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A Set of Six by Joseph Conrad

Part 6 out of 6

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night, which might have been his last on earth, he com-
prehended now its true nature. It had been merely
a paroxysm of delirious conceit. Thus to this man,
sobered by the victorious issue of a duel, life appeared
robbed of its charm, simply because it was no longer

Approaching the house from the back, through the
orchard and the kitchen garden, he could not notice the
agitation which reigned in front. He never met a single
soul. Only while walking softly along the corridor, he
became aware that the house was awake and more
noisy than usual. Names of servants were being called
out down below in a confused noise of coming and going.
With some concern he noticed that the door of his own
room stood ajar, though the shutters had not been
opened yet. He had hoped that his early excursion
would have passed unperceived. He expected to find
some servant just gone in; but the sunshine filtering
through the usual cracks enabled him to see lying on
the low divan something bulky, which had the appear-
ance of two women clasped in each other's arms. Tear-
ful and desolate murmurs issued mysteriously from that
appearance. General D'Hubert pulled open the near-
est pair of shutters violently. One of the women then
jumped up. It was his sister. She stood for a moment
with her hair hanging down and her arms raised straight
up above her head, and then flung herself with a stifled
cry into his arms. He returned her embrace, trying at
the same time to disengage himself from it. The other
woman had not risen. She seemed, on the contrary, to
cling closer to the divan, hiding her face in the cushions.
Her hair was also loose; it was admirably fair. Gen-
eral D'Hubert recognized it with staggering emotion.
Mademoiselle de Valmassigue! Adele! In distress!

He became greatly alarmed, and got rid of his sis-
ter's hug definitely. Madame Leonie then extended
her shapely bare arm out of her peignoir, pointing
dramatically at the divan. "This poor, terrified child
has rushed here from home, on foot, two miles -- running
all the way."

"What on earth has happened?" asked General
D'Hubert in a low, agitated voice.

But Madame Leonie was speaking loudly. "She
rang the great bell at the gate and roused all the house-
hold -- we were all asleep yet. You may imagine what
a terrible shock. . . . Adele, my dear child, sit up."

General D'Hubert's expression was not that of a
man who "imagines" with facility. He did, however,
fish out of the chaos of surmises the notion that his
prospective mother-in-law had died suddenly, but only
to dismiss it at once. He could not conceive the nature
of the event or the catastrophe which would induce
Mademoiselle de Valmassigue, living in a house full of
servants, to bring the news over the fields herself, two
miles, running all the way.

"But why are you in this room?" he whispered, full
of awe.

"Of course, I ran up to see, and this child . . . I
did not notice it . . . she followed me. It's that
absurd Chevalier," went on Madame Leonie, looking
towards the divan. . . . "Her hair is all come down.
You may imagine she did not stop to call her maid to
dress it before she started. . . Adele, my dear, sit
up. . . . He blurted it all out to her at half-past five
in the morning. She woke up early and opened her
shutters to breathe the fresh air, and saw him sitting col-
lapsed on a garden bench at the end of the great alley.
At that hour -- you may imagine! And the evening
before he had declared himself indisposed. She hurried
on some clothes and flew down to him. One would be
anxious for less. He loves her, but not very intelli-
gently. He had been up all night, fully dressed, the
poor old man, perfectly exhausted. He wasn't in a
state to invent a plausible story. . . . What a con-
fidant you chose there! My husband was furious. He
said, 'We can't interfere now.' So we sat down to wait.
It was awful. And this poor child running with her
hair loose over here publicly! She has been seen by
some people in the fields. She has roused the whole
household, too. It's awkward for her. Luckily you
are to be married next week. . . . Adele, sit up. He
has come home on his own legs. . . . We expected
to see you coming on a stretcher, perhaps -- what do
I know? Go and see if the carriage is ready. I must
take this child home at once. It isn't proper for her to
stay here a minute longer."

General D'Hubert did not move. It was as though
he had heard nothing. Madame Leonie changed her
mind. "I will go and see myself," she cried. "I want
also my cloak. -- Adele --" she began, but did not add
"sit up." She went out saying, in a very loud and
cheerful tone: "I leave the door open."

General D'Hubert made a movement towards the
divan, but then Adele sat up, and that checked him
dead. He thought, "I haven't washed this morning. I
must look like an old tramp. There's earth on the back
of my coat and pine-needles in my hair." It occurred
to him that the situation required a good deal of circum-
spection on his part.

"I am greatly concerned, mademoiselle," he began,
vaguely, and abandoned that line. She was sitting up
on the divan with her cheeks unusually pink and her
hair, brilliantly fair, falling all over her shoulders --
which was a very novel sight to the general. He walked
away up the room, and looking out of the window for
safety said, "I fear you must think I behaved like a
madman," in accents of sincere despair. Then he spun
round, and noticed that she had followed him with
her eyes. They were not cast down on meeting his
glance. And the expression of her face was novel to
him also. It was, one might have said, reversed.
Those eyes looked at him with grave thoughtful-
ness, while the exquisite lines of her mouth seemed
to suggest a restrained smile. This change made her
transcendental beauty much less mysterious, much more
accessible to a man's comprehension. An amazing ease
of mind came to the general -- and even some ease of
manner. He walked down the room with as much
pleasurable excitement as he would have found in walk-
ing up to a battery vomiting death, fire, and smoke;
then stood looking down with smiling eyes at the girl
whose marriage with him (next week) had been so
carefully arranged by the wise, the good, the admirable

"Ah! mademoiselle," he said, in a tone of courtly
regret, "if only I could be certain that you did not
come here this morning, two miles, running all the way,
merely from affection for your mother!"

He waited for an answer imperturbable but inwardly
elated. It came in a demure murmur, eyelashes low-
ered with fascinating effect. "You must not be me-
chant as well as mad."

And then General D'Hubert made an aggressive
movement towards the divan which nothing could
check. That piece of furniture was not exactly in the
line of the open door. But Madame Leonie, coming
back wrapped up in a light cloak and carrying a lace
shawl on her arm for Adele to hide her incriminating
hair under, had a swift impression of her brother getting
up from his knees.

"Come along, my dear child," she cried from the

The general, now himself again in the fullest sense,
showed the readiness of a resourceful cavalry officer and
the peremptoriness of a leader of men. "You don't
expect her to walk to the carriage," he said, indignantly.
"She isn't fit. I shall carry her downstairs."

This he did slowly, followed by his awed and re-
spectful sister; but he rushed back like a whirlwind to
wash off all the signs of the night of anguish and the
morning of war, and to put on the festive garments of
a conqueror before hurrying over to the other house.
Had it not been for that, General D 'Hubert felt capable
of mounting a horse and pursuing his late adversary in
order simply to embrace him from excess of happiness.
"I owe it all to this stupid brute," he thought. "He
has made plain in a morning what might have taken me
years to find out -- for I am a timid fool. No self-confi-
dence whatever. Perfect coward. And the Chevalier!
Delightful old man!" General D'Hubert longed to
embrace him also.

The Chevalier was in bed. For several days he
was very unwell. The men of the Empire and the
post-revolution young ladies were too much for him.
He got up the day before the wedding, and, being curi-
ous by nature, took his niece aside for a quiet talk. He
advised her to find out from her husband the true story
of the affair of honour, whose claim, so imperative and
so persistent, had led her to within an ace of tragedy.
"It is right that his wife should be told. And next
month or so will be your time to learn from him any-
thing you want to know, my dear child."

Later on, when the married couple came on a visit to
the mother of the bride, Madame la Generale D'Hubert
communicated to her beloved old uncle the true story
she had obtained without any difficulty from her hus-

The Chevalier listened with deep attention to the
end, took a pinch of snuff, flicked the grains of tobacco
from the frilled front of his shirt, and asked, calmly, "And
that's all it was?"

"Yes, uncle," replied Madame la Generale, opening
her pretty eyes very wide. "Isn't it funny? C'est
insense -- to think what men are capable of!"

"H'm!" commented the old emigre. "It depends
what sort of men. That Bonaparte's soldiers were
savages. It is insense. As a wife, my dear, you must
believe implicitly what your husband says."

But to Leonie's husband the Chevalier confided his
true opinion. "If that's the tale the fellow made up
for his wife, and during the honeymoon, too, you may
depend on it that no one will ever know now the secret
of this affair."

Considerably later still, General D'Hubert judged
the time come, and the opportunity propitious to write
a letter to General Feraud. This letter began by dis-
claiming all animosity. "I've never," wrote the
General Baron D'Hubert, "wished for your death dur-
ing all the time of our deplorable quarrel. Allow me,"
he continued, "to give you back in all form your for-
feited life. It is proper that we two, who have been
partners in so much military glory, should be friendly to
each other publicly."

The same letter contained also an item of domestic
information. It was in reference to this last that
General Feraud answered from a little village on the
banks of the Garonne, in the following words:

"If one of your boy's names had been Napoleon -- or
Joseph -- or even Joachim, I could congratulate you on
the event with a better heart. As you have thought
proper to give him the names of Charles Henri Armand,
I am confirmed in my conviction that you never
loved the Emperor. The thought of that sublime hero
chained to a rock in the middle of a savage ocean makes
life of so little value that I would receive with positive
joy your instructions to blow my brains out. From
suicide I consider myself in honour debarred. But I
keep a loaded pistol in my drawer."

Madame la Generale D'Hubert lifted up her hands
in despair after perusing that answer.

"You see? He won't be reconciled," said her hus-
band. "He must never, by any chance, be allowed to
guess where the money comes from. It wouldn't do.
He couldn't bear it."

"You are a brave homme, Armand,"said Madame la
Generale, appreciatively.

"My dear, I had the right to blow his brains out;
but as I didn't, we can't let him starve. He has lost
his pension and he is utterly incapable of doing any-
thing in the world for himself. We must take care of
him, secretly, to the end of his days. Don't I owe him
the most ecstatic moment of my life? . . . Ha! ha!
ha! Over the fields, two miles, running all the way!
I couldn't believe my ears! . . . But for his stupid
ferocity, it would have taken me years to find you out.
It's extraordinary how in one way or another this man
has managed to fasten himself on my deeper feelings."



"Vedi Napoli e poi mori."

THE first time we got into conversation was in the
National Museum in Naples, in the rooms on the
ground floor containing the famous collection of bronzes
from Herculaneum and Pompeii: that marvellous legacy
of antique art whose delicate perfection has been pre-
served for us by the catastrophic fury of a volcano.

He addressed me first, over the celebrated Resting
Hermes which we had been looking at side by side. He
said the right things about that wholly admirable piece.
Nothing profound. His taste was natural rather than
cultivated. He had obviously seen many fine things in
his life and appreciated them: but he had no jargon of a
dilettante or the connoisseur. A hateful tribe. He
spoke like a fairly intelligent man of the world, a per-
fectly unaffected gentleman.

We had known each other by sight for some few
days past. Staying in the same hotel -- good, but not
extravagantly up to date -- I had noticed him in the
vestibule going in and out. I judged he was an old
and valued client. The bow of the hotel-keeper was
cordial in its deference, and he acknowledged it with
familiar courtesy. For the servants he was Il Conde.
There was some squabble over a man's parasol -- yellow
silk with white lining sort of thing -- the waiters had dis-
covered abandoned outside the dining-room door. Our
gold-laced door-keeper recognized it and I heard him
directing one of the lift boys to run after Il Conde with
it. Perhaps he was the only Count staying in the hotel,
or perhaps he had the distinction of being the Count par
excellence, conferred upon him because of his tried
fidelity to the house.

Having conversed at the Museo -- (and by the by he
had expressed his dislike of the busts and statues of
Roman emperors in the gallery of marbles: their faces
were too vigorous, too pronounced for him) -- having
conversed already in the morning I did not think I was
intruding when in the evening, finding the dining-room
very full, I proposed to share his little table. Judging
by the quiet urbanity of his consent he did not think so
either. His smile was very attractive.

He dined in an evening waistcoat and a "smoking"
(he called it so) with a black tie. All this of very good
cut, not new -- just as these things should be. He was,
morning or evening, very correct in his dress. I have
no doubt that his whole existence had been correct,
well ordered and conventional, undisturbed by startling
events. His white hair brushed upwards off a lofty
forehead gave him the air of an idealist, of an
imaginative man. His white moustache, heavy but
carefully trimmed and arranged, was not unpleasantly
tinted a golden yellow in the middle. The faint scent
of some very good perfume, and of good cigars (that
last an odour quite remarkable to come upon in Italy)
reached me across the table. It was in his eyes that
his age showed most. They were a little weary with
creased eyelids. He must have been sixty or a couple
of years more. And he was communicative. I would
not go so far as to call it garrulous -- but distinctly

He had tried various climates, of Abbazia, of the
Riviera, of other places, too, he told me, but the only
one which suited him was the climate of the Gulf of
Naples. The ancient Romans, who, he pointed out to
me, were men expert in the art of living, knew very well
what they were doing when they built their villas on
these shores, in Baiae, in Vico, in Capri. They came
down to this seaside in search of health, bringing with
them their trains of mimes and flute-players to amuse
their leisure. He thought it extremely probable that the
Romans of the higher classes were specially predisposed
to painful rheumatic affections.

This was the only personal opinion I heard him
express. It was based on no special erudition. He
knew no more of the Romans than an average informed
man of the world is expected to know. He argued from
personal experience. He had suffered himself from a
painful and dangerous rheumatic affection till he found
relief in this particular spot of Southern Europe.

This was three years ago, and ever since he had
taken up his quarters on the shores of the gulf, either in
one of the hotels in Sorrento or hiring a small villa in
Capri. He had a piano, a few books: picked up transient
acquaintances of a day, week, or month in the stream of
travellers from all Europe. One can imagine him going
out for his walks in the streets and lanes, becoming
known to beggars, shopkeepers, children, country
people; talking amiably over the walls to the contadini
-- and coming back to his rooms or his villa to sit before
the piano, with his white hair brushed up and his thick
orderly moustache, "to make a little music for myself."
And, of course, for a change there was Naples near by
-- life, movement, animation, opera. A little amuse-
ment, as he said, is necessary for health. Mimes and
flute-players, in fact. Only unlike the magnates of an-
cient Rome, he had no affairs of the city to call him
away from these moderate delights. He had no affairs
at all. Probably he had never had any grave affairs to
attend to in his life. It was a kindly existence, with its
joys and sorrows regulated by the course of Nature --
marriages, births, deaths -- ruled by the prescribed
usages of good society and protected by the State.

He was a widower; but in the months of July and
August he ventured to cross the Alps for six weeks on a
visit to his married daughter. He told me her name.
It was that of a very aristocratic family. She had a
castle -- in Bohemia, I think. This is as near as I ever
came to ascertaining his nationality. His own name,
strangely enough, he never mentioned. Perhaps he
thought I had seen it on the published list. Truth to
say, I never looked. At any rate, he was a good Eu-
ropean -- he spoke four languages to my certain knowl-
edge -- and a man of fortune. Not of great fortune
evidently and appropriately. I imagine that to be ex-
tremely rich would have appeared to him improper,
outre -- too blatant altogether. And obviously, too, the
fortune was not of his making. The making of a for-
tune cannot be achieved without some roughness.
It is a matter of temperament. His nature was too
kindly for strife. In the course of conversation he
mentioned his estate quite by the way, in reference to
that painful and alarming rheumatic affection. One
year, staying incautiously beyond the Alps as late as the
middle of September, he had been laid up for three
months in that lonely country house with no one but his
valet and the caretaking couple to attend to him.
Because, as he expressed it, he "kept no establishment
there." He had only gone for a couple of days to con-
fer with his land agent. He promised himself never to be
so imprudent in the future. The first weeks of Sep-
tember would find him on the shores of his beloved

Sometimes in travelling one comes upon such lonely
men, whose only business is to wait for the unavoidable.
Deaths and marriages have made a solitude round them,
and one really cannot blame their endeavours to make
the waiting as easy as possible. As he remarked to me,
"At my time of life freedom from physical pain is a
very important matter."

It must not be imagined that he was a wearisome
hypochondriac. He was really much too well-bred to
be a nuisance. He had an eye for the small weaknesses
of humanity. But it was a good-natured eye. He
made a restful, easy, pleasant companion for the hours
between dinner and bedtime. We spent three evenings
together, and then I had to leave Naples in a hurry to
look after a friend who had fallen seriously ill in Taor-
mina. Having nothing to do, Il Conde came to see me
off at the station. I was somewhat upset, and his idle-
ness was always ready to take a kindly form. He was
by no means an indolent man.

He went along the train peering into the carriages
for a good seat for me, and then remained talking
cheerily from below. He declared he would miss me
that evening very much and announced his intention of
going after dinner to listen to the band in the public
garden, the Villa Nazionale. He would amuse himself
by hearing excellent music and looking at the best
society. There would be a lot of people, as usual.

I seem to see him yet -- his raised face with a friendly
smile under the thick moustaches, and his kind, fatigued
eyes. As the train began to move, he addressed me in
two languages: first in French, saying, "Bon voyage";
then, in his very good, somewhat emphatic English,
encouragingly, because he could see my concern: "All
will -- be -- well -- yet!"

My friend's illness having taken a decidedly favour-
able turn, I returned to Naples on the tenth day. I
cannot say I had given much thought to Il Conde during
my absence, but entering the dining-room I looked for
him in his habitual place. I had an idea he might have
gone back to Sorrento to his piano and his books and
his fishing. He was great friends with all the boatmen,
and fished a good deal with lines from a boat. But I
made out his white head in the crowd of heads, and even
from a distance noticed something unusual in his atti-
tude. Instead of sitting erect, gazing all round with
alert urbanity, he drooped over his plate. I stood
opposite him for some time before he looked up, a little
wildly, if such a strong word can be used in connection
with his correct appearance.

"Ah, my dear sir! Is it you?" he greeted me. "I
hope all is well."

He was very nice about my friend. Indeed, he was
always nice, with the niceness of people whose hearts are
genuinely humane. But this time it cost him an effort.
His attempts at general conversation broke down into
dullness. It occurred to me he might have been indis-
posed. But before I could frame the inquiry he

"You find me here very sad."

"I am sorry for that," I said. "You haven't had bad
news, I hope?"

It was very kind of me to take an interest. No. It
was not that. No bad news, thank God. And he
became very still as if holding his breath. Then, lean-
ing forward a little, and in an odd tone of awed embar-
rassment, he took me into his confidence.

"The truth is that I have had a very -- a very -- how
shall I say? -- abominable adventure happen to me."

The energy of the epithet was sufficiently startling in
that man of moderate feelings and toned-down vocabu-
lary. The word unpleasant I should have thought
would have fitted amply the worst experience likely to
befall a man of his stamp. And an adventure, too. In-
credible! But it is in human nature to believe the worst;
and I confess I eyed him stealthily, wondering what he
had been up to. In a moment, however, my unworthy
suspicions vanished. There was a fundamental refine-
ment of nature about the man which made me dismiss
all idea of some more or less disreputable scrape.

"It is very serious. Very serious." He went on,
nervously. "I will tell you after dinner, if you will
allow me."

I expressed my perfect acquiescence by a little bow,
nothing more. I wished him to understand that I was
not likely to hold him to that offer, if he thought better
of it later on. We talked of indifferent things, but with
a sense of difficulty quite unlike our former easy, gos-
sipy intercourse. The hand raising a piece of bread to
his lips, I noticed, trembled slightly. This symptom,
in regard to my reading of the man, was no less than

In the smoking-room he did not hang back at all.
Directly we had taken our usual seats he leaned side-
ways over the arm of his chair and looked straight into
my eyes earnestly.

"You remember," he began, "that day you went
away? I told you then I would go to the Villa Nazion-
ale to hear some music in the evening."

I remembered. His handsome old face, so fresh for
his age, unmarked by any trying experience, appeared
haggard for an instant. It was like the passing of a
shadow. Returning his steadfast gaze, I took a sip of
my black coffee. He was systematically minute in his
narrative, simply in order, I think, not to let his ex-
citement get the better of him.

After leaving the railway station, he had an ice, and
read the paper in a cafe. Then he went back to the
hotel, dressed for dinner, and dined with a good appetite.
After dinner he lingered in the hall (there were chairs
and tables there) smoking his cigar; talked to the
little girl of the Primo Tenore of the San Carlo the-
atre, and exchanged a few words with that "ami-
able lady," the wife of the Primo Tenore. There was
no performance that evening, and these people were
going to the Villa also. They went out of the hotel.
Very well.

At the moment of following their example -- it was
half-past nine already -- he remembered he had a rather
large sum of money in his pocket-book. He entered,
therefore, the office and deposited the greater part of it
with the book-keeper of the hotel. This done, he took
a carozella and drove to the seashore. He got out of the
cab and entered the Villa on foot from the Largo di
Vittoria end.

He stared at me very hard. And I understood then
how really impressionable he was. Every small fact and
event of that evening stood out in his memory as if
endowed with mystic significance. If he did not mention
to me the colour of the pony which drew the carozella,
and the aspect of the man who drove, it was a mere
oversight arising from his agitation, which he repressed

He had then entered the Villa Nazionale from the
Largo di Vittoria end. The Villa Nazionale is a public
pleasure-ground laid out in grass plots, bushes, and
flower-beds between the houses of the Riviera di Chiaja
and the waters of the bay. Alleys of trees, more or less
parallel, stretch its whole length -- which is considerable.
On the Riviera di Chiaja side the electric tramcars run
close to the railings. Between the garden and the sea is
the fashionable drive, a broad road bordered by a low
wall, beyond which the Mediterranean splashes with
gentle murmurs when the weather is fine.

As life goes on late at night in Naples, the broad
drive was all astir with a brilliant swarm of carriage
lamps moving in pairs, some creeping slowly, others
running rapidly under the thin, motionless line of electric
lamps defining the shore. And a brilliant swarm
of stars hung above the land humming with voices,
piled up with houses, glittering with lights -- and over
the silent flat shadows of the sea.

The gardens themselves are not very well lit. Our
friend went forward in the warm gloom, his eyes
fixed upon a distant luminous region extending nearly
across the whole width of the Villa, as if the air had
glowed there with its own cold, bluish, and dazzling
light. This magic spot, behind the black trunks of trees
and masses of inky foliage, breathed out sweet sounds
mingled with bursts of brassy roar, sudden clashes of
metal, and grave, vibrating thuds.

As he walked on, all these noises combined together
into a piece of elaborate music whose harmonious phrases
came persuasively through a great disorderly murmur of
voices and shuffling of feet on the gravel of that open
space. An enormous crowd immersed in the electric
light, as if in a bath of some radiant and tenuous fluid
shed upon their heads by luminous globes, drifted in its
hundreds round the band. Hundreds more sat on chairs
in more or less concentric circles, receiving unflinchingly
the great waves of sonority that ebbed out into the dark-
ness. The Count penetrated the throng, drifted with it
in tranquil enjoyment, listening and looking at the
faces. All people of good society: mothers with their
daughters, parents and children, young men and young
women all talking, smiling, nodding to each other. Very
many pretty faces, and very many pretty toilettes.
There was, of course, a quantity of diverse types: showy
old fellows with white moustaches, fat men, thin
men, officers in uniform; but what predominated, he
told me, was the South Italian type of young man,
with a colourless, clear complexion, red lips, jet-black
little moustache and liquid black eyes so wonderfully
effective in leering or scowling.

Withdrawing from the throng, the Count shared a
little table in front of the caf‚ with a young man of just
such a type. Our friend had some lemonade. The
young man was sitting moodily before an empty glass.
He looked up once, and then looked down again. He
also tilted his hat forward. Like this --

The Count made the gesture of a man pulling his
hat down over his brow, and went on:

"I think to myself: he is sad; something is wrong
with him; young men have their troubles. I take no
notice of him, of course. I pay for my lemonade, and
go away."

Strolling about in the neighbourhood of the band,
the Count thinks he saw twice that young man wander-
ing alone in the crowd. Once their eyes met. It must
have been the same young man, but there were so many
there of that type that he could not be certain. More-
over, he was not very much concerned except in so far
that he had been struck by the marked, peevish discon-
tent of that face.

Presently, tired of the feeling of confinement one ex-
periences in a crowd, the Count edged away from the
band. An alley, very sombre by contrast, presented
itself invitingly with its promise of solitude and coolness.
He entered it, walking slowly on till the sound of the
orchestra became distinctly deadened. Then he walked
back and turned about once more. He did this several
times before he noticed that there was somebody oc-
cupying one of the benches.

The spot being midway between two lamp-posts the
light was faint.

The man lolled back in the corner of the seat, his
legs stretched out, his arms folded and his head drooping
on his breast. He never stirred, as though he had fallen
asleep there, but when the Count passed by next time he
had changed his attitude. He sat leaning forward. His
elbows were propped on his knees, and his hands were
rolling a cigarette. He never looked up from that

The Count continued his stroll away from the band.
He returned slowly, he said. I can imagine him
enjoying to the full, but with his usual tranquillity, the
balminess of this southern night and the sounds of music
softened delightfully by the distance.

Presently, he approached for the third time the man
on the garden seat, still leaning forward with his elbows
on his knees. It was a dejected pose. In the semi-
obscurity of the alley his high shirt collar and his cuffs
made small patches of vivid whiteness. The Count
said that he had noticed him getting up brusquely as
if to walk away, but almost before he was aware of
it the man stood before him asking in a low, gentle tone
whether the signore would have the kindness to oblige
him with a light.

The Count answered this request by a polite "Cer-
tainly," and dropped his hands with the intention of
exploring both pockets of his trousers for the matches.

"I dropped my hands," he said, "but I never put
them in my pockets. I felt a pressure there --"

He put the tip of his finger on a spot close under his
breastbone, the very spot of the human body where a
Japanese gentleman begins the operations of the Hara-
kiri, which is a form of suicide following upon dishonour,
upon an intolerable outrage to the delicacy of one's

"I glance down," the Count continued in an awe-
struck voice, "and what do I see? A knife! A long
knife --"

"You don't mean to say," I exclaimed, amazed,
"that you have been held up like this in the Villa at
half-past ten o'clock, within a stone's throw of a thou-
sand people!"

He nodded several times, staring at me with all his

"The clarionet," he declared, solemnly, "was finishing
his solo, and I assure you I could hear every note. Then
the band crashed fortissimo, and that creature rolled
its eyes and gnashed its teeth hissing at me with the
greatest ferocity, 'Be silent! No noise or --'"

I could not get over my astonishment.

"What sort of knife was it?" I asked, stupidly.

"A long blade. A stiletto -- perhaps a kitchen knife.
A long narrow blade. It gleamed. And his eyes
gleamed. His white teeth, too. I could see them.
He was very ferocious. I thought to myself: 'If I hit
him he will kill me.' How could I fight with him?
He had the knife and I had nothing. I am nearly
seventy, you know, and that was a young man. I
seemed even to recognize him. The moody young man
of the cafe. The young man I met in the crowd. But
I could not tell. There are so many like him in this

The distress of that moment was reflected in his face.
I should think that physically he must have been
paralyzed by surprise. His thoughts, however, re-
mained extremely active. They ranged over every alarm-
ing possibility. The idea of setting up a vigorous shout-
ing for help occurred to him, too. But he did nothing of
the kind, and the reason why he refrained gave me a
good opinion of his mental self-possession. He saw in a
flash that nothing prevented the other from shouting,

"That young man might in an instant have thrown
away his knife and pretended I was the aggressor. Why
not? He might have said I attacked him. Why not?
It was one incredible story against another! He might
have said anything -- bring some dishonouring charge
against me -- what do I know? By his dress he was no
common robber. He seemed to belong to the better
classes. What could I say? He was an Italian -- I am
a foreigner. Of course, I have my passport, and there
is our consul -- but to be arrested, dragged at night to
the police office like a criminal!"

He shuddered. It was in his character to shrink
from scandal, much more than from mere death. And
certainly for many people this would have always re-
mained -- considering certain peculiarities of Neapolitan
manners -- a deucedly queer story. The Count was no
fool. His belief in the respectable placidity of life
having received this rude shock, he thought that now
anything might happen. But also a notion came into
his head that this young man was perhaps merely an
infuriated lunatic.

This was for me the first hint of his attitude towards
this adventure. In his exaggerated delicacy of senti-
ment he felt that nobody's self-esteem need be affected
by what a madman may choose to do to one. It be-
came apparent, however, that the Count was to be
denied that consolation. He enlarged upon the abom-
inably savage way in which that young man rolled his
glistening eyes and gnashed his white teeth. The band
was going now through a slow movement of solemn
braying by all the trombones, with deliberately re-
peated bangs of the big drum.

"But what did you do?" I asked, greatly excited.

"Nothing," answered the Count. "I let my hands
hang down very still. I told him quietly I did not
intend making a noise. He snarled like a dog, then said
in an ordinary voice:

"'Vostro portofolio.'"

"So I naturally," continued the Count -- and from
this point acted the whole thing in pantomime. Hold-
ing me with his eyes, he went through all the motions
of reaching into his inside breast pocket, taking out a
pocket-book, and handing it over. But that young man,
still bearing steadily on the knife, refused to touch it.

He directed the Count to take the money out him-
self, received it into his left hand, motioned the pocket-
book to be returned to the pocket, all this being done to
the sweet thrilling of flutes and clarionets sustained by
the emotional drone of the hautboys. And the "young
man," as the Count called him, said: "This seems very

"It was, indeed, only 340 or 360 lire," the Count
pursued. "I had left my money in the hotel, as you
know. I told him this was all I had on me. He shook
his head impatiently and said:

"'Vostro orologio.'"

The Count gave me the dumb show of pulling out
his watch, detaching it. But, as it happened, the valu-
able gold half-chronometer he possessed had been left
at a watch-maker's for cleaning. He wore that evening
(on a leather guard) the Waterbury fifty-franc thing he
used to take with him on his fishing expeditions. Per-
ceiving the nature of this booty, the well-dressed robber
made a contemptuous clicking sound with his tongue
like this, "Tse-Ah!" and waved it away hastily. Then,
as the Count was returning the disdained object to his
pocket, he demanded with a threateningly increased
pressure of the knife on the epigastrium, by way of re-

"'Vostri anelli.'"

"One of the rings," went on the Count, "was given
me many years ago by my wife; the other is the signet
ring of my father. I said, 'No. That you shall not

Here the Count reproduced the gesture corresponding
to that declaration by clapping one hand upon the
other, and pressing both thus against his chest. It
was touching in its resignation. "That you shall not
have," he repeated, firmly, and closed his eyes, fully
expecting -- I don't know whether I am right in record-
ing that such an unpleasant word had passed his lips --
fully expecting to feel himself being -- I really hesitate
to say -- being disembowelled by the push of the long,
sharp blade resting murderously against the pit of
his stomach -- the very seat, in all human beings, of
anguishing sensations.

Great waves of harmony went on flowing from the

Suddenly the Count felt the nightmarish pressure
removed from the sensitive spot. He opened his eyes.
He was alone. He had heard nothing. It is probable
that "the young man" had departed, with light steps,
some time before, but the sense of the horrid pressure
had lingered even after the knife had gone. A feeling
of weakness came over him. He had just time to
stagger to the garden seat. He felt as though he had
held his breath for a long time. He sat all in a heap,
panting with the shock of the reaction.

The band was executing, with immense bravura, the
complicated finale. It ended with a tremendous crash.
He heard it unreal and remote, as if his ears had been
stopped, and then the hard clapping of a thousand,
more or less, pairs of hands, like a sudden hail-shower
passing away. The profound silence which succeeded
recalled him to himself.

A tramcar resembling a long glass box wherein people
sat with their heads strongly lighted, ran along swiftly
within sixty yards of the spot where he had been robbed.
Then another rustled by, and yet another going the
other way. The audience about the band had broken
up, and were entering the alley in small conversing
groups. The Count sat up straight and tried to think
calmly of what had happened to him. The vileness of
it took his breath away again. As far as I can make
it out he was disgusted with himself. I do not mean
to say with his behaviour. Indeed, if his pantomimic
rendering of it for my information was to be trusted, it
was simply perfect. No, it was not that. He was not
ashamed. He was shocked at being the selected victim,
not of robbery so much as of contempt. His tranquillity
had been wantonly desecrated. His lifelong, kindly
nicety of outlook had been defaced.

Nevertheless, at that stage, before the iron had time
to sink deep, he was able to argue himself into com-
parative equanimity. As his agitation calmed down
somewhat, he became aware that he was frightfully
hungry. Yes, hungry. The sheer emotion had made
him simply ravenous. He left the seat and, after walk-
ing for some time, found himself outside the gardens
and before an arrested tramcar, without knowing very
well how he came there. He got in as if in a dream, by
a sort of instinct. Fortunately he found in his trouser
pocket a copper to satisfy the conductor. Then the car
stopped, and as everybody was getting out he got out,
too. He recognized the Piazza San Ferdinando, but
apparently it did not occur to him to take a cab and
drive to the hotel. He remained in distress on the
Piazza like a lost dog, thinking vaguely of the best way
of getting something to eat at once.

Suddenly he remembered his twenty-franc piece.
He explained to me that he had that piece of French
gold for something like three years. He used to carry
it about with him as a sort of reserve in case of ac-
cident. Anybody is liable to have his pocket picked
-- a quite different thing from a brazen and insulting

The monumental arch of the Galleria Umberto faced
him at the top of a noble flight of stairs. He climbed
these without loss of time, and directed his steps towards
the Cafe Umberto. All the tables outside were occupied
by a lot of people who were drinking. But as he wanted
something to eat, he went inside into the cafe, which is
divided into aisles by square pillars set all round with
long looking-glasses. The Count sat down on a red
plush bench against one of these pillars, waiting for
his risotto. And his mind reverted to his abominable

He thought of the moody, well-dressed young man,
with whom he had exchanged glances in the crowd
around the bandstand, and who, he felt confident, was
the robber. Would he recognize him again? Doubt-
less. But he did not want ever to see him again. The
best thing was to forget this humiliating episode.

The Count looked round anxiously for the coming of
his risotto, and, behold! to the left against the wall --
there sat the young man. He was alone at a table, with
a bottle of some sort of wine or syrup and a carafe of
iced water before him. The smooth olive cheeks, the
red lips, the little jet-black moustache turned up gal-
lantly, the fine black eyes a little heavy and shaded
by long eyelashes, that peculiar expression of cruel dis-
content to be seen only in the busts of some Roman
emperors -- it was he, no doubt at all. But that was a
type. The Count looked away hastily. The young
officer over there reading a paper was like that, too.
Same type. Two young men farther away playing
draughts also resembled --

The Count lowered his head with the fear in his heart
of being everlastingly haunted by the vision of that
young man. He began to eat his risotto. Presently
he heard the young man on his left call the waiter in a
bad-tempered tone.

At the call, not only his own waiter, but two other
idle waiters belonging to a quite different row of tables,
rushed towards him with obsequious alacrity, which is
not the general characteristic of the waiters in the Cafe
Umberto. The young man muttered something and
one of the waiters walking rapidly to the nearest door
called out into the Galleria: "Pasquale! O! Pas-

Everybody knows Pasquale, the shabby old fellow
who, shuffling between the tables, offers for sale cigars,
cigarettes, picture postcards, and matches to the clients
of the cafe;. He is in many respects an engaging
scoundrel. The Count saw the grey-haired, unshaven
ruffian enter the cafe, the glass case hanging from his
neck by a leather strap, and, at a word from the waiter,
make his shuffling way with a sudden spurt to the young
man's table. The young man was in need of a cigar
with which Pasquale served him fawningly. The old
pedlar was going out, when the Count, on a sudden
impulse, beckoned to him.

Pasquale approached, the smile of deferential recog-
nition combining oddly with the cynical searching ex-
pression of his eyes. Leaning his case on the table, he
lifted the glass lid without a word. The Count took a
box of cigarettes and urged by a fearful curiosity, asked
as casually as he could --

"Tell me, Pasquale, who is that young signore sitting
over there?"

The other bent over his box confidentially.

"That, Signor Conde,"he said, beginning to rearrange
his wares busily and without looking up, "that is a
young Cavaliere of a very good family from Bari. He
studies in the University here, and is the chief, capo, of
an association of young men -- of very nice young men."

He paused, and then, with mingled discretion and
pride of knowledge, murmured the explanatory word
"Camorra" and shut down the lid. "A very powerful
Camorra," he breathed out. "The professors them-
selves respect it greatly . . . una lira e cinquanti
centesimi, Signor Conde."

Our friend paid with the gold piece. While Pasquale
was making up the change, he observed that the young
man, of whom he had heard so much in a few words,
was watching the transaction covertly. After the
old vagabond had withdrawn with a bow, the Count
settled with the waiter and sat still. A numbness, he
told me, had come over him.

The young man paid, too, got up, and crossed over,
apparently for the purpose of looking at himself in the
mirror set in the pillar nearest to the Count's seat. He
was dressed all in black with a dark green bow tie.
The Count looked round, and was startled by meeting
a vicious glance out of the corners of the other's eyes.
The young Cavaliere from Bari (according to Pasquale;
but Pasquale is, of course, an accomplished liar) went
on arranging his tie, settling his hat before the glass,
and meantime he spoke just loud enough to be heard
by the Count. He spoke through his teeth with the
most insulting venom of contempt and gazing straight
into the mirror.

"Ah! So you had some gold on you -- you old liar --
you old birba -- you furfante! But you are not done
with me yet."

The fiendishness of his expression vanished like light-
ning, and he lounged out of the cafe with a moody,
impassive face.

The poor Count, after telling me this last episode,
fell back trembling in his chair. His forehead broke
into perspiration. There was a wanton insolence in
the spirit of this outrage which appalled even me.
What it was to the Count's delicacy I won't attempt to
guess. I am sure that if he had been not too refined
to do such a blatantly vulgar thing as dying from
apoplexy in a cafe;, he would have had a fatal stroke
there and then. All irony apart, my difficulty was to
keep him from seeing the full extent of my commisera-
tion. He shrank from every excessive sentiment, and
my commiseration was practically unbounded. It did
not surprise me to hear that he had been in bed a week.
He had got up to make his arrangements for leaving
Southern Italy for good and all.

And the man was convinced that he could not live
through a whole year in any other climate!

No argument of mine had any effect. It was not
timidity, though he did say to me once: "You do not
know what a Camorra is, my dear sir. I am a marked
man." He was not afraid of what could be done to
him. His delicate conception of his dignity was defiled
by a degrading experience. He couldn't stand that.
No Japanese gentleman, outraged in his exaggerated
sense of honour, could have gone about his preparations
for Hara-kiri with greater resolution. To go home
really amounted to suicide for the poor Count.

There is a saying of Neapolitan patriotism, intended
for the information of foreigners, I presume: "See
Naples and then die." Vedi Napoli e poi mori. It is a
saying of excessive vanity, and everything excessive
was abhorrent to the nice moderation of the poor Count.
Yet, as I was seeing him off at the railway station, I
thought he was behaving with singular fidelity to its
conceited spirit. Vedi Napoli! . . . He had seen
it! He had seen it with startling thoroughness -- and
now he was going to his grave. He was going to it by
the train de luxe of the International Sleeping Car Com-
pany, via Trieste and Vienna. As the four long, sombre
coaches pulled out of the station I raised my hat with
the solemn feeling of paying the last tribute of respect
to a funeral cortege. Il Conde's profile, much aged al-
ready, glided away from me in stony immobility, behind
the lighted pane of glass -- Vedi Napoli e poi mori!

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