Part 2 out of 9
I have already said that Ugo Del Ferice had returned to Rome soon after
the change, had established himself with his wife, Donna Tullia, and was
at the time I am speaking about, deeply engaged in the speculations of
the day. He had once been, tolerably popular in society, having been
looked upon as a harmless creature, useful in his way and very obliging.
But the circumstances which had attended his flight some years earlier
had become known, and most of his old acquaintances turned him the cold
shoulder. He had expected this and was neither disappointed nor
humiliated. He had made new friends and acquaintances during his exile,
and it was to his interest to stand by them. Like many of those who had
played petty and dishonourable parts in the revolutionary times, he had
succeeded in building up a reputation for patriotism upon a very slight
foundation, and had found persons willing to believe him a sufferer who
had escaped martyrdom for the cause, and had deserved the crown of
election to a constituency as a just reward of his devotion. The Romans
cared very little what became of him. The old Blacks confounded Victor
Emmanuel with Garibaldi, Cavour with Persiano, and Silvio Pellico with
Del Ferice in one sweeping condemnation, desiring nothing so much as
never to hear the hated names mentioned in their houses. The Grey
party, being also Roman, disapproved of Ugo on general principles and
particularly because he had been a spy, but the Whites, not being Romans
at all and entertaining an especial detestation for every distinctly
Roman opinion, received him at his own estimation, as society receives
most people who live in good houses, give good dinners and observe the
proprieties in the matter of visiting-cards. Those who knew anything
definite of the man's antecedents were mostly persons who had little
histories of their own, and they told no tales out of school. The great
personages who had once employed him would have been magnanimous enough
to acknowledge him in any case, but were agreeably disappointed when
they discovered that he was not amongst the common herd of pension
hunters, and claimed no substantial rewards save their politeness and a
line in the visiting lists of their wives. And as he grew in wealth and
importance they found that he could be useful still, as bank directors
and members of parliament can be, in a thousand ways. So it came to pass
that the Count and Countess Del Ferice became prominent persons in the
Ugo was a man of undoubted talent. By his own individual efforts, though
with small scruple as to the means he employed, he had raised himself
from obscurity to a very enviable position. He had only once in his life
been carried away by the weakness of a personal enmity, and he had been
made to pay heavily for his caprice. If Donna Tullia had abandoned him
when he was driven out of Rome by the influence of the Saracinesca, he
might have disappeared altogether from the scene. But she was an odd
compound of rashness and foresight, of belief and unbelief, and she had
at that time felt herself bound by an oath she dared not break, besides
being attached to him by a hatred of Giovanni Saracinesca almost as
great as his own. She had followed him and had married him without
hesitation; but she had kept the undivided possession of her fortune
while allowing him a liberal use of her income. In return, she claimed
a certain liberty of action when she chose to avail herself of it. She
would not be bound in the choice of her acquaintances nor criticised in
the measure of like or dislike she bestowed upon them. She was by no
means wholly bad, and if she had a harmless fancy now and then, she
required her husband to treat her as above suspicion. On the whole, the
arrangement worked very well. Del Ferice, on his part, was unswervingly
faithful to her in word and deed, for he exhibited in a high degree that
unfaltering constancy which is bred of a permanent, unalienable,
financial interest. Bad men are often clever, but if their cleverness is
of a superior order they rarely do anything bad. It is true that when
they yield to the pressure of necessity their wickedness surpasses that
of other men in the same degree as their intelligence. Not only honesty,
but all virtue collectively, is the best possible policy, provided that
the politician can handle such a tremendous engine of evil as goodness
is in the hands of a thoroughly bad man.
Those who desired pecuniary accommodation of the bank in which Del
Ferice had an interest, had no better friend than he. His power with the
directors seemed to be as boundless as his desire to assist the
borrower. But he was helpless to prevent the foreclosure of a mortgage,
and had been moved almost to tears in the expression of his sympathy
with the debtor and of his horror at the hard-heartedness shown by his
partners. To prove his disinterested spirit it only need be said that on
many occasions he had actually come forward as a private individual and
had taken over the mortgage himself, distinctly stating that he could
not hold it for more than a year, but expressing a hope that the debtor
might in that time retrieve himself. If this really happened, he earned
the man's eternal gratitude; if not, he foreclosed indeed, but the loser
never forgot that by Del Fence's kindness he had been offered a last
chance at a desperate moment. It could not be said to be Del Ferice's
fault that the second case was the more frequent one, nor that the
result to himself was profit in either event.
In his dealings with his constituency he showed a noble desire for the
public welfare, for he was never known to refuse anything in reason to
the electors who applied to him. It is true that in the case of certain
applications, he consumed so much time in preliminary enquiries and
subsequent formalities that the applicants sometimes died and sometimes
emigrated to the Argentine Republic before the matter could be settled;
but they bore with them to South America--or to the grave--the belief
that the Onorevole Del Ferice was on their side, and the instances of
his prompt, decisive and successful action were many. He represented a
small town in the Neapolitan Province, and the benefits and advantages
he had obtained for it were numberless. The provincial high road had
been made to pass through it; all express trains stopped at its station,
though the passengers who made use of the inestimable privilege did not
average twenty in the month; it possessed a Piazza Vittorio Emmanuela, a
Corso Garibaldi, a Via Cavour, a public garden of at least a quarter of
an acre, planted with no less than twenty-five acacias and adorned by a
fountain representing a desperate-looking character in the act of firing
a finely executed revolver at an imaginary oppressor. Pigs were not
allowed within the limits of the town, and the uniforms of the municipal
brass band were perfectly new. Could civilisation do more? The bank of
which Del Ferice was a director bought the octroi duties of the town at
the periodical auction, and farmed them skilfully, together with those
of many other towns in the same province.
So Del Ferice was a very successful man, and it need scarcely be said
that he was now not only independent of his wife's help but very much
richer than she had ever been. They lived in a highly decorated,
detached modern house in the new part of the city. The gilded gate
before the little plot of garden, bore their intertwined initials,
surmounted by a modest count's coronet. Donna Tullia would have
preferred a coat of arms, or even a crest, but Ugo was sensitive to
ridicule, and he was aware that a count's coronet in Rome means nothing
at all, whereas a coat of arms means vastly more than in most cities.
Within, the dwelling was somewhat unpleasantly gorgeous. Donna Tullia
had always loved red, both for itself and because it made her own
complexion seem less florid by contrast, and accordingly red satin
predominated in the drawing-rooms, red velvet in the dining-room, red
damask in the hall and red carpets on the stairs. Some fine specimens of
gilding were also to be seen, and Del Ferice had been one of the first
to use electric light. Everything was new, expensive and polished to its
extreme capacity for reflection. The servants wore vivid liveries and on
formal occasions the butler appeared in short-clothes and black silk
stockings. Donna Tullia's equipage was visible at a great distance, but
Del Fence's own coachman and groom wore dark green with, black
On the morning which Orsino and Madame d'Aragona had spent in Gouache's
studio the Countess Del Ferice entered her husband's study in order to
consult him upon a rather delicate matter. He was alone, but busy as
usual. His attention was divided between an important bank operation and
a petition for his help in obtaining a decoration for the mayor of the
town he represented. The claim to this distinction seemed to rest
chiefly on the petitioner's unasked evidence in regard to his own moral
rectitude, yet Del Ferice was really exercising all his ingenuity to
discover some suitable reason for asking the favour. He laid the papers
down with a sigh as Donna Tullia came in.
"Good morning, my angel," he said suavely, as he pointed to a chair at
his side--the one usually occupied at this hour by seekers for financial
support. "Have you rested well?"
He never failed to ask the question.
"Not badly, not badly, thank Heaven!" answered Donna Tullia. "I have a
dreadful cold, of course, and a headache--my head is really splitting."
"Rest--rest is what you need, my dear--"
"Oh, it is nothing. This Durakoff is a great man. If he had not made me
go to Carlsbad--I really do not know. But I have something to say to
you. I want your help, Ugo. Please listen to me."
Ugo's fat white face already expressed anxious attention. To accentuate
the expression of his readiness to listen, he now put all his papers
into a drawer and turned towards his wife.
"I must go to the Jubilee," said Donna Tullia, coming to the point.
"Of course you must go--"
"And I must have my seat among the Roman ladies"
"Of course you must," repeated Del Ferice with a little less alacrity.
"Ah! You see. It is not so easy. You know it is not. Yet I have as good
a right to my seat as any one--better perhaps."
"Hardly that," observed Ugo with a smile. "When you married me, my
angel, you relinquished your claims to a seat at the Vatican functions."
"I did nothing of the kind. I never said so, I am sure."
"Perhaps if you could make that clear to the majorduomo--"
"Absurd, Ugo. You know it is. Besides, I will not beg. You must get me
the seat. You can do anything with your influence."
"You could easily get into one of the diplomatic tribunes," observed
"I will not go there. I mean to assert myself. I am a Roman lady and I
will have my seat, and you must get it for me."
"I will do my best. But I do not quite see where I am to begin. It will
need time and consideration and much tact."
"It seems to me very simple. Go to one of the clerical deputies and say
that you want the ticket for your wife--"
"Give him to understand that you will vote for his next measure. Nothing
could be simpler, I am sure."
Del Ferice smiled blandly at his wife's ideas of parliamentary
"There are no clerical deputies in the parliament of the nation. If
there were the thing might be possible, and it would be very interesting
to all the clericals to read an account of the transaction in the
Osservatore Romano. In any case, I am not sure that it will be much to
our advantage that the wife of the Onorevole Del Ferice should be seen
seated in the midst of the Black ladies. It will produce an unfavourable
"If you are going to talk of impressions--" Donna Tullia shrugged her
"No, my dear. You mistake me. I am not going to talk of them, because,
as I at once told you, it is quite right that you should go to this
affair. If you go, you must go in the proper way. No doubt there will be
people who will have invitations but will not use them. We can perhaps
procure you the use of such a ticket."
"I do not care what name is on the paper, provided I can sit in the
"Very well," answered Del Ferice. "I will do my best."
"I expect it of you, Ugo. It is not often that I ask anything of you, is
it? It is the least you can do. The idea of getting a card that is not
to be used is good; of course they will all get them, and some of them
are sure to be ill."
Donna Tullia went away satisfied that what she wanted would be
forthcoming at the right moment. What she had said was true. She rarely
asked anything of her husband. But when she did, she gave him to
understand that she would have it at any price. It was her way of
asserting herself from time to time. On the present occasion she had no
especial interest at stake and any other woman might have been satisfied
with a seat in the diplomatic tribune, which could probably have been
obtained without great difficulty. But she had heard that the seats
there were to be very high and she did not really wish to be placed in
too prominent a position. The light might be unfavourable, and she knew
that she was subject to growing very red in places where it was hot. She
had once been a handsome woman and a very vain one, but even her vanity
could not survive the daily shock of the looking-glass torture. To sit
for four or five hours in a high light, facing fifty thousand people,
was more than she could bear with equanimity.
Del Ferice, being left to himself, returned to the question of the
mayor's decoration which was of vastly greater importance to him than
his wife's position at the approaching function. If he failed to get the
man what he wanted, the fellow would doubtless apply to some one of the
opposite party, would receive the coveted honour and would take the
whole voting population of the town with him at the next general
election, to the total discomfiture of Del Ferice. It was necessary to
find some valid reason for proposing him for the distinction. Ugo could
not decide what to do just then, but he ultimately hit upon a successful
plan. He advised his correspondent to write a pamphlet upon the rapid
improvement of agricultural interests in his district under the existing
ministry, and he even went so far as to enclose with his letter some
notes on the subject. These notes proved to be so voluminous and
complete that when the mayor had copied them he could not find a pretext
for adding a single word or correction. They were printed upon excellent
paper, with ornamental margins, under the title of "Onward,
Parthenope!" Of course every one knows that Parthenope means Naples, the
Neapolitans and the Neapolitan Province, a siren of that name having
come to final grief somewhere between the Chiatamone and Posilippo. The
mayor got his decoration, and Del Ferice was re-elected; but no one has
inquired into the truth of the statements made in the pamphlet upon
It is clear that a man who was capable of taking so much trouble for so
small a matter would not disappoint his wife when she had set her heart
upon such a trifle as a ticket for the Jubilee. Within three days he had
the promise of what he wanted. A certain lonely lady of high position
lay very ill just then, and it need scarcely be explained that her
confidential servant fell upon the invitation as soon as it arrived and
sold it for a round sum to the first applicant, who happened to be Count
Del Ferice's valet. So the matter was arranged, privately and without
All Rome was alive with expectation. The date fixed was the first of
January, and as the day approached the curious foreigner mustered in his
thousands and tens of thousands and took the city by storm. The hotels
were thronged. The billiard tables were let as furnished rooms, people
slept in the lifts, on the landings, in the porters' lodges. The thrifty
Romans retreated to roofs and cellars and let their small dwellings.
People reaching the city on the last night slept in the cabs they had
hired to take them to St. Peter's before dawn. Even the supplies of food
ran low and the hungry fed on what they could get, while the delicate of
taste very often did not feed at all. There was of course the usual
scare about a revolutionary demonstration, to which the natives paid
very little attention, but which delighted the foreigners.
Not more than half of those who hoped to witness the ceremony saw
anything of it, though the basilica will hold some eighty thousand
people at a pinch, and the crowd on that occasion was far greater than
at the opening of the Oecumenical Council in 1869.
Madame d'Aragona had also determined to be present, and she expressed
her desire to Gouache. She had spoken the strict truth when she had said
that she knew no one in Rome, and so far as general accuracy is
concerned it was equally true that she had not fixed the length of her
stay. She had not come with any settled purpose beyond a vague idea of
having her portrait painted by the French artist, and unless she took
the trouble to make acquaintances, there was nothing attractive enough
about the capital to keep her. She allowed herself to be driven about
the town, on pretence of seeing churches and galleries, but in reality
she saw very little of either. She was preoccupied with her own thoughts
and subject to fits of abstraction. Most things seemed to her intensely
dull, and the unhappy guide who had been selected to accompany her on
her excursions, wasted his learning upon her on the first morning, and
subsequently exhausted the magnificent catalogue of impossibilities
which he had concocted for the especial benefit of the uncultivated
foreigner, without eliciting so much as a look of interest or an
expression of surprise. He was a young and fascinating guide, wearing a
white satin tie, and on the third day he recited some verses of
Stecchetti and was about to risk a declaration of worship in ornate
prose, when he was suddenly rather badly scared by the lady's yellow
eyes, and ran on nervously with a string of deceased popes and their
"Get me a card for the Jubilee," she said abruptly.
"An entrance is very easily procured," answered the guide. "In fact I
have one in my pocket, as it happens. I bought it for twenty francs this
morning, thinking that one of my foreigners would perhaps take it of me.
I do not even gain a franc--my word of honour."
Madame d'Aragona glanced at the slip of paper.
"Not that," she answered. "Do you imagine that I will stand? I want a
seat in one of the tribunes."
The guide lost himself in apologies, but explained that he could not
get what she desired.
"What are you for?" she inquired.
She was an indolent woman, but when by any chance she wanted anything,
Donna Tullia herself was not more restless. She drove at once to
Gouache's studio. He was alone and she told him what she needed.
"The Jubilee, Madame? Is it possible that you have been forgotten?"
"Since they have never heard of me! I have not the slightest claim to a
"It is you who say that. But your place is already secured. Fear
nothing. You will be with the Roman ladies."
"I do not understand--"
"It is simple. I was thinking of it yesterday. Young Saracinesca comes
in and begins to talk about you. There is Madame d'Aragona who has no
seat, he says. One must arrange that. So it is arranged."
"By Don Orsino?"
"You would not accept? No. A young man, and you have only met once. But
tell me what you think of him. Do you like him?"
"One does not like people so easily as that," said Madame d'Aragona,
"How have you arranged about the seat?"
"It is very simple. There are to be two days, you know. My wife has her
cards for both, of course. She will only go once. If you will accept the
one for the first day, she will be very happy."
"You are angelic, my dear friend! Then I go as your wife?" She laughed.
"Precisely. You will be Faustina Gouache instead of Madame d'Aragona."
"How delightful! By the bye, do not call me Madame d'Aragona. It is not
my name. I might as well call you Monsieur de Paris, because you are a
"I do not put Anastase Gouache de Paris on my cards," answered Gouache
with a laugh. "What may I call you? Donna Maria?"
"My name is Maria Consuelo d'Aranjuez."
"An ancient Spanish name," said Gouache.
"My husband was an Italian."
"Ah! Of Spanish descent, originally of Aragona. Of course."
"Exactly. Since I am here, shall I sit for you? You might almost finish
"Not so soon as that. It is Don Orsino's hour, but as he has not come,
and since you are so kind--by all means."
"Ah! Is he punctual?"
"He is probably running after those abominable dogs in pursuit of the
feeble fox--what they call the noble sport."
Gouache's face expressed considerable disgust."
"Poor fellow!" said Maria Consuelo. "He has nothing else to do."
"He will get used to it. They all do. Besides, it is really the natural
condition of man. Total idleness is his element. If Providence meant man
to work, it should have given him two heads, one for his profession and
one for himself. A man needs one entire and undivided intelligence for
the study of his own individuality."
"What an idea!"
"Do not men of great genius notoriously forget themselves, forget to eat
and drink and dress themselves like Christians? That is because they
have not two heads. Providence expects a man to do two things at
once--an air from an opera and invent the steam-engine at the same
moment. Nature rebels. Then Providence and Nature do not agree. What
becomes of religion? It is all a mystery. Believe me, Madame, art is
easier than, nature, and painting is simpler than theology."
Maria Consuelo listened to Gouache's extraordinary remarks with a smile.
"You are either paradoxical, or irreligious, or both," she said.
"Irreligious? I, who carried a rifle at Mentana? No, Madame, I am a good
"What does that mean?"
"I believe in God, and I love my wife. I leave it to the Church to
define my other articles of belief. I have only one head, as you see."
Gouache smiled, but there was a note of sincerity in the odd statement
which did not escape his hearer.
"You are not of the type which belongs to the end of the century," she
"That type was not invented when I was forming myself."
"Perhaps you belong rather to the coming age--the age of
"As distinguished from the age of mystification--religious, political,
scientific and artistic," suggested Gouache. "The people of that day
will guess the Sphynx's riddle."
"Mine? You were comparing me to a sphynx the other day."
"Yours, perhaps, Madame. Who knows? Are you the typical woman of the
"Why not?" asked Maria Consuelo with a sleepy look.
There is something grand in any great assembly of animals belonging to
the same race. The very idea of an immense number of living creatures
conveys an impression not suggested by anything else. A compact herd of
fifty or sixty thousand lions would be an appalling vision, beside which
a like multitude of human beings would sink into insignificance. A drove
of wild cattle is, I think, a finer sight than a regiment of cavalry in
motion, for the cavalry is composite, half man and half horse, whereas
the cattle have the advantage of unity. But we can never see so many
animals of any species driven together into one limited space as to be
equal to a vast throng of men and women, and we conclude naturally
enough that a crowd consisting solely of our own kind is the most
imposing one conceivable.
It was scarcely light on the morning of New Year's Day when the Princess
Sant' Ilario found herself seated in one of the low tribunes on the
north side of the high altar in Saint Peter's. Her husband and her
eldest son had accompanied her, and having placed her in a position from
which they judged she could easily escape at the end of the ceremony,
they remained standing in the narrow, winding passage between improvised
barriers which led from the tribune to the door of the sacristy, and
which had been so arranged as to prevent confusion. Here they waited,
greeting their acquaintances when they could recognise them in the dim
twilight of the church, and watching the ever-increasing crowd that
surged slowly backward and forward outside the barrier. The old prince
was entitled by an hereditary office to a place in the great procession
of the day, and was not now with them.
Orsino felt as though the whole world were assembled about him within
the huge cathedral, as though its heart were beating audibly and its
muffled breathing rising and falling in his hearing. The unceasing sound
that went up from the compact mass of living beings was soft in quality,
but enormous in volume and sustained in tone, a great whispering which,
might have been heard a mile away. One hears in mammoth musical
festivals the extraordinary effect of four or five thousand voices
singing very softly; it is not to be compared to the unceasing whisper
of fifty thousand men.
The young fellow was conscious of a strange, irregular thrill of
enthusiasm which ran through him from time to time and startled his
imagination into life. It was only the instinct of a strong vitality
unconsciously longing to be the central point of the vitalities around
it. But he could not understand that. It seemed to him like a great
opportunity brought "within reach but slipping by untaken, not to return
again. He felt a strange, almost uncontrollable longing to spring upon
one of the tribunes, to raise his voice, to speak to the great
multitude, to fire all those men to break out and carry everything
before them. He laughed audibly at himself. Sant' Ilario looked at his
son with some curiosity.
"What amuses you?" he asked.
"A dream," answered Orsino, still smiling. "Who knows?" he exclaimed
after a pause. "What would happen, if at the right moment the right man
could stir such a crowd as this?"
"Strange things," replied Sant' Ilario gravely. "A crowd is a terrible
"Then my dream was not so foolish after all. One might make history
Sant' Ilario made a gesture expressive of indifference.
"What is history?" he asked. "A comedy in which the actors have no
written parts, but improvise their speeches and actions as best they
can. That is the reason why history is so dull and so full of mistakes."
"And of surprises," suggested Orsino.
"The surprises in history are always disagreeable, my boy," answered
Orsino felt the coldness in the answer and felt even more his father's
readiness to damp any expression of enthusiasm. Of late he had
encountered this chilling indifference at almost every turn, whenever he
gave vent to his admiration for any sort of activity.
It was not that Giovanni Saracinesca had any intention of repressing his
son's energetic instincts, and he assuredly had no idea of the effect
his words often produced. He sometimes wondered at the sudden silence
which came over the young man after such conversations, but he did not
understand it and on the whole paid little attention to it. He
remembered that he himself had been different, and had been wont to
argue hotly and not unfrequently to quarrel with his father about
trifles. He himself had been headstrong, passionate, often intractable
in his early youth, and his father had been no better at sixty and was
little improved in that respect even at his present great age. But
Orsino did not argue. He suggested, and if any one disagreed with him he
became silent. He seemed to possess energy in action, and a number of
rather fantastic aspirations, but in conversation he was easily silenced
and in outward manner he would have seemed too yielding if he had not
often seemed too cold.
Giovanni did not see that Orsino was most like his mother in character,
while the contact with a new generation had given him something
unfamiliar to the old, an affectation at first, but one which habit was
amalgamating with the real nature beneath.
No doubt, it was wise and right to discourage ideas which would tend in
any way to revolution. Giovanni had seen revolutions and had been the
loser by them. It was not wise and was certainly not necessary to throw
cold water on the young fellow's harmless aspirations. But Giovanni had
lived for many years in his own way, rich, respected and supremely
happy, and he believed that his way was good enough for Orsino. He had,
in his youth, tried most things for himself, and had found them failures
so far as happiness was concerned. Orsino might make the series of
experiments in his turn if he pleased, but there was no adequate reason
for such an expenditure of energy. The sooner the boy loved some girl
who would make him a good wife, and the sooner he married her, the
sooner he would find that calm, satisfactory existence which had not
finally come to Giovanni until after thirty years of age.
As for the question of fortune, it was true that there were four sons,
but there was Giovanni's mother's fortune, there was Corona's fortune,
and there was the great Saracinesca estate behind both. They were all so
extremely rich that the deluge must be very distant.
Orsino understood none of these things. He only realised that his father
had the faculty and apparently the intention of freezing any originality
he chanced to show, and he inwardly resented the coldness, quietly, if
foolishly, resolving to astonish those who misunderstood him by seizing
the first opportunity of doing something out of the common way. For some
time he stood in silence watching the people who came by and glancing
from time to time at the dense crowd outside the barrier. He was
suddenly aware that his father was observing intently a lady who
advanced along the open, way.
"There is Tullia Del Ferice!" exclaimed Sant' Ilario in surprise.
"I do not know her, except by sight," observed Orsino indifferently.
The countess was very imposing in her black veil and draperies. Her red
face seemed to lose its colour in the dim church and she affected a slow
and stately manner more becoming to her weight than was her natural
restless vivacity. She had got what she desired and she swept proudly
along to take her old place among the ladies of Rome. No one knew whose
card she had delivered up at the entrance to the sacristy, and she
enjoyed the triumph of showing that the wife of the revolutionary, the
banker, the member of parliament, had not lost caste after all.
She looked Giovanni full in the face with her disagreeable blue eyes as
she came up, apparently not meaning to recognise him. Then, just as she
passed him, she deigned to make a very slight inclination of the head,
just enough to compel Sant' Ilario to return the salutation. It was very
well done. Orsino did not know all the details of the past events, but
he knew that his father had once wounded Del Ferice in a duel and he
looked at Del Fence's wife with some curiosity. He had seldom had an
opportunity of being so near to her.
"It was certainly not about her that they fought," he reflected. "It
must have been about some other woman, if there was a woman in the
question at all."
A moment later he was aware that a pair of tawny eyes was fixed on him.
Maria Consuelo was following Donna Tullia at a distance of a dozen
yards. Orsino came forward and his new acquaintance held out her hand.
They had not met since they had first seen each other.
"It was so kind of you," she said.
"To suggest this to Gouache. I should have had no ticket--where shall I
Orsino did not understand, for though he had mentioned the subject,
Gouache had not told him what he meant to do. But there was no time to
be lost in conversation. Orsino led her to the nearest opening in the
tribune and pointed to a seat.
"I called," he said quickly. "You did not receive--"
"Come again, I will be at home," she answered in a low voice, as she
She sat down in a vacant place beside Donna Tullia, and Orsino noticed
that his mother was just behind them both. Corona had been watching him
unconsciously, as she often did, and was somewhat surprised to see him
conducting a lady whom she did not know. A glance told her that the lady
was a foreigner; as such, if she were present at all, she should have
been in the diplomatic tribune. There was nothing to think of, and
Corona tried to solve the small social problem that presented itself.
Orsino strolled back to his father's side.
"Who is she?" inquired Sant' Ilario with some curiosity.
"The lady who wanted the tiger's skin--Aranjuez--I told you of her."
"The portrait you gave me was not flattering. She is handsome, if not
"Did I say she was not?" asked Orsino with a visible irritation most
"I thought so. You said she had yellow eyes, red hair and a squint."
Sant' Ilario laughed.
"Perhaps I did. But the effect seems to be harmonious."
"Decidedly so. You might have introduced me."
To this Orsino said nothing, but relapsed into a moody silence. He would
have liked nothing better than to bring about the acquaintance, but he
had only met Maria Consuelo once, though that interview had been a long
one, and he remembered her rather short answer to his offer of service
in the way of making acquaintances.
Maria Consuelo on her part was quite unconscious that she was sitting in
front of the Princess Sant' Ilario, but she had seen the lady by her
side bow to Orsino's companion in passing, and she guessed from a
certain resemblance that the dark, middle-aged man might be young
Saracinesca's father. Donna Tullia had seen Corona well enough, but as
they had not spoken for nearly twenty years she decided not to risk a
nod where she could not command an acknowledgment of it. So she
pretended to be quite unconscious of her old enemy's presence.
Donna Tullia, however, had noticed as she turned her head in sitting
down that Orsino was piloting a strange lady to the tribune, and when
the latter sat down beside her, she determined to make her acquaintance,
no matter upon what pretext. The time was approaching at which the
procession was to make its appearance, and Donna. Tullia looked about
for something upon which to open the conversation, glancing from time to
time at her neighbour. It was easy to see that the place and the
surroundings were equally unfamiliar to the newcomer, who looked with
evident interest at the twisted columns of the high altar, at the vast
mosaics in the dome, at the red damask hangings of the nave, at the
Swiss guards, the chamberlains in court dress and at all the
mediaeval-looking, motley figures that moved about within the space kept
open for the coming function.
"It is a wonderful sight," said Donna Tullia in Trench, very softly,
and almost as though speaking to herself.
"Wonderful indeed," answered Maria Consuelo, "especially to a stranger."
"Madame is a stranger, then," observed Donna Tullia with an agreeable
She looked into her neighbour's face and for the first time realised
that she was a striking person.
"Quite," replied the latter, briefly, and as though not wishing to press
"I fancied so," said Donna Tullia, "though on seeing you in these seats,
among us Romans--"
"I received a card through the kindness of a friend."
There was a short pause, during which Donna Tullia concluded that the
friend must have been Orsino. But the next remark threw her off the
"It was his wife's ticket, I believe," said Maria Consuelo. "She could
not come. I am here on false pretences." She smiled carelessly.
Donna Tullia lost herself in speculation, but failed to solve the
"You have chosen a most favourable moment for your first visit to Rome,"
she remarked at last.
"Yes. I am always fortunate. I believe I have seen everything worth
seeing ever since I was a little girl."
"She is somebody," thought Donna Tullia. "Probably the wife of a
diplomatist, though. Those people see everything, and talk of nothing
but what they have seen."
"This is historic," she said aloud. "You will have a chance of
contemplating the Romans in their glory. Colonna and Orsini marching
side by side, and old Saracinesca in all his magnificence. He is
eighty-two year old."
"Saracinesca?" repeated Maria Consuelo, turning her tawny eyes upon her
"Yes. The father of Sant' Ilario--grandfather of that young fellow who
showed you to your seat."
"Don Orsino? Yes, I know him slightly."
Corona, sitting immediately behind them heard her son's name. As the two
ladies turned towards each other in conversation she heard distinctly
what they said. Donna Tullia was of course aware of this.
"Do you?" she asked. "His father is a most estimable man--just a little
too estimable, if you understand! As for the boy--"
Donna Tullia moved, her broad shoulders expressively. It was a habit of
which even the irreproachable Del Ferice could not cure her. Corona's
"You can hardly call him a boy," observed Maria Consuelo with a smile.
"Ah well--I might have been his mother," Donna Tullia answered with a
contempt for the affectation of youth which she rarely showed. But
Corona began to understand that the conversation was meant for her ears,
and grew angry by degrees. Donna Tullia had indeed been near to marrying
Giovanni, and in that sense, too, she might have been Orsino's mother.
"I fancied you spoke rather disparagingly," said Maria Consuelo with a
certain degree of interest.
"I? No indeed. On the contrary, Don Orsino is a very fine fellow--but
thrown away, positively thrown away in his present surroundings. Of what
use is all this English education--but you are a stranger, Madame, you
cannot understand our Roman point of view."
"If you could explain it to me, I might, perhaps," suggested the other.
"Ah yes--if I could explain it! But I am far too ignorant myself--no,
ignorant is not the word--too prejudiced, perhaps, to make you see it
quite as it is. Perhaps I am a little too liberal, and the Saracinesca
are certainly far too conservative. They mistake education for progress.
Poor Don Orsino, I am sorry for him."
Donna Tullia found no other escape from the difficulty into which she
had thrown herself.
"I did not know that he was to be pitied," said Maria Consuelo.
"Oh, not he in particular, perhaps," answered the stout countess,
growing more and more vague. "They are all to be pitied, you know. What
is to become of young men brought up in that way? The club, the turf,
the card-table--to drink, to gamble, to bet, it is not an existence!"
"Do you mean that Don Orsino leads that sort of life?" inquired Maria
Again Donna Tullia's heavy shoulders moved contemptuously.
"What else is there for him to do?"
"And his father? Did he not do likewise in his youth?"
"His father? Ah, he was different--before he married--full of life,
"And since his marriage?"
"He has become estimable, most estimable." The smile with which Donna
Tullia accompanied the statement was intended to be fine, but was only
spiteful. Maria Consuelo, who saw everything with her sleepy glance,
noticed the fact.
Corona was disgusted, and leaned back in her seat, as far as possible,
in order not to hear more. She could not help wondering who the strange
lady might be to whom Donna Tullia was so freely expressing her opinions
concerning the Saracinesca, and she determined to ask Orsino after the
ceremony. But she wished to hear as little more as she could.
"When a married man becomes what you call estimable," said Donna
Tullia's companion, "he either adores his wife or hates her."
"What a charming idea!" laughed the countess. It Was tolerably evident
that the remark was beyond her.
"She is stupid," thought Maria Consuelo. "I fancied so from the first. I
will ask Don Orsino about her. He will say something amusing. It will be
a subject of conversation at all events, in place of that endless tiger
I invented the other day. I wonder whether this woman expects me to
tell her who I am? That will amount to an acquaintance. She is certainly
somebody, or she would not be here. On the other hand, she seems to
dislike the only man I know besides Gouache. That may lead to
complications. Let us talk of Gouache first, and be guided by
"Do you know Monsieur Gouache?" she inquired, abruptly.
"The painter? Yes--I have known him a long time. Is he perhaps painting
"Exactly. It is really for that purpose that I am in Rome. What a
"Do you think so? Perhaps he is. He painted me some time ago. I was not
very well satisfied. But he has talent."
Donna Tullia had never forgiven the artist for not putting enough soul
into the picture he had painted of her when she was a very young widow.
"He has a great reputation," said Maria Consuelo, "and I think he will
succeed very well with me. Besides, I am grateful to him. He and his
painting have been a pleasant episode in my short stay here."
"Really, I should hardly have thought you could find it worth your while
to come all the way to Rome to be painted by Gouache," observed Donna
Tullia. "But of course, as I say, he has talent."
"This woman is rich," she said to herself. "The wives of diplomatists do
not allow themselves such caprices, as a rule. I wonder who she is?"
"Great talent," assented Maria Consuelo. "And great charm, I think."
"Ah well--of course--I daresay. We Romans cannot help thinking that for
an artist he is a little too much occupied in being a gentleman--and for
a gentleman he is quite too much an artist."
The remark was not original with Donna Tullia, but had been reported to
her as Spicca's, and Spicca had really said something similar about
"I had not got that impression," said Maria Consuelo, quietly.
"She hates him, too," she thought. "She seems to hate everybody. That
either means that she knows everybody, or is not received in society."
"But of course you know him better than I do," she added aloud, after a
At that moment a strain of music broke out above the great, soft,
muffled whispering that filled the basilica. Some thirty chosen voices
of the choir of Saint Peter's had begun the hymn "Tu es Petrus," as the
procession began to defile from the south aisle into the nave, close by
the great door, to traverse the whole distance thence to the high altar.
The Pope's own choir, consisting solely of the singers of the Sixtine
Chapel, waited silently behind the lattice under the statue of Saint
The song rang out louder and louder, simple and grand. Those who have
heard Italian singers at their best know that thirty young Roman throats
can emit a volume of sound equal to that which a hundred men of any
other nation could produce. The stillness around them increased, too, as
the procession lengthened. The great, dark crowd stood shoulder to
shoulder, breathless with expectation, each man and woman feeling for a
few short moments that thrill of mysterious anxiety and impatience which
Orsino had felt. No one who was there can ever forget what followed.
More than forty cardinals filed out in front from the Chapel of the
Pieta. Then the hereditary assistants of the Holy See, the heads of the
Colonna and the Orsini houses, entered the nave, side by side for the
first time, I believe, in history. Immediately after them, high above
all the procession and the crowd, appeared the great chair of state, the
huge white feathered fans moving slowly on each side, and upon the
throne, the central figure of that vast display, sat the Pope, Leo the
Then, without warning and without hesitation, a shout went up such as
has never been heard before in that dim cathedral, nor will, perhaps, be
"_Viva il Papa-Re!_ Long life to the Pope-King!"
At the same instant, as though at a preconcerted signal--utterly
impossible in such a throng--in the twinkling of an eye, the dark crowd
was as white as snow. In every hand a white handkerchief was raised,
fluttering and waving above every head.
And the shout once taken up, drowned the strong voices of the singers as
long-drawn thunder drowns the pattering of the raindrops and the sighing
of the wind.
The wonderful face, that seemed to be carved out of transparent
alabaster, smiled and slowly turned from side to side as it passed by.
The thin, fragile hand moved unceasingly, blessing the people.
Orsino Saracinesca saw and heard, and his young face turned pale while
his lips set themselves. By his side, a head shorter than he, stood his
father, lost in thought as he gazed at the mighty spectacle of what had
been, and of what might still have been, but for one day of history's
Orsino said nothing, but he glanced at Sant' Ilario's face as though to
remind his father of what he had said half an hour earlier; and the
elder man knew that there had been truth in the boy's words. There were
soldiers in the church, and they were not Italian soldiers--some
thousands of them in all, perhaps. They were armed, and there were at
the very least computation thirty thousand strong, grown men in the
crowd. And the crowd was on fire. Had there been a hundred, nay a score,
of desperate, devoted leaders there, who knows what bloody work might
not have been done in the city before the sun went down? Who knows what
new surprises history might have found for her play? The thought must
have crossed many minds at that moment. But no one stirred; the
religious ceremony remained a religious ceremony and nothing more; holy
peace reigned within the walls, and the hour of peril glided away
undisturbed to take its place among memories of good.
"The world is worn out!" thought Orsino. "The days of great deeds are
over. Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die--they are right in
teaching me their philosophy."
A gloomy, sullen melancholy took hold of the boy's young nature, a
passing mood, perhaps, but one which left its mark upon him. For he was
at that age when a very little thing will turn the balance of a
character, when an older man's thoughtless words may direct half a
lifetime in a good or evil channel, being recalled and repeated for a
score of years. Who is it that does not remember that day when an
impatient "I will," or a defiant "I will not," turned the whole current
of his existence in the one direction or the other, towards good or
evil, or towards success or failure? Who, that has fought his way
against odds into the front rank, has forgotten the woman's look that
gave him courage, or the man's sneer that braced nerve and muscle to
strike the first of many hard blows?
The depression which fell upon Orsino was lasting, for that morning at
least. The stupendous pageant went on before him, the choirs sang, the
sweet boys' voices answered back, like an angel's song, out of the lofty
dome, the incense rose in columns through the streaming sunlight as the
high mass proceeded. Again the Pope was raised upon the chair and borne
out into the nave, whence in the solemn silence the thin, clear, aged
voice intoned the benediction three times, slowly rising and falling,
pausing and beginning again. Once more the enormous shout broke out,
louder and deeper than ever, as the procession moved away. Then all was
Orsino saw and heard, but the first impression was gone, and the thrill
did not come back.
"It was a fine sight," he said to his father, as the shout died away.
"A fine sight? Have you no stronger expression than that?"
"No," answered Orsino, "I have not."
The ladies were already coming out of the tribunes, and Orsino saw his
father give his arm to Corona to lead her through the crowd. Naturally
enough, Maria Consuelo and Donna Tullia came out together very soon
after her. Orsino offered to pilot the former through the confusion, and
she accepted gratefully. Donna Tullia walked beside them.
"You do not know me, Don Orsino," said she with a gracious smile.
"I beg your pardon--you are the Countess Del Ferice--I have not been
back from England long, and have not had an opportunity of being
Whatever might be Orsino's weaknesses, shyness was certainly not one of
them, and as he made the civil answer he calmly looked at Donna Tullia
as though to inquire what in the world she wished to accomplish in
making his acquaintance. He had been so situated during the ceremony as
not to see that the two ladies had fallen into conversation.
"Will you introduce me?" said Maria Consuelo. "We have been talking
She spoke in a low voice, but the words could hardly have escaped Donna
Tullia. Orsino was very much surprised and not by any means pleased, for
he saw that the elder woman had forced the introduction by a rather
vulgar trick. Nevertheless, he could not escape.
"Since you have been good enough to recognise me," he said rather
stiffly to Donna Tullia, "permit me to make you acquainted with Madame
Both ladies nodded and smiled the smile of the newly introduced. Donna
Tullia at once began to wonder how it was that a person with such a name
should have but a plain "Madame" to put before it. But her curiosity was
not satisfied on this occasion.
"How absurd society is!" she exclaimed. "Madame d'Aranjuez and I have
been talking all the morning, quite like old friends--and now we need an
Maria Consuelo glanced at Orsino as though, expecting him to make some
remark. But he said nothing.
"What should we do without conventions!" she said, for the sake of
By this time they were threading the endless passages of the sacristy
building, on their way to the Piazza Santa, Marta. Sant' Ilario and
Corona were not far in front of them. At a turn in the corridor Corona
"There is Orsino talking to Tullia Del Ferice!" she exclaimed in great
surprise. "And he has given his arm to that other lady who was next to
her in the tribune."
"What does it matter?" asked Sant' Ilario indifferently. "By the bye,
the other lady is that Madame d'Aranjuez he talks about."
"Is she any relation of your mother's family, Giovanni?"
"Not that I am aware of. She may have married some younger son of whom I
"You do not seem to care whom Orsino knows," said Corona rather
"Orsino is grown up, dear. You must not forget that."
"Yes--I suppose he is," Corona answered with a little sigh. "But surely
you will not encourage him to cultivate the Del Ferice!"
"I fancy it would take a deal of encouragement to drive him to that,"
said Sant' Ilario with a laugh. "He has better taste."
There was some confusion outside. People were waiting for their
carriages, and as most of them knew each other intimately every one was
talking at once. Donna Tullia nodded here and there, but Maria Consuelo
noticed that her salutations were coldly returned. Orsino and his two
companions stood a little aloof from the crowd. Just then the
Saracinesca carriage drove up.
"Who is that magnificent woman?" asked Maria Consuelo, as Corona got in.
"My mother," said Orsino. "My father is getting in now."
"There comes my carriage! Please help me."
A modest hired brougham made its appearance. Orsino hoped that Madame
d'Aranjuez would offer him a seat. But he was mistaken.
"I am afraid mine is miles away," said Donna Tullia. "Good-bye, I shall
be so glad if you will come and see me." She held out her hand.
"May I not take you home?" asked Maria Consuelo. "There is just room--it
will be better than waiting here."
Donna Tullia hesitated a moment, and then accepted, to Orsino's great
annoyance. He helped the two ladies to get in, and shut the door.
"Come soon," said Maria Consuelo, giving him her hand out of the window.
He was inclined to be angry, but the look that accompanied the
invitation did its work satisfactorily.
"He is very young," thought Maria Consuelo, as she drove away.
"She can be very amusing. It is worth while," said Orsino to himself as
he passed in front of the next carriage, and walked out upon the small
He had not gone far, hindered as he was at every step, when some one
touched his arm. It was Spicca, looking more cadaverous and exhausted
"Are you going home in a cab?" he asked. "Then let us go together."
They got out of the square, scarcely knowing how they had accomplished
the feat. Spicca seemed nervous as well as tired, and he leaned on
"There was a chance lost this morning," said the latter when they were
under the colonnade. He felt sure of a bitter answer from the keen old
"Why did you not seize it then?" asked Spicca. "Do you expect old men
like me to stand up and yell for a republic, or a restoration, or a
monarchy, or whichever of the other seven plagues of Egypt you desire? I
have not voice enough left to call a cab, much less to howl down a
"I wonder what would have happened, if I, or some one else, had tried."
"You would have spent the night in prison with a few kindred spirits.
After all, that would have been better than making love to old Donna
Tullia and her young friend."
"You have good eyes," he said.
"So have you, Orsino. Use them. You will see something odd if you look
where you were looking this morning. Do you know what sort of a place
this world is?"
"It is a dull place. I have found that out already."
"You are mistaken. It is hell. Do you mind calling that cab?"
Orsino stared a moment at his companion, and then hailed the passing
Orsino had shown less anxiety to see Madame d'Aranjuez than might
perhaps have been expected. In the ten days which had elapsed between
the sitting at Gouache's studio and the first of January he had only
once made an attempt to find her at home, and that attempt had failed.
He had not even seen her passing in the street, and he had not been
conscious of any uncontrollable desire to catch a glimpse of her at any
But he had not forgotten her existence as he would certainly have
forgotten that of a wholly indifferent person in the same time. On the
contrary, he had thought of her frequently and had indulged in many
speculations concerning her, wondering among other matters why he did
not take more trouble to see her since she occupied his thoughts so
much. He did not know that he was in reality hesitating, for he would
not have acknowledged to himself that he could be in danger of falling
seriously in love. He was too young to admit such a possibility, and the
character which he admired and meant to assume was altogether too cold
and superior to such weaknesses. To do him justice, he was really not of
the sort to fall in love at first sight. Persons capable of a
self-imposed dualism rarely are, for the second nature they build up on
the foundation of their own is never wholly artificial. The disposition
to certain modes of thought and habits of bearing is really present, as
is sufficiently proved by their admiration of both. Very shy persons,
for instance, invariably admire very self-possessed ones, and in trying
to imitate them occasionally exhibit a cold-blooded arrogance which is
amazing. Timothy Titmouse secretly looks up to Don Juan as his ideal,
and after half a lifetime of failure outdoes his model, to the horror of
his friends. Dionysus masks as Hercules, and the fox is sometimes not
unsuccessful in his saint's disguise. Those who have been intimate with
a great actor know that the characters he plays best are not all
assumed; there is a little of each in his own nature. There is a touch
of the real Othello in Salvini--there is perhaps a strain of the
melancholy Scandinavian in English Irving.
To be short, Orsino Saracinesca was too enthusiastic to be wholly cold,
and too thoughtful to be thoroughly enthusiastic. He saw things
differently according to his moods, and being dissatisfied, he tried to
make one mood prevail constantly over the other. In a mean nature the
double view often makes an untruthful individual; in one possessing
honourable instincts it frequently leads to unhappiness. Affectation
then becomes aspiration and the man's failure to impose on others is
forgotten in his misery at failing to impose upon himself.
The few words Orsino had exchanged with Maria Consuelo on the morning of
the great ceremony recalled vividly the pleasant hour he had spent with
her ten days earlier, and he determined to see her as soon as possible.
He was out of conceit with himself and consequently with all those who
knew him, and he looked forward with pleasure to the conversation of an
attractive woman who could have no preconceived opinion of him, and who
could take him at his own estimate. He was curious, too, to find out
something more definite in regard to her. She was mysterious, and the
mystery pleased him. She had admitted that her deceased husband had
spoken of being connected with the Saracinesca, but he could not
discover where the relationship lay. Spicca's very odd remark, too,
seemed to point to her, in some way which Orsino could not understand,
and he remembered her having said that she had heard of Spicca. Her
husband had doubtless been an Italian of Spanish descent, but she had
given no clue to her own nationality, and she did not look Spanish, in
spite of her name, Maria Consuelo. As no one in Rome knew her it was
impossible to get any information whatever. It was all very interesting.
Accordingly, late on the afternoon of the second of January, Orsino
called and was led to the door of a small sitting-room on the second
floor of the hotel. The servant shut the door behind him and Orsino
found himself alone. A lamp with a pretty shade was burning on the table
and beside it an ugly blue glass vase contained a few flowers, common
roses, but fresh and fragrant. Two or three new books in yellow paper
covers lay scattered upon the hideous velvet table cloth, and beside one
of them Orsino noticed a magnificent paper cutter of chiselled silver,
bearing a large monogram done in brilliants and rubies. The thing
contrasted oddly with its surroundings and attracted the light. An easy
chair was drawn up to the table, an abominable object covered with
perfectly new yellow satin. A small red morocco cushion, of the kind
used in travelling, was balanced on the back, and there was a depression
in it, as though some one's head had lately rested there.
Orsino noticed all these details as he stood waiting for Madame
d'Aranjuez to appear, and they were not without interest to him, for
each one told a story, and the stories were contradictory. The room was
not encumbered with those numberless objects which most women scatter
about them within an hour after reaching a hotel. Yet Madame d'Aranjuez
must have been at least a month in Rome. The room smelt neither of
perfume nor of cigarettes, but of the roses, which was better, and a
little of the lamp, which was much worse. The lady's only possessions
seemed to be three books, a travelling cushion and a somewhat too
gorgeous paper cutter; and these few objects were perfectly new. He
glanced at the books; they were of the latest, and only one had been
cut. The cushion might have been bought that morning. Not a breath had
tarnished the polished blade of the silver knife.
A door opened softly and Orsino drew himself up as some one pushed in
the heavy, vivid curtains. But it was not Madame d'Aranjuez. A small
dark woman of middle age, with downcast eyes and exceedingly black hair,
came forward a step.
"The signora will come presently," she said in Italian, in a very low
voice, as though she were almost afraid of hearing herself speak.
She was gone in a moment, as noiselessly as she had come. This was
evidently the silent maid of whom Gouache had spoken. The few words she
had spoken had revealed to Orsino the fact that she was an Italian from
the north, for she had the unmistakable accent of the Piedmontese, whose
own language is comprehensible only by themselves.
Orsino prepared to wait some time, supposing that the message could
hardly have been sent without an object. But another minute had not
elapsed before Maria Consuelo herself appeared. In the soft lamplight
her clear white skin looked very pale and her auburn hair almost red.
She wore one of those nondescript garments which we have elected to
call tea-gowns, and Orsino, who had learned to criticise dress as he had
learned Latin grammar, saw that the tea-gown was good and the lace real.
The colours produced no impression upon him whatever. As a matter of
fact they were dark, being combined in various shades of olive.
Maria Consuelo looked at her visitor and held out her hand, but said
nothing. She did not even smile, and Orsino began to fancy that he had
chosen an unfortunate moment for his visit.
"It was very good of you to let me come," he said, waiting for her to
Still she said nothing. She placed the red morocco cushion carefully in
the particular position which would be most comfortable, turned the
shade of the lamp a little, which, of course, produced no change
whatever in the direction of the light, pushed one of the books half
across the table and at last sat down in the easy chair. Orsino sat down
near her, holding his hat upon his knee. He wondered whether she had
heard him speak, or whether she might not be one of those people who are
painfully shy when there is no third person present.
"I think it was very good of you to come," she said at last, when she
was comfortably settled.
"I wish goodness were always so easy," answered Orsino with alacrity.
"Is it your ambition to be good?" asked Maria Consuelo with a smile.
"It should be. But it is not a career."
"Then you do not believe in Saints?"
"Not until they are canonised and made articles of belief--unless you
are one, Madame."
"I have thought of trying it," answered Maria Consuelo, calmly.
"Saintship is a career, even in society, whatever you may say to the
contrary. It has attractions, after all."
"Not equal to those of the other side. Every one admits that. The
majority is evidently in favour of sin, and if we are to believe in
modern institutions, we must believe that majorities are right."
"Then the hero is always wrong, for he is the enthusiastic individual
who is always for facing odds, and if no one disagrees with him he is
very unhappy. Yet there are heroes--"
"Where?" asked Orsino. "The heroes people talk of ride bronze horses on
inaccessible pedestals. When the bell rings for a revolution they are
all knocked down and new ones are set up in their places--also executed
by the best artists--and the old ones are cast into cannon to knock to
pieces the ideas they invented. That is called history."
"You take a cheerful and encouraging view of the world's history, Don
"The world is made for us, and we must accept it. But we may criticise
it. There is nothing to the contrary in the contract."
"In the social contract? Are you going to talk to me about
"Have you read him, Madame?"
"'No woman who respects herself--'" began Maria Consuelo, quoting the
"I see that you have," said Orsino, with a laugh. "I have not."
To Orsino's surprise, Madame d'Aranjuez blushed. He could not have told
why he was pleased, nor why her change of colour seemed so unexpected.
"Speaking of history," he said, after a very slight pause, "why did you
thank me yesterday for having got you a card?"
"Did you not speak to Gouache about it?"
"I said something--I forget what. Did he manage it?"
"Of course. I had his wife's place. She could not go. Do you dislike
being thanked for your good offices? Are you so modest as that?"
"Not in the least, but I hate misunderstandings, though I will get all
the credit I can for what I have not done, like other people. When I saw
that you knew the Del Ferice, I thought that perhaps she had been
"Why do you hate her so?" asked Maria Consuelo.
"I do not hate her. She does not exist--that is all."
"Why does she not exist, as you call it? She is a very good-natured
woman. Tell me the truth. Everybody hates her--I saw that by the way
they bowed to her while we were waiting--why? There must be a reason. Is
she a--an incorrect person?"
"No. That is the point at which existence is more likely to begin than
"How cynical you are! I do not like that. Tell me about Madame Del
"Very well. To begin with, she is a relation of mine."
"Seriously. Of course that gives me a right to handle the whole
dictionary of abuse against her."
"Of course. Are you going to do that?"
"No. You would call me cynical. I do not like you to call me by bad
"I had an idea that men liked it," observed Maria Consuelo gravely.
"One does not like to hear disagreeable truths."
"Then it is the truth? Go on. You have forgotten what we were talking
"Not at all Donna Tullia, my second, third or fourth cousin, was married
once upon a time to a certain Mayer."
"And left him. How interesting!"
"No, Madame. He left her--very suddenly, I believe--for another world.
Better or worse? Who can say? Considering his past life, worse, I
suppose; but considering that he was not obliged to take Donna Tullia
with him, decidedly better."
"You certainly hate her. Then she married Del Ferice."
"Then she married Del Ferice--before I was born. She is fabulously old.
Mayer left her very rich, and without conditions. Del Ferice was an
impossible person. My father nearly killed him in a duel once--also
before I was born. I never knew what it was about. Del Ferice was a spy,
in the old days when spies got a living in a Rome--"
"Ah! I see it all now!" exclaimed Maria Consuelo. "Del Ferice is white,
and you are black. Of course you hate each other. You need not tell me
"How you take that for granted!"
"Is it not perfectly clear? Do not talk to me of like and dislike when
your dreadful parties have anything to do with either! Besides, if I had
any sympathy with either side it would be for the whites. But the whole
thing is absurd, complicated, mediaeval, feudal--anything you like
except sensible. Your intolerance is--intolerable."
"True tolerance should tolerate even intolerance," observed Orsino
"That sounds like one of the puzzles of pronunciation like 'in un piatto
poco cupo poco pepe pisto cape,'" laughed Maria Consuelo. "Tolerably
tolerable tolerance tolerates tolerable tolerance intolerably--"
"You speak Italian?" asked Orsino, surprised by her glib enunciation of
the difficult sentence she had quoted. "Why are we talking a foreign
"I cannot really speak Italian. I have an Italian maid, who speaks
French. But she taught me that puzzle."
"It is odd--your maid is a Piedmontese and you have a good accent."
"Have I? I am very glad. But tell me, is it not absurd that you should
hate these people as you do--you cannot deny it--merely because they are
"Everything in life is absurd if you take the opposite point of view.
Lunatics find endless amusement in watching sane people."
"And of course, you are the sane people," observed Maria Consuelo.
"What becomes of me? I suppose I do not exist? You would not be rude
enough to class me with the lunatics."
"Certainly not. You will of course choose to be a black."
"In order to be discontented, as you are?"
"Yes. Are you not utterly out of sympathy with your surroundings? Are
you not hampered at every step by a network of traditions which have no
meaning to your intelligence, but which are laid on you like a harness
upon a horse, and in which you are driven your daily little round of
tiresome amusement--or dissipation? Do you not hate the Corso as an
omnibus horse hates it? Do you not really hate the very faces of all
those people who effectually prevent you from using your own
intelligence, your own strength--your own heart? One sees it in your
face. You are too young to be tired of life. No, I am not going to call
you a boy, though I am older than you, Don Orsino. You will find people
enough in your own surroundings to call you a boy--because you are not
yet so utterly tamed and wearied as they are, and for no other reason.
You are a man. I do not know your age, but you do not talk as boys do.
You are a man--then be a man altogether, be independent--use your hands
for something better than throwing mud at other people's houses merely
because they are new!"
Orsino looked at her in astonishment. This was certainly not the sort of
conversation he had anticipated when he had entered the room.
"You are surprised because I speak like this," she said after a short
pause. "You are a Saracinesca and I am--a stranger, here to-day and gone
to-morrow, whom you will probably never see again. It is amusing, is it
not? Why do you not laugh?"
Maria Consuelo smiled and as usual her strong red lips closed as soon
as she had finished speaking, a habit which lent the smile something
unusual, half-mysterious, and self-contained.
"I see nothing to laugh at," answered Orsino. "Did the mythological
personage whose name I have forgotten laugh when the sphynx proposed the
riddle to him?"
"That is the third time within the last few days that I have been
compared to a sphynx by you or Gouache. It lacks originality in the
"I was not thinking of being original. I was too much interested. Your
riddle is the problem of my life."
"The resemblance ceases there. I cannot eat you up if you do not guess
the answer--or if you do not take my advice. I am not prepared to go so
far as that."
"Was it advice? It sounded more like a question."
"I would not ask one when I am sure of getting no answer. Besides, I do
not like being laughed at."
"What has that to do with the matter? Why imagine anything so
"After all--perhaps it is more foolish to say, 'I advise you to do so
and so,' than to ask, 'Why do you not do so and so?' Advice is always
disagreeable and the adviser is always more or less ridiculous. Advice
brings its own punishment."
"Is that not cynical?" asked Orsino.
"No. Why? What is the worst thing you can do to your social enemy?
Prevail upon him to give you his counsel, act upon it--it will of course
turn out badly--then say, "I feared this would happen, but as you
advised me I did not like--" and so on! That is simple and always
effectual. Try it."
"Not for worlds!"
"I did not mean with me," answered Maria Consuelo with a laugh.
"No. I am afraid there are other reasons which will prevent me from
making a career for myself," said Orsino thoughtfully.
Maria Consuelo saw by his face that the subject was a serious one with
him, as she had already guessed that it must be, and one which would
always interest him. She therefore let it drop, keeping it in reserve in
case the conversation flagged.
"I am going to see Madame Del Ferice to-morrow," she observed, changing
"Do you think that is necessary?"
"Since I wish it! I have not your reasons for avoiding her."
"I offended you the other day, Madame, did I not? You remember--when I
offered my services in a social way."
"No--you amused me," answered Maria Consuelo coolly, and watching to see
how he would take the rebuke.
But, young as Orsino was, he was a match for her in self-possession.
"I am very glad," he answered without a trace of annoyance. "I feared
you were displeased."
Maria Consuelo smiled again, and her momentary coldness vanished. The
answer delighted her, and did more to interest her in Orsino than fifty
clever sayings could have done. She resolved to push the question a
"I will be frank," she said.
"It is always best," answered Orsino, beginning to suspect that
something very tortuous was coming. His disbelief in phrases of the
kind, though originally artificial, was becoming profound.
"Yes, I will be quite frank," she repeated. "You do not wish me to know
the Del Ferice and their set, and you do wish me to know the people you
"Why should I not do as I please?"
She was clearly trying to entrap him into a foolish answer, and he grew
more and more wary.
"It would be very strange if you did not," answered Orsino without
"Because you are absolutely free to make your own choice."
"And if my choice does not meet with your approval?" she asked.
"What can I say, Madame? I and my friends will be the losers, not you."
Orsino had kept his temper admirably, and he did not suffer a hasty word
to escape his lips nor a shadow of irritation to appear in his face. Yet
she had pressed him in a way which was little short of rude. She was
silent for a few seconds, during which Orsino watched her face as she
turned it slightly away from him and from the lamp. In reality he was
wondering why she was not more communicative about herself, and
speculating as to whether her silence in that quarter proceeded from the
consciousness of a perfectly assured position in the world, or from the
fact that she had something to conceal; and this idea led him to
congratulate himself upon not having been obliged to act immediately
upon his first proposal by bringing about an acquaintance between Madame
d'Aranjuez and his mother. This uncertainty lent a spice of interest to
the acquaintance. He knew enough of the world already to be sure that
Maria Consuelo was born and bred in that state of life to which it has
pleased Providence to call the social elect. But the peculiar people
sometimes do strange things and afterwards establish themselves in
foreign cities where their doings are not likely to be known for some
time. Not that Orsino cared what this particular stranger's past might
have been. But he knew that his mother would care very much indeed, if
Orsino wished her to know the mysterious lady, and would sift the matter
very thoroughly before asking her to the Palazzo Saracinesca. Donna
Tullia, on the other hand, had committed herself to the acquaintance on
her own responsibility, evidently taking it for granted that if Orsino
knew Madame d'Aranjuez, the latter must be socially irreproachable. It
amused Orsino to imagine the fat countess's rage if she turned out to
have made a mistake.
"I shall be the loser too," said Maria Consuelo, in a different tone,
"if I make a bad choice. But I cannot draw back. I took her to her house
in my carriage. She seemed to take a fancy to me--" she laughed a
Orsino smiled as though to imply that the circumstance did not surprise
"And she said she would come to see me. As a stranger I could not do
less than insist upon making the first visit, and I named the day--or
rather she did. I am going to-morrow."
"To-morrow? Tuesday is her day. You will meet all her friends."
"Do you mean to say that people still have days in Rome?" Maria Consuelo
did not look pleased.
"Some people do--very few. Most people prefer to be at home one evening
in the week."
"What sort of people are Madame Del Ferice's friends?"
"Why are you so cautious?"
"Because you are about to be one of them, Madame."
"Am I? No, I will not begin another catechism! You are too clever--I
shall never get a direct answer from you."
"Not in that way," answered Orsino with a frankness that made his
"I think you would know how," he replied gravely, and he fixed his young
black eyes on her with an expression that made her half close her own.
"I should think you would make a good actor," she said softly.
"Provided that I might be allowed to be sincere between the acts."
"That sounds well. A little ambiguous perhaps. Your sincerity might or
might not take the same direction as the part you had been acting."
"That would depend entirely upon yourself, Madame."
This time Maria Consuelo opened her eyes instead of closing them.
"You do not lack--what shall I say? A certain assurance--you do not
She laughed merrily, and Orsino laughed with her.
"We are between the acts now," he said. "The curtain goes up to-morrow,
and you join the enemy."
"Come with me, then."
"In your carriage? I shall be enchanted."
"No. You know I do not mean that. Come with me to the enemy's camp. It
will be very amusing."
Orsino shook his head.
"I would rather die--if possible at your feet, Madame."
"Are you afraid to call upon Madame Del Ferice?"
"More than of death itself."
"How can you say that?"
"The conditions of the life to come are doubtful--there might be a
chance for me. There is no doubt at all as to what would happen if I
went to see Madame Del Ferice."
"Is your father so severe with you?" asked Maria Consuelo with a little
"Alas, Madame, I am not sensitive to ridicule," answered Orsino, quite
unmoved. "I grant that there is something wanting in my character."
Maria Consuelo had hoped to find a weak point, and had failed, though
indeed there were many in the young man's armour. She was a little
annoyed, both at her own lack of judgment and because it would have
amused her to see Orsino in an element so unfamiliar to him as that in
which Donna Tullia lived.
"And there is nothing which would induce you to go there?" she asked.
"At present--nothing," Orsino answered coldly.
"At present--but in the future of all possible possibilities?"
"I shall undoubtedly go there. It is only the unforeseen which
"I think so too."
"Of course. I will illustrate the proverb by bidding you good evening,"
said Orsino, laughing as he rose. "By this time the conviction must have
formed itself in your mind that I was never going. The unforeseen
happens. I go."
Maria Consuelo would have been glad if he had stayed even longer, for he
amused her and interested her, and she did not look forward with
pleasure to the lonely evening she was to spend in the hotel.
"I am generally at home at this hour," she said, giving him her hand.
"Then, if you will allow me? Thanks. Good evening, Madame."
Their eyes met for a moment, and then Orsino left the room. As he lit
his cigarette in the porch of the hotel, he said to himself that he had
not wasted his hour, and he was pleasantly conscious of tha inward and
spiritual satisfaction which every very young man feels when he is aware
of having appeared at his best in the society of a woman alone. Youth
without vanity is only premature old age after all.
"She is certainly more than pretty," he said to himself, affecting to be
critical when he was indeed convinced. "Her mouth is fabulous, but it is
well shaped and the rest is perfect--no, the nose is insignificant, and
one of those yellow eyes wanders a little. These are not perfections.
But what does it matter? The whole is charming, whatever the parts may
be. I wish she would not go to that horrible fat woman's tea to-morrow."
Such were the observations which Orsino thought fit to make to himself,
but which by no means represented all that he felt, for they took no
notice whatever of that extreme satisfaction at having talked well with
Maria Consuelo, which in reality dominated every other sensation just
then. He was well enough accustomed to consideration, though his only
taste of society had been enjoyed during the winter vacations of the
last two years. He was not the greatest match in the Roman matrimonial
market for nothing, and he was perfectly well aware of his advantages in
this respect. He possessed that keen, business-like appreciation of his
value as a marriageable man which seems to characterise the young
generation of to-day, and he was not mistaken in his estimate. It was
made sufficiently clear to him at every turn that he had but to ask in
order to receive. But he had not the slightest intention of marrying at
one and twenty as several of his old school-fellows were doing, and he
was sensible enough to foresee that his position as a desirable
son-in-law would soon cause him more annoyance than amusement.
Madame d'Aranjuez was doubtless aware that she could not marry him if
she wished to do so. She was several years older than he--he admitted
the fact rather reluctantly--she was a widow, and she seemed to have no
particular social position. These were excellent reasons against
matrimony, but they were also equally excellent reasons for being
pleased with himself at having produced a favourable impression on her.
He walked rapidly along the crowded street, glancing carelessly at the
people who passed and at the brilliantly lighted windows of the shops.
He passed the door of the club, where he was already becoming known for
rather reckless play, and he quite forgot that a number of men were
probably spending an hour at the tables before dinner, a fact which
would hardly have escaped his memory if he had not been more than
usually occupied with pleasant thoughts. He did not need the excitement
of baccarat nor the stimulus of brandy and soda, for his brain was
already both excited and stimulated, though he was not at once aware of
it. But it became clear to him when he suddenly found himself standing
before the steps of the Capitol in the gloomy square of the Ara Coeli,
wondering what in the world had brought him so far out of his way.
"What a fool I am!" he exclaimed impatiently, as he turned back and
walked in the direction of his home. "And yet she told me that I would
make a good actor. They say that an actor should never be carried away
by his part."
At dinner that evening he was alternately talkative and very silent.
"Where have you been to-day, Orsino?" asked his father, looking at him
"I spent half an hour with Madame d'Aranjuez, and then went for a walk,"
answered Orsino with sudden indifference.
"What is she like?" asked Corona.
"Clever--at least in Rome." There was an odd, nervous sharpness about
Old Saracinesca raised his keen eyes without lifting his head and looked
hard at his grandson. He was a little bent in his great old age.
"The boy is in love!" he exclaimed abruptly, and a laugh that was still
deep and ringing followed the words. Orsino recovered his
self-possession and smiled carelessly.
Corona was thoughtful during the remainder of the meal.
The Princess Sant' Ilario's early life had been deeply stirred by the
great makers of human character, sorrow and happiness. She had suffered
profoundly, she had borne her trials with a rare courage, and her
reward, if one may call it so, had been very great. She had seen the
world and known it well, and the knowledge had not been forgotten in
the peaceful prosperity of later years. Gifted with a beauty not
equalled, perhaps, in those times, endowed with a strong and passionate
nature under a singularly cold and calm outward manner, she had been
saved from many dangers by the rarest of commonplace qualities, common
sense. She had never passed for an intellectual person, she had never
been very brilliant in conversation, she had even been thought
old-fashioned in her prejudices concerning the books she read. But her
judgment had rarely failed her at critical moments. Once only, she
remembered having committed a great mistake, of which the sudden and
unexpected consequences had almost wrecked her life. But in that case
she had suffered her heart to lead her, an innocent girl's good name had
been at stake, and she had rashly taken a responsibility too heavy for
love itself to bear. Those days were long past now; twenty years
separated Corona, the mother of four tall sons, from the Corona who had
risked all to save poor little Faustina Montevarchi.
But even she knew that a state of such perpetual and unclouded happiness
could hardly last a lifetime, and she had forced herself, almost
laughing at the thought, to look forward to the day when Orsino must
cease to be a boy and must face the world of strong loves and hates
through which most men have to pass, and which all men must have known
in order to be men indeed.
The people whose lives are full of the most romantic incidents, are not
generally, I think, people of romantic disposition. Romance, like power,
will come uncalled for, and those who seek it most, are often those who
find it least. And the reason is simple enough. The man of heart is not
perpetually burrowing in his surroundings for affections upon which his
heart may feed, any more than the very strong man is naturally impelled
to lift every weight he sees or to fight with every man he meets. The
persons whom others call romantic are rarely conscious of being so. They
are generally far too much occupied with the one great thought which
make their strongest, bravest and meanest actions seem perfectly
commonplace to themselves. Corona Del Carmine, who had heroically
sacrificed herself in her earliest girlhood to save her father from ruin
and who a few years later had risked a priceless happiness to shield a
foolish girl, had not in her whole life been conscious of a single
romantic instinct. Brave, devoted, but unimaginative by nature, she had
followed her heart's direction in most worldly matters.
She was amazed to find that she was becoming romantic now, in her dreams
for Orsino's future. All sorts of ideas which she would have laughed at
in her own youth flitted through her brain from morning till night. Her
fancy built up a life for her eldest son, which she knew to be far from
the possibility of realisation, but which had for her a new and strange
She planned for him the most unimaginable happiness, of a kind which
would perhaps have hardly satisfied his more modern instincts. She saw a
maiden of indescribable beauty, brought up in unapproachable
perfections, guarded by the all but insuperable jealousy of an ideal
home. Orsino was to love this vision, and none other, from the first
meeting to the term of his natural life, and was to win her in the face
or difficulties such as would have made even Giovanni, the incomparable,
look grave. This radiant creature was also to love Orsino, as a matter
of course, with a love vastly more angelic than human, but not hastily
nor thoughtlessly, lest Orsino should get her too easily and not value
her as he ought. Then she saw the two betrothed, side by side on shady
lawns and moonlit terraces, in a perfectly beautiful intimacy such as
they would certainly never enjoy in the existing conditions of their own
society. But that mattered little. The wooing, the winning and the
marrying of the exquisite girl were to make up Orsino's life, and fifty
or sixty years of idyllic happiness were to be the reward of their
mutual devotion. Had she not spent twenty such years herself? Then why
should not all the rest be possible?
The dreams came and went and she was too sensible not to laugh at them.
That was not the youth of Giovanni, her husband, nor of men who even
faintly resembled him in her estimation. Giovanni had wandered far, had
seen much, and had undoubtedly indulged more than one passing affection,
before he had been thirty years of age and had loved Corona. Giovanni
would laugh too, if she told him of her vision of two young and
beautiful married saints. And his laugh would be more sincere than her
own. Nevertheless, her dreams haunted her, as they have haunted many a
loving mother, ever since Althaea plucked from the flame the burning
brand that measured Meleager's life, and smothered the sparks upon it
and hid it away among her treasures.
Such things seem foolish, no doubt, in the measure of fact, in the
glaring light of our day. The thought is none the less noble. The dream
of an untainted love, the vision of unspotted youth and pure maiden, the
glory of unbroken faith kept whole by man and wife in holy wedlock, the
pride of stainless name and stainless race--these things are not less
high because there is a sublimity in the strength of a great sin which
may lie the closer to our sympathy, as the sinning is the nearer to our
When old Saracinesca looked up from under his bushy brows and laughed
and said that his grandson was in love, he thought no more of what he
said than if he had remarked that Orsino's beard was growing or that
Giovanni's was turning grey. But Corona's pretty fancies received a
shock from which they never recovered again, and though she did her best
to call them back they lost all their reality from that hour. The plain
fact that at one and twenty years the boy is a man, though a very young
one, was made suddenly clear to her, and she was faced by another fact
still more destructive of her ideals, namely, that a man is not to be
kept from falling in love, when and where he is so inclined, by any
personal influence whatsoever. She knew that well enough, and the
supposition that his first young passion might be for Madame d'Aranjuez
was by no means comforting. Corona immediately felt an interest in that
lady which she had not felt before and which was not altogether
It seemed to her necessary in the first place to find out something
definite concerning Maria Consuelo, and this was no easy matter. She
communicated her wish to her husband when they were alone that evening.
"I know nothing about her," answered Giovanni. "And I do not know any
one who does. After all it is of very little importance."
"What if he falls seriously in love with this woman?"
"We will send him round the world. At his age that will cure anything.
When he comes back Madame d'Aranjuez will have retired to the chaos of
the unknown out of which Orsino has evolved her."
"She does not look the kind of woman to disappear at the right moment,"
observed Corona doubtfully.
Giovanni was at that moment supremely comfortable, both in mind and
body. It was late. The old prince had gone to his own quarters, the boys
were in bed, and Orsino was presumably at a party or at the club. Sant'
Ilario was enjoying the delight of spending an hour alone in his wife's
society. They were in Corona's old boudoir, a place full of associations
for them both. He did not want to be mentally disturbed. He said nothing
in answer to his wife's remark. She repeated it in a different form.
"Women like her do not disappear when one does not want them," she said.
"What makes you think so?" inquired Giovanni with a man's irritating
indolence when he does not mean to grasp a disagreeable idea.
"I know it," Corona answered, resting her chin upon her hand and staring
at the fire.
Giovanni surrendered unconditionally.
"You are probably right, dear. You always are about people."
"Well--then you must see the importance of what I say," said Corona
pushing her victory.
"Of course, of course," answered Giovanni, squinting at the flames with
one eye between his outstretched fingers.
"I wish you would wake up!" exclaimed Corona, taking the hand in hers
and drawing it to her. "Orsino is probably making love to Madame
d'Aranjuez at this very moment."
"Then I will imitate him, and make love to you, my dear. I could not be
better occupied, and you know it. You used to say I did it very well."
Corona laughed in her deep, soft voice.
"Orsino is like you. That is what frightens me. He will make love too
well. Be serious, Giovanni. Think of what I am saying."
"Let us dismiss the question then, for the simple reason that there is
absolutely nothing to be done. We cannot turn this good woman out of
Rome, and we cannot lock Orsino up in his room. To tell a boy not to
bestow his affections in a certain quarter is like ramming a charge into
a gun and then expecting that it will not come out by the same way. The
harder you ram it down the more noise it makes--that is all. Encourage
him and he may possibly tire of it. Hinder him and he will become
"I suppose that is true," said Corona. "Then at least find out who the
woman is," she added, after a pause.
"I will try," Giovanni answered. "I will even go to the length of
spending an hour a day at the club, if that will do any good--and you
know how I detest clubs. But if anything whatever is known of her, it
will be known there."
Giovanni kept his word and expended more energy in attempting to find
out something about Madame d'Aranjuez during the next few days than he
had devoted to anything connected with society for a long time. Nearly
a week elapsed before his efforts met with any success.
He was in the club one afternoon at an early hour, reading the papers,
and not more than three or four other men were present. Among them were
Frangipani and Montevarchi, who was formerly known as Ascanio Bellegra.
There was also a certain young foreigner, a diplomatist, who, like Sant'
Ilario, was reading a paper, most probably in search of an idea for the
next visit on his list.
Giovanni suddenly came upon a description of a dinner and reception
given by Del Ferice and his wife. The paragraph was written in the usual
florid style with a fine generosity in the distribution of titles to
"The centre of all attraction," said the reporter, "was a most beautiful
Spanish princess, Donna Maria Consuelo d'A----z d'A----a, in whose
mysterious eyes are reflected the divine fires of a thousand triumphs,
and who was gracefully attired in olive green brocade--"
"Oh! Is that it?" said Sant' Ilario aloud, and in the peculiar tone
always used by a man who makes a discovery in a daily paper.
"What is it?" inquired Frangipani and Montevarchi in the same breath.
The young diplomatist looked up with an air of interrogation.
Sant' Ilario read the paragraph aloud. All three listened as though the
fate of empires depended on the facts reported.
"Just like the newspapers!" exclaimed Frangipani. "There probably is no
such person. Is there, Ascanio?"
Montevarchi had always been a weak fellow, and was reported to be at
present very deep in the building speculations of the day. But there was
one point upon which he justly prided himself. He was a superior
authority on genealogy. It was his passion and no one ever disputed his
knowledge or decision. He stroked his fair beard, looked out of the
window, winked his pale blue eyes once or twice and then gave his