Part 5 out of 9
the slain? What have I done? How have I deserved such a thing?'
Her voice failed her. Eleanor drew a little nearer.
'It is not you--but fate. You have taken from me--or you are about to take
from me--the last thing left to me on this earth! I have had one chance of
happiness, and only one, in all my life, till now. My boy is dead--he has
been dead eight years. And at last I had found another chance--and after
seven weeks, you--you--are dashing it from me!'
Lucy drew back from the table, like one that shrinks from an enemy.
'You don't know it!' said Eleanor calmly. 'Oh! I understand that. You are
too good--too loyal. That's why I am talking like this. One could only dare
it with some one whose heart one knew. Oh! I have had such gusts of feeling
towards you--such mean, poor feeling. And then, as I sat playing there, I
said to myself, "I'll tell her! She will find that drawing, and--I'll tell
her! She has a great, true nature--she'll understand. Why shouldn't one try
to save oneself? It's the natural law. There's only the one life."'
She covered her eyes with her hand an instant, choking down the sob which
interrupted her. Then she moved a little nearer to Lucy.
'You see,' she said, appealing,--'you were very sweet and tender to me one
day. It's very easy to pretend to mourn with other people--because one
thinks one ought--or because it makes one liked. I am always pretending in
that way--I can't help it. But you--no: you don't say what you don't feel,
and you've the gift to feel. It's so rare--and you'll suffer from it.
You'll find other people doing what I'm doing now--throwing themselves
upon you--taking advantage--trusting to you. You pitied mo because I had
lost my boy. But you didn't know--you couldn't guess how bare my life has
been always--but for him. And then--this winter--' her voice changed and
broke--'the sun rose again for me. I have been hungry and starving for
years, and it seemed as though I--even I!--might still feast and be
'It would not have taken much to satisfy me. I am not young, like you--I
don't ask much. Just to be his friend, his secretary, his companion--in
time--perhaps--his wife--when he began to feel the need of home, and
peace--and to realise that no one else was so dear or so familiar to him
as I. I understood him--he me--our minds touched. There was no need for
"falling in love." One had only to go on from day to day--entering into
each other's lives--I ministering to him and he growing accustomed to
the atmosphere I could surround him with, and the sympathy I could give
him--till the habit had grown so deep into heart and flesh that it could
not be wrenched away. His hand would have dropped into mine, almost without
his willing or knowing it.... And I should have made him happy. I could
have lessened his faults--stimulated his powers. That was my dream all
these later months--and every week it seemed to grow more reasonable, more
possible. Then you came--'
She dropped into a chair beside Lucy, resting her delicate hands on the
back of it. In the mingled abandonment and energy of her attitude, there
was the power that belongs to all elemental human emotion, made frankly
visible and active. All her plaintive clinging charm had disappeared. It
was the fierceness of the dove--the egotism of the weak. Every line and
nerve of the fragile form betrayed the exasperation of suffering and a
tension of the will, unnatural and irresistible. Lucy bowed to the storm.
She lay with her eyes hidden, conscious only of this accusing voice close
to her,--and of the song of two nightingales without, rivalling each other
among the chestnut trees above the lower road. Eleanor resumed after a
momentary pause--a momentary closing of the tired eyes, as though in search
of calm and recollection.
'You came. He took no notice of you. He was rude and careless--he
complained that our work would be interrupted. It teased him that you
should be here--and that you represented something so different from his
thoughts and theories. That is like him. He has no real tolerance. He wants
to fight, to overbear, to crush, directly he feels opposition. Among women
especially, he is accustomed to be the centre--to be the master always.
And you resisted--silently. That provoked and attracted him. Then came the
difficulties with the book--and Mr. Neal's visit. He has the strangest
superstitions. It was ill-luck, and I was mixed up with it. He began to
cool to me--to avoid me. You were here; you didn't remind him of failure.
He found relief in talking to you. His ill-humour would all have passed
away like a child's sulkiness, but that--Ah! well!--'
She raised her hand with a long, painful sigh, and let it drop.
'Don't imagine I blame anyone. You were so fresh and young--it was all so
natural. Yet somehow I never really feared--after the first evening I felt
quite at ease. I found myself drawn to like--to love--you. And what could
you and he have in common? Then on the Nemi day I dared to reproach him--to
appeal to the old times--to show him the depth of my own wound--to make him
explain himself. Oh! but all those words are far, far too strong for what
I did? Who could ever suppose it to their advantage to make a scene with
him--to weary or disgust him? It was only a word--a phrase or two here and
there. But he understood,--and he gave me my answer. Oh! what humiliations
we women can suffer from a sentence--a smile--and show nothing--nothing!'
Her face had begun to burn. She lifted her handkerchief to brush away two
slow tears that had forced their way. Lucy's eyes had been drawn to her
from their hiding-place. The girl's brow was furrowed, her lips parted;
there was a touch of fear--unconscious, yet visible--in her silence.
'It was that day, while you and he were walking about the ruins, that
a flash of light came to me. I suppose I had seen it before. I know I
had been unhappy long before! But as long as one can hide things from
oneself--it seems to make them not true,--as though one's own will still
controlled them. But that day--after our walk--when we came back and found
you on the hill-side! How was it your fault? Yet I could almost have
believed that you had invented the boys and the stone! Certainly he spared
me nothing. He had eyes and ears only for you. After he brought you home
all his thoughts were for you. Nobody else's fatigues and discomforts
mattered anything. And it was the same with Alice. His only terrors
were for you. When he heard that she was coming, he had no alarms for
Aunt Pattie or for me. But you must be shielded--you must be saved from
everything repulsive or shocking. He sat up last night to protect you--and
even in his sleep--he heard you.'
Her voice dropped. Eleanor sat staring before her into the golden shadows
of the room, afraid of what she had said, instinctively waiting for its
effect on Lucy.
And Lucy crouched no longer. She had drawn herself erect.
'Mrs. Burgoyne, is it kind--is it _bearable_--that you should say these
things to me? I have not deserved them! No! no!--I have _not_. What right
have you? I can't protect myself--I can't escape you--but--'
Her voice shook. There was in it a passion of anger, pain, loneliness, and
yet something else--the note of something new-born and transforming.
'What right?' repeated Eleanor, in low tones--tones almost of astonishment.
She turned to her companion. 'The right of hunger--the right of
poverty--the right of one pleading for a last possession!--a last hope!'
Lucy was silenced. The passion of the older woman bore her down, made the
protest of her young modesty seem a mere trifling and impertinence. Eleanor
had slid to her knees. Her face had grown tremulous and sweet. A strange
dignity quivered in the smile that transformed her mouth as she caught the
girl's reluctant hands and drew them against her breast.
'Is it forbidden to cry out when grief--and loss--go beyond a certain
point? No!--I think not. I couldn't struggle with you--or plot against
you--or hate you. Those things are not in my power. I was not made so. But
what forbids mo to come to you and say?--"I have suffered terribly. I had a
dreary home. I married, ignorantly, a man who made me miserable. But when
my boy came, that made up for all. I never grumbled. I never envied other
people after that. It seemed to me I had all I deserved--and so much,
much more than many! Afterwards, when I woke up without him that day in
Switzerland, there was only one thing that made it endurable. I overheard
the Swiss doctor say to my maid--he was a kind old man and very sorry for
me--that my own health was so fragile that I shouldn't live long to pine
for the child. But oh!--what we can bear and not die! I came back to my
father, and for eight years I never slept without crying--without the ghost
of the boy's head against my breast. Again and again I used to wake up in
an ecstasy, feeling it there--feeling the curls across my mouth."' A deep
sob choked her. Lucy, in a madness of pity, struggled to release herself
that she might throw her arms round the kneeling figure. But Eleanor's
grasp only tightened. She hurried on.
'But last year, I began to hope. Everybody thought badly of me; the doctors
spoke very strongly; and even Papa made no objection when Aunt Pattie asked
me to come to Rome. I came to Rome in a strange state--as one looks at
things and loves them, for the last time, before a journey. And then--well,
then it all began!--new life for me, new health. The only happiness--except
for the child--that had ever come my way. I know--oh! I don't deceive
myself--I know it was not the same to Edward as to me. But I don't ask
much. I knew he had given the best of his heart to other women--long
ago--long before this. But the old loves were all dead, and I could
almost be thankful for them. They had kept him for me, I thought,--tamed
and exhausted him, so that I--so colourless and weak compared to those
others!--might just slip into his heart and find the way open--that he
might just take me in, and be glad, for sheer weariness.'
She dropped Lucy's hands, and rising, she locked her own, and began to walk
to and fro in the great room; her head thrown back, her senses turned as it
were inward upon the sights and sounds of memory.
Lucy gazed upon her in bewilderment. Then she too rose and approached Mrs.
'When shall I go?' she said simply. 'You must help me to arrange it with
Miss Manisty. It might be to-morrow--it would be easy to find some excuse.'
Eleanor looked at her with a convulsed face.
'That would help nothing,' she said--'nothing! He would guess what I had
Lucy was silent a moment. Then she broke out piteously.
'What can I do?'
'What claim have I that you should do anything?' said Eleanor despairingly.
'I don't know what I wanted, when I began this scene.'
She moved on, her eyes bent upon the ground--Lucy beside her.
The girl had drawn Mrs. Burgoyne's arm through her own. The tears were on
her check, but she was thinking, and quite calm.
'I believe,' she said at last, in a voice that was almost steady--'that
all your fears are quite, quite vain. Mr. Manisty feels for me nothing
but a little kindness--he could feel nothing else. It will all come
back to you--and it was not I that took it away. But--whatever you tell
me--whatever you ask, I will do.'
With a catching breath Eleanor turned and threw her arm round the girl's
'Stay,' she breathed--'stay for a few days. Let there be no shock--nothing
to challenge him. Then slip away--don't let him know where--and there is
one woman in the world who will hold you in her inmost heart, who will pray
for you with her secretest, sacredest prayers, as long as you live!'
The two fell into each other's embrace. Lucy, with the maternal tenderness
that should have been Eleanor's, pressed her lips on the hot brow that
lay upon her breast, murmuring words of promise, of consolation, of
self-reproach, feeling her whole being passing out to Eleanor's in a great
tide of passionate will and pity.
They were all going down to the midday train for Rome.
At last the Ambassador--who had been passing through a series of political
and domestic difficulties, culminating in the mutiny of his Neapolitan
cook--had been able to carry out his whim. A luncheon had been arranged for
the young American girl who had taken his fancy. At the head of his house
for the time being was his married daughter, Lady Mary, who had come from
India for the winter to look after her babies and her father. When she
was told to write the notes for this luncheon, she lifted her eyebrows in
'My dear,' said the Ambassador, 'we have been doing our duty for six
months--and I find it pall!'
He had been entertaining Royalties and Cabinet Ministers in heavy
succession, and his daughter understood. There was an element of
insubordination in her father, which she knew better than to provoke.
So the notes were sent.
'Find her some types, my dear,' said the Ambassador;--'and little of
Lady Mary did her best. She invited an Italian Marchesa whom she had heard
her father describe as 'the ablest woman in Rome,' while she herself knew
her as one of the most graceful and popular; a young Lombard landowner
formerly in the Navy, now much connected with the Court, whose blue eyes
moreover were among the famous things of the day; a Danish professor and
savant who was also a rich man, collector of flints and torques, and other
matters of importance to primitive man; an artist or two; an American
Monsignore blessed with some Irish wit and much influence; Reggie Brooklyn,
of course, and his sister; Madame Variani, who would prevent Mr. Manisty
from talking too much nonsense; and a dull English Admiral and his wife,
official guests, whom the Ambassador admitted at the last moment with a
groan, as still representing the cold tyranny of duty invading his snatch
'And Mr. Bellasis, papa?' said Lady Mary, pausing, pen in hand, like
Fortitude prepared for all extremities.
'Heavens, no!' said the Ambassador, hastily. 'I have put him off twice.
This time I should have to read him.'
* * * * *
Manisty accordingly was smoking on the balcony of the villa while he waited
for the ladies to appear. Miss Manisty, who was already suffering from the
heat, was not going. The fact did not improve Manisty's temper. Three is no
company--that we all know.
If Lady Mary, indeed, had only planned this luncheon because she must,
Manisty was going to it under a far more impatient sense of compulsion. It
would be a sickening waste of time. Nothing now had any attraction for him,
nothing seemed to him desirable or important, but that conversation with
Lucy Foster which he was bent on securing, and she apparently was bent on
His mind was full of the sense of injury. During all the day before, while
he had been making the arrangements for his unhappy sister--during the
journeys backward and forward to Rome--a delicious image had filled all
the background of his thoughts, the image of the white Lucy, helpless and
lovely, lying unconscious in his chair.
In the evening he could hardly command his eagerness sufficiently to help
his tired little aunt up the steps of the station, and put her safely in
her cab, before hurrying himself up the steep short-cut to the villa.
Should he find her perhaps on the balcony, conscious of his step on the
path below, weak and shaken, yet ready to lift those pure, tender eyes of
hers to his in a shy gratitude?
He had found no one on the balcony, and the evening of that trying day had
been one of baffling disappointment. Eleanor was in her room, apparently
tired out by the adventures of the night before; and although Miss Foster
appeared at dinner she had withdrawn immediately afterwards, and there had
been no chance for anything but the most perfunctory conversation.
She had said of course all the proper things, so far as they could be said.
'I trust you have been able to make the arrangements you wished. Mrs.
Burgoyne and I have been so sorry! Poor Miss Manisty must have had a very
Bah!--he could not have believed that a girl could speak so formally, so
trivially to a man who within twenty-four hours had saved her from the
attack of a madwoman. For that was what it came to--plainly. Did she
know what had happened? Had her swoon blotted it all out? If so, was he
justified in revealing it. There was an uneasy feeling that it would be
more chivalrous towards her, and kinder towards his sister, if he left the
veil drawn, seeing that she seemed to wish it so--if he said no more about
her fright, her danger, her faint. But Manisty was not accustomed to let
himself be governed by the scruples of men more precise or more timid. He
wished passionately to force a conversation with her more intimate, more
personal than any one had yet allowed him; to break down at a stroke most
if not all of the barriers that separate acquaintance from--
From what? He stood, cigarette in hand, staring blindly at the garden, lost
in an intense questioning of himself.
Suddenly he found himself back again, as it were, among the feelings and
sensations of Lucy Foster's first Sunday at the villa; his repugnance
towards any notion of marriage; his wonder that anybody should suppose that
he had any immediate purpose of marrying Eleanor Burgoyne; the mood, half
lazy, half scornful, in which he had watched Lucy, in her prim Sunday
dress, walking along the avenue.
What had attracted him to this girl so different from himself, so
unacquainted with his world?
There was her beauty of course. But he had passed the period when mere
beauty is enough. He was extremely captious and difficult to please where
the ordinary pretty woman was concerned. Her arts left him now quite
unmoved. Of self-conscious vanity and love of effect he had himself enough
and to spare. He could not mend himself; but he was often weary of his own
weaknesses, and detested them in other people. If Lucy Foster had been
merely a beauty, aware of her own value, and bent upon making him aware of
it also, he would probably have been as careless of her now in the eighth
week of their acquaintance as he had been in the first.
But it was a beauty so innocent, so interfused with suggestion, with an
enchanting thrill of prophecy! It was not only what she said and looked,
but what a man might divine in her--the 'white fire' of a nature most pure,
most passionate, that somehow flashed through her maiden life and aspect,
fighting with the restraints imposed upon it, and constantly transforming
what might otherwise have been a cold seemliness into a soft and delicate
In short, there was a mystery in Lucy, for all her simplicity;--a mystery
of feeling, which piqued and held the fastidious taste of Manisty. It was
this which made her loveliness tell. Her sincerity was so rich and full,
that it became dramatic,--a thing to watch, for the mere joy of the fresh,
unfolding spectacle. She was quite unconscious of this significance of
hers. Rather she was clearly and always conscious of weakness, ignorance,
inexperience. And it was this lingering childishness, compared with the
rarity, the strength, the tenderness of the nature just emerging from
the sheath of first youth, that made her at this moment so exquisitely
attractive to Manisty.
In the presence of such a creature marriage began to look differently.
Like many men with an aristocratic family tradition, who have lived for a
time as though they despised it, there were in him deep stores of things
inherited and conventional which re-emerged at the fitting moment. Manisty
disliked and had thrown aside the role of country gentleman; because, in
truth, he had not money enough to play it magnificently, and he had set
himself against marriage; because no woman had yet appeared to make the
probable boredoms of it worth while.
But now, as he walked up and down the balcony, plunged in meditation, he
began to think with a new tolerance of the English _cadre_ and the English
life. He remembered all those illustrious or comely husbands and wives,
his forebears, whose portraits hung on the walls of his neglected house.
For the first time it thrilled him to imagine a new mistress of the
house--young, graceful, noble--moving about below them. And even--for the
first time--there gleamed from out the future the dim features of a son,
and he did not recoil. He caressed the whole dream with a new and strange
complacency. What if after all the beaten roads are best?
To the old paths, my soul!
Then he paused, in a sudden chill of realisation. His thoughts might rove
as they please. But Lucy Foster had given them little warrant. To all her
growing spell upon him, there was added indeed the charm of difficulty
foreseen, and delighted in. He was perfectly aware that he puzzled and
attracted her. And he was perfectly aware also of his own power with women,
often cynically aware of it. But he could not flatter himself that so far
he had any hold over the senses or the heart of Lucy Foster. He thought
of her eager praise of his Palestine letters--of the Nemi tale. She was
franker, more enthusiastic than an English girl would have been--and at the
same time more remote, infinitely more incalculable!
His mind filled with a delicious mingling of desire and doubt. He foresaw
the sweet approach of new emotions,--of spells to make 'the colours freshen
on this threadbare world.' All his life he had been an epicurean, in search
of pleasures beyond the ken of the crowd. It was pleasure of this kind that
beckoned to him now,--in the wooing, the conquering, the developing of
A voice struck on his ear. It was Eleanor calling to Lucy from the salon.
Ah!--Eleanor? A rush of feeling--half generous, half audacious--came upon
him. He knew that he had given her pain at Nemi. He had been a brute, an
ungrateful brute! Women like Eleanor have very exalted and sensitive ideals
of friendship. He understood that he had pulled down Eleanor's ideal, that
he had wounded her sorely. What did she expect of him? Not any of the
things which the ignorant or vulgar bystander expected of him--that he
was certain. But still her claim had wearied him; and he had brushed it
aside. His sulkiness about the book had been odious, indefensible. And
yet--perhaps from another point of view--it had not been a bad thing for
either of them. It had broken through habits which had become, surely, an
embarrassment to both.
But now, let him make amends; select fresh ground; and from it rebuild
their friendship. His mind ran forward hazily to some bold confidence or
other, some dramatic appeal to Eleanor for sympathy and help.
The affection between her and Miss Foster seemed to be growing closer. He
thought of it uncomfortably, and with vague plannings of counter-strokes.
It did not suit him--nay, it presented itself somehow as an obstacle in his
path. For he had a half remorseful, half humorous feeling that Eleanor knew
him too well.
* * * * *
'Ah! my dear lady,' said the Ambassador--'how few things in this world one
does to please oneself! This is one of them.'
Lucy flushed with a young and natural pleasure. She was on the Ambassador's
left, and he had just laid his wrinkled hand for an instant on hers, with a
charming and paternal freedom.
'Have you enjoyed yourself?--Have you lost your heart to Italy?' said her
host, stooping to her. He was amused to see the transformation in her, the
pretty dress, the developed beauty.
'I have been in fairy-land,' said Lucy, shyly, opening her blue eyes upon
him. 'Nothing can ever be like it again.'
'No--because one can never be twenty again,' said the old man, sighing.
'Twenty years hence you will wonder where the magic came from. Never
mind--just now, anyway, the world's your oyster.'
Then he looked at her a little more closely. And it seemed to him that,
though she was handsomer, she was not so happy. He missed some of that
quiver of youth and enjoyment he had felt in her before, and there were
some very dark lines under the beautiful eyes. What was wrong? Had she met
the man--the appointed one?
He began to talk to her with a kindness that was at once simple and
'We must all have our ups and downs,' he said to her presently. 'Let me
just give you a word of advice. It'll carry you through most of them.
Remember you are very young, and I shall soon be very old.'
He stopped and surveyed her. His kind humorous eyes blinked through their
blanched lashes. Lucy dropped her fork and looked back at him with smiling
'_Learn Persian!_' said the old man in an urgent whisper--'and get the
dictionary by heart!'
Lucy still looked--wondering.
'I finished it this morning,' said the Ambassador, in her ear. 'To-morrow I
shall begin it again. My daughter hates the sight of the thing. She says I
over-tire myself, and that when old people have done their work they should
take a nap. But I know that if it weren't for my dictionary, I should
have given up long ago. When too many tiresome people dine here in the
evening--or when they worry me from home--I take a column. But generally
half a column's enough--good tough Persian roots, and no nonsense. Oh! of
course I can read Hafiz and Omar Khayyam, and all that kind of thing. But
that's the whipped cream. That don't count. What one wants is something
to set one's teeth in. Latin verse will do. Last year I put half Tommy
Moore into hendecasyllables. But my youngest boy who's at Oxford, said he
wouldn't be responsible for them--so I had to desist. And I suppose the
mathematicians have always something handy. But, one way or another, one
must learn one's dictionary. It comes next to cultivating one's garden. Now
Mr. Manisty--how is he provided in that way?'
His sudden question took Lucy by surprise, and the quick rise of colour in
the clear cheeks did not escape him.
'Well--I suppose he has his book?' she said, smiling.
'Oh! no use at all! He can do what he likes with his book. But you can't
do what you like with the dictionary. You must take it or leave it. That's
what makes it so reposeful. Now if I were asked, I could soon find some
Persian roots for Mr. Manisty--to be taken every day!'
Lucy glanced across the table. Her eyes fell, and she said in the low full
voice that delighted the old man's ears:
'I suppose you would send him home?'
The Ambassador nodded.
'Tenants, turnips, and Petty Sessions! Persian's pleasanter--but those
He paused a moment, then said seriously, under the cover of a loud buzz of
talk, 'He's wasting his time, dear lady--there's no doubt of that.'
Lucy still looked down, but her attitude changed imperceptibly. 'The
subject interests her!' thought the old man. 'It's a thousand pities,' he
resumed, with the caution, masked by the ease, of the diplomat, 'he came
out here in a fit of pique. He saw false--and as far as I can hear, the
book's a mistake. Yet it was not a bad subject. Italy _is_ just now an
object lesson and a warning. But our friend there could not have taken
it more perversely. He has chosen to attack not the violence of the
Church--but the weakness of the State. And meanwhile--if I may be allowed
to say so--his own position is something of an offence. Religion is too big
a pawn for any man's personal game. Don't you agree? Often I feel inclined
to apply to him the saying about Benjamin Constant and liberty--"Grand
homme devant la religion--_s'il y croyait!_" I compare with him a poor old
persecuted priest I know--Manisty knows too.--Ah! well, I hear the book is
very brilliant--and venomous to a degree. It will be read of course. He has
the power to be read. But it is a blunder--if not a crime. And meanwhile
he is throwing away all his chances. I knew his father. I don't like to
see him beating the air. If you have any influence with him'--the old man
smiled--'send him home! Or Mrs. Burgoyne there. He used to listen to her.'
A great pang gripped Lucy's heart.
'I should think he always took his own way,' she said, with difficulty.
'Mr. Neal sometimes advises him.'
The Ambassador's shrewd glance rested upon her for a moment. Then without
another word he turned away. 'Reggie!' he said, addressing young Brooklyn,
'you seem to be ill-treating Madame Variani. Must I interpose?'
Reggie and his companion, who were in a full tide of 'chaff' and laughter,
turned towards him.
'Sir,' said Brooklyn, 'Madame Variani is attacking my best friend.'
'Many of us find that agreeable,' said the Ambassador.
'Ah! but she makes it so personal,' said Reggie, dallying with his banana.
'She abuses him because he's not married--and calls him a selfish fop.
Now _I'm_ not married--and I object to these wholesale classifications.
Besides, my friend has the most conclusive answer.'
'I wait for it,' said Madame Variani.
Reggie delicately unsheathed his banana.
'Well, some of us once enquired what he meant by it, and he said: "My dear
fellow, I've asked all the beautiful women I know to marry me, and they
won't! Now!--I'd be content with cleanliness and conduct."'
There was a general laugh, in the midst of which Reggie remarked:
'I thought it the most touching situation. But Madame Variani has the heart
of a stone.'
Madame Variani looked down upon him unmoved. She and the charming lad were
'I will wager you he never asked,' she said quietly.
'No--he never asked. Englishmen don't ask ladies to marry them any more.'
'Let Madame Variani prove her point,' said the Ambassador, raising one
white hand above the hubbub, while he hollowed the other round his deaf
ear. 'This is a most interesting discussion.'
'But it is known to all that Englishmen don't get married any more!' cried
Madame Variani. 'I read in an English novel the other day that it is
spoiling your English society, that the charming girls wait and wait--and
nobody marries them.'
'Well, there are no English young ladies present,' said the Ambassador,
looking round the table; 'so we may proceed. How do you account for this
'Oh! you have now too many French cooks in England!' said Madame Variani,
shrugging her plump shoulders.
'What in the world has that got to do with it?' cried the Ambassador.
'Your young men are too comfortable,' said the lady, with a calm wave
of the hand towards Reggie Brooklyn. 'That's what I am told. I ask an
English lady, who knows both France and England--and she tells me--your
young men get now such good cooking at their clubs, and at the messes of
their regiments--and their sports amuse them so well, and cost so much
money--they don't want any wives!--they are not interested any more in the
girls. That is the difference between them and the Frenchman. The Frenchman
is still interested in the ladies. After dinner the Frenchman wants to go
and sit with the ladies--the Englishman, no! That is why the French are
The small black eyes of the speaker sparkled, but otherwise she looked
round with challenging serenity on the English and Americans around her.
Madame Variani--stout, clever, middle-aged, and disinterested--had a
position of her own in Rome. She was the correspondent of a leading French
paper; she had many English friends; and she and the Marchesa Fazzoleni, at
the Ambassador's right hand, had just been doing wonders for the relief of
the Italian sick and wounded after the miserable campaign of Adowa.
'Oh! I hide my diminished head!' said the old Ambassador, taking his white
locks in both hands. 'All I know is, I have sent twenty wedding presents
already this year--and that the state of my banking account is wholly
inconsistent with these theories.'
'Ah! you are exceptional,' said the lady. 'Only this morning I get an
account of an English gentleman of my acquaintance. He is nearly forty--he
possesses a large estate--his mother and sisters are on their knees to
him to marry--it will all go to a cousin, and the cousin has forged--or
something. And he--not he! He don't care what happens to the estate. He has
only got the one life, he says--and he won't spoil it. And of course it
does your women harm! Women are always dull when the men don't court them!'
The table laughed. Lucy, looking down it, caught first the face of Eleanor
Burgoyne, and in the distance Manisty's black head and absent smile. The
girl's young mind was captured by a sudden ghastly sense of the human
realities underlying the gay aspects and talk of the luncheon-table. It
seemed to her she still heard that heart-rending voice of Mrs. Burgoyne:
'Oh! I never dreamed it could be the same for him as for me. I didn't ask
She dreaded to let herself think. It seemed to her that Mrs. Burgoyne's
suffering must reveal itself to all the world, and the girl had moments of
hot shame, as though for herself. To her eyes, the change in aspect and
expression, visible through all the elegance and care of dress, was already
Oh! why had she come to Rome? What had changed the world so? Some wounded
writhing thing seemed to be struggling in her own breast--while she was
holding it down, trying to thrust it out of sight and hearing.
She had written to Uncle Ben, and to the Porters. To-morrow she must break
it to Aunt Pattie that she could not go to Vallombrosa, and must hurry back
to England. The girl's pure conscience was tortured already by the thought
of the excuses she would have to invent. And not a word, till Mr. Manisty
was safely started on his way to that function at the Vatican which he was
already grumbling over, which he would certainly shirk if he could. But,
thank Heaven, it was not possible for him to shirk it.
Again her eyes crossed those of Manisty. He was now discussing the strength
of parties in the recent Roman municipal elections with the American
Monsignore, talking with all his usual vehemence. Nevertheless, through it
all, it seemed to her, that she was watched, that in some continuous and
subtle way he held her in sight.
How cold and ungrateful he must have thought her the night before! To-day,
at breakfast, and in the train, he had hardly spoken to her.
Yet--mysteriously--Lucy felt herself threatened, hard pressed. Alice
Manisty's talk in that wild night haunted her ear. Her hand, cold and
tremulous, shook on her knee. Even the voice of the Ambassador startled
After luncheon the Ambassador's guests fell into groups on the large shady
lawn of the Embassy garden.
The Ambassador introduced Lucy to the blue-eyed Lombard, Fioravanti, while
he, pricked with a rueful sense of duty, devoted himself for a time to the
wife of the English Admiral who had been Lady Mary's neighbour at luncheon.
The Ambassador examined her through his half-closed eyes, as he meekly
offered to escort her indoors to see his pictures. She was an elegant and
fashionable woman with very white and regular false teeth. Her looks were
conventional and mild. In reality the Ambassador knew her to be a Tartar.
He walked languidly beside her; his hands were lightly crossed before him;
his white head drooped under the old wideawake that he was accustomed to
wear in the garden.
Meanwhile the gallant and be-whiskered Admiral would have liked to secure
Manisty's attention. To get hold of a politician, or something near a
politician, and explain to them a new method of fusing metals in which he
believed, represented for him the main object of all social functions.
But Manisty peremptorily shook him off. Eleanor, the American Monsignore,
and Reggie Brooklyn were strolling near. He retreated upon them. Eleanor
addressed some question to him, but he scarcely answered her. He seemed to
be in a brown study, and walked on beside her in silence.
Reggie fell back a few paces, and watched them.
'What a bear he can be when he chooses!' the boy said to himself
indignantly. 'And how depressed Eleanor looks! Some fresh worry I
suppose--and all his fault. Now look at that!'
For another group--Lucy, her new acquaintance the Count, and Madame
Variani--had crossed the path of the first. And Manisty had left Eleanor's
side to approach Miss Foster. All trace of abstraction was gone. He looked
ill at ease, and yet excited; his eyes were fixed upon the girl. He stooped
towards her, speaking in a low voice.
'There's something up'--thought Brooklyn. 'And if that girl's any hand in
it she ought to be cut! I thought she was a nice girl.'
His blue eyes stared fiercely at the little scene. Since the day at Nemi,
the boy had understood half at least of the situation. He had perceived
then that Eleanor was miserably unhappy. No doubt Manisty was disappointing
and tormenting her. What else could she expect?
But really--that she should be forsaken and neglected for this chit of a
girl--this interloping American--it was too much! Reggie's wrath glowed
Meanwhile Manisty addressed Lucy.
'I have something I very much wish to say to you. There is a seat by the
fountain, quite in shade. Will you try it?'
She glanced hurriedly at her companions.
'Thank you--I think we were going to look at the rose-walk.'
Manisty gave an angry laugh, said something inaudible, and walked
impetuously away; only to be captured however by the Danish Professor,
Doctor Jensen, who took no account of bad manners in an Englishman, holding
them as natural as daylight. The flaxen-haired savant therefore was soon
happily engaged in pouring out upon his impatient companion the whole of
the latest _Boletino_ of the Accademia.
Meanwhile Lucy, seeing nothing, it is to be feared, of the beauty of the
Embassy garden, followed her two companions and soon found herself sitting
with them on a stone seat beneath a spreading ilex. In front was a tangled
mass of roses; beyond, an old bit of wall with Roman foundations; and in
the hot blue sky above the wall, between two black cypresses, a slender
brown Campanile--furthest of all a glimpse of Sabine mountains. The air was
heavy with the scent of the roses, with the heat that announced the coming
June, with that indefinable meaning and magic, which is Rome.
Lucy drooped and was silent. The young Count Fioravanti however was not the
person either to divine oppression in another or to feel it for himself.
He sat with his hat on the back of his head, smoking and twisting his
cane, displaying to the fullest advantage those china-blue eyes, under
the blackest of curls, which made him so popular in Rome. His irregular
and most animated face was full of talent and wilfulness. He liked Madame
Variani, and thought the American girl handsome. But it mattered very
little to him with whom he talked; he could have chattered to a tree-stump.
He was over-flowing with the mere interest and jollity of life.
'Have you known Mr. Manisty long?' he asked of Lucy, while his gay look
followed the Professor and his captive.
'I have been staying with them for six weeks at Marinata.'
'What--to finish the book?' he said, laughing.
'Mr. Manisty hoped to finish it.'
The Count laughed again, more loudly and good-humouredly, and shook his
'Oh! he won't finish it. It's a folly! And I know, for I made him read some
of it to me and my sister. No; it is a strange case--is Manisty's. Most
Englishmen have two sides to their brain--while we Latins have only one.
But Manisty is like a Latin--he has only one. He takes a whim, and then
he must cut and carve the world to it. But the world is tough--_et ca ne
marche pas_! We can't go to ruin to please him. Italy is not falling to
pieces--not at all. This war has been a horror--but we shall get through.
And there will be no revolution. The people in the streets won't cheer the
King and Queen for a little bit--but next year, you will see, the House
of Savoy will be there all the same. And he thinks that our priests will
destroy us. Nothing of the sort. We can manage our priests!'
Madame Variani made a gesture of dissent. Her heavy, handsome face was
turned upon him rather sleepily, as though the heat oppressed her. But her
slight frown betrayed, to anyone who knew her, alert attention.
'We can, I say!' cried the Count, striking his knee. 'Besides, the battle
is not ranged as Manisty sees it. There are priests, and priests. Up in
my part of the world the older priests are all right. We landowners who
go with the monarchy can get on with them perfectly. Our old Bishop is a
dear: but it is the young priests, fresh from the seminaries--I grant you,
they're a nuisance! They swarm over us like locusts, ready for any bit of
mischief against the Government. But the Government will win!--Italy will
win! Manisty first of all takes the thing too tragically. He doesn't see
the farce in it. We do. We Italians understand each other. Why, the Vatican
raves and scolds--and all the while, as the Prefect of Police told me only
the other day, there is a whole code of signals ready between the police
headquarters and a certain window of the Vatican; so that directly they
want help against the populace they can call us in. And after that function
the other day--where I saw you, Mademoiselle'--he bowed to Lucy--'one of
the first things the Vatican did was to send their thanks to the Government
for having protected and policed them so well. No; Manisty is in the
clouds.' He laughed good-humouredly. 'We are half acting all the time. The
Clericals must have their politics, like other people--only they call it
'But your poor starved peasants--and your corruption--and your war?' said
She spoke with energy, frowning a little as though something had nettled
her. 'She is like a beautiful nun,' thought the young man, looking with
admiration at the austere yet charming face.
'Oh! we shall pull through,' he said, coolly. 'The war was an
abomination--a misery. But we shall learn from it. It will no more ruin us
than a winter storm can ruin the seed in the ground. Manisty is like all
the other clever foreigners who write dirges about us--they don't feel the
life-blood pulsing through the veins as we landowners do.' He flung out his
clasped hand in a dramatic gesture. 'Come and live with us for a summer on
one of our big farms near Mantua--and you shall see. My land brings me just
double what it brought my father!--and our contadini are twice as well off.
There! that's in our starving Italy--in the north of course, mind you!'
He threw himself back, smoking furiously.
'Optimist!' said a woman's voice.
They looked round to see the Marchesa Fazzoleni upon them. She stood
smiling, cigarette in hand, a tall woman, still young--though she was the
mother of five robust children. Her closely-fitting black dress somehow
resembled a riding-habit; her grey gauntletted gloves drawn to the elbow,
her Amazon's hat with its plume, the alertness and grace of the whole
attitude, the brilliancy of her clear black eye--all these carried with
them the same suggestions of open-air life, of health of body and mind--of
a joyous, noble, and powerful personality.
'Look well at her,' the Ambassador had said to Lucy as they stepped into
the garden after luncheon. 'She is one of the mothers of the new Italy.
She is doing things here--things for the future--that in England it would
take twenty women to do. She has all the practical sense of the north; and
all the subtlety of the south. She is one of the people who make me feel
that Italy and England have somehow mysterious affinities that will work
themselves out in history. It seems to me that I could understand all her
thoughts--and she mine--if it were worth her while. She is a modern of the
moderns; and yet there is in her some of the oldest stuff in the world. She
belongs, it is true, to a nation in the making--but that nation, in its
earlier forms, has already carried the whole weight of European history!'
And Lucy, looking up to the warm, kind face, felt vaguely comforted and
calmed by its mere presence. She made room for the Marchesa beside her.
But the Marchesa declared that she must go home and drag one of her
boys, who was studying for an examination, out for exercise. 'Oh! these
examinations--they are _horrors_!' she said, throwing up her hands.
'No--these poor boys!--and they have no games like the English boys. But
you were speaking about the war--about our poor Italy?'
She paused. She laid her hand on Lucy's shoulder and looked down into the
girl's face. Her eyes became for a moment veiled and misty, as though
ghosts passed before them--the grisly calamities and slaughters of the war.
Then they cleared and sparkled.
'I tell you, Mademoiselle,' she said slowly, in her difficult picturesque
English, 'that what Italy has done in forty years is colossal!--not to be
believed! You have taken a hundred years--you!--to make a nation, and you
have had a big civil war. Forty years--not quite!--since Cavour died. And
all that time Italy has been like that cauldron--you remember?--into which
they threw the members of that old man who was to become young. There has
been a bubbling, and a fermenting! And the scum has come up--and up. And it
comes up still--and the brewing goes on. But in the end the young strong
nation will step forth. Now Mr. Manisty--oh! I like Mr. Manisty very
well!--but he sees only the ugly gases and the tumult of the cauldron. He
has no idea--'
'Oh! Manisty,' said the young Count, flinging away his cigarette; 'he is a
_poseur_ of course. His Italian friends don't mind. He has his English fish
to fry. _Sans cela_--!'
He bent forward, staring at Lucy in a boyish absent-mindedness which was no
discourtesy, while his hat slipped further down the back of his curly head.
His attitude was all careless good-humour; yet one might have felt a touch
of southern passion not far off.
'No; his Italian friends don't mind,' said Madame Variani. 'But his English
friends should look after him. Everybody should be angry wid som-thin--it
is good for the character; but Mr. Manisty is angry wid too many things.
That is stupid--that is a waste of time.'
'His book is a blunder,' said Fioravanti with decision. 'By the time it is
out, it will look absurd. He says we have become atheists, because we don't
let the priests have it all their own way. Bah! we understand these gentry
better than he does. Why! my father was all for the advance on Rome--he was
a member of the first Government after 1870--he wouldn't give way to the
Clericals an inch in what he thought was for the good of the country. But
he was the most religious man I ever knew. He never missed any of the old
observances in which he had been brought up. He taught us the same. Every
Sunday after Mass he read the Gospel for the day to us in Italian, and
explained it. And when he was dying he sent for his old parish priest--who
used to denounce him from the pulpit and loved him all the same! "And don't
make any secret of it!" he said to me. "Bring him in openly--let all the
world see. _Non crubesco evangelium!_"'
The young man stopped--reddened and a little abashed by his own eloquence.
But Madame Variani murmured--still with the same aspect of a shrewd and
sleepy cat basking in the sun--
'It is the same with all you Anglo-Saxons. The North will never understand
the South--never! You can't understand our _a peu pres_. You think
Catholicism is a tyranny--and we must either let the priests oppress us, or
throw everything overboard. But it is nothing of the kind. We take what we
want of it, and leave the rest. But you!--if you come over to us, that is
another matter! You have to swallow it all. You must begin even with Adam
'Ah! but what I can't understand,' said Fioravanti, 'is how Mrs. Burgoyne
allowed it. She ought to have given the book another direction--and she
could. She is an extremely clever woman! She knows that caricature is not
'But what has happened to Mrs. Burgoyne?' said the Marchesa to Lucy,
throwing up her hands, 'Such a change! I was so distressed--'
'You think she looks ill?' said Lucy quickly.
Her troubled eyes sought those kind ones looking down upon her almost in
appeal. Instinctively the younger woman, far from home and conscious of a
hidden agony of feeling, threw herself upon the exquisite maternity that
breathed from the elder. 'Oh! if I could tell you!--if you could advise
me!' was the girl's unspoken cry.
'She looks terribly ill--to me,' said the Marchesa, gravely. 'And the
winter had done her so much good. We all loved her here. It is deplorable.
Perhaps the hill climate has been too cold for her, Mademoiselle?'
* * * * *
Lucy walked hurriedly back to the lawn to rejoin her companions. The flood
of misery within made movement the only relief. Some instinct of her own
came to the aid of the Marchesa's words, helped them to sting all the more
deeply. She felt herself a kind of murderer.
Suddenly as she issued blindly from the tangle of the rose-garden she came
upon Eleanor Burgoyne talking gaily, surrounded by a little knot of people,
mostly older men, who had found her to-day, as always, one of the most
charming and distinguished of companions.
Lucy approached her impetuously.
Oh! how white and stricken an aspect--through what a dark eclipse of pain
the eyes looked out!
'Ought we not to be going?' Lucy whispered in her ear. 'I am sure you are
Eleanor rose. She took the girl's hand in a clinging grasp, while she
turned smiling to her neighbour the Dane:
'We must be moving to the Villa Borghese--some friends will be meeting us
there. Our train does not go for a long, long while.'
'Does any Roman train ever go?' said Doctor Jensen, stroking his
straw-coloured beard. 'But why leave us, Madame? Is not one garden as good
as another? What spell can we invent to chain you here?'
He bowed low, smiling fatuously, with his hand on his heart. He was one of
the most learned men in the world. But about that he cared nothing. The
one reputation he desired was that of a 'sad dog'--a terrible man with the
ladies. That was the paradox of his existence.
Eleanor laughed mechanically; then she turned to Lucy.
'Come!' she said in the girl's ear, and as they walked away she half closed
her eyes against the sun, and Lucy thought she heard a gasp of fatigue. But
she spoke lightly.
'Dear, foolish, old man! he was telling me how he had gone back to the
Hermitage Library at St. Petersburg the other day to read, after thirty
years. And there in a book that had not been taken down since he had used
it last he found a leaf of paper and some pencil words scribbled on it by
him when he was a youth--"my own darling." "And if I only knew now _vich_
darling!" he said, looking at me and slapping his knee. "Vich darling"!'
Eleanor repeated, laughing extravagantly. Then suddenly she wavered. Lucy
instinctively caught her by the arm, and Eleanor lent heavily upon her.
'Dear Mrs. Burgoyne--you are not well,' cried the girl, terrified. 'Let us
go to a hotel where you can rest till the train goes--or to some friend.'
Eleanor's face set in the effort to control herself--she drew her hand
across her eyes. 'No, no, I am well,' she said, hurriedly. 'It is the
sun--and I could not eat at luncheon. The Ambassador's new cook did not
tempt me. And besides'--she suddenly threw a look at Lucy before which Lucy
shrank--'I am out of love with myself. There is one hour yesterday which I
wish to cancel--to take back. I give up everything--everything.'
They were advancing across a wide lawn. The Ambassador and Mrs. Swetenham
were coming to meet them. The Ambassador, weary of his companion, was
looking with pleasure at the two approaching figures, at the sweep of
Eleanor's white dress upon the grass, and the frame made by her black lace
parasol for the delicacy of her head and neck.
Meanwhile Eleanor and Lucy saw only each other. The girl coloured proudly.
She drew herself erect.
'You cannot give up--what would not be taken--what is not desired,' she
said fiercely. Then, in another voice: 'But please, please let me take care
of you! Don't let us go to the Villa Borghese!'
She felt her hand pressed passionately, then dropped.
'I am all right,' said Eleanor, almost in her usual voice. '_Eccellenza_!
we must bid you good-bye--have you seen our gentleman?'
'_Ecco_,' said the Ambassador, pointing to Manisty, who, in company with
the American Monsignore, was now approaching them. 'Let him take you out of
the sun at once--you look as though it were too much for you.'
Manisty, however, came up slowly, in talk with his companion. The frowning
impatience of his aspect attracted the attention of the group round the
Ambassador. As he reached them, he said to the priest beside him--
'You know that he has withdrawn his recantation?'
'Ah! yes'--said the Monsignore, raising his eyebrows, 'poor fellow!'--
The mingled indifference and compassion of the tone made the words bite.
'I hear he was promised consideration,' he said quickly.
'Then he got it,' was the priest's smiling reply.
'He was told that his letter was not for publication. Next morning it
appeared in the _Osservatore Romano_.'
'Oh no!--impossible! Your facts are incorrect.'
The Monsignore laughed, in unperturbed good humour. But after the laugh,
the face reappeared, hard and a little menacing, like a rock that has been
masked by a wave. He watched Manisty for a moment silently.
'Where is he?' said Manisty abruptly.
'Are you talking of Father Benecke'?' said the Ambassador. 'I heard of him
yesterday. He has gone into the country, but he gave me no address. He
wished to be undisturbed.'
'A wise resolve'--said the Monsignore, holding out his hand. 'Your
Excellency must excuse me. I have an audience of his Holiness at three
He made his farewells to the ladies with Irish effusion, and departed. The
Ambassador looked curiously at Manisty. Then he fell back with Lucy.
'It will be a column to-night,' he said with depression. 'Why didn't
you stand by me? I showed Mrs. Swetenham my pictures--my beauties--my
ewe-lambs--that I have been gathering for twenty years--that the National
Gallery shall have, when I'm gone, if it behaves itself. And she asked me
if they were originals, and took my Luini for a Raphael! Yes! it will be
a column,' said the Ambassador pensively. Then, with a brisk change, he
looked up and took the hand that Lucy offered him.
'Good-bye--good-bye! You won't forget my prescription?--nor me?' said the
old man, smiling and patting her hand kindly. 'And remember!'--he bent
towards her, dropping his voice with an air in which authority and
sweetness mingled--'send Mr. Manisty home!'
He felt the sudden start in the girl's hand before he dropped it. Then he
turned to Manisty himself.
'Ah! Manisty, here you are. Your ladies want to leave us.'
Manisty made his farewells, and carried Lucy off. But as they walked
towards the house he said not a word, and Lucy, venturing a look at him,
saw the storm on his brow, the stiffness of the lips.
'We are going to the Villa Borghese, are we not?' she said timidly--'if
Mrs. Burgoyne ought to go?'
'We must go somewhere, I suppose,' he said, stalking on before her. 'We
can't sit in the street.'
The party returning to Marinata had two hours to spend in the gallery and
garden of the Villa Borghese. Of the pictures and statues of the palace, of
the green undulations, the stone pines, the _tempietti_ of the garden, Lucy
afterwards had no recollection. All that she remembered was flight on her
part, pursuit on Manisty's, and finally a man triumphant and a girl brought
It was in a shady corner of the vast garden, where hedges of some fragrant
yellow shrub shut in the basin of a fountain, surrounded by a ring of
languid nymphs, that Lucy at last found herself face to face with Manisty,
and knew that she must submit.
'I do not understand how I have missed Mrs. Burgoyne,' she said hastily,
looking round for her companion Mrs. Elliot, who had just left her to
overtake her brother and go home; while Lucy was to meet Eleanor and Mr.
Neal at this rendezvous.
Manisty looked at her with his most sparkling, most determined air.
'You have missed her--because I have misled her.' Then, as Lucy drew back,
he hurried on,--'I cannot understand, Miss Foster, why it is that you
have constantly refused all yesterday evening--all to-day--to give me the
opportunity I desired! But I, too, have a will,--and it has been roused!
'I don't understand,' said Lucy, growing white.
'Let me explain, then,' said Manisty, coolly. 'Miss Foster, two nights ago
you were attacked,--in danger--under my roof, in my care. As your host, you
owe it to me, to let me account and apologise for such things--if I can.
But you avoid me. You give me no chance of telling you what I had done
to protect you--of expressing my infinite sorrow and regret. I can only
imagine that you resent our negligence too deeply even to speak of it--that
you cannot forgive us!'
'Forgive!' cried Lucy, fairly taken aback. 'What could I have to forgive,
Mr. Manisty?--what can you mean?'
'Explain to me then,' said he, unflinching, 'why you have never had a kind
word for me, or a kind look, since this happened. Please sit down, Miss
Foster'--he pointed to a marble bench close beside her--'I will stand here.
The others are far away. Ten minutes you owe me--ten minutes I claim.'
Lucy sat down, struggling to maintain her dignity and presence of mind.
'I am afraid I have given you very wrong ideas of me,' she said, throwing
him a timid smile. 'I of course have nothing to forgive anybody--far, far
the contrary. I know that you took all possible pains that no harm should
happen to me. And through you--no harm did happen to me.'
She turned away her head, speaking with difficulty. To both that moment
of frenzied struggle at the dining-room door was almost too horrible for
remembrance. And through both minds there swept once more the thrill of her
call to him--of his rush to her aid.
'You knew'--he said eagerly, coming closer.
'I knew--I was in danger--that but for you--perhaps--your poor sister--'
'Oh! don't speak of it,' he said, shuddering.
And leaning over the edge of one of the nymphs' pedestals, beside her, he
stared silently into the cool green water.
'There,' said Lucy tremulously, 'you don't want to speak of it. And that
was my feeling. Why should we speak of it any more? It must be such a
horrible grief to you. And I can't do anything to help you and Miss
Manisty. It would be so different if I could.'
'You can,--you must--let me tell you what I had done for your safety that
night,' he said firmly, interrupting her. 'I had made such arrangements
with Dalgetty--who is a strong woman physically--I had so imprisoned my
poor sister, that I could not imagine any harm coming to you or any other
of our party. When my aunt said to me that night before she went to bed
that she was afraid your door was unsafe, I laughed--"That doesn't matter!"
I said to her. I felt quite confident. I sat up all night,--but I was not
anxious,--and I suppose it was that which at last betrayed me into sleep.
Of course, the fatal thing was that we none of us knew of the chloroform
she had hidden away.'
Lucy fidgetted in distress.
'Please--please--don't talk as though anyone were to blame--as though there
were anything to make excuses for--'.
'How should there not be? You were disturbed--attacked--frightened. You
He drew in his breath. Then he bent over her.
'Tell me,' he said in a low voice, 'did she attack you in your room?'
Lucy hesitated. 'Why will you talk about it?' she said despairingly.
'I have a right to know.'
His urgent imperious look left her no choice. She felt his will, and
yielded. In very simple words, faltering yet restrained, she told the whole
story. Manisty followed every word with breathless attention.
'My God!' he said, when she paused, 'my God!' And he hid his eyes with his
hand a moment. Then--
'You knew she had a weapon?' he said.
'I supposed so,' she said quietly. 'All the time she was in my room, she
kept her poor hand closed on something.'
'Her poor hand!'--the little phrase seemed to Manisty extraordinarily
touching. There was a moment's pause--then he broke out:
'Upon my word, this has been a fine ending to the whole business. Miss
Foster, when you came out to stay with us, you imagined, I suppose, that
you were coming to stay with friends? You didn't know much of us; but after
the kindness my aunt and I had experienced from your friends and kinsfolk
in Boston--to put it in the crudest way--you might have expected at least
that we should welcome you warmly--do all we could for you--take you
everywhere--show you everything?'
Lucy coloured--then laughed.
'I don't know in the least what you mean, Mr. Manisty! I knew you would be
kind to me; and of course--of course--you have been!'
She looked in distress first at the little path leading from the fountain,
by which he barred her exit, and then at him. She seemed to implore, either
that he would let her go, or that he would talk of something else.
'Not I,' he said with decision. 'I admit that since Alice appeared on the
scene you have been my chief anxiety. But before that, I treated you, Miss
Foster, with a discourtesy, a forgetfulness, that you can't, that you
oughtn't to forget; I made no plans for your amusement; I gave you none of
my time. On your first visit to Rome, I let you mope away day after day
in that stifling garden, without taking a single thought for you. I even
grudged it when Mrs. Burgoyne looked after you. To be quite, quite frank,
I grudged your coming to us at all. Yet I was your host--you were in my
care--I had invited you. If there ever was an ungentlemanly boor, it was I.
There! Miss Foster, there is my confession. Can you forgive it? Will you
give me another chance?'
He stood over her, his broad chest heaving with an agitation that, do what
she would, communicated itself to her. She could not help it. She put out
her hand, with a sweet look, half smiling, half appealing--and he took it.
Then, as she hurriedly withdrew it, she repeated:
'There is nothing--nothing--to forgive. You have _all_ been good to me. And
as for Mrs. Burgoyne and Aunt Pattie, they have been just angels!'
'I don't grudge them their wings. But I should like to grow a pair of my
own. You have a fortnight more with us--isn't it so?' Lucy started and
looked down. 'Well, in a fortnight, Miss Foster, I could yet redeem myself;
I could make your visit really worth while. It is hot, but we could get
round the heat. I have many opportunities here--friends who have the keys
of things not generally seen. Trust yourself to me. Take me for a guide, a
professor, a courier! At last I will give you a good time!'
He smiled upon her eagerly, impetuously. It was like him, this plan
for mending all past errors in a moment, for a summary and energetic
repentance. She could hardly help laughing; yet far within her heart made a
leap towards him--beaten back at once by its own sad knowledge.
She turned away from him--away from his handsome face, and that touch in
him of the 'imperishable child,' which moved and pleased her so. Playing
with some flowers on her lap, she said shyly--
'Shall I tell you what you ought to do with this fortnight?'
'Tell me,' said Manisty, stooping towards her. It was well for her that
she could not see his expression, as he took in with covetous delight her
maidenly simpleness and sweetness.
'Oughtn't you--to finish the book? You could--couldn't you? And Mrs.
Burgoyne has been so disappointed. It makes one sad to see her.'
Her words gave her courage. She looked at him again with a grave, friendly
Manisty drew himself suddenly erect. After a pause, he said in another
voice: 'I thought I had explained to you before that the book and I had
reached a _cul de sac_--that I no longer saw my way with it.'
Lucy thought of the criticisms upon it she had heard at the Embassy, and
was uncomfortably silent.
'Miss Foster!' said Manisty suddenly, with determination.
Lucy's heart stood still.
'I believe I see the thought in your mind. Dismiss it! There have been
rumours in Rome--in which even perhaps my aunt has believed. They are
unjust--both to Eleanor and to me. She would be the first to tell you so.'
'Of course,' said Lucy hurriedly, 'of course,'--and then did not know what
to say, torn as she was between her Puritan dread of falsehood, her natural
woman's terror of betraying Eleanor, and her burning consciousness of the
man and the personality beside her.
'No!--you still doubt. You have heard some gossip and you believe it.'
He threw away the cigarette with which he had been playing, and came to sit
down on the curving marble bench beside her.
'I think you must listen to me,' he said, with a quiet and manly force that
became him. 'The friendship between my cousin and me has been unusual,
I know. It has been of a kind that French people, rather than English,
understand; because for French people literature and conversation are
serious matters, not trifles that don't count, as they are with us. She has
been all sweetness and kindness to me, and I suppose that she, like a good
many other people, has found me an unsatisfactory and disappointing person
to work with!'
'She is so ill and tired,' said Lucy, in a low voice.
'Is she?' said Manisty, concerned. 'But she never can stand heat. She
will pick up when she gets to England.--But now suppose we grant all my
enormities. Then please tell me what I am to do? How am I to appease
Eleanor?--and either transform the book, to satisfy Neal,--or else bury it
decently? Beastly thing!--as if it were worth one tithe of the trouble it
has cost her and me. Yet there are some uncommon good things in it too!' he
said, with a change of tone.
'Well, if you did bury it,' said Lucy, half laughing, yet trying to
pluck up courage to obey the Ambassador,--'what would you do? Go back to
England?--and--and to your property?'
'What! has that dear old man been talking to you?' he said with amusement.
'I thought as much. He has snubbed my views and me two or three times
lately. I don't mind. He is one of the privileged. So the Ambassador thinks
I should go home?'
He threw one arm over the back of the seat, and threw her a brilliant
hectoring look which led her on.
'Don't people in England think so too?'
'Yes--some of them,' he said considering. 'I have been bombarded with
letters lately as to politics, and the situation, and a possible new
constituency. A candid friend says to me this morning, "Hang the
Italians!--what do you know about them,--and what do they matter? English
people can only be frightened by their own bogies. Come home, for God's
sake! There's a glorious fight coming, and if you're not in it, you'll be a
'I daren't be as candid as that!' said Lucy, her face quivering with
Their eyes met in a common flash of laughter. Then Manisty fell heavily
back against the seat.
'What have I got to go home for?' he said abruptly, his countenance
Lucy's aspect changed too, instantly. She waited.
Manisty's lower jaw dropped a little. A sombre bitterness veiled the eyes
fixed upon the distant vistas of the garden.
'I hate my old house,' he said slowly. 'Its memories are intolerable.
My father was a very eminent person, and had many friends. His children
saw nothing of him, and had not much reason to love him. My mother died
there--of an illness it is appalling to think of. No, no--not Alice's
illness!--not that. And now, Alice,--I should see her ghost at every
Lucy watched him with fascination. Every note of the singular voice, every
movement of the picturesque ungainly form, already spoke to her, poor
child, with a significance that bit these passing moments into memory, as
an etcher's acid bites upon his plate.
'Oh! she will recover!' she said, softly, leaning towards him
'No!--she will never recover,--never! And if she did, she and I have long
ceased to be companions and friends. No, Miss Foster, there is nothing
to call me home,--except politics. I may set up a lodging in London, of
course. But as for playing the country squire--' He laughed, and shrugged
his shoulders. 'No,--I shall let the place as soon as I can. Anyway, I
shall never return to it--alone!'
He turned upon her suddenly. The tone in which the last word was spoken,
the steady ardent look with which it was accompanied, thrilled the hot May
A sickening sense of peril, of swift intolerable remorse, rushed upon Lucy.
It gave her strength.
She changed her position, and spoke with perfect self-possession, gathering
up her parasol and gloves.
'We really must find the others, Mr. Manisty. They will wonder what has
become of us.'
She rose as she spoke. Manisty drew a long breath as he still sat
observing her. Her light, cool dignity showed him that he was either not
understood--or too well understood. In either case he was checked. He
took back his move; not without a secret pleasure that she was not too
yielding--too much of the _ingenue_!
'We shall soon discover them,' he said carelessly, relighting his
cigarette. 'By the way, I saw what company you were in after lunch! You
didn't hear any good of the book or me--there!'
'I liked them all,' she said with spirit. 'They love their country, and
they believe in her. Where, Mr. Manisty, did you leave Mr. Neal and Mrs.
'I will show you,' he said, unwillingly. 'They are in a part of the garden
you don't know.'
Her eye was bright, a little hostile. She moved resolutely forward, and
Manisty followed her. Both were conscious of a hidden amazement. But a
minute, since he had spoken that word, looked that look? How strange a
thing is human life! He would not let himself think,--talked of he hardly
'They love their country, you say? Well, I grant you that particular group
has pure hands, and isn't plundering their country's vitals like the
rest--as far as I know. A set of amiable dreamers, however, they appear to
me; fiddling at small reforms, while the foundations are sinking from under
them. However, you liked them,--that's enough. Now then, when and how shall
we begin our campaign? Where will you go?--what will you see? The crypt of
St. Peter's?--that wants a Cardinal's order. The Villa Albani?--closed to
the public since the Government laid hands on the Borghese pictures,--but
it shall open to you. The great function at the Austrian Embassy next week
with all the Cardinals? Give me your orders,--it will be hard if I can't
But she was silent, and he saw that she still hurried, that her look
sought the distance, that her cheek was flushed. Why? What new thing had
he said to press--to disturb her? A spark of emotion passed through him.
He approached her gently, persuasively, as one might approach a sweet,
You'll come? You'll let me make amends?'
'I thought,' said Lucy, uncertainly, 'that you were going home directly--at
the beginning of June. Oh! please, Mr. Manisty, will you look? Is that Mrs.
'They are not in that direction.--As to my going home, Miss Foster, I have
no engagements that I cannot break.'
The wounded feeling in the voice was unmistakable. It hurt her ear.
'I should love to see all those things,' she said vaguely, still trying, as
it seemed to him, to outstrip him, to search the figures in the distance;
'but--but--plans are so difficult. Oh! that is--that is Mr. Neal!'
She began to run towards the approaching figure, and presently Manisty
could hear her asking breathlessly for Mrs. Burgoyne.
Manisty stood still. Then as they approached him, he said--
'Neal!--well met! Will you take these ladies to the station, or, at any
rate, put them in their cab? It is time for their train. I dine in Rome.'
He raised his hat formally to Lucy, turned, and went his way.
* * * * *
It was night at the villa.
Eleanor was in her room, the western room overlooking the olive-ground
and the Campagna, which Lucy had occupied for a short time on her first
It was about half an hour since Eleanor had heard Manisty's cab arrive, and
his voice in the library giving his orders to Alfredo. She and Lucy Foster
and Aunt Pattie had already dispersed to their rooms. It was strange that
he should have dined in town. It had been expressly arranged on their way
to Rome that he should bring them back.
Eleanor was sitting in a low chair beside a table that carried a paraffin
lamp. At her back was the window, which was open save for the sun-shutter
outside, and the curtains, both of which had been drawn close. A manuscript
diary lay on Eleanor's lap, and she was listlessly turning it over, with
eyes that saw nothing, and hands that hardly knew what they touched. Her
head, with its aureole of loosened hair, was thrown back against the chair,
and the crude lamplight revealed each sharpened feature with a merciless
plainness. She was a woman no longer young--ill--and alone.
By the help of the entries before her she had been living the winter over
How near and vivid it was,--how incredibly, tangibly near!--and yet as dead
as the Caesars on the Palatine.
'November 22. To-day we worked well. Three hours this morning--nearly three
this afternoon. The survey of the financial history since 1870 is nearly
finished. I could not have held out so long, but for his eagerness, for my
head ached, and last night it seemed to me that Rome was all bells, and
that the clocks never ceased striking.
'But how his eagerness carries one through, and his frank and generous
recognition of all that one does for him! Sometimes I copy and arrange;
sometimes he dictates; sometimes I just let him talk till he has got a page
or section into shape. Even in this handling of finance, you feel the flame
that makes life with him so exciting. It is absurd to say, as his enemies
do, that he has no steadiness of purpose. I have seen him go through the
most tremendous drudgery the last few weeks,--and then throw it all into
shape with the most astonishing ease and rapidity. And he is delightful to
work with. He weighs all I say. But no false politeness! If he doesn't like
it, he frowns and bites his lip, and tears me to pieces. But very often I
prevail, and no one can yield with a better grace. People here talk of his
vanity. I don't deny it--perhaps I think it part of his charm.
'He thinks too much of me, far, far too much.
'December 16. A luncheon at the Marchesa's. The Fioravantis were there, and
some Liberal Catholics. Manisty was attacked on all sides. At first he was
silent and rather sulky--it is not always easy to draw him. Then he fired
up,--and it was wonderful how he met them all in an Italian almost as quick
as their own. I think they were amazed: certainly I was.
'Of course I sometimes wish that it were conviction with him and not
policy. My heart aches, hungers sometimes--for another note. If instead
of this praise from outside, this cool praise of religion as the great
policeman of the world, if only his voice, his dear voice, spoke for one
moment the language of faith!--all barren tension and grief and doubt would
be gone then for me, at a breath. But it never, never does. And I remind
myself--painfully--that his argument holds whether the arguer believe
or no. "Somehow or other you must get conduct out of the masses or
society goes to pieces. But you can only do this through religion. What
folly, then, for nations like Italy and France to quarrel with the only
organisation which can ever get conduct out of the ignorant!--in the way
they understand!"--It is all so true. I know it by heart--there is no
answering it. But if instead he once said to me--"Eleanor, there is a
God!--and it is He that has brought us together in this life and work,--He
that will comfort you, and open new ways for me"--Ah then--then!--
* * * * *
'Christmas Day. We went last night to the midnight mass at Santa Maria
Maggiore. Edward is always incalculable at these functions; sometimes bored
to death, sometimes all enthusiasm and sympathy. Last night the crowd
jarred him, and I wished we had not come. But as we walked home through the
moonlit streets, full of people hurrying in and out of the churches, of
the pifferari with their cloaks and pipes--black and white nuns--brown
monks--lines of scarlet seminarists, and the like, he suddenly broke out
with the prayer of the First Christmas Mass--I must give it in English, for
I have forgotten the Latin:
'"_O God, who didst cause this most holy Night to be illumined by the
rising of the true Light, we beseech Thee that we who know on earth the
secret shining of His splendour may win in Heaven His eternal joys_."
'We were passing through Monte Cavallo, beside the Two Divine Horsemen who
saved Rome of old. The light shone on the fountains--it seemed as if the
two godlike figures were just about to leap, in fierce young strength, upon
'Edward stopped to look at them.
'"And we say that the world lives by Science! Fools! when has it lived by
anything else than Dreams--at Athens, at Rome, or Jerusalem?"
'We stayed by the fountains talking. And as we moved away, I said: "How
strange at my age to be enjoying Christmas for the first time!" And he
looked at me as though I had given him pleasure, and said with his most
delightful smile--"Who else should enjoy life if not you--kind, kind
'When I got home, and to my room, I opened my windows wide. Our apartment
is at the end of the Via Sistina, and has a marvellous view over Rome.
It was a gorgeous moon--St. Peter's, the hills, every dome and tower
radiantly clear. And at last it seemed to me that I was not a rebel and an
outlaw--that beauty and I were reconciled.
'Such peace in the night! It opened and took me in. Oh! my little, little
son!--I have had such strange visions of you all these last days. That
horror of the whirling river--and the tiny body--tossed and torn. Oh! my
God! my God!--has it not filled all my days and nights for eight years?
And now I see him so no more. I see him always carried in the arms of dim
majestic forms--wrapped close and warm. Sometimes the face that bends over
him is that of some great Giotto angel--sometimes, so dim and faint! the
pure Mother herself--sometimes the Hands that fold him in are marred. Is it
the associations of Rome--the images with which this work with Edward fills
my mind? Perhaps.
'But at least I am strangely comforted--some kind hand seems to be drawing
the smart from the deep deep wound. Little golden-head! you lie soft and
safe, but often you seem to me to turn your dear eyes--the baby-eyes that
still know all--to look out over the bar of heaven--to search for me--to
bid me be at peace, _at last_.
'February 20. How delicious is the first breath of the spring! The almond
trees are pink in the Campagna. The snow on the Sabine peaks is going. The
Piazza di Spagna is heaped with flowers--anemones and narcissus and roses.
And for the first time in my life I too feel the "Sehnsucht"--the longing
of the spring! At twenty-nine!'
'March 24, Easter week. I went to a wedding at the English church to-day.
Some barrier seems to have fallen between me and life. The bride--a dear
girl who has often been my little companion this winter--kissed me as she
was going up to take off her dress. And I threw my arms round her with such
a rush of joy. Other women have felt all these things ten years earlier
perhaps than I. But they are not less heavenly when they come late--into a
heart seared with grief.
'March 26. It is my birthday. From the window looking on the Piazza, I have
just seen Edward bargaining with the flower woman. Those lilacs and pinks
are for me--I know it! Already he has given me the little engraved emerald
I wear at my watch-chain. A little genius with a torch is cut upon it. He
said I was to take it as the genius of our friendship.
'I changed the orders for my dress to-day. I have discovered that black is
positively disagreeable to him. So Mathilda will have to devise something
'April 5. He is away at Florence, and I am working at some difficult points
for him--about some suppressed monasteries. I have asked Count B--, who
knows all about such things, to help me, and am working very hard. He comes
back in four days.
'April 9. He came back to-day. Such a gay and happy evening. When he saw
what I had done, he took both my hands, and kissed them impetuously.
"Eleanor, my queen of cousins!" And now we shall be at the villa directly.
And there will be no interruption. There is one visitor coming. But Aunt
Pattie will look after her. I think the book should be out in June. Of
course there are some doubtful things. But it must, it will have a great
effect.--How wonderfully well I have been lately! The doctor last week
looked at me in astonishment. He thought that the Shadow and I were to be
soon acquainted, when he saw me first!
'I hope that Edward will get as much inspiration from the hills as from
Rome. Every little change makes me anxious. Why should we change? Dear
beloved, golden Rome!--even to be going fourteen miles away from you
somehow tears my heart.'
* * * * *
Yes, there they were, those entries,--mocking, ineffaceable, for ever.
As she had read them, driving through all the memories they suggested,
like a keen and bitter wind that kills and blights the spring bloom,
there had pressed upon her the last memory of all,--the memory of this
forlorn, this intolerable day. Had Manisty ever yet forgotten her so
completely--abandoned her so utterly? She had simply dropped out of his
thoughts. She had become as much of a stranger to him again, as on her
first arrival at Rome. Nay, more! For when two people are first brought
into a true contact, there is the secret delightful sense on either side of
possibilities, of the unexplored. But when the possibilities are all known,
and all exhausted?
What had happened between him and Lucy Foster? Of course she understood
that he had deliberately contrived their interview. But as Lucy and she
came home together they had said almost nothing to each other. She had
a vision of their two silent figures in the railway-carriage side by
side,--her hand in Lucy's. And Lucy--so sad and white herself!--with the
furrowed brow that betrayed the inner stress of thought.
Had the crisis arrived?--and had she refused him? Eleanor had not dared to
Suddenly she rose from her chair. She clasped her hands above her head,
and began to walk tempestuously up and down the bare floor of her room. In
this creature so soft, so loving, so compact of feeling and of tears, there
had gradually arisen an intensity of personal claim, a hardness, almost
a ferocity of determination, which was stiffening and transforming the
whole soul. She could waver still--as she had wavered in that despairing,
anguished moment with Lucy in the Embassy garden. But the wavering would
soon be over. A jealousy so overpowering that nothing could make itself
heard against it was closing upon her like a demoniacal possession. Was it
the last effort of self-preservation?--the last protest of the living thing
against its own annihilation?
He was not to be hers--but this treachery, this wrong should be prevented.
She thought of Lucy in Manisty's arms--of that fresh young life against his
breast--and the thought maddened her. She was conscious of a certain terror
of herself--of this fury in the veins, so strange, so alien, so debasing.
But it did not affect her will.
Was Lucy's own heart touched? Over that question Eleanor had been racking
herself for days past. But if so it could be only a passing fancy. It made
it only the more a duty to protect her from Manisty. Manisty--the soul of
caprice and wilfulness--could never make a woman like Lucy happy. He would
tire of her and neglect her. And what would be left for Lucy--Lucy the
upright, simple, profound--but heartbreak?
Eleanor paused absently in front of the glass, and then looked at herself
with a start of horror. That face--to fight with Lucy's!
On the dressing-table there were still lying the two terra-cotta heads from
Nemi, the Artemis, and the Greek fragment with the clear brow and nobly
parted hair, in which Manisty had seen and pointed out the likeness to
Lucy. Eleanor recalled his words in the garden--his smiling, absorbed look
as the girl approached.
Yes!--it was like her. There was the same sweetness in strength, the same
adorable roundness and youth.
And that was the beauty that Eleanor had herself developed and made doubly
visible--as a man may free a diamond from the clay.
A mad impulse swept through her--that touch of kinship with the criminal
and the murderer that may reveal itself in the kindest and the noblest.
She took up the little mask, and, reaching to the window, she tore back the
curtains and pushed open the sun-shutters outside.
The night burst in upon her, the starry night hanging above the immensity
of the Campagna, and the sea. There was still a faint glow in the western
heaven. On the plain were a few scattered lights, fires lit, perhaps, by
wandering herdsmen against malaria. On the far edge of the land to the
south-west, a revolving light flashed its message to the Mediterranean and
the passing ships. Otherwise, not a sign of life. Below, a vast abyss of
shadow swallowed up the olive-garden, the road, and the lower slopes of the
Eleanor felt herself leaning out above the world, alone with her agony
and the balmy peace which mocked it. She lifted her arm, and, stretching
forward, she flung the little face violently into the gulf beneath. The
villa rose high above the olive-ground, and the olive-ground itself sank
rapidly towards the road. The fragment had far to fall. It seemed to
Eleanor that in the deep stillness she heard a sound like the striking of
a stone among thick branches. Her mind followed with a wild triumph the
breaking of the terra-cotta,--the shivering of the delicate features--their
burial in the stony earth.
With a long breath she tottered from the window and sank into her chair. A
horrible feeling of illness overtook her, and she found herself gasping for
breath. 'If I could only reach that medicine on my table!' she thought. But
she could not reach it. She lay helpless.
The door opened.
Was it a dream? She seemed to struggle through rushing waters back to land.
There was a low cry. A light step hurried across the room. Lucy Foster sank
on her knees beside her and threw her arms about her.
'Give me--those drops--on the table,' said Eleanor, with difficulty.
Lucy said not a word. Quietly, with steady hands, she brought and measured
the medicine. It was a strong heart-stimulant, and it did its work. But
while her strength came back, Lucy saw that she was shivering with cold,
and closed the window.
Then, silently, Lucy looked down upon the figure in the chair. She was
almost as white as Eleanor. Her eyes showed traces of tears. Her forehead
was still drawn with thought as it had been in the train.
Presently she sank again beside Eleanor.
'I came to see you, because I could not sleep, and I wanted to suggest a
plan to you. I had no idea you were ill. You should have called me before.'
Eleanor put out a feeble hand. Lucy took it tenderly, and laid it against
her cheek. She could not understand why Eleanor looked, at her with this
horror and wildness,--how it was that she came to be up, by this open
window, in this state of illness and collapse. But the discovery only
served an antecedent process--a struggle from darkness to light--which had
brought her to Eleanor's room.
She bent forward and said some words in Eleanor's ear.
Gradually Eleanor understood and responded. She raised herself piteously
in her chair. The two women sat together, hand locked in hand, their faces
near to each other, the murmur of their voices flowing on brokenly, for
nearly an hour.
Once Lucy rose to get a guide book that lay on Eleanor's table. And on
another occasion, she opened a drawer by Eleanor's direction, took out
a leather pocket-book and counted some Italian notes that it contained.
Finally she insisted on Eleanor's going to bed, and on helping her to
Eleanor had just sunk into her pillows, when a noise from the library
startled them. Eleanor looked up with strained eyes.
'It must be Mr. Manisty,' said Lucy hurriedly. 'He was out when I came
through the glass passage. The doors were all open, and his lamp burning.'
I am nearly sure that I heard him unbar the front door. I must wait now
till he is gone.'
They waited--Eleanor staring into the darkness of the room--till there had
been much opening and shutting of doors, and all was quiet again.
Then the two women clung to each other in a strange and pitiful
embrace--offered with passion on Lucy's side, accepted with a miserable
shame on Eleanor's--and Lucy slipped away.
'He was out?--in the garden?' said Eleanor to herself bewildered. And with
those questions on her lips, and a mingled remorse and fever in her blood,
she lay sleepless waiting for the morning.
* * * * *
Manisty indeed had also been under the night, bathing passion and doubt in
its cool purity.
Again and again had he wandered up and down the terrace in the starlight,
proving and examining his own heart, raised by the growth of love to a more
manly and more noble temper than had been his for years.
What was in his way? His conduct towards his cousin? He divined what seemed
to him the scruple in the girl's sensitive and tender mind. He could only
meet it by truth and generosity--by throwing himself on Eleanor's mercy.
_She_ knew what their relations had been--she would not refuse him this
boon of life and death--the explanation of them to Lucy.
Unless! There came a moment when his restless walk was tormented with the
prickly rise of a whole new swarm of fears. He recalled that moment in
the library after the struggle with Alice, when Lucy was just awakening
from unconsciousness--when Eleanor came in upon them. Had she heard? He
remembered that the possibility of it had crossed his mind. Was she in
truth working against him--avenging his neglect--establishing a fatal
influence over Lucy?
His soul cried out in fierce and cruel protest. Here at last was the great
passion of his life. Come what would, Eleanor should not be allowed to
Absently he wandered down a little path leading from the terrace to the
_podere_ below, and soon found himself pacing the dim grass walks among
the olives. The old villa rose above him, dark and fortress-like. That was
no longer her room--that western corner? No--he had good cause to remember
that she had been moved, to the eastern side, beyond his library, beyond
the glass passage! Those were now Eleanor's windows, he believed.
Ah!--what was that sudden light? He threw his head back in astonishment.
One of the windows at which he had been looking was flung open, and in the
bright lamplight a figure appeared. It stooped forward. Eleanor! Something
fell close beside him. He heard the breaking of a branch from one of the
In his astonishment, he stood motionless, watching the window. It remained
open for a while. Then again some one appeared--not the same figure as
at first. A thrill of delight and trouble ran through him. He sent his
salutation, his homage through the night.
But the window shut--the light went out. All was once more still and dark.
Then he struck a match and groped under the tree close by him. Yes, there
was the fallen branch. But what had broken it? He lit match after match,
holding the light with his left hand while he turned over the dry ground
with his knife. Presently he brought up a handful of stones and earth, and
laid them on a bit of ruined wall close by. Stooping over them with his
dim, sputtering lights, he presently discovered some terra-cotta fragments.
His eye, practised in such things, detected them at once. They were the
fragments of a head, which had measured about three inches from brow to
The head, or rather the face, which he had given Eleanor at Nemi! The
parting of the hair above the brow was intact--so was the beautiful curve
of the cheek.
He knew it--and the likeness to Lucy. He remembered his words to Eleanor in
the garden. Holding the pieces in his hand, he went slowly back towards the
Thrown out?--flung out into the night--by Eleanor? But why? He thought--and
thought. A black sense of entanglement and fate grew upon him in the
darkness, as he thought of the two women together, in the midnight silence,
while he was pacing thus, alone. He met it with the defiance of newborn
passion--with the resolute planning of a man who feels himself obscurely
threatened, and realises that his chief menace lies, not in the power of
any outside enemy, but in the very goodness of the woman he loves.
'_Alas! there is no instinct like the heart--
The heart--which may be broken: happy they!
Thrice fortunate! who of that fragile mould,
The precious porcelain of human clay,
Break with the first fall: they can ne'er behold
The long year linked with heavy clay on day,
And all which must be borne, and never told._'
'Can you stand this heat?' said Lucy, anxiously.
'Oh, it will soon be cooler,' was Eleanor's languid reply.
She and Lucy sat side by side in a large and ancient landau; Mrs.
Burgoyne's maid, Marie Vefour, was placed opposite to them, a little sulky
and silent. On the box, beside the driver of the lean brown horses, was a
bright-eyed, neatly-dressed youth who was going with the ladies to Torre
They had just left the hill-town of Orvieto, had descended rapidly into
the valley lying to the south-west of its crested heights, and were now
mounting again on the further side. As they climbed higher and higher Lucy,
whose attention had been for a time entirely absorbed by the weariness
of the frail woman beside her, began to realise that they were passing
through a scene of extraordinary beauty. Her eyes, which had been drawn and
anxious, relaxed. She looked round her with a natural and rising joy.
To their left, as the road turned in zig-zag to the east, was the
marvellous town which the traveller who has seen Palestine likens to
Jerusalem, so steep and high and straight is the crest of warm brown
and orange precipice on which it stands, so deep the valleys round it,
so strange and complete the fusion between the city and the rock, so
conspicuous the place of the great cathedral, which is Orvieto, as the
Temple was Zion.
It was the sixth of June, and the day had been very hot. The road was deep
in thick white dust. The fig-trees and vines above the growing crops were
almost at a full leafiness; scarlet poppies grew thick among the corn; and
at the dusty edges of the road, wild roses of a colour singularly vivid and
deep, the blue flowers of love-in-a-mist, and some spikes of wine-coloured
gladiolus struck strangely on a northern eye.
Then as the road turned back again--behold! a great valley, opening out
westward, beyond Orvieto,--the valley of the Paglia; a valley with wooded
hills on either side, of a bluish-green colour, chequered with hill-towns
and slim campaniles and winding roads; and binding it all in one, the loops
and reaches of a full brown river. Heat everywhere!--on the blinding walls
of the buildings, on the young green of the vineyards, on the yellowing
corn, on the beautiful ragged children running barefoot and bareheaded
beside the carriage, on the peasants working among the vines, on the
drooping heads of the horses, on the brick-red face of the driver.
'If Madame had only stayed at Orvieto!' murmured Marie the maid, looking
back at the city and then at her mistress.
Eleanor smiled faintly and tapped the girl's hand.
'_Rassure-toi_, Marie! Remember how soon we made ourselves comfortable at
Marie shook her much be-curled head. Because it had taken them three months
to make the Marinata villa decently habitable, was that any reason for
tempting the wilderness again?
Lucy, too, had her misgivings. Nominally she was travelling, she supposed,
under Eleanor Burgoyne's chaperonage. Really she was the guardian of the
whole party, and she was conscious of a tender and anxious responsibility.
Already they had been delayed a whole week in Orvieto by Eleanor's
prostrate state. She had not been dangerously ill; but it had been clearly
impossible to leave doctor and chemist behind and plunge into the wilds. So
they had hidden themselves in a little Italian inn in a back street, and
the days had passed somehow.
* * * * *
Surely this hot evening and their shabby carriage and the dusty unfamiliar
road were all dream-stuff--an illusion from which she was to wake directly
and find herself once more in her room at Marinata, looking out on Monte
Yet as this passed across Lucy's mind, she felt again upon her face the
cool morning wind, as she and Eleanor fled down the Marinata hill in the
early sunlight, between six and seven o'clock,--through the streets of
Albano, already full and busy,--along the edge of that strange green crater
of Aricia, looking up to Pio Nono's great viaduct, and so to Cecchina, the
railway station in the plain.
An escape!--nothing else; planned the night before when Lucy's strong
commonsense had told her that the only chance for her own peace and
Eleanor's was to go at once, to stop any further development of the
situation, and avoid any fresh scene with Mr. Manisty.
She thought of the details--the message left for Aunt Pattie that they
had gone into Rome to shop before the heat; then the telegram 'Urgente,'
despatched to the villa after they were sure that Mr. Manisty must
have safely left it for that important field day of his clerical and
Ultramontane friends in Rome, in which he was pledged to take part; then
the arrival of the startled and bewildered Aunt Pattie at the small hotel
where they were in hiding--her conferences--first with Eleanor, then with
Strange little lady, Aunt Pattie! How much had she guessed? What had passed
between her and Mrs. Burgoyne? When at last she and Lucy stood together
hand in hand, the girl's sensitive spirit had divined in her a certain
stiffening, a certain diminution of that constant kindness which she had
always shown her guest. Did Aunt Pattie blame her? Had she cherished her
own views and secret hopes for her nephew and Mrs. Burgoyne? Did she feel
that Lucy had in some way unwarrantably and ambitiously interfered with
At any rate, Lucy had divined the unspoken inference 'You must have given
him encouragement!' and behind it--perhaps?--the secret ineradicable pride
of family and position that held her no fitting match for Edward Manisty.
Lucy's inmost mind was still sore and shrinking from this half-hour's
encounter with Aunt Pattie.
But she had not shown it. And at the end of it Aunt Pattie had kissed
her ruefully with tears--'It's _very_ good of you! You'll take care of
Lucy could hear her own answer--'Indeed, indeed, I will!'--and Aunt
Pattie's puzzled cry, 'If only someone would tell me what I'm to do with
And then she recalled her own pause of wonder as Aunt Pattie left
her--beside the hotel window, looking into the narrow side street. Why
was it 'very good of her'?--and why, nevertheless, was this dislocation
of all their plans felt to be somehow her fault and responsibility?--even
by herself? There was a sudden helpless inclination to laugh over the
topsy-turviness of it all.
And then her heart had fluttered in her breast, stabbed by the memory of
Eleanor's cry the night before. 'It is of no use to say that you know
nothing--that he has said nothing. _I_ know. If you stay, he will give you
no peace--his will is indomitable. But if you go, he will guess my part in
it. I shall not have the physical strength to conceal it--and he can be
a hard man when he is resisted! What am I to do? I would go home at
once--but--I might die on the way. Why not?'
And then--in painful gasps--the physical situation had been revealed to
her--the return of old symptoms and the reappearance of arrested disease.
The fear of the physical organism alternating with the despair of the
lonely and abandoned soul,--never could Lucy forget the horror of that
hour's talk, outwardly so quiet, as she sat holding Eleanor's hands in
hers, and the floodgates of personality and of grief were opened before
* * * * *
Meanwhile the patient, sweating horses climbed and climbed. Soon they were
at the brow of the hill, and looking back for their last sight of Orvieto.
And now they were on a broad tableland, a bare, sun-baked region where huge
flocks of sheep, of white, black, and brown goats wandered with ragged
shepherds over acres of burnt and thirsty pasture. Here and there were
patches of arable land and groups of tilling peasants in the wide untidy
expanse; once or twice too an _osteria_, with its bush or its wine-stained
tables under the shadow of its northern wall. But scarcely a farmhouse.