Part 9 out of 9
After half an hour or so Reggie came down to the convent gate to look out
for the ricketty diligence which had undertaken to bring his bag from
Here he was overtaken by Lucy Foster, who seemed to have hurried after him.
'How do you do, Mr. Brooklyn?' He turned sharply, and let her see a
countenance singularly discomposed.
They looked at each other a moment in silence. He noted with amazement her
growth in beauty, in expression. But the sadness of the mouth and eyes
tortured him afresh.
'What is the matter with her?' he said abruptly, dropping her timidly
'An old illness--mostly the heart,' she said, with difficulty. 'But I think
the lungs are wrong too.'
'Why did she come here--why did you let her?'
The roughness of his tone, the burning of his eyes made her draw back.
'It seemed the best thing to do,' she said, after a pause. 'Of course, it
was only done because she wished it.'
'Her people disapproved strongly!'
'She would not consider that.'
'And here in this rough place--in this heat--how have you been able to look
after her?' said the young man passionately.
'We have done what we could,' said the girl humbly. 'The Contessa Guerrini
has been very kind. We constantly tried to persuade her to let us take her
home; but she couldn't bring herself to move.'
'It was madness,' he said, between his teeth. 'And now--she looks as though
she were going to die!'
He gave a groan of angry grief. Lucy turned aside, leaning her arm against
the convent gateway, and her face upon it. The attitude was very touching;
but Brooklyn only stared at her in a blind wrath. 'What did you ever come
for?'--was his thought--'making mischief!--and robbing Eleanor of her
due!--It was a bad bargain she wanted,--but she might have been allowed to
have him in peace. What did you come meddling for?'
At that moment the door of the walled garden opened. Manisty came out into
the courtyard. Brooklyn looked from him to Lucy with a tight lip, a fierce
and flashing eye.
He watched them meet. He saw Lucy's quick change of attitude, the return
of hardness and composure. Manisty approached her. They discussed some
arrangement for the journey, in the cold tones of mere acquaintance. Not a
sign of intimacy in manner or words; beyond the forced intimacy of those
who have for the moment a common task.
When the short dialogue was over, Manisty mumbled something to Brooklyn
to the effect that Father Benecke had some dinner for him at the house at
the foot of the hill. But he did not wait for the young man's company. He
hurried off with the slouching and yet swinging gait characteristic of him,
his shoulders bent as it were under the weight of his great head. The young
man and the girl looked after him. Then Reggie turned impulsively.
'I suppose it was that beastly book--partly--that knocked her up. What's he
done with it?'
'He has given it up, I believe. I heard him say so to Eleanor.'
'And now I suppose he will condescend to go back to politics?'
'I know nothing of Mr. Manisty's affairs.'
The young man threw her a glance first of distrust--then of something
milder and more friendly. They turned back to the convent together, Lucy
answering his questions as to the place, the people, the Contessa, and so
A step, quick and gentle, overtook them.
It was Father Benecke who stopped and greeted them; a venerable figure, as
he bared his white head, and stood for a moment talking to Brooklyn under
the great sycamore of the courtyard. He had now resumed his clerical dress;
not, indeed, the soutane; but the common round collar, and long black coat
of the non-Catholic countries. The little fact, perhaps, was typical of a
general steadying and settling of his fortunes after the anguish of his
Lucy hardly spoke to him. His manner was soft and deprecating. And Miss
Foster stood apart as though she liked neither it nor him. When he left
them, to enter, the Convent, Reggie broke out:--
And how does _he_ come to be here? I declare it's the most extraordinary
tangle! What's he doing in there?'
He nodded towards the building, which seemed to be still holding the
sunlight of the day, so golden-white it shone under the evening sky, and
against the engirdling forest.
'Every night--almost--he comes to read with Eleanor.'
The young man stared.
'I say--is she--is she going to become a Catholic?'
'You forget--don't you? They've excommunicated Father Benecke.'
'My word!--Yes!--I forgot. My chief was awfully excited about it. Well, I'm
sure he's well quit of them!'--said the young man fervently. 'They're doing
their level best to pull this country about everybody's ears. And they'll
be the first to suffer--thank heaven!--if they do upset the coach. And so
it was Benecke that brought Manisty here?'
Lucy's movement rebuked him; made him feel himself an impertinent.
'I believe so,' she said coldly. 'Good-night, Mr. Brooklyn. I must go in.
There!--that's the stage coming down hill.'
He went to tell the driver to set down his bag at the house by the bridge,
and then he walked down the hill after the little rumbling carriage, his
hands thrust into the pockets of his blue flannel coat.
'She's not going to marry him!--I'll bet anything she's not! She's a
girl of the right sort--she's a brick, she is!'--he said to himself in a
miserable, a savage exultation, kicking the stones of the road furiously
down hill, after the disappearing diligence. 'So that's how a woman looks
when her heart's broken!--Oh! my God--Eleanor!--my poor, poor Eleanor!'
And before he knew what had happened to him, the young fellow found himself
sitting in the darkness by the roadside, grappling with honest tears, that
astonished and scandalised himself.
* * * * *
Next day he was still more bewildered by the position of affairs. Eleanor
was apparently so much better that he was disposed to throw scorn on his
own burst of grief under the starlight. That was the first impression. Then
she was apparently in Manisty's charge. Manisty sat with her, strolled with
her, read to her from morning till night. Never had their relations been
more intimate, more affectionate. That was the second impression.
Nevertheless, that some great change had taken place--above all in
Eleanor--became abundantly evident to the young man's quickened perception,
before another twenty-four hours had passed away. And with this new sense
returned the sense of irreparable tragedy. Eleanor stood alone--aloof from
them all. The more unremitting, the more delicate was Manisty's care, the
more tender was Lucy's devotion, the more plainly was Brooklyn aware of a
pathetic, a mysterious isolation which seemed already to bring the chill of
death into their little company.
The boy's pain flowed back upon him, ten-fold augmented. For seven or
eight years he had seen in Eleanor Burgoyne the woman of ideal distinction
by whom he judged all other women. The notion of falling in love with
her would have seemed to him ridiculous. But his wife, whenever he could
indulge himself in such a luxury, must be like her. Meanwhile he was most
naively, most boyishly devoted to her.
The sight of her now, environed as it were by the new and awful
possibilities which her state suggested, was a touch upon the young
man's nature, which seemed to throw all its energies into a fiery
fusion,--concentrating them upon a changed and poignant affection, which
rapidly absorbed his whole being. His pity for her was almost intolerable,
his bitterness towards Manisty almost beyond his control. All very well
for him now to be the guardian of her decline! Whatever might be the truth
about the American girl, it was plain enough that while she could still
reckon on the hopes and chances of the living, Eleanor had wasted her heart
and powers on an egotist, only to reap ingratitude, and the deadly fruit of
What chafed him most was that he had so little time with her; that Manisty
was always there. At last, two days after his arrival, he got an hour to
himself while Manisty and Father Benecke were walking, and Lucy was with
He began to question her eagerly as to the future. With whom was she to
pass the remainder of the year--and where?
'With my father and Aunt Pattie of course,' said Eleanor, smiling. 'It will
be Scotland I suppose till November--then London.'
He was silent for a few moments, the colour flooding his smooth fair face.
Then he took her hand firmly, and with words and gestures that became him
well, he solemnly asked her to marry him. He was not fit to tie her shoes;
but he could take care of her; he could be her courier, her travelling
companion, her nurse, her slave. He implored her to listen to him. What
was her father to her--he asked her plainly--when had he ever considered
her, as she should be considered? Let her only trust herself to him. Never,
never should she repent that she had done him such an inconceivable honour.
Hang the diplomatic service! He had some money; with her own it would be
enough. He would take her to Egypt or the Cape. That would revive her.
Eleanor heard him very calmly.
'You dear, dear boy!' she said, when he paused for lack of breath. 'You
remind me of that pretty story--don't you remember?--only it was the other
way about--of Lord Giffard and Lady Dufferin. He was dying--and she married
him--that she might be with him to the end. That's right--for the woman.
It's her natural part to be the nurse. Do you think I'm going to let _you_
ruin your career to come and nurse me? Oh! you foolish Reggie!'
But he implored her; and after a while she grew restless.
'There's only one thing in the world you can do for me!--' she said at
last, pushing him away from her in her agitation.
Then reaching out from her sofa, she opened a drawer in a little table
beside her, and took out a double photograph-case, folded together. She
opened it and held it out to him.
'There!--help me bring those two together, Reggie--and I'll give you even
more of my heart than I do now!'
He stared, open-mouthed and silent, at the portraits, at the delicate,
'Come here'--she said, drawing him back towards her. 'Come and let us
* * * * *
Meanwhile Manisty and Father Benecke were climbing the long hill, on the
return from their walk. There had been no full confidence between these
two. Manisty's pride would not allow it. There was too sharp humiliation
at present in the thought of that assurance with which he had spoken to
Benecke by the river-side.
He chose, therefore, when they were alone, rather to talk to the priest
of his own affairs, of his probable acceptance of the Old Catholic offers
which had been made him. Benecke did not resent the perfunctory manner of
his talk, the half-mind that he gave to it. The priest's shrewd humility
made no claims. He understood perfectly that the catastrophe of his own
life could have no vital interest for a man absorbed as Manisty was then
absorbed. He submitted to its being made a topic, a _passe-temps_.
Moreover, he forgave, he had always forgiven Manisty's dominant attitude
towards the forces which had trampled on himself. Often he had felt himself
the shipwrecked sailor sinking in the waves, while Manisty as the cool
spectator was hobnobbing with the wreckers on the shore. But nothing of
this affected his love for the man. He loved him as Vanbrugh Neal had
loved him; because of a certain charm, a certain indestructible youth and
irresponsibility at the very heart of him, which redeemed half his errors.
'Ah! my dear friend,' Manisty was saying as they neared the top of the
hill--with his largest and easiest gesture; 'of course you must go to Bonn;
you must do what they want you to do. The Old Catholics will make a great
deal of you. It might have been much worse.'
'They are very kind. But one transplants badly at sixty-six,' said the
priest mildly, thinking perhaps of his little home in the street of his
Bavarian town, of the pupils he should see no more, of the old sister who
had deserted him.
'_Your_ book has been the success,' said Manisty, impatiently. 'For you
said what you meant to say--you hit your mark. As for me--well, never mind!
I came out in too hot a temper; the men I saw first were too plausible; the
facts have been too many for me. No matter. It was an adventure like any
other. I don't regret it! In itself, it gave one some exciting moments,
and,--if I mistook the battle here--I shall still fight the English battle
all the better for the experience! _Allons donc_!--"To-morrow to fresh
woods and pastures new!"'
The priest looked at his handsome reckless air, with a mixture of
indulgence and repulsion. Manisty was 'an honourable man,' of many gifts.
If certain incalculable elements in his character could be controlled,
place and fame were probably before him. Compared with him, the priest
realised profoundly his own meaner, obscurer destiny. The humble servant
of a heavenly _patria_, of an unfathomable truth, is no match for these
intellectual soldiers of fortune. He does not judge them; he often feels
towards them a strange forbearance. But he would sooner die than change
* * * * *
As the convent came in sight, Manisty paused.
'You are going in to see her?'
The priest assented.
'Then I will come up later.'
They parted, and Father Benecke entered the convent alone.
Five days more! Would anything happen--or nothing? Manisty's wounded vanity
held him at arm's length; Miss Foster could not forgive him. But the
priest knew Eleanor's heart; and what else he did not know he divined. All
rested with the American girl, with the wounded tenderness, the upright
independence of a nature, which, as the priest frankly confessed to
himself, he did not understand.
He was not, indeed, without pricks of conscience with regard to her.
Supposing that she ultimately yielded? It was he who would have
precipitated the solution; he who would in truth have given her to Manisty.
Might he not, in so doing, have succoured the one life only to risk the
other? Were Manisty's the hands in which to place a personality so noble
and so trusting as that of the young girl?
But these qualms did not last long. As we have seen he had an invincible
tenderness for Manisty. And in his priestly view women were the adjuncts
and helpers of men. Woman is born to trouble; and the risks that she must
take grow with her. Why fret about the less or more? His own spiritual
courage would not have shrunk from any burden that love might lay upon it.
In his Christian stoicism--the man of the world might have called it a
Christian insensibility--he answered for Lucy.
Why suppose that she would shrink, or ought to shrink? Eve's burden is
anyway enormous; and the generous heart scorns a grudging foresight.
As to Mrs. Burgoyne--ah! there at least he might be sure that he had not
dared in vain. While Lucy was steel to him, Eleanor not only forgave him,
but was grateful to him with a frankness that only natures so pliant and so
sweet have the gift to show. In a few hours, as it seemed to him, she had
passed from fevered anguish into a state which held him often spellbound
before her, so consonant was it to the mystical instincts of his own life.
He thought of her with the tenderest reverence, the most sacred rejoicing.
Through his intercourse with her, moreover, while he guided and sustained
her, he had been fighting his own way back to the sure ground of spiritual
hope and confidence. God had not withdrawn from him the divine message! He
was about to step forth into the wilderness; but this light went with him.
On the stairs leading to Mrs. Burgoyne's rooms he met Reggie Brooklyn
coming down. The young man's face was pale and strained. The priest asked
him a question, but he ran past without an answer.
Eleanor was alone on the _loggia_. It was past eight o'clock, and the trees
in the courtyard and along the road were alive with fire-flies. Overhead
was the clear incomparable sky, faintly pricked with the first stars.
Someone was singing 'Santa Lucia' in the distance; and there was the
twanging of a guitar.
'Shall I go away?' he said, standing beside her. 'You wished me to come.
But you are fatigued.'
She gave him her hand languidly.
'Don't go, Father. But let me rest a little.'
'Pay me no attention,' he said. 'I have my office.'
He took out his breviary, and there was silence.
After a while, when he could no longer see even the red letters of his
little book and was trusting entirely to memory, Eleanor said, with a
sudden clearness of voice,--
A strange thing happened to me to-day, Father. I thought I would tell you.
For many many years I have been haunted by a kind of recurrent vision.
I think it must have come, to begin with, from the influence of a
clergyman--a very stern, imaginative, exacting man--who prepared me for
confirmation. Suddenly I see the procession of the Cross; the Lord in
front, with the Crown of Thorns dripping with blood; the thieves following;
the crowd, the daughters of Jerusalem. Nothing but that--but always very
vivid, the colours as bright as the colours of a Van Eyck--and bringing
with it an extraordinary sense of misery and anguish--of everything
that one wants to forget and refuse in life. The man to whom I trace it
was a saint, but a forbidding one. He made me afraid of him; afraid of
Christianity. I believed, but I never loved. And when his influence was
withdrawn, I threw it all behind me, in a great hurry. But this impression
remained--like a nightmare. I remember the day I was presented; there, in
the midst of all the feathers and veils and coronets, was the vision,--and
the tumult of ghastly and crushing thoughts that spread from it. I remember
hating Christianity that day; and its influence in the world.
'Last night, just before the dawn, I looked out; and there was the vision
again, sweeping over the forests, and up into the clouds that hung over
Monte Amiata. And I hated it no more. There was no accompanying horror.
It seemed to me as natural as the woods; as the just-kindling light. And
my own soul seemed to be rapt into the procession--the dim and endless
procession of all times and nations--and to pass away with it,--I knew not
Her voice fell softly, to a note of dream.
'That was an omen,' he said, after a pause, 'an omen of peace.'
'I don't know,--but it soothed! As to what may be _true_, Father,--you
can't be certain any more than I! But at least our dreams are true--to
_us_.'... 'We make the heaven we hope indeed our home! All to the good if
we wake up in it after all! If not, the dream will have had its own use
here. Why should we fight so with our ignorance? The point is, as to the
_quality_ of our dreams! The quality of mine was once all dark--all misery.
Now, there is a change,--like the change from London drizzle and rain to
the clearness of this sky, which gives beauty to everything beneath it.
But, for me, it is not the first time--no, not the first--'
The words were no longer audible, her hands pressed against each other, and
he traced that sudden rigidity in her dim face which meant that she was
defending herself against emotion.
'It is all true, my friend,' he said, bending over her,--'the gospel of
Christ. You would be happier if you could accept it simply.'
She opened her eyes, smiling, but she did not reply. She was always eager
that he should read and talk to her, and she rarely argued. But he never
felt that intellectually he had much hold upon her. Her mind seemed to
him to be moving elusively in a sphere remote and characteristic, where
he could seldom follow. _Anima naturaliter Christiana_; yet with a most
stoic readiness to face the great uncertainties, the least flattering
possibilities of existence: so she often appeared to him.
Presently she dragged herself higher in her chair to look at the moon
rising above the eastern mass of the convent.
'It all gives me such extraordinary pleasure!' she said, as though
in wonder--'The moon--the fire-flies--those beautiful woods--your
kindness--Lucy in her white dress, when I see her there at the door. I know
how short it must be; and a few weeks ago I enjoyed nothing. What mystery
are we part of?--that moves and changes without our will. I was much
touched, Father, by all you said to me that great, great day; but I was not
conscious of yielding to you; nor afterwards. Then, one night, I went to
sleep in one mind; I woke up in another. The "grace of God," you think?--or
the natural welling back of the river, little by little, to its natural
bed? After all I never wilfully hurt or defied anybody before--that I can
remember. But what are "grace" and "nature" more than words? There is a
Life,--which our life perpetually touches and guesses at--like a child
fingering a closed room in the dark. What else do we know?'
'We know a great deal more,' he said firmly. 'But I don't want to weary you
'You don't weary me. Ah!'--her voice leapt--'what _is_ true--is the "dying
to live" of Christianity. One moment, you have the weight of the world
upon you; the next, as it were, you dispose of the world and all in it.
Just an act of the will!--and the thing verifies itself like any chemical
experiment. Let me go on--go on!' she said, with mystical intensity. 'If
the clue is anywhere it is there,--so far my mind goes with you. Other
races perceive it through other forms. But Christ offered it to us.'
'My dear friend,' said the priest tenderly--'He offers us _Himself_.'
She smiled, most brightly.
'Don't quarrel with me--with my poor words. He is there--_there!_'--she
said under her breath.
And he saw the motion of her white fingers towards her breast.
Afterwards he sat beside her for some time in silence, thinking of the
great world of Rome, and of his long conflict there.
Form after form appeared to him of those men, stupid or acute, holy or
worldly, learned or ignorant, who at the heart of Catholicism are engaged
in that amazing struggle with knowledge which perhaps represents the only
condition under which knowledge--the awful and irresistible--can in the
long run safely incorporate itself with the dense mass of human life. He
thought of scholar after scholar crushed by the most incompetent of judges;
this man silenced by a great post, that man by exile, one through the best
of his nature, another through the worst. He saw himself sitting side
by side with one of the most-eminent theologians of the Roman Church;
he recalled the little man, black-haired, lively, corpulent, a trifle
underhung, with a pleasant lisp and a merry eye; he remembered the
incredible conversation, the sense of difficulty and shame under which he
had argued some of the common-places of biology and primitive history, as
educated Europe understands them; the half patronising, half impatient
glibness of the other.--
'Oh! you know better, my son, than I how to argue these things; you are
more learned, of course. But it is only a matter for the Catechism after
all. Obey, my friend, obey!--there is no more to be said.'
And his own voice--tremulous:
'I would obey if I could. But unhappy as I am, to betray truths that are as
evident to me as the sun in heaven would make me still unhappier. The fate
that threatens me is frightful. _Aber ich kann nicht anders_. The truth
holds me in a vice.'--
'Let me give you a piece of counsel. You sit too close to your books.
You read and read,--you spin yourself into your own views like a cocoon.
Travel--hear what others say--above all, go into retreat! No one need know.
It would do you much good.'
'Eminence, I don't only study; I pray and meditate; I take pains to hear
all that my opponents say. But my heart stands firm.'
'My son, the tribunal of the Pope is the tribunal of Christ. You are
judged; submit! If not, I am sorry--regret deeply--but the consequence is
And then his own voice, in its last wrestle--
'The penalty that approaches me appears to me more terrible the nearer it
comes. Like the Preacher--"I have judged him happiest who is not yet born,
nor doth he see the ills that are done under the sun." Eminence, give me
yet a little time.'
'A fortnight--gladly. But that is the utmost limit. My son, make the
"sacrificium intellectus!"--and make it willingly.'
Ah!--and then the yielding, and the treachery, and the last blind stroke
What was it which had undone him--which was now strangling the mental and
moral life of half Christendom!
Was it the _certainty_ of the Roman Church; that conception of life which
stakes the all of life upon the carnal and outward; upon a date, an
authorship, a miracle, an event?
Perhaps his own certainty, at bottom, had not been so very different.
But here, beneath his eyes, in this dying woman, was another certainty;
erect amid all confusion; a certainty of the spirit.
And looking along the future, he saw the battle of the certainties,
traditional, scientific, moral, ever more defined; and believed, like all
the rest of us, in that particular victory, for which he hoped!
* * * * *
Late that night, when all their visitors were gone, Eleanor showed
unusual animation. She left her sofa; she walked up and down their little
sitting-room, giving directions to Marie about the journey home; and at
last she informed them with a gaiety that made mock of their opposition
that she had made all arrangements to start very early the following
morning to visit the doctor in Orvieto who had attended her in June. Lucy
protested and implored, but soon found that everything was settled, and
Eleanor was determined. She was to go alone with Marie, in the Contessa's
carriage, starting almost with the dawn so as to avoid the heat: to spend
the hot noon under shelter at Orvieto; and to return in the evening. Lucy
pressed at least to go with her. So it appeared had the Contessa. But
Eleanor would have neither. 'I drive most days, and it does me no harm,'
she said, almost with temper. 'Do let me alone!'
When she returned, Manisty was lounging under the trees of the courtyard
waiting for her. He had spent a dull and purposeless day, which for a man
of his character and in his predicament had been hard to bear. His patience
was ebbing; his disappointment and despair were fast getting beyond
control. All this Eleanor saw in his face as she dismounted.
Lucy, who had been watching for her all the afternoon, was at the moment
for some reason or other with Reggie in the village.
Eleanor, with her hand on Marie's arm, tottered across the courtyard. At
the convent door her strength failed her. She turned to Manisty.
'I can't walk up these stairs. Do you think you could carry me? I am very
Struck with sudden emotion he threw his arms round her. She yielded like
a tired child. He, who had instinctively prepared himself for a certain
weight, was aghast at the ease with which he lifted her. Her head, in its
pretty black hat, fell against his breast. Her eyes closed. He wondered if
she had fainted.
He carried her to her room, and laid her on the sofa there. Then he saw
that she had not fainted, and that her eyes followed him. As he was about
to leave her to Marie, who was moving about in Lucy's room next door, she
touched him on the arm.
'You may speak again--to-morrow,' she said, nodding at him with a friendly
His face in its sudden flash of animation reflected the permission. He
pressed her hand tenderly.
'Was your doctor useful to you?'
'Oh yes; it is hard to think as much of a prescription in Italian as in
English--but that's one's insular way.'
'He thought you no worse?'
'Why should one believe him if he did?' she said evasively. 'No one knows
as much as oneself. Ah! there is Lucy. I think you must bid us good-night.
I am too tired for talking.'
As he left the room Eleanor settled down happily on her pillow.
'The first and only time!' she thought. 'My heart on his--my arms round his
neck. There must be impressions that outlast all others. I shall manage to
put them all away at the end--but that.'
When Lucy came in, she declared she was not very much exhausted. As to the
doctor she was silent.
But that night, when Lucy had been for some time in bed, and was still
sleepless with anxiety and sorrow, the door opened and Eleanor appeared.
She was in her usual white wrapper, and her fair hair, now much touched
with grey, was loose on her shoulders.
'Oh! can I do anything?' cried Lucy, starting up.
Eleanor came up to her, laid a hand on her shoulder, bade her 'be still,'
and brought a chair for herself. She had put down her candle on a table
which stood near, and Lucy could see the sombre agitation of her face.
'How long?' she said, bending over the girl--'how long are you going to
break my heart and his?'
The words were spoken with a violence which convulsed her whole frail form.
Lucy sprang up, and tried to throw her arms round her. But Eleanor shook
'No--no! Let us have it out. Do you see?' She let the wrapper slip from her
shoulders. She showed the dark hollows under the wasted collar-bones, the
knife-like shoulders, the absolute disappearance of all that had once made
the difference between grace and emaciation. She held up her hands before
the girl's terrified eyes. The skin was still white and delicate, otherwise
they were the hands of a skeleton.
'You can look at _that_,' she said fiercely, under her breath--'and then
insult me by refusing to marry the man you love, because you choose to
remember that I was once in love with him! It is an outrage to associate
such thoughts with me--as though one should make a rival of someone in her
shroud. It hurts and tortures me every hour to know that you have such
notions in your mind. It holds me back from peace--it chains me down to the
flesh, and to earth.'
'Eleanor!' cried the girl in entreaty, catching at her hands. But Eleanor
'Tell me,' she said peremptorily--'answer me truly, as one must answer
people in my state--you do love him? If I had not been here--if I had not
stood in your way--you would have allowed him his chance--you would have
Lucy bent her head upon her knees, forcing herself to composure.
'How can I answer that? I can never think of him, except as having brought
pain to you.'
'Yes, dear, you can,' cried Eleanor, throwing herself on her knees and
folding the girl in her arms. 'You can! It is no fault of his that I am
like this--none--none! The doctor told me this afternoon that the respite
last year was only apparent. The mischief has always been there--the
end quite certain. All my dreams and disappointments and foolish woman's
notions have vanished from me like smoke. There isn't one of them left.
What should a woman in my condition do with such things? But what
_is_ left is love--for you and him. Oh! not the old love,' she said
impatiently--persuading, haranguing herself no less than Lucy--'not an
ounce of it! But a love that suffers so--in his suffering and yours! A
love that won't let me rest; that is killing me before the time!'
She began to walk wildly up and down. Lucy sprang up, threw on some
clothes, and gradually persuaded her to go back to her own room. When
she was in bed again, utterly exhausted, Lucy's face--bathed in
'Tell me what to do. Have I ever refused you anything?'
* * * * *
The morning broke pure and radiant over the village and the forest. The
great slopes of wood were in a deep and misty shadow; the river, shrunk to
a thread again, scarcely chattered with its stones. A fresh wind wandered
through the trees and over the new-reaped fields.
The Angelus had been rung long ago. There was the bell beginning for Mass.
Lucy slipped out into a cool world, already alive with all the primal
labours. The children and the mothers and the dogs were up; the peasants
among the vines; the men with their peaked hats, the women shrouded from
the sun under the heavy folds of their cotton head-gear; turned and smiled
as she passed by. They liked the Signorina, and they were accustomed to her
On the hill she met Father Benecke coming up to Mass. Her cheek reddened,
and she stopped to speak to him.
'You are out early, Mademoiselle?'
'It is the only time to walk.'
'Ah! yes--you are right.'
At which a sudden thought made the priest start. He looked down. But this
time, he at least was innocent!
'You are coming in to tea with us this afternoon, Father?'
'If Mademoiselle does me the honour to invite me.'
The girl laughed.
'We shall expect you.'
Then she gave him her hand--a shy yet kind look from her beautiful eyes,
and went her way. She had forgiven him, and the priest walked on with a
Meanwhile Lucy pushed her way into the fastnesses of the Sassetto. In its
very heart she found a green-overgrown spot where the rocks made a sort of
natural chair; one great block leaning forward overhead; a flat seat, and
mossy arms on either side.
Here she seated herself. The winding path ran above her head. She could be
perceived from it, but at this hour what fear of passers by?
She gave herself up to the rush of memory and fear.
She had travelled far in these four months!
'Is this what it always means?--coming to Europe?' she asked herself with a
laugh that was not gay, while her fingers pulled at a tuft of hart's-tongue
that grew in a crevice beside her.
And then in a flash she looked on into her destiny. She thought of Manisty
with a yearning, passionate heart, and yet with a kind of terror; of the
rich, incalculable, undisciplined nature, with all its capricious and
self-willed power, its fastidious demands, its practical weakness; the
man's brilliance and his folly. She envisaged herself laden with the
responsibility of being his wife; and it seemed to her beyond her strength.
One moment he appeared to her so much above and beyond her that it was
ridiculous he should stoop to her. The next she felt, as it were, the
weight of his life upon her hands, and told herself that she could not bear
And then--and then--it was all very well, but if she had not come--if
Eleanor had never seen her--
Her head fell back into a mossy corner of the rock. Her eyes were blind
with tears. From the hill came the rumble of an ox-waggon with the shouts
of the drivers.
But another sound was nearer; the sound of a man's step upon the path. An
exclamation--a leap--and before she could replace the hat she had taken
off, or hide the traces of her tears, Manisty was beside her.
She sat up, staring at him in a bewildered silence. He too was
silent,--only she saw the labouring of his breath.
But at last--
'I will not force myself upon you,' he said, in a voice haughty and
self-restrained, that barely reached her ears. 'I will go at once if you
bid me go.'
Then, as she still said nothing, he came nearer.
'You don't send me away?'
She made a little despairing gesture that said, 'I can't!'--but so sadly,
that it did not encourage him.
'Lucy!'--he said, trembling--'are you going to take the seal off my
lips--to give me my chance at last?'
To that, only the answer of her eyes,--so sweet, so full of sorrow.
He stooped above her, his whole nature torn between love and doubt.
'You hear me,' he said, in low, broken tones--'but you think yourself a
traitor to listen?'
'And how could I not?' she cried, with a sudden sob. And then she found her
speech; her heart unveiled itself.
'If I had never, never come!--It is my fault that she is dying--only, only
And she turned away from him to hide her face and eyes against the rock, in
such an agony of feeling that he almost despaired.
He controlled himself sharply, putting aside passion, collecting his
thoughts for dear life.
'You are the most innocent, the most true of tender friends. It is in her
name that I say to you--Lucy, be kind! Lucy, dare to love me!'
She raised her arm suddenly and pointed to the ground between them.
'There'--she said under her breath, 'I see her there!--lying dead between
He was struck with horror, realising in what a grip this sane and simple
nature must feel itself before it could break into such expression. What
could he do or say?
He seated himself beside her, he took her hands by force.
'Lucy, I know what you mean. I won't pretend that I don't know. You think
that I ought to have married my cousin--that if you had not been there,
I should have married her. I might,--not yet, but after some time,--it
is quite true that it might have happened. Would it have made Eleanor
happy? You saw me at the villa--as I am. You know well, that even as a
friend, I constantly disappointed her. There seemed to be a fate upon us
which made me torment and wound her when I least intended it. I don't
defend myself,--and Heaven knows I don't blame Eleanor! I have always
believed that these things are mysterious, predestined--matters of
temperament deeper than our will. I was deeply, sincerely attached to
Eleanor--yet!--when you came--after those first few weeks--the falsity of
the whole position flashed upon me. And there was the book. It seemed to me
sometimes that the only way of extricating us all was to destroy the book,
and--and--all that it implied--or might have been thought to imply,--'
he added hurriedly. 'Oh! you needn't tell me that I was a blundering and
selfish fool! We have all got into a horrible coil--and I can't pose before
you if I would. But it isn't Eleanor that would hold you back from me,
Lucy--it isn't Eleanor!--answer me!--you know that?'
He held her almost roughly, scanning her face in an agony that served him
Her lips moved piteously, in words that he could not hear. But her hands
lay passive in his grasp; and he hastened on.
'Ever since that Nemi evening, Lucy, I have been a new creature. I will
tell you no lies. I won't say that I never loved any woman before you. I
will have no secrets from you--you shall know all, if you want to know. But
I do say that every passion I ever knew in my first youth seems to me now a
mere apprenticeship to loving you! You have become my life--my very heart.
If anything is to be made of a fellow like me--it's you that'll give me a
chance, Lucy. Oh! my dear--don't turn from me! It's Eleanor's voice speaks
in mine--listen to us both!'
Her colour came and went. She swayed towards him, fascinated by his voice,
conquered by the mere exhaustion of her long struggle, held in the grasp of
that compulsion which Eleanor had laid upon her.
Manisty perceived her weakness; his eyes flamed; his arm closed round her.
'I had an instinct--a vision,' he said, almost in her ear, 'when I set
out. The day dawned on me like a day of consecration. The sun was another
sun--the earth reborn. I took up my pilgrimage again--looking for Lucy--as
I have looked for her the last six weeks. And everything led me right--the
breeze and the woods and the birds. They were all in league with me. They
pitied me--they told me where Lucy was--'
The low, rushing words ceased a moment. Manisty looked at her, took both
her hands again.
'But they couldn't tell me'--he murmured--'how to please her--how to make
her kind to me--make her listen to me. Lucy, whom shall I go to for that?'
She turned away her face; her hands released themselves. Manisty hardly
breathed till she said, with a trembling mouth, and a little sob now and
then between the words--
'It is all so strange to me--so strange and so--so doubtful! If there were
only someone here from my own people,--someone who could advise me! Is it
wise for you--for us both? You know I'm so different from you--and you'll
find it out perhaps, more and more. And if you did--and were discontented
with me--I can't be sure that I could always fit myself to you. I was
brought up so that--that--I can't always be as easy and pleasant as other
girls. My mother--she stood by herself often--and I with her. She was a
grand nature--but I'm sure you would have thought her extravagant--and
perhaps hard. And often I feel as though I didn't know myself,--what there
might be in me. I know I'm often very stubborn. Suppose--in a few years--'
Her eyes came back to him; searching and interrogating that bent look of
his, in which her whole being seemed held.
What was it Manisty saw in her troubled face that she could no longer
conceal? He made no attempt to answer her words; there was another language
between them. He gave a cry. He put forth a tender violence; and Lucy
yielded. She found herself in his arms; and all was said.
Yet when she withdrew herself, she was in tears. She took his hand and
kissed it wildly, hardly knowing what she was doing. But her heart turned
to Eleanor; and it was Eleanor's voice in her ears that alone commanded and
* * * * *
As they strolled home, Manisty's mood was of the wildest and gayest. He
would hear of no despair about his cousin.
'We will take her home--you and I. We will get the very best advice. It
isn't--it shan't be as bad as you think!'
And out of mere reaction from her weeks of anguish, she believed him, she
hoped again. Then he turned to speculate on the voyage to America he must
now make, on his first interviews with Greyridge and Uncle Ben.
'Shall I make a good impression? How shall I be received? I am certain you
gave your uncle the worst accounts of me.'
'I guess Uncle Ben will judge for himself,' she said, reddening; thankful
all the same to remember that among her uncle's reticent, old-fashioned
ways none was more marked than his habit of destroying all but an
infinitesimal fraction of his letters. 'He read all those speeches of
yours, last year. You'll have to think--how you're going to get over it.'
'Well, you have brought me on my knees to Italy,' he said, laughing. 'Must
I now go barefoot to the tomb of Washington?'
She looked at him with a little smile, that showed him once more the Lucy
of the villa.
'You do seem to make mistakes, don't you?' she said gently. But then
her hand nestled shyly into his; and without words, her heart vowed the
true woman's vow to love him and stand by him always, for better for
worse, through error and success, through fame or failure. In truth her
inexperience had analysed the man to whom she had pledged herself far
better than he imagined. Did her love for him indeed rest partly on a
secret sense of vocation?--a profound, inarticulate divining of his vast,
his illimitable need for such a one as she to love him?
* * * * *
Meanwhile Eleanor and Reggie and Father Benecke waited breakfast on the
_loggia_. They were all under the spell of a common excitement, a common
Eleanor had discarded her sofa. She moved about the _loggia_, now looking
down the road, now gathering a bunch of rose-pink oleanders for her white
dress. The _frou-frou_ of her soft skirts; her happy agitation; the flush
on her cheek;--neither of the men who were her companions ever forgot them
Manisty, it appeared, had taken coffee with Father Benecke at six, and had
then strolled up the Sassetto path with his cigarette. Lucy had been out
since the first church bells. Father Benecke reported his meeting with her
on the road.
Eleanor listened to him with a sort of gay self-restraint.
'Yes--I know'--she said, nodding--'I know.--Reggie, there is a glorious
tuft of carnations in that pot in the cloisters. Ask Mamma Doni if we may
have them. _Ecco_--take her a _lira_ for the baby. I must have them for the
And soon the little white-spread breakfast-table, with it rolls and fruit,
was aglow with flowers, and a little bunch lay on each plate. The _loggia_,
was in _festa_; and the morning sun flickered through the vine-leaves on
the bright table, and the patterns of the brick floor.
'There--there they are!--Reggie!--Father!--leave me a minute! Quick--into
the garden! We will call you directly.'
And Reggie, looking back with a gulp from the garden-stairs, saw her
leaning over the _loggia_, waving her handkerchief; the figure in its light
dress, tossed a little by the morning breeze, the soft muslin and lace
eddying round it.
They mounted. Lucy entered first.
She stood on the threshold a moment, looking at Eleanor with a sweet and
piteous appeal. Then her young foot ran, her arms opened; and with the
tender dignity of a mother rejoicing over her child Eleanor received her on
* * * * *
By easy stages Manisty and Lucy took Mrs. Burgoyne to England. At the end
of August Lucy returned to the States with her friends; and in October she
and Manisty were married.
Mrs. Burgoyne lived through the autumn; and in November she hungered so
pitifully for the South that by a great effort she was moved to Rome.
There she took up her quarters in the house of the Contessa Guerrini, who
lavished on her last days all that care and affection could bestow.
Eleanor drove out once more towards the Alban hills; she looked once more
on the slopes of Marinata and the white crown of Monte Cavo; the Roman
sunshine shed round her once more its rich incomparable light. In December
Manisty and Lucy were expected; but a week before they came she died.
A German Old Catholic priest journeyed from a little town in Switzerland to
her burial; and a few days later the two beings she had loved stood beside
her grave. They had many and strong reasons to remember her; but for one
reason above all others, for her wild flight to Torre Amiata, the
only selfish action of her whole life, was she--at least, in Lucy's
heart--through all the years that followed the more passionately, the more