Part 10 out of 13
with wide-open eyes and a most piteous expression. "Do you know me,
"Oh, yes, doctor!" she murmured faintly.
"Do you suffer much pain?"
"Then can you tell me how this happened? Who stabbed you?"
She shuddered and sighed.
"No one!--that I can remember!"
Her eyes closed--she moved her hands about restlessly as though
seeking for something she had lost.
"I am here!" answered the boy gently.
"Stay with me! I am so tired!"
Again a convulsive trembling shook her fragile body from head to
foot, and again she sighed as though her heart were breaking,--then
she lay passively still, though one or two tears crept down her
cheeks as they carried her tenderly up to her own room and laid her
down on her simple little white bed, softly curtained, and guarded
by a statue of the Virgin bending over it. There, when her cruel
wound was dressed and bandaged, and the physician had given her a
composing draught, she fell into a deep, refreshing slumber, and
only Manuel stayed beside her as she slept.
Meanwhile, down in the studio, Prince Sovrani and the Cardinal
stayed together, talking softly, and gazing in fascinated wonder,
bewilderment, admiration and awe at Angela's work unveiled. All the
lamps in the room were now lit, and the great picture--a sublime
Dream resolved into sublime Reality--shone out as much as the
artificial light would permit,--a jewel of art that seemed to
contain within itself all the colour and radiance of a heaven
unknown, unseen yet surely near at hand. The figure and face of the
approaching Saviour, instinct with life, expressed almost in
positive speech the words, "Then shall ye see the Son of Man coming
in the clouds with great power and glory"!--and if Cardinal Bonpre
had given way to the innermost emotions of his soul, he could have
knelt before the exalted purity of such a conception of the Christ,-
-a god-like ideal, brought into realization by the exalted
imagination, the holy thoughts, and the faithful patient work of a
"This--" he said, in hushed accents--"This must be the cause of the
dastardly attempt made to murder the child! Some one who knew her
secret,--some one who was aware of the wonderful power and
magnificence of her work,--perhaps the very man who made the frame
for it,--who can tell?"
Prince Pietro meditated deeply, a frown puckering his brows,--his
countenance was still pale and drawn with the stress of the mingled
agony and relief he had just passed through, and the anxiety he felt
concerning Angela's immediate critical condition.
"I cannot hold the position yet!--" he said, at last--"That is to
say, I am too numb and stricken with fear to realize what has
happened! See you! That picture is marvellous!--a wonder of the
world!--it will crown my girl with all the laurels of a lasting
fame,--but what matter is it to me,--this shouting of the public,--
if she dies? Will it console me for her loss, to call her a
"Nay, but we must not give up hope!"--said the Cardinal soothingly--
"Please God, you will not lose her! Be glad that she is not dead,--
and remember that it is almost by a miracle that she lives!"
"That is true--that is true!" murmured old Sovrani, ruffling his
white hair with one hand, while he still stared abstractedly at his
daughter's picture--"You are very patient with me, brother!--you
have all the kindness as well as all the faithfulness of your
sister,--the sweetest woman the sun was ever privileged to shine on!
Well, well! What did you say to me? That this picture must have been
the cause of the attempted murder? Maybe,--but the poor hard-working
fellow who made the frame for it, could not have done such a deed,--
he has been a pensioner of Angela's for many a long day, and she has
given him employment when he could not obtain it from others.
Besides, he never saw the picture. Angela gave him her measurements,
and when the frame was finished he brought it to her here. But he
had nothing whatever to do with setting the canvas in it,--that I
know, for Angela herself told me. No, no!--let us not blame the
innocent; rather let us try to find the guilty."
At that moment a servant entered with a large and exquisitely
arranged basket of lilies-of-the-valley, and a letter.
"For Donna Sovrani," he said, as he handed both to his master.
The Prince took the basket of lilies, and moved by a sudden fancy,
set it gently in front of Angela's great work. Glancing at the
superscription of the letter, he said,--
"From Varillo. I had better open it and see what he says."
He broke the seal and read the following:
"SWEETEST ANGELA,--I am summoned to Naples on business, and
therefore, to my infinite regret, shall not be able to see the great
picture to-morrow. You know,--you can feel how sorry I am to
disappoint both you and myself in a pleasure which we have so long
lovingly anticipated, but as the Queen has promised to make her
visit of inspection, I dare not ask you to put off the exhibition of
your work till my return. But I know I shall come back to find my
Angela crowned with glory, and it will be reserved for me to add the
last laurel leaf to the immortal wreath! I am grieved that I have no
time to come and press my 'addio' on your sweet lips,--but in two or
three days at most, I shall be again at your feet. Un bacio di
"Then he has left for Naples?" said Bonpre, to whom Prince Pietro
had read this letter--"A sudden departure, is it not?"
"He will not know what has happened to Angela--"
"Oh he will be sure to hear that!" said the Prince--"To-night it
will be in all the newspapers both of Rome and Naples. Angela's
light cannot be hidden under a bushel!"
"True. Then of course he will return at once."
"Naturally. If he hears the news on his way, he will probably be
back to-night--" said Sovrani, but his fuzzy brows were still
puckered. Some uncomfortable thought seemed to trouble him,--and
presently, as if moved by a sudden inexplicable instinct, he took
the basket of lilies away from where he had set it in front of his
daughter's picture, and transferred it to a side-table. Cardinal
Bonpre, always observant, noticed his action.
"You will not leave the flowers there?" he queried.
"No. The picture is a sacred thing!--it is an almost living Christ!-
-in whom Varillo does not believe!"
The Cardinal lifted his eyes protestingly.
"Yet you let the child marry him?"
Sovrani passed one hand wearily across his brows.
"Let us not talk of marriage," he said--"Death is nearer to us to-
day than life! I am opposed to the match--I always have been,--and
who knows--who knows what may not yet prevent it--" He paused,
thinking,--then turning a solicitous glance on his brother-in-law's
frail figure he said--"Felix, you look weary,--let me attend you to
your own rooms, that you may rest. We need you with us,--it may be
that we shall need you more than we have ever done! Pray for us,
brother!--Pray for my Angela, that she may be spared--"
His harsh voice broke,--and tears trickled down his furrowed cheeks.
"See you!" he said, pointing in a kind of despair to the magnificent
"Coming of Christ"--"If Raffaelle or Angelo had dared to paint this
in their day, the world would be taking a lesson from it now! If it
were a modern man's work, that man would be a centre for hero-
worship! But that a WOMAN should create such a masterpiece!--and
that woman my Angela! Do you know what it means, Felix?--what Fame
always means, what it always must mean--for a woman? Just what has
already happened,--the murderous dagger-thrust--the coward stab in
the back--and the little child's cry of the tender broken heart we
heard just now--'Stay with me!--I am so tired!'"
The Cardinal pressed his hand sympathetically, too profoundly moved
himself to speak.
"This picture will bring down the thunders of the Vatican!--" went
on Sovrani--"And those thunders will awaken a responsive echo from
the world! But not from the Old World--the New! The New World!--yes-
-my Angela's work is for the living present, the coming future--not
for the decayed Past!"
As he spoke, he dropped the silken curtain before the picture and
hid it from view.
"We will raise it again when the painter lives--or dies!" he said
They left the studio, Prince Pietro extinguishing the lights, and
giving orders to his servant to put a strong bar across the door
they had forced open,--and the Cardinal, feeling more lonely than he
had done for many days, owing to the temporary absence of Manuel who
was keeping watch over Angela, returned to his own apartments full
of grave thoughts and anxious trouble. He had meant to leave Rome at
once,--but now, such a course seemed more than impossible. Yet he
knew that the scene which had, through himself indirectly, occurred
at the Vatican, would have its speedy results in some decisive and
vengeful action, if not on the part of the Supreme Pontiff, then
through his ministers and advisers, and Bonpre was sufficiently
acquainted with the secret ways of the Church he served, to be well
aware of its relentlessness in all cases where its authority was
called into question. The first step taken, so he instinctively
felt, would be to deprive him of Manuel's companionship,--the next
perhaps, to threaten him with the loss of his own diocese. He sighed
heavily,--yet in his own tranquil and pious mind he could not say
that he resented the position his affairs had taken. Accustomed as
he was always, to submit the whole daily course of his life to the
ruling of a Higher Power, he was framed and braced as temperately
for adversity as for joy,--and nothing seemed to him either
fortunate or disastrous except as concerned the attitude in which
the soul received the announcement of God's will. To resent
affliction was, in his opinion, sinful; to accept it reverently and
humbly as a means of grace, and endeavour to make sweetness out of
the seeming bitterness of the divine dispensation, appeared to him
the only right and natural way of duty,--hence his clear simplicity
of thought, his patience, plain faith, and purity of aim. And even
now, perplexed and pained as he was, much more for the sorrow which
had befallen his brother-in-law, than for any trouble likely to
occur personally to himself, he was still able to disentangle his
thoughts from all earthly cares--to lift up his heart, unsullied by
complaint, to the Ruler of all destinies--and to resign himself with
that Christian philosophy, which when truly practised, is so much
more powerful than all the splendid stoicism of the heroic pagans,
Which we, unseeing, feel and grope for blindly,
Like children in the dark, knowing that Love is near!"
Meanwhile Prince Pietro, moved by conflicting sentiments and
forebodings which he was unable to explain to himself, and only
strongly conscious of the desire to be avenged on his daughter's
cowardly assailant, whoever it might be, muffled himself in a well-
worn "Almaviva" cloak, his favourite out-door garment, pulled his
hat down over his eyes, and so, looking like a fierce old brigand of
the mountains, went out, not quite knowing why he went, but partly
impelled by a sense of curiosity. He wanted to hear something,--to
find something,--and yet he could not agree with himself as to the
nature of the circumstance he sought to discover. There was a
lurking suspicion in his mind to which he would not give a name,--a
dark thought that made him tremble with mingled rage and horror,--
but he put it away from him as a hint offered by the Evil One--an
insidious suggestion as hideous as it was unnatural. The afternoon
had now closed into night, and many stars were glistening bravely in
the purple depths of the clear sky,--the air was mild and balmy,--
and as he crossed the road to turn down the little side street
leading to the Tiber, where Florian Varillo had stood but a few
hours previously, a flower-girl met him with a large basket of white
hyacinths and held them up to his eyes.
"Ecco la primavera, Signor!" she said, with a smile.
He shook his head, and turned abruptly away,--as he did so, his foot
struck against some slight obstacle. Stooping to examine it, he saw
it was the empty leathern sheath of a dagger. He picked it up, and
studied it intently. It was elaborately adorned with old rococco
work, and was evidently the ornamental covering of one of those
small but deadly weapons which Italians, both men and women, so
often wear concealed about their persons, for the purpose of taking
vengeance, when deemed necessary, on an unsuspecting enemy. Slipping
the thing into his pocket, the Prince looked about him, and soon
recognised his bearings,--he was standing about six yards away from
the private back-entrance to his daughter's studio. He walked up to
the door and tried it,--it was fast locked.
"Yes--I remember!--the servants told me--both doors were locked,--
and from this they said the key was gone,--" he muttered, then
Presently, actuated by a sudden impulse, he turned and walked
swiftly with long impatient strides through the more populated
quarters of Rome towards the Corso, and he had not proceeded very
far in this direction before he heard a frenzied and discordant
shouting which, though he knew it did not yet bear the truth in its
harsh refrain, yet staggered him and made his heart almost stand
still with an agony of premonitory fear.
"Morte di Angela Sovrani!"
"Assassinamento di Angela Sovrani!"
"Morte subito di Angela Sovrani!"
"Assassinamento crudele della bella Sovrani!"
Prince Pietro held his breath in sharp pain, listening. How horrible
was the persistent cry of the newsvendors!--hoarse and shrill--now
"Morte di Angela Sovrani!"
How horrible!--how horrible! He put his hands to his ears to try and
shut out the din. He had not expected any public outcry--not so
soon--but ill news travels fast, and no doubt the very servants of
his own household were responsible for having, in the extremity of
their terror, given away the report of Angela's death. The terrible
shouts were like so many cruel blows on his brain,--yet--half-
reeling with the shock of them, he still went on his way,--straight
on to the house and studio of Florian Varillo. There, he rang the
bell loudly and impatiently. A servant opened the door in haste, and
stared aghast at the tall old man with the white hair and blazing
eyes, who was wrapped in a dark cloak, the very folds of which
seemed to tremble with the suppressed rage of the form it enveloped.
"Il Principe Souvrani!" he stammered feebly, falling back a little
from the threshold.
"Where is your master?" demanded Sovrani.
"Eccellenza, he has gone to Naples!"
"When did he leave?"
"But two hours ago, Eccellenza!"
Prince Pietro held up the dagger-sheath he had just found.
"This--belongs--to--him--does it not?" he asked slowly, detaching
his words with careful directness.
The man answered readily and at once.
Sovrani uttered a terrible oath.
"Let me pass!"
The servant made a gesture of protest.
"But--Eccellenza--my master is not here! . . ."
Prince Pietro paying no heed to him, strode into the house, and
brusquely threw open the door of a room which he knew to be
Varillo's own specially private retreat. A woman with a mass of
bright orange-gold hair, half-dressed in a tawdry blue peignoir
trimmed with cheap lace, was sprawling lazily on a sofa smoking a
cigarette. She sprang up surprised and indignant,--but shrank back
visibly as she recognised the intruder, and met the steady tigerish
glare of the old man's eyes.
"Where is your lover?" he asked.
"Eccellensa! You amaze--you insult me--!"
"Basta!" and Sovrani came a step nearer to her, his wrath seeming to
literally encompass him like a thunder-cloud--"Play me no tricks!
This is not the time for lying! I repeat my question--where is he?
You, the companion of his closest thoughts,--you, his 'model'--you,
Mademoiselle Pon-Pon, his mistress--you must know all his movements.
Tell me then, where he is--or by heaven, if you do not, I will have
you arrested for complicity in murder!"
She fell back from him trembling, her full red mouth half open,--and
her face paling with terror.
"Murder!" she whispered--"Dio mio! Dio mio!"
"Yes--murder!" and the Prince thrust before her wide-opened eyes the
dagger-sheath he held--"What! Have you not heard? Not yet? Not
though the whole city rings with the news? What news? That Angela
Sovrani is dead! That she--my daughter--the sweetest, purest, most
innocent and loving of women as well as the greatest and most
gifted--has been mortally stabbed in her own studio this very day by
some cowardly fiend unknown! Unknown did I say? Not so--known! This
sheath belongs to Florian Varillo. Where is he? Tell me at once--if
only to save YOURSELF trouble!"
Overcome by fear, and to do her justice, horror as well, the
miserable Pon-Pon threw herself on her knees.
"I swear he has gone to Naples!" she cried--"On my word!--as I
live!--I swear it!--he has gone! He seemed as usual,--he was not in
any haste--he left no message--he said he would be back in two or
three days--he sent flowers to la Donna Sovrani--he wrote to her
. . . O Santissima Virgine! . . . I swear to you I know nothing!"
The Prince eyed her with grim attention.
"They are shouting it in the streets--" he said--"Listen!" He held
up one hand,--she cowered on the floor--she could hear nothing, and
she stared at him in fascinated terror--"They are telling all Rome
of the death of my child! First Rome--and then--the world! The world
shall hear of it! For there is only one Angela Sovrani,--and earth
and heaven cry out for justice in her name! Tell this to the devil
who has bought you for his pleasure! I leave the message with you,--
tell him that when the world clamours for vengeance upon her
murderer, I KNOW WHERE TO FIND HIM!"
With that, he put the dagger-sheath back in his breastpocket with
jealous care, and left her where she crouched, shivering and
moaning. Walking as in a dream he brushed past the astonished and
frightened servant unseeingly, and went out of the house into the
street once more. There he paused dizzily,--the stars appeared to
rock in the sky, and the houses seemed moving slowly round him in a
sort of circular procession. The shouting of the newsvendors which
had ceased for a while, began again with even louder persistency.
"Morte di Angela Sovrani!"
"La bella Sovrani!--Assassinamento crudele!"
The old man's heart beat in strong hammer-strokes,--he listened
vaguely,--his tall figure shaking a little with the storm pent-up
within him, till all at once as if the full realization of the
position had only just burst upon him, he uttered a sharp cry--
"Her lover! Her promised husband! One whom she trusted and loved
more than her own father! The hope of her life!--the man whose
praise was sweeter to her than the plaudits of the whole world!--he-
-even he--her MURDERER! For even if she lives in body, he has
murdered her soul!"
He looked up at the deep starlit heavens, his dark face growing
livid in the intensity of his wrath and pain.
"May God curse him!" he whispered thickly--"May all evil track his
footsteps, and the terrors of a cursed conscience hound him to his
death! May he never know peace by day or night!--may the devils in
his own soul destroy him! God curse him!"
He clenched his fist and raised it threateningly,--and gathering his
cloak about him tried to walk on,--but there was a black mist before
his eyes . . . he could not see--he stumbled forward blindly, and would
have fallen, had not a strong arm caught him and held him upright.
He turned a dazed and wondering look on the man whose friendly grasp
supported him,--then, with an exclamation, made a trembling attempt
to raise his hat.
"Il Re!" he murmured feebly--"Il Re!"
King Humbert--for it was he--held him still more closely.
"Courage, amico!" he said kindly--"Courage!--yes--yes!--I know--I
have heard the news! All Italy will give you vengeance for your
child! We will spare no pains to discover her murderer. But now--you
are ill--you are weary--do not try to speak--come with me! Let me
take you home--come!"
A great sob broke from the old man's breast as he yielded to his
Sovereign's imperative yet gentle guidance, and before he could
realize the situation, he was in the King's own carriage, with the
King beside him, being rapidly driven back to his own house. Arrived
at the Palazzo Sovrani, a strange sight greeted them. The great
porte-cochere was wide open, and, pressing through it, and
surrounding the stately building at every point was a vast crowd,--
densely packed and almost absolutely silent. Quite up to the inner
portico these waiting thousands pressed,--though, as they recognised
the Royal liveries, they did their best to make immediate way, and a
low murmur arose "Evviva il Re!" But there was no loud shouting, and
the continued hush was more distinctly recognisable than the murmur.
Prince Sovrani gazed bewilderedly at the great throng as the
carriage moved slowly through, and putting his hand to his head
"What--what is this! I do not understand--why are these people
The King pressed his hand.
"All the world honours and loves your daughter, my friend!" he said,
"And Rome, the Mother of Nations, mourns the loss of her youngest
child of genius."
"No--no, not loss!--she is not dead--" began Sovrani stammeringly,--
"I should have told your Majesty--she is grievously wounded--but not
dead . . ."
At that moment the carriage stopped. The door of the Sovrani palace
was open, and in the centre of a group of people that had gathered
within, among whom were Aubrey Leigh, Sylvie Hermenstein, and the
Princesse D'Agramont, stood Cardinal Bonpre and Manuel. Manuel was a
little in advance of the rest, and as the King and Prince Sovrani
alighted, he came fully forward, his eyes shining, and a smile upon
"She will recover!" he said, "She is sleeping peacefully,--and all
is well!" His voice rang clear and sweet, and was heard by everyone
on the outskirts of the crowd. The good news ran from mouth to
mouth, till all the people caught it up and responded with one
brief, subdued, but hearty cheer. Then, without bidding, they began
to disperse, and the King, baring his head in the presence of
Cardinal Bonpre, gave up his self-imposed charge of old Sovrani,
who, faint and feeble, grasped Aubrey Leigh's quickly proffered arm,
and leaned heavily upon it.
"He needs care," said Humbert gently,--"The shock has moved him
"Your Majesty is ever considerate of the sorrows of others," said
the venerable Felix with emotion, "And God will bless you as He
blesses all good men!"
The King bowed reverently to the benediction. Then he looked up with
a slight smile.
"It is not wise of your Eminence to say so,--in Rome!" he observed,-
-"But I thank you, and am grateful!"
His keen eyes rested for a moment on Manuel,--and the fair aspect of
the boy seemed to move him to a sense of wonder--but he did not
speak. With a light salute to all present he re-entered his carriage
and was driven away--and Aubrey Leigh led Prince Sovrani into his
own library where, when he was seated, they all waited upon him
eagerly, the fair Sylvie chafing his cold hands, and the Princesse
D'Agramont practically making him drink a glass of good wine.
Gradually, warmth and colour and animation came back to his pale
features,--his fears were soothed,--his heart relieved, and a smile
crossed his lips as he met Sylvie's earnest, anxious eyes.
"What a pretty rosebud it is!" he said softly,--"Full of sunshine--
With returning strength he gathered up the forces of his native
pride and independence and rose from his chair.
"I am well--quite well again now!" he said, "Where is the boy,
"Gone back to Angela," replied the Cardinal, "He said he would watch
her until she wakes."
"An angel watching an angel!" then said the Prince musingly, "That
is as it should be!" He paused a moment, "The King was very kind.
And you, Princesse--and you, bella Contessina!" and he courteously
bent over Sylvie's little hand and kissed it,--"You are all much too
good to an old man like me! I am strong again--I shall be ready to
speak--when Angela bids. But I must wait. I must wait!" He ruffled
his white hair with one hand and looked at them all very strangely.
"That was a great crowd outside--all waiting to hear news of my
girl! If--if they knew who it was that stabbed her--"
"Do you know?" cried Aubrey quickly.
"Per Dio!" And Sovrani smiled, "I thought Englishmen were
phlegmatic, and here is one ablaze, and ready to burst like a bomb!
No!--I did not say I knew!--but I say, if the crowd had known, they
would have lynched him! Yes, they would have torn him to pieces!
. . . and he would have deserved it! He will deserve it!--If he is ever
found! Come--we will all sup here together this evening--sorrow
strengthens the bonds of friendship . . . and I will tell you . . ."
He paused, and again the strange far-off look came into his eyes.
"I will tell you--" he went on slowly--"how I found my Angela lying
dead, as I thought--dead at the feet of Christ!"
Meanwhile Florian Varillo had not gone to Naples. He had been turned
back by a spectre evoked from his own conscience--coward fear. He
was on his way to the station when he suddenly discovered that he
had lost the sheath of his dagger. A cold perspiration broke out on
his forehead as this fact flashed upon him. What had he done with
it? Surely he had drawn the weapon out and left the sheath in his
breast pocket as usual--but no!--search as he would, he could not
find it. It must have dropped on the floor of Angela's studio! If
that were so, he would be traced!--most surely traced--as the sheath
was of curious and uncommon workmanship, and many of his friends had
seen it. He had told everybody he was going to Naples, and of course
he would be followed there. Then, he would not go! But he went to
the station as if bent on the journey, and took a ticket for Naples.
Then, setting down his portmanteau on a bench, he surreptitiously
tore off the label on which his name was written, and tearing it up
in small bits scattered the fragments on the line. After this, he
walked away leisurely, leaving the portmanteau behind him for there
was nothing in it by which he could be traced, and sauntered slowly
out of the station into the streets of Rome once more. Hailing the
first fiacre he saw, he told the driver to take him to Frascati. The
man was either lazy or sulky.
"Why not take the train, Signor?"
"Because I wish to drive!" replied Varillo. "What is your fare?"
"Twenty-five francs for half the way!" said the man, showing his
white teeth in a mischievous grin.
The driver was surprised, as he had not thought his terms would be
accepted. But he made no further demur, and Varillo jumped into the
vehicle, his teeth chattering with an inward terror he could not
control. "Drive quickly!" he said.
The man shouted an affirmative, and they clattered away through the
streets, Varillo shrinking back in the carriage overcome by panic.
What a fool he had been!--what a fool! He ought to have told Pon-
Pon. If the dagger-sheath were found and taken to his residence, it
would be recognised instantly! And all Rome would rise against
Angela Sovrani's murderer. Murderer! Yes,--that was what he had
chosen to make of himself!
"It was all an impulse," he muttered,--"Just a hot impulse, nothing
more! Just a sudden hatred of her which made me stab her! It was
enough to make any man angry to see such a picture as that painted
by a woman! Her fame would have ruined mine! But I never meant to
kill her--no--no, I never meant to kill her!"
Shuddering and whimpering, he huddled himself in a corner of the
carriage, and did not dare to look out of the window to see which
way he was being driven. He only rallied a little when the wheels
moved more quietly and smoothly, and he knew that he was on the open
road, and out of Rome. Suddenly, after jolting along a considerable
time, the vehicle stopped, and the driver shouted to him. Varillo
dashed down the window and put his head out, almost beside himself
"What are you stopping for! What are you stopping for!" he yelled.
"Go on--go on--we are not half way to Frascati yet! Go on, I tell
"Ma-che! Eccellenza, I only stopped to ask a question!"
"What question--what? Is this a time for asking questions?" cried
Varillo,--"The night is falling,--I want to get on!"
"But we are going on as fast as we can!" expostulated the driver,--
"It is only this--there is an albergo on the way--where we can get
food and wine. Would the Eccellenza like to stop there? It is as far
as I can go, for I am wanted to-night in Rome."
"Very well--stop where you like--only get on now!" said Varillo,
pulling his head in with a jerk. And sinking back in his seat again
he wiped his hot face and cursed his miserable destiny. It would
have been all right if he had only remembered that sheath! No one
would have got on such a track of suspicion as that he, the lover
and affianced husband of Angela, was her brutal assassin!
"I wrote a loving letter and sent her flowers," he argued with
himself, "when I knew she would be dead! But her father would have
got them, and he would have wired to me in Naples, and I should have
come back overcome with sorrow,--and then I should have told them
all how the picture was a secret between my Angela and myself,--how
_I_ had painted the greater part of it, and how she in her sweetness
had wished me to surprise the world,--the plan was perfect, but it
is all spoiled!--spoiled utterly through that stupid blunder of the
Such a trifle! It seemed to him incredible--unjust--that so slight a
thing could intervene between him and the complete success of his
meditated treachery. For notwithstanding the fact that he had been a
great reader and student of books, he now, in this particular hour
of his own emergency, completely forgot what all the most astute and
learned writers have always expounded to an inattentive world--
namely, the fact that crime holds within itself the seed of
punishment. Sometimes that seed ripens quickly,--sometimes it takes
years to grow,--but it is always there. And it generally takes root
in a mere, slight circumstance, so very commonplace and casual as to
entirely escape the notice of the criminal, till the network of
destiny is woven so closely about him that he can no longer avoid
it,--and then he is shown from what a trifling cause the whole
result has sprung. Varillo's present state of mind was one of
absolute torture, for he felt that whoever found the sheath of his
dagger would at once recognise it and declare the owner. If Angela
had only been wounded,--if SHE had found it--she would never have
given up the name of its possessor,--the miserable man knew her
straight, pure soul intimately enough for that!
"If she heard, she would shield me and defend me at the cost of her
own life!" he said--"She was always like that! SHE would never
listen to anything that was said against me,--and if she lived, she
would love me still, and never say that I had tried to kill her!"
and he actually smiled at the thought. "How strangely some women are
constituted!--especially women like Angela, who set up an exalted
standard of life, and accommodate their daily conduct to it! They
are sublime fools!--and so useful to men! We can do anything we like
with them. We can ruin them--and they bear their shame in silence.
We can laugh away their reputations over a game at billiards, and
they are too pure and proud to even attempt to defend themselves. We
can vilify whatever work they do, and they endure the slander,--we
can murder them--" he paused," Yes, we can murder them, and they
die, without so much as leaving a curse behind them! Extraordinary!-
-angelic--superb!--and a wise Fate has ordained that we men shall
never sacrifice ourselves for SUCH women, or go mad for the love of
them! We love the virago better than the saint; we are afraid of the
woman who nags at us and gives us trouble--who screams vengeance
upon us if we neglect her in a trifle--who clamours for our money,
and insists on our gifts--and who keeps our lives in a perpetual
fever of excitement and terror. But the innocent woman we hate--very
naturally! Her looks are a reproach to us, and we like to kill her
when we can--and we often succeed morally,--but THAT is not called
murder. The other way of killing is judged as a crime--and--then--
the punishment is death!"
As this word passed his lips in a whisper, he trembled violently.
Death! It had a chill sound--yet he had not thought so when he
associated it with Angela. For of course Angela was dead. Was she
not? Surely she must be--he had driven the dagger straight home!
"She could not possibly live," he muttered--"Not after such a well
directed blow. And that amazing picture! If I could but claim it as
my work, I should be the greatest artist in the world! It would be
quite easy to make out a proof--only that cursed dagger-sheath is in
He was startled out of his reverie by another stoppage of the
carriage, and this time the driver jumped down from his box and came
to the door.
"This is as far as I can take you, Signor," he said, looking
curiously at his passenger,--"It is quite half way to Frascati.
There is the inn I told you of--where those lights are," and he
pointed towards the left,--"The carriage road does not go up to it.
It is a great place for artists!"
"I am not an artist!" said Varillo brusquely.
"No? But artists are merry company, Eccellenza!--" suggested the
driver, wishing to make up for his previous sulkiness by an excess
of amiability--"And for a night, the albergo is a pleasant resting
place on the way to Frascati, for even the brigands who sup there
"Ah! There are brigands, are there?" said Varillo, getting out of
the fiacre and beginning to recover something of his usual
composure,--"And I daresay you are one of them if the truth were
known! Here is your money." And he gave the man two gold pieces, one
of twenty francs, the other of ten.
"Eccellenza, I have no change--"
"I want none!" said Varillo airily,--"You asked twenty-five francs--
there are thirty. And now--as you say you have business in Rome, be
off with you!"
The man needed no second bidding; delighted with his thirty francs,
he called a gay "Buona notte, Signor!" and turning his horse's head
jogged down the road at a tolerably smart pace. The horse knew as
well as the driver, that the way now lay homeward, and lost no time.
Varillo, left to himself, paused a moment and looked about him. The
Campagna! How he hated it! Should he pass the night at that albergo,
or walk on? He hesitated a little--then made for the inn direct. It
was a bright, cosy little place enough, and the padrona, a cheery,
dark-eyed woman seated behind the counter, bade him smiling welcome.
Lodging--oh yes! she said, there was a charming room at the Signor's
disposal, with a view from the windows which in the early morning
was superb! The Signor was an artist?
"No!" said Varillo, almost fiercely--"I am a tourist--travelling for
Ah! Then the view would enchant the Signor, because it would be
quite new to him! The room should be prepared at once! Would the
Signor take supper?
Yes,--the Signor would take supper. And the Signor went and sat in a
remote corner of the common-room, with a newspaper of a week old,
pretending to read its contents. And supper was soon served to him,-
-a tasty meal enough, flavoured with excellent wine,--and while he
was drinking his third glass of it, a man entered, tall and broad-
shouldered, wrapped in a heavy cloak, which he only partially
loosened as he leaned against the counter and asked for a cup of
coffee. But as he caught sight of the dark face, Varillo shrank back
into his corner, and put up his newspaper to shield himself from
view,--for he saw that the new-comer was no other than Monsignor
Gherardi. His appearance seemed to create a certain amount of
excitement and vague alarm in the little inn; the padrona evidently
knew him well, and hastened to serve him herself with the coffee he
"Will you not sit down, Eccellentissima?" she murmured
"No, I am in haste!" replied Gherardi, glancing carelessly about
him--"My carriage waits outside. There is strange news in Rome to-
night! The famous artist, Angela Sovrani, has been found in her
The padrona uttered a little cry.
"So it seems! Here are the papers from which they cry the news. I
will leave them with you. It is perhaps the judgment of Heaven on
the Sovrani's uncle, Cardinal Bonpre!"
The mistress of the inn crossed herself devoutly.
"Guiosto cielo!--Would Heaven punish a Cardinal?"
"Certainly! If a Cardinal is a heretic!"
The stout padrona clasped her hands and shuddered.
"Quite possible!" And Gherardi drained his coffee-cup. "And when so
great a personage of the Church is a renegade, he incurs two
punishments--the punishment of God and the punishment of the Church!
The one comes first--the other comes--afterwards! Buena notte!"
And throwing down the money for his refreshment, Gherardi cast
another glance around him, muffled himself up in his coat and went
out into the night. Florian Varillo breathed again. But he was not
left in peace for long. The padrona summoned her husband from the
kitchen where he performed the offices of cook, to read the
halfpenny sheets of news her visitor had left with her.
"Look you!" she said in a low voice, "The wicked Monsignor who has
thee, my poor Paolo, in his clutches for debt, has just passed by
and left evil tidings!--that beautiful girl who painted the famous
pictures in Rome, has been murdered! Do you not remember seeing her
once with her father at Frascati?"
Paolo, a round-faced, timid-looking little Piedmontese, nodded
"That do I!" he answered--"Fair as an angel--kind-hearted too,--and
they told me she was a wonder of the world. Che, che! Murdered! And
who could have murdered her? Someone jealous of her fame! Poor
thing--she is engaged to be married too, to another artist named
Florian Varillo. Gran Dio! He will die of this misery!" And they
bent their heads over the paper together and read the brief
announcement headed "Assassinamento di Angela Sovrani!"
A sudden crash startled them. Varillo had sprung up from his table
in haste and overset his glass. It fell, shivering to atoms on the
"Pardon!" he exclaimed, laughing forcedly,--"A thousand apologies!
My hand slipped--it was an accident--"
"Do not trouble yourself, Signor," said the landlord, Paolo,
cautiously going down on his fat knees to pick up the fragments--"It
was an accident as you say. And truly one's nerves get shaken
nowadays by all the strange things one is always hearing! Myself, I
tremble to think of the murder of the Sovrani--the poor girl was so
innocent of evil--and see you!--we might all be murdered in our beds
with such villains about . . ."
He broke off, surprised at the angry oath Varillo uttered.
"Per Dio! Can you not talk of something else?" he said hoarsely,--
"There is a murder nearly every day in Rome!"
Without waiting for a reply he hastily strode out of the inn,
banging the door behind him. He had engaged his room there for the
night--true!--but--after all this foolish gabble he resolved he
would not go back. They would still talk of murder, if he did!
Murder was in the air! Murder seemed written in letters of fire
against the clear sky now luminous with the moon and stars! He was
in a fever and a fury--he walked on and on, little heeding where he
went. What the devil had brought Gherardi to that particular inn at
that particular time of night? He could not imagine. For though he
knew most scandals in Rome, the scandal of the priest's "villa
d'amour" at Frascati, was a secret too closely guarded for anyone
save the sharpest of professional detectives to discover, and he was
totally ignorant of it. He wondered restlessly whether the crafty
Vatican spy had seen him while pretending not to see? If that were
so, then he was lost! He could not satisfy himself as to whether he
had really escaped observation, and tormented by this reflection he
walked on and on, the burning impetus of his thoughts hastening his
footsteps. A cold wind began to rise,--a chill, damp breath of the
Campagna, bringing malaria with it. He felt heated and giddy, and
there was a curious sense of fulness in his veins which oppressed
him and made him uncertain of his movements. Presently he stopped,
and stood gazing vaguely from left to right. He was surely not on
the road to Frascati? There was a tall shadowy building not far from
him, surrounded with eucalyptus trees--he tried to locate it, but
somehow though, as a native of Rome and an artist, he was familiar
with most of the Campagna, he did not recognise this part of it. How
bright the stars were! Living points of fire flashing in dense
purple!--one could never paint them! The golden round of the moon
spreading wide reflections on the road, seemed to his excited mind
like a magic ring environing him, drawing him in, pointing him out
as the one criminal for whom all the world was seeking. He had no
idea of the time,--his watch had stopped. He began to count up
hours. He remembered that when he had gone to see Angela, it was
about four o'clock. He had known perfectly well that she was alone,
for he had seen the Cardinal drive past him in the streets on the
way to the Vatican, and he had heard at his "Cercolo" or club, that
Prince Sovrani had gone out of Rome for a few hours. And, thus
informed, he had timed his visit to Angela well. Then, had he meant
to kill her? No. He was quite certain that he never had had any such
intention. Then what had been his purpose? First, to see her
picture, and then to condemn it. Not harshly, but gently--with the
chill toleration and faint commiseration of the critic who pretends
to judge everything. He knew--none better--the glowing ardour and
enthusiasm of the genius which was as much a part of Angela as
colour is part of a rose,--his intention had been to freeze all that
warmth with a few apparently kind words. For he had never thought it
possible that she,--a mere woman,--could evolve from her own brain
and hand, such a poetic, spiritual and magnificent conception as
"The Coming of Christ." And when he saw what she had done, he
bitterly envied her her power,--he realized the weakness of his own
efforts as compared with her victorious achievement, and he hated
her accordingly, as all men hate the woman who is intellectually
superior to themselves. After all, there was no way out of it, but
the way he had chosen,--to kill her and make an end! To kill her and
make an end! He muttered these words over and over to himself, as he
stood irresolutely watching the broad patterns of the moonlight, and
thinking confusedly about the time. Yes,--it was four o'clock when
he went to Angela's studio,--it must have been five, or past that
hour when he left it,--when he slunk down the side-street which led
to the river, and threw the key and his dagger together into the
muddy tide. After that he had gone home,--and had superintended his
valet, while that individual packed his portmanteau for Naples--and
then--and then? Yes,--then he had written to Angela,--one of the
pretty gracious little notes she was accustomed to receive from
him,--how strange it was to write to a dead girl!--and he had gone
out to the nearest florist's shop, and chosen a basket of lilies to
send to her,--lilies were for dead maidens always,--and he had sent
the flowers and his love letter together. Then surely it must have
been about half-past six? He tried to fix the hour, but could not,
and again his thoughts went rambling on. After sending the lilies,
he had returned to his own house, and Pon-Pon had prepared a "petit
cafe" for him, and he had partaken of it, and had smoked a couple of
cigarettes with her, and then had said a leisurely good-bye, and had
started for the railway-station en route for Naples. What train had
he intended to go by? The eight o'clock express. He remembered that.
But on the way, he had discovered that loss of the dagger-sheath,--
an unforeseen fatality that had turned him back, and brought him to
where he now stood meditating. How long did the driver of that
fiacre he hired, take to bring him to the wayside inn on the road to
Frascati? This he could not determine,--but to his uncertain memory
it seemed to have been an unusually tedious and tiresome journey.
And now--here he was--with no habitation in sight save the solitary
building whose walls loomed darkly through the eucalyptus trees. He
went towards it after a while, walking slowly and almost
mechanically;--he was extremely tired, and an oppressive sense of
heat and weariness combined made him anxious to obtain a night's
lodging somewhere,--no matter in what sort of place. Anything would
be better than sleeping out on the Campagna, an easy prey to the
worst form of fever. As he approached more nearly to the house among
the trees, he saw that it was surrounded by a very high, closely
intertwisted iron railing,--and when he came within a few paces of
what appeared to be the entrance, he was startled by the sudden
heavy clang of a bell, which, striking through the still air,
created such harsh clamour that he instinctively shivered at the
sound. He paused,--and again the dismal boom crashed on his ears,--
then as its echo died away another deep monotone, steadily
persistent, began to stir the silence with words,--words, which to
Florian Varillo in his nervous excitation of mind sounded hellish
"Libera me Domine, de morte aeterna!"
"In die ilia tremenda!"
"Quando coeli movendi suntet terra!"
"Dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem!"
He listened, and a cold sweat broke out on his forehead. With that
strange weakness and effeminacy which often distinguishes the
artistic, and particularly the Italian artistic temperament, he was
excessively superstitious, and this unexpected chanting of a psalm
of death seemed to him at the moment, of supernatural and
predetermined origin, devised on purpose to intensify the growing
terrors of his coward conscience.
"Tremens factus sum ego!"
"Et timeo, dum discussio venerit, atque venerit ira!"
Once more the great bell tolled heavily, and its discordant tone
seemed to tear his brain. He uttered an involuntary cry,--every weak
impulse in his soul was aroused,--and in the excess of a miserable
self-pity he longed to excuse himself for his crime of treachery and
cruelty to the innocent woman who loved him,--to throw the blame on
someone else,--if he could only find that someone else! Anything
rather than own himself to be the mean wretch and traitor that he
was. For he was a cultured and clever man,--a scholar,--an artist,--
a poet;--these things were not consistent with murder! A man who
painted beautiful pictures,--a man who wrote exquisite verses,--he
could never be suspected of stabbing a helpless trusting woman in
the back out of sheer jealousy, like a common hired assassin! No no!
He could never be suspected! Why had he not thought of his
intellectual gifts,--his position in the world of art, before? No
one in their senses could possibly accuse him in the way he had
imagined!--and even if the dagger-sheath were found, some
explanation might be given,--someone else might be found guilty . . .
"Quando coeli movendi sunt et terra;
Dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem!"
Again that horrible bell! Moved by a sudden desperate determination
to find out what this mysterious chanting was, and where it came
from, he braced himself up and walked resolutely and quickly on to a
great gateway, cross-barred and surmounted with tall spikes,--and
there seized by fresh panic, he clung to the grating for support and
stared through it affrightedly, his teeth chattering and his whole
frame shaking as with an ague fit. What were those dark terrible
figures he saw? Were they phantoms or men? Gaunt and black and tall,
they swayed to and fro, now bending, now rising, in the misty
splendour of the moonlight,--they were busy with the ground, digging
it and casting out shovels full of earth in heaps beside them. Each
ghostly figure stood by itself apart from its companions,--each one
worked at its task alone,--and only their voices mingled in harsh
dismal unison as, with the next stroke of the solemn bell, they
"Dies ilia dies irae,
Calamitatis et miseriae!"
"No!" shrieked Varillo suddenly, shaking the gateway like an
infuriated madman--"What are you doing in there? Who told you to
sing my mass or prepare my grave? I am not ready, I tell you! Not
ready! I have done nothing to deserve death--nothing!--I have not
been tried!--you must wait--you must wait till you know all--you
must wait! . . ."
His voice choked in utterance, and thrusting one hand through the
grating he made frantic gesticulations to the spectral figure
nearest him. It paused in its toil and lifted its head,--and from
the dark folds of a drooping cowl, two melancholy deep-set eyes
glittered out like the eyes of a famished beast. The other spectres
paused also, but only for a moment,--the bell boomed menacingly over
their heads once more, and again they dug and delved, and again they
chanted in dreary monotone--
"Dies magna et amara valde,
Dum veneris judicare!
Libera nos Domine, de morte aeterna, in die illa tremenda!"
Wild with terror Varillo shook the gate more furiously than before.
"Stop I tell you!" he cried--"It is too soon! You are burying me
before my time. You have no proof against me--none! I am young,--
full of life and strength--the world loves me--wants me!--and I--I
will not die!--no I will not!--not yet! Not yet--I am not ready!
Stop--stop! You do not know what you are doing--stop! You are
driving me mad with your horrible singing!" And he shrieked aloud.
"Mad, I tell you!--mad!"
For one hazy moment he saw some of the dark figures begin to move
towards him--he clutched at them--fought with them--tore at their
garments,--he would have killed them all, he thought, if the
moonlight had not come in between him and them, and shut him up in a
cold silver circle of ice from which he could not escape,--yet he
went on struggling and talking and shrieking, contending sometimes,
as he fancied, with swords and daggers, and trying to find his way
through strange storms of mingled fire and snow--till all at once
some strong invisible force swooped down upon him, lifted him up and
carried him away--and he remembered no more.
Away in Paris, a vast concourse of people were assembled round an
open grave in Pere-la-Chaise, wherein the plain coffin of the Abbe
Vergniaud had just been lowered. The day was misty and cold, and the
sun shone fitfully through the wreaths of thin vapour that hung over
the city, occasionally gleaming on the pale fine face of the famous
"Gys Grandit", who, standing at the edge of the grave spoke his
oration over the dead.
"To this, to this," he cried, "oh people of Paris, we all must come!
Our ambitions, our hopes, our dreams, our grand reforms, our loves
and joys end here, so far as this world is concerned! He whom we
have just laid in the earth was skilled in many devious ways of
learning,--gifted with eloquence, great in scholarship, quick with
the tongue as with the pen, he was a man whom perchance all France
would have called famous had it not been for me! I am the blot on my
father's name! I am the sin for which he has made the last
expiation! People of Paris, for years he lived and worked among
you,--outwardly smiling, witty of speech and popular with you all,--
but inwardly a misery to himself in his own conscience, because he
knew his life was not what he professed it to be. He knew that he
did not believe what he asked YOU to accept as true. He knew that he
had guilt upon his soul,--he knew that all the sins which none of
you could guess at, God saw. For there is a God! Not the God of the
priests, but the God of the Universe and of man's natural and
spiritual instinct. He from whom nothing escapes,--He who ordains
where every drop of dew shall fall,--He whose omnipresent vision
perceives the flight of every small bird in the air and
predetermines the building of its nest, and the manner of its end,--
He is the God whom none can deceive. Those who dream they can play
false with Him are mistaken. This dead man, my father, living among
you for years, was contented for years to seem like you,--yes!--for
you all have something which you think you can cover up from the
searching eye of Fate; and many of you pretend to be what you are
not,--while many more wear the aspect of men over the souls of
beasts. My father who rests here to-day at our feet, was a priest of
the Roman Church. In that capacity he should have been clothed with
sanctity. Human, yet removed from common frailty. Yet reckless of
his order, heedless of his vows, he, priest as he was, turned
libertine, and betrayed an innocent woman. He destroyed her name--
killed her honour--broke her heart! Libertines of all classes from
kings to commoners, do this kind of thing every day, and deem it but
a small fault of character. Nevertheless it is a crime!--and for a
crime there is always punishment! For everything that is false,--for
everything that is mean,--for everything that is contemptible and
cowardly, punishment comes,--if not soon, then late. In this case
vengeance was forestalled,--for the sinner, repenting in time, took
his vengeance on himself. He confessed his sin before you all! That
was brave! How many of you here to-day would have such courage! How
many of you would throw off your cloaks of virtue and admit your
vices?--or having admitted them, try to amend them? But this is what
my father did. And for this he should be honoured! He told you all
fully and frankly that his professions of faith were false and vain
and conventional; and that he had seemed to you what he was not. Now
the committal of a sin is one thing,--but the frankly repentant
confession of that sin is another. Some of you will say--Who am I
that I should judge my father? Why truly I am nothing!--and should
have been nothing but the avenger of my mother's life and broken-
hearted misery. For that I lived,--for that I was ready to die! What
a trivial object of existence it must seem to you Parisians
nowadays!--to avenge a mother's name! Much better to fight a duel
for some paltry dancer! Yes!--but I am not so constituted. From my
childhood I worked for two things--vengeance and ambition; I put
ambition second, for I would have sacrificed it all to the fiercer
passion. But when I sought to fulfil my vengeance, the man on whom I
would have taken it, himself changed it into respect, pity,
admiration, affection,--and I loved what I had so long hated! So
even I, bent on cruelty, learned to be kind. But not so the Church!
The Church of Rome cannot forgive the dead priest whom we have laid
in all-forgiving Mother Earth to-day! Had he lived, the sentence of
excommunication would have been pronounced against him,--now that he
is dead, it is quite possible it may still be pronounced against his
memory. But what of that? We who know, who feel, who think,--we are
not led by the Church of Rome, but by the Church of Christ! The two
things are as different as this grave differs from high Heaven! For
we believe that when Magdalen breaks a precious box of perfume at
the feet of Christ 'she hath wrought a good work'. We also believe
that when a man stands 'afar off', saying 'Lord, be merciful to me a
sinner!' he goes back to his house again justified more than he who
says 'Lord, I thank Thee I am not as other men!' We believe that
Right is right, and that nothing can make it wrong! And simply
speaking, we know it is right to tell the truth, and wrong to tell a
lie. For a lie is opposed to the working forces of Nature, and those
forces sooner or later will attack it and overcome it. They are
beginning now in our swiftly advancing day, to attack the Church of
Rome. And why? Because its doctrine is no longer that of Christ, but
of Mammon! This is what my father felt and knew, when he addressed
his congregation for the last time in Notre Dame de Lorette. He knew
that he was doomed by disease to a speedy death,--though he little
guessed how soon that death would be. But feeling the premonition of
his end, he resolved to speak out,--not to condone or excuse himself
for having preached what he could not believe all those years,--but
merely to tell you how things were with him, and to trust his memory
to you to be dealt with as you choose. He has left a book behind
him,--a book full of great and noble thoughts expressed with most
pathetic humility; hence I doubt not that when you see the better
soul of him unveiled in his expressed mind, you will yet give him
the fame he merits. His Church judges him a heretic and castaway for
having confessed his sin at last to the people whom he so long
deceived,--but I for this, judge him as an honest man! And I have
some little right to my opinion, for as Gys Grandit I have sought to
proclaim the thoughts of many--"
He paused till the murmur of enthusiasm at mention of the name by
which he was known through France should have ceased. It rose on the
air in a sort of bee-like humming monotone, and then died away,
while many people stood on tip-toe and craned their necks eagerly
over each other's shoulders to catch a glimpse of the daring writer
whose works threatened to upset a greater power than any throne, the
"I have tried," he resumed quietly, "as I say, to proclaim the
thoughts of many! The people of France, like the peoples of many
other nations, are losing God in a cloud of priest-craft. Look up to
this broad canopy of heaven,--look up to yonder driving clouds heavy
with rain, through which the great sun gleams like a golden shield,-
-that is the temple of the real God! That sparkling roof of air
through which the planets roll in their tremendous orbits, bends
over the wise and the foolish, the just and the unjust; the sun
shines as kindly on the face of the street outcast as on that of the
great lady who is often more soiled in soul than her miserable
sister. The rich man can provide for himself no finer quality of
light than is vouchsafed to the poor. The flowers in the field
spring up as graciously under the feet of the beggar as the king.
The Church of the true God is Equality!--the altar, the sacrament,
the final resting-place of the dead, Equality! Your revolutionary
cry was and is still,--Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity!--but when
you shout those words, you know not what you are calling for. Your
demand is instinctive,--the cry of a child for its parents. It is
not for temporal things that you clamouras the foolish imagine,--it
is for eternal things! Liberty of thought,--Equality in work--
Fraternity in faith! But your political leaders, ever at work for
themselves, misread these words for you, even as your priests
misread Christ's Gospel. They make out for you that you want Liberty
of action--Equality of riches, Fraternity in position. These things
are by Nature's law, impossible. They are not wanted,--and
reasonable consideration will prove to you that you do not want
them,--otherwise you would be asking for a disordered universe, a
chaos instead of a world! The strong must always prevail,--but by
strong, I do not mean the strong liar or the strong evil-doer. No!
For a lie contains in itself the germ of rottenness which shall
kill--and the evil-doer is not strong but weak, because cowardly.
There is no strength in fear; no power in disease! Hence I repeat
again, the strong must prevail--and by the strong, I mean the Good!
Evil is always weak,--it flourishes for a day, a month, a year, or
if you will, a thousand years, for a thousand years are but a moment
in the sight of Heaven; but for ever and ever justice is done,--for
ever and ever Right comes uppermost, and the Strong which is God,
than whom is none stronger, and who is all Goodness--prevails!
Liberty of thought should be the privilege of every human creature,
but we must never mistake it for Liberty of action. Liberty of
action is restrained by law in the world of nature, and must be
equally restrained in the world of men. But insist on Equality in
work! What do I mean by Equality in work? I mean this,--that every
man's work is entitled to consideration and respect, in every phase
of life. The road-mender works well and makes a smooth way for men
and horses;--he deserves my honour for his skill,--he has it,--he
shall have it,--for I know he can teach me many things of which I am
ignorant. The chief of the State works well,--organizes;--puts grave
matters in order and establishes necessary government--he also shall
have my respect,--he has it,--he deserves his carriage and pair as
fully as the road-mender deserves his dinner. We should not grudge
or envy either man the reward due to their separate positions. The
nightingale has a sweet voice,--the peacock screams--the one is
plain in colour, the other gorgeous,--and there is no actual
equality; yet the one bird does not grudge the other its position,
inasmuch as though there is no Equality there is Compensation. So it
is with men. There is always Compensation in every lot. So it should
be; so it must be. Equality in work means simply, respect for every
kind of work done, and contempt for none except for him who does no
work at all! And lastly the word 'Fraternity.' Glorious word,
meaning so much!--holding suggestions of peace, joy and purity in
its mere utterance! Not a Fraternity of possession--for then should
we become lower than the beasts, who have their own separate holes,
their separate mates, their separate young--but Fraternity of
Faith!--the one Faith that teaches us to cry 'Abba Father,'--that
makes us understand Christ as our Brother--and all of us the
children of one family,--one creation moving on in process of
evolvement to greater things! Let any priest tell me that I am not a
child of God, and I will retort that he, by such an utterance, has
proved himself a child of the devil. Ignorant, sinful, full of
miserable imperfections as I am, I am of God as the ant is, the
worm, the fly!--and if I have no more of God in me than such
insects, still I am thankful to have so much! What priest shall dare
to say how much or how little of God there was in the composition of
this man lying in the grave at our feet, who was my father?
Excommunication! Who can excommunicate the soul from its Creator?
Who can part the sunbeam from the sun? Excommunication! The human
being who, on what he calls Church authority, shall thrust his
brother away from any form of communion which he himself judges and
accepts as valuable, is one of those whom Christ declared to be 'in
danger of hell-fire.' For there is no man who can, if he be true to
himself, condemn his brother man, or say to him, 'Stand back! I am
holier than thou!' Therefore, for him whom we lay down to rest to-
day, let there be pardon and peace! Let us remember that for all his
sins he atoned, by full confession;--by publicly branding himself in
the sight of that society in whose estimation he had till then
seemed something superior,--by voluntarily resigning himself to the
wrath of the Church of which he was a professed servant. Cursed by
his Creed, he may now perchance be blessed by his Creator! For he
died, clean-souled and true--washed of hypocrisy,--with no secret
vice left unhidden for others to rake up and expose to criticism.
Whatsoever wrong he did, he openly admitted--whatever false things
he said, he retracted. I believe--and I am sure we all believe, that
his spirit thus purified, is acceptable to God. He has left no lies
behind him--no debts--no wrongs to be avenged. He told you all,
people of Paris, what he was before he left you,--and, looking down
into this dark grave, we know what he is. A senseless, sightless,
stiffening form of clay, from which the soul that animated it into
action has fled. Let the Church excommunicate this poor corpse of my
father,--let it muster its forces against his memory as it will, I
swear before you all, that memory shall live! Yes--for I, his son,
will guard it; I whom he so late acknowledged as his own flesh and
blood, will be a shield of defence for his name till I die! If
priests would attack him, they must attack him through me!--and I,
despite a thousand Churches, a thousand Creeds, a thousand
Sacraments, will firmly maintain that a man who frankly repents his
sins and is openly honest with the world before he leaves it, is a
better Christian than he, who for the sake of mere appearances and
conventionality, juggles with death and passes to his Maker's
presence in a black cloud of lies! Better to be crucified with
Christ, than live with the High Priests and Pharisees of the modern
Jerusalem of our social conditions! Truth may seem to perish on the
Cross of injustice--it may be buried in a sealed sepulchre, the
entrance to which may be closed up by a great stone of Mammon-bulk
and heaviness--but the moment must come when the Angel descends from
Heaven--when the stone is rolled away--and the eternal, living God
rises again and walks the world in the glory of a new dawn!"
He ended--and for a moment there was a deep silence. There had been
no funeral service, for no priest would attend the burial of the
heretic Abbe. So, after a brief pause, Cyrillon knelt down by the
grave,--and carried away by the solemnity of the scene, as well as
by their own emotional excitement, more than half the crowd knelt
with him, as, bending his head reverently over his clasped hands, he
"Oh God of Love, whose tenderness and care for Thy creation is
everywhere disclosed to us, from the smallest atom of dust, to the
stupendous majesty of Thy million worlds in the air,--give we
beseech Thee, to this perished clay which once was man, the beauty
which transforms vile things to virtuous, and endows our seeming
death with life! Let Thy eternal Law of Resurrection so work upon
this senseless body that it may pass through Earth to Heaven, and
there find finer grades of being, higher forms of development,
greater opportunities of perfection. And for the Soul, which is
Thine own breath of fire, O God, receive it, purified from sin, and
make it worthy of the final purpose for which Thou hast destined it
from the beginning! And grant unto us, left here to still work out
our own salvation on this the planet Thou hast chosen for our trial,
the power to comprehend Thy laws, and faithfully to obey them,--to
forgive as we would be forgiven,--to love as we would be loved,--and
to lift our thoughts from the appearance of this grave to the
Reality of Thy beneficence, which hath ordained Light out of
Darkness, and out of Death, Life, as proved most gloriously to us by
Christ our Brother, our Teacher and our Master! Amen!"
His prayer finished, the young man rose, and taking a wreath of ivy,
which he had travelled to Touraine himself to bring from the walls
of the simple cottage where his mother had lived and worked and
died, he dropped it gently on the coffin and signed to the grave-
diggers to fill in the earth. Then turning to the crowd, he said,
"My friends, I thank you all for the sympathy which has brought you
here to-day. 'It is finished.' The dead man is at rest! And now as
you go,--as you return to your own homes,--homes happy or unhappy as
the case may be, I will only ask you to remember that there is no
permanence or virtue in falsehood whether it be falsehood religious
or falsehood political,--and he who dies truthfully dealing with his
fellow-men, lives again with God, and is not, as Scripture says
'dead in his sins,' but born again to a new and more hopeful
With the last words he gave the sign of dismissal. The people began
to disperse slowly and somewhat reluctantly, every member of the
crowd being curious to obtain a nearer view of the young orator who
not only spoke his thoughts fearlessly, but whose pen was as a
scythe mowing down a harvest of shams and hypocrisies, and whose
frank utterance from the heart was so honest as to be absolutely
convincing to the public. But he, after giving a few further
instructions to the men who were beginning to close in his father's
grave, walked away with one or two friends, and was soon lost to
sight in one of the many winding paths that led from the cemetery
out into the road, so that many who anxiously sought to study his
features more nearly, were disappointed. One person there was, who
had listened to his oration in wonder and open-mouthed admiration,--
this was Jean Patoux. He had taken the opportunity offered him in a
"cheap excursion" from Rouen to Paris, to visit a cousin of his who
was a small florist owning a shop in the Rue St. Honore,--and by
chance, he and this same cousin, while quietly walking together down
one of the boulevards, had got entangled in the press of people who
were pouring into Pere-la-Chaise on this occasion, and had followed
them out of curiosity, not at all knowing what they were going to
see. But the florist, known as Pierre Midon, soon realised the
situation and explained it all to his provincial relative.
"It is the Abbe Vergniaud they are burying," he said,--"He was a
wonderful preacher! All fashionable Paris used to go and hear him
till he made that pretty scandal of himself a month or so ago. He
was a popular and a social favourite; but one fine morning he
preached a sermon to his congregation all against the Church, and
for that matter against himself too, for he then and there confessed
before everybody that he was no true priest. And as he preached,--
what think you?--a young man fired a pistol shot at him for his
rascality, as everyone supposed, and when the gendarmes would have
taken the assassin, this same Abbe stopped them, and refused to
punish HIS OWN SON! What do you think of that for a marvel? And
something still more marvellous followed, for that very son who
tried to kill him was no other than Gys Grandit, the man we have
just heard speaking, though nobody knew it till a week afterwards.
Such a scene you never saw in a church!--Paris was wild with
excitement for a dozen hours, which is about as long as its fevers
last,--and the two of them, father and son, went straight away to a
famous Cardinal then staying in Paris,--and he, by the way, was in
the church when the Abbe publicly confessed himself--Cardinal
"Ah!" interrupted Patoux excitedly, "This interests me! For that
most eminent Cardinal stayed at my inn in Rouen before coming on
"So!" And Cousin Pierre looked rather surprised. "Without offence to
thee, Jean, it was a poor place for a Cardinal, was it not?"
"Poor, truly,--but sufficient for a man of his mind!" replied Patoux
tranquilly,--"For look you, he is trying to live as Christ lived,--
and Christ cared naught for luxury."
Pierre Midon laughed.
"By my faith! If priests were to live as Christ lived, Paris might
learn to respect them!" he said,--"But we know that they will not,--
and that few of them are better than the worst of us! But to finish
my story--this Abbe and the son whom he so suddenly and strangely
acknowledged, went to this Cardinal Bonpre for some reason--most
probably for pardon, though truly I cannot tell you what happened--
for almost immediately, the Abbe went out of Paris to the Chateau
D'Agramont some miles away, and his son went with him, and there the
two stayed together till the old man died. And as for Cardinal
Bonpre, he went at once to Rome with his niece, the famous painter,
Angela Sovrani,--I imagine he may have interceded with the Pope, or
tried to do so for the Abbe, but whatever happened, there they are
now, for all I know to the contrary. And we heard that the Church
was about to excommunicate, or had already excommunicated Vergniaud,
though I suppose Cardinal Bonpre had nothing to do with that?"
"Not he!" said Patoux firmly, "He would never excommunicate or do
any unkind thing to a living soul--that I am pretty sure of. He is
the very Cardinal who performed the miracle in my house that has
caused us no end of trouble,--and he is under the displeasure of the
Pope for it now, if all I hear be true."
"That is strange!" said Pierre with a laugh,--"To be under the
displeasure of the Pope for doing a good deed!"
"Truly, it seems so," agreed Patoux,--"But you must remember there
was no paying shrine concerned in it! Mark you that, my Pierre! Even
our Lady of Bon Secours, near to Rouen as she is, was not applied
to. The miracle took place in the poor habitation of an unknown
little inn-keeper,--that is myself,--and there was no solemnity at
all about it--no swinging of incense--no droning of prayers--no
lighting of candles--no anything, but just a good old man with a
crippled child on his knee, praying to the Christ whom he believed
was able to help him. And--and--"
He broke off suddenly and crossed himself. Pierre Midon stared at
"What ails thee, Jean?" he asked brusquely,--"Hast thou remembered a
dead sin, or a passing soul?"
"Neither," replied Patoux slowly, "But only just the thought of
another child--a waif and stray whom the good Cardinal found in the
streets of Rouen, outside our great Cathedral door. A gentle lad!--
my wife was greatly taken with him;--and he was present in my house
too, when the miracle of healing was performed."
"And for that, is there any need to cross thyself like a mumbling
old woman afraid of the devil?" enquired his cousin.
Patoux smiled a slow smile.
"Gently, Pierre--gently!" he said. "Thou art of Paris,--I of the
provinces. That makes all the difference in the way we look at life.
There are very few holy things in great cities,--but there are many
in the country. Every day when I am at home I go out of the town to
work in my field,--and I feel the clean breath of the wind, the
scent of the earth and the colours of the sky and the flowers,--and
I know quite well there is a God, or these blessings could not be.
For if there were only Chance and a Man to manage the universe, a
pretty muddle we should have of it! And when I see or think of a
holy thing, I sign the cross out of old childhood's habit,--so just
now, when I remembered the boy whom the Cardinal rescued from the
streets, I knew I was thinking of a holy thing; and that explains my
"How dost thou prove a waif of the streets a holy thing?" enquired
Patoux shrugged his shoulders, and gave a wide deprecatory wave of
"Ah, that is more than I can tell you!" he said,--"It is a matter
beyond my skill. But the boy was a fair-faced boy,--I never saw him
Midon laughed outright.
"Never saw him thyself!" he cried,--"And yet thou dost make the sign
of the cross at the thought of him! Diantre! Patoux, thou art
"Maybe--maybe," said Patoux mildly,--they were walking together out
of the cemetery by this time in the wake of the rapidly dispersing
crowd,--"But I have always taken my wife's word,--and I take it now.
And she has said over and over again to me that the boy had a rare
sweet nature. And then--the child whom the Cardinal healed,--Fabien
Doucet,--will always insist upon it that it was the touch of that
same boy which truly cured him and not the Cardinal at all!"
"Mere fancy!" said Pierre carelessly,--"And truly if it were not for
knowing thee to be honest, I should doubt the miracle altogether!"
"And thou wouldst be of the majority!" said Patoux equably--"For our
house has been a very bee-hive of buzz and trouble ever since a bit
of good was done in it--and Martine Doucet, the mother of the cured
child, has led the life of the damned, thanks to the kindness of her
neighbours and friends! And will you believe me, the Archbishop of
Rouen himself took the trouble to walk into the market-place and
assure her she was a wicked woman,--that she had taught her boy to
play the cripple in order to excite pity,--and I believe he thinks
she is concerned in the strange disappearance of his clerk, Claude
Cazeau. For this same Cazeau came to our house one night when
Martine was there, and told her he had instructions to take her to
Rome to see the Pope, and her child with her, for the purpose of
explaining the miracle in her own words, and giving the full life-
history of herself and the little one. And she was angry,--ah, she
can be very angry, poor Martine!--she has a shrill tongue and a wild
eye, and she said out flatly that she would not go, and furthermore
that she would not be caught in a priest's trap, or words to that
effect. And this clerk, Cazeau,--a miserable little white-livered
rascal, crawled away from my door in a rage with us all, and was
never seen again. The police have hunted high and low for trace of
him, but can find none. But I have my suspicions--"
"What are they?" enquired Midon,--"That he went out like Judas, and
"Truly he might have done that without loss or trouble to anyone!"
said Patoux tranquilly,--"But he thought too well of himself to be
quite so ready for a meeting with le bon Dieu! No!--I will tell you
what I think. There was a poor girl who used to roam about the
streets of our town, called Marguerite, she was once a sensible,
bright creature enough, the only daughter of old Valmond the
saddler, who died from a kick from his favourite horse one day, and
left his child all alone in the world. She was a worker in a great
silk-factory, and was happy and contented, so it seemed, till--well!
It is the old story--a man with a woman, and the man is most often
the devil in it. Anyway, this Marguerite went mad on her love-
affair,--and we called her 'La Folle,'--not harshly--for all the
town was kind to her. I mentioned her name once in the presence of
this man Cazeau, and he started as if an adder had bitten him. And
now--he has disappeared--and strange to say, so has she!"
"So has she!" echoed Midon, opening his eyes a little wider--"Then
what do you suppose?--"
"Just this," said Patoux, emphasizing his words by marking them out
with a fat thumb on the palm of the other hand--"That Cazeau was the
villain of the piece as they say in the theatres, and that she has
punished him for his villainy. She used to swear in her mad speech
that if ever she met the man who had spoilt her life for her, she
would kill him; and that is just what I believe she has done!"
"But would she kill herself also?" demanded Pierre--"And what has
become of one or both bodies?"
"Ah! There thou dost ask more than I can answer!" said Patoux. "But
what is very certain is, that both bodies, living or dead, have
disappeared. And as I said to my wife when she put these things into
my head,--for look you, my head is but a dull one, and if my wife
did not put things into it, it would be but an emptiness
altogether,--I said to my wife that if she were right in her
suspicions--and she generally is right--this Marguerite had taken
but a just vengeance. For you will not prove to me that there is any
man living who has the right to take the joy out of a woman's soul
and destroy it."
"It is done every day!" said Midon with a careless shrug,--"Women
give themselves too easily!"
"And men take too greedily!" said Patoux obstinately--"What virtue
there is in the matter is on the woman's side. For she mostly gives
herself for love's sake,--but the man cares naught save for his own
selfish pleasure. As a man myself, I am on the side of the woman who
revenges herself on her betrayer."
"For that matter so am I!" said Midon. "Women have a hard time of it
in this world, even under the best of circumstances,--and whatever
man makes it harder for them, should be horse-whipped within an inch
of his life, if I had my way. I have a wife--and a young daughter--
and my old mother sits at home with us, as cheery and bright a body
as you would find in all France,--and so I know the worth of women.
If any rascal were to insult my girl by so much as a look, he would
find himself in the ditch with a sore back before he had time to cry
He laughed;--Patoux laughed with him, and then went on,--
"I told thee of the miracle in my house, and of the boy the Cardinal
found in the streets,--well!--these things have had their good
effect in my own family. My two children, Henri and Babette--ah!
What children! God be praised for them! As bright, as kind as the
sunlight,--and their love for me and their mother is a great thing--
a good thing, look you!--one cannot be sufficiently grateful for it.
For nowadays, children too often despise their parents, which is bad
luck to them in their after days; but ours, wild as they were a
while ago, are all obedience and sweetness. I used often to wonder
what would become of them as they grew up--for they were wilful and
angry-tempered, and ofttimes cruel in speech--but I have no fear
now. Henri works well at his lessons, and Babette too,--and there is
something better than the learning of lessons about them,--something
new and bright in their dispositions which makes us all happy. And
this has come about since the Cardinal stayed with us; and also
since the pretty boy was found outside the Cathedral!"
"That boy seems to have impressed thee more than the Cardinal
himself!" said Midon--"but now I remember well--on the day the Abbe
Vergniaud preached his last sermon, and was nearly shot dead by his
own son, there was a rumour that his life had been saved by some boy
who was an attendant on the Cardinal, and who interposed himself
between the Abbe and the flying bullet,--that must have been the one
"No doubt--no doubt!" said Patoux, nodding gravely--"There was
something about him that seemed a sort of shield against evil--or at
least, so said my wife,--and so say my children. Only the other day,
my boy Henri--he is big and full of mischief as boys will be--was
playing with two or three younger lads, and one of them like a
little sneak, stole up behind him and gave him a blow with a stick,
which broke in two with the force of the way the young rascal went
to work with it. Now, thought I, there will be need for me to step
out and stop this quarrel, for Henri will beat that miserable little
wretch into a jelly! But nothing of the sort! My boy turned round
with a bright laugh--picked up the two pieces of the stick and gave
them back to the little coward with a civil bow "Hit in front next
time!" he said. And the little wretch turned tail and began to boo-
hoo in fine fashion--crying as if he had been hurt instead of Henri.
But they are the best friends in the world now. I asked Henri about
it afterwards, and he turned as red as an apple in the cheeks. 'I
wanted to kill him, father,' he said,--'but I knew that the boy who
was with Cardinal Bonpre would not have done it--and so I did not!'
Now look you, for a rough little fellow such as Henri, that was a
great victory over his passions--and there is no doubt the
Cardinal's little foundling was the cause of his so managing
Pierre Midon had nothing to say in answer,--the subject was getting
beyond him, and he was a man who, when thought became difficult,
gave up thinking altogether.
And while these two simple-minded worthies were thus talking and
strolling together home through the streets of Paris, Cyrillon
Vergniaud, having parted from the few friends who had paid him the
respect of their attendance at his father's grave, was making his
way towards the Champs Elysees in a meditative frame of mind, when
his attention was suddenly caught and riveted by a placard set up in
front of one of the newspaper kiosks at the corner of a boulevard,
on which in great black letters, was the name "Angela Sovrani." His
heart gave one great bound--then stood still--the streets of the
city reeled round him, and he grew cold and sick. "Meurtre de la
celebre Angela Sovrani!"
Hardly knowing what he was about, he bought the paper. The news was
in a mere paragraph briefly stating that the celebrated artist had
been found stabbed in her studio, and that up to the present there
was no trace of the unknown assassin.
Passionate and emotional as his warm nature was, the great tears
rushed to Cyrillon's eyes. In one moment he realized what he had
been almost unconsciously cherishing in his own mind ever since
Angela's beautiful smile had shone upon him. When in the few minutes
of speech he had had with her she admitted herself to be the
mysterious correspondent who had constantly written to him as "Gys
Grandit," fervently sympathising with his theories, and urging him
on to fresh and more courageous effort, he had been completely
overcome, not only with surprise, but also with admiration. It had
taken him some time to realize that she, the greatest artist of her
day, was actually his unknown friend of more than two years'
correspondence. He knew she was engaged to be married to her comrade
in art, Florian Varillo, but that fact did not prevent him from
feeling for her all the sudden tenderness, the instinctive intimacy
of spirit with spirit, which in the highest natures means the
highest love. Then,--they had all been brought together so
strangely!--his father, and himself, with Cardinal Bonpre,--and she-
-the Cardinal's fair niece, daughter of a proud Roman house,--she
had not turned away from the erring and repentant priest whom the
Church had cast out; she had given him her hand at parting, and had
been as sweetly considerate of his feelings as though she had been
his own daughter. And when he was ill and dying at the Chateau
D'Agramont, she had written to him two or three times in the kindest
and tenderest way, and her letters had not been answered, because
the Abbe was too ill to write, and he, Cyrillon, had been afraid--
lest he should say too much! And now--she was dead?--murdered? No!--
he would not believe it!
"God is good!" said Cyrillon, crushing the paper in his hand and
raising his eyes to the cloudy heavens--"He does nothing that is
unnecessarily cruel. He would not take that brilliant creature away
till she had won the reward of her work--happiness! No!--something
tells me this news is false!--she cannot be dead! But I will start
for Rome to-night."
He returned to the cheap pension where he had his room, and at once
packed his valise. With all his fame he was extremely poor; he had
for the most part refused to take payment for his books and
pamphlets which had been so freely spread through France, preferring
to work for his daily bread in the fields of an extensive farm near
his birthplace in Touraine. He had begun there as a little lad,
earning his livelihood by keeping the birds away from the crops--and
had steadily risen by degrees, through his honesty and diligence, to
the post of superintendent or bailiff of the whole concern. No one
was more trusted than he by his employers,--no one more worthy of
trust. But his wages were by no means considerable,--and though he
saved as much as he could, and lived on the coarsest fare, it was a
matter of some trouble for him to spare the money to take him from
Paris to Rome. What cash he had, he carried about him in a leathern
bag, and this he now emptied on the table to estimate the strength
of his finances. Any possibility of changing his mind and waiting
for further news from Rome did not occur to him. One of his chief
characteristics was the determined way he always carried through
anything he had set his mind upon. In one of his public speeches he
had once said--"Let all the powers of hell oppose me, I will storm
them through and pass on! For the powers of Heaven are on MY side!"-
-the audacity and daring of this utterance carrying away his
audience in a perfect whirlwind of enthusiasm. And though it is
related of a certain cynical philosopher, that when asked by one of
his scholars for a definition of hell, he dashed into the face of
his enquirer an empty purse for answer, the lack of funds was no
obstacle to Cyrillon's intended journey.
"Because if I can go no other way, I will persuade the guard to let
me ride in the van, or travel in company with a horse or dog--quite
as good animals as myself in their way," he thought.
With a characteristic indifference to all worldly matters he had
entirely forgotten that the father whom he had just buried had died
wealthy, and that his entire fortune had been left to the son whom
he had so lately and strangely acknowledged. And when,--while he was
still engaged in counting up his small stock of money,--a knock came
at the door, and a well-dressed man of business-like appearance
entered with a smiling and propitiatory air, addressing him as
"Monsieur Vergniaud," Cyrillon did not know at all what to make of
his visitor. Sweeping his coins together with one hand, he stood up,
his flashing eyes glancing the stranger over carelessly.
"Your name, sir?" he demanded--"I am not acquainted with you."
The smiling man unabashed, sought about for a place to put down his
shiny hat, and smiled still more broadly.
"No!" he said--"No! You would not be likely to know me. I have not
the celebrity of Gys Grandit! I am only Andre Petitot--a lawyer,
residing in the Boulevard Malesherbes. I have just come from your
Cyrillon bowed gravely, and remained silent.
"I have followed you," pursued Monsieur Petitot affably, "as soon as
I could, according to the instructions I received, to ask when it
will be convenient for you to hear me read your father's will?"
The young man started.
"His will!" he ejaculated. He had never given it a thought. "Yes.
May I take a chair? There are only two in the room, I perceive!
Thanks!" And the lawyer sat down and began drawing off his gloves,--
"Your father had considerable means,--though he parted with much
that he might have kept, through his extraordinary liberality to the
"God bless him!" murmured Cyrillon.
"Yes--yes--no doubt God will bless him!" said Monsieur Petitot
amicably--"According to your way of thinking, He ought to do so. But
personally, I always find the poor extremely ungrateful, and God
certainly does not bless ME whenever I encourage them in their
habits of idleness and vice! However, that is not a question for
discussion at present. The immediate point is this--your father made
his will about eighteen months ago, leaving everything to you. The
wording of the will is unusual, but he insisted obstinately on
having it thus set down--"
Here the lawyer drew a paper out of his pocket, fixed a pair of
spectacles on his nose, and studied the document intently--"Yes!--it
reads in this way:--' Everything of which I die possessed to my son,
Cyrillon Vergniaud, born out of wedlock, but as truly my son in the
sight of God, as Ninette Bernadin was his mother, and my wife,
though never so legalised before the world, but fully acknowledged
by me before God, and before the Church which I have served and
disobeyed.' A curious wording!" said Petitot, nodding his head a
great many times--"Very curious! I told him so--but he would have it
his own way,--moreover, I am instructed to publish his will in any
Paris paper that will give it a place. Now this clause is to my mind
exceedingly disagreeable, and I wish I could set it aside."
"Why?" asked Cyrillon quietly.
"My dear young man! Can you ask? Why emphasise the fact of your
illegitimacy to the public!"
"Why disguise it?" returned Cyrillon. "You must remember that I have
another public than the merely social,--the people! They all know
what I am, and who I am. They have honoured me. They shall not
despise me. And they would despise me if I sought to hold back from
them what my father bade me tell. Moreover, this will gives my
mother the honour of wifehood in the sight of God,--and I must tell
you, monsieur l'avocat, that I am one of those who care nothing what
the world says so long as I stand more or less clear with the
His great dark eyes were brilliant,--his face warm with the fire of
his inward feeling. Monsieur Petitot folded up his document and
looked at him with an amiable tolerance.
"Wonderful--wonderful!" he said--"But of course eccentricities WILL
appear in the world occasionally!--and you must pardon me if I
venture to think that you are certainly one of them. But I imagine
you have nograsped the whole position. The money--I should saythe
fortune--which your father has left to you, will make you a
He paused, affrighted. Drawing himself up to his full height, young
Vergniaud confronted him in haughty amazement.
"Gentleman!" he cried--"What do you mean by the term? A loafer?--a
lounger in the streets?--a leerer at women? Or a man who works for
daily food from sunrise to sunset, and controls his lower passions
by hard and honest labour! Gentleman! What is that? Is it to live
lazily on the toil of others, or to be up and working one's self,
and to eat no bread that one has not earned? Will you answer me?"
"My dear sir, you must really excuse me!" said Petitot nervously--"
I am quite unable to enter into any sort of discussion with you on
these things! Please recollect that my life as a lawyer, depends
entirely on men's stupidities and hypocrisies,--if they all
entertained your views I should have to beg in the streets, or seek
another profession. In my present business I should have nothing
whatever to do. You perceive the position? Yes, of course you do!"
For Cyrillon with one of the quick changes of mood habitual to him,
smiled, as his temporary irritation passed like a cloud, and his
eyes softened--"You see, I am a machine,--educated to be a machine;
and I am set down to do certain machine-like duties,--and one of
these duties is,--regardless of your fame, your eccentric theories,
your special work which you have chosen to make for yourself in the
world,--to put you in possession of the money your father left you--
"Can you now--at once--" said Cyrillon suddenly--"give me enough
money to go to Rome to-night?"
Monsieur Petitot stared.
"To go to Rome to-night?" he echoed--"Dear me, how very
extraordinary! I beg your pardon! . . . of course--most certainly! I can
advance you any sum you want--would ten thousand francs suffice?"
"Ten thousand francs!" Cyrillon laughed. "I never had so much money
in all my life!"
"No? Well, I have not the notes about me at the moment, but I will
send you up that sum in an hour if you wish it. Your father's will
entitles you to five million francs, so you see I am not in any way
endangering myself by advancing you ten thousand."
Cyrillon was quite silent. The lawyer studied him curiously, but
could not determine whether he was pleased or sorry at the
announcement of his fortune. His handsome face was pale and grave,--
and after a pause he said simply--
"Thank you! Then I can go to Rome. If you will send me the money you
speak of I shall be glad, as it will enable me to start to-night.
For the rest,--kindly publish my father's will as he instructed you
to do,--and I--when I return to Paris, will consult you on the best
way in which I can dispose of my father's millions."
"Dispose of them!" began Petitot amazedly. Young Vergniaud
interrupted him by a slight gesture.
"Pardon me, Monsieur, if I ask you to conclude this interview! For
the present, I want nothing else in the world but to get to Rome as
quickly as possible!--apres ca, le deluge!"
He smiled--but his manner was that of some great French noble who
gently yet firmly dismisses the attentions of a too-officious
servant,--and Petitot, much to his own surprise, found himself
bowing low, and scrambling out of the poorly furnished room in as
much embarrassment as though he had accidentally stumbled into a
palace where his presence was not required.
And Cyrillon, left to himself, gathered up all the coins he had been
counting out previous to the lawyer's arrival, and tied them again
together in the old leathern bag; then having closed and strapped
his little travelling valise, sat down and waited. Punctually to the
time indicated, that is to say, in one hour from the moment Petitot
had concluded his interview with the celebrated personage whom he
now mentally called "an impossible young man," a clerk arrived
bringing the ten thousand francs promised. He counted the notes out
carefully,--Cyrillon watching him quietly the while, and taking
sympathetic observation of his shabby appearance, his thread-bare
coat, and his general expression of pinched and anxious poverty.
"You will perceive it is all right, Monsieur," he said humbly, as he
"What are you, mon ami?" asked Cyrillon; scarcely glancing at the
notes but fixing a searching glance on the messenger who had brought
"I?" and the clerk coughed nervously and blushed,--"Oh, I am
nothing, Monsieur! I am Monsieur Petitot's clerk, that is all!"
"And does he pay you well?"
"Thirty francs a week, Monsieur. It is not bad,--only this--I was
young a few years ago, and I married--and two dear little ones came-
-so it is a pull at times to make everything go as it should--not
that I am sorry for myself at all, oh no! For I am well off as the
Cyrillon interrupted him.
"Yes--as the people go! That is what you all say, you patient, brave
souls! See you, my friend, I do not want all this money--"and he
took up a note for five hundred francs--"Take this and make the wife
and little ones happy!"
"Monsieur!" stammered the astonished clerk--"How can I dare--!"
"Dare! Nay, there is no daring in freely taking what your brother
freely gives you! You must let me practise what I preach, my friend,
otherwise I am only a fraud and unfit to live. God keep you!"
The clerk still stood trembling, afraid to take up the note, and
unable through emotion to speak a word, even of thanks. Upon which,
Cyrillon folded up the note and put it himself in the man's pocket.
"There!--go and make happiness with that bit of paper!" he said--
"Who can tell through what dirty usurer's hand it has been, carrying
curses with it perchance on its way! Use it now for the comfort of a
woman and her little children, and perhaps it will bring blessing to
a living man as well as to a departed soul!"
And he literally put the poor stupefied fellow outside his door,
shutting it gently upon him.
That night he left for Rome. And as the express tore its grinding
way along over the iron rails towards the south, he repeated to
himself over and over again as in a dream--
"No--Angela Sovrani is not dead! She cannot be dead! God is too good
for that. He will not let her die before she knows--before she knows
I love her!"
The chain of circumstance had lengthened by several links round the
radiant life of Sylvie Hermenstem since that bright winter morning
when she had been startled out of her reverie, in the gardens of the
Villa Borghese, by the unexpected appearance of Monsignor Gherardi.
The untimely deaths of the Marquis Fontenelle and the actor Miraudin
in the duel over her name, had caused so much malicious and cruel
gossip, that she had withdrawn herself almost entirely from Roman
society, which had, with one venomous consent, declared that she was
only marrying Aubrey Leigh to shield herself from her esclandre with
the late Marquis. And then the murderous attack on her friend Angela
Sovrani, which occurred almost immediately after her engagement to
Aubrey was announced, had occupied all her thoughts--so that she had
almost forgotten the promise she had made to grant a private
interview to Gherardi whenever he should seek it. And she was not a
little vexed one morning when she was talking to her betrothed
concerning the plans which were now in progress for their going to
England as soon as possible, to receive a note reminding her of that
promise, and requesting permission to call upon her that very
"How very unfortunate and tiresome!" said Sylvie, with a charming
pout and upward look at her lover, who promptly kissed the lips that
made such a pretty curve of disdain--"I suppose he wants to give me
a serious lecture on the responsibilities of marriage! Shall I
receive him, Aubrey? I remember when I met him last that he had
something important to say about Cardinal Bonpre."
"Then you must certainly give him an audience," answered Aubrey--
"You may perhaps find out what has happened to bring the good
Cardinal into disfavour at the Vatican, for there is no doubt that
he is extremely worried and anxious. He is strongly desirous of
leaving Rome at once with that gentle lad Manuel, who, from all I
can gather, has said something to displease the Pope. Angela is out
of danger now--and I am trying to persuade the Cardinal to accompany
us to England, and be present at our marriage."
"That would be delightful!" said Sylvie with a smile,--"But my
Aubrey, where are we going to be married?"
"In England, as I said--not here!" said Aubrey firmly--"Not here,
where evil tongues have spoken lies against my darling!" He drew her
into his arms and looked at her fondly. "I want you to start for
England soon, Sylvie--and if possible, I should like you to go, not
only with the faithful Bozier, but also in the care of the Cardinal.
I will precede you by some days, and arrange everything for your
reception. And then we will be married--in MY way!"
Sylvie said nothing--she merely nestled like a dove in the arms of
her betrothed, and seemed quite content to accept whatever ordinance
he laid down for the ruling of her fate.
"I think you must see Gherardi," he resumed--"Write a line and say
you will be happy to receive him at the hour he appoints."
Sylvie obeyed--and despatched the note at once to the Vatican by her
Aubrey looked at her intently.
"I wonder--Sylvie, I wonder--" he began, and then stopped.
She met his earnest eyes with a smile in her own.
"You wonder what, caro mio?" she enquired.
"I wonder whether you could endure a very great trial--or make a
very great sacrifice for my sake!" he said,--then as he saw her
expression, he took her little hand and kissed it.
"There! Forgive me! Of course you would!--only you look such a
slight thing--such a soft flower of a woman--like a rose-bud to be
worn next the heart always--that it seems difficult to picture you
as an inflexible heroine under trying circumstances. Yet of course
you would be."
"I make no boast, my Aubrey!" she said gently.
He kissed her tenderly,--reverently,--studying her sweet eyes and
delicate colouring with all the fond scrutiny of a love which cannot
tire of the thing it loves.
"Are you going round to see Angela this morning?" he asked.
"Yes, I always go. She is much better--she sits up a little every
"She says nothing of her assassin?"
"Nothing. But I know him!"
"We all know him!" said Aubrey sternly--"But she will never speak--
she will never let the world know!"
"Ah, but the world will soon guess!" said Sylvie--"For everyone is
beginning to ask where her fiance is--why he has shown no anxiety--