agreed Susanna, heartily. And she put up her hand,
to cover a weary little yawn. "But there 's no mystification. There
's a perfectly plain statement of fact. I 'm starting to-night for
He studied her intently for a moment, fixedly, pondering something.
Then, all at once, the lines of dismay cleared from his lean old
"Ha! In a ball-dress," he scoffed, and pointed a finger at Susanna's
snowy confection of tulle and satin and silver embroidery, all
a-shimmer in the artificial moonlight of the electric lamps, against
the background of southern garden,—the outlines and masses, dim and
mysterious in the night, of palms and cypresses, of slender
eucalyptus-trees, oleanders, magnolias, of orange-trees, where the
oranges hung, amid the dark foliage, like dull-burning lanterns. A
crescent of diamonds twinkled in the warm blackness of her hair. She
wore a collar of pearls round her throat, and a long rope of pearls
that descended to her waist, and was then looped up and caught at the
bosom by an opal clasp. A delicate perfume, like the perfume of
violets, came and went in the air near her. She held a great fluffy
fan of white feathers in one hand, and in the other carried loose her
long white gloves; and gems sparkled on her fingers. The waters under
the sea-wall beside her kept up a perpetual whispering, like a
commentary on the situation. The old man considered these things, and
his misgivings were entirely dissipated.
"Ha!" he scoffed, twisting his immense iron-grey moustaches with
complacency. "I can't guess what prank you may be up to, but you are
never starting for Venice in a ball-dress. You 're capable of a good
deal, my dear, but you 're not capable of that."
"Oh, I 'm capable of anything and everything," Susanna answered,
cheerfully ominous. "Besides," she plausibly admonished him, "you
might do me the justice of supposing that I have changes aboard the
Fiorimondo. My maid awaits me there with quite a dozen boxes.
So—you see. Oh, and by the bye," she interjected, "Serafino also is
coming with me. He'll act as courier—buy my tickets, register my
luggage; and then, when we reach our ultimate destination, resume his
white cap and apron. My ultimate destination, you must know," she
said, with a lightness which, I think, on the face of it was spurious,
"is a little village in England—a little village called Craford;
and"—she smiled convincingly—"I hear that the cuisine is not to be
depended upon in little English villages."
All the Commendatore's anxieties had revived. This time he frowned in
"Créforrrd!" he ejaculated.
The word fell like an explosion; and there was the climax of horrified
astonishment in those reverberating r's.
"I think you are mad," he said. "Or, if you are not mad, you are the
slyest young miss in Christendom."
Susanna's eyes darkened, pathetic, wistful.
"Ah, don't be cross," she pleaded. "I 'm not mad, and I 'm not sly.
But I 'm free and independent. What's the good of being free and
independent," she largely argued, "if you can't do the things you want
to? I 'm going to Craford to realise the aspiration of a lifetime. I
'm going to find out my cousin, and make his acquaintance, and see what
he 's like. And then—well, if he 's nice, who knows what may happen?
I planned it ever so long ago," she proclaimed, with an ingenuousness
that was almost brazen, "and made all my preparations. Then I sat down
and waited for the day when I should be free and independent."
Her eyes melted again, deprecating his censure, beseeching his
indulgence, yet still, with a little glint of raillery, defying him to
do his worst.
His hand sawed the air, his foot tapped the ground.
"Free and independent, free and independent," he fumed, in derision.
"Fine words, fine words. And you made all your preparations
beforehand, in secrecy; and you 're not sly? Misericordia di Dio!"
He groaned impotently; he shook his bony old fist at the stars in the
"Perhaps you will admit," he questioned loftily, "that there are
decencies to be observed even by the free and independent? It is not
decent for you to travel alone. If you mean a single word of what you
say, why are n't you accompanied by the Baronessa?"
"The Baronessa fatigues me," Susanna answered gently. "And I
exasperate her and try her patience cruelly. She 's always putting
spokes in my wheel, and I 'm always saying and doing things she
disapproves of. Ah, if she only suspected the half of the things I
don't say or do, but think and feel!"
She nodded with profound significance.
"We belong," she pointed out, "to discrepant generations. I 'm so
intensely modern, and she 's so irredeemably eighteen-sixty. I 've
only waited for this blessed day of liberty to cut adrift from the
Baronessa. And the pleasure will be mutual, I promise you. She will
enjoy a peace and a calm that she has n't known for ages. Ouf! I feel
like Europe after the downfall of Napoleon."
She gave her shoulders a little shake of satisfaction.
"The Baronessa," she said, and I 'm afraid there was laughter in her
tone, "is a prisoner for the night on Isola Nobile." I 'm afraid she
tittered. "I gave orders that the launch was to start off the moment
she put her foot aboard it, and on no account was it to turn back, and
on no account was any boat to leave the island till to-morrow morning.
I expect she 'll be rather annoyed—and puzzled. But—cosa vuole?
It's all in the day's work."
Then her voice modulated, and became confidential and exultant.
"I 'm going to have such a delicious plunge. See—to-night I have put
on pearls, and diamonds, and rings, that the Baronessa would never let
me wear. And I 've got a whole bagful of books, to read in the
train—Anatole France, and Shakespeare, and Gyp, and Pierre Loti, and
Molière, and Max Beerbohm, and everybody: all the books the Baronessa
would have died a thousand deaths rather than let me look at. That's
the nuisance of being a woman of position—you 're brought up never to
read anything except the Lives of the Saints and the fashion papers. I
've had to do all my really important reading by stealth, like a thief
in the night. Ah," she sighed, "if I were only a man, like you! But
as for observing the decencies," she continued briskly, "you need have
no fear. I 'm going to the land of all lands where (if report speaks
true) one has most opportunities of observing them—I 'm going to
England, and I 'll observe them with both eyes. And I 'm not
travelling alone." She spurned the imputation. "There are Rosina and
Serafino; and at the end of my journey I shall have Miss Sandus. You
remember that nice Miss Sandus?" she asked, smiling up at him. "She is
my fellow-conspirator. We arranged it all before she went away last
autumn. I 'm to go to her house in London, and she will go with me to
Craford. She 's frantically interested about my cousin. She thinks
it's the most thrilling and romantic story she has ever heard. And she
thoroughly sympathises with my desire to make friends with him, and to
offer him some sort of reparation."
The Commendatore was pacing nervously backwards and forwards, being, I
suppose, too punctilious an old-school Latin stickler for etiquette to
But now, "Curse her for a meddlesome Englishwoman," he spluttered
violently. "To encourage a young girl like you in such midsummer
folly. A young girl?—a young hoyden, a young tom-boy. What? You
will travel from here to London without a chaperon? And books—French
novels—gr-r-r! I wish you had never been taught to read. I think it
is ridiculous to teach women to read. What good will they get by
reading? You deserve—upon my word you deserve . . . Well, never
mind. Oh, body of Bacchus!"
He wrung his hands, as one in desperation.
"A young girl, a mere child," he cried, in a wail to Heaven; "a
mere"—he paused, groping for an adequate definition—"a mere
irresponsible female orphan! And nobody with power to interfere."
Susanna drew herself up.
"Young?" she exclaimed. "A mere child? I? Good gracious, I 'm
She said it, scanning the syllables to give them weight, and in all
good faith I think, as who should say, "I 'm fifty."
"You really can't accuse me of being young," she apodictically
pronounced. "I 'm twenty-two. Twenty-two long years—aïe, Dio mio!
And I look even older. I could pass for twenty-five. If," was her
suddenly-inspired concession, "if it will afford you the least atom of
consolation, I 'll tell people that I am twenty-five. There."
She wooed him anew with those melting eyes, and her tone was soft as a
"It is n't every man that I 'd offer to sacrifice three of the best
years of my life for—and it is n't every man that I 'd offer to tell
She threw back her head, and stood in an attitude to invite inspection.
"Don't I look twenty-five?" she asked. "If you had n't the honour of
my personal acquaintance, would it ever occur to you that I 'm what you
call 'a young girl'? Would n't you go about enquiring of every one,
'Who is that handsome, accomplished, and perfectly dressed woman of the
And she made him the drollest of little quizzical moues.
In effect, with her tall and rather sumptuously developed figure, with
the humour and vivacity, the character and decision, of her face, with
the glow deep in her eyes, the graver glow beneath the mirth that
danced near their surface,—and then too, perhaps, with the unequivocal
Southern richness of her colouring: the warm white and covert rose of
her skin, the dense black of her undulating abundant hair, the sudden,
sanguine red of her lips,—I think you would have taken her for more
than twenty-two. There was nothing of the immature or the unfinished,
nothing of the tentative, in her aspect. With no loss of freshness,
there were the strength, the poise, the assurance, that we are wont to
associate with a riper womanhood. Whether she looked twenty-five or
not, she looked, at any rate, a completed product; she looked
distinguished and worth while; she looked alive, alert: one in whom the
blood coursed swiftly, the spirit burned vigorously; one who would love
her pleasure, who could be wayward and provoking, but who could also be
generous and loyal; she looked high-bred, one in whom there was race,
as well as temperament and nerve.
The Commendatore, however, was a thousand miles from these
considerations. He glared fiercely at her—as fiercely as it was in
his mild old eyes to glare. He held himself erect and aloof, in a
posture that was eloquent of haughty indignation.
"I will ask your Excellency a single question. Are you or are you not
the Countess of Sampaolo?" he demanded sternly.
But Susanna was incorrigible.
"At your service—unless I was changed at nurse," she assented,
dropping a curtsey; and an imp laughed in her eyes.
"And are you aware," the Commendatore pursued, with the tremor of
restrained passion in his voice, "that the Countess of Sampaolo, a
countess in her own right, is a public personage? Are you aware that
the actions you are proposing—which would be disgraceful enough if you
were any little obscure bourgeoise—must precipitate a public scandal?
Have you reflected that it will all be printed in the newspapers, for
men to snigger at in their cafes, for women to cackle over in their
boudoirs? Have you reflected that you will make yourself a nine-days'
wonder, a subject for tittle-tattle with all the gossip-mongers of
Europe? Are you without pride, without modesty?"
Susanna arched her eyebrows, in amiable surprise.
"Oh?" she said. "Have I omitted to mention that I 'm to do the whole
thing in masquerade? How stupid of me. Yes,"—her voice became
explanatory,—"it's essential, you see, that my cousin Antonio should
never dream who I really am. He must fancy that I 'm just
anybody—till the time comes for me to cast my domino, and reveal the
fairy-princess. So I travel under a nom-de-guerre. I 'm a widow, a
rich, charming, dashing, not too-disconsolate widow; and my name . . .
is Madame Fregi."
She brought out the last words after an instant's irresolution, and
marked them by a hazardous little smile.
"What!" thundered the Commendatore. "You would dare to take my name
as a cloak for your escapades? I forbid it. Understand. I
peremptorily forbid it."
He stamped his foot, he nodded his outraged head, menacingly.
But Susanna was indeed incorrigible.
"Dear me," she grieved; "I hoped you would be touched by the
compliment. How strange men are. Never mind, though," she said, with
gay resignation. "I 'll call myself something else. Let's
think. . . . Would—would Torrebianca do?" Her eyes sought counsel
from his face.
Torrebianca, I need n't remind those who are familiar with Sampaolo, is
the name of a mountain, a bare, white, tower-like peak of rock, that
rises in the middle of the island, the apex of the ridge separating the
coast of Vallanza from the coast of Orca.
"Madame Torrebianca? La Nobil Donna Susanna Torrebianca?" She tried
the name on her tongue. "Yes, for an impromptu, Torrebianca is n't
bad. It's picturesque, and high-sounding, and yet not—not
invraisemblable. You don't think it invraisemblable? So here 's
luck to that bold adventuress, that knightess-errant, the widow
She raised her fluffy white fan, as if it were a goblet from which to
quaff the toast, and flourished it aloft.
The poor old Commendatore was mumbling helpless imprecations in his
moustache. One caught the word "atrocious" several times repeated.
"And now," said Susanna brightly, "kiss me on both cheeks, and give me
She moved towards him, and held up her face.
But he drew away.
"My child," he began, impressively, "I have no means to constrain you,
and I know by experience that when you have made up that perverse
little mind of yours, one might as well attempt to reason with a Hebrew
Jew. Therefore I can only beg, I can only implore. I implore you not
to do this fantastic, this incredible, this unheard-of thing. I will
go on my knees to you. I will entreat you, not for my sake, but for
your own sake, for the sake of your dead father and mother, to put this
ruinous vagary from you, to abandon this preposterous journey, and to
stay quietly here in Sampaolo. Then, if you must open up the past, if
you must get into communication with your distant cousin, I 'll help
you to find some other, some sane and decorous method of doing so."
Still once again Susanna's eyes melted, but there was no mockery in
"You are kind and patient," she said, with feeling; "and I hate to be a
brute. Yet what is there to do? I can't alter my resolution. And I
can't bear to refuse you when you talk to me like that. So—you must
forgive me if I take a brusque way of escaping the dilemma."
She ran to the edge of the quay, and sprang lightly into her boat.
"Avanti—avanti," she cried to the rowers, who instantly pushed the
boat free, and bent upon their oars.
Then she waved her disfranchised guardian a kiss.
"Addio, Commendatore. I 'll write to you from Venice."
It was gay June weather, in a deep green English park: a park in the
south of England, near the sea, where parks are deepest and greenest,
and June weather, when it is n't grave, is gaiest. Blackbirds were
dropping their liquid notes, thrushes were singing, hidden in the
trees. Here and there, in spaces enclosed by hurdles, sheep browsed or
drowsed, still faintly a-blush from recent shearing. The may was in
bloom, the tardy may, and the laburnum. The sun shone ardently, and
the air was quick with the fragrant responses of the earth.
A hundred yards up the avenue, Anthony Craford stopped his fly, a
shabby victoria, piled with the manifold leather belongings of a
traveller, and dismounted.
"I 'll walk the rest of the way," he said to the flyman, giving him his
fare. "Drive on to the house. The servants will take charge of the
"Yes, sir," answered the flyman, briskly, and flicked his horse:
whereat, displaying a mettle one was by no means prepared for, the
horse dashed suddenly off in a great clattering gallop, and the ancient
vehicle behind him followed with a succession of alarming leaps and
"See," declaimed a voice, in a sort of whimsical recitative,
"See how the young cabs bound,
As to the tabor's sound,—"
a full-bodied baritone, warm and suave, that broke, at the end, into a
note or two of laughter.
On the greensward, a few paces distant, stood a man in white flannels:
rather a fat man, to avow the worst at once, but, for the rest,
distinctly a pleasant-looking; with a smiling, round, pink face,
smooth-shaven, and a noticeable pair of big and bright blue eyes.
"Hello. Is that you, old Rosygills?" Anthony said, with a phlegm that
seemed rather premeditated.
"Now, what a question," protested the other, advancing to meet him. He
walked with an odd kind of buoyant, measured step, as if he were
keeping time to a silent dance-tune. "All I can tell you is that it's
someone very nice and uncommonly like me. You should know at your age
that a person's identity is quite the most mysterious mystery under
heaven. You really must n't expect me to vouch for mine. How-d'ye-do?"
He extended, casually, in the manner of a man preoccupied, a plump,
pink left hand. With his right hand he held up and flaunted, for
exhibition, a drooping bunch of poppies, poignantly red and green: the
subject, very likely, of his preoccupation, for, "Are n't they
beauties?" he demanded, and his manner had changed to one of fervour,
nothing less. "They 're the spoils of a raid on Farmer Blogrim's
chalk-pit. If eyes were made for seeing, see and admire—admire and
confess your admiration."
He shook them at Anthony's face. But as Anthony looked at them with
composure, and only muttered, "H'm," "Oh, my little scarlet starlets,"
he purred and chirped to the blossoms, "would n't the apathetic man
And he clasped them to his bosom with a gesture that was reminiscent of
the grateful prima-donna.
"They look exactly as if I had plucked them from the foreground of a
Fifteenth Century painting, don't they?" he went on, holding them off
again. "Florentine, of course. Ah, in those days painting was a fine
art, and worth a rational being's consideration,—in those days, and in
just that little Tuscan corner of the world. But you," he pronounced
in deep tones, mournfully, "how cold, how callous, you are. Have you
no soul for the loveliness of flowers?"
Anthony sighed. He was a tall young man, (thirty, at a guess), tall
and well set-up, with grey eyes, a wholesome brown skin, and a nose so
affirmatively patrician in its high bridge and slender aquilinity that
it was a fair matter for remark to discover it on the face of one who
actually chanced to be of the patrician order. Such a nose, perhaps,
carried with it certain obligations—an obligation of fastidious
dressing, for example. Anthony, at any rate, was very fastidiously
dressed indeed, in light-grey tweeds, with a straw hat, and a tie that
bespoke a practised hand beside a discerning taste. But his general
air, none the less,—the expression of his figure and his motions, as
well as of his face and voice,—was somehow that of an indolent
melancholy, a kind of unresentful disenchantment, as if he had long ago
perceived that cakes are mostly dough, and had accommodated himself to
the perception with a regret that was half amusement.
His friend, by contrast, in loose white flannels, with a flannel shirt
and a leather belt, with yellowish hair, waving, under a white flannel
cricket-cap, a good inch longer than the conventional cut, was plainly
a man who set himself above the modes: though, in his plump, pink way
debonair and vivacious, not so tall as Anthony, yet tall enough never
to be contemned as short, and verging upon what he was fain to call
"the flower of a sound man's youth, the golden, gladsome, romantic age
of forty," he looked delightfully fresh, and wide-awake, and cheerful,
and perfectly in the scheme of the blue day and the bird-notes and the
smiling country. Permit me to introduce Mr. Adrian Willes, by vocation
a composer and singer of songs, and—"contrapuntally," as he would
explain—Anthony Craford's housemate, monitor, land-agent, and man of
"I 'll tell you what I admire," he answered drily. "I admire the
transports of delight with which you hail my unexpected home-coming.
The last you knew, I was in California; and here I might have tumbled
from the skies."
Adrian regarded him with an eye in which, I think, kindled a certain
"Silence," he said, "is the perfectest herald of joy. Besides, you
must n't flatter yourself that your home-coming is so deucedly
unexpected, either. I 've felt a pricking in my thumbs any time these
three months; and no longer ago than yesterday morning, I said to my
image in the glass, as I was shaving, 'I should n't wonder if Tony
turned up to-morrow,' said I."
"That was merely your uneasy conscience," Tony expounded. "When the
cat's away, the mice are always feeling prickings in their thumbs."
"Oh, if you stoop to bandying proverbs," retaliated Adrian, "there's a
proverb about a penny." He raised his bunch of poppies, and posed it
aloft before him, eyeing it, his head cocked a little to one side, in
critical enjoyment. "Shall we set out for the house?" he asked.
"No," said Anthony, promptly, with decision. "I 'll set out for the
house; and you (unless your habits have strangely altered) will frisk
and gambol round about me. Come on."
And taking Adrian's arm, he led the way, amid the summer throng of
delicate scents and sounds, under the opulent old trees, over the
gold-green velvet of the turf, on which leaves and branches were
stencilled by the sun, as in an elaborate design for lace, towards a
house that was rather famous in the neighbourhood—I was on the point
of saying for its beauty: but are things ever famous in English
neighbourhoods for their mere beauty?—for its quaintness, and in some
measure too, perhaps, for its history:—Craford Old Manor, a red-brick
Tudor house, low, and, in the rectangular style of such houses,
rambling; with a paved inner court, and countless tall chimneys, like
minarets; with a secret chapel and a priests' "hiding-hole," for the
Crafords were one of those old Catholic families whose boast it is that
they "have never lost the Faith"; with a walled formal garden, and a
terrace, and a sun-dial; with close-cropped bordures of box, and yews
clipped to fantastic patterns: the house so placed withal, that, while
its north front faced the park, its south front, ivy-covered, looked
over a bright lawn and bright parterres of flowers, down upon the long
green levels of Rowland Marshes, and away to the blue sea beyond,—the
blue sea, the white cliffs, the yellow sands.
Anthony and Adrian, arm in arm, sauntered on without speaking, till
they attained the crest of a sweeping bit of upland, and the house and
the sea came in view. Here they halted, and stood for a minute in
contemplation of the prospect.
"The sea," said Adrian, disengaging his arm, that he might be free to
use it as a pointer, and then pointing with it, "the sea has put on her
bluest frock, to honour your return. And behold, decked in the hues of
Iris, that gallant procession of cliffs, like an army with banners,
zigzagging up from the world's rim, to bid you welcome. Oh, you were
clearly not unexpected. If no smoke rises from yonder chimneys,—if
your ancestral chimney-stone is cold,—that's merely because, despite
the season, we 're having a spell of warmish weather, and we 've let
the fires go out. 'T is June. Town 's full; country 's depopulated.
In Piccadilly, I gather from the public prints, vehicular traffic is
painfully congested. Meanwhile, I 've a grand piece of news for your
private ear. Guess a wee bit what it is."
"Oh, I 'm no good at guessing," said Anthony, with languor, as they
resumed their walk.
"Well—what will you give me, then, if I 'll blurt it out?" asked
Adrian, shuffling along sidewise, so that he might face his companion.
"My undivided attention—provided you blurt it briefly," Anthony
"Oh, come," Adrian urged, swaying his head and shoulders. "Betray a
little curiosity, at least."
"Curiosity is a vice I was taught in my youth to suppress," said
"A murrain on your youth," cried Adrian, testily. "However, since
there 's no quieting you otherwise, I suppose, for the sake of peace, I
'd best tell you, and have done with it. Well, then,"—he stood off,
to watch the effect of his announcement,—"Craford's Folly is let."
"Ah?" said Anthony, with no sign of emotion.
Adrian's face fell.
"Was there ever such inhumanity?" he mourned. "I tell him that—thanks
to my supernatural diligence in his affairs—his own particular
millstone is lifted from his neck. I tell him that a great white
elephant of a house, which for years has been eating its head off, and
keeping him poor, is at last—by my supernatural diligence—converted
into an actual source of revenue. And 'Ah?' is all he says, as if it
did n't concern him. Blow, blow, thou winter wind,—thou art not so
unkind as Man's ingratitude."
"Silence," Anthony mentioned, "is the perfectest herald of joy."
"Pish, tush," said Adrian. "A fico for the phrase. I 'll bet a
shilling, all the same,"—and he scanned Anthony's countenance
apprehensively,—"that you 'll be wanting money?"
"It's considered rather low," Anthony generalised, "to offer a bet on
what you have every ground for regarding as a certainty."
"A certainty?" groaned Adrian. He tossed his plump arms heavenwards.
"There it is! He 's wanting money."
And his voice broke, in something like a sob.
"Do you know," he asked, "how many pounds sterling you 've had the
spending of during the past twelvemonth? Do you know how many times
your poor long-suffering bankers have written to me, with tears in
their eyes, to complain that your account was overdrawn, and would I be
such a dear as to set it right? No? You don't? I could have sworn
you did n't. Well, I do—to my consternation. And it is my duty to
caution you that the estate won't stand it—to call that an estate," he
divagated, with a kind of despairing sniff, "which is already, by the
extravagances of your ancestors, shrunken to scarcely more than three
acres and a cow. You 're wanting money? What do you do with your
money? What secret profligacy must a man be guilty of, who squanders
such stacks of money? Burst me, if I might n't as well be steward to a
bottomless pit. However, Providence be praised,—and my own
supernatural diligence,—I 'm in command of quite unhoped-for
resources. Craford New Manor is let."
"So you remarked before," said Anthony, all but yawning.
"And shall again, if the impulse seizes me," Adrian tartly rejoined.
"The circumstance is a relevant and a lucky one for the man you 're
fondest of, since he's wanting money. If it were n't that the new
house is let, he 'd find my pockets in the condition of Lord Tumtoddy's
noddle. However, the saints are merciful, I 'm a highly efficient
agent, and the biggest, ugliest, costliest house in all this
countryside is let."
"Have it so, dear Goldilocks," said Anthony, with submission. "I 'll
ne'er deny it more."
"There would be no indiscretion," Adrian threw out, "in your asking
whom it's let to."
"Needless to ask," Anthony threw back. "It's let to a duffer, of
course. None but a duffer would be duffer enough to take it."
"Well, then, you 're quite mistaken," said Adrian, airily swaggering.
"It's let to a lady."
"Oh, there be lady duffers," Anthony apprised him.
"It's very ungallant of you to say so." Adrian frowned disapprobation.
"This lady, if you can bear to hear the whole improbable truth at once,
is an Italian lady."
"An Italian lady? Oh?" Anthony's interest appeared to wake a little.
"I expected that would rouse you. A Madame Torrebianca."
"Ah?" said Anthony; and his interest appeared to drop.
"Yes—la Nobil Donna Susanna Torrebianca. Is n't that a romantic name?
A lady like the heroine of some splendid old Italian story,—like
Pompilia, like Francesca,—like Kate the Queen, when her maiden was
binding her tresses. Young, and dark, and beautiful, and altogether
"H'm. And not a duffer? An adventuress, then, clearly," said Anthony.
"You 'll never get the rent."
"Nothing of the sort," Adrian asserted, with emphasis. "A lady of the
highest possible respectability. Trust me to know. A scrupulous
Catholic, besides. It was partly because we have a chapel that she
decided to take the house. Father David is hand and glove with her.
And rich. She gave the very best of banker's references. 'Get the
rent,' says he—as if I had n't got my quarter in advance. I let
furnished—what? Well, that's the custom—rent payable quarterly in
advance. And cultivated. She's read everything, and she prattles
English like you or me. She had English governesses when she was a
kiddie. And appreciative. She thinks I 'm without exception the
nicest man she 's ever met. She adores my singing, and delights in all
the brilliant things I say. She says things that are n't half bad
herself, and plays my accompaniments with really a great deal of
sympathy and insight. And Tony dear,"—he laid his hand impressively
on Tony's arm, while his voice sank to the pitch of deep emotion,—"she
has a cook—a cook—ah, me!"
He smacked his lips, as at an unutterable recollection.
"She brought him with her from Italy. He has a method of preparing
sweetbreads—well, you wait. His name is Serafino—and no wonder. And
she has the nicest person who was ever born to live with her: a Miss
Sandus, Miss Ruth Sandus, a daughter of the late Admiral Sir Geoffrey
Sandus. She 's a dove, she 's a duck, she 's a darling; she 's
completely won my heart. And I"—he took a few skipping steps, and
broke suddenly into song—
"'And I, and I have hers!'
We dote upon each other. She calls me her Troubadour. She has the
prettiest hands of any woman out of Paradise. She 's as sweet as
remembered kisses after death. She 's as sharp as a needle. She 's as
bright as morning roses lightly tipped with dew. She has a house of
her own in Kensington. And she's seventy-four years of age."
Anthony's interest appeared to wake again.
"Seventy-four? You call that young?" he asked, with the inflection of
one who was open to be convinced.
"You deliberately put a false construction on my words. I was alluding
to Miss Sandus, as you 're perfectly well aware. Madame Torrebianca is
n't seventy-four, nor anything near it. She's not twenty-four. Say
about twenty-five and a fraction. With such hair too—and such
frocks—and eyes. Oh, my dear!" He kissed his fingers, and wafted the
kiss to the sky. "Eyes! Imagine twin moons rising over a tropical—"
"Allons donc," Anthony repressed him. "Contain yourself. Where is
Madame Torrebianca's husband?"
"Ah," said Adrian, with a sudden lapse of tone. "Where is Madame
Torrebianca's husband? That's the question. Where?" And he winked
suggestively. "How can I tell you where he is? If I could tell you
that, you don't suppose I 'd be wearing myself to a shadow with
uncongenial and ill-remunerated labour, in an obscure backwater of the
country, like this, do you? If I could tell you that, I could tell you
the secretest secrets of the sages, and I should be making my
everlasting fortune—oh, but money hand over fist—as the oracle of a
general information bureau, in Bond Street, or somewhere. I should be
a millionaire, and a celebrity, and a regular cock-of-the-walk. Where
is Madame Torrebianca's husband? Ay! Gentle shepherd, tell me where?"
"Ah?" wondered Anthony, off his guard. "A mysterious disappearance?"
"Bravo!" crowed Adrian, gleefully. "I am not only witty myself, but
the cause of wit in others." He patted Anthony on the shoulder. "A
mysterious disappearance. The mot is capital. That's it, to a
hair's breadth. Oft thought before, but ne'er so well expressed. The
gentleman (as the rude multitude in their unfeeling way would put it)
"On the whole," mused Anthony, looking him up and down with a
reflective eye, "you 're an effulgent sort of egotist, as egotists go;
but you yield much cry for precious little wool."
"Yes, dead," Adrian repeated, pursuing his own train of ideas. "Donna
Susanna is a widow, a poor lone widow, a wealthy, eligible widow. You
must be kind to her."
"Why don't you marry her?" Anthony enquired.
"Pooh," said Adrian.
"Why don't you?" Anthony insisted. "If she 's really rich? You don't
dislike her—you respect her—perhaps, if you set your mind to it, you
could even learn to love her. She 'd give you a home and a position in
the world; she 'd make a sober citizen of you; and she 'd take you off
my hands. You know whether you 're an expense—and a responsibility.
Why don't you marry her? You owe it to me not to let such an occasion
"Pooh," said Adrian. But he looked conscious, and he laughed a
deliriously conscious laugh. "What nonsense you do talk. I 'm too
young, I 'm far too young, to think of marrying."
"See him blush and giggle and shake his pretty curls," said Anthony,
with scorn, addressing the universe.
By this time they had skirted the house, and come round to the southern
front, where the sunshine lay unbroken on the lawn, and the smell of
the box hedges, strong in the still air, seemed a thing almost
ponderable: the low, long front, a mellow line of colour, with the
purple of its old red bricks and the dark green of its ivy, sunlit
against the darker green of the park, and the blue of the tender
English sky. The terrace steps were warm under their feet, as they
mounted them. In terra-cotta urns, at intervals upon the terrace
balustrade, roses grew, roses red and white; and from larger urns, one
at either side of the hall-door, red and white roses were espaliered,
The hall-door stood open; but the hall, as they entered it from the
brightness without, was black at first, like a room unlighted. Then,
little by little, it turned from black to brown, and defined
itself:—"that hackneyed type of Stage-property hall," I have heard
Adrian lament, "which connotes immediately a lost will, a family
secret, and the ghost of a man in armour"; "a noble apartment, square
and spacious, characteristic of the period when halls were meant to
serve at need as guard-rooms," says the County History.
Square and spacious it was certainly, perhaps a hackneyed type none the
less: the ceiling and the walls panelled in dark well-polished oak; the
floor a pavement of broad stone flags, covered for the most part now by
a faded Turkey carpet; the narrow windows, small-paned and leaded, set
in deep stone embrasures; a vast fireplace jutting across a corner, the
Craford arms emblazoned in the chimney-piece above; and a wide oak
staircase leading to the upper storey. The room was furnished,
incongruously enough, in quite a modern fashion, rather shabbily, and I
daresay rather mannishly. There were leather arm-chairs and settles,
all a good deal worn, and stout tables littered with books and
periodicals. The narrow windows let in thin slants of mote-filled
sunshine, vortices of gold-dust; and on the faded carpet, by the door,
lay a bright parallelogram, warming to life its dim old colours. The
rest of the room seemed twilit. Someone had been too wise to defeat
that good oak panelling by hanging pictures on it.
"Not a creature is stirring," said Adrian, "not even a mouse.
Sellers—oh, what men daily do, not knowing what they do!—is shut up
in the scullery, I suppose, torturing his poor defenceless fiddle.
That 's what it is to be a musical boot-and-knife boy. And Wickersmith
will be at his devotions. He tells me he never gets leisure for his
morning meditation till luncheon 's cleared away. And that's what it
is to be a pious butler. I 'm doubting whether there was anyone to
disembarrass that flyman of yours of your luggage. So he 's probably
driven off with it all to his humble, happy home. I see none of it
about. Never mind. There 'll be some of your old things in Mrs. W.'s
camphor-chest, perhaps; or if it comes to a pinch, I can lend you a
garment or so of my own,—and then won't Craford of Craford cut a
figure of fun! You will make her acquaintance . . . Let me see.
To-day is Wednesday. We 'll call on her to-morrow."
"On whom?" asked Anthony, looking blank.
"Have we been talking of Queen Berengaria?" Adrian, with his nose in
the air, enquired. "On whom? says you. We 'll call to-morrow
"Not I," said Anthony.
"Not to-morrow?" Adrian raised his eyebrows, well-marked crescents of
reddish-brown above his ruddy face, and assumed thereby a physiognomy
of almost childlike naïveté. "Ah, well, on Friday, then;—though
Friday is unlucky, and one rarely shines on a day of abstinence,
anyhow. It's all a fallacy about fish being food for the brain. Meat,
red meat, is what the brain requires." He slapped his forehead. "But
Friday, since you prefer it."
Anthony seated himself on the arm of a leather chair, and, with
calculated deliberation, produced his cigarette-case, selected a
cigarette, returned his cigarette-case to his pocket, took out his
matchbox, struck a match, and got his cigarette alight.
"No, dear Nimbletongue," he said at last, through a screen of smoke,
"not Friday, either." He smiled, shaking his head.
Disquiet began to paint itself in Adrian's mien.
"Name your own day." He waited, anxious, in suspense.
"My own day is no day. I have n't the faintest desire to make the good
woman's acquaintance, and I shall not call on her at all."
Adrian stretched out appealing hands.
"But Anthony—" he adjured him.
"No," said Anthony, with determination. "I 'm not a calling man. And
I 've come down here for rest and recreation. I 'll pay no calls. Let
that be understood. Calls, quotha! And in the country, at that. Oh,
don't I know them? Oh, consecrated British dulness! The smug faces,
the vacuous grins; the lifeless, limping attempts at conversation; the
stares of suspicious incomprehension if you chance to say a thing that
has a point; and then, the thick, sensible, slightly muddy boots. I
'll pay no calls. And as for making acquaintances—save me from those
I 've made already. In broad England I can recall but three
acquaintances who are n't of a killing sameness;—and one of those," he
concluded sadly, with a bow to his companion, "one of those is fat, and
"Poor lad," Adrian commiserated him. "You are tired and overwrought.
Go to your room, and have a bath and a brush up. That will refresh
you. Then, at half-past four, you can renew the advantages of my
society at tea in the garden. Oh, you 'll find your room quite ready.
I 've felt a pricking in my thumbs any time these three months. Shall
I send Wick?"
"Yes, if you will be so good," said Anthony. He rose, and moved
towards the staircase.
Adrian waited till he had reached the top.
Then, "You 'll meet her whether you like or not on Sunday. Where on
earth do you suppose she hears her Mass?" he called after him.
"Oh, hang," Anthony called back.
For, sure enough, unless she drove seven miles to Wetherleigh, where
could she hear her Mass, but as his guest, in the chapel of his house?
Susanna was seated on the moss, at the roots of a wide-spreading oak.
She was leaning back, so that she could look up, up, through vistas of
changing greens,—black-green to gold-green,—through a thousand
labyrinthine avenues and counter-avenues of leaves and branches, with
broken shafts of sunlight caught in them here and there, to the
glimpses of blue sky visible beyond. The tree gave you a sense of
great spaces, and depths, and differences, like a world; and it was
full of life, like a city. Birds came and went and hopped from bough
to bough, twittering importantly of affairs to them important;
squirrels scampered over the rough bark, in sudden panic haste, darting
little glances, sidewise and behind, after pursuers that (we will hope)
were fancied; and other birds, out of sight in the loftier regions,
piped their insistent calls, or sang their tireless epithalamiums.
Spiders hung in their gossamer lairs, only too tensely motionless not
to seem dead; but if a gnat came—with what swift, accurate, and
relentless vigour they sprang upon and garotted him. Sometimes a twig
snapped, or a young acorn fell, or a caterpillar let himself down by a
long silken thread. And the air under the oak was tonic with its good
Susanna was leaning back in a sort of reverie, held by the charm of
these things. "We have no trees like this in Italy," she was vaguely
thinking. "The trees and the wild creatures are never so near to one
there; one never gets so intimate with them; Nature is not so
accessible and friendly." She remembered having read somewhere that
such enjoyment as she was now experiencing, the enjoyment of commune
with the mere sweet out-of-door things of the earth, was a Pagan
enjoyment, and un-Christian; and her mind revolted at this, and she
thought, "No. There would n't be any enjoyment, if one did n't know
that 'God's in His Heaven, all 's right with the world.'"
And just then her reverie was interrupted. . .
"He has arrived. I have seen him—what you call seen—with my own
eyes seen. There are about two yards of him; and a very spruce,
gentlemanlike, well-knit, and attractive two yards they are."
Thus, with a good deal of animation, in a pleasant, crisp old voice,
thus spoke Miss Sandus: a little old lady in black: little and very
daintily finished, with a daintily-chiselled profile, and a neat,
small-framed figure; in a black walking-skirt, that was short enough to
disclose a small, high-instepped, but eminently business-like pair of
brown boots. Miss Sandus (she gave you her word for it) was
seventy-four;—and indeed (so are the generations linked), her father
had been a middie with Nelson at Trafalgar, and a lieutenant aboard the
Bellerophon during that ship's historic voyage to St. Helena;—but
she confronted you with the lively eyes, the firm cheeks, the fresh
complexion, the erect and active carriage, of a well-preserved woman of
sixty; and in her plentiful light-brown hair there was scarcely a
thread of grey. She stepped trippingly across the grass, swinging a
malacca walking-stick, with a silver crook-handle.
"He has arrived. I 've seen him."
So her voice broke in upon Susanna's musings; and Susanna started, and
got up. She was wearing a muslin frock to-day, white, with a pattern
of flowers in mauve; and she was without a hat, so that one could see
how her fine black hair grew low about her brow, and thence swept away
in loose full billows, and little crinkling over-waves, to where it
drooped in a rich mass behind. But as she stood, awaiting Miss
Sandus's approach, her face was pale, and her eyes were wide open and
dark, as if with fright.
"Dear me, child. Did I startle you? I 'm so sorry," said Miss Sandus,
coming up to her. "Yes, Don Antonio has arrived. I saw him as he
disembarked at his native railway-station. I was ordering a book at
Smith's. And such luggage, my dear. Boxes and bags, bags and boxes,
till you could n't count them; and all of stout brown leather—so nice
and manny. He looks nice and manny himself: tall, with nice manny
clothes, and nice eyes, and a nice brown skin; and with a nose, my
dear, a nose like Julius Caesar's. Well, you 'll meet him on Sunday,
at your Papistical place of worship,—if he does n't call before. I
daresay he 'll think himself obliged to."
"Oh, Fairy Godmother," gasped Susanna, faintly; "feel."
She took Miss Sandus's hand, and pressed it against her side.
"Feel how my heart is beating."
"Mercy!" exclaimed Miss Sandus.
"Hang it all, how she sticks in one's mind," said Anthony, with
impatience. "Am I returning to my cubhood, that the mere vision of a
woman should take possession of me like this?"
And then, having, I suppose, weighed the question, "It's the weather," he
decided. "Yes—I 'll bet you ten-and-sixpence that it's nothing more
than just this silly, sentimental, languorous June weather."
He was seated in a shaded corner of his garden, where the day was
murmurous with the humming of bees, and the mingled sweetness of many
flowers rose and fell in the air. Beyond the shade, the sunshine broke
into a mosaic of merry colours, on larkspur and iris, pansies and pink
geraniums, jessamine, sweet-peas, tulips shameless in their extravagance
of green and crimson, red and white carnations, red, white, and yellow
roses. The sunshine broke into colour, it laughed, it danced, it almost
rioted, among the flowers; but in the prim alleys, and on the formal
hedges of box, and the quaintly-clipped yews, and the old purple brick
walls, where fruit trees were trellised, it lay fast, fast asleep.
Without the walls, in the deep cool greenery of the park, there was a
perpetual drip-drip of bird-notes. This was the web, upon which a chosen
handful of more accomplished birds were embroidering and
cross-embroidering and inter-embroidering their bold, clear arabesques of
song. Anthony had a table and a writing-case before him, and was trying
to write letters. But now he put down his pen, and, for the twentieth
time this afternoon, went over the brief little encounter of the morning.
Two ladies had passed him in a dog-cart, as he was walking home from the
village: a young lady driving, an oldish lady beside her, and a groom
That was all: the affair of ten seconds; and at first he was not aware of
any deeper or more detailed impression. He had glanced at them vaguely;
he was naturally incurious; and he had been thinking of other things.
But by-and-bye, as if his retina had reacted like a photographic plate, a
picture developed itself, which, in the end, by a series of recurrences,
became quite singularly circumstantial. The dog-cart and its occupants,
with the stretch of brown road, and the hedge-rows and meadows at either
side, were visible anew to him; and he saw that the young lady who was
driving had dark hair and dark eyes, and looked rather foreign; and he
said, but without much concern as yet, "Ah, that was no doubt Madame
Torrebianca, with her friend Miss What 's-her-name;"—and proceeded again
to think of other things.
The picture faded; but presently it came back. He noticed now that the
slightly foreign-looking young woman was pretty, and even
interesting-looking; that besides its delicate modelling and its warm,
rather Southern colouring, there was character in her face, personality;
that there were intelligence, humour, vivacity; that she looked as if she
would have something to say. He noticed, too, that she had what they
call "a fine figure,"—that she was tall, for a woman, and slender
without being thin; that she bore herself well, with an air of strength,
with an air of suppleness and resistance. He could even see how she was
dressed: in grey cloth, close-fitting, with grey driving-gloves, and a
big black hat that carried out the darkness of her hair. And he was
intrepid enough to trust his man's judgment, and to formulate an opinion
of her dress. She was very well dressed, he ventured to opine; far too
cunningly and meticulously dressed for an Englishwoman. There was
something of French unity, intention, finish, in her toilet; there was
line in it, the direct, crisp line, that only foreign women seem
anxious to achieve.
And he said, "I rather hope it is Madame Torrebianca—since one has got
to know her. She looks as if she might have a spice of something in her
not utterly banale."
If that was n't saying a great deal, he reflected, one seldom enough, in
our staid, our stale society, meets a person of whom one can say so
much;—and again dismissed her.
But still again, presently, back she came; and then again and again, in
spite of him. And her comings now were preceded by a strange little
perturbation. A strange little vague feeling of pleasantness, as if
something good had happened to him would begin, and well up, and grow
within him, penetrating and intensifying his sense of the summer
sweetness round about, till it distracted his attention, and he must
suspend his occupation of the moment, to wonder, "What is it?" In
response, the vague pleasantness, like a cloud, would draw together and
take shape; and there was the spirited grey figure in the dog-cart, with
the black hat, and the dark hair and eyes, again dashing past him.
And little by little he discovered that she was more than merely pretty
and interesting-looking. Her face, with all its piquancy, was a serious
face, a strenuous face. Under its humour and vivacity, he discovered a
glow . . . a glow . . . could it be the glow of a soul? Her eyes were
lustrous, but they were deep, as well. A quality shone in them rarer
even than character: a natural quality, indeed, and one that should
naturally be common: but one that is rare in England among women—among
nice women, at least: the quality of sex. The woman in the dog-cart was
nice. About that, he recognised with instant certainty, there could be
no two conjectures. But she was also, he recognised with equal
certainty, a woman: the opposite, the complement of man. Her eyes were
eyes you could imagine laughing at you, mocking you, teasing you, leading
you on, putting you off, seeing through you, disdaining you; but constant
in them was the miracle of womanhood; and you could imagine them
softening adorably, filling with heavenly weakness, yielding in womanly
surrender, trusting you, calling you, needing you.
Our melancholic young squire of Craford was not a man much given to
quick-born enthusiasms; but now, as he put down his pen, and her face
shone before him for the twentieth time this sunny afternoon, now all at
once, "By Jove, she's unique," he cried out. "I have never seen a woman
to touch her. If she is Madame Torrebianca——"
But there he checked himself.
"Of course she is n't. No such luck," he said, in dejection.
And yet, he speculated, who else could she be? The simultaneous presence
of two young foreign women in this out-of-the-way country neighbourhood
seemed, of all contingencies, the most unlikely. Well, if she really was
. . .
He was conscious suddenly of a sensation to the last degree unfamiliar: a
commotion, piercing, regretful, desirous, actually in his heart, an organ
he had for years proudly fancied immune; and he took alarm.
"Am I eighteen again? Positively, I must not think of her any more."
But it was useless. In two minutes he was thinking of her harder than
ever, and the commotion in his heart was renewed.
"If she really is Madame Torrebianca," he told himself, with a thrill and
a craving, "I shall see her on Sunday."
The flowers, beyond there, in the sun, the droning of the bees, the
liquid bird-notes, the perfumes in the still soft air, all seemed to melt
and become part of his thought of her, rendering it more poignant, more
At last he started up, in a kind of anger.
"Bah!" he cried, "It's the weather. It's this imbecile, love-sick
And he carried his writing-materials indoors, to the billiard-room, a
northern room, looking into the big square court, where the light was
colourless, and the only perfume on the air was a ghost-like perfume of
last night's tobacco-smoke.
But I don't know that the change did much good. In a few minutes—
"Bah!" he cried again, "It's those confounded eyes of hers. It's those
laughing, searching, haunting, promising eyes."
"Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear."
It was the voice of Adrian, raised in song. And repeating the same
complaisant proffer, to a tune which I suspect was improvised, it drew
near along the outer passage, till, in due process, the door of the
billiard-room was opened, and Adrian stood upon the threshold.
"Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine e-e-ear," he trolled
robustly—and then, espying Anthony, fell silent.
Anthony appeared to be deep engrossed in letter-writing.
"Ahem," said Adrian, having waited a little.
But Anthony did not look up.
"Well, of all unlikely places," said Adrian, wondering.
Anthony's pen flew busily backwards and forwards across his paper.
"Remarkable power of mental concentration," said Adrian, on a key of
"Eh? What?" Anthony at last questioned, but absently, from the depths,
without raising his eyes.
"I 've been hunting far and wide for you—ransacking the house, turning
the park topsy-turvy," said Adrian.
"Eh? What?" questioned Anthony, writing on.
But Adrian lost patience.
"Eh? What? I 'll eh-what you," he threatened, shaking his fist. "Come.
Put aside that tiresome letter. 'Do you happen to know where your master
is?' says I to Wickersmith. 'Well, if you 'll pardon my saying so, sir,
I think I see him agoing in the direction of the billiard-room, saving
your presence, sir,' says Wickersmith to me." Adrian pantomimed the
supposed deference of the butler. Then, loftily, "But, 'Shoo' says I.
'An optical delusion, my excellent Wick. A Christian man would be
incapable of such a villainy. The billiard-room, that darksome cavern,
on a heaven-sent day like this? Shucks,' says I. Yet"—his attitude
became exhortative—"see how mighty is truth, see how she prevails, see
how the scoffer is confounded. To the billiard-room I transport myself,
sceptically, on the off-chance, and—here, good-lack, you are."
"It's the weather," Anthony explained, having finally relinquished his
correspondence. "I was in the garden—but I could n't stand the weather."
"The weather?" wondered Adrian. "You could n't stand the weather? My
poor lamb. Ah, what a delicate constitution. He could n't stand the
weather." Eyes uplifted, he wagged a compassionate head.
But suddenly, from the sarcastic note, he passed to the censorious, and
then to a kind of gay rhapsodic.
"The weather? Shame upon your insinuations. I will not hear one
syllable against it. The weather? There never was such weather. The
weather? Oh, for the tongues of men and angels, to chant the glory of
the weather. The weather is made of sugar and spice, of frankincense and
myrrh, of milk and honey, of every conceivable ingredient that's nice.
The sky is an inverted bowl of Sèvres—that priceless bleu-royal; and
there are appetising little clouds of whipped cream sticking to it. The
air is full of gold, like eau-de-vie de Dantzic;—if we only had a
liquefying apparatus, we could recapture the first fine careless nectar
of the gods, the poor dead gods of Greece. The earth is as aromatic as
an orange stuck with cloves; I can't begin to tell you all the wondrous
woody, mossy, racy things it smells of. The sea is a great sheet of
watered-silk, as blue as my blue eyes. And the birds, the robins and the
throstles, the blackbirds and the black-caps, the linnets and the little
Jenny Wrens, knowing the value of silence, are hoarding it like misers;
but like prodigals, they 're squandering sound. The ear of mortal never
heard such a delirious, delicious, such a crystalline, argentine,
ivory-smooth, velvety-soft, such a ravishing, such an enravished tumult
of sweet voices. Showers, cascades, of pearls and rubies, emeralds,
diamonds, sapphires. The weather, says Anthony Rowleigh. He could n't
stand the weather. The weather is as perfect as a perfect work of
art—as perfect as one of my own incomparable madrigals. It is
He tossed his head, in sign of finality.
"It appears so," Anthony discriminated gloomily; "but appearances are
risky things to judge by. It may have charms for a voluptuary like you;
but I"—and he took a tone of high austerity—"I, as an Englishman, have
my suspicions of anything so flagrantly un-English."
"Apropos of things un-English," said Adrian, "I 'm pining for a serious
word with you."
Anthony pulled a wry face.
"Oh, if you 've been attacked by one of your periodic spasms of
seriousness," he sighed.
"It's about calling on Madame Torrebianca," said Adrian.
"Oh," sighed Anthony. With a presence of mind that I can't help thinking
rather remarkable, he feigned a continuity of mood; but something went
ping within him.
"Look here," said Adrian, imperatively. "I 'll thank you to drop that
air of ineffable fatigue of yours, and to sit up and listen. I don't
suppose you wish to be deliberately discourteous, do you? And as those
ladies happen to be new-comers, and your immediate neighbours, not to say
your tenants, I expect you are sufficiently acquainted with the usages of
polite society to know that a failure on your part to call would be
tantamount to a direct affront. Furthermore, as one of them (Miss Sandus
is, unhappily, still in the Götterdämmerung of the Establishment), as
Madame Torrebianca is coming to your house, as your guest, to hear Mass
on Sunday morning, I sincerely hope I need n't tell you that it's simply
de rigueur that you should call before that occasion."
He stood off, and raised his brown-red eyebrows, as who, from an
altitude, speaking de par le Roi, should challenge contumacy.
But two could play at the game of eyebrow-raising. Anthony raised his.
"Coming as my guest? Coming as my guest? I like that," he exclaimed.
"What have I to do with her coming? If every stranger to whom you
choose to extend the privilege of hearing Mass in the Chapel, is thereby
to be constituted a guest,—my guest,—I shall have my hands full
indeed. If she's a guest at all, if she's anybody's guest, she's yours;
You 've created the situation. Don't try to thrust the brunt of it on
Adrian flung back his head, and spoke from a still loftier altitude.
"I believe you are the master of the house?"
"The titular master," Anthony distinguished. "I years ago resigned all
real power into the pink and chubby hands of my mayor of the palace."
And he slightly bowed.
"I disdain to answer your silly quibble over the word guest," Adrian
continued, ignoring the rejoinder. "La Nobil Donna Susanna Torrebianca
is a guest. And as master of the house, by your return, you ex officio
supersede me in the capacity of host."
"Ex officio?" repeated Anthony, considering. "The fashion of adorning
ordinary speech with classical quotations has long since passed from use."
"And therefore,"—Adrian brought his theorem to its conclusion,—"unless
you particularly aspire to seem—and to be—an absolute barbarian, a
bear, a boor, a churl, and a curmudgeon,"—each epithet received an
augmented stress,—"you must call at Craford New Manor with the least
possible delay. As I find myself in rather good form just now, and feel
that I should shine to perhaps exceptional advantage, I suggest that we
Anthony got up, and sleepily stretched his arms.
"Ah, well," he consented; "since your fond heart is set upon it—there.
It will be an awful fag; but when Dimplechin becomes importunate, I can
deny him nothing."
He stifled a yawn.
Adrian's round face radiated triumph.
"You are a good child, after all," he said, "and you shall have jam with
"I think I have fooled that fellow to the top of his bent," was Anthony's
His pulse beat high, as they walked across the park.
"How could I ever have contemplated waiting till Sunday?" he asked
himself, in a maze.
Sunday, the day after the day after to-morrow, seemed, in his present
eagerness, to belong to the dim distances of futurity.
And all the way, as they passed under the great trees, over the cool,
close turf, with its powdering of daisies and buttercups and poppies,
through alternations of warm sun and deep shadow, where sheep browsed,
and little snow-white awkward lambkins sported, and birds piped, and the
air was magical with the scent of the blossoming may,—all the way, amid
the bright and dark green vistas of lawn and glade, the summer loveliness
mixed with his anticipation of standing face to face with her, and
rendered it more poignant.
"If cats were always kittens,
And rats were always mice,
And elderberries were younger berries,
Now would n't that be nice?"—
Adrian, walking beside him, trilled joyously.
"You seem in high spirits," Anthony remarked.
"I 've been thinking of your suggestion," said Adrian.
Anthony frowned, at a loss.
"Yes—your suggestion that I should marry her."
"What?" he ejaculated.
"Yes," said Adrian, blandly. "I think the suggestion is decidedly a
happy one. I think I shall pay my court to her."
"You? Man, you 're bereft of your senses," said Anthony, with force.
"You need n't be so violent," said Adrian. "It's your own idea."
"I was making game of you—I was pulling your leg. Marry her? She would
n't look at you," said Anthony, contumelious.
"Why not, I should like to know?" Adrian haughtily enquired.
"You 're—you 're too young," Anthony reminded him.
"Too young?" mildly demurred Adrian, wide-eyed. "I 'm thirty, if I 'm a
"You 're thirty-nine, if you 're a day," said Anthony. "But you 'll
never be thirty—not even when you 're forty. You breathe perennial
"I confess," said Adrian, with deliberation, "I freely confess that I am
not an effete and blasé old thing, like—like one who shall be nameless.
There is a variety of fruit (the husbandman's despair), a tough,
cross-grained, sour-hearted variety of fruit, that dries up and shrivels,
and never ripens. There is another variety of fruit that grows rounder
and rosier, tenderer and juicier and sweeter, the longer it hangs on the
tree. Time cannot wither it. The child of the sun and the zephyr, it is
honey-full and fragrant even unto its inmost ripe red core."
He expanded his chest, and significantly thumped it.
"Mark you," he resumed, "I name no names. The soul of delicacy and
discretion, as of modesty and kindness, I name no names. But as for
myself, that I am young I acknowledge. Those whom the gods love are ever
young. Yet I am old enough, at least, to be capable of fresh, impulsive
feelings. I am old enough to have cast the crude, harsh pessimism of
inexperience. I am old enough to have outlived my disillusions. I am
old enough to have learned that the good things of life are good, and to
understand that the rose-buds in the garden are there to be gathered.
And I 'm not such a silly as to forbear to gather them. I think I shall
make Madame Torrebianca the object of my respectful solicitations."
Anthony fixed eyes of derision on him.
"Oh, the fatuity of the man!" he jeered. "If you could see yourself.
You 're sandy-haired—and miles too fat."
"I beg your pardon," said Adrian, with dignity. "My hair is of a very
fashionable shade—tawny, which indicates a passionate heart, with
under-waves of gold, as if the sunshine had got entangled in it. I will
not dwell upon its pretty truant tendency to curl. And as for what you
call fat—let me tell you that there are people who admire a rich,
ample figure in a man. I admit, I am not a mere anatomy, I am not a mere
hungry, lean-faced, lantern-jawed, hollow-eyed, sallow-cheeked,
vulture-beaked, over-dressed exiguity, like—well, mark you, I name no
names. I need not allude to my other and higher attributes—my wit, my
sympathy, my charming affectations, my underlying strength of character
(a lion clothed in rose-leaves—what?), my genius for the divinest of the
arts. I think I shall lay myself at the feet of Donna Susanna. The rest
of the sex"—his gesture put them from him—"may coif St. Catherine."
"I have n't the honour of knowing the lady in question," said Anthony,
with detachment. "But if she is anything like the paragon you have led
me to expect, let me, as your sincere well-wisher, let me warn you not to
cherish hopes that are foredoomed to disappointment. If, on the other
hand, she should indeed admire your style of rich, ample figure, I shall
deem it my duty to save you from her—at no matter what cost to myself.
I cannot allow you to link yourself for life to a woman without taste."
And then they rang the bell at the vast, much-bestuccoed portal of the
new house; and Anthony's heart, I think, for the minute stood still
within him. The door was opened, and he could look into the big, ugly,
familiar marble hall;—familiar still, and yet changed and strange, and
even beautified; with new soft hangings, and Persian carpets, and
flowers, and books, and bibelots about; with a new aspect of luxury and
elegance; with a strange new atmosphere of feminine habitation, that went
a little to Anthony's head, that called up clearer than ever the
dark-haired, strenuous-faced woman of the dog-cart, and turned his
imagination to visions and divinings of intimate feminine things. One
thought of chiffons, and faint, elusive perfumes, and the gleam and
rustle of silken garments; one heard soft voices, trills of feminine
laughter, the whispering of feminine secrets; one saw ladies in low
chairs, reading or embroidering by lamp-light.
So, for an instant, Anthony stood at Susanna's threshold, looking into
her antechamber, breathless almost with his sense of her imminence;—and
then the tall flunkey said, in the fastidious accents of flunkeydom, "Net
et em, sir;" and all my hero's high-strung emotion must spend itself in
the depositing of a card.
As they turned away, and the summer landscape again met him with its warm
breath and radiant smile, he gloomed at it savagely, from eyes of deep
rebuke, as at a thing that had beguiled him with false promises, wronged
and defrauded him. And he flew out petulantly at poor Adrian—
"Here's a pretty dance you 've led me, for the pleasure of a word with
"Oh?" said Adrian, taken aback. "I expected you 'd be relieved. You did
n't want to see them. And the exigencies of the case are satisfied by
"I could have sent my card by you," growled Anthony.
"You 've had a lovely walk, with a lovely comrade, in lovely weather,"
"The weather is simply brazen," Anthony declared.
Judged by the standards of a cit, countrymen, I believe, are generally
early risers; but even for a countryman, Anthony, next morning, rose at
an unlikely hour. The tall clock in the hall, accenting with its slow
sardonic tick the silence of the sleeping house, marked a quarter to
five, as he undid the heavy old-fashioned fastenings of the door, the
oaken bar, the iron bolts and chains, and let himself out.
He let himself out; but then he stood still for a minute on the
terrace, arrested by the exquisite shock of the wonderful early air:
the wonderful light, keen air, a fabric woven of elfin filaments, the
breathings of green lives: an aether distilled of secret essences, in
the night, by the earth and the sea,—for there was the sea's tang, as
well as the earth's balm, there was the bitter-sweet of the sea and the
earth at one.
He stood for a minute, stopped by the exquisite shock of it; and then
he set forth for an aimless morning ramble.
The dew clung in big iridescent crystals to the grass, where the sheep
were already wide-awake and eager at their breakfasts; it gleamed like
sprinkled rubies on the scarlet petals of the poppies, and like
fairies' draughts of yellow wine in the enamelled hollows of the
buttercups; on the brown earth of the pathways, where the long shadows
were purple, it lay white like hoar-frost. The shadows were still
long, the sunbeams still almost level; the sun shone gently, as through
an imperceptible thin veil, gilding with pinkish gold the surfaces it
touched—glossy leaves, and the rough bark of tree-trunks, and the
points of the spears of grass. A thicker veil, a gauze of pearl and
silver, dimmed the blue of the sea, and blurred the architecture of the
cliffs. On the sea's edge lay a long grey cloud, a long, low, soft
cloud, flat, like a band of soft grey velvet. The cloud was grey
indeed; but (as if prismatic fires were smouldering there) its grey
held in solution all the colours of the spectrum, so that you could
discern elusive rose-tints, fugitive greens, translucent reflections of
amethyst and amber.
The morning was inexpressibly calm and peaceful—yet it was busy with
sound and with movement. Rooks, those sanctimonious humbugs, circled
overhead, cawing thieves' warnings, that had the twang of sermons, to
other rooks, out of sight in neighbouring seed-fields. Lapwings,
humbugs too, but humbugs in a prettier cause, started from the
shrubberies where their eggs were hidden, and fluttered lamely towards
the open. Sparrows innumerable were holding their noisy, high-spirited
disputations; blackbirds were repeating and repeating that deep
melodious love-call of theirs, which they have repeated from the
beginning of the world, and no ear has ever tired of; finches were
singing, greenfinches, chaffinches; thrushes were singing, singing
ecstatically in the tree-tops, and lower down the imitative little
blackcaps were trying to imitate them. Recurrently, from a distance,
came the soft iterations of a cuckoo. Bees went about their affairs
with a mien of sombre resolution, mumbling to themselves, in stolid
it-'s-got-to-be-done-and-it-'s-dogged-that-does-it," and showing thus
that even the beautiful task of flying from flower to flower and
gathering honey, may, if you are a bee, fail to interest you, and
necessitate an act of will; while butterflies, charmed by the continual
surprises, satisfied by the immediate joys, of the present moment,
flitted irresponsibly, capriciously, whithersoever a bright colour
beckoned, and gave no thought to the moments that had not yet come.
Everywhere there was business, rumour, action; but everywhere, none the
less, there was the ineffable peace of early morning, of the hours when
man—the peace-destroyer?—is still at rest. And everywhere,
everywhere, there was the wonderful pristine air, the virginal air,
that seemed to penetrate beyond the senses, and to reach the
imagination, a voice whispering untranslatable messages, waking mystic
surmises of things unknown but somehow kindred.
Anthony strolled on at random, down the purple-shaded paths, under the
spreading oaks and bending elms, over the sun-tipped greensward,
satisfied, like the butterflies, by the experiences of the passing
moment, enjoying, in leisurely intimacy, the aspects and vicissitudes
of his way; for a melancholy man, curiously cheerful; the tears of
things, the flat and unprofitable uses of the world, forgotten: for a
melancholy man, even curiously elated: elated—oh, more than likely
without recognising it—as one is to whom the house of life has
discovered a new chamber-door, and, therewith, new promises of
adventure. He strolled on at random, swinging his stick nonchalantly,
. . . till, all at once, he saw something that brought him, and the
heart within him, to a simultaneous standstill: something he had been
more or less sub-consciously thinking of the whole time, perhaps?—for
it brought him to a standstill, as if he saw his thought made flesh.
He had just mounted a little knoll, and now, glancing down before him,
he saw, not twenty yards away, under a hawthorn in full blossom,—
"Madame Torrebianca, as I am alive," he gasped.
Susanna was standing under the tree, gazing intently upwards; and she
was vehemently shaking her fist at its foliage, and making, from the
point of her lips, a sound, sibilant, explosive (something like
"Ts-s-s! Ts-s-s-s! Ts-s-s-s-s!"), that was clearly meant as an
intimidation. She had on a dark-blue frock, blue flannel I think,
plain to the verge of severity: a straight-falling jacket, a straight,
loose skirt: plain, but appropriate to the hour no doubt; and, instead
of a hat, she wore a scarf of black lace, draped over her black hair
Anthony, glowing with a sense that he was in great luck, and trying to
think what practical step he should take to profit by it, watched her
for a minute before she caught sight of him. An obvious practical
step, she having evidently some trouble on her hands, might have been
to approach her with an offer of assistance. But if all who love are
poets, men near to love will be poets budding; and who was it said that
the obvious is the one thing a poet is incapable of seeing?
When, however, she did catch sight of him, abruptly, without
hesitation, she called him to her.
"Come here—come here at once," she called, and made an imperious
gesture. (I wonder whether she realised who he was, or thought no
further as yet, in her emergency, than just that here, providentially,
was a man who could help.)
Marvelling, palpitating, Anthony flew to obey.
"Look," said Susanna, breathlessly, pointing into the tree. "What is
one to do? He won't pay the slightest attention to me, and I have
nothing that I can throw."
She had, in her left hand, a small leather-bound book, apparently a
prayer-book, and, twisted round her wrist, a red-coral rosary; but I
suppose she would not have liked to throw either of these.
Bewildered a little by the suddenness with which the situation had come
to pass, but conscious, acutely, exultantly conscious of it as a
delectable situation,—exultantly conscious of her nearness to him, of
their solitude together, there in the privacy (as it were) of the
morning,—and tingling to the vibrations of her voice, to the freshness
and the warmth of her strong young beauty, Anthony was still able,
vaguely, half-mechanically, to lift his eyes, and look in the direction
whither she pointed. . .
The spectacle that met him banished immediately, for the moment, all
On one of the lower of the flowering branches, but high enough to be
beyond arm's reach, or even cane's reach, in the crook of the bough,
crouched, making ready to spring, a big black cat, the tip of his tail
twitching with contained excitement, his yellow eyes fixed murderously
on the branch next above: where, in the agitation of supreme distress,
a chaffinch, a little grey hen-chaffinch, was hopping backwards and
forwards, sometimes rising a few inches into the air, but always
returning to the branch, and uttering a succession of terrified,
agonised, despairing tweets.
It was a hateful thing to see. It was the genius of cruelty made
manifest in a single intense tableau.
"Why does n't the bird fly away?" Susanna painfully questioned. She
was pale, and her lips were strained; she looked sick and hopeless.
"Is she fascinated? The cat will surely get her."
"No—her nest must be somewhere there—she is guarding her nestlings,"
Then he raised his stick menacingly, and, in tones of stern command,
addressed the cat.
"Patapouf! I am ashamed of you. Come down—come down from there—come
And he emphasised each staccato summons by a sharp rap of his stick
against the highest point of the tree that he could reach.
The cat turned his head, to look—and the spell was broken. His
attitude relaxed. Anthony put his hands on the tree, and made as if to
climb it. The cat gave a resigned shrug of the shoulders, and came
scrambling down. Next instant, (if you please), unabashed, tail erect,
back arched, he was rubbing his whiskers against Anthony's legs,
circling round them, s-shaping himself between them, and purring
conciliations, as who should say, "There, there. Though you have
spoiled sport, I won't quarrel with you, and I am delighted to see
you." The bird, twittering, flew up, and disappeared in the higher
Susanna breathed a deep sigh of relief.
"Oh, thank you, thank you," she said, with fervour. Then she shook her
finger, and frowned, at Patapouf. "Oh, you bad cat! You cruel cat!"
And raising eyes dark with reproach to Anthony's, "Yet he seems to be a
friend of yours?" she wondered. (By this time, of course, she must
have realised who he was. Very likely she had her emotions.)
Anthony, the bird in safety, could tingle anew to the deep notes of her
voice, could exult anew in their dual solitude.
"Yes," he acknowledged, "Patapouf is a friend of mine—he is even a
member of my household. You must try not to think too ill of him. He
really is n't half a bad sort at bottom. But he 's English, and he
lives in the country. So, a true English country gentleman, he has
perhaps an exaggerated passion for the pleasures of the chase—and when
questions touching them arise, seems simply to be devoid of the ethical
sense. He 's not a whit worse than his human neighbours—and he 's a
hundred times handsomer and more intelligent."
Susanna, smiling a little, looked down at Patapouf, and considered.
"He is certainly very handsome," she agreed. "And—Patapouf? I like
his name. I will not think too ill of him if he will promise never
again to try to catch a—a fringuello. I don't remember the English
Her glance and her inflection conveyed a request to be reminded.
But Anthony shook his head.
"And I shall at once proceed to forget it. Fringuello is so much
Susanna gave a light little trill of laughter.
"What a delicious laugh," thought he that heard it.
And, laughing, "But before it has quite gone from you, do, pray, for my
instruction, just pronounce it once," she pleaded.
"How extraordinarily becoming to her that mantilla is," he thought.
"How it sets off her hair and her complexion—how it brings out the
sparkle of her eyes."
Her fine black hair, curling softly about her brow, and rippling away,
under the soft black lace, in loose abundance; her warm, clear
complexion; the texture of her skin, firm and smooth, with tiny blue
veins faintly showing at the temples; her sparkling, spirited dark
eyes, their merriment, their alertness, their graver underglow; the
spirited, high carriage of her head; that dark-blue, simple,
appropriate frock; and then her figure, upright, nervous, energetic,
with its fluent lines, with its fragrance of youth and of
womanhood,—oh, he was acutely conscious of them, he was thrilled by
his deep sense of their nearness to him, alone there, in the wide sunny
circle of green landscape, in the seclusion of that unfrequented hour.
"The word comes back to me dimly," he said, "as—as something like
"Finch?" said Susanna. "Thank you very much. Ah, yes,"—with an air
of recalling it,—"finch, to be sure. You are right," she smiled,
"fringuello is prettier."
"What an adorable mouth," thought he. "The red of it—the curves it
takes—and those incredible little white teeth, like snow shut in a
"And this is a morning meet for pretty words, is it not?" he suggested.
"It might strike an unprejudiced observer as rather a pretty morning."
"Oh, I should be less reticent," said Susanna. "If the unprejudiced
observer had his eyes open, would n't it strike him as a perfectly
"We must not run the risk of spoiling it," Anthony cautioned her,
diminishing his voice, "by praising it too warmly to its face."
She gave another light trill of laughter.
"Her laugh is like rainbow-tinted spray. It is a fountain-jet of
musical notes, each note a cut gem," thought the infatuated fellow.
"I trust," he hazarded, "that you will not condemn me for a swaggerer,
if I lay claim to share with you a singularity. The morning is a
morning like another. God is prodigal of lovely mornings. But we two
are singular in choosing to begin it at its sweeter end."
"Yes," Susanna assented, "that is a singularity—in England. But in
Italy, or in the part of Italy where my habits were formed, it is one
of our lazy customs. We like always to be abroad in time to enjoy what
we call 'the hours immaculate,'—l'ure immacolae, in our dialect."
"The hours immaculate? It is an uncommonly fine description," approved
Anthony. "They will be a race of poets in your part of Italy?"
The graver underglow in Susanna's eyes eclipsed, for an instant, their
dancing surface lights.
"They were a race of poets," she said regretfully, "before they
learned how to read and write. But now, with the introduction of
popular education,"—she shook her head,—"the poetry is dying out."
"Ah," said Anthony, with a meaning flourish of his stick, "there it is.
The poetic spirit always dies at the advance of that ghastly fetich."
Then he spoke sententiously. "Popular education is a contrivance of
the devil, whereby he looks to extinguish every last saving grace from
the life of the populace. Not poetry only, but all good things and all
good feelings,—religion, reverence, courtesy,—sane contentment,
rational ambition,—the right sort of humility, the right sort of
pride,—they all go down before it: whilst, in the ignorance which it
disseminates, blasphemy, covetousness, bumptiousness, bad taste (and
bad art and bad literature, to gratify it), every form of
wrong-headedness and wrong-heartedness flourish like the seven plagues
of Egypt. But it was all inevitable from the day that meddling German
busybody invented printing—if not from the day his heathenish
precursor invented letters."
He delivered these sentiments with a good deal of warmth.
Susanna's eyes brightened. I am not sure there was n't a quick little
flash of raillery in their brightness.
"I would seem," she mused, "to have touched by accident upon a subject
that is near your heart."
Anthony threw up a deploring hand.
"There!" he grieved. "The subjects that are near my heart, it is the
study of my life to exclude from my conversation. But sometimes one
Susanna smiled,—a smile, perhaps, that implied a tacit memorandum and
reflection, a subdued, withheld, occult little smile. Again, I am not
sure it had n't its tinge of raillery.
"And since I have forgotten myself," Anthony pursued, "I wonder
whether you will bear with me if I continue to do so twenty seconds
"Oh, I beg of you," Susanna politely hastened to accede.
"There is another subject equally near my heart," said he.
Her eyes were full of expectancy.
"Yes—?" she encouraged him.
"I was disappointed not to find you at home when I called yesterday,"
said he. "I rejoice for a hundred reasons that chance has led to our
meeting this morning. Not to mention ninety-nine of them, I am anxious
to discharge, with as little loss of time as may be, the very onerous
debt I owe you."
Susanna opened her eyes, in puzzlement.
"A debt? I am your creditor unawares."
"My debt of apologies and condolences," he explained.
She knitted her brows, in mental effort.
"I am ignorant alike of my grievance and of your offence," she said.
"I am deeply sensible of your magnanimity," said he; "but I will not
abuse it. They have let you the ugliest house in the United Kingdom;
and, as the owner, the ultimate responsibility must come home to me."
"Oh," cried Susanna.
It was a gay, treble little cry, that told him he had been fortunate
enough to amuse as well as to surprise her. She shook her head, while
her eyes were liquid with mirth.
"The house is ugly?" she enquired. "I have read of it as 'a vast and
imposing edifice in the style of the Renaissance.'"
"As a confessor of the True Faith," Anthony warned her, "you must never
believe what you read in the County History. It was compiled by a
Protestant clergyman; it teems with misinformation; it ought to be
placed upon the Index. The house in question is a vast and pompous
contiguity of stucco, in the style of 1830. It looks like a Riviera
hotel a good deal run to seed. It looks like a shabby relation of
Buckingham Palace. It looks like a barrack decorated with the
discoloured trimmings of a bride-cake."
"Ah, well, be it so," consented Susanna. "The house is ugly—but it is
comfortable. And, in any case, your conscience is too sensitive. The
ultimate responsibility for my having taken it comes home to no one,
unless—well, to be strictly just, unless to a grandfather of mine, who
has been dead these many long years."
Which pronouncement may very possibly have struck her listener as
enigmatic. But I daresay he felt that he scarcely knew her well enough
to press for an elucidation. And, anyhow, without pause, she went on—
"Besides, everything else—the park, the country—is beyond words
"Yes," acquiesced Anthony, "the country is beautiful, at this season.
That's why everyone abandons it, and scuttles up to town."
Susanna's face lighted, with interest.
"Indeed? Is that the reason? I had observed the fact, but I was at
a loss to think what the reason for it could be."
"No," said Anthony, eating his words, "that is not the reason. It were
base to deceive you. A normally-constituted Englishman no more objects
to beauty, than a deep-sea fish objects to dry weather or the
income-tax. He abandons the country during the three pleasantest
months of the year, not because it is beautiful, for he is sublimely
unconscious that it's beautiful, but because, during those months, in
the country, there's nothing that he can course, hunt, or shoot."
"I see," she said. "And is—is there anything that he can course,
hunt, or shoot in town?"
"Not exactly," Anthony admitted. "But there are people—to whom he can
do the next best thing. There are people whom he can bore. It is an
interim sport. It is an annual national tournament. The good knights
flock together from the four corners of England, to tilt at one
another, and try who shall approve himself the most indefatigable, the
most indomitable bore."
Susanna gazed dreamily at the distance for a moment. Then, with sudden
actuality, "Apropos of interim sports," she demanded, "what are you
going to do about that cat of yours?" A movement of her head indicated
Hovering near them, Patapouf was busy with a game of
make-believe—pretending that the longish grass was a jungle, and
himself a tiger, stalking I know not what visionary prey: now gingerly,
with slow calculated liftings and down-puttings of his feet, stealing a
silent march; now, flat on his belly, rapidly creeping forward; now
halting, recoiling, masking himself behind some inequality of the
ground, peering warily over it, while his tail swayed responsive to the
eager activity of his brain; and now, having computed the range to a
nicety, his haunches wagging, now, with a leap all grace and
ruthlessness,—a flash of blackness through the air,—springing upon
the creature of his fancy.
Susanna and Anthony watched him for a little without speaking.
"You can't deny that he has imagination," said Anthony, at length,
turning towards her.
"He is beautiful and clever," said Susanna, "I could wish he were as
virtuous. This, of course, is sheer play-acting. He 's simply waiting
till our backs are turned, to renew his designs upon the bird's nest."
"When I turn my back I 'll carry him with me," Anthony answered. But
in his soul he said: "What 's the good of telling her that that will
only be to defer the evil moment? Of course he has marked the tree.
He will come back to it at his leisure."
"I beg your pardon," said Susanna. "That will merely be to put the
evil off. The cat certainly knows the tree. Directly he 's at
liberty, he will come back."
"Oh—?" faltered Anthony, a trifle disconcerted. "Oh? Do—do you
"Yes," she said. "There 's not a doubt of it. But I am acquainted
with a discipline, which, if I have your sanction to apply it, will
unnerve Monsieur Patapouf, so far as this particular tree is concerned,
until the end of time. Cats have a very high sense of their personal
freedom—they hate to be tied up. Well, if we tie Monsieur Patapouf to
this tree, so that he can't get away, and leave him alone here for an
hour or two, he will conceive such a distaste for everything connected
with this tree that he will never voluntarily come within speaking
distance of it again."
"Really? That seems very ingenious," commented Anthony.
"'T is an old wives' remedy," said Susanna. "You don't happen to have
such a thing as a piece of string in your pocket? It does n't matter.
But you have a penknife? Thank you. Now please catch your cat."
Anthony called Patapouf, exerting those blandishments one must exert
who would coax a hesitating cat.
Patapouf, by a series of étapes and délours, approached, and was
Susanna, meanwhile, having laid her rosary and prayer-book on the
grass, unbuttoned her blue flannel jacket, and removed from round her
waist, where it was doing duty as a belt, a broad band of
cherry-coloured ribbon. This, with Anthony's penknife, she slitted and
ripped several times lengthwise, till she had obtained a yard or two of
"Now, first, we must make him a collar," she said, measuring off what
she deemed ribbon sufficient for that purpose.
Anthony held Patapouf, who, flattered by their attentions, and
unsuspicious of their ulterior aim, submitted quietly, while Susanna
adjusted the collar to his neck. They had to stand rather close
together during this process; I am not sure that sometimes their
fingers did n't touch. From Susanna's garments—from her hair?—rose
never so faint a perfume, like the perfume of violets. I am quite sure
that Anthony's heart was in a commotion.
"There," she remarked, finishing the collar with a bow, and bestowing
upon the bow a little tap of approbation; "red and black—it's very
becoming to him, is n't it?"
Then she tied Patapouf to the tree, leaving him, in charity, perhaps
twice his own length of tether free, and resumed possession of her book
An instant later, she had slightly inclined her head, smiled a good-bye
into Anthony's eyes, and was moving briskly away, in the direction of
Craford New Manor.
Adrian, pink with the livelier pink of Adrian freshly tubbed and
razored, and shedding a cheerful aroma of bay-rum, regarded Anthony,
across the bowlful of roses that occupied the centre of the breakfast
table, with a show of perplexity.
In the end, thrusting forward his chin, and dropping his eyelids,
whereby his expression became remote and superior, "The state of mind
of a person like you," he announced, "is a thing I am totally unable to
And he plunged his spoon into his first egg.
"It is inexplicable, it is downright uncanny," Anthony was thinking, as
he munched his toast, "the effect she produces upon a man; the way she
pursues one, persists with one. I see her, I hear her voice, her
laughter, as clearly as if she were still present. I can't get rid of
her, I can't shut her out."
Adrian, his announcement provoking no response, spoke up.
"I am utterly unable," he repeated, "to conceive the state of mind of a
person like you."
"Of course you are," said Anthony, with affability.
"I suppose," he thought, "it's because she is what they call a
pronounced personality,—though that does n't seem a very flattering
description. I suppose it's her odylic force."
Adrian selected a second egg, and placed it in his egg-cup.
"You live, you move, you have a sort of being," he said, as he operated
upon the egg-shell; "and, apparently, you live contented. Yet, be
apprised by me, you live in the manner of the beasts that perish. For
the whole excuse, warrant, purpose, and business of life, you treat as
alien to your equation."
"The business of life I entrust to my eminently competent man of
business," said Anthony, with a bow.
"She 's so magnificently vivid," he thought. "That white skin of hers,
and the red lips, and the white teeth; that cloud of black hair, and
the sweep of it as it leaves her brow; and then those luminous, lucid,
glowing, glowing eyes—that last smile of them, before she went away!
She gives one such a sense of intense vitality, of withheld power, of
Adrian, with some expenditure of pains, extracted the spine from a
"These children of the inconstant wave," he mused, "these captives from
the inscrutable depths of ocean—the cook ought to bone them before she
sends them to table, ought n't she? Labor et amor. The warrant for
life is labour, and the business of life is love."
"You should address your complaints to the cook in person," said
"That's it—unknown possibilities," he thought. "She 's vivid, but she
is n't obvious. It's a vividness that is all reserves—that hints, but
does n't tell. It's the vividness of the South, of the Italy that
produced her,—'Italy, whose work still serves the world for miracle.'
She's vivid, but not in primary colours. I defy you, for example, to
find the word for her—the word that would make her visible to one who
had never seen her."
"They 're immensely improved by a drop or two of Worcester sauce," said
Adrian, with his mouth full. "Observe how, in the labyrinth of
destiny, journeys end in the most romantic and improbable conjunctions.
These fishlets from a southern sea—this sauce from a northern
"And then her figure," thought Anthony; "that superb, tall, pliant
figure,—the flow of it, the spring of it,—the lines it takes when she
moves, when she walks,—its extraordinary union of strength with
"The longest night," said Adrian, "is followed by a dawn." He dropped
three lumps of sugar into his tea-cup. "There 's a paragraph in this
week's Beaux and Belles which says that sugar in tea is quite the
correct thing again. Thank mercy. Tongue can never tell the
hankerings my sweet-tooth has suffered during the years that sugar has
"Nearest neighbours though they dwell,
Neighbour Tongue can never tell
What Neighbour Tooth has had to dree,
Nearest neighbours though they be,"
he softly hummed. "But that's really from a poem about toothache, and
does n't perhaps apply. Do you labour? Do you love?" he enquired.
"Love is such an ambiguous term," said Anthony, with languor.
"Yes—strength and fineness: those are her insistent notes," he was
thinking. "She is strong, strong. She is strong as a perfect young
animal is strong. Yet she is fine. She is fine as only, of all
created beings, a fine woman can be fine—a woman delicate, sensitive,
high-bred, fine in herself, and with all her belongings fine."
"Life," said Adrian, "is a thing a man should come by honestly; a thing
the possession of which a man should justify; a thing a man should
"Some favoured individuals, I have heard, inherit it from their
forebears," said Anthony, as one loth to dogmatise, on the tone of a
"Pish," answered Adrian, with absoluteness. "Our forebears affect my
thesis only in so far as they did not forbear. At most, they touched
the button. The rest—the adventurous, uncertain, interesting rest—we
must do ourselves. We must earn our life; and then we should spend
it—lavishly, like noble, freehanded gentlemen. Well, we earn our life
by labour; and then, if we spend as the gods design, we spend our life
in love. I could quote Browning, I could quote Byron, I could even
quote What's-his-name, the celebrated German."
"You could—but you won't," interposed Anthony, with haste. "It is
excellent to have a giant's strength, but tyrannous to use it like a
"The puzzling thing, however," he reflected, "is that I can't in the
least realise her as what she is. She is a widow, she has been
married. I can't in the least think of her as a woman who has been
married. Not that she strikes one exactly as a young girl,
either,—she exhibits too plentiful a lack of young-girlish rawness and
insipidity,—she 's a woman, she 's a femme faite. But I can't think
of her as a woman who has passed through marriage. One feels a
freshness, a bloom, a something untouched, intact. One feels the
presence of certain inexperiences. And yet—well, by the card, one's
feeling is mistaken."
Adrian sprinkled sugar and poured cream over a plateful of big red
"All this—and Heaven too," he piously murmured.
Then, rosy face and blue eyes bright with anticipation, he tasted one.
Slowly the brightness faded.
"Deceivers!" he cried, falling back in his seat, and shaking his fist
at the tall glass dish from which he had helped himself. "Fair as
Hyperion, false as dicers' oaths. Acid and watery—a mere sour bath.
You may have them all." He pushed the dish towards Anthony. "I
suppose it's too early in the season to hope for good ones. But
this"—he charged a plate with bread, butter, and marmalade—"this
honest, homely Scottish marmalade, this can always be depended upon to
fill the crannies." And therewith he broke into song.
"To fill the crannies,
The mannie's crannies,
Then hey for the sweeties of bonny Dundee!" he carolled lustily. "Let
me see—I was saying?" he resumed. "Ah, yes, I was saying that the
state of mind of a man like you is a thing I am utterly unable to
conceive. And that 's funny, because it is generally true that the
larger comprehends the less. But I look at you, and I think to myself,
thinks I, 'There is a man—or at least the semblance of a man,—a
breathing thing at least, with anthropoid features and dimensions,—who
is never, never, never tormented by the feeling—'Now, tell me, what
feeling do you conjecture I mean?"
"Don't know, I 'm sure," said Anthony, without much animation.
"'By the feeling that he ought to be bending over a sheet of paper,
ruled in pretty parallels of fives, trying to embellish the same with
semi-breves and crotchets.' That is what I think to myself, thinks I;
and the thought leaves me gasping. I am utterly unable to conceive
your state of mind."
"I shan't—barring happy accidents—see her again till Sunday; and
to-day is only Friday," Anthony was brooding.
"Apropos," he said to Adrian, "I remember your telling me that Friday
"Tut," said Adrian. "That is n't apropos in the slightest degree. The
difference that baffles me, I expect, is that I 've the positive, you
've the negative, temperament; I 've the active, you 've the passive; I
've the fertile, you 've the sterile. It's the difference between Yea
and Nay, between Willy and Nilly. Serenely, serenely, you will drift
to your grave, and never once know what it is to be consumed, harried,
driven by a deep, inextinguishable, unassuageable craving to write a
song. You 'll never know the heartburn, the unrest, the
conscience-sickness, the self-abasement that I know when I 'm not
writing one, nor the glorious anguish of exhilaration when I am. I can
get no conception of your state of mind—any more than a nightingale
could conceive the state of mind of a sparrow. In a sparrowish way, it
must be rather blissful—no? We artists are the salt of the earth, of
course; but every art knows its own bitterness, and—il faut souffrir
pour être sel."
"It's the difference between egotism rampant and modesty regardant,"
Anthony, with some grimness, returned. "I am content to sit in my
place, and watch the pantomime. You long to get upon the stage. Your
unassuageable craving to write a song is, in its essence, just an
unassuageable craving to make yourself an object of attention. And
that's the whole truth about you artists. I recollect your telling me
that Friday was unlucky."
"Oh, how superficial you are," Adrian plaintively protested. "A man
like me, you should understand, is meant for the world—for the world's
delight, for mankind's wonder. And here unfortunate circumstances—my
poverty and not my will—constrain me to stint the world of its due: to
languish in this lost corner of Nowhere, like Wamba the son of Witless,
the mere professed buffoon of a merer franklin. Well, my unassuageable
craving to write a song is, in its essence, just a great, splendid,
generous desire to indemnify the world. The world needs me—the world
has me not—but the world shall have me. For the world's behoof, I
will translate myself into semi-breves and crotchets. So there!
Besides, to be entirely frank, I can't help it. Nothing human is
perfect that does not exhibit somewhere a fine inconsequence. Thus I
exhibit mine. I make music from a high sense of duty, to enrich the
world; but at the same time I make it because I can't help making it.
I make it as the bee makes honey, as the Jew makes money,
spontaneously, inevitably. It is my nature to,—just as it 's the
nature of fire to burn, and of dairy-maids to churn. It is the
inherent, ineradicable impulse of my bounteous soul."
"You told me in so many words that Friday was unlucky," said Anthony.
"Well, and so it is," said Adrian.
"I don't agree with you. Friday, in my experience, is the luckiest day
of the seven. All sorts of pleasant things have happened to me on
"That's merely because your sponsors in baptism happened to name you
Tony," Adrian explained. "Friday, and the still more dread thirteen,
are both lucky for people who happen to be named Tony. Because why?
Because the blessed St. Anthony of Padua was born on a Friday, and went
to his reward on a thirteenth—the thirteenth of June, this very month,
no less." He allowed Anthony's muttered "A qui le dites-vous?" to
pass unnoticed, and, making his voice grave, continued, "But for those
of us who don't happen to be named Tony—unberufen! Take a man like
me, for instance, an intellectual young fellow, with work to do, but
delicate, and dependent for his strength upon the regular
administration of sustaining nourishment. Well, Friday comes, and
there he is, for twenty-four hours by the clock, obliged to keep up, as
best he may, on fish and vegetables and suchlike kickshaws, when every
fibre of his frame is crying out for meat, red meat. And now"—he
pushed back his chair—"and now, dear heart, be brave. Steel yourself
to meet adversity. A sorrow stoically borne is already half a sorrow
vanquished. I must absent thee from thy felicity a while—-I must be
stepping." He rose, and moved, with that dancing gait of his, to the
door. From the threshold he remarked, "If you will come to my
business-room about half an hour before luncheon, I shall hope to have
the last bars polished off, and I 'll sing you something sweeter than
ever plummet sounded. Lebe wohl."
"Yes," thought Anthony, left to himself, "barring happy accidents, I
must wait till Sunday."
And he went into the park.
"The nuisance," he said to Patapouf, as he released him, "the nuisance
of things happening early is that they 're just so much the less likely
to happen late. The grudge I bear the Past is based upon the
circumstance that it has taken just so much from the Future.
Meanwhile, suggest the unthinking, let's enjoy the present. But
virtually, as I need n't remind you, there is no such thing as the
present. The present is an infinitesimal between two infinites. 'T is
a line (a thing without breadth or thickness) moving across the surface
of Eternity. The present is no more, by the time you have said, This
is present. So, then, it were inordinate to hope to fall in with her
again to-day, and you and I must face an anti-climax. Be thankful we
have the memories of the morning to feed upon. And, if you desire a
subject for meditation, observe how appetites are created. If we had
not met her at all, we should not hunger and thirst in this way for
He left the red collar round Patapouf's neck. The rest of the torn
ribbon he carefully gathered up and put in his pocket-book.
"One should, however, give happy accidents a certain encouragement," he
reflected, as he woke next morning. "She said it was her habit. We
will seek her again in the hours immaculate."
He sought her far and near. He wandered the park till breakfast time.
The appropriate scene was set: the familiar sheep were there, the
trees, the birds, the dewy swards, the sunshine and the shadows:
but—though, at each new turning, as each new prospect opened,
expectancy anew looked eagerly from his eyes—the lady of the piece was
"And yet you boasted it was your habit," bitterly he reproached his
vision of her.
All day he held out to happy accidents what encouragement he might.
All day he roamed the park, and, as the day dragged on, became a deeply
dejected man. Even the certitude of seeing her to-morrow was of small
"Two minutes before Mass, and three minutes after—what is that?" he
Towards five o'clock he took a resolution.
"There are such things as accidents, but there is also," he argued,
"such a thing as design. Why is man endowed with free-will? I don't
care how it may look, nor what they may think. I 'm going to call upon
her, I 'm going to ask myself to tea."
In this, however, he reckoned without the keeper of her door.
"The ladies er ait, sir," announced that prim-lipped functionary.
"Now farewell hope," he mourned, as the door closed in his face.
"There's nothing left for me to do but to go for a thundering long
walk, and tire myself into oblivion. I will walk to Wetherleigh."
Head bent, eyes downcast, sternly resolved to banish her from his
thought, he set forwards, with rapid, dogged steps. He had gone, it
may be, a hundred yards, when a voice stopped him.
"Sh—sh! Please—please!" it whispered.
The grounds immediately appertaining to Craford New Manor are traversed
by a brook. Springing from amidst a thicket of creepers up the
hillside, it comes tumbling and winding, a series of miniature
cascades, over brown rocks, between mossy banks shadowed by ferns and
eglantine, through the sun-shot dimness of a grove of pine-trees, to
fling itself with a final leap and flash (such light-hearted
self-immolation) into the ornamental pond at the bottom of the lawn.
It is a pretty brook, and pleasing to the ear, with its purl and tinkle
of crisp water.
And now, as Anthony, heading for the Wetherleigh-wards exit of the
park, approached the brook, to cross it,—"Sh, sh—please, please,"—a
whisper stopped him.
There by the bank, under the tall pines, where sun and shadow chequered
the russet carpet of pine-needles, there, white-robed, sat Susanna:
white-robed, hatless, gloveless. She was waving her hand, softly, in a
gesture invocative of caution; but her eyes smiled a welcome to him.
Anthony halted, waited,—his heart, I think, high-bearing.
"It is a blue tit," she explained, under her breath, eagerly. "The
rarest bird that ever comes. He is bathing—there—see." She pointed.
Sure enough, in a little rock-formed pool a couple of yards up-stream,
a tiny blue titmouse was vigorously enjoying his bath—ducking,
fluttering, preening his plumage, ducking again, and sending off
shooting-stars of spray, prismatic stars where they crossed the
"That is the delight of this bit of water," Susanna said, always with
bated breath. "The birds for miles about come here to drink and bathe.
All the rarer and timider birds, that one never sees anywhere else."
"Ah, yes. Very jolly, very interesting," said Anthony, not quite
knowing what he said, perhaps, for his faculties, I hope, were singing
a Te Deum. But—with that high nose of his, that cool grey eye, with
that high collar too, and the general self-assurance of his toilet—no
one could have appeared more composed or more collected.
"You speak without conviction," said Susanna. "Don't you care for
("Come! You must get yourself in hand," his will admonished his wit.)
"I beg your pardon," he said, "I care for them very much. They 're an
indispensable feature of the landscape, and immensely serviceable to
the agriculturist. But one cares for other things as well. And I had
always fancied that the crowning virtue of this bit of water (since you
mention it) was its amenability to the caprice of man."
"Men have caprices?" questioned she, surprise in her upward glance.
"At any rate," he answered, with allowance for her point, "your
Scottish gardener has. At his caprice, he turns this torrent on or
off, with a tap. For all its air of naturalness and frank impetuosity,
it is an entirely artificial torrent; and your Scottish gardener turns
it on and off with a tap."
"He sways the elements," murmured Susanna, as with awe. "Portentous
being." Then, changing her note to one of gaiety, "Ecco," she cried,
"Signor Cinciallegra has completed his ablutions—and ecco, he flies
away. Won't you—won't you sit down?" she asked, as her eyes came back
from the departing bird; and a motion of her hand made him free of the
"Thank you," responded Anthony, taking a place opposite her. "I 'm not
sure," he added, "whether in honesty I ought n't to confess that I have
just been calling upon you."
"Oh," she said, with the politest smile and bow. "I am so sorry to
have missed your visit."
"You are very good." He bowed in his turn. "I wanted to consult you
about a trifling matter of business," he informed her.
"A matter of business—?" she wondered; and her face became all
"Exactly," said he. "I wanted to ask what you meant by stating that it
was your habit always to be abroad in the hours immaculate? I happened
by the merest chance to be abroad in them myself this morning. I
examined every nook and cranny of them, I turned them inside out; but
not one jot or tittle of you could I discover."
Susanna's eyes were pensive.
"I was speaking of Italy, was I not?" she replied. "I said, I think,
that it was the habit of the people in my part of Italy. But, anyhow,
one sometimes varies one's habits. And, after all, one sometimes makes
statements that are rash."
"And one is always free to repudiate one's responsibilities,"
suggestively supplemented our young man.
"Fortunately," she agreed. "Moreover," she changed her ground, "one
should not be too exclusive in one's sympathies, one should not be
unfair to other hours. This present hour here now—is it not
immaculate also? With its pure sky, and its odour of warm pines, its
deep cool shadows, its patines of bright gold where the sun penetrates,
and then, plashing through it, this curling, dimpling, artificial
torrent? It is not the hour's fault if it happens to arrive somewhat
late in the day—it had to wait its turn. Besides, if one can believe
what one reads in books, it will be the very earliest of early
hours—down there," (with the tip of a vertical finger she touched the
earth), "at the Antipodes."
"To this present hour," said Anthony, with impressive slowness, "I
personally owe so great a debt of thankfulness, it would be churlish of
me even to hint a criticism. And yet—and yet—how shall I express it?
Eppur' si muove. It moves, it hastes away;—while I could wish it to
remain forever, fixed as the Northern Star. Do they know, in your part
of Italy, any means by which the sparkling minutes can be prevailed
upon to stay their flight?"
"That is a sort of knowledge," Susanna answered, with a movement of the
head, "for which, I fear, one would have to go to a meta-physical and
thrifty land like Germany. We are not in the least metaphysical or
thrifty in my part of Italy. We allow the sparkling minutes to slip
between our fingers, like gold between the fingers of a spendthrift.
But—but we rather enjoy the feeling, as they slip."
"I wonder," Anthony hazarded, "whether you would take it very much
amiss if—if I should make a remark?"
Susanna's eyes lighted, dangerously.
"I wonder," she said, on a key of dubious meditation.
"I am not easily put off," said he, with firmness. "I am moved to
remark upon the astonishing facility with which you speak English.
Now—do your worst."
"It would take more than that to provoke me to do my worst," she said.
"English is as natural to me as my mother-tongue. I always had English
governesses. Everyone has English governesses in Italy nowadays, you
"Yes," he said, "I know; and they are generally Irish, are they not?
Of course you 've lived a great deal in England?" he surmised.
"On the contrary," she set him right, "this is my first visit here."
"Is it possible?" he marvelled. "I thought the true Oxford accent
could only be acquired on the spot."
"Have I the true Oxford accent?" Susanna brightly doubted, eye-brows
"Thank heaven," he gravely charged her, "thank heaven, kneeling, that
you have n't the true Oxford manner. Does England," he asked, "seem
"Yes," she answered, with immediate candour, "England seems very
rum—but not so rum as it might, perhaps, if I had n't read so many
English novels. English novels are the only novels you 're allowed to
read, in my part of Italy, when you 're young."
"Ah," said Anthony, nodding, "that's because our English novelists are
such dabs at the art of omission." And after the briefest pause, "Mere
idle and impertinent curiosity," he postulated, "is one thing: honest
neighbourly interest is another. If I were a bolder man, I should ask
you point-blank what part of Italy your part of Italy is."
Susanna (all a soft whiteness, in her white frock, in the mellow
penumbra of the pine-grove) leaned back, and softly laughed.
"My part of Italy? That is not altogether easy to tell," she said,
considering. "In one sense, my part of Italy is Rome. I belong to a
Roman family, and am politically a subject of the Holy Father,—what
though, for the moment, his throne be usurped by the Duke of Savoy, and
his prerogatives exercised by the Camorra. But then my part of Italy
is also Venice. We are Venetians, if to have had a house in Venice for
some four hundred years is sufficient to constitute folk Venetians.
But the part of Italy where I most often live, the part I like best, is
a part you will never have heard of—a little castaway island in the
Adriatic, about fifty miles north from Ancona: a little mountainous
island, all fragrant of rosemary and basil, all grey with
olive-trees,—all grey, save where the grey is broken by the green of
vineyards, or the white and green of villas with their gardens, or the
white and red of villages, with their red roofs, and white walls and
campanili,—all grey, and yet all blue and gold, between the blue sea
and the blue sky, in the golden light,—the little, unknown, beautiful
island of Sampaolo."
She was actress enough to look unconscious and unconcerned, as she
pronounced the name of Sampaolo. Her eyes gazed dreamily far away, as
if they could behold an air-vision of her island. At the same time, I
suspect, they kept a vigilant side-watch on Anthony.
Did Anthony give never so slightly perceptible a start? Did his eyes
quicken? Did he colour a little? At all events, we need not question,
he was aware of a sudden throb of excitement,—on the spur of which,
without stopping to reflect, "Really?" he exclaimed. "That is a very
odd coincidence. Sampaolo—I know all about it."
"Indeed?" said Susanna, looking surprise. "You have been there? It is
rarely visited by travellers—except commercial ones."
"No, I have never been there," he answered, so far truthfully enough.
"But—but I know—I used to know—a man whose—a man who had," he
concluded lamely. For, when he did stop to reflect, "If you care for
an amusing situation," he reflected, "you 'll leave her in the dark
touching your personal connection with Sampaolo."
Susanna, being quite in the light touching that connection, could not
"I must play the game on his conditions, and feign ignorance of all
that he does n't tell," she reminded herself. "But fancy his being so
"I hope the 'man who had' reported favourably of us?" she threw out.
"H'm—yes," said Anthony, with deliberation. "The truth is, he
reported nothing. He was one of those inarticulate fellows who travel
everywhere, and can give no better account of their travels than just a
catalogue of names. He chanced to let fall that he had visited
Sampaolo, and I thus learned that such a place existed. I can't tell
why, but the fact struck me, and stuck in my mind, and I have ever
since been curious to know something about it."
"You said you knew all about it," Susanna complained, her eyes
rebukeful, her tone a tone of disappointment.
"Oh, that was a manner of speaking," Anthony quibbled, plausible and
unperturbed. "I meant that I knew of its existence—which, after all,
is relatively a good deal, being vastly more than most people know."
"It would be worth your while," said Susanna, "the next time you find
yourself in its vicinity, to do Sampaolo the honour of an inspection.
It is easily reached. The Austrian-Lloyd coasting steamers from Venice
call there once a week, and there is a boat every Monday and Thursday
from Ancona. Sampaolo is an extremely interesting spot,—interesting
by reason of its natural beauty, its picturesque population, and (to
me, at least) by reason of its absurdly romantic, serio-comic,
lamentable little history."
"Ah—?" said Anthony, but with a suspension of the voice, with a
solicitude of eye and posture, that pressed her to continue.
"He is a poor dissembler," thought Susanna. "As if any mere chance
outsider would care a fig to hear about Sampaolo. However, so much the
"Yes," she said, and again she seemed rapt in dreamy contemplation of
an air-vision. "The natural beauty of Sampaolo is to my thinking
unparalleled. At a distance, as your ship approaches it, Sampaolo lies
on the horizon like a beautiful soft cloud, all vague rose-colours and
purples, a beautiful soft pinnacle of cloud. Then gradually, as you
come nearer, the cloud changes, crystallises; and Sampaolo is like a
great wonderful carving, a great wonderful carved jewel, a cameo cut on
the sea, with a sort of aureole about it, an opalescence of haze and
sunshine. Nearer still, its aspect is almost terrible, a scene of
breath-taking precipices, spire-like mountains, wild black gorges,
ravines; but, to humanise it, you can count at least twenty villages,
villages clinging to every hillside, perched on almost every hill-top,
each with its group of cypresses, like sentinels, and its campanile.
At last you pass between two promontories, the Capo del Turco and the
Capo del Papa, from the summits of which two great Crucifixes look
down, and you enter the Laguna di Vallanza, a land-locked bay, tranquil
as a lake. And there, floating on the water as it seems, there is a
palace like a palace in Fairyland, a palace of white marble, all
stately colonnades and terraces, yet looking, somehow, as light as if
it were built of the sea's foam. This is one of the palaces—the
summer palace—of the Counts of Sampaolo. It seems to float on the
water, but it really occupies a tiny mite of an islet, called Isola
Nobile; and connected with Isola Nobile by marble bridges are two other
tiny Islets, laid out in gardens, Isola Fratello and Isola Sorella.
The Counts of Sampaolo are one of the most ancient and illustrious
families in Europe, the Valdeschi della Spina, descendants of San Guido
Valdeschi, a famous soldier-saint of the Twelfth Century. They have
another palace in the town of Vallanza, their winter palace, the
Palazzo Rosso; and a splendid old mediaeval castle, Castel San Guido,
on the hill behind the town; and two or three delightful villas in
different parts of the island. A highly enviable family, are they not?
Orange-trees are in blossom at Sampaolo the whole year round, in
blossom and in fruit at the same time. The olive orchards of Sampaolo
are just so many wildernesses of wild flowers: violets, anemones,
narcissus; irises, white ones and purple ones; daffodils, which we call
asphodels; hyacinths, tulips, arums, orchids—oh, but a perfect riot of
wild flowers. In the spring the valleys of Sampaolo are pink with
blossoming peach-trees and almond-trees, where they are not scarlet
with pomegranates. Basil, rosemary, white heather, you can pluck where
you will. And everywhere that they can find a footing, oleanders grow,
the big double red ones, great trees of them, such wonder-worlds of
colour, such fountains of perfume. The birds of Sampaolo never cease
their singing—they sing as joyously in December as in June. And the
nightingales of Sampaolo sing all day, as well as all night. Tiu,
tiu, tiu—will, will, will—weep, weep, weep—I can hear them now.
But I must stop, or I shall go on for ever. Believe me, the beauties
of Sampaolo are very great."
It was a long speech, but it had had an attentive listener. It was a
long speech, but it had been diversified by the varying modulations of
Susanna's voice, the varying expressions of her face, by little pauses,
hesitations, changes of time and of rhythm, by occasional little
It had had an attentive, even an absorbed listener: one who, already
interested in the speaker, happened to have a quite peculiar interest
in her theme. As she spoke, I think Anthony beheld his own air-vision
of Sampaolo; I fancy the familiar park of Craford, the smooth,
well-groomed, well-fed English landscape, melted away; I doubt if he
saw anything of the actual save the white form, the strenuous face, the
shining eyes, of his informant.
But now, her voice ceasing, suddenly the actual came back—the brown
brook swirling at their feet, the tall pines whispering above, the warm
pine-incense, the tesserae of sun and shadow dancing together on the
carpet of pine-needles, as the tassels overhead swung in the moving air.
"You paint Elysium," he said. "You paint a veritable Island of the
Susanna's eyes clouded.
"Once upon a time Sampaolo was a veritable Island of the Blessed,"
she answered sadly. "But now no more. Since its union with what they
call the Kingdom of Italy, Sampaolo has been, rather, an Island of the
"Ah—?" said Anthony, again on a tone, with a mien, that pressed her to
But all at once, as if recalled from an abstraction, Susanna gave a
little laugh,—what seemed a slightly annoyed, half-apologetic little
laugh,—and lifted her hands in a gesture of deprecation, of
"I beg your pardon," she said. "I can't think how I have allowed
myself to become so tiresome. One prates of one's parish pump."
"Tiresome?" cried out Anthony, in spontaneous protest. "I can't tell
you how much you interest me."
"He is the poorest of poor dissemblers," thought Susanna.
"You are extremely civil," she said. "But how can the condition of our
parish pump possibly interest a stranger?"
"H'm," thought Anthony, taken aback, "I expect my interest does seem
So, speciously, he sought to justify it.
"For more reasons than a few," he alleged. "To begin with, if I dared,
I should say because it is your parish pump." He ventured a little
bow. "But, in the next place, because it is an Italian parish pump,
and somehow everything connected with Italy interests one. Then,
because it is the parish pump of Sampaolo, and I have always been
curious about Sampaolo. And finally, because it is a human parish
pump—et nihil humanum . . . . So please go on. How did Sampaolo
come to be an Island of the Distressed?"
"He 's not such a poor dissembler, after all,—when roused to action,"
thought Susanna. "But perhaps we have had enough Sampaolo for one
session. I must leave him with an appetite for more."
"Hark," she said, raising a finger, while her face became intent. "Is
n't that a skylark?"
Somewhere—just where one could n't tell at first—a bird was singing.
Many birds were singing, innumerable birds were chirruping, all about.
But this bird's song soared clear above the others, distinct from them,
away from them, creating for itself a kind of airy isolation. It was
an exquisitely sweet, liquid song, it was jocund, joyous, and it was
sustained for an astonishing length of time. It went on and on and on,
never faltering, never pausing, in soft trills and gay roulades, shrill
skirls or flute-like warblings, a continuous outpour, for I don't know
how many minutes. It was a song marvellously apposite to the bright
day and the wide countryside. The freshness of the air, the raciness
of the earth, the green of grass and trees, the laughing sunlight,—one
might have fancied it was the spirits of all these singing together in
"It's a skylark, sure enough," said Anthony, looking skywards. "But
where the mischief is he?"
And they gave eyes and ears to trying to determine, searching the
empyrean. Now his voice seemed to come from the west, now from the
north, the south, the east; it was the most deceptive, the most elusive
"Ah—there he is," Anthony cried, of a sudden, and pointed.
"Where? Where?" breathlessly asked Susanna, anxious as if life and
death hung on the question.
"There—look!" said Anthony, pointing again.
High, high up in the air, directly over their heads, they could discern
a tiny speck of black against the blue of the sky. They sat with their
necks craned back as far as they would go, and gazed at it like people
transfixed, whilst the sky pulsated to their dazzled sight.
"It is incredible," said Susanna. "A mere pin-point in that immensity,
yet he fills it full with his hosannas."
But the pin-point grew bigger, the hosannas louder; the bird was
"Literally it is music coming down upon us from heaven," she said.
"Yes—but when it reaches us, it will stop, we shall lose it," said
Anthony. "It is music too ethereal to survive the contact of this
Singing, singing, the bird sank, with folded wings; and sure enough,
the very instant he touched the earth, his song stopped short—a bubble
pricked, a light extinguished.
"He has come to drink and bathe," said Susanna.
He was hopping towards the water, on the other side of the brook, for a
poet the most prosaic-looking fellow, in the soberest brown coat.
Evidently he did n't dream that he was not alone. The trees had no
doubt hidden his watchers. But now Susanna's voice startled him. With
one wild glance at them, and a wild twitter of surprise, self-rebuke,
consternation, he bounded into the air, and in a second was a mere
"Oh, how silly of him," Susanna sighed. "Does he think we are dragons?"
"No," said Anthony. "He would n't be half so frightened if he thought
we were dragons. He thinks we are much worse."
"Oh—?" guilelessly questioned she. "What is that?"
"He thinks we are human beings," Anthony explained.
Susanna laughed, but it was rather a rueful laugh.
"Anyhow," she said, "he 'll not come back so long as we remain here.
Yet he is hot and thirsty—and who knows from what a distance he may
have flown, just for this disappointment? Don't you think it would be
gracious on our part if we were to remove the cause of his alarm?"
She rose, and led the way out of the pine-grove, towards her house.
When they reached the open, it was to discover, walking together from
the opposite direction, Adrian and Miss Sandus,—Adrian bending towards
his companion in voluble discourse, which he pointed and underlined by
"Enter Rumour, painted full of tongues," Anthony murmured, more or less
in his sleeve.
But at sight of him, Adrian halted, and struck an attitude.
"Oh, the underhand, the surreptitious villain!" he cried out. Then he
turned his pink face towards Susanna. "Lady, beauteous lady, vision of
loveliness," he saluted her, bowing to the ground. "But oh, to think
of that dark, secret villain! He 's gone and made your acquaintance
without waiting for me to introduce him, which I was so counting upon
doing to-morrow morning. Already he groans and totters under the
weight of obligations I 've heaped upon him. I wanted to add one
more—and now he 's gone and circumvented me."
"You will add one more if you 'll be so good as to introduce me to Miss
Sandus," said Anthony.
And when the introduction was accomplished, he proceeded to make
himself as agreeable to that lady as he possibly could. In the first
place, he liked her appearance, he liked her brisk, frank manner; and
then, is n't it always well to have a friend near the rose?
The result was that when she and Susanna were alone, Miss Sandus
succinctly remarked, "My dear, your cousin is a trump."
The shadows were long, as he and Adrian strolled back to Craford Old
"Well, now, Truepenny," Adrian began, "now that you 've met her, speak
out, and tell me on your heart and conscience how she impresses you."
"She seems all right," was Anthony's temperate reply.
"All right?" cried Adrian, looking scorn and pity. "My dear
Malaprop, she 's just simply the nicest person of her sex within the
confines of the Solar System. She is to other women what—well, I 'll
name no names—what somebody I could name is to other men. And with
such eyes—hey? Are they bright? Are they sharp? Are they trusty?
Are they knowing?"
"I expect she can see with them," said Anthony.
"See with them," Adrian sniffed. "I 'll tell you what she can
do—she can see round a corner with them. And then such pretty little
ears, besides. Did you notice her ears?"
"I noticed she was n't earless," Anthony admitted.
"Earless," cried Adrian. "Her ears are like roses and white lilies.
Earless, says he. I 'll bet three-halfpence you 'll presently be
denying that she 's witty."
"She seems witty enough," assented Anthony.
"Witty," Adrian scoffed, cutting a caper to signify his disdain for
the weak expression. "Witty is n't the word for it. And then, with
all her years, she 's so young, is n't she? She breathes the fresh,
refreshing savour of an unspoiled soul."
"Yes, she's young—for the time being," Anthony agreed. "By the bye,
do you know where she comes from?"
"Do I know? I should rather think I know," said Adrian, swaggering.
"She has n't a secret from me. She comes from Westmoreland. They 're
an old Westmoreland family. But she lives in Kensington. She has one
of those jolly old houses in Kensington Square. Historic, romantic,
poetic Kensington Square, where burning Sappho loved and sang, and
Thackeray wrote the What-do-you-call-'ems. Who fears to speak of
Ninety-eight? That's her number. Ninety-eight, Kensington Square, W.
And whenever I have occasion to run up to town, mind, I 'm not to think
of going to an hotel, I 'm to drive straight to Ninety-eight, and it
will be her joy to take me in. So it sometimes pays to be charming,
"I see," said Anthony.
"You see? The deuce you do. What do you see?" asked Adrian, opening
his blue eyes wide, and peering about, as one who would fain see too.
"You patter of Miss Sandus," said Anthony.
Adrian came to a standstill, and raised his hands towards heaven.
"Now I call upon the choirs of blessed Cherubim and Seraphim," he
exclaimed. "I call upon them to suspend their singing for an instant,
and to witness this. He sees that I patter of Miss Sandus. What
perspicuity. And he just a mortal man, like anybody—nay, by all
accounts, just a bluff country squire. Ah, what a noble understanding.
Well, then, my dear Hawkshaw, since there's no concealing anything from
you,—fine mouche, allez!—I own up. I patter of Miss Sandus."
"Do you happen to know where Madame Torrebianca comes from?" Anthony
"Oho!" cried Adrian. "It's Madame Torrebianca that you 've been
raving about. Ah, yes. Oh, I concede at once that Madame Torrebianca
is very nice too. None readier than I to do her homage. But for fun
and devilment give me Peebles. Give me old ladies, or give me little
girls. You 're welcome to the betwixts and the betweens. Old ladies,
who have passed the age of folly, or little girls, who have n't reached
it. But women in the prime of their womanhood are always thinking of
fashion-plates and curling-irons and love and shopping. Name me, if
you can, four vainer, tiresomer, or more unfruitful topics. Have you
never waked in your bed at midnight to wonder how it has come to pass
that I, at my time of life, with my attractions, am still a bachelor?
To wonder what untold disappointment, what unwritten history of sorrow,
has left me the lonely, brooding celibate you see? I 'll lift the
veil—a moment of épanchement. It's because I 've never met a
marriageable woman who had n't her noddle stuffed with curling-irons
and fashion-plates and love and shopping."
"Do you happen to know where she comes from?" Anthony repeated.
"She—? Who?" asked Adrian, looking vague. Then, as Anthony
vouchsafed no answer, but merely twirled his stick, and gazed with
indifferent eyes at the horizon, "Oh—Madame Torrebianca?" he
conjectured. "Still harping on my daughter? Of course I know where
she comes from. She comes from the land where the love of the turtle
now melts into sweetness, now maddens to crime—as who should say a
land of Guildhall banquets. She comes from Italy. Have you ever eaten
ortolans in Italy?"
"Do you happen to know what part of Italy?" Anthony persisted.
"From Rome, the pomp and pageant of imperial Rome," returned Adrian
promptly. "I 've got it in the lease. Nothing like having things in
leases. The business instinct—what? Put it in black and white, says
I. 'La Nobil Donna Susanna Torrebianca, of the Palazzo Sebastiani, via
Quattro Fontane, Rome, party of the second part.' A beau vers, is
n't it? The lilt, the swelling cadence, the rich rhyme, the hidden
alliterations,—and then the sensitive, haunting pathos, the eternal
verities adumbrated by its symbolism. I 've stood upon Achilles' tomb,
and heard Troy doubted. Time—that monster-mother, who brings forth
her children only to devour them—Time shall doubt of . . ."
"Rome may be the official sort of address she gives to land-agents and
people," Anthony interposed. "But the part of Italy where she really
lives is a little castaway island in the Adriatic, some fifty miles
north from Ancona,—the little, unknown, beautiful island of Sampaolo."
Adrian came to a standstill again, and dropped his jaw in sign of
"Oh, come. Not really?" he gasped at length.
"Yes, really," said Anthony.
"My eye!" Adrian exclaimed.
"It is odd, is n't it?" said Anthony.
"Odd?" cried Adrian. "It's—it—it beggars the English tongue."
"Well, if it beggars yours, it is doing pretty well," said Anthony.
"You goose," said Adrian, resuming his walk. "Can you actually suppose
that I 've passed all these golden days and weeks in friendly
hob-nobbings with her, and not learned that she came from the island of
Sampaolo? A fellow of penetration, like me? I appeal to your
honour—is it likely?"
"Why the devil have you never told me?" Anthony demanded, with asperity.
"You 've never asked me—you 've never given me a chance. You talk,
when you have me for a listener, you talk such an uninterrupted stream,
it's a miracle if I ever get a word in edgewise," Adrian explained.
"I trust, at least, that you 've been equally taciturn with her," said
"My good Absolute, I am the soul of taciturnity," Adrian boasted,
expanding his chest, and thumping it. "This bosom is a sealed
sanctuary for the confidences of those who confide in me. Besides,
when I 'm with Madame Torrebianca, believe me, we have other subjects
of conversation than the poor Squire o' Craford."
"You see," said Anthony, "for the lark of the thing, I should like, for
the present, to leave her in ignorance of my connection with Sampaolo."
"That's right," cried Adrian. "Dupe, cozen, jockey the trustful young
creature. Do. There 's a great-hearted gentleman. You need n't fear
my undeceiving her. I know my place; I know who holds the
purse-strings; I know which side my bread is buttered on. Motley's my
wear. So long as you pay my wages, you may count upon my connivance."
"I shall see her to-morrow morning at Mass. I wonder whether I am in
love with her," Anthony was thinking.
He gave her holy water at the door of the chapel, and her eyes
acknowledged it with a glance that sent something very pleasant into
Then, with an impulse of discretion, to efface himself, he knelt at the
first prie-dieu he came to. But Susanna, instead of going forward,
knelt at the prie-dieu next to his.
The chapel at Craford is a dim, brown little room,—the same room that
in the days of persecution had been a "secret" chapel, where priests
and people worshipped at the peril of their lives. You enter it from
the hall by a door that was once a sliding panel. In the old days
there was no window, but now there is a window, a small one,
lancet-shaped, set with stained glass, opening into the court. Save
for the coloured light that came through this, and the two candles
burning on the altar, the chapel was quite dark. The Mass was said by
an old Capuchin, Father David, from the convent at Wetherleigh; it was
served by Adrian.
You know "the hidden and unutterable sweetness of the Mass."
For Anthony, kneeling there with Susanna, the sweetness of the Mass was
strangely intensified. He did not look at her, he looked at the altar,
or sometimes at his prayer-book; but the sense that she was beside him
possessed every atom of his consciousness. Her kneeling figure, her
white profile, her hair, her hat, her very frock,—he could see them,
somehow, without looking; his eye preserved a permanent vision of them.
Yet they did not distract his thoughts from the altar. He followed
with devout attention the Act that was being consummated there; the
emotion of her presence merged with and became part of the emotion of
the Mass. They were offering the Holy Sacrifice side by side, they
were offering it together, they were sharing the Sacred Mystery. It
seemed to him that by this they were drawn close to each other, and
placed in a new relation, a relation that was far beyond the mere
acquaintanceship of yesterday, that in a very special and beautiful way
was intimate. The priest crossed the sanctuary, and they stood
together for the Gospel; the bell was rung, and together they bowed
their heads for the Elevation. They knelt side by side in body, but in
spirit was it not more than this? In spirit, for the time, were they
not absolutely at one?—united, commingled, in the awe and the wonder,
the worship and the love, of the Presence that had come, that was
filling the dim and silent little chapel with a light eyes were not
needed to see, with a music ears were not needed to hear, that had
transformed the poor little altar into a painless Calvary, whence were
diffused all peace, all grace, all benediction? They knelt side by
side, adoring together, breathing together the air that was now in very
deed the air of Heaven. And it seemed to Anthony as if the Presence
smiled upon them, and sanctioned and sanctified the thing that was in
"Domine, non sum dignus," solemnly rose the voice of the priest,
"Domine, non sum dignus . . ."
It was the supreme moment.
They went forward, and side by side knelt at the rail of the sanctuary.
Alas, the uncertain glory of an English June. That night the weather
changed. Monday was grey and cold, the beginning of a cold grey week,
a week of rain and wind, of low skies and scudding clouds; the
sad-coloured sea flecked with angry white, the earth sodden; leaves,
torn from their trees, scurrying down the pathways; and Adrian, of all
persons, given over to peevishness and lamentations.
"Oh, I brazenly confess it—I 'm a fair-weather friend," he said, as he
looked disconsolately forth from the window of his business-room, (a
room, by the bye, whereof the chief article of furniture was a
piano-à-queue). "Bring me sunshine and peaches, and I 'll be as sweet
as bright Apollo's lute strung with his hair. But this sort of gashly,
growsy, grim, sour, shuddery weather turns me into a broken-hearted
vixen. I could sit down and cry. I could lie down and die. I could
rise up and snap your head off. I am filled with verjuice and vitriol.
Oh, me! Oh, my!"
He stamped backwards and forwards, in nervous exasperation. He went to
the piano, and brought his hands down in a discordant clang upon the
"Can't anybody silence those stupid birds?" he cried, moving back to
the window, through which the merry piping of a robin was audible.
"How inept, how spiteful, of them to go on singing, singing, in the
face of such odious weather. Tell Wickersmith or someone to take a gun
and an umbrella, and to go out and shoot them. And the wind—the
strumpet wind," he cried. "All last night it gurgled and howled and
hooted in my chimney like a drunken banshee, and nearly frightened me
to death. And me a musician. And me the gentlest of God's
creatures—who never did any harm, but killed the mice in father's
barn. I ask you, as a man of the world, is it delicate, is it fair?
Drip, drip, drip—swish, swish, swash,—ugh, the rain! If it could
guess how I despise it!" He made a face and shook his fist at it.
"Do you think the weather knows how disagreeable it is? We all know
how disagreeable other people can be, but so few of us know how
disagreeable we ourselves can be. Do you think the weather knows? Do
you think it's behaving in this way purposely to vex me?"
But for Anthony it was a period not without compensations. He saw
Susanna nearly every day. On Tuesday she and Miss Sandus were his
guests at dinner; on Wednesday he and Adrian were her guests at
luncheon; on Thursday, at tea-time, they paid their visit of digestion;
on Friday, the rain holding up for a few hours in the afternoon, he and
Susanna went for a walk on the cliffs.
The sea-wind buffetted their faces, it lifted Susanna's hair and blew
stray locks about her temples, it summoned a lively colour to her
cheeks. Anthony could admire the resolute lines, the forceful action,
of her strong young body, as she braced herself to march against it.
From the turf under their feet rose the keen odour of wet earth, and
the mingled scents of clover and wild thyme. All round them
sand-martins wheeled and swerved, in a flight that was like aerial
skating. Far below, and beyond the dark-green of Rowland Marshes,
which followed the winding of the cliffs like a shadow, stretched the
grey sea, with its legions of white horses.
"What a sense one gets, from here, of the sea's immensity," Susanna
said. "I think the horizon is a million miles away."
"It is," affirmed Anthony, with conclusiveness, as one possessing exact
knowledge. Then, in a minute, "And, as we are speaking in round
numbers, are you aware that it's a million years since I last had the
pleasure of a word with you?"
Susanna's dark eyes grew big.
"A million years? Is it really," she doubted, in astonishment.
"Really and truly," asseverated he.
"A million years! How strange," she murmured, as one in a maze.
"Truth is often strange," said he.
"Yes—but this is particularly strange," she pointed out. "Because,
first, we have only known each other a week. And, secondly, I was
under the impression that you had had 'a word with me' yesterday—and
again the day before yesterday—and again the day before that."
"I beg your pardon," said he. "I have not had a word with you since we
sat by the brink of your artificial streamlet last Saturday afternoon;
and that, speaking in round numbers, was a million years ago. As for
yesterday, and the day before yesterday, and the day before that,—I
don't count it having a word with you when we are surrounded by
"Strangers—?" wondered Susanna.
"Yes," said he. "That fellow Willes, and your enchanting friend Miss
Susanna gave one of her light trills of laughter.
"We can't discuss our private affairs before them," said Anthony; "and
I 've been pining to discuss our private affairs."
"Have we private affairs?" Susanna questioned, in surprise.
"Of course we have," said he. "Everybody has. And it is to discuss
them that I have inveigled you into taking this walk with me. Does n't
the sort of English weather you 're at present getting a taste of make
you wish you had never left Italy?"
"Oh," she acquainted him, "it sometimes rains in Italy."
"Does it, indeed?" he enquired, opening his eyes. "But never—surely
"Yes, even sometimes at Sampaolo," she laughed. "And mercy, how the
wind can blow there! This is nothing to it. I don't think you have
any winds in England so violent as our temporali."
Anthony nodded, with satisfaction.
"Please go on," he urged. "I have been longing to hear more about
"Oh?" said Susanna, looking sceptical. "I feared I had wearied you
inexcusably with Sampaolo."
"Every syllable you pronounced," vowed he, "was of palpitating
interest, and you broke off at the most palpitating moment. You were
on the point of telling me how, from an Island of the Blessed, Sampaolo
came to be an Island of the Distressed—when we were interrupted by a
"That would be a terribly long story," Susanna premonished him, shaking
"I adore terribly long stories," he declared. "And have we not before
us the whole of future time?"
"Sampaolo came to be an Island of the Distressed," said she, "because,
some half-century ago, the Sampaolesi got infected with an idea that
was then a kind of epidemic—the idea of Italian unity. So they had a
revolution, overthrew their legitimate sovereign, gave up their
Independence, and united themselves to the 'unholy and unhappy State'
which has since assumed the name of the Kingdom of Italy."
"That is not a terribly long story," Anthony complained. "I 'm afraid
you are suppressing some of the details."
"Yes," she at once acknowledged, "I daresay I 'm suppressing a good
many of the details."
"That's not ingenuous," said he, "nor—nor kind."
"It was not unkindly meant," said she.
"But Sampaolo," he questioned, "had, then, been independent? Go on.
Be communicative, be copious; tell me all about it."
"For more than seven hundred years," answered Susanna, "Sampaolo had
been independent. The Counts of Sampaolo were counts regnant, holding
the island by feudal tenure from the Pope, who was their suzerain, and
to whom they paid a tribute. They were counts regnant and lords
paramount, tiranni, as they were called in mediaeval Italy; they had
their own coinage, their own flag, their own little army; and though
some of the noble Sampaolese families bore the title of prince or duke
at Rome, they ranked only as barons at Sampaolo, and were subjects of
A certain enthusiasm rang in her voice. They walked on for some paces
"In the Palazzo Rosso at Vallanza, to this day," she continued, "you
will be shown the throne-room, with the great scarlet throne, and the
gilded coronet topping the canopy above it. But the Counts of Sampaolo
were good men and wise rulers; and, under them, for more than seven
hundred years, the island was free, prosperous, and happy. And though
many times the Turks tried to take it, and many times the Venetians,
and though sometimes the Pope tried to take it back, when the Pope
happened to be a difficult Pope, the Sampaolesi, who were splendid
fighters, always managed to hold their own."
Again they took some paces in silence.
"Then"—her voice had modulated—"then the idea of Italian unity was
preached to them, and in 1850 they had a revolution; and foolish,
foolish Sampaolo voluntarily submitted itself to the reign of Victor
Emmanuel. And ever since,"—her eyes darkened,—"what with the
impossible taxes, the military conscription, the corrupt officials, the
Camorra, Sampaolo has been in a very wretched plight indeed.
But—pazienza!" She gave her shoulders a light little shrug. "The
Kingdom of Italy will not last forever."
"We will devoutly hope not," concurred Anthony. "Meanwhile, I am glad
to note that in politics you are a true-blue reactionary."
"In Sampaolese politics," said she, "reaction would be progress.
Before 1850 the people of Sampaolo were prosperous, now they are
miserably poor; were pious, now they are horribly irreligious; were
governed by honest gentlemen, now they form part of a nation that is
governed by its criminal classes."
"And what became of the honest gentlemen?" Anthony enquired. "What did
the counts do, after they were—'hurled,' I believe, is the consecrated
expression—after they were hurled from their scarlet thrones?"
"Ah," said Susanna, seriously, "there you bring me to the chapter of
the story that is shameful."
"Oh—?" said he, looking up.
"The revolution at Sampaolo was headed by the Count's near kinsman,"
she said. "The present legitimate Count of Sampaolo is an exile. His
title and properties are held by a cousin, who has no more right to
them, no more shadow of a right, of a moral right, than—than I have."
"Ah," said Anthony. And then, philosophically, "A very pretty
miniature of an historical situation," he commented. "Orleans and
Bourbon, Hanover and Stuart. A count in possession, and a count over
the water, an usurper and a pretender."
"Exactly," she assented, "save that the Count in possession happens to
be a Countess—the grand-daughter of the original usurper, whose male
line is extinct. Oh, the history of Sampaolo has been highly coloured.
A writer in some English magazine once described it as a patchwork of
melodrama and opera-bouffe. It ended, if you like, in melodrama and
opera-bouffe, but it began in pure romance and chivalry."
"Don't stop," said Anthony. "Tell me about the beginning."
"I can tell you that," announced Susanna, smiling, "in the words of
your own English historian, Alban Butler."
She paused for an instant, as if to make sure of her memory, and then,
"'In the year 1102 or 1103,' he says, in his Life of St. Guy Valdescus
of The Thorn, as he Anglicises San Guido Valdeschi della Spina, 'when
the Saint was returning from the Holy Land, where he had been a
crusader, he was shipwrecked, by the Providence of God, upon the island
of Ilaria, in the Adriatic Sea; and he was greatly afflicted by the
discovery that the inhabitants of that country were almost totally
ignorant of the truths of our Holy Religion, while the little knowledge
they possessed was confused with many diabolical superstitions. They
still invoked the daemons of pagan mythology, and sacrilegiously
included our Divine Lord and His Blessed Mother in the number of these.
Now, St. Guy had distinguished himself in the Crusade alike for his
valour in action, for the edifying character of his conversation, and
for the devotion and recollection with which he performed the exercises
of religion; and he was surnamed Guy of the Thorn for that he had
caused to be fixed in the hilt of his sword a sharp thorn, or spine,
which, when he fought, should prick the flesh of his hand, and thus
keep him in mind of the pious purpose for which he was fighting, and
that it behoved a soldier of the Cross to fight, not in private anger
or martial pride, but in Christian zeal and humility. When, therefore,
after his shipwreck, and after many other perils and adventures by sea
and land, the Saint finally arrived at Rome, of which city his family
were patricians, and where his venerable mother, as well as his wife
and children, eagerly awaited his return, he was received with every
sign of favour by the Pope, Pascal the Second, who commended him warmly
upon the good reports he had had of him, and asked him to choose his
own reward. St. Guy answered that for his reward he prayed he might be
sent back to the island of Ilaria, with a bishop and a sufficient
company of priests, there to spread the pure light of the Faith among
the unfortunate natives. Whereupon the Pope created him Count and
Governor of the country, the heathen name of which he changed to St.
Paul, and gave him as the emblem of his authority a sword in the hilt
of which was fixed a thorn of gold. This holy relic, under the name of
the Spina d'Oro, is preserved, for the reverence of the faithful. In
the cathedral of the city of Vallanza, where the descendants of St. Guy
still reign as lieutenants of the Sovereign Pontiff.'—There,"
concluded Susanna, with a little laugh, "that is the Reverend Alban
Butler's account of the matter."
"I stand dumb with admiration," professed Anthony, his upcast hand
speaking volumes, "before your powers of memory. Fancy being able to
quote Alban Butler word for word, like that!"
"When I was young," Susanna explained, "I was made by my English
governess to learn many of Butler's Lives by heart, and, as an Ilarian,
the Life of San Guido interested me particularly. He was canonised, by
the way, by Adrian the Fourth—the English Pope. As a consequence of
that, the Valdeschi have always had a great fondness for England, and
have often married English wives—English Catholics, of course. An
Englishwoman was Countess of Sampaolo when the end came, the patchwork
"Ah, yes," said Anthony, "the patchwork end—tell me about that."
"The end," Susanna answered, "was an act of shameful treachery on the
part of one of the descendants of San Guido towards another, his
immediate kinsman, and the rightful head of the family. And now it is
melodrama and opera-bouffe as much as ever you will. It is a
revolution in a tea-cup. It is the ancient story of the Wicked Uncle."
"Yes?" said Anthony.
"It is perfectly trite," said Susanna, "and it would be perfectly
absurd, if it were n't rather tragic, or perfectly tragic, if it were
n't rather absurd."
She thought for a moment. Anthony waited, attentive.
"In 1850," she narrated, "Count Antonio the Seventeenth died, leaving a
widow, who was English, and an only son, a lad of twelve, who should
naturally have succeeded his father as Guido the Eleventh. But Count
Antonio had a younger brother, also named Guido, who coveted the
succession for himself, and had long been intriguing to secure
it—organising secret societies among the people, to further the idea
of Italian unity, and bargaining with the King of Sardinia for the
price he should receive if he contrived to bring the Sampaolesi to give
up their independence. Well," she went on, with a slight effect of
effort, "while his brother lay dying, Guido, spying his opportunity,
was especially active. 'Now,' he said to the people, 'is the time to
strike. If, at my brother's death, his son succeeds him, we shall have
a regency, and the regent will be a foreigner and a woman. Now is the
time to terminate this petty despotism forever, to repudiate the
suzerainty of the Pope, and to join in the great movement of Italia
Riunita. To the Palace! Let us seize the Englishwoman and her son,
and banish them from the island. Let us hoist the tricolour, and
proclaim ourselves Italians, and subjects of the King. To the Palace!'
So, while that poor lady"—her voice quavered a little—"while that
poor lady was kneeling at the bedside of her dead husband,"—her voice
sank,—"a great mob of insurgents broke into the Palazzo Rosso, singing
'Fuori l'Italia lo straniero,' seized her and the little Count, dragged
them to the sea-front, and put them aboard a ship that was leaving for
She paused for a few seconds.
"Then there was a plebiscite," she proceeded, "and Sampaolo solemnly
transformed itself into a province of the Kingdom of Sardinia."
She paused again.
"And the Wicked Uncle," she again proceeded, "received his price from
Turin. First, he was appointed Prefect of Sampaolo for life.
Secondly, the little Count and his mother were summoned to take the
oath of fidelity to the King, and as they did not turn up to do so,
having gone to her people in England, they were declared to have
outlawed themselves, and to be 'civilly dead', their properties,
accordingly, passing to the next heir, who, of course, was Guido
himself. Thirdly, Guido was created Count of Sampaolo by royal patent,
the Papal dignity being pronounced 'null and not recognisable in the
territories of the King.' It is Guido's granddaughter who is Countess
of Sampaolo to-day."
She terminated her narration with a motion of the hand, as if she were
tossing something from her. Anthony waited a little before he spoke.
"And the little Count?" he said, at length.
"The little Count," said Susanna, "went through the formality of suing
his uncle for the recovery of his estates—or, rather, his mother, as
his guardian, did so for him. But as the action had to be tried in the
law-courts at Turin, I need n't tell you how it ended. In fact, it was
never tried at all. For at the outset the judges decided that the
suitor would have no standing before them until he had taken the oath
of allegiance to the King, and renounced his allegiance to the Pope.
He was 'civilly dead'—he must civilly resuscitate himself. As he
refused to do this, his cause was dismissed, unheard."
"And then—?" said Anthony.
"Then the little Count returned to England, and grew to be a big count,
and married an Englishwoman, and had a son, and died. He was adopted
by his mother's brother, an English country gentleman, who, surviving
him, and being a bachelor, adopted his son in turn. The son, however,
dropped his title of Count, a title more than seven hundred years old,
and assumed the name of his benevolent great-uncle. I 'm not sure,"
she reflected, "that I quite approve of his dropping that magnificent
"Oh, he very likely found it an encumbrance, living in England, as an
Englishman—especially if he was n't very rich," said Anthony. "He
very likely felt that it rendered him rather uncomfortably conspicuous.
Besides, a man does n't actually drop a title—he merely puts it in
his pocket—he can always take it out again. You don't, I suppose," he
asked, with a skilfully-wrought semblance of indifference, "happen to
remember the name that he assumed?"
"Of course, I happen to remember it," replied Susanna. "As you must
perceive, the history of Sampaolo is a matter I have studied somewhat
profoundly. How could I forget so salient a fact as that? The name
that he assumed," she said, her air elaborately detached, "was Craford."
But Anthony evinced not the slightest sign of a sensation.
"Craford?" he repeated. "Ah, indeed? That is a good name, a good old
south-country Saxon name."
"Yes," agreed Susanna; "but it is not so good as Antonio Francesco
Guido Maria Valdeschi della Spina, Conte di Sampaolo."
"It is not so long, at any rate," said he.
"Nor so full of colour," supplemented she.
"As I hinted before, a name like a herald's tabard might be something
of an inconvenience in work-a-day England," he returned. Then he
smiled, rather sorrily. "So you 've known all there was to be known
from the beginning, and my laborious dissimulation has been useless?"
"Not useless," she consoled him, her eyes mirthfully meeting his. "It
has amused me hugely."
"You've—if you don't mind the expression—you've jolly well taken me
in," he owned, with a laconic laugh.
"Yes," laughed she, her chin in the air.
And for a few minutes they walked on without speaking.
The wind buffetted their faces, it wafted stray locks of hair about
Susanna's temples, it smelt of the sea and the rain-clouds, though it
could not blow away the nearer, friendlier smell of the wet earth, nor
the sweetness of the clover and wild thyme. All round them,
sand-martins performed their circling, swooping evolutions. In great
squares fenced by hurdles, flocks of sheep nibbled the wet grass. Far
beneath, the waters stretched grey to the blurred horizon, where they
and the low grey sky seemed one.
But I think our young man and woman were oblivious of things external,
absorbed in their private meditations and emotions. They walked on
without speaking, till a turn in the cliff-line brought them in sight
of the little town of Blye, at the cliffs' base, where it rose from the
surrounding green of Rowland Marshes like a smoky red island.
"Blye," said Anthony, glancing down.
"Yes," said Susanna. "I had no idea we had come so far."
"I 'm afraid we have come too far. I 'm afraid I have allowed you to
tire yourself," said he, with anxiety.
"Tired!" she protested. "Could one ever get tired walking in such
exhilarating air as this?"
And, indeed, her colour, her bright eyes, her animated carriage, put to
scorn his apprehension.
"But we must turn back, all the same," she added, "or—we shall not be
home for tea."
She spoke in bated accents, and made a grave face, as if to miss tea
were to miss a function sacrosanct.
Anthony laughed, and they turned back.
"It's a bit of a coincidence," he remarked presently, "that, coming
from Sampaolo, you should just have chanced to take a house at Craford."
"Nothing could be simpler," said Susanna. "I wished to pass the summer
in England, and was looking for a country house. The agent in London
mentioned Craford New Manor, among a number of others, and Miss Sandus
and I came down to see it. The prospect of finding myself the tenant
of my exiled sovereign rather appealed to me—appealed to my sense of
romance and to my sense of humour. And then,"—her eyes
brightened,—"when we met your perfectly irresistible Mr. Willes,
hesitation was impossible. He kept breaking out with little snatches
of song, while he was showing us over the place; and afterwards he
invited us to his music-room, (or I think he called it his
business-room), and sang properly to us—his own compositions. He
even permitted me to play some of his accompaniments."
"I 'm sure he did—I see my Adrian," he said. "Well, I owe him more
than he 's aware of."
"Your Excellency is the legitimate Count of Sampaolo," said Susanna.
"Antonio, by the Grace of God, and the favour of the Holy See, Count of
Sampaolo—thirty-fourth count, and eighteenth of the name. I am your
very loyal subject. Let's conspire together for your restoration."
"You told me the other day that you were a subject of the Pope,"
"That is during this interregnum," she explained. "The Pope is our
liege lord's liege lord, and, in our liege lord's absence, our homage
reverts to him. I will never, at all events, admit myself to be a
subject of the Duke of Savoy. Let's plot for your restoration."
"My 'restoration,' if that is n't too sounding a term, is a thing past
praying for," said Anthony. "But I don't know that I should very
keenly desire it, even if it were n't."
"What!" cried she. "Would n't it be fun to potentate it on a scarlet
"Not such good fun, I fancy, as it is to squire it in these green
meadows," he responded. "Are n't scarlet thrones apt to be upholstered
with worries and responsibilities?"
"Are n't green meadows sown thick with worries and responsibilities?"
"Very likely," he consented. "But for a moderate stipend I can always
hire a man like Willes to reap and deal with them for me."
"Could n't you hire 'a man like Willis' to extract them from your
scarlet cushions? Potentates have grand viziers. Mr. Willes would
make a delicious grand vizier," she reflected, with a kind of
"He would indeed," said Anthony. "And we should have comic opera again
"But you only look at it from a selfish point of view," said Susanna.
"Think of poor Sampaolo—under the old régime, an Island of the
"Seriously, is there at Sampaolo, the faintest sentiment in favour of a
return to the old régime?" he asked.
"Seriously, and more 's the pity, not the faintest," Susanna confessed.
"I believe I am the only legitimist in the island—save a few priests
and nuns, and they don't count. I am the entire legitimist party."
She turned towards him, making a little bow.
"Yet there is every manner of discontent with the present régime," she
said. "The taxes, the conscription, the difficulties put in the way of
commerce, the monstrous number of officials, and the corruption of them
one and all, are felt and hated by everyone. Under the old régime, for
example," she illustrated, "Vallanza was a free port,—now we have to
pay both a national duty and a municipal duty on exports as well as
imports; nothing was taxed but land, and that very lightly—now nearly
everything is taxed, even salt, even a working-man's tools, even a
peasant's necessary donkey, so that out of every lira earned the
government takes from forty to sixty centimes; the fisheries of
Sampaolo, which are very valuable, were reserved for the
Sampaolesi,—now they are open to all Italy, and Sampaolo, an island,
cannot compete with Ancona, on the railway. In Sampaolo to-day, if you
have any public business to transact, from taking out a dog license to
seeking justice in the law-courts, every official you have to deal
with, including the judges, expects his buonamano. If you post a
letter, it is an even chance whether the Post-Office young men won't
destroy the letter and steal the stamps; while, if you go to the
Post-Office to buy stamps, it is highly possible that they will
playfully sell you forged ones."
She gave a bitter little laugh.
"The present Prefect of Sampaolo," she continued her illustrations,
"formerly kept a disreputable public house, a sailors' tavern, at
Ancona. He is known to be a Camorrista; and though his salary is only
a few thousand lire, he lives with the ostentation of a parvenu
millionaire, and no one doubts where he gets his money. These evils
are felt by everyone. But the worst evil of all is the condition of
the Church. In the old days the Sampaolesi were noted for their piety;
now, even in modern irreligious Italy, you would seek far to unearth a
people so flagrantly irreligious. From high to low the men are
atheists; and the few men who are not, have to be very careful how they
show it. It is as much as a tradesman's trade is worth, as much as an
employe's place is worth, to go to Mass; the one will sit behind a
deserted counter, the other will learn that his services are no longer
needed. The present régime is liked by no one save the officials who
benefit by it; but it tickles the vanity of the Sampaolesi to call
themselves citizens of a Great Power; and so, though many are
republicans, many socialists, none are legitimists. They would prefer
any burden to the burden of insignificance; and under the reign of the
Valdeschi, though free, prosperous, and happy, Sampaolo was
"You paint a very sad state of things," said Anthony.
"Believe me," said Susanna, "my painting is pale beside the reality."
"And, apparently, a hopeless state," he added.
"Some day the Kingdom of Italy must end in a tremendous smash-up.
Afterwards, perhaps, there will be a readjustment. Our hope is in
that," said she.
"Meanwhile, you make it clear, I am afraid," he argued, "that we should
gain only our labour for our pains in plotting a restoration."
"We should have the excitement of plotting," laughingly argued she.
"A plotter's best reward, like an artist's, you suggest, is the
pleasure he takes in his work. But now you are inciting me to look at
it again from the selfish point of view, for which a moment ago you
were upbraiding me," he reminded her.
"Do look at it from the selfish point of view," inconsistent and
unashamed, she urged. "Think of your lands, your houses, your palaces
and gardens, Castel San Guido, Isola Nobile, think of your pictures,
your jewels, the thousand precious heirlooms that are rightly yours,
think of your mere crude money. How can you bear the thought that
these are in the possession of a stranger—these, your inheritance, the
inheritance of nearly eight hundred years? Oh, if I were in your
place, the wrong of it would fill the universe for me. I could not
"One has no choice but to endure it," said he. "One benumbs resentment
with a fatalistic 'needs must.'"
"One would do better to inflame resentment with a defiant 'where there
's a will there 's a way,'" Susanna answered.
"The way is not plain to see."
"No—but we must discover the way. That"—she smiled—"shall be the
aim of our plotting."
And again for some time they walked on without speaking.
"If she could only guess how little my heart's desire is centred upon
the lands and houses of Sampaolo," thought Anthony, "how entirely it is
centred upon something much nearer home. I wonder what she would do if
I should tell her."
And at that thought his heart winced with delight and terror.
He looked sidewise at her. Her dark hair curled about her temples, and
drooped in a loose mass behind; her dark eyes shone; there was a warm
colour in her cheeks. Her head held high, her body defined itself in
lines of strength and beauty, as she walked by the cliff's edge,
resisting the wind, with the sea and the sky for background. He looked
at her, and wondered what would happen if he should tell her; and his
heart glowed with delight, and winced with delight and terror,—glowed
with delight in the supreme reality of her presence, winced with
delight and terror at the imagination of telling her.
And then the suspended rain came down in a sudden pelting shower; and
Anthony put up his umbrella. To keep in its shelter, they had to walk
very close to each other, their arms touching sometimes. I daresay
they were both pretty wet when they reached Craford New Manor, but I
don't think either minded much.
Miss Sandus, who met them in the hall, insisted that Susanna must go
upstairs and change; but to Anthony she said, "There 'll be tea in a
minute or two," and led the way to the drawing-room, the big, oblong,
sombre red-and-gold drawing-room, with its heavy furniture, its heavy
red damask hangings, its heavy gilded woodwork, its heavy bronzes and
Wet as he was, he followed, and sat down, with his conductress, before
the huge red-marble fireplace, in which a fire of logs was blazing—by
no means unwelcome on this not-uncharacteristic English summer's day.
"Well, you 've had a good sousing—had you a good walk?" asked the
little brisk old woman, in her pleasant light old voice.
"Yes—to Blye, or nearly," said Anthony. "The rain only caught us
towards the end. But what I stand in need of now is your sympathy and
She sat back in a deep easy chair, her pretty little hands folded in
her lap, her pretty little feet, in dainty slippers, high-heeled and
silver-buckled, resting on a footstool. It was a pretty as well as a
kind and clever face that smiled enquiringly up at him, from under her
soft abundance of brown hair.
"What's the matter?" she asked.
"Nothing much. I 'm merely in love," he answered.
Miss Sandus sat forward.
"In love? That's delightful. Whom with? With me? Is this a
declaration? Or a confidence?"
She fixed him with her humorous bright old eyes.
"It's both. Of course, I 'm in love with you. Everyone who knows you
is that," he predicated. "But also," he added, on a key of profound
melancholy, "if you will forgive my forcing the confidence upon you,
also with her."
He glanced indicatively ceilingwards.
"H'm," Miss Sandus considered, looking into the fire, "also with her."
"Yes," said Anthony.
"H'm," repeated Miss Sandus. "You go a bit fast. How long have you
"All my life. I never lived until I knew her," he averred.
"It was inevitable that you should say that—men always say that," the
lady generalised. "I heard it for the first time fifty-five years ago."
"Then, I expect, there must be some truth in it," was Anthony's
deduction. "Anyhow, I have known her long enough. One does n't need
time in these affairs. One recognises a perfect thing—one
recognises one's affinity. One knows when one is hit. I 'm in love
with her. Give me your sympathy and counsel."
"You have my sympathy. What counsel do you wish?"
"What shall I do?" asked Anthony. "Drown myself? Take to drink?"
"I should n't drown myself," said Miss Sandus. "Drowning is so wet and
chilly; and I 'm told it's frightfully unbecoming, into the bargain.
As for drink, I hear it's nothing like what it's cracked up to be."
"I daresay it is n't," admitted Anthony, with a sigh. "I suppose
there's not the ghost of a chance for me?" he gloomed.
"H'm," said Miss Sandus.
"I suppose it would be madness on my part to speak to her?" he pursued.
"That would depend a good deal, I should think, on the nature of what
you said," his counsellor suggested, smiling.
"If I said point-blank I loved her—?"
Miss Sandus looked hard at the fire, her brows drawn together,
pondering. Her brows were drawn together, but the vis comica played
about her lips.
"I think, if I were in your place, I should try it," she decided at
"Would you?" said Anthony, surprised, encouraged. But, in a second,
despondency had closed round him again. "You see," he signified, "the
situation is uncommonly delicate—one 's at a double and twisted
"How so?" Miss Sandus asked, looking up.
"She's established here for the summer. I, of all men, must n't be the
one to make Craford impossible for her."
"I see," said Miss Sandus. "Yes, there's that to be thought of."
"There 's such a deuced lot of things to be thought of," said he,
"Let's hear the deuced lot," said the lady, with business-like
"Well, to begin with," he brought out painfully, "there 's the fact
that she 's rich."
"Yes, she's rich," conceded Miss Sandus. "Does that diminish her
"You know what I mean," groaned Anthony, with no heart for trifling.
"For the matter of that, are n't you rich yourself?" Miss Sandus
"Rich!" he cried. "I totter on the brink of destitution."
"Oh?" she murmured. "I 'd imagined you were by way of being rather an
extensive land owner."
"So I am," said he. "And my rather extensive lands, what with
shrinkages and mortgages, with wages, pensions, subscriptions, and
general expenses,—I doubt if they yield a net income of fifteen
hundred a year. And I 've not a stiver else in the world."
"Poor, poor young man," she laughingly commiserated him. "And yet I
hardly think you 're poor enough to let the fact of her wealth weigh
with you. If a man has enough for himself, it does n't matter how much
more his wife may have, since he 'll not depend upon her for his
support. I should n't lie awake o' nights, bothering about the money
Anthony got up, and stood at the end of the fireplace, with his elbow
on the mantel.
"You 're awfully good," he said, looking down at the gracious little
old figure in the easy chair.
"I 'm an old woman," said she. "All old women love a lover. You renew
the romance of things for us. You transport us back, a century or so,
to our hot youth, when George the Third was king, and we were lovers
ourselves. Et in Arcadia ego—but I 've lost my Greek."
"You 'll never lose your Pierian," said Anthony, bowing.
He took her hand, bent over it, and touched it with his lips.
"If flattery can make friends, you 'll not lack 'em," said she, with a
pretty, pleased old blush.
"But I 've not yet emptied my sack," said he, relapsing into gloom.
"There's a further and perhaps a greater difficulty."
"Let's hear the further difficulty," cheerily proposed Miss Sandus.
Then, as he appeared to hesitate, "Has it anything to do with her
"You divine my thoughts," he replied, in an outburst. "Yet," he more
lightly added, "you know, I don't in the least believe in her former
marriage. She seems so—well, if not exactly girlish, so young, so
immaculately fresh, it's impossible to believe in. None the less, of
course, it 's an irrevocable fact, and it's a complication. I must n't
intrude on sacred ground. If she still grieves . . ."
A gesture conveyed the rest.
"Look here," said Miss Sandus, abruptly. "I'm going to betray a trust.
Think what you will of me, I 'm going to violate a confidence. She
does n't grieve, she has never grieved. Your intuitions about her are
right to the letter. She was never married, except in name—it was
purely a marriage of convenience—the man was a complete nonentity.
Don't ask me the whys and the wherefores. But make what you will of
that which I 've been indiscreet enough to tell you."
"I think you are an angel out of Heaven," cried Anthony, with ardour.
"If you could know the load you have lifted from my heart, the balm you
have poured into it."
"If you have n't wealth," Miss Sandus went on, summing the issue up,
"you have a good position and—a beau nom. You have more than one
indeed, if all I hear be true. You 're both of the old religion, you
're both at the mating age. In every way it would be a highly suitable
match. Wait for a good occasion—occasion's everything. Wait
for—what does the poet say?—for the time and the place and the loved
one all together, and tell her that you love her. And now—here comes
And with the tea came Susanna, in a wonderful rustling blue-grey
confection of the material that is known, I believe, as voile; and
immediately after Susanna, Adrian.
Adrian was clearly in a state of excitement. His hair was ruffled, his
pink face showed a deeper flush, his lips were parted, his bosom heaved.
He halted near the threshold, he threw up his hands, he rolled his
eyes, he nodded. It was patent that something had happened.
"Oh, my dears! my dears!" he gasped.
His dears attended, curious, expectant. But as he stood silent, and
merely cast intensely significant glances from one to the other, and
thence to the walls and ceiling, Anthony, constituting himself
spokesman for the company, asked, "Well—? What's the row?"
"Oh, my dears!" Adrian repeated, and advanced a few steps further into
the room, his hands still raised.
"What is it?" besought Susanna, breathless.
"Oh, my dearie dears!" he gasped.
He sank upon a chair.
"I must have a cup of tea before I can speak. Perhaps a cup of tea
will pull me together."
Susanna hastily poured and brought him a cup of tea.
"Ministering angel!" was his acknowledgment. He tasted his tea. "But
oh—unkind—you 've forgotten the sugar." He gazed helplessly at the
Anthony brought him the sugar-bowl.
"Are those cruffins?" he asked, eyeing a dish on the cake-stand.
"They 're mumpers," said Miss Sandus, pushing the cake-stand towards
him. "But you 're keeping us on tenter-hooks."
"I 'm so sorry. It's beyond my control. I must eat a mumpet.
Perhaps then I 'll be able to tell you all about it."
He ate his mumpet—with every sign of relish; he sipped his tea; his
audience waited. In the end he breathed a deep, long sigh.
"I 've had an experience—I 've had the experience of my life," he said.
"Yes—?" said they.
"I could n't lose an instant—I had to run—to tell you of it. I felt
it would consume me if I could n't share it."
Their faces proclaimed their eagerness to hear.
"May I have another cup?" he asked Susanna.
This time, however, he rose, and went to the table.
"The world is so strange," he said.
"Come! we 're waiting for the experience of your life," said Anthony.
"You must n't hurry me—you must n't worry me," Adrian remonstrated.
"I 'm in a very over-wrought condition. You must let me approach it in
my own way."
"I believe the flighty creature has forgotten it," said Anthony.
"Flighty creature?" Adrian levelled eyes black with reproach upon him.
Then turning to the ladies: "That shows how he misunderstands me. Just
because I had a witty mother,—just because I 'm not a stolid,
phlegmatic ox of a John Bull,—just because I 'm sensitive and
impressionable,—he calls me flighty. But you know better, don't
you? You, with all your fine feminine instincts and perceptions, you
know that I 'm really as steady and as serious as the pyramids of
Egypt. Even my very jokes have a moral purpose—and what I teach in
them, I learned in sorrow. Flighty!" He shot another black glance at
the offender, and held out his cup for a third filling.
"Blessings be on the man who invented tea," he devoutly murmured. "On
Friday especially"—he appealed to Susanna—"is n't it a boon? I
don't know how one could get through Friday without it. You poor dear
fortunate Protestants"—he directed his remark to Miss Sandus—"have no
conception how frequently Friday comes. I think there are seven
Fridays in the week."
Susanna was softly laughing, where (in that wonderful, crisp, fresh,
close-fitting, blue-grey gown, with its frills and laces and
embroideries) she sat in the corner of a long, red-damask-covered sofa,
by the prettily decked tea-table. Anthony, standing near her, looking
down at her, was conscious of a great content in his heart, and of a
great craving. "How splendid she is. Was there ever such hair? Were
there ever such eyes, such lips? Was there ever such a frock? And
then that faint, faint, faintest perfume, like a remembrance of
violets!" I daresay something to this effect was vaguely singing
itself to his thoughts.
"But the experience of your life? The experience of your life?" Miss
"He's clean forgotten it," Anthony assured her.
"Forgotten it? Tush," Adrian flung back, with scorn. "But you 're all
so precipitate. One has to collect one's faculties. There are fifty
possible ways of telling a thing—one must select the most effective.
And then, if you come to that, life has so many experiences, and so
many different sorts of experience. Life, to the man with an open eye,
is just one sequence of many-coloured astonishments. I never could and
never shall understand how it is possible for people to be bored. What
do you say "—he looked towards the piano—"to my singing you a little
"You 're inimitable—but you 're inimitably exasperating." Miss Sandus
gave him up, with a resigned toss of the head.
"Do sing us a little song," Susanna begged.
He set off, dancing, in the direction of the instrument. But midway
there he stopped, and half turned round, poising, as it were, in his
"Grave or gay? Sacred or profane?" he asked from over his shoulder.
"Anything—what you will," Susanna answered.
"I 'll sing you a little Ave Maria," he decided. Whereupon, instead of
proceeding, he turned his back squarely upon the piano, and squarely
faced his hearers.
"When a musician composes an Ave Maria," he instructed them, "what he
ought to try for is exactly what those nice old Fifteenth Century
painters in Italy tried for when they painted their Annunciations. He
should try to represent what one would have heard, if one had been
there, just as they tried to represent what one would have seen. Now,
how was it? What would one have heard? What did our Blessed Lady
herself hear? Look. It was the springtime, and it was the end of the
day. And she sat in her garden. And God sent His Angel to announce
the 'great thing' to her. But she must not be frightened. She, so
dear to God, the little maid of fifteen, all wonder and shyness and
innocence, she must not be frightened. She sat in her garden, among
her lilies. Birds were singing round her; the breeze was whispering
lightly in the palm-trees; near-by a brook was plashing; from the
village came the rumour of many voices. All the pleasant, familiar
sounds of nature and of life were in the air. She sat there, thinking
her white thoughts, dreaming her holy day-dreams. And, half as if it
were a day-dream, she saw an Angel come and kneel before her. But she
was not frightened—for it was like a day-dream—and the Angel's face
was so beautiful and so tender and so reverent, she could not have been
frightened, even if it had seemed wholly real. He knelt before her,
and his lips moved, but, as in a dream, silently. All the familiar
music of the world went on—the bird-songs, the whisper of the wind,
the babble of the brook, the rumour of the village. They all went
on—there was no pause, no hush, no change—nothing to startle
her—only, somehow, they seemed all to draw together, to become a
single sound. All the sounds of earth and heaven, the homely, familiar
sounds of earth, but the choiring of the stars too, all the sounds of
the universe, at that moment, as the Angel knelt before her, drew
together into a single sound. And 'Hail,' it said, 'hail Mary full of
For a minute, after he had finished, Adrian stood still, and no one
spoke. Then he returned to the fireside, and sank back into his chair.
"What a beautiful—what a divinely beautiful—idea," Susanna said at
last, with feeling.
"Beautiful," emphatically chimed in Protestant Miss Sandus.
"Stand still, true poet that you are,—I know you, let me try and name
you," laughed Anthony, from the hearth-rug.
"Chrysostom—he should be named Chrysostom," said Miss Sandus.
"The world is a garden of beautiful ideas," was Adrian's modest
acceptance of these tributes. "One only has to cull them. But
now"—he rose—"I must toddle home. Are you going my way?" he inquired
"What?" protested Miss Sandus. "You're leaving us, without telling the
experience of your life—the experience that you 'had to run' to tell
"And without singing us your song," protested Susanna.
Adrian wrung his hands.
"Oh, cruel ladies!" he complained. "How can you be so unjust? I have
told you the experience of my life. And as for singing my song—"
"He can always leave off singing when he hears a master talk," put in
"As for singing my song," said Adrian, ignoring him, "I must go home
and try to write it."
And then the weather changed again. The clouds drifted away, the sun
came back, the sunshine was like gold that had been washed and
polished. The landscape smiled with a new radiance, gay as if it had
never gloomed. The grass was greener, the flowers were brighter, the
birds sang louder and clearer. The sea, with its shimmer and sheen,
was like blue silk; the sky was like blue velvet. The trees lifted up
their arms, greedy for the returned light and warmth, the sweeter air.
Susanna, at noon-day, in her pine grove, by her brookside, was bending
down, peering intently into the transparent water.
Anthony, seeking, found her there.
"Books in the running brooks. I interrupt your reading?" he suggested,
as one ready, at a hint, to retire.
"No," said she, looking up—giving, for a second, her eyes to his, her
dark, half-laughing eyes. "It is not a book—it is the genius of the
She pointed to where, at her feet, the hurrying stream rested an
instant, to take breath, in a deep, dusky little pool, overhung by a
tangle of eglantine.
"See how big he is, and how old and grey and grim, and how motionless
and silent. It seems almost discourteous of him, almost contemptuous,
not to show any perturbation when one intrudes upon him, does n't it?"
The genius of the place, floating in the still water, his fixed small
beady eyes just above the surface, was a big grey frog.
"Books in the running brooks indeed, none the less," Susanna went on,
meditating. "Brooks—even artificial ones—are so mysterious, are n't
they? They are filled with so many mysterious living things—frogs and
tadpoles and newts and strange water-insects, nixies and pixies.
Undines and Sabrinas fair and water-babies; and such strange plants
grow in them; and who can guess the meaning of the tales they tell, in
that never-ceasing, purling tongue of theirs? . . . And Signor
Ranocchio? What do you suppose he is thinking of, as he floats there,
so still, so saturnine, so indifferent to us? He is plainly in a deep,
deep reverie. How wise he looks—a grey, wise old water-hermit, with
his head full of strange, unimaginable water-secrets, and strange,
ancient water-memories. Perhaps he is—what was his name?—the god of
streams himself, the old pagan god of streams, disguised as a frog for
some wicked old pagan-godish adventure. Perhaps that 's why he is n't
afraid of us—mere mortals. You 'd expect a mere frog to leap away or
plunge under, would n't you?"
Again, for a second, she gave Anthony her eyes. They were filled with
pensiveness and laughter.
In celebration of the sun's return, she wore a white frock (some filmy
crinkled stuff, crêpe-de-chine perhaps), and carried a white sunshade,
a thing all frills and furbelows. This she opened, as, leaving the
shadow of the pines, she moved by the brook-side, down the lawn, where
the unimpeded sun shone hot, towards the pond.
"The eighth wonder of the world—an olive-tree that bears roses," she
Her glance directed his to a gnarled old willow, growing by the pond.
Indeed, with the wryness of its branches, the grey-green of its leaves,
you might almost have mistaken it for an olive-tree. A rose-vine had
clambered up to the topmost top of it, and spread in all directions, so
that everywhere, vivid against the grey-green, hung red roses.
"And now, if you will come, I 'll show you the ninth wonder of the
world," she promised. She led him down a long wide pathway, bordered
on each side by hortensias in full blossom, two swelling hedges of
fire, where purple dissolved into blue and crimson, blue into a hundred
green, mauve, and violet overtones and undertones of blue, and crimson
into every palest, vaguest, most elusive, and every intensest red the
broken sunbeam bleeds upon the spectrum.
"But this," she said, "though you might well think it so, is not the
ninth wonder of the world."
"I think the ninth wonder of the world, as well as the first and last,
is walking beside me," said Anthony, in silence, to the sky.
The path ended in an arbour, roofed and walled with rose-vines; and
herein were garden-chairs and a table.
"Shall we sit here a little?" proposed Susanna.
She put down her sunshade, and they established themselves under the
roof of roses. On the table stood a Chinese vase, red and gold, with a
"Occasion 's everything, beyond a doubt," thought Anthony. "But the
rub is to know an occasion when you see it. Is this an occasion?"
He looked at her, and his heart trembled, and held him back.
"Oh, the fragrance of the roses," said Susanna. "How do they do it? A
pinch of sunshine, a drop or two of dew, a puff of air, a handful of
brown earth—and out of these they distil what seems as if it were the
very smell of heaven."
But she spoke in tones noticeably hushed, as if fearing to be overheard.
Anthony looked round.
A moment ago there had not been a bird in sight (though, of course, the
day was thridded through and through with the notes of those who were
out of sight). But now, in the path before the arbour, all facing
towards it, there must have been a score of birds—three or four
sparrows, a pair of chaffinches, and then greenfinches, greenfinches,
greenfinches. They were all facing expectantly towards the arbour,
hopping towards it, hesitating, hopping on again, coming nearer, nearer.
Susanna, moving softly, lifted the dragon-handled cover from the
Chinese vase. It was full of birdseed.
"Ah, I see," said Anthony. "Pensioners. But I suppose you have
reflected that to give alms to the able-bodied is to pauperise them."
"Hush," she whispered, scorning his economics. "Please make yourself
invisible, and be quiet."
Then, taking a handful of seed, and leaning forward, softly, softly she
began to intone—
and so, da capo, over and over again.
And the birds, hesitating, gaining confidence, holding back, hopping
on, came nearer, nearer. A few, the boldest, entered the arbour . . .
they all entered . . . they hesitated, hung back, hopped on. Now they
were at her feet; now three were in her lap; others were on the table.
On the table, in her lap, at her feet, she scattered seed. Then she
took a second handful, and softly, softly, to a sort of lullaby tune,
Where is Perlino?
she sang, her open hand extended.
A greenfinch new up to the table, flew down to her knee, flew up to her
shoulder, flew down to her hand, and, perching on her thumb, began to
And she went on with her soft, soft intoning.
"This is Perlino,
So green, oh, so green, oh.
He is the bravest heart,
The sweetest singer, of them all.
I 'm obliged to impart my information
In the form of a chant;
For if I were to speak it out, prose-wise,
They would be frightened, they would fly away.
But I hope you admire
My fine contempt for rhyme and rhythm.
Is this not the ninth wonder of the world?
Would you or could you have believed,
If you had n't seen it?
That these wild birds,
Not the sparrows only,
But the shy, shy finches,
Could become so tame, so fearless?
Oh, it took time—and patience.
One had to come every day,
At the same hour,
And sit very still,
And softly, softly,
Croon, croon, croon,
As I am crooning now.
At first one cast one's seed
At a distance—
Then nearer, nearer,
Till at last—
Well, you see the result."
Her eyes laughed, but she was very careful not to move. Anthony,
blotted against the leafy wall behind him, sat as still as a statue.
Her eyes laughed. "Oh, such eyes!" thought he. Her red lips, smiling,
took delicious curves. And the hand on which Perlino perched, with its
slender fingers, its soft modelling, its warm whiteness, was like a
thing carved of rose-marble and made alive.
"And Perlino," she resumed her chant—
Is the bravest of them all.
And now that he has made an end
Of his handful of seed,
I hope he will be so good
As to favour us with a little music.
Sometimes he will,
And sometimes he just obstinately won't.
Tu-ite, tu-ite, tu-ite,
Andiamo, Perlino, tu-ite!
Canta, di grazia, canta."
And after some further persuasion,—you will suspect me of romancing,
but upon my word,—Perlino Piumino consented. Clinging to Susanna's
thumb, he threw back his head, opened his bill, and poured forth his
crystal song—a thin, bright, crystal rill, swift-flowing, winding in
delicate volutions. And mercy, how his green little bosom throbbed.
"Is n't it incredible?" Susanna whispered. "It is wonderful to feel
him. His whole body is beating like a heart."
And when his song was finished, she bent towards him, and—never, never
so softly—touched the top of his green head with her lips.
"And, now—fly away, birdlings—back to your affairs," she said.
"Good-bye until to-morrow."
She rose, and there was an instant whir of fluttering wings.
"Shall we walk?" she said to Anthony. She shook her frock, to dust the
last grains of birdseed from it. "If we stay here, they will think
there is more to come. And they 've had quite sufficient for one day."
She put up her sunshade, and they turned back into the alley of
"You find me speechless," said Anthony. "Of course, it has n't really
happened. But how—how do you produce so strong an illusion of
reality? I could have sworn I saw a greenfinch feeding from your hand,
I could have sworn I saw him cling there, and heard him sing his song.
I could have sworn I saw you kiss him."
Susanna, under her white sunshade, laughed, softly, victoriously.
"Speaking with all moderation," he declared, "it is the most marvellous
performance I have ever witnessed. If it had been a sparrow—or a
"There are very few birds that can't be tamed," she said. "You 've
only got to familiarise them with your presence at a certain spot at a
certain hour, and keep very still, and be very, very gentle in your
movements, and croon to them, and bring them food. I have tamed wilder
birds than greenfinches, in Italy—I have tamed goldfinches, blackcaps,
and even an oriole. And if you have once tamed a bird, and made him
your friend, he never forgets you. Season after season, when he
returns from his migration, he recognises you, and takes up the
friendship where it was put down. Until at last"—her voice sank, and
she shook her head—"there comes a season when he returns no more."
They had strolled beyond the hortensias, into a shady avenue of elms.
Round the trunk of one of these ran a circular bench. Susanna sat
down. Anthony stood before her.
"I trust, at any rate," she said, whimsically smiling, "that the moral
of my little exhibition has not been lost upon you?"
"A moral? Oh?" said he. "No. I had supposed it was beauty for
"Ah, but beauty sometimes points a moral in spite of itself. The very
obvious moral of this is that where there 's a will there 's a way."
She looked up, making her eyes grave; then smiled again.
"We must resume our plotting. I think I have found the way by which
the Conte di Sampaolo can regain his inheritance."
"There are exactly two ways by which he can do that," he said. "One is
to equip an army, and go to war with the King of Italy, and—a mere
detail—conquer him. The other is to procure a wishing-cap and wish
it. Which do you recommend?"
"No," said Susanna. "There is a third and simpler way."
She was tracing patterns on the ground with the point of her parasol.
"There is the way of marriage."
She completed a circle, and began to draw a star within it.
"You should go to Sampaolo, and marry your cousin. So"—her eyes on
her drawing, she spoke slowly, with an effect supremely impersonal—"so
you would come to your own again; and so a house divided against
itself, an ancient noble house, would be reunited; and an ancient
historic line, broken for a little, would be made whole."
She put the fifth point to her star.
Anthony stood off, half laughing, and held up his hands, in admiring
"Dear lady, what a programme!" was his laughing ejaculation.
"I admit," said she, critically regarding the figure at her feet, "that
at first blush it may seem somewhat fantastic. But it is really worth
serious consideration. You are the heir to a great name, which has
been separated from the estates that are its appanage, and to a great
tradition, which has been interrupted. But the heir to such a name, to
such a tradition, is heir also to great duties, to great obligations.
He has no right to be passive, or to think only of himself. The
thirty-fourth Count of Sampaolo owes it to his thirty-three
predecessors—the descendant of San Guido owes it to San Guido—to
bestir himself, to do the very utmost in his power to revive and
maintain the tradition. He is a custodian, a trustee. He has no right
to sit down, idle and contented, to the life of a country gentleman in
England. He is the banner-bearer of his race. He has no right to
leave the banner folded in a dark closet. He must unfurl his banner,
and bear it bravely in the sight of the world. That is the
justification, that is the mission, of noblesse. A great nobleman
should not evade or hide his nobility—he should bear it nobly in the
sight of the world. That is the mission of the Conte di Sampaolo—that
is the work he was born to do. It seems to me that at present he is
pretty thoroughly neglecting his work."
She shot a smile at him, then lowered her eyes again upon her encircled
"You preach a very eloquent sermon," said Anthony, "and in principle I
acknowledge its soundness. But in practice—there is just absolutely
nothing the Conte di Sampaolo can do."
"He can go to Vallanza, and marry his cousin," reiterated she. "Thus
the name and the estates would be brought together again, and the
tradition would be renewed."
She had slipped a ring from her finger, and was vaguely playing with it.
Anthony only laughed.
"Does n't my proposition deserve better than mere laughter?" said she.
"I should laugh," said he, with secret meaning, "on the wrong side of
my mouth, if I thought you wished me to take it seriously." ("If I
thought she seriously wished me to marry another woman!" he breathed,
shuddering, to his soul.)
"Why should n't I wish you to take it seriously?" she asked, studying
"The marriage of cousins is forbidden by Holy Church," said he.
"She 's only your second or third cousin. The nearest Bishop would
give you a dispensation," answered Susanna, twirling her ring round in
the palm of her hand.
"There would, of course, be no question of the lady rejecting me," he
"You would naturally endeavour to make yourself agreeable to her, and
to capture her affections," she retorted, slipping the ring back upon
its finger, and clasping her hands. "Besides, she could hardly be
indifferent to the circumstance that you have it in your power to
regularise her position. She calls herself the Countess of Sampaolo.
She could do so with a clear conscience if she were the wife of the
"She can do so with a clear conscience as it is," said Anthony. "She
has the patent of the Italian King."
"Pinchbeck to gold," said Susanna. "A title improvised yesterday—and
a title dating from 1104! The real thing, and a tawdry imitation. Go
to Sampaolo, make her acquaintance, fall in love with her, persuade her
to fall in love with you, marry her,—and there will be the grand old
House of Valdeschi itself again."
Her eyes glowed.
But Anthony only laughed.
"You counsel procedures incompatible," he said. "If I am the custodian
of a tradition, which you would have me maintain, how better could I
play it false, than by marrying, of all women, the granddaughter, the
heiress and representative, of the man who upset it?"
"You would heal a family feud, and blot out a wrong," said she, drawing
patterns again with her sunshade. "Magnanimity should be part of
your tradition. You would not visit the sins of the fathers upon the
children? You don't hold your cousin personally responsible?"
She looked up obliquely at him.
"Personally," he answered, "my cousin may be the most innocent soul
alive. She is born to a ready-made situation, and accepts it. But it
is a situation which I, if I am to be loyal to my tradition, cannot
accept. It is the negation of my tradition. I am obliged to submit to
it, but I can't accept it. My cousin is the embodiment of the
anti-tradition. You say—marry her. That is like inviting the Pope to
ally himself with the Antipope."
"No, no," contended Susanna, arresting her sunshade in the midst of an
intricate vermiculation. "For the Antipope must be in wilful personal
rebellion; while your cousin is what she is, quite independently of her
own will—perhaps in spite of it. Imagine me, for instance, in her
place—me," she smiled, "the sole legitimist in Sampaolo. What could I
do? I find myself in possession of stolen goods. I would, if I could,
restore them at once to their rightful owner. But I can't—because I
am only the tenant for life. I can't sell them, nor give them away,
nor even, dying, dispose of them by will. I am only the tenant for
life. After me, they must pass to the next heir. So, if I wish to
restore them to their rightful owner, there 's but a single means of
doing so open to me—I must induce the rightful owner to make me his
She smiled again, mirthfully, but with conviction, with conclusiveness,
as who should say, "I have proved my point."
"Ah," pronounced Anthony, with stress, though perhaps a trifle
ambiguously, "if it were you, it would be different."
"In your cousin's case, to be sure," pursued Susanna, "there is one
other means. You happen to be, on the Valdeschi side, her nearest
kinsman, and therefore, until she marries and has children, you are her
heir presumptive. Well, if she were to retire into a convent, taking
vows of celibacy and poverty, then what they call the usufruct of her
properties could be settled upon her heir presumptive for her lifetime,
the properties themselves passing to him at her death."
"We will wish the young lady no such dreary fate," laughed Anthony.
"Fortunately for her, she is not troubled by your scruples."
"How do you know she is n't?" asked Susanna.
"We can safely take it for granted," said he. "Besides, you have told
me so yourself."
"I have told you so—?" she puzzled.
"You have told me that there is but one legitimist in Sampaolo. If my
cousin were troubled by your scruples, she would make a second. And of
the whole population of the island, can you suggest a less probable
"They say that Queen Anne was at heart a Jacobite," Susanna reminded
him. "Your cousin is young. One could lay the case before her, one
could work upon her conscience. And, supposing her conscience to be
once roused, then, if you could n't be brought to offer her your hand,
she 'd have no choice but renunciation and the Cloister."
"Let us hope, therefore, that her conscience may remain comfortably
asleep," said he. "For even to save her from the Cloister, I could not
offer her my hand."
Susanna, leaning back against the rugged trunk of her elm, gazed down
the long shaded avenue, and appeared to muse. Here and there, the sun,
finding a way through the green cloud of leaves, a visible fillet of
light in the dim atmosphere, dappled the brown earth with rose. In her
white frock, her dark hair loose about her brow, a faint colour in her
cheeks, her dark eyes musing, musing but half smiling at the same time,
I think she looked very charming, very interesting, very warmly and
richly feminine, I think she looked very lovely, very lovable; and I
don't wonder that Anthony—as his eyes rested upon her, fed upon
her—felt something violent happen in his heart.
"Occasion is everything—the occasion has come—the occasion has come,"
a silent voice seemed to incite him. And as it were unseen hands
seemed to push him on.
The blood rushed tumultuously to his head.
"I 'm going to risk it, I 'm going to risk everything," he decreed,
"There are a thousand reasons why I could not offer her my hand," he
said. "One reason is that I am in love with another woman."
His throat was dry, his voice sounded strained. His heart beat hard.
He had burned his first bridge. He kept his eyes on her.
She continued to gaze down the avenue. I think she caught her breath,
"Oh—?" she said, after an instant, on a tone that tried in vain to be
a tone of conventional politeness. She had been perfectly aware, of
course, that it was bound to come. She had fancied herself perfectly
prepared to cope with it, when it should come. But she had not
expected it to come just yet. It took her off her guard.
"Yes," said he; "and you know whom I am in love with."
This time there could be no doubt that she caught her breath. She had
overestimated her power of self-command, her talent for dissembling.
She had known that it was bound to come; she had imagined that she
could meet it lightly, humorously, that she could parry it, and never
betray herself. And here she was, catching her breath, whilst her
heart trembled and sank and sang within her. She bit her lip, in
vexation; she closed her eyes, in ecstasy; she kept her face turned
down the avenue, in fear.
Anthony's heart was leaping. A wild hope had kindled in it.
"I am in love with you—with you," he cried, in a voice that shook.
She did not speak, she did not look at him, but she caught her breath
audibly, a long tremulous breath.
He knelt at her feet, he seized her hands. She did not withdraw them.
"I love you, I love you. Don't keep your face turned from me. Look at
me. Answer me. I love you. Will you marry me?"
He felt her hands tremble in his. Her surrender of them—was it not
fuel to the fire of his hope? He put his lips to them, he kissed them,
he covered them with kisses. They were warm, and sweet to smell,
faintly, terribly sweet to smell.
At last she drew them away. She shrunk away herself, back along her
bench. She bit her lip, in chagrin at her weakness, her
self-indulgence. She knew that she was losing ground, precious,
indispensable, to that deep-laid, secret, cherished plot of hers. But
her heart sang and sang, but a joy such as she had never dreamed of
filled it. Oh, she had known that her heart would be filled with joy,
when he should say, "I love you"; but she had never dreamed of a joy
such as this. This was a joy the very elements of which were new to
her; different, not in degree only, but in kind, from any joy she had
experienced before. She could not so soon put it by, she could not yet
bid herself be stern.
"Look at me. Answer me. I love you. Will you marry me?" he cried.
But she must bid herself be stern. "I must, I must," she thought.
She made a mighty effort.
"No," she said, in a suffocated voice, painfully.
"Oh, look at me," he pleaded. "Why do you keep your face turned away?
Why do you say no? I love you. Will you marry me? Say yes, say yes."
But she did not look at him.
"No. I can't. Don't ask me," she said.
"Why can't you? I love you. I adore you. Why should n't I ask you?"
The palest flicker of a smile passed over her face.
"I want you to marry your cousin," she said.
"Is that the only reason?"
"Is n't that a sufficient reason?"
Again there was the flicker of a smile.
"For heaven's sake, look at me. Don't keep your face turned away.
Then you don't—you don't care for me—not an atom?"
"I"—she could not deny herself one instant of weakness more, one
supreme instant; afterwards she would be stern in earnest, she would
draw back—"I never meant to let you know I did."
And for the first time between two heart-beats her eyes met his, stayed
For the time between two heart-beats, Time stood still, the world stood
still, Time and the world ceased to be. Her eyes stayed with his.
There was nothing else in all created space but her two eyes, her soft
and deep, dark and radiant eyes. Far, far within them shone a light.
Her soul came forth from its hiding place, and shining far, far within
her eyes, showed itself to his soul, yielded itself to his soul.
"Then you do—you do," he cried. It was almost a wail. The universe
reeled round him.
He had sprung to his feet. He threw himself on the bench beside her,
facing her. He seized her hands again. He tried again to get her eyes.
"No, no, no," she said, freeing her hands, shrinking from him. "No. I
"But you do. You said you did. You—you showed that you did."
He waited, triumphant, anxious, breathless.
"No, no, no. I did n't say it—I did n't mean it."
"But you did mean it. Your eyes . . ."
But when he remembered her eyes, speech deserted him. He could only
gasp and tingle.
"No, no, no," she said. "I meant nothing. Please—please don't come
so near. Stand up—there" (her hand indicated where), "and we will
speak of it—reasonably."
Her hand remained suspended, enjoining obedience.
Anthony, perplexed, dashed a little, obeyed, and stood before her.
"We must be reasonable," she said. "I meant nothing. If I seemed
moved, it was because—oh, because I was so taken by surprise, I
She was getting herself in hand. She looked at him quite fearlessly
now, with eyes that pretended to forget they had ever been complaisant.
"The Count of Sampaolo," she argued calmly, "is not free to marry whom
he will. He has his inheritance to regain, his mission to fulfil. I
will never allow myself to be made an obstacle to that. He must marry
no one but his cousin. I will never stand between him and her—between
him and what is equally his interest and his duty."
But Anthony, too, was getting himself in hand.
"Look here," he said, with some peremptoriness. "You may just once for
all eliminate my cousin from your calculations. I beg you to
understand that even if you did n't exist, there could be no question
of my cousin. No earthly consideration could induce me to make any
sort of terms with that branch of my family—let alone a marriage.
So!" A wave of the hand dismissed his cousin for ever to Crack-limbo.
"But as you do exist, and as I happen to love you, and as I happen to
have discovered—what I could never wildly have dared to hope—that you
are not utterly indifferent to me, I may tell you that I intend to
marry you—you—you. You imperial, adorable woman! You!"
Susanna hastily turned her eyes down the avenue.
"In fact," Anthony added, with serene presumption, "I have the honour
to apprise you of our engagement."
She could n't repress a nervous little laugh. Then she rose.
"They 'll be expecting me at the house," she said, and moved in that
"I 'm waiting for your congratulations," said he, walking beside her.
She gave another little laugh. And neither spoke again until they had
reached the hall door, which he opened for her.
"Well?" he asked.
"Come back after luncheon," said she. "Come back at three o'clock—and
I will tell you something."
"Own up—and name the day," said Miss Sandus, when she had heard
Susanna's story. "There 's nothing left for you to do, my dear, but to
make a clean breast of it, and name the happy day."
They were in the billiard-room, after luncheon. Miss Sandus was
sipping coffee, while Susanna, cue in hand, more or less absently
knocked about the balls. So that their remarks were punctuated by an
erratic series of ivory toc-tocs.
"I 'm afraid if I own up," she answered, "there won't be any happy day.
He swore that no earthly consideration could induce him to make any
sort of terms with my branch of the family. Those were his very words."
Toc—she pocketed the red.
"Fudge," pronounced Miss Sandus. "Capital words for eating. He 'll
gobble, he 'll bolt 'em. Give him the chance. It's astonishing how
becoming it is to you young women to play billiards, how it brings out
the grace of your blessed figures. Say, 'I, even I, am your cousin.
Do you still decline to marry her?'—and see what he 'll do. No,
no—you want to take it a little more to the right and lower down.
That's it." (Toc-toc—Susanna made a cannon.) "He 'll jump at you.
I know the man. There 's no possible question of it. So I must be
thinking of the gown I 'm to wear as bridesmaid."
She laughed, and put down her cup.
Susanna, trying for another cannon, fluked another pocket.
"No," she said. "That would be to miss half the fun of the situation.
The thing must be more dramatic. Besides, I want it to happen at
Sampaolo. I want him to go to Sampaolo. And I want to tempt him and
"'Not so, said she, but I will see
If there be any faith in man.'"
she quoted (or misquoted?—I forget). "He shall go to Sampaolo and be
tempted. With his own eyes he shall behold the heritage of the
Valdeschi. Then he shall be approached by his cousin's friends,—by
the reluctant but obedient Commendatore Fregi, for example,—and sorely
tempted. I 've got rather a subtle little scheme. I 'll explain it to
you later—he 'll be arriving at any moment now. He shall leave for
Sampaolo to-morrow morning. You and I will leave the morning after, if
you please. Only, of course, he's to know nothing about that—he's to
suppose that we 're remaining here."
She attempted a somewhat delicate stroke off the cushion, and achieved
"Good shot," approved Miss Sandus. "But you are forgetting Mr. Willes.
Mr. Willes will tell him."
"No, I 've not forgotten Mr. Willes," said Susanna. "I should n't very
much mind letting Mr. Willes into my confidence. But I think on the
whole I 'll make him take Mr. Willes with him."
"You 're nothing if not arbitrary," Miss Sandus laughed.
"I come of a line of tyrants," said Susanna. "And, anyhow, what's the
good of possessing power, if you 're not to exercise and enjoy it?"
The clock on the mantelpiece began to strike three.
"Mr. Craford," announced a servant.
Miss Sandus fled from the room by a French window.
Susanna returned her cue to the rack.
Anthony had passed, I imagine, the longest hour and a half that he had
ever passed, or will ever be likely to pass: the longest, the most
agitated, the most elated, the most impatient.
Could he regard himself as accepted? Well, certainly, as the next
thing to it. And, in any case, she had confessed that she cared for
"I never meant to let you know I did."
Oh, he heard it again and again. Again and again her eyes met his, as
they had met them at that consummate moment, discovering her soul to
him. Again and again he knelt before her, and kissed her hands, warm
and soft, and sweet with that faint perfume which caused cataclysms in
He went home, he went in to luncheon. Somehow he must wear out the
time till three o'clock.
"Come back at three o'clock—and I will tell you something."
What had she to tell him? What would he hear when he went back at
three o'clock? Here was a question for hope and fear to play about.
Adrian prattled merrily over the luncheon table. I wonder how many of
his words Anthony took in.
After luncheon he tramped about the park, counting the slow
minutes,—kissing her hands, looking into her eyes, racking his brain
with speculations as to what she might have to tell him, hoping,
fearing, and counting the long slow minutes. And his tug at Susanna's
doorbell coincided with the very first stroke of three from her
His throat was dry, his pulses pounded, his knees all but knocked
together under him, as he followed the manservant across the hall, into
Susanna returned her cue to the rack.
Anthony stood near the door, an incarnate question.
"Well—?" he demanded, in a voice that was tense.
"Come in," she amiably welcomed him. "Sit down."
She pointed to a chair. She wore the same white frock that she had
worn before luncheon, only she had stuck a red rose in her belt.
He did n't sit down, but he came forward, and stood by the fireplace.
"What an age, what an eternity it has been," he profoundly sighed. "I
have grown grey waiting for this instant."
She studied him, with amusement.
"The grey is very skilfully concealed," she remarked.
"The grey is in my soul," said he, with the accent of tragedy.
"Well—?" he again demanded.
"Well what?" teased she, arching her eye-brows innocently.
"Oh, come," he remonstrated. "Don't torture a defenceless animal.
Seal my fate, pronounce my doom. I love you—love you—love you. Will
you have me?"
She stood silhouetted against a window, the light sifting and shining
through her hair.
"I have a condition to make," she said. "You must promise to comply
with my condition—and then I can answer you."
Her dark eyes smiled into his, quizzically, but perhaps with a kind of
He came nearer.
"A condition? What's the condition?"
"No—you must promise first to agree to it," she said.
"A promise in the dark?" he objected.
"Oh, if you can't trust me!" she cried, with a little shrug.
"There's mischief in your eye," said he. "The man deserves what he
gets, who makes promises in the dark."
"Then make the promise—and see whether you get what you deserve," she
"Mercy forbid that any man should get what he deserves," said he. "I
am a suppliant for grace, not justice."
Susanna laughed again. She took her rose from her belt, and brushed
her face with it, touched it with her lips.
"Do you care for roses?" she asked, with a glance of intellectual
curiosity, as one who spoke solely for the purpose of acquiring
"I should care for that rose," said he, vehemently.
She held it out to him, still laughing, but with a difference.
He seized the rose—and suddenly, over-mastered by his impulse,
suddenly, violently, made towards her.
But she drew away, extending her hands to protect herself.
"I beg your pardon," he said, pulling himself up. "But you should make
a conscientious effort to be a trifle less adorable."
He pressed her rose to his mouth, crushing it, breathing in its scent,
trying to possess himself of the touch her mouth had left upon it.
She sank into the corner of a sofa, and leaned back among the cushions.
"Well, do you promise?" she asked, smiling up at him.
"Do you flatter yourself that you 're a trifle less adorable now?"
asked he, smiling down.
"Do you promise?" she repeated, taking away her eyes.
"I clean forget what it was you wished me to promise," said he.
"You are to promise to comply with my condition. Do you?"
"I suppose I must," he answered, with a gesture of submission.
"But do you? You must say"—she made her voice sepulchral—"'I
She gave him her eyes again, held him with them.
He was rigid for a minute, gazing fixedly at her.
"I solemnly do," he said at last, relaxing. "What's the condition?"
"The condition is an easy one—only a little journey to make."
"A journey to make? Away from Craford?"
He stood off, suspicious, prepared to be defiant.
"Yes," said she, playing with the lace of one of her cushions.
"Not for worlds," said he. "Anything else. But I won't leave Craford."
"You have promised," said she.
"Ah, but I did n't dream there would be any question of my leaving
Craford. There's a woman at Craford I 'm in love with. I won't leave
"You have solemnly promised," said she.
"Hang my promise," gaily he outfaced her.
"Promises are sacred." She looked serious.
"Not promises extorted in the dark," contended he.
"Give me back my rose," said she, putting forth her hand.
"No," said he, pressing the rose anew to his face.
"Yes," said she, her foolhardy hand awaiting it.
For, instead of giving her back her rose, he threw himself upon her
hand, and had kissed it before she could catch it away.
She bit her lip, frowning, smiling.
"Then will you keep your promise?" she asked severely.
"If you insist upon it, I suppose I 'll have to," he grudgingly
consented. "But a journey!" he sighed. "Ah, well. Where to?"
Her eyes gleamed, maliciously.
"To a very pleasant place," she said. "The journey is a pious
"Craford, just now, is the only pleasant place on the face of the
earth," vowed he. "A pious pilgrimage? Where to?"
He had, I think, some vague notion that she might mean a pilgrimage to
the Holy Well of St. Winefride in Wales; though, for that matter, why
not to the Holy Well of St. Govor in Kensington Gardens?
"A pious pilgrimage to the home of your ancestors," said Susanna. "The
journey is a journey to the little, unknown, beautiful island of
Her eyes gleamed, maliciously, exultantly.
But Anthony fell back, aghast.
"Sampaolo?" he cried.
"Yes," said she, quietly.
"Oh, I say!" He writhed, he groaned. "That is too much. Really!"
"That is my condition," said Susanna. Her mouth was firm.
"You don't mean it—you can't mean it." He frowned his incredulity.
"I mean it literally," she persisted. "You must make a journey to
"But what's the sense of it?" he besought her. "Why on earth should
you impose such a condition?" He frowned his incomprehension.
"Because you have asked me to be your wife," she answered.
He shook his head, mournfully, scornfully.
"If ever an explanation darkened counsel!" mournfully he jeered.
"You have asked me to be your wife. I reply that first you must make a
journey to Sampaolo. Is that not simple?" said Susanna.
He was walking about the room.
"Do you mean to say "—he came to a standstill—"that if I make a
journey to Sampaolo, you will be my wife?"
"I mean to say that I will never be your wife unless you do."
"But if I do—?"
She leaned back, smiling, among her cushions.
"That will depend upon the result of your journey."
He shook his head again.
"I 'm utterly at sea," he professed. "I have never heard anything that
sounded so bewilderingly devoid of reason. Explain yourself. What is
it all about?"
"Reflect for a moment," said she, assuming a tone argumentative.
"Consider the embarrassment of my position. You ask me to be your
wife. But if I consent, you give up your only chance of regaining your
Italian patrimony—do you not? But a man should at least know what
he is giving up. You should know what your patrimony consists of.
You should know, as the saying is, what you 'stand to lose.' Therefore
you must go to Sampaolo, and see it with your own eyes. Isola Nobile,
Castel San Guido, the Palazzo Rosso, Villa Formosa—you must see them
all, with their gardens and their pictures and their treasures. And
then you must ask yourself in cold blood, 'Is that woman I left at
Craford really worth it?'"
She smiled. But, as he made to speak, her hand commanded silence.
"No, no," she said. "You have not seen them yet, so you can't tell.
When you have seen them, you will very likely thank me for leaving you
free to-day. You will think, with a shudder, 'Good heavens, what a
narrow escape! What if she had taken me at my word?' Then you can
offer yourself to your cousin, and let us hope she 'll accept you."
Again, as he made to speak, her hand silenced him.
"But if," she went on, "if, by any chance, you should not thank
me,—if, in cold blood, with your eyes open, you should decide that the
woman you left at Craford is worth it,—why, then you can return to
her, and renew your suit. And she'll have the satisfaction of knowing
that you know what's she costing you."
Anthony stood over her, looked down upon her.
"This is the most awful nonsense," he said, with a grave half-laugh.
"It is my condition," said she. "You must start for Sampaolo to-morrow
"You 'll never really send me on such a fool's errand," he protested.
"You have promised," said she.
"You won't hold me to the promise."
"If I release you from it," she warned him, her eyes becoming
dangerous, "there must be no more talk of marriage between you and me."
He flung away from her, and resumed his walk about the room. He gazed
distressfully into space, as if appealing to invisible arbiters.
"This is too childish—and too cruel," he complained. "I 'm not an
idiot. I don't need an object-lesson. I am not utterly without
imagination. I can see Sampaolo with my mind's eye. And seeing it, I
decide in cold blood that not for forty million Sampaolos would I give
up the woman I adore. There—I 've made the journey, and come back.
Now I renew my suit. Will you have me?"
He stood over her again.
"There must be no more talk of having or not having between you and
me—till you have kept your promise," said Susanna, coldly avoiding his
Anthony clenched his fists, ground his teeth.
"What folly—what obstinacy—what downright wanton capriciousness," in
anger he muttered.
"And yet, two minutes ago, this man said he loved me," Susanna
murmured, meaningly, to the ceiling.
"If I were n't unfortunate enough to love you, I should n't mind
your—your perfectly barbarous unkindness."
He glared at her. But she met his glare with a smile that disarmed it.
And, in spite of himself, he smiled too.
"Will you start to-morrow?" she asked, softly, coaxingly.
"This is outrageous," he said. "How long do you expect me to stay?"
"Oh, for that," she considered, "I shall be very moderate. A week will
do. A diligent sightseer should be able to see Sampaolo pretty
thoroughly in a week."
"A week," he calculated, "and I suppose one must allow at least another
week for getting there and back. So you exile me for a fortnight?"
His tone and his eyes pleaded with her.
"A fortnight is not much," said she, lightly.
"No," he gloomily acquiesced. "It is only fourteen lifetimes to a man
who happens to be in love."
"Men are reputed to be stronger than women," she reproached him, with a
look. "If a mere woman can stand a fortnight——!"
Anthony gasped—and sprang towards her.
"No, no," she cried, shrinking away.
"Do you happen to be in love?" he said, restraining himself.
She looked at him very kindly.
"I will tell you that, when you come back—if you come back," she
"If I come back!" he derided. Then, with eagerness, "You will write
to me? I may write to you?" he stipulated.
"Oh, no—by no means. There must be no sort of communication between
us. You must give yourself every chance to forget me—and to think of
"I won't go," said Anthony.
He planted himself in a chair, facing her, and assumed the air of a
But Susanna rose.
"Good-bye, then," she said, and held out her hand.
"What do you mean?" said he.
But he took her hand, and kept it.
"All is over between us—if you won't go."
But she left her hand in his.
"You will write to me?"
He caressed the warm soft fingers.
"But I may write to you?"
He kissed the fragrant fingers.
At last, slowly, gently, she drew her hand away.
"Oh, if it will give you any satisfaction to write to me, I suppose you
may," she conceded. "But remember—you must n't expect your letters to
She went back to her place in the corner of the sofa.
He left his chair, and stood over her again.
"I love you," he said.
She smiled and played with the lace of her cushion.
"So you remarked before," she said.
"I love you," said he, with fervour.
"By the bye," she said, "I forgot to mention that you are to take Mr.
Willes with you."
"Oh—?" puzzled Anthony. "Willes? Why?"
"For several reasons," said Susanna. "But will one suffice?"
"What's the one?"
She looked up at him, and laughed.
"Because I wish it."
Anthony laughed too.
"You are conscious of your power," he said.
"Yes," she admitted. "So you will take Mr. Willes?"
"You have said you wished it."
And then, for a while, neither spoke, but I fancy their eyes carried on
It was nearly time to dress for dinner when Anthony returned to Craford
Adrian, his collar loosened, his hair towzled, his head cocked
critically to one side, was in his business-room, seated at his piano,
playing over and over again a single phrase, and now and then making a
little alteration in it, which he would hurriedly jot down in a
manuscript music-book, laid open on a table at his elbow.
"Are n't you going for a holiday this summer?" Anthony asked, with
languor, lounging in.
"Hush-sh-sh!" said Adrian, intent upon his manuscript, waving an
"It's time to dress," said Anthony. He lighted a cigarette.
Adrian strummed through his phrase again, brows knitted, looking
intensely judicial. Then he swung round on his piano-stool.
"Hey? What did you say?" he questioned, his blue eyes vague, his pink
"I merely asked whether you were n't going for a holiday this summer,"
Anthony repeated, between two outputs of smoke.
"And you interrupt a heaven-sent musician, when you see the fit's upon
him, merely to ask an irrelevant thing like that," Adrian reproved him.
"I was holding an assize, a gaol-delivery. That phrase was on trial
before me for its life. In art, sir, one should imitate the methods of
a hanging judge. Put every separate touch on trial for its life, and
deem it guilty till it can prove itself innocent. Yea, even though
these same touches be dear to you as her children to a mother. Such is
the high austerity of art. I thought you said it was time to dress."
"So it is," said Anthony. "Are n't you going for a holiday this
Adrian closed his music-book, and got up.
"Of course I am," he answered.
"When?" said Anthony.
"In September, as usual," said Adrian.
"I was wondering," said Anthony, twiddling his cigarette, "whether you
would mind taking your holiday a little earlier than usual this
year—in August, for instance?"
"Why?" asked Adrian, with caution.
"It would suit me better, I could spare you better," Anthony said.
Adrian eyed him suspiciously.
"In August? We 're in August now, are n't we?"
"I believe so," said Anthony. "Either August or late July. One could
find out from the almanac, I suppose. It would suit me very well if
you could take your holiday now—at once."
Adrian's suspicion became acute.
"What are you up to? What do you want to get rid of me for?"
"I don't want to get rid of you. On the contrary—I 'll go with you,
if you like."
Adrian scrutinized him searchingly, suspicion reinforced by
astonishment. All at once his eyes flashed.
"Aha!" he cried. "I see what you 've been at. You 've been trying to
philander with the Nobil Donna Susanna Torrebianca—and she 's sent you
about your business. Oh, I 've seen how things were going." He
winked and nodded.
"Nothing of the sort," said Anthony. "You might tell Wickersmith to
pack our things. We 'll take the eight-fifteen up to-morrow morning.
That will get us to Victoria in time for the eleven o'clock Continental
"Oh? We 're going abroad?" asked Adrian.
"I suppose so. Where else is there to go?" said Anthony.
"I could have told you beforehand," Adrian consoled him, "that you had
n't the ghost of a chance with her. You grim, glum, laconic sort of
men are n't at all the sort that would appeal to a rich, poetic,
southern nature like Madame Torrebianca's. She would be attracted by
an exuberant, expansive, warm, sunny sort of man,—a man genial and
fruity, like old wine,—sweet and tender and mellow, like ripe peaches.
If it were n't that I sternly discountenance the imperilling of
business interests by mixing them up with personal sentiment, I should
very probably have paid court to her myself. And now I expect you have
lost me a tenant. I expect she 'll not care to renew the lease."
"Don't know, I 'm sure," said Anthony. "You might ask her. We 're
dining with her to-night. That would make a graceful dinner-table
Adrian's blue eyes grew round.
"We 're dining with her to-night?"
That did n't at all fit his theory of the case.
"At least I am," affirmed Anthony, dropping the end of his cigarette
into an ash-tray. "And she said I might bring you, if you 'd promise
to be good."
"The—deuce!" ejaculated Adrian, in something between a whisper and a
whistle. "But—then—why—what—what under the sun are you going
"A mere whim—a sheer piece of perversity—a sleeveless errand,"
Anthony answered. "So now we might set about sweeping and garnishing
ourselves," he suggested, moving towards the door.
Susanna was very beautiful, I think, in a rose-coloured dinner-gown
(rose-coloured chiffon, with accessories of drooping old pale-yellowish
lace), a spray of scarlet geranium in her hair, pearls round her
throat, and, as you could now and then perceive, high-heeled scarlet
slippers on her feet.
She was very beautiful, very pleasant and friendly; and if she seemed,
perhaps, a thought less merry, a thought more pensive, than her
wont—if sometimes, for a second or two, she seemed to lose herself,
while her eyes gazed far away, and her lips remained slightly parted—I
doubt if Anthony liked her any the less for this.
But what he pined for was a minute alone with her; and that appeared to
be by no means forthcoming. After dinner they all went out upon the
terrace, where it was lighted by the open French windows of the
drawing-room, and reposed in wicker chairs, whilst they sipped their
coffee. He looked at her, and his heart grew big—with grief, with
resentment, with delight, with despair, with hope. "She cares for
me—she has said it, she has shown it. But then why does she send me
on this egregious wild-goose chase? She cares for me. But then why
does n't she arrange to give me a minute alone with her to-night?"
In the end,—well, was it Adrian, or was it Miss Sandus, whom he had to
thank for their minute alone?
"Why does nobody say, 'Dear kind Mr. Willes, do be nice, and sing us
something'?" Adrian plaintively inquired.
Anthony grasped the skirts of happy chance.
"Dear kind Mr. Willes, do be nice, and sing us something," he said at
"I 'll play your accompaniments," volunteered Miss Sandus.
And she and the songster went into the drawing-room.
"Thank heaven," said Anthony, under his breath, but fervently, gazing
hard at Susanna.
She gave a little laugh.
"What are you laughing at?" he asked.
"At your sudden access of piety," said she.
"At any rate," said he, "I owe no thanks to you. For all you cared,
apparently, we should have spent the whole of this last precious
evening surrounded by strangers."
"Mamam, dites-moi ce qu'on sent
Quand on aime,"
came the voice of Adrian from within.
"If you talk, we can't hear the music," said Susanna.
"Bother the music," responded Anthony.
"It was you who asked him to sing," she said.
"Bother his singing. This is my last evening with you. Do you think a
woman has the right to be as gloriously beautiful as you are to-night?
Do you think it's fair to the feelings of a poor wretched man, who
adores her, and whom she, in mere wanton wickedness, is sending to the
uttermost ends of the earth?"
Susanna had her fan of white feathers in her lap. She caressed it.
"I want to ask you something," said Anthony.
"What is it?" said she.
"A piece of information, to help me on my journey. Will you give it
"If I can, of course," said she, putting her fan on the table.
"You promise?" said he.
"If I have any information that can be of use to you, I 'll give it
with pleasure," she agreed.
"Very good. That's a promise," said he. "Now then, for my question.
I love you. Do you love me?"
He looked hard at her.
She laughed, in acknowledgment that she had been fairly caught. Then
her eyes softened.
"Yes," she said.
But before he could move, she had sprung up, and disappeared through
one of the French windows, joining Miss Sandus and Adrian at the piano.
In her flight, however, she forgot her fan. It lay where she had left
it on the table.
Anthony picked it up, pressed it to his face. He closed his eyes, and
kept it pressed to his face. Its fragrance was more than a mere
fragrance—there was something of herself in it, something poignantly,
By and by he put the fan in his pocket, in the inside pocket of his
coat—feathers downwards, the better to conceal it. Then he too joined
the group at the piano.
In their sitting-room in the Hôtel de Rome, at Vallanza, Anthony and
Adrian were waiting for their breakfast. It is evident, therefore,
that Susanna's will had prevailed, and a fool's errand was in process
of accomplishment. The fool, no doubt, to the last moment, had renewed
his protests, his pleadings, his refusals; but, at each fresh outburst,
coldly, firmly, the lady had reiterated her ultimatum, "Then all is
over between you and me." And in the end, very conscious of his folly,
very much incensed by her perversity, disgusted, dejected, and, as his
travelling-companion had occasion to observe, in the very devil of a
temper, he had left Victoria by the eleven o'clock Continental express.
"Never forget," Miss Sandus whispered in his ear, as he paid her his
adieux, "never forget that sound old adage—'journeys end in lovers
meeting.'" This was oracular, and he had no opportunity to press for
an interpretation; but it was clearly intended as of good omen. At the
same time, in another part of the room, Susanna was whispering to
Adrian. As Adrian never again expressed the slightest curiosity anent
the motive of their hegira, I am led to wonder whether Susanna had
admitted him to her confidence. She had intimated that she should n't
especially mind doing so; and it is certain that he, from that time
forth, now and then smiled at the sky with an eye that looked very
Those who have recently visited Sampaolo will remember the Hôtel de
Rome as a small, new, spick-and-span establishment, built at the corner
of the Piazza San Guido and the Riva Vittorio Emmanuele, and presenting
none of that "local colour in the shape of dirt and discomfort" which
we are warned to expect in Italy, if we depart from the track beaten by
the tourist. I am told that the modern Italian commercial gentleman
(who is often a German, and not infrequently a Jew) has learned some of
the tourist's exactions. It is thanks to him, presumably, that even at
out-of-the-way Vallanza there exists a decent inn.
Our friends' sitting-room was on the first floor, a corner room, having
two sets of windows. One set commanded the Piazza, with its grey old
church (the Cathedral of St. Paul and St. Guy), its detached campanile,
its big central fountain, and, occupying the entire eastern side, the
crumbling frescoed front of the Palazzo Rosso. The other set looked
across the Riva, and its double row of palms, out upon the bay, with
its anchored ships, its fishing-boats, its encircling olive-covered
hills, dotted high and low by villages and villas, and its embosomed
Islets, Isola Nobile, Isola Fratello, Isola Sorella, the whole wide
prospect glowing in the sun.
The Piazza, which opens to the north, lay in cool blue shadow; and just
now a market was in progress there, a jumble-scene of merchandise,
animals, and humanity; men, women, and children, dogs and donkeys,
goats, calves, pigs, poultry; vegetables and fruit—quartered melons,
with green rind, black seeds, and rosy flesh, great golden pumpkins,
onions in festoons, figs in pyramids; boots, head-gear, and rough
shop-made clothing, for either sex; cheap jewellery also; and every
manner of requisite for the household, from pots and pans of wrought
copper, brass lamps, iron bedsteads and husk-filled bedding, to
portraits in brilliant oleograph of King and Queen and the inevitable
Garibaldi. The din was stupendous. Humanity hawked, chaffered,
haggled, laughed, vituperated. Donkeys brayed, calves mooed, dogs
barked, ducks quacked, pigs squealed. A dentist had set up his chair
near the fountain, and was brawling proffers of relief to the
tooth-distressed. Sometimes a beglamoured sufferer would allow himself
to be taken in hand; and therewith, above the general blare and blur of
noise, rose clear and lusty a series of shameless Latin howls. The
town-crier, in a cocked hat, wandered hither and thither, like a soul
in pain, feebly beating his drum, and droning out a nasal proclamation
to which, so far as was apparent, no one listened. The women, for the
most part, wore bright-coloured skirts,—striped green and red, or blue
and yellow,—and long black veils, covering the head, and falling below
the waist; the men, dark jerseys, corduroy trousers, red belts in lieu
of braces, and red fishers' caps with tassels that dangled over the
ear. Two such men, at this moment, passed up the Piazza arm-in-arm,
singing. I don't know what their song was, but they had good voices,
and while one of them carried the melody, the other sang a second.
Anthony, morose and listless, Adrian, all agog with excitement, had
been looking down upon this spectacle for some minutes in silence. It
was their first glimpse of daylit Sampaolo. They had arrived from
Venice last night after dark.
But now, as the men passed singing, Adrian was moved to utterance.
"Italia, oh, Italia!" he exclaimed. "I thought I knew my Italy. I
thought I had visited my Italy every year or two, for more years than
you could shake a stick at. But this is too Italian to be true. This
is not Italy—this is Italian opera."
"It's an infernal bore, whatever it is," he declared.
"Fie, fie," Adrian chid him. "Infernal? That is not at all a nice
word. Don't let me hear it a second time. How animated and southern
and picturesque that arracheur-de-dents is, is n't he? What
distinction he confers upon the scene. Have you no teeth that need
attending to? I should love to see you operated on by a practitioner
like that, in the fresh air, under the azure canopy of heaven, in the
eye of the world, fearless and unashamed. The long, rather rusty
building opposite, with the pictures fading from its walls, is none
other than the Palazzo Rosso, the cradle of your race. It can be
visited between ten and four. I 've had a talk with our landlord's
daughter—such a pretty girl. Her name—what do you suppose her name
is? Her name is Pia. She has nice hair and eyes, and is a perfect
cornucopia of information.—Ah, at last!" he sighed, pressing his hand
to his heart, as the door opened, and the waiter appeared, bearing a
Then, as the waiter set out the contents of his tray upon the table,
Adrian, bending forward, examined them with the devoutness, with the
intentness, of an impassioned connoisseur.
"Grilled ham, gallantine of chicken aux truffes, mortadella, an
omelette aux fines herbes, coffee, hot milk, whipped cream, bread,
figs, apricots," he enumerated. "And if it had n't been for my talk
with the landlord's daughter, do you know what we should have had? We
should have had coffee and bread and praeterea nihil. That's what we
should have had," he pronounced tragically, shaking his head in
retrospective consternation at the thing escaped. "Oh, these
starveling Continental breakfasts! But I threw myself upon Pia's
clemency. I paid her compliments upon her hair, upon her toilet. I
called her Pia mia. I said that if I had only met her earlier in life,
I should have been a very different person. I appealed to the woman
in her. I explained to her that my hollow-cheeked companion, with the
lack-lustre eye, was a star-crossed lover, and must be treated with
exceptional tenderness. I said that nothing mitigated the tormento
d'amore like beginning the day with a sustaining meal. I said you
were a man of an unbounded stomach. I said you were subject to
paroxysms of the most violent rage, and if you did n't get the proper
variety and quantity of food, you 'd smash the furniture. I smiled
upon her with my bonniest, blithest eyne. I ogled her. I chucked her
under the chin. I did nothing of the sort. I was extremely dignified.
But I told her of a dream I had last night—oh, such a lovely
dream—and she was melted. What do you suppose I dreamed of? I
dreamed of plump, juicy English sausages."
His face grew wistful, his voice sank. He piled his plate with ham and
"You 'd better write a song about it," fleered Anthony. "'The Homesick
Glutton's Dream.'" Then, making a face, "Why did you order coffee?" he
grumbled. "Why did n't you order tea?"
"Tut, don't be peevish," said Adrian. "Sit up, and tie your
table-napkin round your neck, and try to be polite when the kind
gentleman speaks to you. I did order tea. But tea at Sampaolo is
regarded in the light of a pharmaceutical preparation. Pia said she
thought I might be able to procure some at the farmacia. This
omelette really is n't bad. You 'd better take some—before it
disappears in the darkness."
But Anthony declined the omelette—and it disappeared in the darkness.
"Come, cheer up, goodman Dull," Adrian exhorted him, selecting the
truffled portions from a plateful of gallantine. "'Men have died, and
worms have eaten them, but not for love.' Ginger is still hot in the
mouth, and there are more fish in the sea than have ever yet nibbled at
your bait and spurned it. Do you know why there are no mosquitoes at
Sampaolo, and no bandits? There are none—Pia gave me her word for it,
Pia mia gave me her pretty feminine word. But do you know why? Pia
told me why. The wind, Signore. The wind blows them away—away, away,
and far away, over the bright blue sea. Every afternoon we get a wind,
sweeping in from the north. Sometimes it is only a venticello,
sometimes a temporale, sometimes an orogano terribile, but it is
always sufficient to blow away the mosquitoes and the bandits. Pia
told me so. Sweet Pia."
"Humph," said Anthony.
"Humph, by all means," Adrian hastened to agree. "I have a sort of
humphy feeling myself—a sort of unsatisfied yearning, that is scarcely
akin to pain, and resembles sorrow only as the mist resembles the rain.
I think it may be imputed to inadequate nourishment. I think I will
try some of that mortadella, if you 'll be so good as to pass it.
Thank you. And another cup of coffee, with plenty of whipped cream on
top, please. How cruel dairymaids must be, to whip such nice stuff as
cream. But they 're cruel only to be kind, are n't they?—cruel to the
cream, to be kind to us, the dear creatures. If you 'd give up smoking
and drinking, you 'd have a healthy appetite yourself. Come! Be
comforted. Cast off this green and yellow melancholy. Take me for
your exemplar. I too, when I first visited my ancestral home, I too
was filled with horror and resentment. I entered it screaming, as I am
credibly informed, kicking and screaming, protesting with all the
passion of latent genius, with all the force of a brand-new pair of
lungs. But I 've enjoyed it very well ever since. Ah, the strange
tale of Man. Conceived in sin, brought forth in pain, to live and
amuse himself in an impenetrable environment of mystery—in an
impenetrable fog. And never to see, of all things, his own face! To
see the faces of others, to see the telescopic stars and the
microscopic microbes, yet never to see his own face. And even the
reflection, the shadow of it, which he can see in a looking-glass, even
that he perforce sees à rebours. You can't deny it's rum. But if I
had a face as long as yours, I solemnly believe, I should deem it
"To think, to think," Anthony, long-faced, was brooding, "that she in
mere wilfulness has condemned me to a whole mortal week of this."
"We lunch," said Adrian, "at one, though Pia suggested twelve, and dine
at seven, though Pia suggested six. At four we shall have a little
goûté—caffé con pasticceria—to take the place of tea. And now,
if you can tear yourself from the pleasures of the table, let's be up
and doing. We 'll begin with the Cathedral, and if we look sharp, we
'll be in time to hear a Mass. There are Masses every half hour till
ten. Then the Palazzo Rosso. After luncheon and a brief siesta, Isola
Nobile. And after our caffé con pasticceria, a donkey-ride in the
When they had heard their Mass, they were approached by the Sacristan,
a little, shrunken, brown old man in a cassock, who offered to serve
them as a guide. The church was very dim and very silent. Here and
there a woman knelt at prayer; here and there a candle burned. The
Sacristan removed the frontal from the High Altar, to show them the
golden reliquary that enshrines the dust of San Guido, and unveiled the
three fine altar-pieces, attributed to Giacomo Fiorentino, "San Guido
Shipwrecked," "San Guide's Return," and "The Good Death of San Guido."
He showed them also, in its glass case, the Sword of the Golden Thorn,
reciting its history; and finally he conducted them to the crypt,
where, under masses of sculptured ner'-antico, emblazoned with their
armorials, some five-and-twenty generations of Valdeschi lie entombed.
What were Anthony's emotions? He must have had emotions.
At the Palazzo Rosso they were invited to write their names and
nationality in the visitors' book; and then a silver-haired,
soft-voiced, gentle-mannered servitor in livery led them up the grand
marble staircase and through an endless suite of airy, stately
rooms—rooms with floors of polished concrete, displaying elaborate
patterns, with tapestried walls and frescoed ceilings, with sparse but
ancient and precious articles of furniture, chandeliers of Venetian
glass, Venetian mirrors, and innumerable paintings, many of them
"It's astonishing," said Adrian, "how, by some occult process of
selection, in spite of perpetual marriage with new blood, in spite of
the thousand vicissitudes of time and circumstance, in a given family a
particular feature will persist. There 's the Habsburg lip, for
instance. And here is the Valdeschi nose. From generation to
generation, from century to century, one can recognize in these dead
forefathers of yours the identical nose that is on your face to-day."
It was quite true. Again and again you saw repeated the same
high-bridged, slenderly aquiline nose.
"Sala del trono," announced their cicerone (only, he pronounced it Sa'
And there, sure enough, at the end of a vast chamber, was "the great
scarlet throne, with the gilded coronet topping the canopy above," just
as Susanna had described it. What were Anthony's emotions?
But the white-haired serving-man (as Adrian noticed) from time to time
allowed his eyes to fix themselves studiously upon Anthony's face, and
appeared to fall into a muse. Now he stopped before a high
white-and-gold double-door. "The entrance to the private apartments,"
he said, and placed his hand upon the fancifully-wrought ormolu
"Are the public admitted to the private apartments," Anthony doubted,
"No, Signore," said the old man. "But I think, if the Signore will
pardon me, that the Signore's Excellency will be a connection of the
Anthony all but jumped.
"Why on earth should you think that?" he wondered.
"It's the persistent feature," said Adrian, in English, with a chuckle.
"The Signore's Excellency is betrayed by the Signore's Excellency's
"If the Signore will pardon me, I observed that the Signore's name,
when he wrote in the visitors' book, was Crahforrdi of England," the
old man explained. "But the Crahforrdi of England are a house cognate
to ours. The consort of the Conte who was Conte when I had the honour
of entering the family, nearly sixty years ago, was a Crahforrdi of
England, a lordessa. Moreover it is in the Signore's face. If the
Signori will favour me, it will give me great pleasure to show them
what they will think is the Signore's own portrait."
In size and shape the private apartments were simply a continuation of
the state apartments, but they were furnished in modern fashion, with a
great deal of luxury, and, in so far as the enveloping brown hollands
would permit one to opine, with a great deal of taste. "The family
occupy this palace during the cold months only. In summer they make a
villegglatura to Isola Nobile. Therefore you do not see these rooms at
their best," the old man apologized. In what he described as the
gabine'o segre'o of the Countess, over the fireplace, hung the
full-length, life-size portrait of a gentleman, in the dress of
eighteen-forty-something—high stock, flowered waistcoat, close-fitting
buff trousers, and full-bottomed blue frock-coat, very tight above the
"Count Antonio the Seventeenth, the last of our tyrants. The Signori
will be aware that we were tyrants of Sampaolo for many centuries,"
said the old man, not without a touch of pride. Then, bowing to
Anthony, "One would think properly the portrait of your Excellency."
Indeed, the face of the last of the tyrants and his grandson's face
were surprisingly alike.
"Conte Antonio Decimose'mo was Conte when, as a lad, I had the honour
to join the family," the old servant went on. "It was he who had for
consort the Lordessa Crahforrdi of England. After his death, there was
the Revolution, by which we annexed to Sampaolo another island called
Sardinia. The Lordessa was taken prisoner in these rooms, with the
Conte-figlio, and banished from the country. Then the King of Sardinia
was elected tyrant of both islands, and the government was removed from
Vallanza to Turin. That was many years ago, fifty years ago. When the
Pope died, the government was again removed, and now it is at Rome."
"Oh? Is the Pope dead?" Adrian questioned.
"Che sì, Signore—dupo lung' anni," the old man assured him.
They strolled about the town for a little, before returning to the
hotel—through the narrow cobble-paved streets, with their alternations
of splendour and squalor, their palaces, churches, hovels, their dark
little shops, their neglected shrines, their vociferous population,
their heterogeneous smells—and along the Riva, with its waterside
bustle, its ships loading and unloading, and its unexampled view of bay
"Do you see this stick?" asked Adrian, holding up his walking-stick.
"What about it?" asked Anthony.
"I 'm coming to that," said Adrian. "But first you must truthfully
answer a question. Which end of this stick would you prefer to be—the
bright silver handle or the earth-stained ferrule?"
"Don't know," said Anthony, with an air of weariness.
"Don't you?" marvelled Adrian. "How funny. Well, then, you must
understand that this stick is but an emblem—a thing's sign. Now for
the thing signified. Have you ever paused to moralize over the irony
that determines the fates of families? Take, for example, a family
that begins with a great man—a great soldier, a great saint, for
instance—and then for evermore thereafter produces none but
mediocrities. I hope you perceive the irony of that. But
contrariwise, take a family that goes on for centuries producing
mediocrities, and suddenly ends with the production of a genius. Take
my family, just for a case in point. Here I come of a chain of
progenitors reaching straight back to Adam; and of not one of them save
Adam and myself, has the world ever heard. And even Adam owes his
celebrity not in the least to his personal endowments, but solely to
the unique character of his position. The First Man could n't help
getting a certain reputation, would he, n'ould he. But from Adam to
Adrian—silence. Then sudden silvery music. And Adrian—mark the
predestination—Adrian is childless. He is the last link. With him
the chain, five thousand years long, stops. He is the sudden brilliant
flare-up of the fire before it goes out. Well, now, tell me—which end
of this stick would you prefer to be? The shining silver handle, or
the dull iron other end?"
They were conveyed to Isola Nobile in one of those long slender
Sampaolese vipere—boats that are a good deal like gondolas, except
that they have no felze, and carry a short mast at the bow, with a sail
that is only spread when the wind is directly aft. I suppose the
palace at Isola Nobile is one of the most beautiful in the world, with
its four mellow-toned marble façades rising sheer out of the water,
with its long colonnades, its graceful moresque windows, and the
variety, profusion, and lace-like delicacy of its carved and incised
details. Here again they had to write their names in the visitors'
book, and again a servant (this time a young and rather taciturn
person) led them through countless vast and splendid rooms, far more
splendid than those at the Palazzo Rosso, rooms rich with porphyry,
alabaster, mosaics, gilded flourishes and arabesques of stucco, and
containing many treasures of painting and sculpture, some of which, I
believe, even the sceptical Morellists allow to be actually the
handiwork of the artists to whom they are ascribed. But so far from
there being any question of their visiting the private apartments at
Isola Nobile, their guide, at one point in their progress, sprang
forward and hurriedly closed a door that had stood open, and through
which they had caught a glimpse of a pleasantly furnished library. By
and by they were passed on to a gardener, who showed them the gardens
on Isola Fratello and Isola Sorella, with their camphor-trees and
cedars, their oranges, oleanders, magnolias, laurels, their terraces,
whence thousands of lizards whisked away at the approach of Man, their
fountains, grottoes, temples, their peacocks, flamingoes, and tame
ring-doves, and always, always, with that wonderful outlook upon the
bay and its girdle of sun-bathed hills. The gardener plucked many
flowers for them, so that they returned to Vallanza with armfuls of
roses, lilies, oleanders, and jessamine.
Later that afternoon, Adrian having gone alone for his donkey-ride in
the country (more power to the back of the donkey!), Anthony was seated
by the open window of his bedroom, in a state of deep depression. All
at once, between the two promontories that form the entrance to the
bay, the Capo del Papa and the Capo del Turco, appeared, heading for
Vallanza, a white steamer, clearly, from its size and lines, a yacht—a
very bright and gay object to look upon, as it gleamed in the sun and
crisped the blue waters. And all at once, his eye automatically
following it, Anthony experienced a perfectly inexplicable lightening
of the heart,—as if, indeed, the white yacht were bringing something
good to him. It was absurd, but he could not help it. Somehow, his
depression left him, and a feeling almost of joyousness took its place.
"She said she loved me—she said she loved me," he remembered. "And at
the farthest," he reflected, "at the farthest I shall be with her again
in nine little days."
He got out the fan that he had stolen, and pressed it to his face. He
got out his writing-materials, and wrote her a long, cheerful,
His change of mood was all the more noteworthy, perhaps, because the
yacht chanced to be the Fiorimondo, bearing the Countess of Sampaolo
and her suite from Venice, whither it had proceeded two days before,
upon orders telegraphed from Paris.
Adrian, coming in, saw Anthony's letter, superscribed and stamped,
lying on the table.
"I 'm posting a lot of stuff of my own," he said. "Shall I post this
Had Susanna admitted him to her confidence? How otherwise could it
have befallen, as it did, that she received Anthony's letter, which was
of course addressed to Craford, at Isola Nobile no later than that very
She read it, smiling.
"Which of the many villas that overlook the bay and are visible from my
window, with their white walls and dark-green gardens,—which is
yours?" he questioned. "All day I have been wondering. That is the
single thing that really stirs me here, that really gives me a
feeling—its association with you. All day I have been hearing a
sonnet of Ronsard's—do you remember it?—Voicy le bois. But I wish
I knew which villa is your villa, which garden is your garden. Why did
n't I find out before I was driven from Paradise? I could easily find
out here by inquiring, I suppose. But your name is too sacred. I
can't profane it by speaking it aloud to people who might not bare
their heads at the sound of it."
And on another page (the letter was eight pages long) he said:—
"It is all very beautiful, of course,—the way the town piles itself up
against the hillside, the pink and yellow and lilac blondeur of the
houses, the olive gardens, the radiant sky overhead,—it is all very
picturesque and beautiful. But I am not hungry for beauty—at least,
for this beauty. If you were here with me,—ah, then indeed! But you
are not here, and I am hungry for Craford. There was a time when
Craford used to seem to me the tritest spot in Europe, and the thought
of Italy was luminous of everything romantic, of everything to be
desired. There was a time when nothing gave me such joy as to wake and
remember, 'I am in Italy—in Italy—in Italy!'—in Rome or Florence or
Venice, as the case might be. But the times have changed, have
changed. You were in Italy in those days, and now you are at
Craford. Italy is dust and ashes. I hunger for Craford as the only
place in the world where life is life."
And on still another page:—
"I can't deny that I got a certain emotion in the grey old Cathedral.
For so many generations one's people were baptized there, married
there, buried there. And then how many times must you have
worshipped there, heard holy Mass there. They showed us the relics of
San Guido and the Spina d'Oro, of course, and—well, one is n't made of
wood. I tried to make up my mind in what part of the church you
usually knelt, which prie-dieu was your prie-dieu,—I 'm afraid without
any very notable success. But one felt something like a faint
afterglow of your presence, and it made one's heart beat. Again at the
Palazzo Rosso, under the eyes of all those motionless and silent, dead
and gone Valdeschi, in their armour, in their ruffs and puffs and
periwigs, one could n't be entirely wooden. The servant who showed us
about, an old man who said he had been in the family for I forget how
many hundred years, hailed me as a 'cognate,' having recognized the
name of Craford, and thereupon inducted us into the appartamenti
segreti, to exhibit a portrait of my grandsire. Wood itself, I dare
say, must have vibrated a little at that. In the throne-room I was
suddenly caught up and whisked away, back to a rainy afternoon at
Craford; and I walked beside you on the cliffs, and heard your voice,
and rejoiced in the sense of your nearness to me, and in your adorable
beauty, as you breasted the wind, with the sea and the sky for a
background. (Do you remember? Do you remember how keen and sweet the
air was, with the scent of the wild thyme? and how the sand-martins
circled round us?) As we passed through the long, bare, imposing rooms,
something like a shadow of you seemed to flit before us. Or if I
glanced out of one of the tall windows, it seemed as if you had just
passed under them, along the Riva or across the Piazza. As for Isola
Nobile, if I regret that it is n't mine, that is chiefly because I
should be glad to be in a position to offer so very lordly and lovely a
pleasure-house to you."
Towards the end he wrote:—
"I look at the sea and I realize that it is continuous from here to
England, from here to Rowland Marshes; and it seems somehow to connect
us, to keep us in touch. Perhaps you, too, are looking at it at this
same moment. I fancy you walking on your terrace, and looking off upon
the grey-blue sea. It seems somehow to connect us. But there is no
grey in the blue of the sea here—it is blue, blue, unmitigated, almost
dazzling blue, save where in the sun it turns to quite dazzling white,
or in the deeper shadows takes on tints that are almost crimson, tints
of lie-de-vin. Oh, why are n't you here? If you were here, I think
a veil would fall from before my eyes, and I should see everything
differently. I could imagine myself loving Sampaolo—if you were
here. In nine days—nine days! And to-morrow it will be only eight
days, and the day after to-morrow only seven. Only do I say? I
count in that fashion to keep my courage up. Nine days! Why can't
those nine eternities be annihilated from the calendar? Why does n't
some kind person kill me, and then call me back to life in nine days?
Oh, it was cruel of you, cruel, cruel."
Susanna looked out of her window, across the dark bay, to where the
electric lamps along the Riva threw wavering fronds of light upon the
water. She kissed her hand, and wafted the kiss (as nearly as the
darkness would let her guess) in the direction of the Piazza San Guido.
Then she went into the library, and hunted for a volume of Ronsard.
There are two men, as they that know Sampaolo will not need to be
reminded, two young men, who, during the summer months, pervade the
island. In winter they go to Rome, or to Nice, or to England for the
hunting; but in summer they pervade Sampaolo, where they have a villa
just outside Vallanza, as well as the dark old palace of their family in
The twin brothers, Franco and Baldo del Ponte—who that has once met them
can ever forget them? To begin with, they are giants—six-feet-four, and
stalwart in proportion. Then they are handsome giants, with good,
strong, regular features, close-cropped brown hair that tends to curl,
and hearty open-air complexions. Then they are jolly, pleasant-tempered,
simple-minded and clean-minded giants. Then they are indefatigable
giants—indefatigable in the pursuit of open-air amusements: now in their
sailing-boats, now in their motor-cars, or on horse-back, or driving
their four-in-hands. And finally, being Italians, they are Anglophile
giants;—like so many of the Italian aristocracy, they are more English
than the English. They are rigorously English in their dress, for
instance; they have all their clothes from London, and these invariably
of the latest mode. They give English names to their sailing-boats—the
Mermaid, the Seagull. They employ none but Englishmen in their
stables, which are of English design, with English fittings. They have
English dogs,—fox-terriers, bull-terriers, collies,—also with English
names, Toby, Jack, Spark, Snap, and so forth. They speak English with
only the remotest trace of foreignness—were they not educated at Eton,
and at Trinity College, Cambridge? And they would fain Anglicise, not
merely the uniform of the Italian police, but the Italian constitution.
"What Italy needs," they will assure you, looking wondrous wise, "is a
House of Peers." Their Italian friends laugh at them a good deal; but I
suspect that under the laughter there is a certain admiration, if not
even (for, as Italian fortunes go, theirs is an immense one) a certain
Is all this apropos of boots, you wonder? No, for behold—
After breakfast, on the following morning, Adrian was alone, enjoying a
meditative digestion, in the sitting-room at the Hôtel de Rome, when he
saw come bowling along the Riva, turn rattling into the Piazza, and draw
up at the inn door, a very English-looking dog-cart, driven by a huge
young man in tweeds, with an apparent replica of himself beside him, and
an English-looking groom behind. The two huge young men descended; he
who had driven said something inaudible to the groom; and the groom,
touching his hat, answered: "Yes, my lord."
"So," thought Adrian, "we are not the only Britons in this island. I
wonder who my lord is."
And then, nothing if not consequent, he began to sing, softly to himself—
"Lord of thy presence, and no land besi-i-ide . . ."
And he was still softly carolling that refrain, when the door of the
sitting-room was opened.
"Marchese del Ponte, Marchese Baldo del Ponte," announced the waiter,
with sympathetic exhilaration, flourishing his inseparable napkin.
The two huge young men entered. The room seemed all at once to contract,
and become half its former size.
"Ah, Count," said one of them, advancing, and getting hold of Adrian's
hand. "How do you do? I am the Marchese del Ponte; this is my brother,
the Marchese Baldo. Welcome to Sampaolo. We are your connections, you
know. Our ancestors have intermarried any time these thousand years."
Adrian's rosy face was wreathed in his most amiable smiles.
"How do you do? I 'm very glad to see you. Won't you take chairs?" he
responded, and hospitably pushed chairs forward. "But I 'm afraid," he
added, shaking his head, still smiling, "I 'm afraid I 'm not a count."
"Ah, yes," said Baldo, "we know you don't use your title."
"You 're a count all right, whether you use your title or not," said
Franco. "Noblesse is in the bone. You can't get rid of it."
"Your great-grandmother was a Ponte," said Baldo, "and our own
grandmother was a Valdeschi, your grandfather's cousin."
"Really?" said Adrian, pleasantly. "But I 'm afraid," he explained to
Franco, "that there is n't any noblesse in my bones. I 'm afraid I 'm
just a plain commoner."
"Oh, you refer to the Act of Proscription—I understand," said Franco.
"But that was utterly invalid—a mere piece of political stage-play. The
Italian government had no more power to proscribe your title than it
would have to proscribe an English peerage,—no jurisdiction. It could
create a new Count of Sampaolo, which it did; but it could n't abolish
the dignity of the existing Count—a dignity that was ancient centuries
before the Italian government was dreamed of. You 're a count all right."
"I see," said Adrian. "And are you, then," he inferred, with sprightly
interest, "agin the government?"
The familiar formula appeared to tickle the two young Anglophiles
inordinately. They greeted it with deep-chested laughter.
"We 're not exactly agin the government," Baldo answered, "but we
believe in remodelling it. What Italy needs"—he looked a very Solon;
and his brother nodded concurrence in his opinion—-"is a House of Lords."
"I see—I see," said Adrian.
"We want you to come and stay with us," said Franco. "We 've a villa
half a mile up the Riva. You 'd be more comfortable there than here, and
it would give us the greatest pleasure to have you."
"The greatest possible pleasure," cordially echoed Baldo.
"You 're exceedingly good," said Adrian. "And I should be most happy.
But I 'm afraid—"
"Not another word," protested Franco. "You 'll come. That' s settled."
"That's settled," echoed Baldo.
"We 'll send down for your traps this afternoon," said Franco. "Have you
a man with you? No? Then we 'll send Grimes. He 'll pack for you, and
bring up your traps. But we hope to carry you off with us now—in time
"I don't know how to thank you," said Adrian. "But I 'm afraid—I hate
to destroy an illusion, yet in honesty I must—I 'm afraid I 'm not the
person you take me for. I 'm afraid there's a misapprehension. I—"
"Oh, we 'll respect your incog all right, if that's what's troubling
you," promised Baldo. "You shall be Mr. Anthony Craford."
"Craford of Craford," Franco corrected him.
"But there it is," said Adrian. "Now see how I 'm forced to disappoint
you. I 'm awfully sorry, but I 'm not Mr. Anthony Craford—no, nor
Craford of Craford, either."
"What?" puzzled Franco.
"Not Craford?" puzzled Baldo.
"No," said Adrian, sadly. "I 'm awfully sorry, but my name is Willes."
"Willes?" said Franco. "But it was Craford in the visitors' book at the
Palazzo Rosso. That's how we knew you were here."
"My brother is the Hereditary Constable of the Palace," said Baldo. "It
is now merely an honorary office. But the visitors' book is brought to
him whenever there have been any visitors."
"And we inquired for Craford downstairs," supplemented Franco. "And they
said you were at home, and showed us up."
"I 'm awfully sorry," repeated Adrian. "But Craford and I are as
distinct as night and morning. Craford has gone out for a solitary walk.
My name is Willes. Craford and I are travelling together."
"Oh, I see," cried Franco; and slapping his thigh, "Ho, ho, ho," he
"Ho, ho, ho," laughed Baldo. "We were jolly well sold."
"We—ho, ho—we got the wrong sow by the ear," laughed Franco.
"We put the saddle on the wrong horse—ho, ho," laughed Baldo.
"We 're delighted to make your acquaintance, all the same," said Franco.
"And we hold you to your promise—you 're to come and stay with us—you
and Craford both," said Baldo.
"Yes—there 's no getting out of that. We count upon you," said Franco.
"So far as I 'm concerned, I should be charmed," said Adrian. "But I
can't speak for Craford. He 's a bit run down and out of sorts. I 'm
not sure whether he 'll feel that he 's in a proper state for paying
visits. But here he comes."
He inclined his head towards a window, through which Anthony could be
seen crossing the Piazza.
"By Jove!" exclaimed Franco. "I should have known him for a Valdeschi
anywhere. He 's exactly like a portrait of his grandfather in the
"By Jove, so he is," exclaimed Baldo.
And, to Adrian's surprise, when the introductions were accomplished, and
the invitation was repeated to him, Anthony at once accepted.
"I 've given orders for my four-in-hand to come round here and pick us
up," said Franco. "Shall we all go for a spin, and get an appetite for
"In the afternoon, if there 's a breeze, I propose a sail," said Baldo.
"I 've just got a new boat out from England, schooner-rigged, the
Spindrift. I 've not yet really had a fair chance to try her."
"Do you go in for tennis?" asked Franco. "We 've got a court at the
"I don't know whether you care for swimming," said Baldo. "You get a
fairly decent dive-off from the landing-stage at the end of our garden.
The water here is pooty good. My brother and I generally go for a swim
"Ah, here 's Tom with the four-in-hand," said Franco. And then, with a
readiness for self-effacement that was surely less British than the
language in which it found expression, "Would you care to take the
ribbons, Count?" he asked. And when Anthony had declined, "Would you,
Willes?" he proceeded.
"Not just at the start, thanks," said Adrian. "I should like to watch
'em step a bit first."
The hypocrite. As if he would have known what to do with the ribbons,
had they been given to him.
So Franco took them himself, while Baldo blew the horn.
"Have you visited Castel San Guido yet?" Franco questioned. "Shall we
make that our objective?"
They drove up and up, round and round the winding road that leads to
Castel San Guido, where it clings to the almost vertical mountainside.
For the greater part the road was bordered by olive orchards, but
sometimes there were vineyards, sometimes groves of walnut-trees, clumps
of stone-pines, or fields of yellowing maize, and everywhere there were
oleanders growing wild, and always there was the view.
Castel San Guido is very like a hundred other mediaeval castles, a grim
old fortress, with walls of I forget what prodigious thickness, with
round towers pierced by sinister-looking meutrières, and crowned by
battlements, with bare stone courts, stone halls, cold and dimly lighted,
and a dismantled stone chapel. But I dare say the descendant of San
Guido (not being made of wood) had his emotions. And the view was
magnificent—Vallanza below, its red roofs burning in the sun, the purple
bay, the olive-mantled hills, with a haze of gold-dust and pearl-dust
brooding over them, and white-walled villages shining in twenty
improbable situations, with their dark cypresses and slender campanili.
They had toiled up slowly, but they came spinning back at a tremendous
pace, down the steep gradients, round the perilous curves, while Franco,
his jaws shut tight, his brows drawn together, gave all his attention to
his horses, Baldo merrily wound his horn, Anthony smoked cigarettes, and
Adrian, for dear life, with his heart in his mouth, held hard to the
seat-rail at his side. I think he pushed a very genuine ouf, when,
without accident, they had regained the level ground.
The Villa del Ponte is a long grey rectangular building, as severe in
outward aspect as a barrack or a prison, in a garden that stretches right
away to the sea-wall, a garden full of palms, oranges, tall, feathery
eucalyptus-trees, and lizards, perfectly Italian. But no sooner do you
pass the portal of the house, than you leave Italy, as on a magic-carpet,
and find yourself in the seventh circle of England, amid English
furniture, English books, English periodicals, daily, weekly, monthly,
(the Pink 'un perhaps the most conspicuous), and between walls
embellished by English sporting-pictures and the masks and brushes of
English foxes. "We hunt a good bit, you know," said Franco. "We've a
little box in Northamptonshire, and hunt with the Pytchley. We both have
the button." One was n't in the least surprised when an English voice,
proceeding from the smuggest of smooth-shaven English countenances,
informed my lord that luncheon was served.
After luncheon they sailed in the Spindrift. After that, (to Adrian's
delight, I hope) they had tea, with plenty of buttered toast. Then they
played tennis. Then they went for a breathless whirl along the Riva in a
motor-car. Then they swam. And after dinner they played billiards,
while Franco and Baldo smoked short pipes, and sipped whiskey and
soda—but a half-pennyworth of whiskey, as Adrian noticed, to an
intolerable deal of soda. Blood will tell, and theirs, in spite of
everything, was abstemious Italian blood.
"Now, Commendatore," said Susanna, making her face grave, "listen, and
you shall hear"—but then her gravity broke down—"of the midnight ride
of Paul Revere," she concluded, laughing.
She raised her eyes to his, aglow with that tender, appealing, mocking,
defiant smile of hers. He, poor man, smiled too, though not very
happily, I fear—nay, even with a kind of suspicious bewilderment, as
one who sniffs brewing mischief, but knows not of what particular
variety it will be. They were seated in the shade and the coolness of
a long open colonnade at Isola Nobile, while, all round them, the
August morning, like a thing alive, pulsated with warmth and light, and
the dancing waves of the bay lapped musically against the walls below.
The Commendatore was clad in stiffly-starched white duck, and held a
white yachting-cap in his hand. Susanna wore a costume of some cool
gauzy tissue, pearl-grey, with white ruffles that looked as impalpable
"Listen," she said, "and you shall hear of the midday quest of
Commendatore Fregi. I will tell you step by step what steps you are to
take. My cousin is staying with the Ponte brothers at their villa.
Well,—first step of all,—you are to call upon him."
"No," said the Commendatore, jerking his head, his baldish old head
with its fringe of iron-grey curls.
"Yes," said Susanna, resolutely compressing her lips.
"No," said he. "It is not etiquette. The new-comer pays the first
"That is Italian etiquette," said she. "But my cousin is an
"Nun fa nien'e. He is in Italy. He must conform to the customs of
the country," insisted Commendatore Fregi, in the dialect of Sampaolo,
twirling his fierce old moustaches, glaring with his mild old eyes.
"No," said Susanna, softly, firmly; "we must stretch a point in his
favour. He is English. We will adopt the custom of his country. So
you will call upon him. I wish it."
"Ph-h-h," puffed the Commendatore, fanning himself with his cap.
"Well—?" he questioned.
Susanna, in her diaphanous light-coloured frock, leaned back, smiling.
The Commendatore fanned himself rapidly with his cap, and waited for
"You call upon him, you introduce yourself as an old friend of the
family. 'As a boy, I knew your grandfather, your grandmother, and I
was a playfellow of your father's.'"
She threw back her head, pouted out her lips, and achieved a very
admirable counterfeit of the Commendatore's manner.
"You ask the usual questions, pay the usual compliments. 'Can I have
the pleasure of serving you in anyway? I beg leave to place myself at
your disposal. You must not fail to command me'—and patati and
"You are an outrageous little ape," said the Commendatore, grinning in
spite of himself. "You would mimic the Devil to his face."
"No," said Susanna. "I only mimic people when I am fond of them."
And again she lifted her eyes to his, where they melted in her tender,
"Ph-h-h," puffed the Commendatore, agitating his cap.
"And then," pursued Susanna, "having paid the usual compliments, you
rise to go."
"Ah—bene," said the Commendatore, and his lean old yellow face
looked a good deal relieved.
"Yes," said she. "But then, having risen to go, then, like the wily
and supple diplomat you are, you come to the real business of your
"Oh?" said the Commendatore.
He sat forward, on the edge of his chair, and frowned. He had thought
his troubles were over, and now it appeared that they had not yet begun.
"Yes," said Susanna. "Having risen to go, you pause, you hesitate, and
then suddenly you take your courage in both hands. 'Count,' you say,
'I wish to speak to you about your cousin.' And thereupon, frankly,
confidentially, you proceed to lay before him the difficulties of your
position. 'I was your cousin's guardian; I am still her nearest
friend; I occupy the place of a parent towards her, and feel myself
responsible for her. And one of my chief concerns, one of my first
duties, is, of course, to see that she makes a good marriage. She is a
great heiress—she would be the natural prey of fortune-hunters. I
must protect her, I must direct her. With one hand I must keep away
undesirable suitors, with the other hand I must catch a desirable one.
But now observe my perplexities. Your cousin is peculiar. She is not
in the least like the typical submissive young Italian girl. She is
excessively self-willed, capricious, fantastic, unreasonable——'"
"Bravo," put in the Commendatore, clapping his bony old hands. "I can
say all that with a clear conscience." He twirled his moustaches again.
"Do you think I would ask you to say anything you could n't say with a
clear conscience?" Susanna demanded, with a glance of reproach. "So,
with a clear conscience, you go on: 'Your cousin is fantastic,
unreasonable, sentimental, romantic, extravagant. And—to come to the
point—she has got it into her unreasonable and romantic little head
that she has no right to the position which she occupies. She has
studied the history of her family, and she has got it into her perverse
little head that by the changes which took place in 1850 a very great
injustice was perpetrated. She has persuaded herself, in short, that
the properties here at Sampaolo, which are technically and legally
hers, are rightfully and morally yours; and, to tell you the whole
truth, since my guardianship expired, a few months ago, I have had hard
work to restrain her from taking measures to relinquish those
properties in your favour.' No—don't interrupt," she forbade him,
when the Commendatore made as if to speak.
A sound of guttural impatience died in the old man's throat. He fanned
himself nervously, while Susanna, smiling, resumed the lesson.
"'But,' you declare with energy, 'I have restrained her, and I shall
continue to restrain her. She could only make the properties over to
you by becoming a nun and taking vows of perpetual poverty. I will
fight to my dying gasp to prevent her from doing that. However'—and
now you change your note, and speak as one anxious to conciliate and
convince—'however, it has occurred to me that there is a simple course
by which the whole awkward situation could be solved—by which your
cousin's scruples could be set at rest, and you yourself put in
possession of your ancestral estates. My dear Count, your cousin is a
charming girl, and it is my chief concern and duty to arrange a
suitable marriage for her. Let me have the very great satisfaction of
arranging a marriage between her and you.'"
Susanna leaned back, and laughed. But the Commendatore frowned at her
with genuine anger.
"Macche!" he cried. "What fool's talk is this? What farce are you
"No farce," said Susanna, gently. "Only a wedding—at which you shall
give the bride away. And now—the launch is waiting. The sooner you
are off, the sooner you 'll return."
"Never," said the Commendatore. "I would sell myself to be chopped
into sausage-meat, before I would become a party to any such carnival
"Carnival tricks? Do you call marriage a carnival trick?" Susanna
wondered. "Or do you wish me to live and die an old maid? Is it or is
it not your duty to arrange a suitable match for me?"
"It is not my duty to arrange a match for you with a foreigner whom I
have n't the honour of knowing," he retorted.
"Well, then," urged Susanna, "go to my cousin and make him the
proposition I have suggested. And if he says yes,—if he consents to
marry me,—I give you my most solemn promise that not for any
consideration in the world will I accept him."
"What?" questioned the Commendatore, blinking at her.
"If he says yes, I 'll say no. If he says no, he says no. So it is
no, either way," she pointed out. "And meanwhile—the launch is
"If he says no!" scoffed the Commendatore. "Is the man born who will
say no to a bag of gold?"
"That's exactly what you have now an opportunity of discovering," she
replied. "But if he says yes, I give you my solemn promise, it will be
the end of him, so far as I 'm concerned."
The Commendatore rubbed the back of his neck.
"I never heard such a gallimaufry of headless and tailless nonsense,"
"Think of that poor long-suffering launch," said Susanna. "You are
still keeping it waiting."
"It may wait till the sea dries up, for all of me," said the
Commendatore, settling himself in his seat. "Do you take me for
Pulcinella? I will not begin at my time of life to play carnival
"Ah, well, after all," said Susanna, "it does n't really matter very
And apparently she abandoned her intention. But after a pause she
added, rather as if speaking to herself, "I must send for Father
Angelo, I suppose."
"What?" snapped out the Commendatore, sitting up.
"Yes," said Susanna, dreamily, "Father Angelo. He won't refuse to do
what I ask him to."
"Bah," said the Commendatore. "A priest—a monk—a shaveling—a
"A very good, kind, holy man," said Susanna. "And as my cousin is a
faithful Catholic, I think on all accounts Father Angelo will serve my
"Peuh—a Jesuit," said the Commendatore, elevating his nose.
"He is n't a Jesuit—he is a Capuchin," said Susanna.
"They are all Jesuits," said the Commendatore, with a sweeping gesture.
"A brown-back—a funeral-follower—a prayer-monger," he growled,
brushing his immense moustaches upwards, to emphasize his scorn.
"Hush," Susanna remonstrated, lifting her hand. "You must n't rail
"I do not rail against religion," answered the Commendatore. "Taken in
moderation, religion is an excellent thing—for women. Did I not see
that you were religiously brought up? But when it comes to these
priests, these Jesuits,—when it comes to that Father Angelo,—I would
have them all hung up and smoke-dried, to make bacon of. Garrh!" he
snorted, tossing his head.
"Yes, I know," murmured Susanna. "You were always jealous of Father
"I? Jealous of that gnawer of fish-bones? It is probable," sniffed
He rose from his chair, and stood before her, very slim and erect, his
chin thrust forward, so that the tendons of his long thin neck showed
"But I am an old ass. I can deny you nothing. I go to your cousin,"
"You are an old dear," said Susanna. "I knew you would go."
Her eyes were brimming with mirth, with triumph, with fondness. She
rose too, and gently patted his stiffly-starched white duck sleeve.
After he was gone, she crossed one of the light marble bridges, and
walked in the garden on Isola Sorella, where it was shaded by a row of
ilexes. Blackcaps (those tireless ubiquitous minstrels) were singing
wildly overhead; ring-doves kept up their monotonous coo-cooing.
Beyond, in the sun, butterflies flitted among the flowers, cockchafers
heavily droned and blundered, a white peacock strutted, and at the
water's edge two long-legged, wry-necked flamingoes stood motionless,
like sentinels. At the other side of the ilexes stretched a bit of
bright green lawn, with a fountain plashing in the middle, from whose
spray the sun struck sparks of iridescent fire; and then, terrace upon
terrace, the garden rose to a summit, where there was a belvedere.
I don't know how many times Susanna strolled backwards and forwards, I
don't know how many times she looked at her watch. Here and there
semi-circular marble benches were placed. Sometimes she would sit down
and rest for a little; but she was soon up again, walking, walking,
looking at her watch. At last she left the shade, crossed the lawn,
ascended the terraces, between orange and lemon-trees with their
undergrowth of jessamine, and entered the belvedere, having by this
progress created a panic indescribable in the community of lizards.
From the belvedere she could command the whole sunlit surface of the
bay, here blue, here silver, here deepening to violet, paling to green,
here dimly, obscurely rose. A fleet of fishing-boats, their coloured
sails decorated with stripes and geometric patterns, or even now and
then with a representation of the owner's patron-saint, was putting out
to sea in single file, between the Capo del Turco and the Capo del
Papa. But Susanna concentrated her attention upon a part of the shore,
perhaps half a mile distant, and half a mile to the east of Vallanza,
where the grey-green of the prevailing olives was broken by the
dark-green of a garden. The garden ran out into the bay a little,
forming a point. Susanna waited and watched, watched and waited, till,
by-and-by, from behind the point, a boat appeared, a launch, and came
swiftly bobbing over the waves towards Isola Nobile. She must have
kept very still during this vigil, for now, when she turned to leave
the belvedere, she saw that at least a hundred lizards had come forth
from their hiding-places, and were staring at her with their twinkling
little pin-heads of eyes. But even as she saw them—zrrrp!—a flash, a
rustle, and there was not a lizard anywhere in sight.
She went back to the colonnade.
"My dear," said Commendatore Fregi, "your cousin is an extremely fine
fellow, and upon my word I am sorry that my mission to him has failed.
I could not hope to find you a better husband."
Whatever the Commendatore's emotion might be, it generally impelled him
to do something to his moustaches. Now he pulled them straight out at
"Your mission has failed?" asked Susanna. "How do you mean?"
"He cannot marry you," said the Commendatore, with a shake of the head,
a shrug of the shoulders. "He is engaged to a lady in England."
"Ah—I see," said Susanna.
"He is very good-looking," said the Commendatore. "He is his
grandfather come back to life."
"Is he indeed?" said Susanna.
"Yes," affirmed the Commendatore. "He dresses well. He has a good
manner. He is very quiet."
"Englishmen are apt to be quiet," said Susanna.
"He speaks Italian as well as I do," went on the Commendatore. "But he
cannot speak Sampaolese."
"He could easily learn Sampaolese," said Susanna.
"Yes," said the Commendatore. "When I repeated that humbug about your
becoming a nun and resigning the properties to him, he held up his
hands in horror. 'She must not think of such a thing,' he cried.
'Tell the young lady that I could never conceivably accept such a
sacrifice. I understand her scruples, and they do her great honour.
But she and I and all of us must accept the situation as we find it.
She must not think of becoming a nun.' You see, he has good sense as
well as good feeling. That is what I have always told you myself—we
must accept the situation as we find it. There's no use trying to open
up the past."
"H'm," said Susanna, on a key of doubt.
"And then, with my heart in the business, for I had seen that he was of
the right stuff, then I proposed a marriage," said the Commendatore.
"I put it to him as strongly as I could. I painted the advantages in
vivid colours. But it was no good. He cannot marry you. He is
"So you said," Susanna reminded him. "To a lady in England, I think?"
"Yes," assented the Commendatore. "It is a pity on our account that he
will not throw her over. But it is to his credit. Let me tell you it
is not every man in his position who would stick at the point of
honour. Consider the alternative. He throws over his Englishwoman,
and he becomes master not only of one of the noblest estates in Europe,
but of an estate which must have for him the incalculable additional
value of being his patrimony." Never chary of gesture, the speaker was
at this point lavish of it.
"May I be permitted," said Susanna, raising her eyebrows, "to admire
the light-hearted way in which you leave me out of the saga?"
"You?" puzzled the Commendatore. "Out of the—what? What is a saga?"
"A Scandinavian legend," Susanna instructed him. "Now see how you
leave me out of your Scandinavian legend. 'Consider the alternative,'
said you. 'He throws over his Englishwoman, and he becomes—' Well,
you said, 'Master of a noble estate.' But a really gallant person
might have said, 'Husband of a perfectly entrancing Italian woman.'"
She pulled a little face.
"Ha," laughed the Commendatore, briefly. "You must have your joke."
And his hand instinctively made for his moustaches. "Well, I am sorry.
I can never hope to find you a better husband."
"You need never try," said Susanna. "He will do."
"What?" said the Commendatore.
"He will do," said she. "We'll have a grand wedding in the Cathedral.
The Bishop shall officiate, in his very best cope and mitre, and you,
with your grandest flourish, shall give the bride away."
The Commendatore shrugged his shoulders, and gazed for commiseration at
"You are incomprehensible," he said. "Haven't I spent an hour telling
you he is affianced to a lady in England?"
"No," said Susanna; "only something like ten minutes."
"Brrr," said the Commendatore, contemptuous of the quibble.
"And anyhow, I shall marry him," said Susanna. "You have made me quite
fall in love with him, by your glowing description—and I rather liked
him before. The lady in England is neither here nor there. We 'll be
married in the Cathedral, where so many generations of our ancestors
have been married. His friend Mr. Willes shall be best man; and the
Pontes shall pontificate in their most British manner, with
wedding-favours sent out from London. And so the ancient legitimate
line of the Valdeschi shall be restored."
"You are mad," said the Commendatore, simply.
"And you shall offer us a wedding-breakfast at the Villa Fregi," she
pursued. "We 'll have all sorts of nice things to eat and drink, and
you shall propose the health of the bride, and make a magnificent
speech. And I shall wear my coronet—which I have never yet worn—for
then I shall be the Countess of Sampaolo with a clear right to the
title. And now I 'll tell you a secret. Would you like me to tell you
a secret?" she inquired.
"I can tell you a secret that will soon be a matter of public
notoriety," said the Commendatore. "And that is that you 've clean
gone out of your senses."
"The lady he is engaged to in England," said Susanna, "guess who she
is. I give it to you in a million."
"How the devil can I guess who she is?" said the Commendatore.
"Well, then, listen," said Susanna. "You must n't faint, or explode,
or anything—but the lady he's engaged to in England is your old
friend—that bold adventuress, that knightess errant—the widow
"Domeniddio!" gasped the Commendatore, falling back in his chair.
And I half think he would have pulled his moustaches out by their roots
if Susanna had n't interceded with him to spare them.
"Don't—don't," she pleaded. "You won't have any left."
"Domeniddio!" he gasped three separate times, on three separate notes.
"If you're surprised," said Susanna, "think how much more surprised he
"Do-men-id-dio!" said the Commendatore, in a whisper.
And then a servant came to announce that luncheon was ready.
That morning Anthony had received a letter from Miss Sandus. It was
dated and postmarked Craford, where, indeed, (although Miss Sandus was
now at Isola Nobile), it had been written. It had been written at
Susanna's request, almost under her dictation. Then she had given it
to a confidential servant, with orders that it should be committed to
the post three days after her departure.
"I sometimes forget, my dear," Miss Sandus had improved the occasion to
remark, "that you are not English; but the Italian in you comes out in
your unconquerable passion for intrigue."
The initial and principal paragraph of the letter ran as follows:—
"Do you remember once upon a time complaining to me of your lady-love
that she was rich? and setting up her wealth as an obstacle to your
happy wooing?—and how I pooh-poohed the notion? Well, now, it would
appear, that obstacle is by way of being removed. You will have
learned in your copy-book days that Fortune is a mighty uncertain
goddess. And I am writing by Susanna's desire to let you know that
circumstances have quite suddenly arisen which make it seem likely that
she may be in some danger, if not actually on the point, of losing
nearly everything that she possesses. I don't altogether clearly
understand the matter, but it springs from some complication in her
family, and a question whether a rather distant relative has n't a
better claim than her own upon the properties she has been enjoying.
She wishes me to tell you this, because, as she says, 'It may make some
difference in his plans.' I am well aware, of course, as I have
assured her, that it will make none—unless, indeed, it may intensify
your impatience for an early wedding-day. But she insists upon my
writing; and when she insists, I notice that no one ever for very long
resists. What is that mysterious virtue, which some people have in
abundance, (but most of us so abundantly lack), by which one is
compelled, if they say go, to go, if they say come, to come? There
is a question for you to meditate, as you walk by the shores of the
Adriatic, under 'the golden leaves of the olives.' I wonder whether
you will recollect from what poet that is quoted—'the golden leaves of
the olives.' Well, they are golden in certain lights."
I dare say Anthony was still digesting his letter from Miss Sandus,
when it was followed by the somewhat startling visit of Commendatore
Fregi; and perhaps he was still under the impression of that, when, in
the afternoon, he was summoned from a game of tennis, to receive the
communication which I transcribe below, from the Contessa di Sampaolo.
It was brought to him by a Capuchin friar, a soft-spoken, aged man,
with a long milk-white beard, who said he would wait for an answer.
The Pontes, their tennis thus interrupted, strolled off towards the
stables, leading Adrian with them,—an Adrian consumed, I fancy, by
curiosity to know what business a Capuchin friar might have to transact
with his friend. "Of course it is something to do with the plots and
plans of my lady," he reflected; "but exactly what? If people take
you into their confidence, they ought to take you into the entirety of
it, and keep you au courant as the theme develops."
Anthony paused for an instant to admire his correspondent's strong,
clear-flowing, determined hand; and then, in that stiff-jointed, formal
Tuscan of the schools, which no human being was ever heard to speak,
but educated Italians will persist in writing, he read:—
"Illustrissimo Signore e caro Cugino"—Nay, better translate:—
"Most Illustrious Sir and dear Cousin: From my earliest childhood I
have always felt that the Revolution of 1850 was accompanied by great
injustices, and particularly that, without reference to the political
changes, there should have been no transfer of the hereditaments of our
family from the legal heir, your Excellency's father, then a minor, to
his uncle, my grandfather. At the age of twelve I made a vow, before
the shrine of our Sainted Progenitor, that if ever the power to do so
should be mine, I would set this injustice right.
"By the testament of my father, however, I was left under the control
of a guardian until I was twenty-two, which age I attained in April
last. Since April I have been constantly in the intention of restoring
to the head of my family the properties that are rightly his. But many
impeding circumstances, besides the dissuasions of friends whose age
and wisdom I was concerned to regard, have detained me until now, when,
learning that your Excellency is sojourning in the island, I feel that
I must no longer postpone an act of due reparation.
"As I am but the life-tenant of these estates, and as your Excellency,
being my nearest male kinsman, is legally my heir-apparent, (though
morally always the head of our house), I can, I am informed, make the
estates over to you by entering a Religious Order, and taking vows of
celibacy for life. The small fortune which I have inherited from my
mother will provide me with the dowry necessary to this step.
"Most Illustrious Sir and dear Cousin, it would give me great pleasure
to make the acquaintance of your Excellency, and to do homage to the
Chief of the House of San Guido, before my retirement from the world.
The good Father Angelo, who bears this letter, who has my full
confidence and approves of my purpose, will bring me your Excellency's
answer, to say if and when you will honour me with your presence at
"I beg leave to subscribe myself. Most Illustrious Sir and dear
Cousin, with sentiments of distinguished respect and affection, of your
Lordship's Excellency the good cousin,
"S. del Valdeschi della Spina,
Contessa di Sampaolo."
"Al Illmo. Signore, S. E. il Conte di Sampaolo,
Alla Villa del Ponte, Vallanza."
Anthony, his cousin's letter held at arm's length, turned to the
white-bearded Capuchin, where he stood in his brown habit, patiently
waiting, with his clasped hands covered by his sleeves.
"My dear Father," he said, speaking quickly, his face white, his eyes
troubled, "the Countess tells me that you have her full confidence and
approve her purpose. But do you know what purpose she has intimated
"Yes," said Father Angelo, calmly, bowing his head.
"But then," Anthony hurried on, his excitement unconcealed, "it is
impossible you should approve it—it is impossible any one should
approve it. She must be stopped. The thing she proposes to do is out
of all reason. I cannot allow it. Her friends must not allow it. Her
friends must prevent it."
"The thing she proposes to do is an act of simple justice," said the
Father, in his soft voice.
Anthony waved his arms, intolerantly.
"Simple justice—or simple madness," he said, "it is a thing that must
not even be discussed. She is twenty-two years old—she is a
child—she is irresponsible—she does n't, she can't, know what she is
doing. She proposes to impoverish herself, to condemn herself to a
convent for life, and, so far as one can see, without the slightest
vocation. Her friends must restrain her."
"She is not a person easily restrained, when she has made up her mind,"
said the Father, quietly.
"At all events," said Anthony, "she will be restrained in spite of
herself, if the fact is impressed upon her that the sacrifice she
contemplates making on my behalf is one that I will not accept—that no
man could accept. She can't make her properties over to me if I refuse
to accept them."
"No, I suppose she cannot," said Father Angelo. His hand came forth
from his sleeve, to stroke his beard, thoughtfully. "But the
properties are in all right and justice yours. Why should you not
accept them? You are the legitimate Conte di Sampaolo. You are
entitled to your own."
"My dear Father!" Anthony cried out, almost writhing. "It is a matter,
I tell you, that I cannot even discuss. Accept them! And allow an
inexperienced young girl, who can't possibly understand the
consequences of her action, on a quixotic impulse, to beggar herself
for me, to give up everything, to retire from the world and die by slow
inches in a convent! The thing is too monstrous. A man could never
hold up his head again."
"It would be well," said the Father, slowly, "if you were to tell her
this in person. You had better see her, and tell her it in person."
"When can I see her?" Anthony asked, impetuous.
"When you will. She much desires to see you," the Father answered.
"The sooner, the better," said Anthony. "The sooner she definitely and
permanently dismisses this folly from her mind, the better for every
"Possibly you could go with me now?" the Father suggested. "Her
launch, which brought me here, attends at the end of the garden."
"Certainly I will go with you now," said Anthony. "Wait while I put on
He ran back to the tennis-court, caught up his coat, and donned it.
Then, all heated and in flannels as he was, he accompanied Father
Angelo to the launch.
Susanna, Miss Sandus, a white peacock, and six ring-doves were taking
refreshments in the garden, in the shade of an oleander-tree. There
were cakes, figs, and lemonade, grains of dried maize, and plenty of
good succulent hemp-seed. The ring-doves liked the hemp-seed and the
maize, but the white peacock seemed to prefer sponge-cake soaked in
"I know a literary man who once taught a peacock to eat sponge-cake
soaked in absinthe," Miss Sandus remarked, on a key of reminiscence.
"Really? An unprincipled French literary man, I suppose?" was
Susanna's natural inference.
"No, that's the funny part of it," said Miss Sandus. "He is an eminent
and highly respectable English literary man, and the father of a family
into the bargain. I dare n't give his name, lest he might have the law
"He ought to have been ashamed of himself," Susanna said. "What became
of the poor peacock? Did it descend to a drunkard's grave?"
"That's a long story," said Miss Sandus. "When you 're married and
come to stay with me in Kensington, I 'll ask the literary man to
dinner. Perhaps he 'll give you his account of the affair. Ah, here
's your ambassador returned," she exclaimed all at once, as Father
Angelo, his beads swinging beside him, appeared advancing down the
"Well, Father——?" Susanna questioned, looking at him with eyes that
were dark and anxious.
"Your cousin is a very headstrong person," said Father Angelo. "He
refuses to accept your offer. He swept it aside like a whirlwind."
"Ah,—who told you he would?" crowed Miss Sandus.
"He is here to speak with you in person. He is waiting in the loggia,"
said Father Angelo.
Susanna leaned back in her chair. She had turned very pale.
"I think I am going to faint," she said.
"For mercy's sake, don't," Miss Sandus implored her, starting.
"I won't," Susanna promised, drawing a deep breath. "But you will
admit I have some provocation. Must I—must I see him?"
"Must you?" cried Miss Sandus. "Are n't you dying to see him?"
"Yes," Susanna confessed, with a flutter of laughter. "I 'm dying to
see him. But I 'm so afraid."
"I 'll disappear," said Miss Sandus, rising. "Then the good Father can
bring him to you."
"Oh, don't—don't leave me," Susanna begged, stretching out her hand.
"My dear!" laughed Miss Sandus, and she tripped off towards the Palace.
"Well, Father," Susanna said, after a pause, "will you show him the
The loggia, as Father Angelo called it, where he had left Anthony,
while he went to announce his arrival, was the same long open colonnade
in which, that morning, Susanna had had her conference with
Commendatore Fregi. It was arranged as a sort of out-of-doors
living-room. There were rugs on the marble pavement, and chairs and
tables; and on the tables, besides vases with flowers, and other
things, there were a good many books.
Absently, mechanically, (as one will when one is waiting in a strange
place where books are within reach), Anthony picked a book up. It was
an old, small book, in tree-calf, stamped, in the midst of much
elaborate gold tooling, with the Valdeschi arms and coronet.
Half-consciously examining it, he became aware presently that it was a
volume of the poems of Ronsard. And then somehow it fell open, at a
page that was marked by the insertion of an empty envelope.
The envelope caught Anthony's eye, and held it; and that was scarcely
to be wondered at, for, in his own unmistakable handwriting, it was
addressed to Madame Torrebianca, at the New Manor, Craford, England,
and its upper corner bore an uncancelled twenty-five centime Italian
On the page the envelope marked was printed the sonnet, "Voicy le Bois."
What happened at this moment in Anthony's head and heart? Many things
must have become rather violently and painfully clear to him; many
things must have changed their aspect, and adjusted themselves in new
combinations. Many things that had seemed trifling or meaningless must
have assumed significance and importance. No doubt he was shaken by
many tumultuous thoughts and feelings. But outwardly he appeared
almost unmoved. He returned the book to the table, and began to walk
backwards and forwards, his head bowed a little, as one considering.
Sometimes he would give a brief low laugh. Sometimes he would look up,
frown, and vaguely shake his fist. Once, shaking his fist, he
muttered, "Oh, that Adrian!" And once, with a delighted chuckle, "By
Jove, how awfully she 'll be dished!"
Then Father Angelo came back.
"The Countess is in the garden. May I show you the way?" he said.
But when they had reached the marble bridge that connects the garden
with the Palace, "I think it will be best if you see her alone," the
Father said. "Cross this bridge, and keep straight up the path beyond,
and you will come to her."
"Thank you, Father," said Anthony, and crossed the bridge.
He crossed the marble bridge, and kept straight up the path beyond.
And there, at the end of the path, in the shade of an oleander-tree,
with her back towards him, stood a young woman—a young woman in a
pearl-grey frock, and a garden-hat, beneath which one could see that
her hair was dark. Young women's backs, however, in this world, to the
undiscerning eyes of men, are apt to present no immediately
recognizable characteristic features; and so if it had n't been for
Ronsard, I don't know what would have happened.
It was very still in the garden. The birds were taking their afternoon
siesta. The breeze faintly lisped in the tree-tops. Even the
sunshine, as if it were not always still, seemed stiller than its wont.
"Oh, what—what—what will he think, what will he say, what will he do,
when I turn round, and he sees who I am?" The question repeated and
repeated itself in Susanna's mind, rhythmically, to the tremulous
beating of her heart, as she heard Anthony's footsteps coming near.
He walked quickly, but a few paces short of where she stood he halted,
and for a breathing-space or two there was silence.
Then at last, in English, in his smoothest, his most detached, his most
languid manner, but with an overtone of exultancy that could not be
subdued, he said—
"These ingenuous attempts at mystification are immensely entertaining;
but are there to be many more of them, before you can permit our little
comedy to reach its happy dénouement?"
"Good heavens!" thought Susanna, wildly.
She did n't turn round, but presently her shoulders began to shake.
She could n't help it. The discomfiture was hers; she had been
"awfully dished" indeed. But her shoulders shook and shook with silent
In the end, of course, she turned.
In her dark eyes disappointment, satisfaction, amazement, and amusement
"How in the world did you find out?" she asked. "How could you have
found out? When did you find out? How long have you known? And if
you knew, why did you pretend not to know?"
But Anthony, at the sight of her face, forgot everything.
"Oh, never mind," he cried, and advanced upon her with swift strides.
By-and-by, "Let me look at your right hand," said Susanna. "I want to
see whether you have the Valdeschi pit."
"The Valdeschi what?" said Anthony.
"The Valdeschi pit," said she.
"What is that?" he asked.
"The Valdeschi pit!" she exclaimed. "Do you mean to say that you, the
head of the family, don't know?"
"What is it?" he asked.
"Every true-born son or daughter of San Guido," she explained, "bears
in the palm of the hand a little pit or dint, which is the survival in
his descendants of the scar made by the thorn in the hand of San Guido
himself. See—I have it."
She held out her hand.
Anthony took it, bent ever it, kissed it, studied it.
"It is a delicious hand—but I see no pit," he said.
"There," said she, placing the tip of her finger upon a tiny
concavity in the rose-white flesh.
"That?" laughed Anthony. "That is nothing but a pretty little dimple."
"Oh, no," said she, seriously. "That is the mark of the Valdeschi. I
'm sure you have it too—we all have it. Let me see."
She took his lean brown hand, and examined it carefully, eagerly.
"There! I was sure!" she cried.
She pointed to where, in a position corresponding to that of the "mark
of the Valdeschi" in her own hand, there was an indentation that looked
like a half-obliterated scar.
Presently, in the direction of the Palace, a bell began to ring, rather
a deep-toned bell, like a church-bell.
"When you were here the other day as a mere visitor," she said, "I
suppose they did n't show you the chapel, did they?"
"No," said Anthony.
"They don't show it to mere visitors," she went on. "But come with me
now, and you shall see it. Father Angelo is going to give Benediction.
That is what the bell is ringing for."
She led the way towards the Palace. As they were crossing the bridge,
"Look," she said, and pointed to a flagstaff that sprang from the
highest pinnacle of the building. A flag was being hoisted there; and
now it fluttered forth and flew in the breeze, a red flag with a design
in gold upon it.
"The flag of the Count of Sampaolo: gules, a spine or," said Susanna.
"Of course you know why they are flying it now?"
"No—?" wondered Anthony.
"Because the Count of Sampaolo is at home," she said.
Then they went in to Benediction.