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Hauntings by Vernon Lee

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_Are Dedicated_




We were talking last evening--as the blue moon-mist poured in through
the old-fashioned grated window, and mingled with our yellow
lamplight at table--we were talking of a certain castle whose
heir is initiated (as folk tell) on his twenty-first birthday to the
knowledge of a secret so terrible as to overshadow his subsequent life.
It struck us, discussing idly the various mysteries and terrors that
may lie behind this fact or this fable, that no doom or horror
conceivable and to be defined in words could ever adequately solve this
riddle; that no reality of dreadfulness could seem caught but paltry,
bearable, and easy to face in comparison with this vague we know not

And this leads me to say, that it seems to me that the supernatural, in
order to call forth those sensations, terrible to our ancestors and
terrible but delicious to ourselves, skeptical posterity, must
necessarily, and with but a few exceptions, remain enwrapped in
mystery. Indeed, 'tis the mystery that touches us, the vague shroud of
moonbeams that hangs about the haunting lady, the glint on the
warrior's breastplate, the click of his unseen spurs, while the figure
itself wanders forth, scarcely outlined, scarcely separated from the
surrounding trees; or walks, and sucked back, ever and anon, into the
flickering shadows.

A number of ingenious persons of our day, desirous of a
pocket-superstition, as men of yore were greedy of a pocket-saint to
carry about in gold and enamel, a number of highly reasoning men of
semi-science have returned to the notion of our fathers, that ghosts
have an existence outside our own fancy and emotion; and have culled
from the experience of some Jemima Jackson, who fifty years ago, being
nine years of age, saw her maiden aunt appear six months after decease,
abundant proof of this fact. One feels glad to think the maiden aunt
should have walked about after death, if it afforded her any
satisfaction, poor soul! but one is struck by the extreme
uninterestingness of this lady's appearance in the spirit,
corresponding perhaps to her want of charm while in the flesh.
Altogether one quite agrees, having duly perused the collection of
evidence on the subject, with the wisdom of these modern ghost-experts,
when they affirm that you can always tell a genuine ghost-story by the
circumstance of its being about a nobody, its having no point or
picturesqueness, and being, generally speaking, flat, stale, and

A genuine ghost-story! But then they are not genuine ghost-stories,
those tales that tingle through our additional sense, the sense of the
supernatural, and fill places, nay whole epochs, with their strange
perfume of witchgarden flowers.

No, alas! neither the story of the murdered King of Denmark (murdered
people, I am told, usually stay quiet, as a scientific fact), nor of
that weird woman who saw King James the Poet three times with his
shroud wrapped ever higher; nor the tale of the finger of the bronze
Venus closing over the wedding-ring, whether told by Morris in verse
patterned like some tapestry, or by Mérimée in terror of cynical
reality, or droned by the original mediaeval professional story-teller,
none of these are genuine ghost-stories. They exist, these ghosts, only
in our minds, in the minds of those dead folk; they have never stumbled
and fumbled about, with Jemima Jackson's maiden aunt, among the
armchairs and rep sofas of reality.

They are things of the imagination, born there, bred there, sprung from
the strange confused heaps, half-rubbish, half-treasure, which lie in
our fancy, heaps of half-faded recollections, of fragmentary vivid
impressions, litter of multi-colored tatters, and faded herbs and
flowers, whence arises that odor (we all know it), musty and damp, but
penetratingly sweet and intoxicatingly heady, which hangs in the air
when the ghost has swept through the unopened door, and the flickering
flames of candle and fire start up once more after waning.

The genuine ghost? And is not this he, or she, this one born of
ourselves, of the weird places we have seen, the strange stories we
have heard--this one, and not the aunt of Miss Jemima Jackson? For what
use, I entreat you to tell me, is that respectable spinster's vision?
Was she worth seeing, that aunt of hers, or would she, if followed,
have led the way to any interesting brimstone or any endurable

The supernatural can open the caves of Jamschid and scale the ladder of
Jacob: what use has it got if it land us in Islington or Shepherd's
Bush? It is well known that Dr. Faustus, having been offered any ghost
he chose, boldly selected, for Mephistopheles to convey, no less a
person than Helena of Troy. Imagine if the familiar fiend had summoned
up some Miss Jemima Jackson's Aunt of Antiquity!

That is the thing--the Past, the more or less remote Past, of which the
prose is clean obliterated by distance--that is the place to get our
ghosts from. Indeed we live ourselves, we educated folk of modern
times, on the borderland of the Past, in houses looking down on its
troubadours' orchards and Greek folks' pillared courtyards; and a
legion of ghosts, very vague and changeful, are perpetually to and fro,
fetching and carrying for us between it and the Present.

Hence, my four little tales are of no genuine ghosts in the scientific
sense; they tell of no hauntings such as could be contributed by the
Society for Psychical Research, of no specters that can be caught in
definite places and made to dictate judicial evidence. My ghosts are
what you call spurious ghosts (according to me the only genuine ones),
of whom I can affirm only one thing, that they haunted certain brains,
and have haunted, among others, my own and my friends'--yours, dear
Arthur Lemon, along the dim twilit tracks, among the high growing
bracken and the spectral pines, of the south country; and yours, amidst
the mist of moonbeams and olive-branches, dear Flora Priestley, while
the moonlit sea moaned and rattled against the moldering walls of the
house whence Shelley set sail for eternity.


_MAIANO, near FLORENCE, June 1889._

_Amour Dure:_


_Part I_

_Urbania, August 20th, 1885.--_

I had longed, these years and years, to be in Italy, to come face to
face with the Past; and was this Italy, was this the Past? I could have
cried, yes cried, for disappointment when I first wandered about Rome,
with an invitation to dine at the German Embassy in my pocket, and
three or four Berlin and Munich Vandals at my heels, telling me where
the best beer and sauerkraut could be had, and what the last article by
Grimm or Mommsen was about.

Is this folly? Is it falsehood? Am I not myself a product of modern,
northern civilization; is not my coming to Italy due to this very
modern scientific vandalism, which has given me a traveling scholarship
because I have written a book like all those other atrocious books of
erudition and art-criticism? Nay, am I not here at Urbania on the
express understanding that, in a certain number of months, I shall
produce just another such book? Dost thou imagine, thou miserable
Spiridion, thou Pole grown into the semblance of a German pedant,
doctor of philosophy, professor even, author of a prize essay on the
despots of the fifteenth century, dost thou imagine that thou, with thy
ministerial letters and proof-sheets in thy black professorial
coat-pocket, canst ever come in spirit into the presence of the Past?

Too true, alas! But let me forget it, at least, every now and then; as
I forgot it this afternoon, while the white bullocks dragged my gig
slowly winding along interminable valleys, crawling along interminable
hill-sides, with the invisible droning torrent far below, and only the
bare grey and reddish peaks all around, up to this town of Urbania,
forgotten of mankind, towered and battlemented on the high Apennine
ridge. Sigillo, Penna, Fossombrone, Mercatello, Montemurlo--each single
village name, as the driver pointed it out, brought to my mind the
recollection of some battle or some great act of treachery of former
days. And as the huge mountains shut out the setting sun, and the
valleys filled with bluish shadow and mist, only a band of threatening
smoke-red remaining behind the towers and cupolas of the city on its
mountain-top, and the sound of church bells floated across the
precipice from Urbania, I almost expected, at every turning of the
road, that a troop of horsemen, with beaked helmets and clawed shoes,
would emerge, with armor glittering and pennons waving in the sunset.
And then, not two hours ago, entering the town at dusk, passing along
the deserted streets, with only a smoky light here and there under a
shrine or in front of a fruit-stall, or a fire reddening the blackness
of a smithy; passing beneath the battlements and turrets of the
palace.... Ah, that was Italy, it was the Past!

_August 21st.--_

And this is the Present! Four letters of introduction to deliver, and
an hour's polite conversation to endure with the Vice-Prefect, the
Syndic, the Director of the Archives, and the good man to whom my
friend Max had sent me for lodgings....

_August 22nd-27th.--_

Spent the greater part of the day in the Archives, and the greater part
of my time there in being bored to extinction by the Director thereof,
who today spouted Aeneas Sylvius' Commentaries for three-quarters of an
hour without taking breath. From this sort of martyrdom (what are the
sensations of a former racehorse being driven in a cab? If you can
conceive them, they are those of a Pole turned Prussian professor) I
take refuge in long rambles through the town. This town is a handful of
tall black houses huddled on to the top of an Alp, long narrow lanes
trickling down its sides, like the slides we made on hillocks in our
boyhood, and in the middle the superb red brick structure, turreted and
battlemented, of Duke Ottobuono's palace, from whose windows you look
down upon a sea, a kind of whirlpool, of melancholy grey mountains.
Then there are the people, dark, bushy-bearded men, riding about like
brigands, wrapped in green-lined cloaks upon their shaggy pack-mules;
or loitering about, great, brawny, low-headed youngsters, like the
parti-colored bravos in Signorelli's frescoes; the beautiful boys, like
so many young Raphaels, with eyes like the eyes of bullocks, and the
huge women, Madonnas or St. Elizabeths, as the case may be, with their
clogs firmly poised on their toes and their brass pitchers on their
heads, as they go up and down the steep black alleys. I do not talk
much to these people; I fear my illusions being dispelled. At the
corner of a street, opposite Francesco di Giorgio's beautiful little
portico, is a great blue and red advertisement, representing an angel
descending to crown Elias Howe, on account of his sewing-machines; and
the clerks of the Vice-Prefecture, who dine at the place where I get my
dinner, yell politics, Minghetti, Cairoli, Tunis, ironclads, &c., at
each other, and sing snatches of _La Fille de Mme. Angot,_ which I
imagine they have been performing here recently.

No; talking to the natives is evidently a dangerous experiment. Except
indeed, perhaps, to my good landlord, Signor Notaro Porri, who is just
as learned, and takes considerably less snuff (or rather brushes it off
his coat more often) than the Director of the Archives. I forgot to jot
down (and I feel I must jot down, in the vain belief that some day
these scraps will help, like a withered twig of olive or a three-wicked
Tuscan lamp on my table, to bring to my mind, in that hateful Babylon
of Berlin, these happy Italian days)--I forgot to record that I am
lodging in the house of a dealer in antiquities. My window looks up the
principal street to where the little column with Mercury on the top
rises in the midst of the awnings and porticoes of the market-place.
Bending over the chipped ewers and tubs full of sweet basil, clove
pinks, and marigolds, I can just see a corner of the palace turret, and
the vague ultramarine of the hills beyond. The house, whose back goes
sharp down into the ravine, is a queer up-and-down black place,
whitewashed rooms, hung with the Raphaels and Francias and Peruginos,
whom mine host regularly carries to the chief inn whenever a stranger
is expected; and surrounded by old carved chairs, sofas of the Empire,
embossed and gilded wedding-chests, and the cupboards which contain
bits of old damask and embroidered altar-cloths scenting the place with
the smell of old incense and mustiness; all of which are presided over
by Signor Porri's three maiden sisters--Sora Serafina, Sora Lodovica,
and Sora Adalgisa--the three Fates in person, even to the distaffs and
their black cats.

Sor Asdrubale, as they call my landlord, is also a notary. He regrets
the Pontifical Government, having had a cousin who was a Cardinal's
train-bearer, and believes that if only you lay a table for two, light
four candles made of dead men's fat, and perform certain rites about
which he is not very precise, you can, on Christmas Eve and similar
nights, summon up San Pasquale Baylon, who will write you the winning
numbers of the lottery upon the smoked back of a plate, if you have
previously slapped him on both cheeks and repeated three Ave Marias.
The difficulty consists in obtaining the dead men's fat for the
candles, and also in slapping the saint before he have time to vanish.

"If it were not for that," says Sor Asdrubale, "the Government would
have had to suppress the lottery ages ago--eh!"

_Sept. 9th._--This history of Urbania is not without its romance,
although that romance (as usual) has been overlooked by our Dryasdusts.
Even before coming here I felt attracted by the strange figure of a
woman, which appeared from out of the dry pages of Gualterio's and
Padre de Sanctis' histories of this place. This woman is Medea,
daughter of Galeazzo IV. Malatesta, Lord of Carpi, wife first of
Pierluigi Orsini, Duke of Stimigliano, and subsequently of Guidalfonso
II., Duke of Urbania, predecessor of the great Duke Robert II.

This woman's history and character remind one of that of Bianca
Cappello, and at the same time of Lucrezia Borgia. Born in 1556, she
was affianced at the age of twelve to a cousin, a Malatesta of the
Rimini family. This family having greatly gone down in the world, her
engagement was broken, and she was betrothed a year later to a member
of the Pico family, and married to him by proxy at the age of fourteen.
But this match not satisfying her own or her father's ambition, the
marriage by proxy was, upon some pretext, declared null, and the suit
encouraged of the Duke of Stimigliano, a great Umbrian feudatory of the
Orsini family. But the bridegroom, Giovanfrancesco Pico, refused to
submit, pleaded his case before the Pope, and tried to carry off by
force his bride, with whom he was madly in love, as the lady was most
lovely and of most cheerful and amiable manner, says an old anonymous
chronicle. Pico waylaid her litter as she was going to a villa of her
father's, and carried her to his castle near Mirandola, where he
respectfully pressed his suit; insisting that he had a right to
consider her as his wife. But the lady escaped by letting herself into
the moat by a rope of sheets, and Giovanfrancesco Pico was discovered
stabbed in the chest, by the hand of Madonna Medea da Carpi. He was a
handsome youth only eighteen years old.

The Pico having been settled, and the marriage with him declared null
by the Pope, Medea da Carpi was solemnly married to the Duke of
Stimigliano, and went to live upon his domains near Rome.

Two years later, Pierluigi Orsini was stabbed by one of his grooms at
his castle of Stimigliano, near Orvieto; and suspicion fell upon his
widow, more especially as, immediately after the event, she caused the
murderer to be cut down by two servants in her own chamber; but not
before he had declared that she had induced him to assassinate his
master by a promise of her love. Things became so hot for Medea da
Carpi that she fled to Urbania and threw herself at the feet of Duke
Guidalfonso II., declaring that she had caused the groom to be killed
merely to avenge her good fame, which he had slandered, and that she
was absolutely guiltless of the death of her husband. The marvelous
beauty of the widowed Duchess of Stimigliano, who was only nineteen,
entirely turned the head of the Duke of Urbania. He affected implicit
belief in her innocence, refused to give her up to the Orsinis, kinsmen
of her late husband, and assigned to her magnificent apartments in the
left wing of the palace, among which the room containing the famous
fireplace ornamented with marble Cupids on a blue ground. Guidalfonso
fell madly in love with his beautiful guest. Hitherto timid and
domestic in character, he began publicly to neglect his wife, Maddalena
Varano of Camerino, with whom, although childless, he had hitherto
lived on excellent terms; he not only treated with contempt the
admonitions of his advisers and of his suzerain the Pope, but went so
far as to take measures to repudiate his wife, on the score of quite
imaginary ill-conduct. The Duchess Maddalena, unable to bear this
treatment, fled to the convent of the barefooted sisters at Pesaro,
where she pined away, while Medea da Carpi reigned in her place at
Urbania, embroiling Duke Guidalfonso in quarrels both with the powerful
Orsinis, who continued to accuse her of Stimigliano's murder, and with
the Varanos, kinsmen of the injured Duchess Maddalena; until at length,
in the year 1576, the Duke of Urbania, having become suddenly, and not
without suspicious circumstances, a widower, publicly married Medea da
Carpi two days after the decease of his unhappy wife. No child was born
of this marriage; but such was the infatuation of Duke Guidalfonso,
that the new Duchess induced him to settle the inheritance of the Duchy
(having, with great difficulty, obtained the consent of the Pope) on
the boy Bartolommeo, her son by Stimigliano, but whom the Orsinis
refused to acknowledge as such, declaring him to be the child of that
Giovanfrancesco Pico to whom Medea had been married by proxy, and whom,
in defense, as she had said, of her honor, she had assassinated; and
this investiture of the Duchy of Urbania on to a stranger and a bastard
was at the expense of the obvious rights of the Cardinal Robert,
Guidalfonso's younger brother.

In May 1579 Duke Guidalfonso died suddenly and mysteriously, Medea
having forbidden all access to his chamber, lest, on his deathbed, he
might repent and reinstate his brother in his rights. The Duchess
immediately caused her son, Bartolommeo Orsini, to be proclaimed Duke
of Urbania, and herself regent; and, with the help of two or three
unscrupulous young men, particularly a certain Captain Oliverotto da
Narni, who was rumored to be her lover, seized the reins of government
with extraordinary and terrible vigor, marching an army against the
Varanos and Orsinis, who were defeated at Sigillo, and ruthlessly
exterminating every person who dared question the lawfulness of the
succession; while, all the time, Cardinal Robert, who had flung aside
his priest's garb and vows, went about in Rome, Tuscany, Venice--nay,
even to the Emperor and the King of Spain, imploring help against the
usurper. In a few months he had turned the tide of sympathy against the
Duchess-Regent; the Pope solemnly declared the investiture of
Bartolommeo Orsini worthless, and published the accession of Robert
II., Duke of Urbania and Count of Montemurlo; the Grand Duke of Tuscany
and the Venetians secretly promised assistance, but only if Robert were
able to assert his rights by main force. Little by little, one town
after the other of the Duchy went over to Robert, and Medea da Carpi
found herself surrounded in the mountain citadel of Urbania like a
scorpion surrounded by flames. (This simile is not mine, but belongs to
Raffaello Gualterio, historiographer to Robert II.) But, unlike the
scorpion, Medea refused to commit suicide. It is perfectly marvelous
how, without money or allies, she could so long keep her enemies at
bay; and Gualterio attributes this to those fatal fascinations which
had brought Pico and Stimigliano to their deaths, which had turned the
once honest Guidalfonso into a villain, and which were such that, of
all her lovers, not one but preferred dying for her, even after he had
been treated with ingratitude and ousted by a rival; a faculty which
Messer Raffaello Gualterio clearly attributed to hellish connivance.

At last the ex-Cardinal Robert succeeded, and triumphantly entered
Urbania in November 1579. His accession was marked by moderation and
clemency. Not a man was put to death, save Oliverotto da Narni, who
threw himself on the new Duke, tried to stab him as he alighted at the
palace, and who was cut down by the Duke's men, crying, "Orsini,
Orsini! Medea, Medea! Long live Duke Bartolommeo!" with his dying
breath, although it is said that the Duchess had treated him with
ignominy. The little Bartolommeo was sent to Rome to the Orsinis; the
Duchess, respectfully confined in the left wing of the palace.

It is said that she haughtily requested to see the new Duke, but that
he shook his head, and, in his priest's fashion, quoted a verse about
Ulysses and the Sirens; and it is remarkable that he persistently
refused to see her, abruptly leaving his chamber one day that she had
entered it by stealth. After a few months a conspiracy was discovered
to murder Duke Robert, which had obviously been set on foot by Medea.
But the young man, one Marcantonio Frangipani of Rome, denied, even
under the severest torture, any complicity of hers; so that Duke
Robert, who wished to do nothing violent, merely transferred the
Duchess from his villa at Sant' Elmo to the convent of the Clarisse in
town, where she was guarded and watched in the closest manner. It
seemed impossible that Medea should intrigue any further, for she
certainly saw and could be seen by no one. Yet she contrived to send a
letter and her portrait to one Prinzivalle degli Ordelaffi, a youth,
only nineteen years old, of noble Romagnole family, and who was
betrothed to one of the most beautiful girls of Urbania. He immediately
broke off his engagement, and, shortly afterwards, attempted to shoot
Duke Robert with a holster-pistol as he knelt at mass on the festival
of Easter Day. This time Duke Robert was determined to obtain proofs
against Medea. Prinzivalle degli Ordelaffi was kept some days without
food, then submitted to the most violent tortures, and finally
condemned. When he was going to be flayed with red-hot pincers and
quartered by horses, he was told that he might obtain the grace of
immediate death by confessing the complicity of the Duchess; and the
confessor and nuns of the convent, which stood in the place of
execution outside Porta San Romano, pressed Medea to save the wretch,
whose screams reached her, by confessing her own guilt. Medea asked
permission to go to a balcony, where she could see Prinzivalle and be
seen by him. She looked on coldly, then threw down her embroidered
kerchief to the poor mangled creature. He asked the executioner to wipe
his mouth with it, kissed it, and cried out that Medea was innocent.
Then, after several hours of torments, he died. This was too much for
the patience even of Duke Robert. Seeing that as long as Medea lived
his life would be in perpetual danger, but unwilling to cause a scandal
(somewhat of the priest-nature remaining), he had Medea strangled in
the convent, and, what is remarkable, insisted that only women--two
infanticides to whom he remitted their sentence--should be employed for
the deed.

"This clement prince," writes Don Arcangelo Zappi in his life of him,
published in 1725, "can be blamed only for one act of cruelty, the more
odious as he had himself, until released from his vows by the Pope,
been in holy orders. It is said that when he caused the death of the
infamous Medea da Carpi, his fear lest her extraordinary charms should
seduce any man was such, that he not only employed women as
executioners, but refused to permit her a priest or monk, thus forcing
her to die unshriven, and refusing her the benefit of any penitence
that may have lurked in her adamantine heart."

Such is the story of Medea da Carpi, Duchess of Stimigliano Orsini, and
then wife of Duke Guidalfonso II. of Urbania. She was put to death just
two hundred and ninety-seven years ago, December 1582, at the age of
barely seven-and twenty, and having, in the course of her short life,
brought to a violent end five of her lovers, from Giovanfrancesco Pico
to Prinzivalle degli Ordelaffi.

_Sept. 20th._--

A grand illumination of the town in honor of the taking of Rome fifteen
years ago. Except Sor Asdrubale, my landlord, who shakes his head at
the Piedmontese, as he calls them, the people here are all
Italianissimi. The Popes kept them very much down since Urbania lapsed
to the Holy See in 1645.

_Sept. 28th._--

I have for some time been hunting for portraits of the Duchess Medea.
Most of them, I imagine, must have been destroyed, perhaps by Duke
Robert II.'s fear lest even after her death this terrible beauty should
play him a trick. Three or four I have, however, been able to find--one
a miniature in the Archives, said to be that which she sent to poor
Prinzivalle degli Ordelaffi in order to turn his head; one a marble
bust in the palace lumber-room; one in a large composition, possibly by
Baroccio, representing Cleopatra at the feet of Augustus. Augustus is
the idealized portrait of Robert II., round cropped head, nose a little
awry, clipped beard and scar as usual, but in Roman dress. Cleopatra
seems to me, for all her Oriental dress, and although she wears a black
wig, to be meant for Medea da Carpi; she is kneeling, baring her breast
for the victor to strike, but in reality to captivate him, and he turns
away with an awkward gesture of loathing. None of these portraits seem
very good, save the miniature, but that is an exquisite work, and with
it, and the suggestions of the bust, it is easy to reconstruct the
beauty of this terrible being. The type is that most admired by the
late Renaissance, and, in some measure, immortalized by Jean Goujon and
the French. The face is a perfect oval, the forehead somewhat
over-round, with minute curls, like a fleece, of bright auburn hair;
the nose a trifle over-aquiline, and the cheek-bones a trifle too low;
the eyes grey, large, prominent, beneath exquisitely curved brows and
lids just a little too tight at the corners; the mouth also,
brilliantly red and most delicately designed, is a little too tight,
the lips strained a trifle over the teeth. Tight eyelids and tight lips
give a strange refinement, and, at the same time, an air of mystery, a
somewhat sinister seductiveness; they seem to take, but not to give.
The mouth with a kind of childish pout, looks as if it could bite or
suck like a leech. The complexion is dazzlingly fair, the perfect
transparent rosette lily of a red-haired beauty; the head, with hair
elaborately curled and plaited close to it, and adorned with pearls,
sits like that of the antique Arethusa on a long, supple, swan-like
neck. A curious, at first rather conventional, artificial-looking sort
of beauty, voluptuous yet cold, which, the more it is contemplated, the
more it troubles and haunts the mind. Round the lady's neck is a gold
chain with little gold lozenges at intervals, on which is engraved the
posy or pun (the fashion of French devices is common in those days),
"Amour Dure--Dure Amour." The same posy is inscribed in the hollow of
the bust, and, thanks to it, I have been able to identify the latter as
Medea's portrait. I often examine these tragic portraits, wondering
what this face, which led so many men to their death, may have been
like when it spoke or smiled, what at the moment when Medea da Carpi
fascinated her victims into love unto death--"Amour Dure--Dure Amour,"
as runs her device--love that lasts, cruel love--yes indeed, when one
thinks of the fidelity and fate of her lovers.

_Oct. 13th._--

I have literally not had time to write a line of my diary all these
days. My whole mornings have gone in those Archives, my afternoons
taking long walks in this lovely autumn weather (the highest hills are
just tipped with snow). My evenings go in writing that confounded
account of the Palace of Urbania which Government requires, merely to
keep me at work at something useless. Of my history I have not yet been
able to write a word.... By the way, I must note down a curious
circumstance mentioned in an anonymous MS. life of Duke Robert, which I
fell upon today. When this prince had the equestrian statue of himself
by Antonio Tassi, Gianbologna's pupil, erected in the square of the
_Corte_, he secretly caused to be made, says my anonymous MS., a
silver statuette of his familiar genius or angel--"familiaris ejus
angelus seu genius, quod a vulgo dicitur _idolino_"--which
statuette or idol, after having been consecrated by the
astrologers--"ab astrologis quibusdam ritibus sacrato"--was placed in
the cavity of the chest of the effigy by Tassi, in order, says the MS.,
that his soul might rest until the general Resurrection. This passage
is curious, and to me somewhat puzzling; how could the soul of Duke
Robert await the general Resurrection, when, as a Catholic, he ought to
have believed that it must, as soon as separated from his body, go to
Purgatory? Or is there some semi-pagan superstition of the Renaissance
(most strange, certainly, in a man who had been a Cardinal) connecting
the soul with a guardian genius, who could be compelled, by magic rites
("ab astrologis sacrato," the MS. says of the little idol), to remain
fixed to earth, so that the soul should sleep in the body until the Day
of Judgment? I confess this story baffles me. I wonder whether such an
idol ever existed, or exists nowadays, in the body of Tassi's bronze

_Oct. 20th.--_

I have been seeing a good deal of late of the Vice-Prefect's son: an
amiable young man with a love-sick face and a languid interest in
Urbanian history and archaeology, of which he is profoundly ignorant.
This young man, who has lived at Siena and Lucca before his father was
promoted here, wears extremely long and tight trousers, which almost
preclude his bending his knees, a stick-up collar and an eyeglass, and
a pair of fresh kid gloves stuck in the breast of his coat, speaks of
Urbania as Ovid might have spoken of Pontus, and complains (as well he
may) of the barbarism of the young men, the officials who dine at my
inn and howl and sing like madmen, and the nobles who drive gigs,
showing almost as much throat as a lady at a ball. This person
frequently entertains me with his _amori_, past, present, and
future; he evidently thinks me very odd for having none to entertain
him with in return; he points out to me the pretty (or ugly)
servant-girls and dressmakers as we walk in the street, sighs deeply or
sings in falsetto behind every tolerably young-looking woman, and has
finally taken me to the house of the lady of his heart, a great
black-mustachioed countess, with a voice like a fish-crier; here, he
says, I shall meet all the best company in Urbania and some beautiful
women--ah, too beautiful, alas! I find three huge half-furnished rooms,
with bare brick floors, petroleum lamps, and horribly bad pictures on
bright washball-blue and gamboge walls, and in the midst of it all,
every evening, a dozen ladies and gentlemen seated in a circle,
vociferating at each other the same news a year old; the younger ladies
in bright yellows and greens, fanning themselves while my teeth
chatter, and having sweet things whispered behind their fans by
officers with hair brushed up like a hedgehog. And these are the women
my friend expects me to fall in love with! I vainly wait for tea or
supper which does not come, and rush home, determined to leave alone
the Urbanian _beau monde_.

It is quite true that I have no _amori_, although my friend does
not believe it. When I came to Italy first, I looked out for romance; I
sighed, like Goethe in Rome, for a window to open and a wondrous
creature to appear, "welch mich versengend erquickt." Perhaps it is
because Goethe was a German, accustomed to German _Fraus_, and I
am, after all, a Pole, accustomed to something very different from
_Fraus_; but anyhow, for all my efforts, in Rome, Florence, and
Siena, I never could find a woman to go mad about, either among the
ladies, chattering bad French, or among the lower classes, as 'cute and
cold as money-lenders; so I steer clear of Italian womankind, its
shrill voice and gaudy toilettes. I am wedded to history, to the Past,
to women like Lucrezia Borgia, Vittoria Accoramboni, or that Medea da
Carpi, for the present; some day I shall perhaps find a grand passion,
a woman to play the Don Quixote about, like the Pole that I am; a woman
out of whose slipper to drink, and for whose pleasure to die; but not
here! Few things strike me so much as the degeneracy of Italian women.
What has become of the race of Faustinas, Marozias, Bianca Cappellos?
Where discover nowadays (I confess she haunts me) another Medea da
Carpi? Were it only possible to meet a woman of that extreme
distinction of beauty, of that terribleness of nature, even if only
potential, I do believe I could love her, even to the Day of Judgment,
like any Oliverotto da Narni, or Frangipani or Prinzivalle.

_Oct. 27th.--_

Fine sentiments the above are for a professor, a learned man! I thought
the young artists of Rome childish because they played practical jokes
and yelled at night in the streets, returning from the Caffè Greco or
the cellar in the Via Palombella; but am I not as childish to the
full--I, melancholy wretch, whom they called Hamlet and the Knight of
the Doleful Countenance?

_Nov. 5th.--_

I can't free myself from the thought of this Medea da Carpi. In my
walks, my mornings in the Archives, my solitary evenings, I catch
myself thinking over the woman. Am I turning novelist instead of
historian? And still it seems to me that I understand her so well; so
much better than my facts warrant. First, we must put aside all
pedantic modern ideas of right and wrong. Right and wrong in a century
of violence and treachery does not exist, least of all for creatures
like Medea. Go preach right and wrong to a tigress, my dear sir! Yet is
there in the world anything nobler than the huge creature, steel when
she springs, velvet when she treads, as she stretches her supple body,
or smooths her beautiful skin, or fastens her strong claws into her

Yes; I can understand Medea. Fancy a woman of superlative beauty, of
the highest courage and calmness, a woman of many resources, of genius,
brought up by a petty princelet of a father, upon Tacitus and Sallust,
and the tales of the great Malatestas, of Caesar Borgia and
such-like!--a woman whose one passion is conquest and empire--fancy
her, on the eve of being wedded to a man of the power of the Duke of
Stimigliano, claimed, carried off by a small fry of a Pico, locked up
in his hereditary brigand's castle, and having to receive the young
fool's red-hot love as an honor and a necessity! The mere thought of
any violence to such a nature is an abominable outrage; and if Pico
chooses to embrace such a woman at the risk of meeting a sharp piece of
steel in her arms, why, it is a fair bargain. Young hound--or, if you
prefer, young hero--to think to treat a woman like this as if she were
any village wench! Medea marries her Orsini. A marriage, let it be
noted, between an old soldier of fifty and a girl of sixteen. Reflect
what that means: it means that this imperious woman is soon treated
like a chattel, made roughly to understand that her business is to give
the Duke an heir, not advice; that she must never ask "wherefore this
or that?" that she must courtesy before the Duke's counselors, his
captains, his mistresses; that, at the least suspicion of
rebelliousness, she is subject to his foul words and blows; at the
least suspicion of infidelity, to be strangled or starved to death, or
thrown down an oubliette. Suppose that she know that her husband has
taken it into his head that she has looked too hard at this man or
that, that one of his lieutenants or one of his women have whispered
that, after all, the boy Bartolommeo might as soon be a Pico as an
Orsini. Suppose she know that she must strike or be struck? Why, she
strikes, or gets some one to strike for her. At what price? A promise
of love, of love to a groom, the son of a serf! Why, the dog must be
mad or drunk to believe such a thing possible; his very belief in
anything so monstrous makes him worthy of death. And then he dares to
blab! This is much worse than Pico. Medea is bound to defend her honor
a second time; if she could stab Pico, she can certainly stab this
fellow, or have him stabbed.

Hounded by her husband's kinsmen, she takes refuge at Urbania. The
Duke, like every other man, falls wildly in love with Medea, and
neglects his wife; let us even go so far as to say, breaks his wife's
heart. Is this Medea's fault? Is it her fault that every stone that
comes beneath her chariot-wheels is crushed? Certainly not. Do you
suppose that a woman like Medea feels the smallest ill-will against a
poor, craven Duchess Maddalena? Why, she ignores her very existence. To
suppose Medea a cruel woman is as grotesque as to call her an immoral
woman. Her fate is, sooner or later, to triumph over her enemies, at
all events to make their victory almost a defeat; her magic faculty is
to enslave all the men who come across her path; all those who see her,
love her, become her slaves; and it is the destiny of all her slaves to
perish. Her lovers, with the exception of Duke Guidalfonso, all come to
an untimely end; and in this there is nothing unjust. The possession of
a woman like Medea is a happiness too great for a mortal man; it would
turn his head, make him forget even what he owed her; no man must
survive long who conceives himself to have a right over her; it is a
kind of sacrilege. And only death, the willingness to pay for such
happiness by death, can at all make a man worthy of being her lover; he
must be willing to love and suffer and die. This is the meaning of her
device--"Amour Dure--Dure Amour." The love of Medea da Carpi cannot
fade, but the lover can die; it is a constant and a cruel love.

_Nov. 11th.--_

I was right, quite right in my idea. I have found--Oh, joy! I treated
the Vice-Prefect's son to a dinner of five courses at the Trattoria La
Stella d'Italia out of sheer jubilation--I have found in the Archives,
unknown, of course, to the Director, a heap of letters--letters of Duke
Robert about Medea da Carpi, letters of Medea herself! Yes, Medea's own
handwriting--a round, scholarly character, full of abbreviations, with
a Greek look about it, as befits a learned princess who could read
Plato as well as Petrarch. The letters are of little importance, mere
drafts of business letters for her secretary to copy, during the time
that she governed the poor weak Guidalfonso. But they are her letters,
and I can imagine almost that there hangs about these moldering pieces
of paper a scent as of a woman's hair.

The few letters of Duke Robert show him in a new light. A cunning,
cold, but craven priest. He trembles at the bare thought of Medea--"la
pessima Medea"--worse than her namesake of Colchis, as he calls her.
His long clemency is a result of mere fear of laying violent hands upon
her. He fears her as something almost supernatural; he would have
enjoyed having had her burnt as a witch. After letter on letter,
telling his crony, Cardinal Sanseverino, at Rome his various
precautions during her lifetime--how he wears a jacket of mail under
his coat; how he drinks only milk from a cow which he has milked in his
presence; how he tries his dog with morsels of his food, lest it be
poisoned; how he suspects the wax-candles because of their peculiar
smell; how he fears riding out lest some one should frighten his horse
and cause him to break his neck--after all this, and when Medea has
been in her grave two years, he tells his correspondent of his fear of
meeting the soul of Medea after his own death, and chuckles over the
ingenious device (concocted by his astrologer and a certain Fra
Gaudenzio, a Capuchin) by which he shall secure the absolute peace of
his soul until that of the wicked Medea be finally "chained up in hell
among the lakes of boiling pitch and the ice of Caina described by the
immortal bard"--old pedant! Here, then, is the explanation of that
silver image--_quod vulgo dicitur idolino_--which he caused to be
soldered into his effigy by Tassi. As long as the image of his soul was
attached to the image of his body, he should sleep awaiting the Day of
Judgment, fully convinced that Medea's soul will then be properly
tarred and feathered, while his--honest man!--will fly straight to
Paradise. And to think that, two weeks ago, I believed this man to be a
hero! Aha! my good Duke Robert, you shall be shown up in my history;
and no amount of silver idolinos shall save you from being heartily
laughed at!

_Nov. 15th.--_

Strange! That idiot of a Prefect's son, who has heard me talk a hundred
times of Medea da Carpi, suddenly recollects that, when he was a child
at Urbania, his nurse used to threaten him with a visit from Madonna
Medea, who rode in the sky on a black he-goat. My Duchess Medea turned
into a bogey for naughty little boys!

_Nov. 20th.--_

I have been going about with a Bavarian Professor of mediaeval history,
showing him all over the country. Among other places we went to Rocca
Sant'Elmo, to see the former villa of the Dukes of Urbania, the villa
where Medea was confined between the accession of Duke Robert and the
conspiracy of Marcantonio Frangipani, which caused her removal to the
nunnery immediately outside the town. A long ride up the desolate
Apennine valleys, bleak beyond words just now with their thin fringe of
oak scrub turned russet, thin patches of grass seared by the frost, the
last few yellow leaves of the poplars by the torrents shaking and
fluttering about in the chill Tramontana; the mountaintops are wrapped
in thick grey cloud; tomorrow, if the wind continues, we shall see them
round masses of snow against the cold blue sky. Sant' Elmo is a
wretched hamlet high on the Apennine ridge, where the Italian
vegetation is already replaced by that of the North. You ride for miles
through leafless chestnut woods, the scent of the soaking brown leaves
filling the air, the roar of the torrent, turbid with autumn rains,
rising from the precipice below; then suddenly the leafless chestnut
woods are replaced, as at Vallombrosa, by a belt of black, dense fir
plantations. Emerging from these, you come to an open space, frozen
blasted meadows, the rocks of snow clad peak, the newly fallen snow,
close above you; and in the midst, on a knoll, with a gnarled larch on
either side, the ducal villa of Sant' Elmo, a big black stone box with
a stone escutcheon, grated windows, and a double flight of steps in
front. It is now let out to the proprietor of the neighboring woods,
who uses it for the storage of chestnuts, faggots, and charcoal from
the neighboring ovens. We tied our horses to the iron rings and
entered: an old woman, with disheveled hair, was alone in the house.
The villa is a mere hunting-lodge, built by Ottobuono IV., the father
of Dukes Guidalfonso and Robert, about 1530. Some of the rooms have at
one time been frescoed and paneled with oak carvings, but all this has
disappeared. Only, in one of the big rooms, there remains a large
marble fireplace, similar to those in the palace at Urbania,
beautifully carved with Cupids on a blue ground; a charming naked boy
sustains a jar on either side, one containing clove pinks, the other
roses. The room was filled with stacks of faggots.

We returned home late, my companion in excessively bad humor at the
fruitlessness of the expedition. We were caught in the skirt of a
snowstorm as we got into the chestnut woods. The sight of the snow
falling gently, of the earth and bushes whitened all round, made me
feel back at Posen, once more a child. I sang and shouted, to my
companion's horror. This will be a bad point against me if reported at
Berlin. A historian of twenty-four who shouts and sings, and that when
another historian is cursing at the snow and the bad roads! All night I
lay awake watching the embers of my wood fire, and thinking of Medea da
Carpi mewed up, in winter, in that solitude of Sant' Elmo, the firs
groaning, the torrent roaring, the snow falling all round; miles and
miles away from human creatures. I fancied I saw it all, and that I,
somehow, was Marcantonio Frangipani come to liberate her--or was it
Prinzivalle degli Ordelaffi? I suppose it was because of the long ride,
the unaccustomed pricking feeling of the snow in the air; or perhaps
the punch which my professor insisted on drinking after dinner.

Nov. 23rd.--

Thank goodness, that Bavarian professor has finally departed! Those
days he spent here drove me nearly crazy. Talking over my work, I told
him one day my views on Medea da Carpi; whereupon he condescended to
answer that those were the usual tales due to the mythopoeic (old
idiot!) tendency of the Renaissance; that research would disprove the
greater part of them, as it had disproved the stories current about the
Borgias, &c.; that, moreover, such a woman as I made out was
psychologically and physiologically impossible. Would that one could
say as much of such professors as he and his fellows!

Nov. 24th.--

I cannot get over my pleasure in being rid of that imbecile; I felt as
if I could have throttled him every time he spoke of the Lady of my
thoughts--for such she has become--_Metea_, as the animal called

Nov. 30th.--

I feel quite shaken at what has just happened; I am beginning to fear
that that old pedant was right in saying that it was bad for me to live
all alone in a strange country, that it would make me morbid. It is
ridiculous that I should be put into such a state of excitement merely
by the chance discovery of a portrait of a woman dead these three
hundred years. With the case of my uncle Ladislas, and other suspicions
of insanity in my family, I ought really to guard against such foolish

Yet the incident was really dramatic, uncanny. I could have sworn that
I knew every picture in the palace here; and particularly every picture
of Her. Anyhow, this morning, as I was leaving the Archives, I passed
through one of the many small rooms--irregular-shaped closets--which
fill up the ins and outs of this curious palace, turreted like a French
château. I must have passed through that closet before, for the view
was so familiar out of its window; just the particular bit of round
tower in front, the cypress on the other side of the ravine, the belfry
beyond, and the piece of the line of Monte Sant' Agata and the
Leonessa, covered with snow, against the sky. I suppose there must be
twin rooms, and that I had got into the wrong one; or rather, perhaps
some shutter had been opened or curtain withdrawn. As I was passing, my
eye was caught by a very beautiful old mirror-frame let into the brown
and yellow inlaid wall. I approached, and looking at the frame, looked
also, mechanically, into the glass. I gave a great start, and almost
shrieked, I do believe--(it's lucky the Munich professor is safe out of
Urbania!). Behind my own image stood another, a figure close to my
shoulder, a face close to mine; and that figure, that face, hers! Medea
da Carpi's! I turned sharp round, as white, I think, as the ghost I
expected to see. On the wall opposite the mirror, just a pace or two
behind where I had been standing, hung a portrait. And such a
portrait!--Bronzino never painted a grander one. Against a background
of harsh, dark blue, there stands out the figure of the Duchess (for it
is Medea, the real Medea, a thousand times more real, individual, and
powerful than in the other portraits), seated stiffly in a high-backed
chair, sustained, as it were, almost rigid, by the stiff brocade of
skirts and stomacher, stiffer for plaques of embroidered silver flowers
and rows of seed pearl. The dress is, with its mixture of silver and
pearl, of a strange dull red, a wicked poppy-juice color, against which
the flesh of the long, narrow hands with fringe-like fingers; of the
long slender neck, and the face with bared forehead, looks white and
hard, like alabaster. The face is the same as in the other portraits:
the same rounded forehead, with the short fleece-like, yellowish-red
curls; the same beautifully curved eyebrows, just barely marked; the
same eyelids, a little tight across the eyes; the same lips, a little
tight across the mouth; but with a purity of line, a dazzling splendor
of skin, and intensity of look immeasurably superior to all the other

She looks out of the frame with a cold, level glance; yet the lips
smile. One hand holds a dull-red rose; the other, long, narrow,
tapering, plays with a thick rope of silk and gold and jewels hanging
from the waist; round the throat, white as marble, partially confined
in the tight dull-red bodice, hangs a gold collar, with the device on
alternate enameled medallions, "AMOUR DURE--DURE AMOUR."

On reflection, I see that I simply could never have been in that room
or closet before; I must have mistaken the door. But, although the
explanation is so simple, I still, after several hours, feel terribly
shaken in all my being. If I grow so excitable I shall have to go to
Rome at Christmas for a holiday. I feel as if some danger pursued me
here (can it be fever?); and yet, and yet, I don't see how I shall ever
tear myself away.

_Dec. 10th_.--

I have made an effort, and accepted the Vice-Prefect's son's invitation
to see the oil-making at a villa of theirs near the coast. The villa,
or farm, is an old fortified, towered place, standing on a hillside
among olive-trees and little osier-bushes, which look like a bright
orange flame. The olives are squeezed in a tremendous black cellar,
like a prison: you see, by the faint white daylight, and the smoky
yellow flare of resin burning in pans, great white bullocks moving
round a huge millstone; vague figures working at pulleys and handles:
it looks, to my fancy, like some scene of the Inquisition. The
Cavaliere regaled me with his best wine and rusks. I took some long
walks by the seaside; I had left Urbania wrapped in snow-clouds; down
on the coast there was a bright sun; the sunshine, the sea, the bustle
of the little port on the Adriatic seemed to do me good. I came back to
Urbania another man. Sor Asdrubale, my landlord, poking about in
slippers among the gilded chests, the Empire sofas, the old cups and
saucers and pictures which no one will buy, congratulated me upon the
improvement in my looks. "You work too much," he says; "youth requires
amusement, theatres, promenades, _amori_--it is time enough to be
serious when one is bald"--and he took off his greasy red cap. Yes, I
am better! and, as a result, I take to my work with delight again. I will
cut them out still, those wiseacres at Berlin!

_Dec. 14th_.--

I don't think I have ever felt so happy about my work. I see it all so
well--that crafty, cowardly Duke Robert; that melancholy Duchess
Maddalena; that weak, showy, would-be chivalrous Duke Guidalfonso; and
above all, the splendid figure of Medea. I feel as if I were the
greatest historian of the age; and, at the same time, as if I were a
boy of twelve. It snowed yesterday for the first time in the city, for
two good hours. When it had done, I actually went into the square and
taught the ragamuffins to make a snowman; no, a snow-woman; and I had
the fancy to call her Medea. "La pessima Medea!" cried one of the
boys--"the one who used to ride through the air on a goat?" "No, no," I
said; "she was a beautiful lady, the Duchess of Urbania, the most
beautiful woman that ever lived." I made her a crown of tinsel, and
taught the boys to cry "Evviva, Medea!" But one of them said, "She is a
witch! She must be burnt!" At which they all rushed to fetch burning
faggots and tow; in a minute the yelling demons had melted her down.

_Dec. 15th_.--

What a goose I am, and to think I am twenty-four, and known in
literature! In my long walks I have composed to a tune (I don't know
what it is) which all the people are singing and whistling in the
street at present, a poem in frightful Italian, beginning "Medea, mia
dea," calling on her in the name of her various lovers. I go about
humming between my teeth, "Why am I not Marcantonio? or Prinzivalle? or
he of Narni? or the good Duke Alfonso? that I might be beloved by thee,
Medea, mia dea," &c. &c. Awful rubbish! My landlord, I think, suspects
that Medea must be some lady I met while I was staying by the seaside.
I am sure Sora Serafina, Sora Lodovica, and Sora Adalgisa--the three
Parcae or _Norns_, as I call them--have some such notion. This
afternoon, at dusk, while tidying my room, Sora Lodovica said to me,
"How beautifully the Signorino has taken to singing!" I was scarcely
aware that I had been vociferating, "Vieni, Medea, mia dea," while the
old lady bobbed about making up my fire. I stopped; a nice reputation I
shall get! I thought, and all this will somehow get to Rome, and thence
to Berlin. Sora Lodovica was leaning out of the window, pulling in the
iron hook of the shrine-lamp which marks Sor Asdrubale's house. As she
was trimming the lamp previous to swinging it out again, she said in
her odd, prudish little way, "You are wrong to stop singing, my son"
(she varies between calling me Signor Professore and such terms of
affection as "Nino," "Viscere mie," &c.); "you are wrong to stop
singing, for there is a young lady there in the street who has actually
stopped to listen to you."

I ran to the window. A woman, wrapped in a black shawl, was standing in
an archway, looking up to the window.

"Eh, eh! the Signor Professore has admirers," said Sora Lodovica.

"Medea, mia dea!" I burst out as loud as I could, with a boy's pleasure
in disconcerting the inquisitive passer-by. She turned suddenly round
to go away, waving her hand at me; at that moment Sora Lodovica swung
the shrine-lamp back into its place. A stream of light fell across the
street. I felt myself grow quite cold; the face of the woman outside
was that of Medea da Carpi!

What a fool I am, to be sure!

Part II

Dec. 17th.--I fear that my craze about Medea da Carpi has become well
known, thanks to my silly talk and idiotic songs. That Vice-Prefect's
son--or the assistant at the Archives, or perhaps some of the company
at the Contessa's, is trying to play me a trick! But take care, my good
ladies and gentlemen, I shall pay you out in your own coin! Imagine my
feelings when, this morning, I found on my desk a folded letter
addressed to me in a curious handwriting which seemed strangely
familiar to me, and which, after a moment, I recognized as that of the
letters of Medea da Carpi at the Archives. It gave me a horrible shock.
My next idea was that it must be a present from some one who knew my
interest in Medea--a genuine letter of hers on which some idiot had
written my address instead of putting it into an envelope. But it was
addressed to me, written to me, no old letter; merely four lines, which
ran as follows:--

"To Spiridion.--

"A person who knows the interest you bear her will be at the Church of
San Giovanni Decollato this evening at nine. Look out, in the left
aisle, for a lady wearing a black mantle, and holding a rose."

By this time I understood that I was the object of a conspiracy, the
victim of a hoax. I turned the letter round and round. It was written
on paper such as was made in the sixteenth century, and in an
extraordinarily precise imitation of Medea da Carpi's characters. Who
had written it? I thought over all the possible people. On the whole,
it must be the Vice-Prefect's son, perhaps in combination with his
lady-love, the Countess. They must have torn a blank page off some old
letter; but that either of them should have had the ingenuity of
inventing such a hoax, or the power of committing such a forgery,
astounds me beyond measure. There is more in these people than I should
have guessed. How pay them off? By taking no notice of the letter?
Dignified, but dull. No, I will go; perhaps some one will be there, and
I will mystify them in their turn. Or, if no one is there, how I shall
crow over them for their imperfectly carried out plot! Perhaps this is
some folly of the Cavalier Muzio's to bring me into the presence of
some lady whom he destines to be the flame of my future _amori_.
That is likely enough. And it would be too idiotic and professorial to
refuse such an invitation; the lady must be worth knowing who can forge
sixteenth-century letters like this, for I am sure that languid swell
Muzio never could. I will go! By Heaven! I'll pay them back in their
own coin! It is now five--how long these days are!

_Dec. 18th._--

Am I mad? Or are there really ghosts? That adventure of last night has
shaken me to the very depth of my soul.

I went at nine, as the mysterious letter had bid me. It was bitterly
cold, and the air full of fog and sleet; not a shop open, not a window
unshuttered, not a creature visible; the narrow black streets,
precipitous between their, high walls and under their lofty archways,
were only the blacker for the dull light of an oil-lamp here and there,
with its flickering yellow reflection on the wet flags. San Giovanni
Decollato is a little church, or rather oratory, which I have always
hitherto seen shut up (as so many churches here are shut up except on
great festivals); and situate behind the ducal palace, on a sharp
ascent, and forming the bifurcation of two steep paved lanes. I have
passed by the place a hundred times, and scarcely noticed the little
church, except for the marble high relief over the door, showing the
grizzly head of the Baptist in the charger, and for the iron cage close
by, in which were formerly exposed the heads of criminals; the
decapitated, or, as they call him here, decollated, John the Baptist,
being apparently the patron of axe and block.

A few strides took me from my lodgings to San Giovanni Decollato. I
confess I was excited; one is not twenty-four and a Pole for nothing.
On getting to the kind of little platform at the bifurcation of the two
precipitous streets, I found, to my surprise, that the windows of the
church or oratory were not lighted, and that the door was locked! So
this was the precious joke that had been played upon me; to send me on
a bitter cold, sleety night, to a church which was shut up and had
perhaps been shut up for years! I don't know what I couldn't have done
in that moment of rage; I felt inclined to break open the church door,
or to go and pull the Vice-Prefect's son out of bed (for I felt sure
that the joke was his). I determined upon the latter course; and was
walking towards his door, along the black alley to the left of the
church, when I was suddenly stopped by the sound as of an organ close
by, an organ, yes, quite plainly, and the voice of choristers and the
drone of a litany. So the church was not shut, after all! I retraced my
steps to the top of the lane. All was dark and in complete silence.
Suddenly there came again a faint gust of organ and voices. I listened;
it clearly came from the other lane, the one on the right-hand side.
Was there, perhaps, another door there? I passed beneath the archway,
and descended a little way in the direction whence the sounds seemed to
come. But no door, no light, only the black walls, the black wet flags,
with their faint yellow reflections of flickering oil-lamps; moreover,
complete silence. I stopped a minute, and then the chant rose again;
this time it seemed to me most certainly from the lane I had just left.
I went back--nothing. Thus backwards and forwards, the sounds always
beckoning, as it were, one way, only to beckon me back, vainly, to the

At last I lost patience; and I felt a sort of creeping terror, which
only a violent action could dispel. If the mysterious sounds came
neither from the street to the right, nor from the street to the left,
they could come only from the church. Half-maddened, I rushed up the
two or three steps, and prepared to wrench the door open with a
tremendous effort. To my amazement, it opened with the greatest ease. I
entered, and the sounds of the litany met me louder than before, as I
paused a moment between the outer door and the heavy leathern curtain.
I raised the latter and crept in. The altar was brilliantly illuminated
with tapers and garlands of chandeliers; this was evidently some
evening service connected with Christmas. The nave and aisles were
comparatively dark, and about half-full. I elbowed my way along the
right aisle towards the altar. When my eyes had got accustomed to the
unexpected light, I began to look round me, and with a beating heart.
The idea that all this was a hoax, that I should meet merely some
acquaintance of my friend the Cavaliere's, had somehow departed: I
looked about. The people were all wrapped up, the men in big cloaks,
the women in woolen veils and mantles. The body of the church was
comparatively dark, and I could not make out anything very clearly, but
it seemed to me, somehow, as if, under the cloaks and veils, these
people were dressed in a rather extraordinary fashion. The man in front
of me, I remarked, showed yellow stockings beneath his cloak; a woman,
hard by, a red bodice, laced behind with gold tags. Could these be
peasants from some remote part come for the Christmas festivities, or
did the inhabitants of Urbania don some old-fashioned garb in honor of

As I was wondering, my eye suddenly caught that of a woman standing in
the opposite aisle, close to the altar, and in the full blaze of its
lights. She was wrapped in black, but held, in a very conspicuous way,
a red rose, an unknown luxury at this time of the year in a place like
Urbania. She evidently saw me, and turning even more fully into the
light, she loosened her heavy black cloak, displaying a dress of deep
red, with gleams of silver and gold embroideries; she turned her face
towards me; the full blaze of the chandeliers and tapers fell upon it.
It was the face of Medea da Carpi! I dashed across the nave, pushing
people roughly aside, or rather, it seemed to me, passing through
impalpable bodies. But the lady turned and walked rapidly down the
aisle towards the door. I followed close upon her, but somehow I could
not get up with her. Once, at the curtain, she turned round again. She
was within a few paces of me. Yes, it was Medea. Medea herself, no
mistake, no delusion, no sham; the oval face, the lips tightened over
the mouth, the eyelids tight over the corner of the eyes, the exquisite
alabaster complexion! She raised the curtain and glided out. I
followed; the curtain alone separated me from her. I saw the wooden
door swing to behind her. One step ahead of me! I tore open the door;
she must be on the steps, within reach of my arm!

I stood outside the church. All was empty, merely the wet pavement and
the yellow reflections in the pools: a sudden cold seized me; I could
not go on. I tried to re-enter the church; it was shut. I rushed home,
my hair standing on end, and trembling in all my limbs, and remained
for an hour like a maniac. Is it a delusion? Am I too going mad? O God,
God! am I going mad?

_Dec. 19th.--_

A brilliant, sunny day; all the black snow-slush has disappeared out of
the town, off the bushes and trees. The snow-clad mountains sparkle
against the bright blue sky. A Sunday, and Sunday weather; all the
bells are ringing for the approach of Christmas. They are preparing for
a kind of fair in the square with the colonnade, putting up booths
filled with colored cotton and woolen ware, bright shawls and
kerchiefs, mirrors, ribbons, brilliant pewter lamps; the whole turn-out
of the peddler in "Winter's Tale." The pork-shops are all garlanded
with green and with paper flowers, the hams and cheeses stuck full of
little flags and green twigs. I strolled out to see the cattle-fair
outside the gate; a forest of interlacing horns, an ocean of lowing and
stamping: hundreds of immense white bullocks, with horns a yard long
and red tassels, packed close together on the little piazza d'armi
under the city walls. Bah! Why do I write this trash? What's the use of
it all? While I am forcing myself to write about bells, and Christmas
festivities, and cattle-fairs, one idea goes on like a bell within me:
Medea, Medea! Have I really seen her, or am I mad?

Two hours later.--That Church of San Giovanni Decollato--so my landlord
informs me--has not been made use of within the memory of man. Could it
have been all a hallucination or a dream--perhaps a dream dreamed that
night? I have been out again to look at that church. There it is, at
the bifurcation of the two steep lanes, with its bas-relief of the
Baptist's head over the door. The door does look as if it had not been
opened for years. I can see the cobwebs in the windowpanes; it does
look as if, as Sor Asdrubale says, only rats and spiders congregated
within it. And yet--and yet; I have so clear a remembrance, so distinct
a consciousness of it all. There was a picture of the daughter of
Herodias dancing, upon the altar; I remember her white turban with a
scarlet tuft of feathers, and Herod's blue caftan; I remember the shape
of the central chandelier; it swung round slowly, and one of the wax
lights had got bent almost in two by the heat and draught.

Things, all these, which I may have seen elsewhere, stored unawares in
my brain, and which may have come out, somehow, in a dream; I have
heard physiologists allude to such things. I will go again: if the
church be shut, why then it must have been a dream, a vision, the
result of over-excitement. I must leave at once for Rome and see
doctors, for I am afraid of going mad. If, on the other hand--pshaw!
there _is no other hand_ in such a case. Yet if there were--why
then, I should really have seen Medea; I might see her again; speak to
her. The mere thought sets my blood in a whirl, not with horror, but
with... I know not what to call it. The feeling terrifies me, but it is
delicious. Idiot! There is some little coil of my brain, the twentieth
of a hair's-breadth out of order--that's all!

_Dec. 20th.--_

I have been again; I have heard the music; I have been inside the
church; I have seen Her! I can no longer doubt my senses. Why should I?
Those pedants say that the dead are dead, the past is past. For them,
yes; but why for me?--why for a man who loves, who is consumed with the
love of a woman?--a woman who, indeed--yes, let me finish the sentence.
Why should there not be ghosts to such as can see them? Why should she
not return to the earth, if she knows that it contains a man who thinks
of, desires, only her?

A hallucination? Why, I saw her, as I see this paper that I write upon;
standing there, in the full blaze of the altar. Why, I heard the rustle
of her skirts, I smelt the scent of her hair, I raised the curtain
which was shaking from her touch. Again I missed her. But this time, as
I rushed out into the empty moonlit street, I found upon the church
steps a rose--the rose which I had seen in her hand the moment
before--I felt it, smelt it; a rose, a real, living rose, dark red and
only just plucked. I put it into water when I returned, after having
kissed it, who knows how many times? I placed it on the top of the
cupboard; I determined not to look at it for twenty-four hours lest it
should be a delusion. But I must see it again; I must.... Good Heavens!
this is horrible, horrible; if I had found a skeleton it could not have
been worse! The rose, which last night seemed freshly plucked, full of
color and perfume, is brown, dry--a thing kept for centuries between
the leaves of a book--it has crumbled into dust between my fingers.
Horrible, horrible! But why so, pray? Did I not know that I was in love
with a woman dead three hundred years? If I wanted fresh roses which
bloomed yesterday, the Countess Fiammetta or any little sempstress in
Urbania might have given them me. What if the rose has fallen to dust?
If only I could hold Medea in my arms as I held it in my fingers, kiss
her lips as I kissed its petals, should I not be satisfied if she too
were to fall to dust the next moment, if I were to fall to dust myself?

_Dec. 22nd, Eleven at night.--_

I have seen her once more!--almost spoken to her. I have been promised
her love! Ah, Spiridion! you were right when you felt that you were not
made for any earthly _amori_. At the usual hour I betook myself
this evening to San Giovanni Decollato. A bright winter night; the high
houses and belfries standing out against a deep blue heaven luminous,
shimmering like steel with myriads of stars; the moon has not yet
risen. There was no light in the windows; but, after a little effort,
the door opened and I entered the church, the altar, as usual,
brilliantly illuminated. It struck me suddenly that all this crowd of
men and women standing all round, these priests chanting and moving
about the altar, were dead--that they did not exist for any man save
me. I touched, as if by accident, the hand of my neighbor; it was cold,
like wet clay. He turned round, but did not seem to see me: his face
was ashy, and his eyes staring, fixed, like those of a blind man or a
corpse. I felt as if I must rush out. But at that moment my eye fell
upon Her, standing as usual by the altar steps, wrapped in a black
mantle, in the full blaze of the lights. She turned round; the light
fell straight upon her face, the face with the delicate features, the
eyelids and lips a little tight, the alabaster skin faintly tinged with
pale pink. Our eyes met.

I pushed my way across the nave towards where she stood by the altar
steps; she turned quickly down the aisle, and I after her. Once or
twice she lingered, and I thought I should overtake her; but again,
when, not a second after the door had closed upon her, I stepped out
into the street, she had vanished. On the church step lay something
white. It was not a flower this time, but a letter. I rushed back to
the church to read it; but the church was fast shut, as if it had not
been opened for years. I could not see by the flickering
shrine-lamps--I rushed home, lit my lamp, pulled the letter from my
breast. I have it before me. The handwriting is hers; the same as in
the Archives, the same as in that first letter:--

"To Spiridion.--

"Let thy courage be equal to thy love, and thy love shall be rewarded.
On the night preceding Christmas, take a hatchet and saw; cut boldly
into the body of the bronze rider who stands in the Corte, on the left
side, near the waist. Saw open the body, and within it thou wilt find
the silver effigy of a winged genius. Take it out, hack it into a
hundred pieces, and fling them in all directions, so that the winds may
sweep them away. That night she whom thou lovest will come to reward
thy fidelity."

On the brownish wax is the device--"AMOUR DURE--DURE AMOUR."

_Dec. 23rd.--_

So it is true! I was reserved for something wonderful in this world. I
have at last found that after which my soul has been straining.
Ambition, love of art, love of Italy, these things which have occupied
my spirit, and have yet left me continually unsatisfied, these were
none of them my real destiny. I have sought for life, thirsting for it
as a man in the desert thirsts for a well; but the life of the senses
of other youths, the life of the intellect of other men, have never
slaked that thirst. Shall life for me mean the love of a dead woman? We
smile at what we choose to call the superstition of the past,
forgetting that all our vaunted science of today may seem just such
another superstition to the men of the future; but why should the
present be right and the past wrong? The men who painted the pictures
and built the palaces of three hundred years ago were certainly of as
delicate fiber, of as keen reason, as ourselves, who merely print
calico and build locomotives. What makes me think this, is that I have
been calculating my nativity by help of an old book belonging to Sor
Asdrubale--and see, my horoscope tallies almost exactly with that of
Medea da Carpi, as given by a chronicler. May this explain? No, no; all
is explained by the fact that the first time I read of this woman's
career, the first time I saw her portrait, I loved her, though I hid my
love to myself in the garb of historical interest. Historical interest

I have got the hatchet and the saw. I bought the saw of a poor joiner,
in a village some miles off; he did not understand at first what I
meant, and I think he thought me mad; perhaps I am. But if madness
means the happiness of one's life, what of it? The hatchet I saw lying
in a timber-yard, where they prepare the great trunks of the fir-trees
which grow high on the Apennines of Sant' Elmo. There was no one in the
yard, and I could not resist the temptation; I handled the thing, tried
its edge, and stole it. This is the first time in my life that I have
been a thief; why did I not go into a shop and buy a hatchet? I don't
know; I seemed unable to resist the sight of the shining blade. What I
am going to do is, I suppose, an act of vandalism; and certainly I have
no right to spoil the property of this city of Urbania. But I wish no
harm either to the statue or the city, if I could plaster up the
bronze, I would do so willingly. But I must obey Her; I must avenge
Her; I must get at that silver image which Robert of Montemurlo had
made and consecrated in order that his cowardly soul might sleep in
peace, and not encounter that of the being whom he dreaded most in the
world. Aha! Duke Robert, you forced her to die unshriven, and you stuck
the image of your soul into the image of your body, thinking thereby
that, while she suffered the tortures of Hell, you would rest in peace,
until your well-scoured little soul might fly straight up to
Paradise;--you were afraid of Her when both of you should be dead, and
thought yourself very clever to have prepared for all emergencies! Not
so, Serene Highness. You too shall taste what it is to wander after
death, and to meet the dead whom one has injured.

What an interminable day! But I shall see her again tonight.

Eleven o'clock.--No; the church was fast closed; the spell had ceased.
Until tomorrow I shall not see her. But tomorrow! Ah, Medea! did any of
thy lovers love thee as I do?

Twenty-four hours more till the moment of happiness--the moment for
which I seem to have been waiting all my life. And after that, what
next? Yes, I see it plainer every minute; after that, nothing more. All
those who loved Medea da Carpi, who loved and who served her, died:
Giovanfrancesco Pico, her first husband, whom she left stabbed in the
castle from which she fled; Stimigliano, who died of poison; the groom
who gave him the poison, cut down by her orders; Oliverotto da Narni,
Marcantonio Frangipani, and that poor boy of the Ordelaffi, who had
never even looked upon her face, and whose only reward was that
handkerchief with which the hangman wiped the sweat off his face, when
he was one mass of broken limbs and torn flesh: all had to die, and I
shall die also.

The love of such a woman is enough, and is fatal--"Amour Dure," as her
device says. I shall die also. But why not? Would it be possible to
live in order to love another woman? Nay, would it be possible to drag
on a life like this one after the happiness of tomorrow? Impossible;
the others died, and I must die. I always felt that I should not live
long; a gipsy in Poland told me once that I had in my hand the cut-line
which signifies a violent death. I might have ended in a duel with some
brother-student, or in a railway accident. No, no; my death will not be
of that sort! Death--and is not she also dead? What strange vistas does
such a thought not open! Then the others--Pico, the Groom, Stimigliano,
Oliverotto, Frangipani, Prinzivalle degli Ordelaffi--will they all be
_there?_ But she shall love me best--me by whom she has been loved
after she has been three hundred years in the grave!

_Dec. 24th.--_

I have made all my arrangements. Tonight at eleven I slip out; Sor
Asdrubale and his sisters will be sound asleep. I have questioned them;
their fear of rheumatism prevents their attending midnight mass.
Luckily there are no churches between this and the Corte; whatever
movement Christmas night may entail will be a good way off. The
Vice-Prefect's rooms are on the other side of the palace; the rest of
the square is taken up with state-rooms, archives, and empty stables
and coach-houses of the palace. Besides, I shall be quick at my work.

I have tried my saw on a stout bronze vase I bought of Sor Asdrubale;
and the bronze of the statue, hollow and worn away by rust (I have even
noticed holes), cannot resist very much, especially after a blow with
the sharp hatchet. I have put my papers in order, for the benefit of
the Government which has sent me hither. I am sorry to have defrauded
them of their "History of Urbania." To pass the endless day and calm
the fever of impatience, I have just taken a long walk. This is the
coldest day we have had. The bright sun does not warm in the least, but
seems only to increase the impression of cold, to make the snow on the
mountains glitter, the blue air to sparkle like steel. The few people
who are out are muffled to the nose, and carry earthenware braziers
beneath their cloaks; long icicles hang from the fountain with the
figure of Mercury upon it; one can imagine the wolves trooping down
through the dry scrub and beleaguering this town. Somehow this cold
makes me feel wonderfully calm--it seems to bring back to me my

As I walked up the rough, steep, paved alleys, slippery with frost, and
with their vista of snow mountains against the sky, and passed by the
church steps strewn with box and laurel, with the faint smell of
incense coming out, there returned to me--I know not why--the
recollection, almost the sensation, of those Christmas Eves long ago at
Posen and Breslau, when I walked as a child along the wide streets,
peeping into the windows where they were beginning to light the tapers
of the Christmas-trees, and wondering whether I too, on returning home,
should be let into a wonderful room all blazing with lights and gilded
nuts and glass beads. They are hanging the last strings of those blue
and red metallic beads, fastening on the last gilded and silvered
walnuts on the trees out there at home in the North; they are lighting
the blue and red tapers; the wax is beginning to run on to the
beautiful spruce green branches; the children are waiting with beating
hearts behind the door, to be told that the Christ-Child has been. And
I, for what am I waiting? I don't know; all seems a dream; everything
vague and unsubstantial about me, as if time had ceased, nothing could
happen, my own desires and hopes were all dead, myself absorbed into I
know not what passive dreamland. Do I long for tonight? Do I dread it?
Will tonight ever come? Do I feel anything, does anything exist all
round me?

I sit and seem to see that street at Posen, the wide street with the
windows illuminated by the Christmas lights, the green fir-branches
grazing the window-panes.

_Christmas Eve, Midnight.--_

I have done it. I slipped out noiselessly. Sor Asdrubale and his
sisters were fast asleep. I feared I had waked them, for my hatchet
fell as I was passing through the principal room where my landlord
keeps his curiosities for sale; it struck against some old armor which
he has been piecing. I heard him exclaim, half in his sleep; and blew
out my light and hid in the stairs. He came out in his dressing-gown,
but finding no one, went back to bed again. "Some cat, no doubt!" he
said. I closed the house door softly behind me. The sky had become
stormy since the afternoon, luminous with the full moon, but strewn
with grey and buff-colored vapors; every now and then the moon
disappeared entirely. Not a creature abroad; the tall gaunt houses
staring in the moonlight.

I know not why, I took a roundabout way to the Corte, past one or two
church doors, whence issued the faint flicker of midnight mass. For a
moment I felt a temptation to enter one of then; but something seemed
to restrain me. I caught snatches of the Christmas hymn. I felt myself
beginning to be unnerved, and hastened towards the Corte. As I passed
under the portico at San Francesco I heard steps behind me; it seemed
to me that I was followed. I stopped to let the other pass. As he
approached his pace flagged; he passed close by me and murmured, "Do
not go: I am Giovanfrancesco Pico." I turned round; he was gone. A
coldness numbed me; but I hastened on.

Behind the cathedral apse, in a narrow lane, I saw a man leaning
against a wall. The moonlight was full upon him; it seemed to me that
his face, with a thin pointed beard, was streaming with blood. I
quickened my pace; but as I grazed by him he whispered, "Do not obey
her; return home: I am Marcantonio Frangipani." My teeth chattered, but
I hurried along the narrow lane, with the moonlight blue upon the white
walls. At last I saw the Corte before me: the square was flooded with
moonlight, the windows of the palace seemed brightly illuminated, and
the statue of Duke Robert, shimmering green, seemed advancing towards
me on its horse. I came into the shadow. I had to pass beneath an
archway. There started a figure as if out of the wall, and barred my
passage with his outstretched cloaked arm. I tried to pass. He seized
me by the arm, and his grasp was like a weight of ice. "You shall not
pass!" he cried, and, as the moon came out once more, I saw his face,
ghastly white and bound with an embroidered kerchief; he seemed almost
a child. "You shall not pass!" he cried; "you shall not have her! She
is mine, and mine alone! I am Prinzivalle degli Ordelaffi." I felt his
ice-cold clutch, but with my other arm I laid about me wildly with the
hatchet which I carried beneath my cloak. The hatchet struck the wall
and rang upon the stone. He had vanished.

I hurried on. I did it. I cut open the bronze; I sawed it into a wider
gash. I tore out the silver image, and hacked it into innumerable
pieces. As I scattered the last fragments about, the moon was suddenly
veiled; a great wind arose, howling down the square; it seemed to me
that the earth shook. I threw down the hatchet and the saw, and fled
home. I felt pursued, as if by the tramp of hundreds of invisible

Now I am calm. It is midnight; another moment and she will be here!
Patience, my heart! I hear it beating loud. I trust that no one will
accuse poor Sor Asdrubale. I will write a letter to the authorities to
declare his innocence should anything happen.... One! the clock in the
palace tower has just struck.... "I hereby certify that, should
anything happen this night to me, Spiridion Trepka, no one but myself
is to be held..." A step on the staircase! It is she! it is she! At
last, Medea, Medea! Ah! AMOUR DURE--DURE AMOUR!

* * * * *

_NOTE.--Here ends the diary of the late Spiridion Trepka The chief
newspapers of the province of Umbria informed the public that, on
Christmas morning of the year 1885, the bronze equestrian statue of
Robert II. had been found grievously mutilated; and that Professor
Spiridion Trepka of Posen, in the German Empire, had been discovered
dead of a stab in the region of the heart, given by an unknown


From the Letters of Doctor Alessandro De Rosis to the Lady Evelyn
Savelli, Princess of Sabina.

_Montemiro Ligure, June 29, 1873._

I take immediate advantage of the generous offer of your Excellency
(allow an old Republican who has held you on his knees to address you
by that title sometimes, 'tis so appropriate) to help our poor people.
I never expected to come a-begging so soon. For the olive crop has been
unusually plenteous. We semi-Genoese don't pick the olives unripe, like
our Tuscan neighbors, but let them grow big and black, when the young
fellows go into the trees with long reeds and shake them down on the
grass for the women to collect--a pretty sight which your Excellency
must see some day: the grey trees with the brown, barefoot lads
craning, balanced in the branches, and the turquoise sea as background
just beneath.... That sea of ours--it is all along of it that I wish to
ask for money. Looking up from my desk, I see the sea through the
window, deep below and beyond the olive woods, bluish-green in the
sunshine and veined with violet under the cloud-bars, like one of your
Ravenna mosaics spread out as pavement for the world: a wicked sea,
wicked in its loveliness, wickeder than your grey northern ones, and
from which must have arisen in times gone by (when Phoenicians or
Greeks built the temples at Lerici and Porto Venere) a baleful goddess
of beauty, a Venus Verticordia, but in the bad sense of the word,
overwhelming men's lives in sudden darkness like that squall of last

To come to the point. I want you, dear Lady Evelyn, to promise me some
money, a great deal of money, as much as would buy you a little mannish
cloth frock--for the complete bringing-up, until years of discretion,
of a young stranger whom the sea has laid upon our shore. Our people,
kind as they are, are very poor, and overburdened with children;
besides, they have got a certain repugnance for this poor little waif,
cast up by that dreadful storm, and who is doubtless a heathen, for she
had no little crosses or scapulars on, like proper Christian children.
So, being unable to get any of our women to adopt the child, and having
an old bachelor's terror of my housekeeper, I have bethought me of
certain nuns, holy women, who teach little girls to say their prayers
and make lace close by here; and of your dear Excellency to pay for the
whole business.

Poor little brown mite! She was picked up after the storm (such a
set-out of ship-models and votive candles as that storm must have
brought the Madonna at Porto Venere!) on a strip of sand between the
rocks of our castle: the thing was really miraculous, for this coast is
like a shark's jaw, and the bits of sand are tiny and far between. She
was lashed to a plank, swaddled up close in outlandish garments; and
when they brought her to me they thought she must certainly be dead: a
little girl of four or five, decidedly pretty, and as brown as a berry,
who, when she came to, shook her head to show she understood no kind of
Italian, and jabbered some half-intelligible Eastern jabber, a few
Greek words embedded in I know not what; the Superior of the College De
Propagandâ Fide would be puzzled to know. The child appears to be the
only survivor from a ship which must have gone down in the great
squall, and whose timbers have been strewing the bay for some days
past; no one at Spezia or in any of our ports knows anything about her,
but she was seen, apparently making for Porto Venere, by some of our
sardine-fishers: a big, lumbering craft, with eyes painted on each side
of the prow, which, as you know, is a peculiarity of Greek boats. She
was sighted for the last time off the island of Palmaria, entering,
with all sails spread, right into the thick of the storm-darkness. No
bodies, strangely enough, have been washed ashore.

_July 10._

I have received the money, dear Donna Evelina. There was tremendous
excitement down at San Massimo when the carrier came in with a
registered letter, and I was sent for, in presence of all the village
authorities, to sign my name on the postal register.

The child has already been settled some days with the nuns; such dear
little nuns (nuns always go straight to the heart of an old
priest-hater and conspirator against the Pope, you know), dressed in
brown robes and close, white caps, with an immense round straw-hat
flapping behind their heads like a nimbus: they are called Sisters of
the Stigmata, and have a convent and school at San Massimo, a little
way inland, with an untidy garden full of lavender and cherry-trees.
Your _protégée_ has already half set the convent, the village, the
Episcopal See, the Order of St. Francis, by the ears. First, because
nobody could make out whether or not she had been christened. The
question was a grave one, for it appears (as your uncle-in-law, the
Cardinal, will tell you) that it is almost equally undesirable to be
christened twice over as not to be christened at all. The first danger
was finally decided upon as the less terrible; but the child, they say,
had evidently been baptized before, and knew that the operation ought
not to be repeated, for she kicked and plunged and yelled like twenty
little devils, and positively would not let the holy water touch her.
The Mother Superior, who always took for granted that the baptism had
taken place before, says that the child was quite right, and that
Heaven was trying to prevent a sacrilege; but the priest and the
barber's wife, who had to hold her, think the occurrence fearful, and
suspect the little girl of being a Protestant. Then the question of the
name. Pinned to her clothes--striped Eastern things, and that kind of
crinkled silk stuff they weave in Crete and Cyprus--was a piece of
parchment, a scapular we thought at first, but which was found to
contain only the name _Dionea_--Dionea, as they pronounce it here.
The question was, Could such a name be fitly borne by a young lady at
the Convent of the Stigmata? Half the population here have names as
unchristian quite--Norma, Odoacer, Archimedes--my housemaid is called
Themis--but Dionea seemed to scandalize every one, perhaps because
these good folk had a mysterious instinct that the name is derived from
Dione, one of the loves of Father Zeus, and mother of no less a lady
than the goddess Venus. The child was very near being called Maria,
although there are already twenty-three other Marias, Mariettas,
Mariuccias, and so forth at the convent. But the sister-bookkeeper, who
apparently detests monotony, bethought her to look out Dionea first in
the Calendar, which proved useless; and then in a big vellum-bound
book, printed at Venice in 1625, called "Flos Sanctorum, or Lives of
the Saints, by Father Ribadeneira, S.J., with the addition of such
Saints as have no assigned place in the Almanack, otherwise called the
Movable or Extravagant Saints." The zeal of Sister Anna Maddalena has
been rewarded, for there, among the Extravagant Saints, sure enough,
with a border of palm-branches and hour-glasses, stands the name of
Saint Dionea, Virgin and Martyr, a lady of Antioch, put to death by the
Emperor Decius. I know your Excellency's taste for historical
information, so I forward this item. But I fear, dear Lady Evelyn, I
fear that the heavenly patroness of your little sea-waif was a much
more extravagant saint than that.

_December 21, 1879._

Many thanks, dear Donna Evelina, for the money for Dionea's schooling.
Indeed, it was not wanted yet: the accomplishments of young ladies are
taught at a very moderate rate at Montemirto: and as to clothes, which
you mention, a pair of wooden clogs, with pretty red tips, costs
sixty-five centimes, and ought to last three years, if the owner is
careful to carry them on her head in a neat parcel when out walking,
and to put them on again only on entering the village. The Mother
Superior is greatly overcome by your Excellency's munificence towards
the convent, and much perturbed at being unable to send you a specimen
of your _protégée's_ skill, exemplified in an embroidered
pocket-handkerchief or a pair of mittens; but the fact is that poor
Dionea _has_ no skill. "We will pray to the Madonna and St.
Francis to make her more worthy," remarked the Superior. Perhaps,
however, your Excellency, who is, I fear but a Pagan woman (for all the
Savelli Popes and St. Andrew Savelli's miracles), and insufficiently
appreciative of embroidered pocket-handkerchiefs, will be quite as
satisfied to hear that Dionea, instead of skill, has got the prettiest
face of any little girl in Montemirto. She is tall, for her age (she is
eleven) quite wonderfully well proportioned and extremely strong: of
all the convent-full, she is the only one for whom I have never been
called in. The features are very regular, the hair black, and despite
all the good Sisters' efforts to keep it smooth like a Chinaman's,
beautifully curly. I am glad she should be pretty, for she will more
easily find a husband; and also because it seems fitting that your
_protégée_ should be beautiful. Unfortunately her character is not
so satisfactory: she hates learning, sewing, washing up the dishes, all
equally. I am sorry to say she shows no natural piety. Her companions
detest her, and the nuns, although they admit that she is not exactly
naughty, seem to feel her as a dreadful thorn in the flesh. She spends
hours and hours on the terrace overlooking the sea (her great desire,
she confided to me, is to get to the sea--to get _back to the
sea_, as she expressed it), and lying in the garden, under the big
myrtle-bushes, and, in spring and summer, under the rose-hedge. The
nuns say that rose-hedge and that myrtle-bush are growing a great deal
too big, one would think from Dionea's lying under them; the fact, I
suppose, has drawn attention to them. "That child makes all the useless
weeds grow," remarked Sister Reparata. Another of Dionea's amusements
is playing with pigeons. The number of pigeons she collects about her
is quite amazing; you would never have thought that San Massimo or the
neighboring hills contained as many. They flutter down like snowflakes,
and strut and swell themselves out, and furl and unfurl their tails,
and peck with little sharp movements of their silly, sensual heads and
a little throb and gurgle in their throats, while Dionea lies stretched
out full length in the sun, putting out her lips, which they come to
kiss, and uttering strange, cooing sounds; or hopping about, flapping
her arms slowly like wings, and raising her little head with much the
same odd gesture as they;--'tis a lovely sight, a thing fit for one of
your painters, Burne Jones or Tadema, with the myrtle-bushes all round,
the bright, white-washed convent walls behind, the white marble chapel
steps (all steps are marble in this Carrara country) and the enamel
blue sea through the ilex-branches beyond. But the good Sisters
abominate these pigeons, who, it appears, are messy little creatures,
and they complain that, were it not that the Reverend Director likes a
pigeon in his pot on a holiday, they could not stand the bother of
perpetually sweeping the chapel steps and the kitchen threshold all
along of those dirty birds....

_August 6, 1882._

Do not tempt me, dearest Excellency, with your invitations to Rome. I
should not be happy there, and do but little honor to your friendship.
My many years of exile, of wanderings in northern countries, have made
me a little bit into a northern man: I cannot quite get on with my own
fellow-countrymen, except with the good peasants and fishermen all
round. Besides--forgive the vanity of an old man, who has learned to
make triple acrostic sonnets to cheat the days and months at
Theresienstadt and Spielberg--I have suffered too much for Italy to
endure patiently the sight of little parliamentary cabals and municipal
wranglings, although they also are necessary in this day as
conspiracies and battles were in mine. I am not fit for your roomful of
ministers and learned men and pretty women: the former would think me
an ignoramus, and the latter--what would afflict me much more--a
pedant.... Rather, if your Excellency really wants to show yourself and
your children to your father's old _protégé_ of Mazzinian times,
find a few days to come here next spring. You shall have some very bare
rooms with brick floors and white curtains opening out on my terrace;
and a dinner of all manner of fish and milk (the white garlic flowers
shall be mown away from under the olives lest my cow should eat it) and
eggs cooked in herbs plucked in the hedges. Your boys can go and see
the big ironclads at Spezia; and you shall come with me up our lanes
fringed with delicate ferns and overhung by big olives, and into the
fields where the cherry-trees shed their blossoms on to the budding
vines, the fig-trees stretching out their little green gloves, where
the goats nibble perched on their hind legs, and the cows low in the
huts of reeds; and there rise from the ravines, with the gurgle of the
brooks, from the cliffs with the boom of the surf, the voices of unseen
boys and girls, singing about love and flowers and death, just as in
the days of Theocritus, whom your learned Excellency does well to read.
Has your Excellency ever read Longus, a Greek pastoral novelist? He is
a trifle free, a trifle nude for us readers of Zola; but the old French
of Amyot has a wonderful charm, and he gives one an idea, as no one
else does, how folk lived in such valleys, by such sea-boards, as these
in the days when daisy-chains and garlands of roses were still hung on
the olive-trees for the nymphs of the grove; when across the bay, at
the end of the narrow neck of blue sea, there clung to the marble rocks
not a church of Saint Laurence, with the sculptured martyr on his
gridiron, but the temple of Venus, protecting her harbor.... Yes, dear
Lady Evelyn, you have guessed aright. Your old friend has returned to
his sins, and is scribbling once more. But no longer at verses or
political pamphlets. I am enthralled by a tragic history, the history
of the fall of the Pagan Gods.... Have you ever read of their
wanderings and disguises, in my friend Heine's little book?

And if you come to Montemirto, you shall see also your _protégée_,
of whom you ask for news. It has just missed being disastrous. Poor
Dionea! I fear that early voyage tied to the spar did no good to her
wits, poor little waif! There has been a fearful row; and it has
required all my influence, and all the awfulness of your Excellency's
name, and the Papacy, and the Holy Roman Empire, to prevent her
expulsion by the Sisters of the Stigmata. It appears that this mad
creature very nearly committed a sacrilege: she was discovered handling
in a suspicious manner the Madonna's gala frock and her best veil of
_pizzo di Cantù_, a gift of the late Marchioness Violante
Vigalcila of Fornovo. One of the orphans, Zaira Barsanti, whom they
call the Rossaccia, even pretends to have surprised Dionea as she was
about to adorn her wicked little person with these sacred garments;
and, on another occasion, when Dionea had been sent to pass some oil
and sawdust over the chapel floor (it was the eve of Easter of the
Roses), to have discovered her seated on the edge of the altar, in the
very place of the Most Holy Sacrament. I was sent for in hot haste, and
had to assist at an ecclesiastical council in the convent parlor, where
Dionea appeared, rather out of place, an amazing little beauty, dark,
lithe, with an odd, ferocious gleam in her eyes, and a still odder
smile, tortuous, serpentine, like that of Leonardo da Vinci's women,
among the plaster images of St. Francis, and the glazed and framed
samplers before the little statue of the Virgin, which wears in summer
a kind of mosquito-curtain to guard it from the flies, who, as you
know, are creatures of Satan.

Speaking of Satan, does your Excellency know that on the inside of our
little convent door, just above the little perforated plate of metal
(like the rose of a watering-pot) through which the Sister-portress
peeps and talks, is pasted a printed form, an arrangement of holy names
and texts in triangles, and the stigmatized hands of St. Francis, and a
variety of other devices, for the purpose, as is explained in a special
notice, of baffling the Evil One, and preventing his entrance into that
building? Had you seen Dionea, and the stolid, contemptuous way in
which she took, without attempting to refute, the various shocking
allegations against her, your Excellency would have reflected, as I
did, that the door in question must have been accidentally absent from
the premises, perhaps at the joiner's for repair, the day that your
_protégée_ first penetrated into the convent. The ecclesiastical
tribunal, consisting of the Mother Superior, three Sisters, the
Capuchin Director, and your humble servant (who vainly attempted to be
Devil's advocate), sentenced Dionea, among other things, to make the
sign of the cross twenty-six times on the bare floor with her tongue.
Poor little child! One might almost expect that, as happened when Dame
Venus scratched her hand on the thorn-bush, red roses should sprout up
between the fissures of the dirty old bricks.

_October 14, 1883_.

You ask whether, now that the Sisters let Dionea go and do half a day's
service now and then in the village, and that Dionea is a grown-up
creature, she does not set the place by the ears with her beauty. The
people here are quite aware of its existence. She is already dubbed
_La bella Dionea_; but that does not bring her any nearer getting
a husband, although your Excellency's generous offer of a
wedding-portion is well known throughout the district of San Massimo
and Montemirto. None of our boys, peasants or fishermen, seem to hang
on her steps; and if they turn round to stare and whisper as she goes
by straight and dainty in her wooden clogs, with the pitcher of water
or the basket of linen on her beautiful crisp dark head, it is, I
remark, with an expression rather of fear than of love. The women, on
their side, make horns with their fingers as she passes, and as they
sit by her side in the convent chapel; but that seems natural. My
housekeeper tells me that down in the village she is regarded as
possessing the evil eye and bringing love misery. "You mean," I said,
"that a glance from her is too much for our lads' peace of mind."
Veneranda shook her head, and explained, with the deference and
contempt with which she always mentions any of her country-folk's
superstitions to me, that the matter is different: it's not with her
they are in love (they would be afraid of her eye), but where-ever she
goes the young people must needs fall in love with each other, and
usually where it is far from desirable. "You know Sora Luisa, the
blacksmith's widow? Well, Dionea did a _half-service_ for her last
month, to prepare for the wedding of Luisa's daughter. Well, now, the
girl must say, forsooth! that she won't have Pieriho of Lerici any
longer, but will have that raggamuffin Wooden Pipe from Solaro, or go
into a convent. And the girl changed her mind the very day that Dionea
had come into the house. Then there is the wife of Pippo, the
coffee-house keeper; they say she is carrying on with one of the
coastguards, and Dionea helped her to do her washing six weeks ago. The
son of Sor Temistocle has just cut off a finger to avoid the
conscription, because he is mad about his cousin and afraid of being
taken for a soldier; and it is a fact that some of the shirts which
were made for him at the Stigmata had been sewn by Dionea;" ... and
thus a perfect string of love misfortunes, enough to make a little
"Decameron," I assure you, and all laid to Dionea's account. Certain it
is that the people of San Massimo are terribly afraid of Dionea....

_July 17, 1884._

Dionea's strange influence seems to be extending in a terrible way. I
am almost beginning to think that our folk are correct in their fear of
the young witch. I used to think, as physician to a convent, that
nothing was more erroneous than all the romancings of Diderot and
Schubert (your Excellency sang me his "Young Nun" once: do you
recollect, just before your marriage?), and that no more humdrum
creature existed than one of our little nuns, with their pink baby
faces under their tight white caps. It appeared the romancing was more
correct than the prose. Unknown things have sprung up in these good
Sisters' hearts, as unknown flowers have sprung up among the
myrtle-bushes and the rose-hedge which Dionea lies under. Did I ever
mention to you a certain little Sister Giuliana, who professed only two
years ago?--a funny rose and white little creature presiding over the
infirmary, as prosaic a little saint as ever kissed a crucifix or
scoured a saucepan. Well, Sister Giuliana has disappeared, and the same
day has disappeared also a sailor-boy from the port.

_August 20, 1884_.

The case of Sister Giuliana seems to have been but the beginning of an
extraordinary love epidemic at the Convent of the Stigmata: the elder
schoolgirls have to be kept under lock and key lest they should talk
over the wall in the moonlight, or steal out to the little hunchback
who writes love-letters at a penny a-piece, beautiful flourishes and
all, under the portico by the Fishmarket. I wonder does that wicked
little Dionea, whom no one pays court to, smile (her lips like a
Cupid's bow or a tiny snake's curves) as she calls the pigeons down
around her, or lies fondling the cats under the myrtle-bush, when she
sees the pupils going about with swollen, red eyes; the poor little
nuns taking fresh penances on the cold chapel flags; and hears the
long-drawn guttural vowels, _amore_ and _morte_ and _mio bene_,
which rise up of an evening, with the boom of the surf and the
scent of the lemon-flowers, as the young men wander up and down,
arm-in-arm, twanging their guitars along the moonlit lanes under
the olives?

_October 20, 1885._

A terrible, terrible thing has happened! I write to your Excellency
with hands all a-tremble; and yet I _must_ write, I must speak, or
else I shall cry out. Did I ever mention to you Father Domenico of
Casoria, the confessor of our Convent of the Stigmata? A young man,
tall, emaciated with fasts and vigils, but handsome like the monk
playing the virginal in Giorgione's "Concert," and under his brown
serge still the most stalwart fellow of the country all round? One has
heard of men struggling with the tempter. Well, well, Father Domenico
had struggled as hard as any of the Anchorites recorded by St. Jerome,
and he had conquered. I never knew anything comparable to the angelic
serenity of gentleness of this victorious soul. I don't like monks, but
I loved Father Domenico. I might have been his father, easily, yet I
always felt a certain shyness and awe of him; and yet men have
accounted me a clean-lived man in my generation; but I felt, whenever I
approached him, a poor worldly creature, debased by the knowledge of so
many mean and ugly things. Of late Father Domenico had seemed to me
less calm than usual: his eyes had grown strangely bright, and red
spots had formed on his salient cheekbones. One day last week, taking
his hand, I felt his pulse flutter, and all his strength as it were,
liquefy under my touch. "You are ill," I said. "You have fever, Father
Domenico. You have been overdoing yourself--some new privation, some
new penance. Take care and do not tempt Heaven; remember the flesh is
weak." Father Domenico withdrew his hand quickly. "Do not say that," he
cried; "the flesh is strong!" and turned away his face. His eyes were
glistening and he shook all over. "Some quinine," I ordered. But I felt
it was no case for quinine. Prayers might be more useful, and could I
have given them he should not have wanted. Last night I was suddenly
sent for to Father Domenico's monastery above Montemirto: they told me
he was ill. I ran up through the dim twilight of moonbeams and olives
with a sinking heart. Something told me my monk was dead. He was lying
in a little low whitewashed room; they had carried him there from his
own cell in hopes he might still be alive. The windows were wide open;
they framed some olive-branches, glistening in the moonlight, and far
below, a strip of moonlit sea. When I told them that he was really
dead, they brought some tapers and lit them at his head and feet, and
placed a crucifix between his hands. "The Lord has been pleased to call
our poor brother to Him," said the Superior. "A case of apoplexy, my
dear Doctor--a case of apoplexy. You will make out the certificate for
the authorities." I made out the certificate. It was weak of me. But,
after all, why make a scandal? He certainly had no wish to injure the
poor monks.

Next day I found the little nuns all in tears. They were gathering
flowers to send as a last gift to their confessor. In the convent
garden I found Dionea, standing by the side of a big basket of roses,
one of the white pigeons perched on her shoulder.

"So," she said, "he has killed himself with charcoal, poor Padre

Something in her tone, her eyes, shocked me.

"God has called to Himself one of His most faithful servants," I said

Standing opposite this girl, magnificent, radiant in her beauty, before
the rose-hedge, with the white pigeons furling and unfurling, strutting
and pecking all round, I seemed to see suddenly the whitewashed room of
last night, the big crucifix, that poor thin face under the yellow
waxlight. I felt glad for Father Domenico; his battle was over.

"Take this to Father Domenico from me," said Dionea, breaking off a
twig of myrtle starred over with white blossom; and raising her head
with that smile like the twist of a young snake, she sang out in a high
guttural voice a strange chant, consisting of the word _Amor--amor--amor_.
I took the branch of myrtle and threw it in her face.

_January 3, 1886_

It will be difficult to find a place for Dionea, and in this
neighborhood well-nigh impossible. The people associate her somehow
with the death of Father Domenico, which has confirmed her reputation
of having the evil eye. She left the convent (being now seventeen) some
two months back, and is at present gaining her bread working with the
masons at our notary's new house at Lerici: the work is hard, but our
women often do it, and it is magnificent to see Dionea, in her short
white skirt and tight white bodice, mixing the smoking lime with her
beautiful strong arms; or, an empty sack drawn over her head and
shoulders, walking majestically up the cliff, up the scaffoldings with
her load of bricks.... I am, however, very anxious to get Dionea out of
the neighborhood, because I cannot help dreading the annoyances to
which her reputation for the evil eye exposes her, and even some
explosion of rage if ever she should lose the indifferent contempt with
which she treats them. I hear that one of the rich men of our part of
the world, a certain Sor Agostino of Sarzana, who owns a whole flank of
marble mountain, is looking out for a maid for his daughter, who is
about to be married; kind people and patriarchal in their riches, the
old man still sitting down to table with all his servants; and his
nephew, who is going to be his son-in-law, a splendid young fellow, who
has worked like Jacob, in the quarry and at the saw-mill, for love of
his pretty cousin. That whole house is so good, simple, and peaceful,
that I hope it may tame down even Dionea. If I do not succeed in
getting Dionea this place (and all your Excellency's illustriousness
and all my poor eloquence will be needed to counteract the sinister
reports attaching to our poor little waif), it will be best to accept
your suggestion of taking the girl into your household at Rome, since
you are curious to see what you call our baleful beauty. I am amused,
and a little indignant at what you say about your footmen being
handsome: Don Juan himself, my dear Lady Evelyn, would be cowed by

_May 29, 1886._

Here is Dionea back upon our hands once more! but I cannot send her to
your Excellency. Is it from living among these peasants and
fishing-folk, or is it because, as people pretend, a skeptic is always
superstitious? I could not muster courage to send you Dionea, although
your boys are still in sailor-clothes and your uncle, the Cardinal, is
eighty-four; and as to the Prince, why, he bears the most potent amulet
against Dionea's terrible powers in your own dear capricious person.
Seriously, there is something eerie in this coincidence. Poor Dionea!
I feel sorry for her, exposed to the passion of a once patriarchally
respectable old man. I feel even more abashed at the incredible
audacity, I should almost say sacrilegious madness, of the vile old
creature. But still the coincidence is strange and uncomfortable. Last
week the lightning struck a huge olive in the orchard of Sor Agostino's
house above Sarzana. Under the olive was Sor Agostino himself, who was
killed on the spot; and opposite, not twenty paces off, drawing water
from the well, unhurt and calm, was Dionea. It was the end of a sultry
afternoon: I was on a terrace in one of those villages of ours, jammed,
like some hardy bush, in the gash of a hill-side. I saw the storm rush
down the valley, a sudden blackness, and then, like a curse, a flash, a
tremendous crash, re-echoed by a dozen hills. "I told him," Dionea said
very quietly, when she came to stay with me the next day (for Sor
Agostino's family would not have her for another half-minute), "that if
he did not leave me alone Heaven would send him an accident."

_July 15, 1886_.

My book? Oh, dear Donna Evelina, do not make me blush by talking of my
book! Do not make an old man, respectable, a Government functionary
(communal physician of the district of San Massimo and Montemirto
Ligure), confess that he is but a lazy unprofitable dreamer, collecting
materials as a child picks hips out of a hedge, only to throw them
away, liking them merely for the little occupation of scratching his
hands and standing on tiptoe, for their pretty redness.... You remember
what Balzac says about projecting any piece of work?--"_C'est fumier
des cigarettes enchantées_...." Well, well! The data obtainable
about the ancient gods in their days of adversity are few and far
between: a quotation here and there from the Fathers; two or three
legends; Venus reappearing; the persecutions of Apollo in Styria;
Proserpina going, in Chaucer, to reign over the fairies; a few obscure
religious persecutions in the Middle Ages on the score of Paganism;
some strange rites practiced till lately in the depths of a Breton
forest near Lannion.... As to Tannhäuser, he was a real knight, and a
sorry one, and a real Minnesinger not of the best. Your Excellency will
find some of his poems in Von der Hagen's four immense volumes, but I
recommend you to take your notions of Ritter Tannhäuser's poetry rather
from Wagner. Certain it is that the Pagan divinities lasted much longer
than we suspect, sometimes in their own nakedness, sometimes in the
stolen garb of the Madonna or the saints. Who knows whether they do not
exist to this day? And, indeed, is it possible they should not? For the
awfulness of the deep woods, with their filtered green light, the creak
of the swaying, solitary reeds, exists, and is Pan; and the blue,
starry May night exists, the sough of the waves, the warm wind carrying
the sweetness of the lemon-blossoms, the bitterness of the myrtle on
our rocks, the distant chant of the boys cleaning out their nets, of
the girls sickling the grass under the olives, _Amor--amor--amor,_
and all this is the great goddess Venus. And opposite to me, as I
write, between the branches of the ilexes, across the blue sea,
streaked like a Ravenna mosaic with purple and green, shimmer the white
houses and walls, the steeple and towers, an enchanted Fata Morgana
city, of dim Porto Venere; ... and I mumble to myself the verse of
Catullus, but addressing a greater and more terrible goddess than he

"Procul a mea sit furor omnis, Hera, domo; alios; age incitatos, alios
age rabidos."

_March 25, 1887._

Yes; I will do everything in my power for your friends. Are you
well-bred folk as well bred as we, Republican _bourgeois,_ with
the coarse hands (though you once told me mine were psychic hands when
the mania of palmistry had not yet been succeeded by that of the
Reconciliation between Church and State), I wonder, that you should
apologize, you whose father fed me and housed me and clothed me in my
exile, for giving me the horrid trouble of hunting for lodgings? It is
like you, dear Donna Evelina, to have sent me photographs of my future
friend Waldemar's statue.... I have no love for modern sculpture, for
all the hours I have spent in Gibson's and Dupré's studio: 'tis a dead
art we should do better to bury. But your Waldemar has something of the
old spirit: he seems to feel the divineness of the mere body, the
spirituality of a limpid stream of mere physical life. But why among
these statues only men and boys, athletes and fauns? Why only the bust
of that thin, delicate-lipped little Madonna wife of his? Why no
wide-shouldered Amazon or broad-flanked Aphrodite?

_April 10, 1887._

You ask me how poor Dionea is getting on. Not as your Excellency and I
ought to have expected when we placed her with the good Sisters of the
Stigmata: although I wager that, fantastic and capricious as you are,
you would be better pleased (hiding it carefully from that grave side
of you which bestows devout little books and carbolic acid upon the
indigent) that your _protégée_ should be a witch than a
serving-maid, a maker of philters rather than a knitter of stockings
and sewer of shirts.

A maker of philters. Roughly speaking, that is Dionea's profession. She
lives upon the money which I dole out to her (with many useless
objurgations) on behalf of your Excellency, and her ostensible

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