Part 4 out of 9
she always seemed half frightened, like a detected
criminal; and her step-son's wife used to treat
her as no decent person treats a dog. And then
Arthur himself was such a startling contrast to
all those vulgar Burtons. Of course, when one
is a child one takes everything for granted; but
looking back on it afterwards I have often wondered
whether Arthur was really a Burton."
"Possibly he found out something about his
mother--that may easily have been the cause of
his death, not the Cardi affair at all," Martini
interposed, offering the only consolation he could
think of at the moment. Gemma shook her
"If you could have seen his face after I struck
him, Cesare, you would not think that. It may
be all true about Montanelli--very likely it is--
but what I have done I have done."
They walked on a little way without speaking,
"My dear," Martini said at last; "if there were
any way on earth to undo a thing that is once
done, it would be worth while to brood over our
old mistakes; but as it is, let the dead bury their
dead. It is a terrible story, but at least the
poor lad is out of it now, and luckier than some
of those that are left--the ones that are in exile
and in prison. You and I have them to think of,
we have no right to eat out our hearts for the
dead. Remember what your own Shelley says:
'The past is Death's, the future is thine own.'
Take it, while it is still yours, and fix your mind,
not on what you may have done long ago to hurt,
but on what you can do now to help."
In his earnestness he had taken her hand. He
dropped it suddenly and drew back at the sound
of a soft, cold, drawling voice behind him.
"Monsignor Montan-n-nelli," murmured this
languid voice, "is undoubtedly all you say, my
dear doctor. In fact, he appears to be so much
too good for this world that he ought to be politely
escorted into the next. I am sure he would
cause as great a sensation there as he has done
here; there are p-p-probably many old-established
ghosts who have never seen such a thing as an
honest cardinal. And there is nothing that ghosts
love as they do novelties----"
"How do you know that?" asked Dr. Riccardo's
voice in a tone of ill-suppressed irritation.
"From Holy Writ, my dear sir. If the Gospel
is to be trusted, even the most respectable of all
Ghosts had a f-f-fancy for capricious alliances.
Now, honesty and c-c-cardinals--that seems to
me a somewhat capricious alliance, and rather an
uncomfortable one, like shrimps and liquorice.
Ah, Signor Martini, and Signora Bolla! Lovely
weather after the rain, is it not? Have you been
to hear the n-new Savonarola, too?"
Martini turned round sharply. The Gadfly,
with a cigar in his mouth and a hot-house flower
in his buttonhole, was holding out to him a slender,
carefully-gloved hand. With the sunlight reflected
in his immaculate boots and glancing back
from the water on to his smiling face, he looked
to Martini less lame and more conceited than
usual. They were shaking hands, affably on the
one side and rather sulkily on the other, when
Riccardo hastily exclaimed:
"I am afraid Signora Bolla is not well!"
She was so pale that her face looked almost livid
under the shadow of her bonnet, and the ribbon
at her throat fluttered perceptibly from the violent
beating of the heart.
"I will go home," she said faintly.
A cab was called and Martini got in with her
to see her safely home. As the Gadfly bent down
to arrange her cloak, which was hanging over the
wheel, he raised his eyes suddenly to her face, and
Martini saw that she shrank away with a look of
something like terror.
"Gemma, what is the matter with you?" he
asked, in English, when they had started. "What
did that scoundrel say to you?"
"Nothing, Cesare; it was no fault of his. I--
I--had a fright----"
"Yes; I fancied----" She put one hand over
her eyes, and he waited silently till she should
recover her self-command. Her face was already
regaining its natural colour.
"You are quite right," she said at last, turning
to him and speaking in her usual voice; "it is
worse than useless to look back at a horrible past.
It plays tricks with one's nerves and makes one
imagine all sorts of impossible things. We will
NEVER talk about that subject again, Cesare, or I
shall see fantastic likenesses to Arthur in every
face I meet. It is a kind of hallucination, like
a nightmare in broad daylight. Just now, when
that odious little fop came up, I fancied it was
THE Gadfly certainly knew how to make personal
enemies. He had arrived in Florence in
August, and by the end of October three-fourths
of the committee which had invited him shared
Martini's opinion. His savage attacks upon Montanelli
had annoyed even his admirers; and Galli
himself, who at first had been inclined to uphold
everything the witty satirist said or did, began to
acknowledge with an aggrieved air that Montanelli
had better have been left in peace. "Decent
cardinals are none so plenty. One might treat
them politely when they do turn up."
The only person who, apparently, remained
quite indifferent to the storm of caricatures and
pasquinades was Montanelli himself. It seemed,
as Martini said, hardly worth while to expend
one's energy in ridiculing a man who took it so
good-humouredly. It was said in the town that
Montanelli, one day when the Archbishop of Florence
was dining with him, had found in the room
one of the Gadfly's bitter personal lampoons
against himself, had read it through and handed
the paper to the Archbishop, remarking: "That
is rather cleverly put, is it not?"
One day there appeared in the town a leaflet,
headed: "The Mystery of the Annunciation."
Even had the author omitted his now familiar
signature, a sketch of a gadfly with spread wings,
the bitter, trenchant style would have left in the
minds of most readers no doubt as to his identity.
The skit was in the form of a dialogue between
Tuscany as the Virgin Mary, and Montanelli as the
angel who, bearing the lilies of purity and crowned
with the olive branch of peace, was announcing
the advent of the Jesuits. The whole thing was
full of offensive personal allusions and hints of the
most risky nature, and all Florence felt the satire
to be both ungenerous and unfair. And yet all
Florence laughed. There was something so irresistible
in the Gadfly's grave absurdities that those
who most disapproved of and disliked him laughed
as immoderately at all his squibs as did his warmest
partisans. Repulsive in tone as the leaflet was,
it left its trace upon the popular feeling of the
town. Montanelli's personal reputation stood too
high for any lampoon, however witty, seriously to
injure it, but for a moment the tide almost turned
against him. The Gadfly had known where to
sting; and, though eager crowds still collected
before the Cardinal's house to see him enter or
leave his carriage, ominous cries of "Jesuit!" and
"Sanfedist spy!" often mingled with the cheers
But Montanelli had no lack of supporters. Two
days after the publication of the skit, the Churchman,
a leading clerical paper, brought out a
brilliant article, called: "An Answer to 'The
Mystery of the Annunciation,'" and signed: "A
Son of the Church." It was an impassioned defence
of Montanelli against the Gadfly's slanderous
imputations. The anonymous writer, after
expounding, with great eloquence and fervour, the
doctrine of peace on earth and good will towards
men, of which the new Pontiff was the evangelist,
concluded by challenging the Gadfly to prove a
single one of his assertions, and solemnly appealing
to the public not to believe a contemptible
slanderer. Both the cogency of the article as a
bit of special pleading and its merit as a literary
composition were sufficiently far above the average
to attract much attention in the town, especially
as not even the editor of the newspaper could
guess the author's identity. The article was soon
reprinted separately in pamphlet form; and the
"anonymous defender" was discussed in every
coffee-shop in Florence.
The Gadfly responded with a violent attack on
the new Pontificate and all its supporters, especially
on Montanelli, who, he cautiously hinted, had
probably consented to the panegyric on himself.
To this the anonymous defender again replied in
the Churchman with an indignant denial. During
the rest of Montanelli's stay the controversy raging
between the two writers occupied more of the
public attention than did even the famous preacher
Some members of the liberal party ventured to
remonstrate with the Gadfly about the unnecessary
malice of his tone towards Montanelli; but
they did not get much satisfaction out of him.
He only smiled affably and answered with a languid
little stammer: "R-really, gentlemen, you are
rather unfair. I expressly stipulated, when I gave
in to Signora Bolla, that I should be allowed a
l-l-little chuckle all to myself now. It is so nominated
in the bond!"
At the end of October Montanelli returned to
his see in the Romagna, and, before leaving Florence,
preached a farewell sermon in which he spoke
of the controversy, gently deprecating the vehemence
of both writers and begging his unknown
defender to set an example of tolerance by closing
a useless and unseemly war of words. On the
following day the Churchman contained a notice
that, at Monsignor Montanelli's publicly expressed
desire, "A Son of the Church" would withdraw
from the controversy.
The last word remained with the Gadfly. He
issued a little leaflet, in which he declared himself
disarmed and converted by Montanelli's Christian
meekness and ready to weep tears of reconciliation
upon the neck of the first Sanfedist he met. "I
am even willing," he concluded; "to embrace my
anonymous challenger himself; and if my readers
knew, as his Eminence and I know, what that
implies and why he remains anonymous, they
would believe in the sincerity of my conversion."
In the latter part of November he announced to
the literary committee that he was going for a
fortnight's holiday to the seaside. He went, apparently,
to Leghorn; but Dr. Riccardo, going
there soon after and wishing to speak to him,
searched the town for him in vain. On the 5th of
December a political demonstration of the most
extreme character burst out in the States of the
Church, along the whole chain of the Apennines;
and people began to guess the reason of the Gadfly's
sudden fancy to take his holidays in the depth
of winter. He came back to Florence when the
riots had been quelled, and, meeting Riccardo in
the street, remarked affably:
"I hear you were inquiring for me in Leghorn;
I was staying in Pisa. What a pretty old town
it is! There's something quite Arcadian about it."
In Christmas week he attended an afternoon
meeting of the literary committee which was held
in Dr. Riccardo's lodgings near the Porta alla
Croce. The meeting was a full one, and when he
came in, a little late, with an apologetic bow and
smile, there seemed to be no seat empty. Riccardo
rose to fetch a chair from the next room,
but the Gadfly stopped him. "Don't trouble
about it," he said; "I shall be quite comfortable
here"; and crossing the room to a window beside
which Gemma had placed her chair, he sat down
on the sill, leaning his head indolently back
against the shutter.
As he looked down at Gemma, smiling with
half-shut eyes, in the subtle, sphinx-like way that
gave him the look of a Leonardo da Vinci portrait,
the instinctive distrust with which he inspired her
deepened into a sense of unreasoning fear.
The proposal under discussion was that a pamphlet
be issued setting forth the committee's views
on the dearth with which Tuscany was threatened
and the measures which should be taken to meet
it. The matter was a somewhat difficult one to
decide, because, as usual, the committee's views
upon the subject were much divided. The more
advanced section, to which Gemma, Martini, and
Riccardo belonged, was in favour of an energetic
appeal to both government and public to take adequate
measures at once for the relief of the peasantry.
The moderate division--including, of
course, Grassini--feared that an over-emphatic
tone might irritate rather than convince the
"It is all very well, gentlemen, to want the
people helped at once," he said, looking round
upon the red-hot radicals with his calm and pitying
air. "We most of us want a good many things
that we are not likely to get; but if we start with
the tone you propose to adopt, the government
is very likely not to begin any relief measures
at all till there is actual famine. If we could
only induce the ministry to make an inquiry
into the state of the crops it would be a step in
Galli, in his corner by the stove, jumped up to
answer his enemy.
"A step in advance--yes, my dear sir; but if
there's going to be a famine, it won't wait for us
to advance at that pace. The people might all
starve before we got to any actual relief."
"It would be interesting to know----" Sacconi
began; but several voices interrupted him.
"Speak up; we can't hear!"
"I should think not, with such an infernal row
in the street," said Galli, irritably. "Is that window
shut, Riccardo? One can't hear one's self speak!"
Gemma looked round. "Yes," she said, "the
window is quite shut. I think there is a variety
show, or some such thing, passing."
The sounds of shouting and laughter, of the
tinkling of bells and trampling of feet, resounded
from the street below, mixed with the braying of
a villainous brass band and the unmerciful banging
of a drum.
"It can't be helped these few days," said Riccardo;
"we must expect noise at Christmas time. What were you
"I said it would be interesting to hear what is
thought about the matter in Pisa and Leghorn.
Perhaps Signor Rivarez can tell us something; he
has just come from there."
The Gadfly did not answer. He was staring out
of the window and appeared not to have heard
what had been said.
"Signor Rivarez!" said Gemma. She was the
only person sitting near to him, and as he remained
silent she bent forward and touched him on the
arm. He slowly turned his face to her, and she
started as she saw its fixed and awful immobility.
For a moment it was like the face of a corpse; then
the lips moved in a strange, lifeless way.
"Yes," he whispered; "a variety show."
Her first instinct was to shield him from the
curiosity of the others. Without understanding
what was the matter with him, she realized that
some frightful fancy or hallucination had seized
upon him, and that, for the moment, he was at
its mercy, body and soul. She rose quickly and,
standing between him and the company, threw
the window open as if to look out. No one but
herself had seen his face.
In the street a travelling circus was passing,
with mountebanks on donkeys and harlequins in
parti-coloured dresses. The crowd of holiday
masqueraders, laughing and shoving, was exchanging
jests and showers of paper ribbon with the
clowns and flinging little bags of sugar-plums to
the columbine, who sat in her car, tricked out in
tinsel and feathers, with artificial curls on her
forehead and an artificial smile on her painted lips.
Behind the car came a motley string of figures--
street Arabs, beggars, clowns turning somersaults,
and costermongers hawking their wares. They
were jostling, pelting, and applauding a figure
which at first Gemma could not see for the pushing
and swaying of the crowd. The next moment,
however, she saw plainly what it was--a
hunchback, dwarfish and ugly, grotesquely attired
in a fool's dress, with paper cap and bells. He
evidently belonged to the strolling company, and
was amusing the crowd with hideous grimaces and
"What is going on out there?" asked Riccardo,
approaching the window. "You seem very much
He was a little surprised at their keeping the
whole committee waiting to look at a strolling
company of mountebanks. Gemma turned round.
"It is nothing interesting," she said; "only a
variety show; but they made such a noise that I
thought it must be something else."
She was standing with one hand upon the
window-sill, and suddenly felt the Gadfly's cold
fingers press the hand with a passionate clasp.
"Thank you!" he whispered softly; and then,
closing the window, sat down again upon the sill.
"I'm afraid," he said in his airy manner, "that
I have interrupted you, gentlemen. I was l-looking
at the variety show; it is s-such a p-pretty sight."
"Sacconi was asking you a question," said Martini
gruffly. The Gadfly's behaviour seemed to
him an absurd piece of affectation, and he was
annoyed that Gemma should have been tactless
enough to follow his example. It was not like her.
The Gadfly disclaimed all knowledge of the state
of feeling in Pisa, explaining that he had been
there "only on a holiday." He then plunged at
once into an animated discussion, first of agricultural
prospects, then of the pamphlet question;
and continued pouring out a flood of stammering
talk till the others were quite tired. He seemed
to find some feverish delight in the sound of his
When the meeting ended and the members of
the committee rose to go, Riccardo came up to
"Will you stop to dinner with me? Fabrizi
and Sacconi have promised to stay."
"Thanks; but I was going to see Signora Bolla
"Are you really afraid I can't get home by
myself?" she asked, rising and putting on her
wrap. "Of course he will stay with you, Dr. Riccardo;
it's good for him to get a change. He doesn't go out
"If you will allow me, I will see you home," the
Gadfly interposed; "I am going in that direction."
"If you really are going that way----"
"I suppose you won't have time to drop in here
in the course of the evening, will you, Rivarez?"
asked Riccardo, as he opened the door for them.
The Gadfly looked back over his shoulder,
laughing. "I, my dear fellow? I'm going to see
the variety show!"
"What a strange creature that is; and what an
odd affection for mountebanks!" said Riccardo,
coming back to his visitors.
"Case of a fellow-feeling, I should think," said
Martini; "the man's a mountebank himself, if ever
I saw one."
"I wish I could think he was only that," Fabrizi
interposed, with a grave face. "If he is a mountebank
I am afraid he's a very dangerous one."
"Dangerous in what way?"
"Well, I don't like those mysterious little pleasure
trips that he is so fond of taking. This is the
third time, you know; and I don't believe he has
been in Pisa at all."
"I suppose it is almost an open secret that it's
into the mountains he goes," said Sacconi. "He
has hardly taken the trouble to deny that he is
still in relations with the smugglers he got to
know in the Savigno affair, and it's quite natural
he should take advantage of their friendship to
get his leaflets across the Papal frontier."
"For my part," said Riccardo; "what I wanted
to talk to you about is this very question. It
occurred to me that we could hardly do better than
ask Rivarez to undertake the management of our
own smuggling. That press at Pistoja is very
inefficiently managed, to my thinking; and the
way the leaflets are taken across, always rolled in
those everlasting cigars, is more than primitive."
"It has answered pretty well up till now," said
Martini contumaciously. He was getting wearied
of hearing Galli and Riccardo always put the Gadfly
forward as a model to copy, and inclined to
think that the world had gone well enough before
this "lackadaisical buccaneer" turned up to set
everyone to rights.
"It has answered so far well that we have been
satisfied with it for want of anything better;
but you know there have been plenty of arrests and
confiscations. Now I believe that if Rivarez undertook
the business for us, there would be less of that."
"Why do you think so?"
"In the first place, the smugglers look upon
us as strangers to do business with, or as sheep to
fleece, whereas Rivarez is their personal friend,
very likely their leader, whom they look up to and
trust. You may be sure every smuggler in the
Apennines will do for a man who was in the Savigno
revolt what he will not do for us. In the
next place, there's hardly a man among us that
knows the mountains as Rivarez does. Remember,
he has been a fugitive among them, and knows
the smugglers' paths by heart. No smuggler
would dare to cheat him, even if he wished to, and
no smuggler could cheat him if he dared to try."
"Then is your proposal that we should ask him
to take over the whole management of our literature
on the other side of the frontier--distribution,
addresses, hiding-places, everything--or simply
that we should ask him to put the things across
"Well, as for addresses and hiding-places, he
probably knows already all the ones that we have
and a good many more that we have not. I don't
suppose we should be able to teach him much in
that line. As for distribution, it's as the others
prefer, of course. The important question, to my
mind, is the actual smuggling itself. Once the
books are safe in Bologna, it's a comparatively
simple matter to circulate them."
"For my part," said Martini, "I am against the
plan. In the first place, all this about his skilfulness
is mere conjecture; we have not actually seen
him engaged in frontier work and do not know
whether he keeps his head in critical moments."
"Oh, you needn't have any doubt of that!"
Riccardo put in. "The history of the Savigno
affair proves that he keeps his head."
"And then," Martini went on; "I do not feel
at all inclined, from what little I know of Rivarez,
to intrust him with all the party's secrets. He
seems to me feather-brained and theatrical. To
give the whole management of a party's contraband
work into a man's hands is a serious matter.
Fabrizi, what do you think?"
"If I had only such objections as yours, Martini,"
replied the professor, "I should certainly
waive them in the case of a man really possessing,
as Rivarez undoubtedly does, all the qualifications
Riccardo speaks of. For my part, I have not the
slightest doubt as to either his courage, his honesty,
or his presence of mind; and that he knows
both mountains and mountaineers we have had
ample proof. But there is another objection. I
do not feel sure that it is only for the smuggling
of pamphlets he goes into the mountains. I have
begun to doubt whether he has not another purpose.
This is, of course, entirely between ourselves.
It is a mere suspicion. It seems to me
just possible that he is in connexion with some
one of the 'sects,' and perhaps with the most dangerous
"Which one do you mean--the 'Red Girdles'?"
"No; the 'Occoltellatori.'"
"The 'Knifers'! But that is a little body of
outlaws--peasants, most of them, with neither
education nor political experience."
"So were the insurgents of Savigno; but they
had a few educated men as leaders, and this little
society may have the same. And remember, it's
pretty well known that most of the members of
those more violent sects in the Romagna are survivors
of the Savigno affair, who found themselves
too weak to fight the Churchmen in open insurrection,
and so have fallen back on assassination.
Their hands are not strong enough for guns, and
they take to knives instead."
"But what makes you suppose Rivarez to be
connected with them?"
"I don't suppose, I merely suspect. In any
case, I think we had better find out for certain
before we intrust our smuggling to him. If he
attempted to do both kinds of work at once he
would injure our party most terribly; he would
simply destroy its reputation and accomplish
nothing. However, we will talk of that another
time. I wanted to speak to you about the news
from Rome. It is said that a commission is to
be appointed to draw up a project for a municipal
GEMMA and the Gadfly walked silently along
the Lung'Arno. His feverish talkativeness seemed
to have quite spent itself; he had hardly spoken
a word since they left Riccardo's door, and
Gemma was heartily glad of his silence. She
always felt embarrassed in his company, and to-day
more so than usual, for his strange behaviour
at the committee meeting had greatly perplexed
By the Uffizi palace he suddenly stopped and
turned to her.
"Are you tired?"
"Nor especially busy this evening?"
"I want to ask a favour of you; I want you to
come for a walk with me."
"Nowhere in particular; anywhere you like."
"But what for?"
"I--can't tell you--at least, it's very difficult;
but please come if you can."
He raised his eyes suddenly from the ground,
and she saw how strange their expression was.
"There is something the matter with you," she
said gently. He pulled a leaf from the flower in
his button-hole, and began tearing it to pieces.
Who was it that he was so oddly like? Someone
who had that same trick of the fingers and hurried,
"I am in trouble," he said, looking down at his
hands and speaking in a hardly audible voice. "I
--don't want to be alone this evening. Will you
"Yes, certainly, unless you would rather go to
"No; come and dine with me at a restaurant.
There's one on the Signoria. Please don't refuse,
now; you've promised!"
They went into a restaurant, where he ordered
dinner, but hardly touched his own share, and
remained obstinately silent, crumbling the bread
over the cloth, and fidgeting with the fringe of
his table napkin. Gemma felt thoroughly uncomfortable,
and began to wish she had refused to
come; the silence was growing awkward; yet she
could not begin to make small-talk with a person
who seemed to have forgotten her presence. At
last he looked up and said abruptly:
"Would you like to see the variety show?"
She stared at him in astonishment. What had
he got into his head about variety shows?
"Have you ever seen one?" he asked before she
had time to speak.
"No; I don't think so. I didn't suppose they
"They are very interesting. I don't think anyone
can study the life of the people without seeing
them. Let us go back to the Porta alla Croce."
When they arrived the mountebanks had set up
their tent beside the town gate, and an abominable
scraping of fiddles and banging of drums
announced that the performance had begun.
The entertainment was of the roughest kind.
A few clowns, harlequins, and acrobats, a circus-rider
jumping through hoops, the painted columbine,
and the hunchback performing various dull
and foolish antics, represented the entire force of
the company. The jokes were not, on the whole,
coarse or offensive; but they were very tame and
stale, and there was a depressing flatness about
the whole thing. The audience laughed and
clapped from their innate Tuscan courtesy; but
the only part which they seemed really to enjoy
was the performance of the hunchback, in which
Gemma could find nothing either witty or skilful.
It was merely a series of grotesque and hideous
contortions, which the spectators mimicked, holding
up children on their shoulders that the little
ones might see the "ugly man."
"Signor Rivarez, do you really think this
attractive?" said Gemma, turning to the Gadfly,
who was standing beside her, his arm round one
of the wooden posts of the tent. "It seems to
She broke off and remained looking at him
silently. Except when she had stood with Montanelli
at the garden gate in Leghorn, she had
never seen a human face express such fathomless,
hopeless misery. She thought of Dante's hell as
she watched him.
Presently the hunchback, receiving a kick from
one of the clowns, turned a somersault and tumbled
in a grotesque heap outside the ring. A dialogue
between two clowns began, and the Gadfly
seemed to wake out of a dream.
"Shall we go?" he asked; "or would you like
to see more?"
"I would rather go."
They left the tent, and walked across the dark
green to the river. For a few moments neither
"What did you think of the show?" the Gadfly
"I thought it rather a dreary business; and
part of it seemed to me positively unpleasant."
"Well, all those grimaces and contortions.
They are simply ugly; there is nothing clever
"Do you mean the hunchback's performance?"
Remembering his peculiar sensitiveness on the
subject of his own physical defects, she had
avoided mentioning this particular bit of the
entertainment; but now that he had touched upon
the subject himself, she answered: "Yes; I did
not like that part at all."
"That was the part the people enjoyed most."
"I dare say; and that is just the worst thing
"Because it was inartistic?"
"N-no; it was all inartistic. I meant--because
it was cruel."
"Cruel? Do you mean to the hunchback?"
"I mean---- Of course the man himself was
quite indifferent; no doubt, it is to him just a way
of getting a living, like the circus-rider's way or
the columbine's. But the thing makes one feel
unhappy. It is humiliating; it is the degradation
of a human being."
"He probably is not any more degraded than
he was to start with. Most of us are degraded in
one way or another."
"Yes; but this--I dare say you will think it
an absurd prejudice; but a human body, to me, is
a sacred thing; I don't like to see it treated
irreverently and made hideous."
"And a human soul?"
He had stopped short, and was standing with
one hand on the stone balustrade of the embankment,
looking straight at her.
"A soul?" she repeated, stopping in her turn
to look at him in wonder.
He flung out both hands with a sudden, passionate gesture.
"Has it never occurred to you that that miserable
clown may have a soul--a living, struggling,
human soul, tied down into that crooked hulk of
a body and forced to slave for it? You that are so
tender-hearted to everything--you that pity the
body in its fool's dress and bells--have you never
thought of the wretched soul that has not even
motley to cover its horrible nakedness? Think
of it shivering with cold, stilled with shame and
misery, before all those people--feeling their jeers
that cut like a whip--their laughter, that burns
like red-hot iron on the bare flesh! Think of it
looking round--so helpless before them all--for
the mountains that will not fall on it--for the rocks
that have not the heart to cover it--envying the
rats that can creep into some hole in the earth
and hide; and remember that a soul is dumb--it
has no voice to cry out--it must endure, and endure,
and endure. Oh! I'm talking nonsense!
Why on earth don't you laugh? You have no
sense of humour!"
Slowly and in dead silence she turned and
walked on along the river side. During the whole
evening it had not once occurred to her to connect
his trouble, whatever it might be, with the
variety show; and now that some dim picture of
his inner life had been revealed to her by this sudden
outburst, she could not find, in her overwhelming
pity for him, one word to say. He
walked on beside her, with his head turned away,
and looked into the water.
"I want you, please, to understand," he began
suddenly, turning to her with a defiant air, "that
everything I have just been saying to you is pure
imagination. I'm rather given to romancing, but
I don't like people to take it seriously."
She made no answer, and they walked on in
silence. As they passed by the gateway of the
Uffizi, he crossed the road and stooped down
over a dark bundle that was lying against the
"What is the matter, little one?" he asked,
more gently than she had ever heard him speak.
"Why don't you go home?"
The bundle moved, and answered something in
a low, moaning voice. Gemma came across to
look, and saw a child of about six years old,
ragged and dirty, crouching on the pavement like a
frightened animal. The Gadfly was bending down
with his hand on the unkempt head.
"What is it?" he said, stooping lower to catch
the unintelligible answer. "You ought to go
home to bed; little boys have no business out of
doors at night; you'll be quite frozen! Give me
your hand and jump up like a man! Where do
He took the child's arm to raise him. The result
was a sharp scream and a quick shrinking away.
"Why, what is it?" the Gadfly asked, kneeling
down on the pavement. "Ah! Signora, look
The child's shoulder and jacket were covered
"Tell me what has happened?" the Gadfly
went on caressingly. "It wasn't a fall, was it?
No? Someone's been beating you? I thought
so! Who was it?"
"Ah, yes! And when was it?"
"This morning. He was drunk, and I--I----"
"And you got in his way--was that it? You
shouldn't get in people's way when they are
drunk, little man; they don't like it. What shall
we do with this poor mite, signora? Come here
to the light, sonny, and let me look at that
shoulder. Put your arm round my neck; I won't
hurt you. There we are!"
He lifted the boy in his arms, and, carrying him
across the street, set him down on the wide stone
balustrade. Then, taking out a pocket-knife, he
deftly ripped up the torn sleeve, supporting the
child's head against his breast, while Gemma held
the injured arm. The shoulder was badly bruised
and grazed, and there was a deep gash on the arm.
"That's an ugly cut to give a mite like you,"
said the Gadfly, fastening his handkerchief round
the wound to prevent the jacket from rubbing
against it. "What did he do it with?"
"The shovel. I went to ask him to give me a
soldo to get some polenta at the corner shop, and
he hit me with the shovel."
The Gadfly shuddered. "Ah!" he said softly,
"that hurts; doesn't it, little one?"
"He hit me with the shovel--and I ran away--
I ran away--because he hit me."
"And you've been wandering about ever since,
without any dinner?"
Instead of answering, the child began to sob
violently. The Gadfly lifted him off the balustrade.
"There, there! We'll soon set all that straight.
I wonder if we can get a cab anywhere. I'm afraid
they'll all be waiting by the theatre; there's a
grand performance going on to-night. I am sorry
to drag you about so, signora; but----"
"I would rather come with you. You may
want help. Do you think you can carry him so
far? Isn't he very heavy?"
"Oh, I can manage, thank you."
At the theatre door they found only a few cabs
waiting, and these were all engaged. The performance
was over, and most of the audience had
gone. Zita's name was printed in large letters on
the wall-placards; she had been dancing in the
ballet. Asking Gemma to wait for him a moment,
the Gadfly went round to the performers' entrance,
and spoke to an attendant.
"Has Mme. Reni gone yet?"
"No, sir," the man answered, staring blankly
at the spectacle of a well-dressed gentleman carrying
a ragged street child in his arms, "Mme.
Reni is just coming out, I think; her carriage is
waiting for her. Yes; there she comes."
Zita descended the stairs, leaning on the arm of
a young cavalry officer. She looked superbly
handsome, with an opera cloak of flame-coloured
velvet thrown over her evening dress, and a great
fan of ostrich plumes hanging from her waist. In
the entry she stopped short, and, drawing her
hand away from the officer's arm, approached the
Gadfly in amazement.
"Felice!" she exclaimed under her breath,
"what HAVE you got there?"
"I have picked up this child in the street. It is
hurt and starving; and I want to get it home as
quickly as possible. There is not a cab to be got
anywhere, so I want to have your carriage."
"Felice! you are not going to take a horrid
beggar-child into your rooms! Send for a policeman,
and let him carry it to the Refuge or whatever
is the proper place for it. You can't have all
the paupers in the town----"
"It is hurt," the Gadfly repeated; "it can go
to the Refuge to-morrow, if necessary, but I must
see to the child first and give it some food."
Zita made a little grimace of disgust. "You've
got its head right against your shirt! How CAN
you? It is dirty!"
The Gadfly looked up with a sudden flash of anger.
"It is hungry," he said fiercely. "You don't
know what that means, do you?"
"Signer Rivarez," interposed Gemma, coming
forward, "my lodgings are quite close. Let us
take the child in there. Then, if you cannot find
a vettura, I will manage to put it up for the
He turned round quickly. "You don't mind?"
"Of course not. Good-night, Mme. Reni!"
The gipsy, with a stiff bow and an angry shrug
of her shoulders, took her officer's arm again, and,
gathering up the train of her dress, swept past
them to the contested carriage.
"I will send it back to fetch you and the child,
if you like, M. Rivarez," she said, pausing on the
"Very well; I will give the address." He came
out on to the pavement, gave the address to the
driver, and walked back to Gemma with his burden.
Katie was waiting up for her mistress; and, on
hearing what had happened, ran for warm water
and other necessaries. Placing the child on a
chair, the Gadfly knelt down beside him, and,
deftly slipping off the ragged clothing, bathed
and bandaged the wound with tender, skilful
hands. He had just finished washing the boy, and
was wrapping him in a warm blanket, when
Gemma came in with a tray in her hands.
"Is your patient ready for his supper?" she
asked, smiling at the strange little figure. "I
have been cooking it for him."
The Gadfly stood up and rolled the dirty rags
together. "I'm afraid we have made a terrible
mess in your room," he said. "As for these, they
had better go straight into the fire, and I will buy
him some new clothes to-morrow. Have you any
brandy in the house, signora? I think he ought
to have a little. I will just wash my hands, if you
will allow me."
When the child had finished his supper, he
immediately went to sleep in the Gadfly's arms, with
his rough head against the white shirt-front.
Gemma, who had been helping Katie to set the
disordered room tidy again, sat down at the table.
"Signor Rivarez, you must take something
before you go home--you had hardly any dinner,
and it's very late."
"I should like a cup of tea in the English fashion,
if you have it. I'm sorry to keep you up so late."
"Oh! that doesn't matter. Put the child down
on the sofa; he will tire you. Wait a minute; I
will just lay a sheet over the cushions. What are
you going to do with him?"
"To-morrow? Find out whether he has any
other relations except that drunken brute; and
if not, I suppose I must follow Mme. Reni's advice,
and take him to the Refuge. Perhaps the
kindest thing to do would be to put a stone round
his neck and pitch him into the river there; but
that would expose me to unpleasant consequences.
Fast asleep! What an odd little lump of ill-luck
you are, you mite--not half as capable of defending
yourself as a stray cat!"
When Katie brought in the tea-tray, the boy
opened his eyes and sat up with a bewildered air.
Recognizing the Gadfly, whom he already regarded
as his natural protector, he wriggled off
the sofa, and, much encumbered by the folds of
his blanket, came up to nestle against him. He
was by now sufficiently revived to be inquisitive;
and, pointing to the mutilated left hand, in which
the Gadfly was holding a piece of cake, asked:
"That? Cake; do you want some? I think
you've had enough for now. Wait till to-morrow,
"No--that!" He stretched out his hand and
touched the stumps of the amputated fingers and
the great scar on the wrist. The Gadfly put down
"Oh, that! It's the same sort of thing as what
you have on your shoulder--a hit I got from
someone stronger than I was."
"Didn't it hurt awfully?"
"Oh, I don't know--not more than other
things. There, now, go to sleep again; you have
no business asking questions at this time of night."
When the carriage arrived the boy was again
asleep; and the Gadfly, without awaking him,
lifted him gently and carried him out on to the
"You have been a sort of ministering angel to
me to-day," he said to Gemma, pausing at the
door. "But I suppose that need not prevent us
from quarrelling to our heart's content in future."
"I have no desire to quarrel with anyone."
"Ah! but I have. Life would be unendurable
without quarrels. A good quarrel is the salt of
the earth; it's better than a variety show!"
And with that he went downstairs, laughing
softly to himself, with the sleeping child in his
ONE day in the first week of January Martini,
who had sent round the forms of invitation to the
monthly group-meeting of the literary committee,
received from the Gadfly a laconic, pencil-scrawled
"Very sorry: can't come." He was a
little annoyed, as a notice of "important business"
had been put into the invitation; this cavalier
treatment seemed to him almost insolent.
Moreover, three separate letters containing bad
news arrived during the day, and the wind was in
the east, so that Martini felt out of sorts and out
of temper; and when, at the group meeting, Dr.
Riccardo asked, "Isn't Rivarez here?" he answered
rather sulkily: "No; he seems to have
got something more interesting on hand, and
can't come, or doesn't want to."
"Really, Martini," said Galli irritably, "you
are about the most prejudiced person in Florence.
Once you object to a man, everything he does is
wrong. How could Rivarez come when he's ill?"
"Who told you he was ill?"
"Didn't you know? He's been laid up for the
last four days."
"What's the matter with him?"
"I don't know. He had to put off an appointment
with me on Thursday on account of illness;
and last night, when I went round, I heard that
he was too ill to see anyone. I thought Riccardo
would be looking after him."
"I knew nothing about it. I'll go round to-night
and see if he wants anything."
The next morning Riccardo, looking very pale
and tired, came into Gemma's little study. She
was sitting at the table, reading out monotonous
strings of figures to Martini, who, with a magnifying
glass in one hand and a finely pointed pencil
in the other, was making tiny marks in the pages
of a book. She made with one hand a gesture requesting
silence. Riccardo, knowing that a person who is writing
in cipher must not be interrupted, sat down on the sofa
behind her and yawned like a man who can hardly keep awake.
"2, 4; 3, 7; 6, 1; 3, 5; 4> 1;" Gemma's voice
went on with machine-like evenness. "8, 4; 7, 2;
5, 1; that finishes the sentence, Cesare."
She stuck a pin into the paper to mark the
exact place, and turned round.
"Good-morning, doctor; how fagged you look!
Are you well?"
"Oh, I'm well enough--only tired out. I've
had an awful night with Rivarez."
"Yes; I've been up with him all night, and now
I must go off to my hospital patients. I just
came round to know whether you can think of
anyone that could look after him a bit for the
next few days. He's in a devil of a state. I'll do
my best, of course; but I really haven't the time;
and he won't hear of my sending in a nurse."
"What is the matter with him?"
"Well, rather a complication of things. First
"First of all, have you had any breakfast?"
"Yes, thank you. About Rivarez--no doubt,
it's complicated with a lot of nerve trouble; but
the main cause of disturbance is an old injury
that seems to have been disgracefully neglected.
Altogether, he's in a frightfully knocked-about
state; I suppose it was that war in South America
--and he certainly didn't get proper care when
the mischief was done. Probably things were
managed in a very rough-and-ready fashion out
there; he's lucky to be alive at all. However,
there's a chronic tendency to inflammation, and
any trifle may bring on an attack----"
"Is that dangerous?"
"N-no; the chief danger in a case of that kind
is of the patient getting desperate and taking a
dose of arsenic."
"It is very painful, of course?"
"It's simply horrible; I don't know how he
manages to bear it. I was obliged to stupefy him
with opium in the night--a thing I hate to do
with a nervous patient; but I had to stop it
"He is nervous, I should think."
"Very, but splendidly plucky. As long as he
was not actually light-headed with the pain last
night, his coolness was quite wonderful. But I
had an awful job with him towards the end. How
long do you suppose this thing has been going
on? Just five nights; and not a soul within call
except that stupid landlady, who wouldn't wake
if the house tumbled down, and would be no use
if she did."
"But what about the ballet-girl?"
"Yes; isn't that a curious thing? He won't
let her come near him. He has a morbid horror of
her. Altogether, he's one of the most incomprehensible
creatures I ever met--a perfect mass of contradictions."
He took out his watch and looked at it with a
preoccupied face. "I shall be late at the hospital;
but it can't be helped. The junior will have to
begin without me for once. I wish I had known
of all this before--it ought not to have been let
go on that way night after night."
"But why on earth didn't he send to say he
was ill?" Martini interrupted. "He might have
guessed we shouldn't have left him stranded in
"I wish, doctor," said Gemma, "that you had
sent for one of us last night, instead of wearing
yourself out like this."
"My dear lady, I wanted to send round to
Galli; but Rivarez got so frantic at the suggestion
that I didn't dare attempt it. When I asked
him whether there was anyone else he would like
fetched, he looked at me for a minute, as if he
were scared out of his wits, and then put up both
hands to his eyes and said: 'Don't tell them;
they will laugh!' He seemed quite possessed
with some fancy about people laughing at something.
I couldn't make out what; he kept talking Spanish;
but patients do say the oddest things sometimes."
"Who is with him now?" asked Gemma.
"No one except the landlady and her maid."
"I'll go to him at once," said Martini.
"Thank you. I'll look round again in the
evening. You'll find a paper of written directions
in the table-drawer by the large window, and the
opium is on the shelf in the next room. If the
pain comes on again, give him another dose--not
more than one; but don't leave the bottle where
he can get at it, whatever you do; he might be
tempted to take too much."
When Martini entered the darkened room, the
Gadfly turned his head round quickly, and, holding
out to him a burning hand, began, in a bad
imitation of his usual flippant manner:
"Ah, Martini! You have come to rout me out
about those proofs. It's no use swearing at me
for missing the committee last night; the fact is,
I have not been quite well, and----"
"Never mind the committee. I have just seen
Riccardo, and have come to know if I can be of
The Gadfly set his face like a flint.
"Oh, really! that is very kind of you; but it
wasn't worth the trouble. I'm only a little out
"So I understood from Riccardo. He was up
with you all night, I believe."
The Gadfly bit his lip savagely.
"I am quite comfortable, thank you, and don't
"Very well; then I will sit in the other room;
perhaps you would rather be alone. I will leave
the door ajar, in case you call me."
"Please don't trouble about it; I really shan't
want anything. I should be wasting your time for
"Nonsense, man!" Martini broke in roughly.
"What's the use of trying to fool me that way?
Do you think I have no eyes? Lie still and go to
sleep, if you can."
He went into the adjoining room, and, leaving
the door open, sat down with a book. Presently
he heard the Gadfly move restlessly two or three
times. He put down his book and listened.
There was a short silence, then another restless
movement; then the quick, heavy, panting breath
of a man clenching his teeth to suppress a groan.
He went back into the room.
"Can I do anything for you, Rivarez?"
There was no answer, and he crossed the room
to the bed-side. The Gadfly, with a ghastly, livid
face, looked at him for a moment, and silently
shook his head.
"Shall I give you some more opium? Riccardo
said you were to have it if the pain got very bad."
"No, thank you; I can bear it a bit longer.
It may be worse later on."
Martini shrugged his shoulders and sat down
beside the bed. For an interminable hour he
watched in silence; then he rose and fetched the
"Rivarez, I won't let this go on any longer; if
you can stand it, I can't. You must have the stuff."
The Gadfly took it without speaking. Then he
turned away and closed his eyes. Martini sat
down again, and listened as the breathing became
gradually deep and even.
The Gadfly was too much exhausted to wake
easily when once asleep. Hour after hour he lay
absolutely motionless. Martini approached him
several times during the day and evening, and
looked at the still figure; but, except the breathing,
there was no sign of life. The face was so
wan and colourless that at last a sudden fear seized
upon him; what if he had given too much opium?
The injured left arm lay on the coverlet, and he
shook it gently to rouse the sleeper. As he did
so, the unfastened sleeve fell back, showing a
series of deep and fearful scars covering the arm
from wrist to elbow.
"That arm must have been in a pleasant condition
when those marks were fresh," said Riccardo's voice
"Ah, there you are at last! Look here,
Riccardo; ought this man to sleep forever? I
gave him a dose about ten hours ago, and he
hasn't moved a muscle since."
Riccardo stooped down and listened for a moment.
"No; he is breathing quite properly; it's nothing
but sheer exhaustion--what you might expect
after such a night. There may be another
paroxysm before morning. Someone will sit up,
"Galli will; he has sent to say he will be here
"It's nearly that now. Ah, he's waking! Just
see the maidservant gets that broth hot. Gently
--gently, Rivarez! There, there, you needn't
fight, man; I'm not a bishop!"
The Gadfly started up with a shrinking, scared
look. "Is it my turn?" he said hurriedly in
Spanish. "Keep the people amused a minute;
I---- Ah! I didn't see you, Riccardo."
He looked round the room and drew one hand
across his forehead as if bewildered. "Martini!
Why, I thought you had gone away. I must have
"You have been sleeping like the beauty in the
fairy story for the last ten hours; and now you are
to have some broth and go to sleep again."
"Ten hours! Martini, surely you haven't been
here all that time?"
"Yes; I was beginning to wonder whether I
hadn't given you an overdose of opium."
The Gadfly shot a sly glance at him.
"No such luck! Wouldn't you have nice quiet
committee-meetings? What the devil do you
want, Riccardo? Do for mercy's sake leave me in
peace, can't you? I hate being mauled about by
"Well then, drink this and I'll leave you in
peace. I shall come round in a day or two,
though, and give you a thorough overhauling. I
think you have pulled through the worst of this
business now; you don't look quite so much like
a death's head at a feast."
"Oh, I shall be all right soon, thanks. Who's
that--Galli? I seem to have a collection of all
the graces here to-night."
"I have come to stop the night with you."
"Nonsense! I don't want anyone. Go home,
all the lot of you. Even if the thing should come
on again, you can't help me; I won't keep taking
opium. It's all very well once in a way."
"I'm afraid you're right," Riccardo said.
"But that's not always an easy resolution to stick
The Gadfly looked up, smiling. "No fear!
If I'd been going in for that sort of thing, I should
have done it long ago."
"Anyway, you are not going to be left alone,"
Riccardo answered drily. "Come into the other
room a minute, Galli; I want to speak to you.
Good-night, Rivarez; I'll look in to-morrow."
Martini was following them out of the room
when he heard his name softly called. The Gadfly
was holding out a hand to him.
"Oh, stuff! Go to sleep."
When Riccardo had gone, Martini remained a
few minutes in the outer room, talking with Galli.
As he opened the front door of the house he heard
a carriage stop at the garden gate and saw a
woman's figure get out and come up the path. It
was Zita, returning, evidently, from some evening
entertainment. He lifted his hat and stood aside
to let her pass, then went out into the dark lane
leading from the house to the Poggio Imperiale.
Presently the gate clicked and rapid footsteps
came down the lane.
"Wait a minute!" she said.
When he turned back to meet her she stopped
short, and then came slowly towards him, dragging
one hand after her along the hedge. There
was a single street-lamp at the corner, and he saw
by its light that she was hanging her head down
as though embarrassed or ashamed.
"How is he?" she asked without looking up.
"Much better than he was this morning. He
has been asleep most of the day and seems less
exhausted. I think the attack is passing over."
She still kept her eyes on the ground.
"Has it been very bad this time?"
"About as bad as it can well be, I should
"I thought so. When he won't let me come
into the room, that always means it's bad."
"Does he often have attacks like this?"
"That depends---- It's so irregular. Last
summer, in Switzerland, he was quite well; but
the winter before, when we were in Vienna, it was
awful. He wouldn't let me come near him for
days together. He hates to have me about when
She glanced up for a moment, and, dropping her
eyes again, went on:
"He always used to send me off to a ball, or
concert, or something, on one pretext or another,
when he felt it coming on. Then he would lock
himself into his room. I used to slip back and sit
outside the door--he would have been furious if
he'd known. He'd let the dog come in if it
whined, but not me. He cares more for it, I
There was a curious, sullen defiance in her
"Well, I hope it won't be so bad any more,"
said Martini kindly. "Dr. Riccardo is taking the
case seriously in hand. Perhaps he will be able to
make a permanent improvement. And, in any
case, the treatment gives relief at the moment.
But you had better send to us at once, another
time. He would have suffered very much less if
we had known of it earlier. Good-night!"
He held out his hand, but she drew back with
a quick gesture of refusal.
"I don't see why you want to shake hands with
"As you like, of course," he began in embarrassment.
She stamped her foot on the ground. "I hate
you!" she cried, turning on him with eyes like
glowing coals. "I hate you all! You come here
talking politics to him; and he lets you sit up the
night with him and give him things to stop the
pain, and I daren't so much as peep at him through
the door! What is he to you? What right have
you to come and steal him away from me? I hate
you! I hate you! I HATE you!"
She burst into a violent fit of sobbing, and, darting
back into the garden, slammed the gate in his face.
"Good Heavens!" said Martini to himself, as he
walked down the lane. "That girl is actually
in love with him! Of all the extraordinary
THE Gadfly's recovery was rapid. One afternoon
in the following week Riccardo found him
lying on the sofa in a Turkish dressing-gown,
chatting with Martini and Galli. He even talked
about going downstairs; but Riccardo merely
laughed at the suggestion and asked whether he
would like a tramp across the valley to Fiesole to
"You might go and call on the Grassinis for a
change," he added wickedly. "I'm sure madame
would be delighted to see you, especially now,
when you look so pale and interesting."
The Gadfly clasped his hands with a tragic
"Bless my soul! I never thought of that!
She'd take me for one of Italy's martyrs, and talk
patriotism to me. I should have to act up to the
part, and tell her I've been cut to pieces in an
underground dungeon and stuck together again
rather badly; and she'd want to know exactly what
the process felt like. You don't think she'd believe
it, Riccardo? I'll bet you my Indian dagger
against the bottled tape-worm in your den that
she'll swallow the biggest lie I can invent. That's
a generous offer, and you'd better jump at it."
"Thanks, I'm not so fond of murderous tools
as you are."
"Well, a tape-worm is as murderous as a dagger,
any day, and not half so pretty."
"But as it happens, my dear fellow, I don't
want the dagger and I do want the tape-worm.
Martini, I must run off. Are you in charge of this
"Only till three o'clock. Galli and I have to go
to San Miniato, and Signora Bolla is coming till
I can get back."
"Signora Bolla!" the Gadfly repeated in a tone
of dismay. "Why, Martini, this will never do!
I can't have a lady bothered over me and my ailments.
Besides, where is she to sit? She won't
like to come in here."
"Since when have you gone in so fiercely for the
proprieties?" asked Riccardo, laughing. "My
good man, Signora Bolla is head nurse in general
to all of us. She has looked after sick people ever
since she was in short frocks, and does it better
than any sister of mercy I know. Won't like to
come into your room! Why, you might be talking
of the Grassini woman! I needn't leave any
directions if she's coming, Martini. Heart alive,
it's half-past two; I must be off!"
"Now, Rivarez, take your physic before she
comes," said Galli, approaching the sofa with a
"Damn the physic!" The Gadfly had reached
the irritable stage of convalescence, and was
inclined to give his devoted nurses a bad time.
"W-what do you want to d-d-dose me with all
sorts of horrors for now the pain is gone?"
"Just because I don't want it to come back.
You wouldn't like it if you collapsed when Signora
Bolla is here and she had to give you opium."
"My g-good sir, if that pain is going to come
back it will come; it's not a t-toothache to be
frightened away with your trashy mixtures. They
are about as much use as a t-toy squirt for a house
on fire. However, I suppose you must have your
He took the glass with his left hand, and the
sight of the terrible scars recalled Galli to the
former subject of conversation.
"By the way," he asked; "how did you get so
much knocked about? In the war, was it?"
"Now, didn't I just tell you it was a case of
secret dungeons and----"
"Yes, that version is for Signora Grassini's
benefit. Really, I suppose it was in the war with
"Yes, I got a bit hurt there; and then hunting
in the savage districts and one thing and another."
"Ah, yes; on the scientific expedition. You
can fasten your shirt; I have quite done. You
seem to have had an exciting time of it out there."
"Well, of course you can't live in savage countries
without getting a few adventures once in a
way," said the Gadfly lightly; "and you can
hardly expect them all to be pleasant."
"Still, I don't understand how you managed to
get so much knocked about unless in a bad adventure
with wild beasts--those scars on your left
arm, for instance."
"Ah, that was in a puma-hunt. You see, I had
There was a knock at the door.
"Is the room tidy, Martini? Yes? Then please
open the door. This is really most kind, signora;
you must excuse my not getting up."
"Of course you mustn't get up; I have not come
as a caller. I am a little early, Cesare. I thought
perhaps you were in a hurry to go."
"I can stop for a quarter of an hour. Let me
put your cloak in the other room. Shall I take
the basket, too?"
"Take care; those are new-laid eggs. Katie
brought them in from Monte Oliveto this morning.
There are some Christmas roses for you,
Signor Rivarez; I know you are fond of flowers."
She sat down beside the table and began clipping
the stalks of the flowers and arranging them
in a vase.
"Well, Rivarez," said Galli; "tell us the rest of
the puma-hunt story; you had just begun."
"Ah, yes! Galli was asking me about life in
South America, signora; and I was telling him
how I came to get my left arm spoiled. It was
in Peru. We had been wading a river on a puma-hunt,
and when I fired at the beast the powder
wouldn't go off; it had got splashed with water.
Naturally the puma didn't wait for me to rectify
that; and this is the result."
"That must have been a pleasant experience."
"Oh, not so bad! One must take the rough
with the smooth, of course; but it's a splendid
life on the whole. Serpent-catching, for instance----"
He rattled on, telling anecdote after anecdote;
now of the Argentine war, now of the Brazilian
expedition, now of hunting feats and adventures
with savages or wild beasts. Galli, with the delight
of a child hearing a fairy story, kept interrupting
every moment to ask questions. He was
of the impressionable Neapolitan temperament
and loved everything sensational. Gemma took
some knitting from her basket and listened
silently, with busy fingers and downcast eyes.
Martini frowned and fidgeted. The manner in
which the anecdotes were told seemed to him
boastful and self-conscious; and, notwithstanding
his unwilling admiration for a man who could
endure physical pain with the amazing fortitude
which he had seen the week before, he genuinely
disliked the Gadfly and all his works and ways.
"It must have been a glorious life!" sighed
Galli with naive envy. "I wonder you ever made
up your mind to leave Brazil. Other countries
must seem so flat after it!"
"I think I was happiest in Peru and Ecuador,"
said the Gadfly. "That really is a magnificent
tract of country. Of course it is very hot, especially
the coast district of Ecuador, and one has to
rough it a bit; but the scenery is superb beyond
"I believe," said Galli, "the perfect freedom of
life in a barbarous country would attract me more
than any scenery. A man must feel his personal,
human dignity as he can never feel it in our
"Yes," the Gadfly answered; "that is----"
Gemma raised her eyes from her knitting and
looked at him. He flushed suddenly scarlet and
broke off. There was a little pause.
"Surely it is not come on again?" asked Galli
"Oh, nothing to speak of, thanks to your
s-s-soothing application that I b-b-blasphemed
against. Are you going already, Martini?"
"Yes. Come along, Galli; we shall be late."
Gemma followed the two men out of the room,
and presently returned with an egg beaten up in
"Take this, please," she said with mild authority;
and sat down again to her knitting. The
Gadfly obeyed meekly.
For half an hour, neither spoke. Then the Gadfly
said in a very low voice:
She looked up. He was tearing the fringe of
the couch-rug, and kept his eyes lowered.
"You didn't believe I was speaking the truth
just now," he began.
"I had not the smallest doubt that you were
telling falsehoods," she answered quietly.
"You were quite right. I was telling falsehoods
all the time."
"Do you mean about the war?"
"About everything. I was not in that war at
all; and as for the expedition, I had a few adventures,
of course, and most of those stories are true,
but it was not that way I got smashed. You have
detected me in one lie, so I may as well confess the
lot, I suppose."
"Does it not seem to you rather a waste of
energy to invent so many falsehoods?" she asked.
"I should have thought it was hardly worth the
"What would you have? You know your own
English proverb: 'Ask no questions and you'll be
told no lies.' It's no pleasure to me to fool people
that way, but I must answer them somehow when
they ask what made a cripple of me; and I may as
well invent something pretty while I'm about it.
You saw how pleased Galli was."
"Do you prefer pleasing Galli to speaking the truth?"
"The truth!" He looked up with the torn
fringe in his hand. "You wouldn't have me tell
those people the truth? I'd cut my tongue out
first!" Then with an awkward, shy abruptness:
"I have never told it to anybody yet; but I'll tell
you if you care to hear."
She silently laid down her knitting. To her
there was something grievously pathetic in this
hard, secret, unlovable creature, suddenly flinging
his personal confidence at the feet of a woman
whom he barely knew and whom he apparently
A long silence followed, and she looked up.
He was leaning his left arm on the little table beside
him, and shading his eyes with the mutilated
hand, and she noticed the nervous tension of the
fingers and the throbbing of the scar on the wrist.
She came up to him and called him softly by name.
He started violently and raised his head.
"I f-forgot," he stammered apologetically. "I
was g-going to t-tell you about----"
"About the--accident or whatever it was that
caused your lameness. But if it worries you----"
"The accident? Oh, the smashing! Yes;
only it wasn't an accident, it was a poker."
She stared at him in blank amazement. He
pushed back his hair with a hand that shook perceptibly,
and looked up at her, smiling.
"Won't you sit down? Bring your chair close,
please. I'm so sorry I can't get it for you.
R-really, now I come to think of it, the case would
have been a p-perfect t-treasure-trove for Riccardo
if he had had me to treat; he has the true surgeon's
love for broken bones, and I believe everything
in me that was breakable was broken on that
occasion--except my neck."
"And your courage," she put in softly. "But
perhaps you count that among your unbreakable
He shook his head. "No," he said; "my courage
has been mended up after a fashion, with the
rest of me; but it was fairly broken then, like a
smashed tea-cup; that's the horrible part of it.
Ah---- Yes; well, I was telling you about the
"It was--let me see--nearly thirteen years ago,
in Lima. I told you Peru was a delightful country
to live in; but it's not quite so nice for people that
happen to be at low water, as I was. I had been
down in the Argentine, and then in Chili, tramping
the country and starving, mostly; and had
come up from Valparaiso as odd-man on a cattle-boat.
I couldn't get any work in Lima itself, so I
went down to the docks,--they're at Callao, you
know,--to try there. Well of course in all those
shipping-ports there are low quarters where the
sea-faring people congregate; and after some time
I got taken on as servant in one of the gambling
hells there. I had to do the cooking and billiard-marking,
and fetch drink for the sailors and their
women, and all that sort of thing. Not very
pleasant work; still I was glad to get it; there was
at least food and the sight of human faces and
sound of human tongues--of a kind. You may
think that was no advantage; but I had just been
down with yellow fever, alone in the outhouse of a
wretched half-caste shanty, and the thing had
given me the horrors. Well, one night I was told
to put out a tipsy Lascar who was making himself
obnoxious; he had come ashore and lost all his
money and was in a bad temper. Of course I had
to obey if I didn't want to lose my place and
starve; but the man was twice as strong as I--I
was not twenty-one and as weak as a cat after the
fever. Besides, he had the poker."
He paused a moment, glancing furtively at her;
then went on:
"Apparently he intended to put an end to me
altogether; but somehow he managed to scamp
his work--Lascars always do if they have a
chance; and left just enough of me not smashed to
go on living with."
"Yes, but the other people, could they not
interfere? Were they all afraid of one Lascar?"
He looked up and burst out laughing.
"THE OTHER PEOPLE? The gamblers and the
people of the house? Why, you don't understand!
They were negroes and Chinese and Heaven knows
what; and I was their servant--THEIR PROPERTY.
They stood round and enjoyed the fun, of course.
That sort of thing counts for a good joke out
there. So it is if you don't happen to be the subject
"Then what was the end of it?"
"That I can't tell you much about; a man
doesn't remember the next few days after a thing
of that kind, as a rule. But there was a ship's
surgeon near, and it seems that when they found I
was not dead, somebody called him in. He
patched me up after a fashion--Riccardo seems to
think it was rather badly done, but that may be
professional jealousy. Anyhow, when I came to
my senses, an old native woman had taken me in
for Christian charity--that sounds queer, doesn't
it? She used to sit huddled up in the corner of
the hut, smoking a black pipe and spitting on the
floor and crooning to herself. However, she
meant well, and she told me I might die in peace
and nobody should disturb me. But the spirit of
contradiction was strong in me and I elected to
live. It was rather a difficult job scrambling back
to life, and sometimes I am inclined to think it
was a great deal of cry for very little wool. Anyway
that old woman's patience was wonderful;
she kept me--how long was it?--nearly four
months lying in her hut, raving like a mad thing at
intervals, and as vicious as a bear with a sore ear
between-whiles. The pain was pretty bad, you
see, and my temper had been spoiled in childhood
with overmuch coddling."
"Oh, then--I got up somehow and crawled
away. No, don't think it was any delicacy about
taking a poor woman's charity--I was past caring
for that; it was only that I couldn't bear the place
any longer. You talked just now about my courage;
if you had seen me then! The worst of the
pain used to come on every evening, about dusk;
and in the afternoon I used to lie alone, and watch
the sun get lower and lower---- Oh, you can't
understand! It makes me sick to look at a sunset now!"
A long pause.
"Well, then I went up country, to see if I could
get work anywhere--it would have driven me mad
to stay in Lima. I got as far as Cuzco, and
there------ Really I don't know why I'm inflicting