Bagatelle and Some Other Diversions by Marjorie Bowen
Writing as George Preedy
First published by John Lane: The Bodley Head, London, 1930
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Collection of Chinese Rarities in the possession of Karl
August Graf von Aspremont Reckheim at the Château Halstadt in the
Archbishopric of Salzburg. [The Empire, 18th century.]
Five Musical Themes
a flourish for drums
With an accompaniment for trumpets set for the Imperial Army
of the Czar of All the Russias under Prince Zadikov at the Château
Brockenstein. [Bohemia, 18th century.]
Variations on a Spanish theme composed for the Duque de
Sommaja by Carlo Barlucchi. [Spain, 18th century.]
a tune for a trumpet
Set for the Imperialist forces under the command of Albrecht
von Wallenstein, Duke of Friedland, Sagan, Glogau and Mecklenburg, Count
Palatine, at Castle Karolsfeld, outside Nuremberg. [The Empire, 17th
A Florentine night-piece composed by Nicolo Antonio Porpora
for His Serene Highness the Grand Duke Gian Felice of Florence. [Italy,
a fanfare for silver
Set for His Most Catholic Majesty King Philip V of Spain on
his arrival at Madrid. [Spain, 18th century.]
homage to the unknown
A Burletta performed before His Serene Highness the Margraf
Karl Wilhelm of Baden-Dürlach and His Excellency the English Resident, Sir
William Fowkes, in the theatre of the château at Karlsruhe, on the occasion
of the birth of his grandson, Karl Frederic, afterwards first Grand Duke of
Baden, in 1728. [Italy, 18th century.]
supper with madame
...And Prince Clement Louis of Grafenberg-Freiwaldau,
Generalissimo of the Imperial Forces, in a summer pavilion outside Mons.
[Spanish Netherlands, 18th century.]
a promenade in the
A design by Giovanni Battista Piranési for an Almanac by
John Evelyn, Esq. [Rome, 18th century]
a summer noon in rome
A philosophic discussion between the Queen of Sweden and
some others in the fountain court of a palace in Rome. [Italy, 18th
a visit to verona
to see the ruins of the amphitheatre
"When the sun grew
troublesome it was the custom to draw a covering or veil quite over the
Amphitheatre. This veil they oftentimes made of silk, dy'd with scarlet,
purple or some such rich colour. The effect the colour of this veil had upon
the audience that sat under it is finely described by Lucretius." (Remarks on
several Parts of Europe by J. Breval, Esq., 1726.) [Italy, 18th
Told to the Cardinal Archbishop, Prince Louis de Rohan, at
Strasbourg, of the Maréchal le Duc de Villars and the revolt of the
Camisards. [Cevennes, France, 18th century.]
The Author who offers these tales has called them Bagatelle (a
game, a diversion, a trifle), having been moved to write them through the
poignant appeal of those aspects of the past, the decorations of peoples and
an age long since gone, which to most appear but a game, a
trifle—bagatelle. They might be named, too, stories of empty palaces,
of closed mansions, of deserted castles, built to affront the enemy in the
game of war, or to entertain the friend in the game of pleasure.
The roofless towers of Karolsfeldt where the oak grows near the hearth of
the great hall and the trees of the heavy forest have encroached up to the
fallen walls—the tarnished mirrors in the gilt and stucco pavilions
hidden in airy woods or agreeable parks—a lonely villa on the
Brenta—a straight-fronted, shuttered palace facing the fountain where
the gladiators washed their wounds outside the Roman Coliseum—a secret
and dark-balconied residence in a narrow street of Madrid—an
extravagant château close to the Russian frontiers...These places in their
loneliness, decay, neglect and partial ruin still mark the quiet solitudes or
forgotten streets of European cities and possess for some a bitter-sweet
These dwellings, where the long-since dead kept their toys and beguiled
the nostalgia for the unattainable (with which we are all so desperately
familiar), are easily peopled by phantoms that soon take a definite shape and
play out their own story without any help from the writer, who takes the part
rather of transcriber than that of author; he is, at least, conscious of no
invention and endeavours to describe people and scenes that arise as
naturally from these ancient habitations, parks, pleasaunces, as mist from a
lake at the close of an autumn day, or pungent perfume from a plucked and
Some of the episodes are grim enough; behind the ribbons, the lutes, the
cupidons, grins the mask of tragedy; yet—bagatelle—all of it, for
these people are dead and seen through the medium of a dream.
They inhabit no known country, but they claim an eternal existence in
those memories of the past that torment, perplex and solace some of us; they
are purged of grossness; gorgeous ghosts, they enact their parts splendidly,
their passions are romantic, their actions seldom lack the heroic outline;
since they died their persons have taken on a richer beauty, their characters
a nobler cast; they are grander than when they lived; so much we may allow
them in recompense for the dust that covers their memories.
Their tragedy shows through a veil of resignation; their comedy is hard,
cynical and grotesque, they have a little the air of actors who have played
the same part many times, for they are perfect in their words and easy enough
to flourish in their gestures; most of them are profoundly lonely and some
profoundly unhappy; all feel cheated, thwarted in ambition or passion, or
dissatisfied to agony with the bagatelles of their moment.
It may be protested that they are to the last degree artificial, mere
puppets adorned with tinsel, but to those who understand them they have the
essence of accomplished, successful humanity, disappointed (as always) in its
final achievement; they are worldlings defying their own negation; they are
creatures who pile up games and trifles at higher cost with fiercer greed,
the more they realize their own futility; the men taste the brittleness of
success, the women the limits of beauty; all, men and women, pursue each
other in vain hoping to clasp the long-lost, the perfect lover, and always
Their world is opulent about them and all is man-created; they move in
palaces, pavilions, parks, gardens; if they glimpse a cottage, a heath, a
field, they turn away wearily; the open country means a battle, a hunt, or
boredom; to a siege, a chase, a march, a journey, they desperately carry the
elements of carnival, music, players, clowns, dwarfs, fine clothes and
They discuss philosophy (that cloudy disguise of lack of faith), they
bandy terms, but they believe in nothing save their own secret and endless
The writer who has evoked them despairs of rendering them as they appear
to his "inner eye," but has not lacked earnestness in the attempt.
A Collection of Chinese Rarities in the possession of
Karl August Graf von Aspremont Reckheim at the Château Halstadt in the
Archbishopric of Salzburg. [THE EMPIRE, 18th Century.]
The covered waggon, with faded blue hangings drawn closely at the sides,
halted at last, after a long journey, at the gates of Château Halstadt, one
of the finest mansions in the Archbishopric of Salzburg. Captain Engel van
Dollart dismounted from beside the driver's seat, gave a thick grunt of
relief, took off his shabby hat and scrub wig to wipe a bald, glistening head
while he gazed stolidly, unimpressed but satisfied, at the handsome stone
piers and rich scroll work of the gates that bore, in every possible space,
the arms of Aspremont Reckheim and Zringi.
The Dutchman then eyed the waggon with alert suspicion, as if he feared
that some one behind the curtains would draw these and look out; but the
rough canvas was not disturbed; the two stout horses stood patient, sweating
in the sun; the German coachman and the German grooms on horseback waited
with stupid indifference for the Captain's commands.
This personage called up his Dutch servant, a heavy fellow with a waddling
"This is the place, Cornelis. A fine estate, hey? A very wealthy patron,
Master and man smiled at each other slowly; Cornelis replied with a placid
"You were sure of that, Captain, before you took so much trouble. It has
been a very tedious journey."
"A very tedious journey," repeated Van Dollart. "Now I get the reward for
it, hein? While I am inside you guard the waggon—careful,
Cornelis, careful and prudent to the last. One never knows."
The gate-keeper had now opened to the modest cortége; the covered
waggon turned and was driven up the long avenue that emphasized the correct
splendour of the mansion. Captain van Dollart followed on foot; it was an
August day, clear azure gold, a few snow-white cloudlets floating above the
tall trees; on the double-winged staircase of the château, Warriors and
Virtues in stone guarded the pretentious entrance; above the tympanum
a flag curled on a pole; a glitter of gold threads outlined the arms of
Aspremont Reckheim and Zringi.
Van Dollart despised and detested all this display; he was in love with
his misty native flats, his trim house of neat dull pink brick with the
precise step-gable in the Prinzengracht at Amsterdam, his quiet, heavy wife
with the double chin and starched linen hood and collar. Van Dollart was a
dour Churchman, a good citizen and, as a man, had only one fault—this
was, perhaps, sufficient—he would have done anything for money.
Giving a jealous glance at the covered waggon he ascended the wide stone
steps, entered, sombrely and rudely, the grand open doors and asked the
waiting lackeys for their master.
The valet stared at the large uncouth man with his clothes of a seaman's
cut, his formidable pistols, his resolute, ugly, leather-skinned face, and
listened to his broken German.
"Tell your master that I have brought—what he asked
for—Captain van Dollart of the 'Water Dog,'" said the Dutchman firmly
and cautiously. "It is outside in the covered waggon—what he asked me
While the message was being taken to the master of the château, Van
Dollart waited indifferently among the fine marbles, sparkling lustres and
silken tapestries of the vestibule. From the window he kept his eye cocked at
the covered waggon on the gravelled space beyond the steps, with Cornelis
hulking in front of the blue curtains, and beasts and men waiting patiently
in the sun.
In a few moments he was conducted into the presence of Graf Aspremont
Reckheim, whom he greeted with an odd surly lack of respect.
The noble owner of Halstadt had finished his early repast and was sitting
in complete idleness over a stale copy of the "Gazette de France." He was a
man more fortunate than Van Dollart (who despised him), believed any man had
a right to be; his descent was partly Hungarian; his father's mother was a
relation of that Emeric Tekéli who had fought with the Turks against the
Emperor Leopold, and his own mother had been a sister of the elegant Zringi
who had been executed in Vienna, but who was better remembered for the long,
high-waisted coat he had made fashionable in Paris. The Aspremont Reckheims,
very loyal subjects of His Imperial Majesty, had inherited the two immense
fortunes of these rebel Hungarian Princes, and their present sole
representative had received the rank of General Commandant of Hungary, which
post gave him, a good Catholic, fine opportunities of keeping in order the
Protestants his ancestors had died to assist. Nor had he neglected these
chances and was, in consequence, so keenly hated by the Magyars that he
sometimes found it agreeable to leave his famous palace at Vesprim (which
rivalled that at Kassel for magnificence) for the more sober splendours of
Halstadt. Van Dollart, grim Protestant, loathed this ruthless persecutor of
the faith, Van Dollart, honest, sober citizen, quiet family man, detested
this costly libertine of whom he had never heard anything save what he
considered evil, but he continued to serve him, for Aspremont Reckheim paid
with lavish prodigality.
For years the Dutchman had brought rarities and curiosities from the East
and sold them to the purchaser who never haggled over increased prices; every
voyage "The Water Dog" took from Amsterdam there were commissions from
General Graf Aspremont Reckheim; each time something more uncommon, more
difficult was required, for the soldier was one of the most considerable
collectors of his age. Van Dollart was always very clever in nosing after
these treasures, very adroit and unscrupulous in obtaining them, very greedy
in asking more and more of those orders which, slipped across the tables of
an Amsterdam bank, were so readily changed into good golden florins.
In this very room lined with pale green brocade were vases of celadon,
clair de lune, and Imperial Yellow, adorned with prunus and magnolia
blossom, which Van Dollart had obtained by not the most fastidious means and
sold at not the most reasonable figure, while the Ching-Té bowl with fishes
in copper-red (three hundred years old, at least) which now held the sugar
for the chocolate, had cost the blood of some obscure heathen.
"I expected you before," remarked the nobleman pleasantly; he never asked
the Dutchman to sit, but his courtesy was otherwise perfect.
Van Dollart replied without any title of respect.
"What you asked was not easy. I doubted I should do it at all. The return
voyage was delayed. And," added the Dutchman grimly, "it was a rough overland
journey from Amsterdam. And I had to come myself, there being no one I could
trust with a matter like that."
"So I suppose. I believe you always earn your money."
"Amsterdam, Cologne, Coblenz, Frankfurt, Würzburg," recited the Dutchman,
checking the stages of his travels on his coarse fingers, "it has been very
"You want more than I promised—the five thousand rix dollars?"
"Yes. There would not be much profit on that."
"I'll pay more. If the merchandise is worth it—"
"Eight thousand rix dollars?"
"Yes." Graf Aspremont Reckheim agreed easily; he would win half that by
the bet with Culembach—besides, this particular rarity was worth it; he
smiled in a way that made the Dutchman frown, though most people would have
thought the nobleman very agreeable to look at. His notorious face and figure
had the dark, swift, impatient Magyar grace and beauty; his name of Karl
August suited him very ill, for he had nothing of the Teuton. As the Dutchman
pouched the bankers' order he would (without scruple had it been safe to do
so) have strangled his customer for a base, dangerous, subtle beast from the
East—like the cruel black panther or the sly, slim snake...a
persecuting Papist too.
Almost Van Dollart was tempted not to trade with him
again...almost—but the money?
Karl August looked at the Dutchman as if he understood those slow thoughts
of hate, and continued to smile. He had good cause; he had always obtained
what he wanted, and till now, at thirty years of age, he had contrived to
escape both conscience and satiety. He had no complaint to make about
fortune, and fortune by her continued gifts seemed to show that she had no
complaint to make about him; he certainly graced his destiny and embellished
all the favours he received from an immoral providence.
"Is she beautiful?" he asked; then added, "You would be no judge."
"The Chinese woman."
"I never thought about it—she is Chinese."
"You have her here?"
"Yes, in the covered waggon."
"Is she sad, afraid, angry?" smiled Karl August.
"I don't know. She has never said anything—how should she? She
speaks only Chinese."
"You have really been very clever to get her—how did you?"
"A tale better not told. We went inland as far as Chuchow. We had to kill
several heathen and one of my men got an ugly cut. Never mind. She is the
daughter of what they call a Mandarin—a Princess to them. I can tell
you, eight thousand rix dollars is low."
"If she is really beautiful I will give you more. You know I have never
cheapened my pleasures." It had always been his pride not to do so; he had
always led every fashion, exploited it in the most costly and extravagant
way, and never bargained the price; at Vesprim he had a hermitage, a classic
ruin in marble, a village of dwarfs, a pyramid, and a temple above a cascade;
at Halstadt he had kept his Chinese curiosities; a pagoda, a pavilion, a
garden, and, in the house, the rarest collection of famille rose,
overglaze of Wan-Li and Chia-Ching, T'ang and Sung ware.
And an exquisite assortment of women's clothes and ornaments.
It was these which had first made him want a Chinese woman to complete his
rarities; as he looked at the lines, lustres and lights of the translucent
porcelain, this want had become a desire; when Culembach had bet him four
thousand rix dollars that he could never gratify so fantastic a wish, the
desire had become a longing; while skilfully and cruelly repressing a
rebellion in Transylvania his secret thoughts had been of little else than
the Chinese woman.
He went to the window, gazed beyond the curtains of peach-bloom velvet
made to match the vases Captain van Dollart called "liver-coloured"...there
was the small covered waggon, the horses patiently waiting...a Chinese woman
inside...Culembach would be furious, not only because of the money, but out
of jealousy; neither he nor any other man of Karl August's acquaintance,
however much they might boast of their experiences, had ever possessed a
Van Dollart grinned at him, showing tobacco-stained teeth.
"Will you please come and take her? I want to be on my way."
Karl August preceded the Dutchman into the summer sun; he was considering
the sumptuous, exquisite effects he would achieve with his new possession,
how delicately she would be lodged in the pagoda of peacock blue tiles, in
the pavilion of green and yellow lacquer, and how tastefully he would adorn
her from his store of jade, rock crystal, onyx, malachite, rose quartz,
enamelled gold and filigree silver.
As they descended the steps the Dutchman said with dull malice:
"She is not alone."
"She has a servant? I told you to provide that."
"No. There is some one I had to bring with her from China."
Karl August paused on the step and looked up; with his hand on his hip,
his black hair yet undressed, curling on his shoulders, and his air of swift
action impetuously arrested, he seemed like the model for one of the heroic
gaudy statues behind him, who flaunted stone plumes into the rich air.
"Who have you brought?" he demanded. "I thought I could trust you, Van
"The person who is with her," replied the slow Dutchman, "is better able
to look after her than anyone I could have supplied. As a Papist, you will
"As a Papist?" The stare of Aspremont Reckheim was contemptuous for the
"It is a nun."
"A Christian nun?"
Van Dollart grinned with delight at the impasse before the detested
"Truly a Papish nun. There is a missionary station at Chuchow. They try to
convert the heathen. I don't grudge them the name of good women."
The Dutchman licked over his words, considering with relish the dark face
turned on him with such angry expectancy.
"One of them was abroad on her errands when she saw us taking the Chinese
lady away. And followed. She marched after us to Hangchow. She tried to
rescue the Chinese lady. I prevented that, but I couldn't make her leave, she
stayed with her day and night."
"And you allowed it?" asked Karl August fiercely.
"My men would not interfere, they thought they had done enough. There was
a manner of superstition about it, though one was a heathen and the other a
"But I thought you had more resource?"
"Resource? I should have had to kill one of them to get them apart. You
can do that yourself."
Karl August was not so exasperated as the Dutchman had hoped to see him;
his flash of wrath passed; as violence (unchecked, unpunished) was always in
his power, he had not yet met a situation with which he could not deal. He
descended the stone stairs, leaving the heavy Dutchman behind, and stood
before the covered waggon. Cornelis eyed him with stolid curiosity, the
Germans were all humility, one drew the blue curtains. Karl August was so
eager to see the Chinese woman that he scarcely concerned himself about the
nun; but, as they were seated side by side, he could not observe one without
observing the other.
The Chinese woman was very beautiful, exactly like those ladies in
lacquer, porcelain, rice-paper painting, carved stone and ivory already in
his possession; she was pale, pallid gold in complexion, with ebony eyes and
hair and a smooth small vermilion mouth, her robe was dead-leaf brown and
flecked with those broken lines used by Chinese artists to represent cracking
ice; two pins of lapis lazuli were in her glossy locks; the nun wore the garb
(rather soiled) of the Ursulines; Karl August saw at once that she was French
"Is it possible?" she asked, "that you are General Aspremont Reckheim, the
instigator of this heartless outrage?"
"I am indeed. Captain Van Dollart has, no doubt, informed you."
"Everything." The nun spoke more in compassion than indignation. "You have
actually spent a fortune to abduct this unhappy creature from her home and
country, and for what purpose?"
"Merely to complete my collection of Chinese rarities."
The nun gave him a challenging look; he had the impression that she was a
woman of some experience, and might if a bigot, prove difficult, but he did
not greatly concern himself about her because he was so enraptured with the
Chinese woman who, for her part, neither spoke nor moved.
He begged them to alight and they obeyed, the Chinese woman responding to
a touch from the nun; the covered waggon with the curtains now drawn moved
away, the Dutchman staring back with a sombre curiosity and a sulky
Never had Karl August viewed any dearly-bought treasure with such
satisfaction (and he had had his moments of delicious achievement) as he now
felt on gazing at the Chinese woman; he was even grateful to the nun for
giving her company and protection; nothing, he began to consider, more
suitable could have been devised, and he would be willing to return the
zealous missionary to China at his own cost.
He conducted them to the Chinese pavilion which he called after the
fashion of the day, Bagatelle, and there suggested that the nun should
take refuge in one of the convents at Salzburg until she felt inclined to
journey back to Chuchow.
The nun declined to leave her charge.
"She is neither a slave nor a toy, monseigneur."
"I happen to have bought her, madame."
With that pity which, with her, took the place of scorn the nun informed
him that a human being could not be traded, and that the Chinese woman was a
princess, a person of education and culture, that her family would be in
grief and desperate mourning for her, and that she herself, during the
tiresome voyage by land and sea and land again, had endured every possible
discomfort and alarm, "Consoled only by my company, monseigneur."
Karl August, with folded arms, leaning inside the pavilion door, listened
while the nun pleaded the cause of the Chinese lady who showed no concern,
but stood meekly, her hands in her sleeves.
"The least that you can do, monseigneur, is to return her to her home. I
am willing to accompany her to Chuchow."
"Why," he asked, "do you take such a considerable interest in a heathen, a
creature held to be of less account than the heretics who are slaughtered
like rats in Hungary?"
"She is a woman," replied the nun, "and for your deeds of violence of
which you boast, may God forgive you!"
"You try my patience," said Karl August, "the Chinese woman is mine and I
shall do as I please with her. I intend you no harm, but do not provoke me. I
command much power."
"But I more," the nun defied him, "God, the Pope, and the Emperor are
Karl August was slightly uneasy at this; he reflected that the three
personages she had mentioned were all bigots, and that he owed his own high
fortunes to the fact that he had assumed bigotry; no slight to the Church was
ever tolerated in the Empire.
"If you attempt any harm to this noble maiden," added the nun gently, "you
will bring on yourself the retribution for all your crimes."
Karl August considered this amusing, but tiresome; he asked the nun if she
understood Chinese: "if so, demand of the woman if she cannot be content
"I speak very little Chinese, but I can assure you that she will die of a
broken heart and home-sickness."
Karl August returned to the château, considering how he should, with some
decorum, be rid of the nun. The situation was almost stupid, almost touched
him with ridicule...he cursed Van Dollart...the man was either a fool or
malicious...the nun must go before Culembach knew of her presence...the
Chinese woman must appear at the supper where and when he claimed his bet.
Meanwhile he sent down to the pavilion a palanquin containing all the Chinese
garments and ornaments that he had been for years collecting and gave
instructions for the Chinese woman to be elegantly maintained. So occupied
was he with these affairs and with thinking of his new acquisition that he
forgot his rendezvous at the chase until the hunt swept up to his door,
Culembach calling out to him for a laggard, and the horns blowing in jolly
fashion of reproach.
Culembach's sister, Hedwig Sophia, rode up and down the gravelled space
where the covered waggon had rested. Karl August came out on to the winged
staircase to answer her greeting; he was to marry her in six weeks' time and
since Van Dollart's visit he had forgotten it; warm-coloured, yellow-haired,
voluptuous, Hedwig Sophia smiled under her cockaded hat, waved her
whip—had he not recalled the rendezvous of the chase? She loved him and
this showed in her looks and gestures, she cared nothing for his reputation
nor his wealth. She was infatuated with the man himself; she was a widow and
had learnt toleration of male failings; she was very jealous but even more
prudent; rather than weary her lover she had resolved to endure his
Hastily he joined the chase, excusing himself with Van Dollart's
visit—"some new fangles from the East."
"Anything for me?" smiled Hedwig Sophia.
"Everything for you," he lied agreeably. They rode fast, side by side,
down the wide allée; he wanted to marry his companion but he was
thinking of the Chinese woman and considering that he might delay his
marriage so as to have more leisure with his new mistress...perhaps he would
take her to Vesprim and enthrone her in the ice grottoes or amid the village
of dwarfs—or even build her another pavilion there and a grove of
silver birch trees. At the first courteous opportunity he outrode Hedwig
Sophia and came up with her brother who was leading the chase through the
park of beech and chestnut; he told him that Van Dollart had brought the
Chinese woman safe as a pearl shut in an oyster from Chuchow to Halstadt,
trust the sly, grim Puritan Dutchman, eh?
Culembach was chagrined; though a reigning prince he was not rich and the
wager was high; he laughed and tried to undervalue the prize—a small,
yellow, shrunken creature, he knew...such a one had been found abandoned in
the Turkish camp outside Buda...Hesse Darmstadt had been infatuate with her,
but for his part, he preferred to have his monstrosities in porcelain. "And,
look you, Reckheim, I'll see her before I pay."
"She is beautiful," asserted Karl August, with a confidence odious to the
other. "And most rare, different from any other woman you ever saw. I would
not take for her twice what I paid. Chinese, not African or Turk, like the
egg-shell paste of Te-Hua, where the pink is fused from gold. To-morrow
evening you shall see her, she is no more than seventeen and, in her own
country, a princess."
Immediately he returned from the chase Karl August, refusing the
invitation of Hedwig Sophia to ride home with her, hastened to the pavilion
called Bagatelle, in the Chinese garden. Lamps of porcelain and
lacquer had been lit in the lattice windows; their thin, fine light made long
elegant shadows from the delicate leaves of young bamboo and yellow maple;
the twilight was hushed and luscious. Karl August peered through the
curtains, the Chinese woman was within, she had arrayed herself in one of the
robes, coral red, orange-yellow; she had made herself tea in one of his
services of Wu Ts'ai or five-colour ware with ruby-backed plates, she had set
a branch of pearl-colour maple in one of his bronze vases, and appeared at
home and happy; her hands, moving in the wide blue satin sleeves, were like
flowers drifting on water, opening and closing in a kind breeze; they were
the hue of pale clover honey; where the shadow stole over her throat it was
the warm tint of amber; dark gold appeared in her eyes and hair where the
light burnished the black lustre; her mouth had the fresh, dewy redness of a
petal plucked as it unfolds in early summer from the bud. Karl August did not
enter the pavilion; the nun was seated inside the door; her habit appeared
grotesque among those Eastern trifles, her face appeared old, ugly, sad,
compared with the face of the Chinese woman; as Karl August left
Bagatelle he noticed that a wooden crucifix had been fastened over the
curved horns hung with bells, at the entrance. He began to be more uneasy,
disturbed by sensations new to him; it was remarkable that he, who had
committed so many lawless acts of violence, could not now commit another; it
would really be easy to force away the nun; he was not, he assured himself,
superstitious, and he did not believe in God—scandal could be avoided;
why, then, this detestable hesitation?
He passed a disagreeable night; his mind dwelt most curiously on the
Chinese woman; he believed she could give new variety to an emotion he had
almost staled, she was more than beautiful, she had some magic...
When a flying post brought news from Vesprim of a revolt among the
heretics, Karl August was an angry man; he declared that the Emperor's
business could wait until he had finished his own and sent orders to his
lieutenant to burn and slay without pause or mercy. To punish himself for his
cowardice he kept away from the pavilion; but he sent an order to the nun
that the Chinese woman must be sent up to the château that evening to sit
beside him at his supper-table. The nun's reply was submissive, "But if she
is not returned by eight o'clock I shall come to fetch her."
Karl August raged because he could not have the insolent woman removed;
sulky and violent he meditated a revenge that would be the sterner for being
deferred; he knew himself capable of complete cruelty; his uneasiness
There were six gentlemen at the supper, companions in arms and pleasures.
The windows were open on to the monstrous moon, the melody of caged
nightingales, on the voices of Siennese boys singing to zithers, and on the
steady, recurrent splash of a fountain that was as monotonous as a
The decoration of the room was Chinese. White satin on walls, and chairs
with tiny figures of mandarins, a plum-coloured carpet with blue dragons
petalled like chrysanthemums, a table of cinnabar lacquer the work of two
generations, a hanging lamp of inlaid ivory and shell, services of egg-shell
porcelain, sang-de-boeuf, Lang-Yao, and flambé or red copper
glaze; some of the priceless curiosities "The Water Dog" had brought, packed
among the coffee, tea, pepper and spices in her hold, to Amsterdam. An
aromatic odour still clung to these delicate objects; the air was perfumed
with cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and attar of roses; in contrast to this exotic
elegance the six guests showed robust and hearty, with their fair, red faces,
their curled, powdered hair, their bright coloured velvet and satin coats,
their Paris paste and steel appointments cut to a diamond glitter.
The Chinese woman entered, carried in her palanquin; she could not stand
for more than a moment on her tiny feet in the slippers stitched with
sequins; she was placed carefully, as if she had been a doll, beside
Aspremont Reckheim; the gentlemen all gazed eagerly at this curiosity; they
were really not sure that she was alive. Her quilted outer robe of sea-green
silk being removed by Karl August showed her dress of festival gold, a massed
design of webs and blossoms in bullion threads, her sash of azure satin,
stiffened with silver wires, her necklets of white jade, of smoked crystal,
of scarlet cords with beads of rose quartz, tourmaline and chrysolite; above
the smooth black billows of her hair quivered metallic flowers of silver,
copper and gold, which appeared finer than nature in filaments, pistils and
petals that stirred with the least movement. All of the guests had travelled
and each possessed a closet of curiosities, but none of them had ever seen
any rarity like this wonder.
She bowed, and then spoke.
A little cascade of meaningless sound soft, mellow as drowsy notes from
the soft-plumed throat of a bird, fell from her vermilion lips; she bowed
again, folded her hands into her sleeves, was silent.
They murmured surprise, admiration, envy; Culembach had his rix dollars
bond ready; he slipped it along the table. Karl August pocketed it without
satisfaction; he was tormented by the desire to know what the Chinese woman
thought and felt, to possess her mind and soul as well as her person; never
had he heard anything so tantalizing as that soft incomprehensible speech; he
had never failed, one way or another with a woman before, but now he was
baffled; he glowered where he should have been triumphant. And before the
Lang-Yao clock struck eight he sent her away because of the intolerable nun,
who would, he was sure, keep her word.
Culembach lingered after the others had gone; Karl August scowled at the
continued intrusion; he wanted to go down to the pavilion which would be
glittering in the moonshine...he had other treasures to give her, a bracelet
of yellow jade, a bowl of alabaster so fine as to be transparent, a box of
vermilion orange lacquer...perhaps, if he put these before her she would
speak again in that meaningless and enchanting language.
The Margraf of Culembach began to praise the Chinese lady...he offered to
"As a dilettante?" asked Karl August.
"As a man," said Culembach.
Karl August refused to consider any offer; Culembach said that he would
give more than money; his Arab-Polish horse called "La Folie," who was
the most perfectly trained animal in the Empire, his pair of bleu de
roi Sèvres vases which had taken three years to paint. As Karl August
remained contemptuous Culembach offered his summer palace in the mountains
that the other had often envied. On receiving an abrupt refusal the Margraf,
a short-tempered man, purpled in the face; the two parted in dislike of each
other; this was the first time that Karl August had quarrelled with the
brother of Hedwig Sophia. The Margraf's offers had put the final value on the
Chinese woman; she was indeed priceless; her owner could think of nothing for
which he would surrender her. Yet he allowed the days to pass without
disturbing her, because of the nun, because of some sacred magic which
enclosed her, because of something in himself? Was he being drawn into a new
unimagined world? He did not know; he became melancholy, moody, yet excited
and violent; if only he could discover what the Chinese woman was thinking,
if she was happy, if he could make her happy, what she was saying when she
bowed and spoke sweetly, rapidly. Every day he visited her and sat, brooding,
on a divan, while he watched her; the nun was always present and he had
ceased to resent this; he gave the Chinese woman a little zither and she
played on it thin melodies of heartbreaking sadness. The greatest pleasure of
Karl August was, however, to watch her unperceived, to linger hidden among
the maples and bamboos while she walked by the pond or sang at her window, or
drank tea, or played with a white cat.
Culembach rode over frequently and tried to bargain for what he called
this bibelot de prix. He also seemed fascinated by the Chinese woman
whom, however, he had only seen once; the two men began to detest each other;
the Margraf pointed out that General Aspremont Reckheim's post was in
Hungary—what leave had he to linger in Salzburg, while there was a
revolt in his command?
Hedwig Sophia came too frequently to Halstadt; Karl August suspected her
brother of making trouble; the lady longed too often to be taken to the
pavilion, the pagoda, and on excuse or refusal became too sweetly submissive.
She knew, of course, from her brother, about the Chinese woman and she was
sick with terror lest she should lose her lover; she was afraid of his
abstracted air, his gloomy indifference to her caresses, his dark, sullen
face; she wished to marry him and go to Hungary to quell the rebellion, to
please him she would have witnessed the slaughter of hundreds of heretics,
but Karl August suspended all his affairs.
He gradually made a confidante of the nun; she was of his own world and
intelligent; she appeared to like him, she was at least very tolerant; he
endeavoured to discover from her every scrap of information about the Chinese
woman...her mind, her nature, her habits, what she believed, or wished, or
The nun knew very little; she could not, save for a word or two,
understand her companion's speech, but she always declared that she was very
home-sick; at night she would weep and pray to a little crystal image which
to Aspremont Reckheim was a toy, but to her a god.
Always the nun ended:
"You must assuredly send her home, monseigneur, it is your only chance to
palliate a great wrong. No doubt you acted more in wantonness than malice,
but now you understand that you have not bought a carving or a jewel, but a
"Give me some credit," Karl August would reply bitterly, "that I have not
The nun had a smile for that.
"You cannot. You do not dare."
The haughty, violent man raged. He stared at himself in many mirrors; he
had always disliked his person, inherited from a defeated people he had
betrayed; no powder could efface that black hair, no art alter those straight
fine features, no imperial uniform make him appear of the conquering race. A
Magyar, one with those he crushed and slew...he had burnt a church once with
a hundred worshippers within, and watched while his troopers thrust the
wretches back into the flames...every face shrieking to death had been like
his face...detestable, and giving him the air of a renegade. He passionately
wished he was like Culembach, the dominant Northern stock...who did he appear
to the Chinese woman?
She remained unchanged; patiently she waited through the luscious autumn
days. The lilies on the pond withered, the bamboos and maples shed their
leaves, the sunshine took a mellower tinge; in meek resignation the Chinese
woman waited; only her songs became more plaintive, her music the melody of
an exile, and her slanting eyes glittered with tears as she prayed to her
"Send her home before the winter," said the nun.
"Sell her to me," insisted Culembach.
"Marry me," implored Hedwig Sophia.
While the Emperor's commands came stern from Vienna:
"Go immediately to Hungary."
Aspremont Reckheim did none of these things. He was entirely, and, for the
first time in his life, occupied with his own soul; he ascended to stormy
heights and grovelled in murky depths; all his possessions became earthly
baubles, the wind in the bare trees at night was of peculiar importance; the
sight of the moon touched him to nothingness, and the vapourous sunshine was
bitter-sweet to agony; he was in full pursuit of something flying beyond his
reach, a chase that would snatch him off the globe into darkness, for what he
sought was hidden surely beyond the farthest star.
Culembach one evening penetrated the Chinese garden; he only saw all the
lattices of the pavilion flicked down and heard the mournful note of a
zither; but Karl August posted a guard of his own regiment round the Oriental
With the waning of October came the news of the sacking of his château at
Vesprim; the rebels had broken into his costly grounds, smashed the pyramid,
lit bonfires in the grottos, kicked to pieces the ice caves, set free the
dwarfs in the village. These tiny monsters had frolicked up to the mansion
and, mad with liberty, destroyed all they could discover, then drunk
themselves to death amid shards of porcelain, tatters of silk and fragments
of gilt wood. The rabble had cracked the cedar-wood chapel as if it had been
a nut; angels, saints and crucifixes were tumbled out to be trampled into the
parterres of the coronary garden. At night the flames of Vesprim appeared to
smite the moon; blood, bones, and the value of a million rix dollars were
Close on this news Hedwig Sophia rode to Halstadt, her mood beyond
subterfuge or prudence.
"Why do you linger? See what has befallen. There was no such palace save
"I can build another," he replied sternly, "if I am not too old for
Golden, rosy, flushed, distracted with emotion, Hedwig Sophia passionately
"Playthings? You think of nothing else. You are a fool for this Chinese
"You know of her, then?"
"Oh, am I imbecile? Theodor, also, is obsessed by her—what is it? I
have suffered it long enough...Do you not think of me at all? Do you not
think of your duty? You will be ruined, disgraced, if you do not go to
Striking her hand with her riding whip Hedwig Sophia trembled in the rich
"For a Chinese woman!" she cried.
"She is not my mistress," he said dryly. "I cannot even speak to her. I
have never touched her."
Amazed and frightened, Hedwig Sophia asked: "Why?"
"I do not know."
"But you keep her there, hidden at Bagatelle? Theodor heard her
"He'll not again. Yes, I keep her there, immaculate. She is like nothing
you could imagine, Hedwig. I cannot speak of it."
"But you love me." Hedwig Sophia was hurried into open avowal of her pain.
"This is a whim, it can, it must be dispelled. We will go together to Hungary
and regain what you have lost."
"I have lost nothing," mused Karl August.
"You have lost me," retorted the passionate woman, "and I was something to
Very little; how women overestimated themselves! He could not tell her
that, nor how many fair women, soft, easy, there were in the world, very
ready to the hand of a man like himself. Her rank prevented Hedwig Sophia
from knowing how ordinary she was; she pleaded with him hopelessly; she
really believed the man bewitched, and though she loved him no less for that
she endeavoured to sting him with taunts.
"How can you dally here? You must be a scorn at Vienna—nothing will
save you if you do not go at once—I could not marry an idler—or,
is it a coward?"
"Tell your brother to come and ask that," he suggested, thinking he would
relish an opportunity to quarrel violently with Culembach.
"I will, oh, I will!"
She flung away; he thought he could hear her angry sobbing long after she
had gone; he was indifferent to her suffering, she was pampered, selfish,
cruel, as he had been.
The posts from Buda and an Express from Vesprim waited in his
antechambers while he was closeted with the nun; he had sent for her from the
pavilion, which he had not visited for several days; a faint blue haze lay
over the park; the nun warmed cold fingers at the frost-clear fire.
General Aspremont Reckheim stood with his hands clasped behind him; he
wore a careless civilian dress and had neglected to pomade the black locks
that he detested.
The nun smiled at him pleasantly; her face was peaked and thin between the
folds of linen; she stooped slightly, some small dead leaves clung to the hem
of her grey robe.
"You have held out against me a long time," he said.
The nun continued to smile.
"I love the Chinese woman," said Karl August.
"Then you will send her home, of course?"
"You do not love her, Monseigneur."
"It is terrible how I love her—I cannot endure to see her because my
thoughts of her torment me so. I meant the affair for a jest, for a caprice,
to win a wager and a little mistress for a while. I have been horribly
The nun considered him with pity.
"Yes, that is how it happens. One does lightly a wicked deed and it closes
on one's soul like a vice."
"I have done worse things," he replied, "and never heeded them."
"Perhaps this is the punishment for them all, Monseigneur."
"It is enough," he sighed. "She is so hemmed in that I cannot approach
her...hedged about—what with?"
"I have overcome that before."
"You have laid a spell round her." He tried to smile. "You have conquered.
I will marry her."
The nun shook her head.
"She is not a Christian."
"I will have her baptized; I will give her my mother's name."
"She would not understand. She does not care for you. She only longs for
her home. If you keep her she will die."
"I would not let her die. I can make women happy and I love her so
"Then, certainly you will return her to Chuchow. Love has only one way,
Monseigneur, it serves, it does not think of self; either," added the nun,
"you use a word you do not understand, or you know what I mean."
Karl August looked away.
"What should I do when she was gone?"
"Take up your duty. Return to Hungary and endeavour to obtain justice and
mercy for the rebels and heretics your kinspeople."
"It is too difficult. I cannot part with her and I'll not tolerate them.
You are defeated."
"Not I, but you, General Reckheim."
He dismissed her; with a sweep of his wide cuff and heavy ruffles he
knocked over all the stupid trifles on his bureau, splinters of egg-shell
porcelain scattered on the carpet; he stamped on them while the posts
For three days he was shut in his rooms; at nights the frosts fell and the
dawns were slow and heavy; a despatch from the Emperor awaited his pleasure;
another week's delay and he would be superseded in his command; Culembach
wrote violently demanding explanation, satisfaction for an insulted sister;
all this was chaff in the wind to Aspremont Reckheim. He went down through
the still cold, the bare park to the withered winter-bitten Chinese garden
where the pavilion showed stark amid the desolation of the trees; the
brilliant tiles were rimed with frost which had melted in drops of moisture
on the bells above the horned gate, there was no sound of zither or
"How has this come on me who was so sure of myself? I, who did not know of
the unattainable, to be overcome by desire I I, who was always resolute, to
be thus baffled I I shall never know her heart or her mind, or what she said
in her lovely language; she will never lead me into the world where she
He did not cross the confines of her domain, but, returning to the
château, sent a letter to the nun:
Take the Chinese woman back, command my means. I leave for
And he thought: "When they are gone I will have the Chinese gardens, the
pavilion and the pagoda demolished—and never again will I trade with
General Aspremont Reckheim appeared in the full accoutrements that he had
so long put aside, and rode at the head of the troop of horse he was leading
to the Imperial headquarters near the ruins of Vesprim. The wan day had
wasted to the bleached grey of twilight; the dark soldier saw nothing but a
mist-bound horizon; his companions rode apart, awed by his grim air of gloom;
he had not reached the limits of the estate before he was overtaken by a
Heyduck with a bruised face, urging an exhausted horse; his panted news,
gasped out as his master drew rein, was brief.
"The Margraf has carried off the Chinese woman."
This was to Karl August as if the scornful hand of God had, out of the
menacing sky, struck him one blow...and sufficient.
"They surprised us, five hundred men—the Princess Hedwig Sophia was
there—the instant, sir, you had departed."
Karl August turned back at the gallop; by using three relays he arrived at
Culembach's château by nightfall.
No one thwarted his entrance; he believed that some catastrophe beyond
violence had occurred; he had outridden his company and entered the house
alone; room after room was empty and quiet; he would not call her because he
did not know her name; in a high ornate chamber he found the nun, very weary,
and praying; she saw his face and said:
"You must not kill them. They have been very gentle. Besides, it was too
late. She would never have reached home; she was dying."
With her old, tired gait she preceded him to the next room.
The Chinese woman was on a sofa; Culembach and Hedwig gazed at her in
silence, holding hands for company in their guilt; Karl August did not see
them or their misery; he knelt beside the sofa and said words he had never
said before, save falsely.
"Forgive me, for God's sake, forgive me!"
The Chinese woman sat up and looked at him; she bowed, she spoke directly
to him, a low murmur of delicate sound. He was sure that she spoke only to
him not to the nun; never would he know what she said; she could not speak
for long, for she was occupied with the matter of dying. She bowed again and
turned to her repose; she seemed to fold herself together, like a flower,
furled petal by petal round a dead heart.
Never would his pursuit overtake her, never would she teach him her
speech, nor admit him to that world which he now knew of and must ever weary
after; never could she relieve his desolation.
Dead, she appeared no more than a toy, Bagatelle, an Eastern puppet
on the coquettish sofa. Karl August looked inwards and found detestable
company; himself grinning in loneliness.
FIVE MUSICAL THEMES
A FLOURISH FOR DRUMS
With an accompaniment for trumpets set for the Imperial
Army of the Czar of All the Russias under Prince Zadikov at the Château
Brockenstein. [BOHEMIA, 18th Century.]
Miss Pettigrew was familiar with Europe and Europe was tolerably familiar
with Miss Pettigrew; she had permitted herself every indulgence save an
indiscretion; those who knew most about her, applauded her the most
warmly—for tact, elegance and an inflexible courage, concealed behind
the most becoming air of timidity; those who knew least about her, admired
her for a great lady whose dignity was never flecked with blame; all who knew
anything of her, conceded her greater gifts than her too celebrated beauty;
she never forgot any circumstance, however trifling, and she never lost her
composure in any event, however disturbing. She was extremely well-bred and
so finely trained that she never allowed any of her lovers to discover that
she was an intelligent woman; she knew, exquisitely well, how to give an
enchanting air of caprice to the most adroitly conceived plan, how to beggar
a man negligently as if she had no idea of the value of money, and how to
confer her favours with an air of sweet, overwhelmed reluctance, as if she
succumbed for the first and last time; she had a high sense of honour, but
this, masked behind the laughing grimace of folly, was a masculine code; that
of her own sex, from her early years, she had found trivial and inconvenient.
Her secret regret was that she had never met a man quite worthy of her
talents; no one with that right mingling of honour and humour, grace and
spirit, to deal with her exactly as she was, no more and no less than
Miss Pettigrew had been visiting the Electoral Court of Dresden and had
found it rather dull; the most interesting portion of the population was at
the war; Miss Pettigrew discovered the time was long between the opening of
the campaigns and the closing, when the troops came into winter quarters and
made the cities lively. With unperturbed good spirits, however, she retired
with the Ursins Trainel to their château of Brockenstein between the darkness
of the Bohemian forests and the brightness of the river Moldau. Like thunder
on a midsummer day the distant bolts of war rattled in the background of a
fête champêtre; Ursins Trainel was an old man, his wife timid, the
others of the household were servants; rumours began to deaden the air with
panic, refugees pressed against the haughty scrolls of the iron gates of the
Park, crept to sleep in the wide allées, and begged for bread at the doors of
the château; refugees from Silesia...
Prince Zadikov, the commander of the troops of the Czar of All the
Russias, putting under his heel a rebellious Poland, striking a rebellious
Silesia, was advancing to face the Circle of Franconia in Munich; with every
flash of news that came, fear grew more horrible at Brockenstein; the Ursins
Trainel had no interest in the tedious war, but they were technically enemies
of Russia...if Zadikov should chance to march that way...no one knew his
objective...if it was Munich, then Brockenstein lay directly in his path; M.
d'Ursins Trainel was faced with the alternative of abandoning his property,
his peasants, his dignity, or risking a visit from Zadikov.
This general had the worst of reputations; cruel, unscrupulous,
implacable, extravagant..."a Tartar, in one word," said M. d'Ursins Trainel,
sitting gloomily in his great shadowed salon and drinking tea from a cup of
powder blue; the small agitated company began to decry Zadikov; there was no
crime they did not charge to his account, no vice with which he was not
Miss Pettigrew sat at a desk slightly apart; her wardrobe was a little
depleted; she was making a list for her next visit to Paris: a roll of
watered bronze silk for a cloak, a pair of green velvet slippers, a garland
of jasmine flowers in pearls...She looked up to listen to what they were
exclaiming, in terror and rage, of Zadikov.
"They say he plays the harpsichord exquisitely," she remarked, "I should
like to hear him."
"The man is—beyond our discussion," declared M. d'Ursins Trainel
coldly, "there is nothing detestable that he has not done—"
"I hear he has good manners," said Miss Pettigrew, reflectively. "I should
like to see him."
"You may have the opportunity," replied one of the ladies drily, "and then
you would repent your wish—though you have always been slightly
enamoured of the Devil—"
"He is, at least, grand seigneur," remarked Miss Pettigrew, "while
le bon Dieu—eh, a pity that the Almighty never understood good
"I fear you have no soul, Miss Pettigrew, possibly no heart," sighed
Madame d'Ursins Trainel, "you put virtue at a discount."
"Because it has done so much harm," smiled Miss Pettigrew, "encouraged ill
manners, muddy complexions and sour speeches...virtue, eh? What is it but an
invention of those who have nothing else to boast of?"
While they conversed there came further news of Zadikov—the worst;
he was marching straight on Brockenstein with his Russian and Imperial troops
(for the campaign, at least, the Emperor leagued with the Czar), his
Cossacks, Uhlans, Black Cuirassiers...a trail of fire, blood and ruin across
Silesia as across Poland; he had crossed the Vistula on pontoons, he would
soon be crossing the Moldau.
"He grows flowers," said Miss Pettigrew, "he will be interested in your
She added to her list: "blue velvet corsets cut very low, saffron silk
garters with knots of coral beads..."
The Château was to be abandoned, every one must fly as best they could,
back into Bavaria, to Munich or Nuremburg; every coach, horse and waggon was
brought out of the stables; the men looked up all guns, powder, swords,
knives; the women ran from room to room, snatching up and packing ornaments
of gold and silver, of fine porcelain and alabaster.
Miss Pettigrew disliked confusion and agitation. She retired to her
chamber; it was a delightful day in September and from her high window she
looked on a voluptuous prospect of shimmering gold—wood, mountain,
river, azure horizon...it would be an evening, a night, such as many vaguely
love but few know how to enjoy...but Miss Pettigrew was an expert in such
delicacies of delight; she leant from the window and allowed the afternoon
breeze that floated from the upper plumes of the airy trees to disturb her
locks of dark English gold...when her hostess hastened in on her she found
her thus with her possessions untouched.
"Are you not packed, Miss Pettigrew? Are you not ready? There is no time,
not a moment! Everyone is departing...most are gone."
"Nay, dear Madame, do not be alarmed. I have never heard of women of our
position being inconvenienced."
"We deal with Zadikov," Madame d'Ursins Trainel spoke in despair. "He sent
a detachment of Cossacks this morning to demand the surrender of Budweis, our
nearest town...we have just heard—they refused."
"Fools!" remarked Miss Pettigrew.
"Fools indeed I The town is unfortified...it will fall in half an
hour...the Cossacks returned to Zadikov with the threat to pillage the entire
country...he will make his headquarters here...Eh, Mon Dieu! come at
"I have seen a pillaged town," said the English lady thoughtfully. "I
remember it very well—those crazy wretches in Budweis—children,
too, and old people...I might have had daughters myself."
Madame d'Ursins Trainel did not listen to this, she was weeping.
"The Burgomaster is here, he has repented his obstinacy and is imploring
us to help him; we can do nothing but advise the inhabitants of Budweis to
fly with us—"
"Such as have horses or carts," smiled Miss Pettigrew, "I believe the
Russians are in excellent condition—how long before they overtook this
"They must take their fortune!" cried Madame d'Ursins Trainel, distracted.
"Do you come and not waste your time."
"I will follow you," replied Miss Pettigrew, to be rid of her. The lady
fled, and, in the hurry of her mischances, forgot her foreign guest; Miss
Pettigrew called her maid; the girl had gone. Miss Pettigrew herself took
from the wardrobe a shift of Indian mull worked with a million white flowers,
transparent as a breath of vapour, and a holster pistol inlaid with ivory
which had belonged to her father, slain at Philipsbourg; she placed both on
her bed and went downstairs; in a short space of time the tumult had stilled;
everyone had left the château. From a window on the stairway Miss Pettigrew
could see the procession of coaches, of carts, of horses, winding along the
high road towards Bavaria; their laborious overladen progress gave them a
depressed and defeated air; not every one had left the château. In the salon
where lately they had been drinking tea sat the Burgomaster of
Budweis—a man overwhelmed by disaster; but he had had the fortitude not
to follow the others; he had remained to face the consequences of his own
folly; few, thought Miss Pettigrew, can do more.
He rose, the stout elderly man, amazed at the appearance of a lady in the
château he had believed so swiftly deserted, stood stammering, for an
"There is none," Miss Pettigrew reassured him. "I dislike hurried
journeys—they have overlooked my absence, no one is of importance in a
panic. You, sir, retire to Budweis—?"
"You remain here—alone?"
"My fancies make a crowded company. Why were you so imprudent as to refuse
to surrender the town?"
"I was badly advised...the burghers were afraid of their property..."
"And now must be afraid for their lives."
"Alas! if I could die for all—"
"You cannot. Budweis will be sacked to-morrow, unless—"
"Unless?" he demanded, eager at the sparkle of hope in her words.
"Prince Zadikov should prove merciful."
The Burgomaster began sorrowfully to relate some of the cruel stories
current about the Russian; Miss Pettigrew interrupted:
"Eh, we all have our legends! Perhaps I can save Budweis."
"You! Pardon me, but you! You remain here...?"
"To meet this Tartar, this monster, this dragon...Compose yourself, sir,
and return to Budweis to tell your citizens to hope."
"Pardon me again, Madame, but what do you know of Zadikov?"
"That he is an expert in music—in flowers—we shall have points
of contact—the décor, too, the evening, how exquisite! The man
must have some sensibility."
The Burgomaster did not quite understand what the lady meant, but he
gathered courage from her beauty, her resolute air, her serenity.
"It is a tradition of Budweis," he faltered, "that in the ancient days it
was saved from a ravening beast by a virgin martyr—"
Miss Pettigrew kept a smile from her eyes.
"I hope Prince Zadikov will be no more a ravening beast than I am a...a
martyr," she replied gravely, not to offend the old man's simplicity. "Now,
sir, return to Budweis."
"Shall I not send you some women...at least?"
"Mon Dieu!" murmured Miss Pettigrew, with recollection of some of
the good wives of Budweis, "tell them to keep within their walls."
She got rid of him, saw him riding away amazed on his mule, and returned
to the emptiness of the château...a virgin martyr She laughed, not without
irony and her face became serious; she had experienced so much, the rise and
break of passion, the ebb and flow of emotion, the smooth conveniency of
compromise, the surge of rebellion, the look of disillusion in her own
mirrored eyes the moment before satiety when disgust must be strangled at
birth, the moment before consummation when some gorgeous hope must be
foregone—she had learnt so much, balance, humour, grace, tolerance, to
overlay the tedious years with rich trifles, to enjoy every possible beauty
and delight, to keep her dignity immaculate. She had evolved a philosophy and
morality in one: miss no pleasure, weary no one and allow no one to weary
you, be an epicure in your indulgences...never confess and never
repent...flee boredom as the most deadly of the sins...She had not always had
as pleasant a background as this, so many clothes in her trunks, so much
money in her pockets...she had known her reverses, like Zadikov...she, like
him, had been sometimes in retreat, and would be again in full flight one
day, before the enemy tracing wrinkles in her face and fading the dark amber
of her hair...but, to-day—"Perhaps," said Miss Pettigrew, "we can both
She was not alone in the chateau; a negress waited in the corridor, seated
on a stool between two gilt model cannon and caressing a silver deerhound;
the lady remembered her for doing her a kindness, when Madame d'Ursins
Trainel had chided her for laziness; the creature was faithful, then...She
looked up at Miss Pettigrew with tears in her handsome eyes and caught the
end of her scarf, imploring to be permitted to stay; she, of all of them, had
noticed that the English woman had remained in the chateau.
"Poor Corinne," said Miss Pettigrew, "certainly you may stay—there
is nothing to be afraid of—the dog, too?"
Yes, the dog was loyal to the negress; he had refused to leave her; they
looked charming, the lady thought—Corinne, strong and graceful, her
bronze body wrapped in a glittering scarlet tissue, an agraffe of yellow
plumes bound to her black curls, the hound fine and light as a curling
feather, pale as a moonbeam.
Miss Pettigrew reflected.
"The salon shows signs of disorder, see to that, Corinne; we must be
clever and leave nothing to chance. Then you will see what they have left in
the house and prepare some supper—set it out, wine and fruit, as
elegantly as possible, set it out in the salon."
The negress sprang up, eager and delighted at being used; Miss Pettigrew
directed her to arrange the great room that opened so nobly on the terraces
and the steps; here a chair overturned, there a vase toppled down, a tapestry
awry, a couch upset, a screen fallen, all soon deftly arranged, and the
beautiful harpsichord painted with garlands of tender amorini and
stately laurels opened, and set in place; fresh candles put in the lustres
and in the brackets. Before they had completed these adjustments the patrols
of Zadikov were entering the park, frightening the deer, disturbing the cool
silence of the long glades; the sun had disappeared behind the high boughs of
the chestnuts and elms and filled the air with the vaporous glow of unearthly
gold. Miss Pettigrew glanced at herself in the mirror behind the harpsichord;
she had made no alteration in her attire, she appeared as an English
gentlewoman, in grey sarcenet with slim ruffles, her hair but slightly
powdered, her face as it had smiled from the canvas by Mr. Gainsborough when
he had painted her but last year.
The patrols had reported the château deserted; Zadikov and his staff rode
negligently through the park; Zadikov, whose life had been all action,
admired the contrast of this fine repose, the graceful vistas, the flying
deer, the lofty, whispering trees, the fastidious château, elegant behind the
wide terraces and shallow steps, with the fountain in front where a nereid in
marble blew up long jets of water into the azure air. Zadikov and his
officers dismounted. The long windows beyond the terrace stood open as if to
receive them; the Russians ascended the steps, slowly, carelessly, jaded
after the long march. Miss Pettigrew came to the window and looked at them;
she was slightly shortsighted and narrowed her eyes in an effort to discover
which was Zadikov. Perceiving her, the Russians stopped and spoke quickly,
one to another; she guessed what they said—"A trap!" She knew that
Zadikov lived under the constant menace of assassination; she came out on to
the terrace, to the head of the steps, and one man detached himself from the
hesitant group and came straight up to meet her—Zadikov—she knew
him better by that action than by his cords and laces, his orders and
"Prince Zadikov," she said, in French, "I regret that I can only offer you
a poor entertainment, such as it is, you are welcome."
He answered in French as correct as her own.
"Whatever it is, I am grateful, Madame."
His officers were crowding up behind him, as if to threaten and protect;
Miss Pettigrew smiled.
"I regret, Monseigneur, that I cannot receive your friends—I am
inconvenienced by lack of service, of provisions—I am alone in the
"You are alone?" he repeated.
"No, I forgot—there is a negress and a dog—the only creatures
not afraid of you, Prince Zadikov; will you enter?"
He looked at her steadily; he was as well-trained in quick scrutiny as
she; he did not pause but leisurely followed her across the terrace, telling
his officers to wait for him.
"You are French, Madame?"
"Ah—and alone?—here? You knew I was coming..."
"Certainly. And your reputation. I wanted to receive you."
"Seldom have I had a prettier compliment." He entered the great salon,
then filled with golden dusk, following her.
She saw his glance flicker to the large gilt screen behind the supper
table; she had not thought of that, nor of the attempts on his life—it
would be very natural that he should take this for a trap; she could see the
angry suspicious faces of his officers as they, despite his orders, crept
closer to the open windows.
"Will you believe that I am alone here?" she asked courteously. "Will you
accept my company this evening? I know nothing of politics, little of
war—your Highness will risk nothing but—boredom!"
"I am never bored," said Zadikov; he moved so that he stood with his back
to the screen; had there been anyone behind it, he could have been killed
Brave! thought Miss Pettigrew; her blue eyes kindled into a flashing look
that gave a radiant lustre to her charming face; she negligently moved the
screen, revealing the emptiness of the room.
"Your officers are still alarmed for you, Prince Zadikov; will you tell
them to find their quarters elsewhere—there are the farms, the
outbuildings, other houses between here and Budweis."
"You command very well," smiled Zadikov, "and you may command my
leisure—the day is over." He went to the window and spoke to the
officers; Miss Pettigrew saw them reluctantly depart; she smiled to think
that they should be afraid of her who was so utterly in their power—an
army surrounding her complete helplessness.
She asked her guest to be seated; she took from him his hat with the stiff
black cockade, the light cloak covered with autumn dust. She laughed quietly
to see how perfectly he controlled what must be a baffled amazement, with
what audacious readiness he accepted this improbable adventure; some of the
tales she had heard of him ran through her mind; she studied her monster, her
Tartar, her dragon, her ruthless devouring tyrant. The appearance of Gregory
Zadikov gave the lie to these ferocious epithets; he had a charming, slightly
melancholy countenance, devoid of any definite expression, a person more
elegant than powerful, a manner of instinctive magnificence well curbed by
careful good breeding; those who described him as a bearded Muscovite, or a
yellow flat-faced Eastern, were grotesquely wrong; and they forgot what Miss
Pettigrew had always remembered, that he had been educated at Versailles. He
was set off with the most extravagant of military bearing; his hair was as
exactly rolled and pomaded as if he had just left the barber's hands; Miss
Pettigrew had seen many a gentleman at St. James's less precisely ordered
than Zadikov after his march; nor was there any offence in the reserved
scrutiny he gave her; she had read a coarser appraisal of her charms in the
eyes of men of a better reputation.
"Why did you want to know me?" he asked, carelessly on his guard.
"I hear you play the harpsichord divinely," smiled Miss Pettigrew, "I
should like to hear you."
"Who told you that?" he asked. He had faintly coloured, and amused, she
wondered who had last brought the blood to his serene face.
"You grow flowers also, there is one here in the glass-houses I should
like to show you—Corona Imperialis, rare, Monseigneur, if not
Zadikov was pulling off his fringed gloves. When Corinne opened the door
behind him he did not look round; Miss Pettigrew noted that; he had not had
the château searched; did he trust her, or was he outrageously foolhardy? She
hoped the latter; she had always wanted to meet a man worthy of her utmost
art. Corinne lit the candles, soft blooms of mellow light in the tender dusk;
the twilight beyond the windows was a hyacinth azure, the sky above the trees
of an infinite depth of voluptuous purple. Corinne had arranged the supper
exquisitely—a melon in a silver basket, Bon Chrétien pears on a
jade green dish, Venetian glasses with ruby stems, such cold meats and
pasties as she had found in Madame d'Ursins Trainel's larder, fastidiously
set out, wine in long tawny gleaming bottles...
"Have you enjoyed your life, Monseigneur?"
"Immensely; and you, Madame?"
"I also immensely; an evening like this—lovely, is it not?"
Zadikov looked at her earnestly.
"You have a fine taste—a delicate appreciation—of beauty,
"No one has denied me that quality."
"I am not concerned with what others you have—only with that. You
are fastidious in your choice, and neither scruples nor fears would prevent
you taking your choice once you had made it?"
"You read me exactly," he replied; he had lost his artificial look of
composure, and she saw that his eager dark face was beautiful.
"And will read you no further, so much knowledge will serve our brief
"Who are you?"
"Mary Pettigrew, of Waygood Boys, Somerset—but it is a long while
since I was there. Will you take your supper, Prince Zadikov?"
"I cannot," he said, "read you as you do me; no, not even that little
She poured his wine.
"You are married, Monseigneur?"
"Inevitably and inconveniently, Madame."
"My condolences—for the lady."
"You would not be in her place?" he smiled. "No, I do not see you
there—you have never married for you are not a woman—you are an
enchantment," he ended with sudden gravity.
"Take me as that and we shall do very well."
"How can I take you as anything else? One must call in magic to
explain—an unprecedented situation."
He was close to her now, the other side of the small table, and her level
look considered him more keenly; was there not, after all, something
dangerous in that face?—the cheek-bones too high, the lips too full,
the eyes too dark—a savage, perhaps, beneath the brilliant veneer.
"You sack Budweis to-morrow?"
"Yes. Need we talk of it?"
"I ask you to spare the town."
She saw disappointment darken in his glance, as if he had found the
solution of her mystery, and found it commonplace.
"That, then!" he answered, not without an inflection of contempt, "the
mouthpiece of those whining burghers—what you ask is impossible. I have
heard of Deliliah and Judith—I am not to be wrought on, even by an
"I do not try to seduce you," smiled Miss Pettigrew. "Never have I taken
less trouble with any man—I did not even change my gown. I have put
greater pains into pleasing—those less powerful—"
Her eyes became thoughtful; she was recalling a night in Venice, a
rendezvous beneath the Colleoni statue, when she had worn a cavalier's
attire—severe, trim, gaitered, buttoned from toe to chin—but,
afterwards, in the locked chamber of the Capo del Moro she had worn
nothing save a cloud of gauze and diamond garters...Zadikov saw that
reflective look, as if she had forgotten him, and he was piqued.
"And yet you make a monstrous request. What is Budweis to you?"
"Nothing. I am a stranger here. I have scarcely seen the place. I ask you
not to sack Budweis."
"I have promised my soldiers the plunder. That is sufficient."
"Your word is so inviolable? What is one town more or less to you,
"Exactly the same as one lover more or less to you, Madame."
"A trifle, then. And you can let Budweis go?"
"No," smiled Zadikov.
"No?" Miss Pettigrew raised her fine eyebrows. She leant back in her
chair, her hands folded languidly in her lap; twilight and candlelight
fluttered over her in mellow shade and glow, on all her hues of pearl and
amber and rose; she looked past Zadikov at the warmth of the night beyond the
open window where troops, trees and heavens were all hidden in one trembling
depth of blue, the deep blue of hyacinth, of dying summer, of her own
eyes—a little weary, a little veiled by the memory of tears.
Zadikov got to his feet; Miss Pettigrew did not stir; gentle and tranquil
she gazed into the night.
"What would you give me if I spared Budweis?"
"Why did I ask? You could give me nothing I could not take—"
She detected arrogance and impatience in his tone; he had revealed
exasperation and given her an advantage she serenely used.
"I never thought to hear a man of quality speak so crudely! I believed you
were more subtle. Do you think I stayed here to save Budweis? I wanted to
meet you. Do not disappoint me."
"I regret I spoke so—falsely. I know you could give me what no cost
or menace could buy—I am not so barbarous—forgive me."
"I see you will not disappoint me. And when I said 'nothing' I was wrong.
If you will spare Budweis I will give you the new lily, Corona
Triumphalis, Corona Imperialis, which grows very well in the glasshouses
"A town for a flower!" smiled Zadikov. "It is true that I am an ardent
Miss Pettigrew pressed him no more; she went to the harpsichord and set
out a sheet of music, and lit the candles either side; the quivering
reflections gleamed on the wreaths of amorini, of laurels. "Will you
play for me?" smiled Miss Pettigrew—"it is a lovely night; do you not
sometimes consider how soon they pass—nights such as this, so warm, so
still, the sweeter the dream the briefer—and, who knows if, in the last
sleep, we dream at all?"
"I've thought of that," replied Zadikov unsteadily, "is it that which
"We miss so much," said Miss Pettigrew. "A hundred years hence we shall be
ghosts in an old story—no one will care if Budweis was sacked or
no—this music will be out of tune and my face fading on a
canvas—'Ah, giovenezza, come sei Bella!'—Do you know that
melody? How many women have you loved, Prince Zadikov? And if the sum of them
all were here to-night would you not find these few hours worth one cruelty
Her voice was full of caresses, of tenderness, of invitation, but when he
approached her she looked at him with irony.
"Corinne has prepared the apartments of M. d'Ursins Trainel for you,
Monseigneur—do you wish for your friends, your secretaries, your
valets—you have work to do to-night?"
"The day is over, and with it those affairs of the day."
"You are well-guarded, eh?" smiled Miss Pettigrew. "How many sentries
about the chateau? How many soldiers encamped in the park?"
"You, too, have your defences," he answered. "I think I have never met a
woman so well protected."
"You can hardly have met a woman more alone, Monseigneur. I move solitary
in all my designs."
"Yet you are unapproachable," he sat down by the harpsichord; he was
weary, clouded by melancholy. She had roused (he knew not how) old torments
that he usually lulled by swift action; the nostalgia for the unattainable,
the secret, surprised regret (never confessed) that success, power, glory,
were not in achievement what they had seemed in anticipation; the gloom and
sadness latent in his blood stirred an intolerable pain; he grinned as if
tortured physically, and asked her what she thought of while she pondered by
the mute music?
"Of our deaths. If you die first I shall hear of it—the battle,
"Please God," Zadikov crossed himself.
"But, perhaps, an assassin, an illness, possibly the scaffold,
Monseigneur—at least pomp, high above the crowd—clamour and
amaze, But if I die first you will hear nothing—it will be obscurely
one night when the candles are put out for the last time, when the wreaths
and garlands are withered, to be no more renewed, when the silks are folded
away and the gems set aside for another woman's pleasure...Play to me, Prince
Zadikov, and give me another memory."
"Of what?" asked Zadikov sombrely; he was deeply troubled. Life had never
been a moral problem to him, nor women anything but a simple matter; but this
woman had roused in him that lust for the impossible, the intangible, the
unearthly, that had sunk him to embittering excesses and raised him to
"Of an illusion of happiness," breathed Miss Pettigrew, "what more can
anyone give another?"
He played and sang; first from the Operas, "Armide," "Alexandre,"
then the wild melancholy songs of Russia, in his despised native
tongue—songs of snow, of black rivers, of dark pines like metal against
a rigid sky, of great bears and packs of wolves and sledge bells, and
passionate bridals in gaunt castles with one lit window gleaming on to the
lonely storm, quenched suddenly by a trembling hand...to Zadikov these things
were in the music.
Miss Pettigrew thought of England; an autumn morning, the first falling
leaves on the trim swept path before the manor door, a bright chestnut horse
waiting at the gate, a happy child lifted into the saddle—herself...the
pang of joy...the sense of all life before her...a golden secret of
unutterable delight...She sighed her thoughts back to the present and looked
at the man playing his sombre melodies.
His face had changed; it was flushed, heavier, darker, had lost that
careful look of formality, of authority. She could now believe that those
wide lips could snarl...the full nostrils were slightly distended, his too
heavy brows met in a frown; it was the front of an animal, noble but savage;
but Miss Pettigrew reflected that the countenance of an animal—a bull,
a lion—had as much of the godlike as the countenance of humanity.
Zadikov appeared to sense that she spied on his soul and recovered himself
with admirable composure. He looked at her with eyes slightly bloodshot and
only a negative expression; Miss Pettigrew applauded the performance of
something difficult, the recovery from the music, not the music itself. Her
light delicacy of touch saved him from the regret of having revealed too
much; she made no comment on his music; she told him the story of the
Burgomaster of Budweis and the Virgin Martyr, and they laughed together
without self-consciousness. Zadikov appeared quite amiable when he laughed.
From the park came the appeal of drum and trumpet; the companions of Zadikov
were becoming as exasperated as the companions of Ulysses when he visited
Corinne came and removed the supper appointments; as she passed beside
Miss Pettigrew, her gleaming darkness, her scarlet tissue, her hard outlines
made the Englishwoman appear faint, vague, frail as the ashes of a roseleaf.
Corinne left them, moving the candles so that they were drowned in
Miss Pettigrew waited; she believed that he would know exactly what to do;
he came towards her with no more of parade than was allowable, and asked if
he should go?
"When you have promised to spare Budweis," said Miss Pettigrew. "Promise?
Nay, I believe you think little of that—you shall sign orders that the
town be left—the château, too, the park, I'll not have it
touched—then you may go, Prince Zadikov."
"All this because you have a lovely face?"
She looked at him out of the shadows, impalpable, tantalizing as those
most daring, most unrealizable desires that tormented him even in the moment
of his keenest triumph.
"Those whom I love, those who hold me, do not know if my face be lovely or
not—do not care if I am ugly or beautiful—"
He could have caught hold of her with a movement that seemed to be of
destruction, but Miss Pettigrew stayed him by adding:
"Those whom I love—he who takes me against my will enbraces disgust
"Come with me," said Zadikov hotly, "I will spare every town I
take—you shall have a court in Munich—"
"I have always avoided such obvious triumphs—you cannot prolong
dreams into the light of day—nor do I bargain, Prince Zadikov," she
laughed, amused. "Are you used to buy your mistresses at so cheap a rate?
Budweis for Mary Pettigrew—nay, every town you take! Match me against
Rome, Vienna, Paris—and still bid too low!"
"You have a high pride," he said, but not in mockery, rather in admiration
of an emotion that matched his own emotions, that so often seemed too vast to
know any possible satisfaction.
"But my worth outstrips it—now, give me Budweis, nor keep me,
Monseigneur, quibbling for a bagatelle."
As indifferently as if she had asked what he could at once concede Zadikov
sat down at the desk she had prepared and wrote his orders to leave
Budweis—to leave Brockenstein and all the gardens and houses, farms and
fields; Miss Pettigrew held the candle while he wrote. When he had scrawled
the last "Zadikov" she suggested that he sent these orders at once to his
"How slightly you trust me."
"How slightly you are to be trusted—in the morning you may think:
'Why did I concede so much for nothing?'"
"In which case I could countermand these orders."
"You would never do that, for you do not wish to give an impression of
weakness, of indecision."
"And what impression of weakness do I give as it is? Every one will know I
have given up the town because you asked me—"
"No—as the price of the flower; I have heard of a regiment given for
a drinking cup—a town for a bulb is a prettier exchange—will you
leave it at that?"
Zadikov replied in formal tones: "I will leave it at that," and Miss
Pettigrew sighed at the achievement of one of her most difficult victories;
she allowed him to stare at her, the fine English gentlewoman so well-bred,
so fastidious, so composed, a mere breath, a mere sparkle of loveliness in
the warm dusk of the beautiful night; he glowered and stiffened.
"I will take these orders myself, I will not remain in the château—"
Then, on the threshold of the window, "What an irony that you could not have
Miss Pettigrew did not reply to that; she said: "Corinne will take you to
the flower," and left him leaning against the window-frame, inwardly raging.
He had always flattered himself that he could seize the utmost from any
opportunity and this had escaped him; he had long since found that he
required more for the least satisfaction that brutality could give him; he
was glutted by violent victories, satiated by the trophies and spoils he
could rudely wrest from the reluctant hands of fortune; strong, brave,
shrewd, but wilful, reckless and extravagant, he lived on the edge of
disillusion; 'an illusion of happiness' this woman had said—what, if
there was not only no happiness, but even no illusion possible?
Moving always amid large events it was natural for him to think grandly;
he had been answerable to few for his actions, to none for his desires, yet
he had always realized his own sharp limitations. And never so keenly as
to-night; he gloomed into the tranquil beauty of the skies; the moon was
rising behind the avenue of trees.
"We are here to enjoy what is—not to yearn after what might
be"—Zadikov's philosophy could get no further than that; he thought he
would give orders to strike camp, forget his discomfiture in seeing the
discomfiture of the others in his power, in sending his armies staggering
sullenly on the march in the hot night, with Budweis untouched behind
them—they also mortified and cheated. But he decided that it would be
more noble to keep his word, and so sent his orders by one of the sentries
thickly posted round the château; though no one dared intrude on him, all
were disturbed as to his safety; he saw a group of Heyducks on the steps
watching the lighted window; impressive and aloof, he was admired by the
soldiers because he gave them confidence in his brilliant and steadfast star
and never allowed them to guess that he often saw it overclouded in its
progress and dimmed in its flashing.
As Zadikov paused on the terrace he could hear the agitated bells of
Budweis; the people were, of course, crowding to their churches, endeavouring
to mitigate the wrath of God...praying perhaps, to their Virgin Martyr,
immobile in her niche. Odd that their clamours should be answered in such
indirect and cynic fashion; Zadikov, who despised all the superstitions of
men, stared at the moon rising into a sky emptied of the warm, rich and
tender hues of early evening, and cast over in his mind the word
With her easy movement, both stealthy and candid, Corinne crossed the
terrace and reminded him that he had not waited for the bulb, the flower that
her mistress had promised him; this fantasy pleased Zadikov and he re-entered
the house behind the negress; she led him seriously across the salon, past
the open harpsichord and the screen, and up the stairs lit only by one
bracket of candles placed high, so that he mounted through falling shadows;
somewhere a window was open and the church bells, with their tedious appeal,
broke the serene repose of the lovely night. Corinne opened a door on to a
room lit only by moonlight and turned away down the corridor; Zadikov,
pausing, saw her extinguish the candles on the stairs, as in his music the
light in the window of the gaunt Russian castle had been extinguished. As he
closed the door the flower welcomed him—a crown of crowded buds, half
curling open, depending from a stem wreathed with thin leaves like a victor's
baton with laurels, sprays shaping, in the unfluctuating light, an Imperial
diadem raised on a conqueror's staff.
Miss Pettigrew was seated beside the flower; she regarded Zadikov gravely,
without coquetry; she was no longer the English gentlewoman, but
Danae—Ariadne—serious, absorbed in a dedication to the
transient delights and beauties lent by the immortal gods; her hair was in a
knot of classic severity and she wore a mull robe embroidered with millions
of white roses.
Zadikov crossed the room, knelt beside her and put his face in his hands
on her knee; she looked down at him with compassion for the brevity of mortal
joy, with irony for the length of the longing, the depth of the yearning, the
incompleteness of any human satisfaction; she tenderly told him to rise; as
he did so his foot struck the pistol which she had not troubled to
"What is that for?" asked Zadikov, drowsily indifferent to all harsh
"In case I had not liked you," said Miss Pettigrew, sighing into his arms.
She appeared diaphanous in the light from the remote moon—a creature
ravished from ineffable depths of unimagined heavens; but the vague perfume
of her locks was the perfume from the coronal on Eve's tresses, blooming in
the shade of gilded trees, as she slept through an imperishable afternoon in
an earthly Eden.
The citizens of Budweis, in solemn thanksgivings, laid offerings on the
altar before Santa Rosa, virgin martyr, who had once saved the city
from a dragon, and now, it seemed, from Zadikov. The rearguard of the great
army had disappeared over the plains of Bavaria, leaving Budweis
unscathed—a miracle! When the Burgomaster remembered the lady at the
château he hastened up from the city through the park—possibly it had
been her good offices?
She had gone; the château was deserted; the harpsichord stood open in the
salon which was full of a sunshine definitely tinged with the sensuous
melancholy of autumn.
A lingering forester had seen her departure; neat, composed, in her trim
habit, with a negress and a dog, in a small travelling coach going in the
opposite direction to that taken by the armies of the Russians and
The utmost care of Prince Zadikov could not preserve the lily; disdainful
of life outside a glasshouse it vanished into a scroll of dusty brown;
Zadikov sullenly wrapped this ghost of beauty and delight in a robe of Indian
mull embroidered with a million white roses and kept it, secretly, in his
private baggage, where the bulb perished completely and became ashes to the
heart. One day, after a bitter and indecisive battle, Zadikov furious and
exhausted, found this pinch of dust in the wisp of lawn, cast one away and
rent the other with unsteady hands, while he cursed all dreams.
Variations on a Spanish theme composed for Diego Lopez
de Figuerra, Duque de Sommaja, Viceroy of Aragon, by Carlo Barlucchi.
[SPAIN, 18th Century.]
"Nota. To endure with grace this world, since I do not know of
another. Nota. How to accomplish this? Nota. Since Beatrix de
Bellefonds torments me..."
Idly Carlo Barlucchi wrote these words across the unfinished music score,
idly he looked out of the window which revealed nothing but an ornate roof
line and a space of bright blue sky; the room was in shadow, for the hard
sunlight fell on the other side of the street; in shadow, dark and hung with
many musical instruments.
Carlo Barlucchi tore up the score; the fragments of paper fluttered on to
other fragments marked with notes and the name "Beatrix de Bellefonds." The
young man lounged on a low leathern seat; everything in the chamber was
sombre, fantastic, deep-hued; a tapestry of hideous and gigantic fruits in
indigo and blackish green, a cabinet of yellow amber and black amber; heavy,
dark chairs with coats of arms stamped in tarnished gold, a picture of a
blond woman stifling in a bodice rigid with square-cut gems, kneeling before
a warrior in scarlet armour who loomed from incomprehensible shadows where
grinned an Ethiopian carrying a helmet crowned with blood-spangled
plumes...on the walls musical instruments—lutes, smooth as swan-skin
jelly-bags, hurdy-gurdies with silver-handles and backs gleaming like
rain-washed melons, viol d'amore, striped white, black, hard,
glittering even in the shadow, a flute ringed with cornelian, agate, colours
of sea-drowned moss, embers suddenly quenched; in the corner a spinet painted
laboriously with hard flat roses, yellowish white, purplish blue that seemed
like eyes to stare across the room.
Carlo Barlucchi was attired in rich dishevelment—black velvet,
point d'Alençon lace, narrow carnation ribbons, a topaz buckle for his
thick black hair; he was the favourite and the sport of fortune, a prisoner
of a good chance, that was his livelihood, held in Madrid by the patronage of
the idle slothful grandees.
In this slumbrous life of a great city sinking in stately decay, every one
sought to be drugged by music; the only passion that a corrupt, gloomy,
decadent nobility discovered was the passion for an oblivion given by music.
Amid the slow disintegration of Spain music alone had power to dispel the
universal melancholy; the King, brooding in the Alcazar into hopeless
insanity, sought solace in Farinelli—as did the filthy beggar in his
ebony pipe, playing dolefully and nursing his sores in the violet shadow of a
porch heavy with adoring saints.
The country was governed by foreign adventurers, while Spaniards,
afflicted by a profound disillusion, a sombre lethargy, paid musicians and
singers the last of the Mexican gold to give them the smallest draught from
Carlo Barlucchi heard through the open door, the frail sound of glass
chinking on glass, smelt a faint distasteful odour; he knew by this that even
in the drowsy hot afternoon Felipe Hermosa, the diligent physician, was
working. Barlucchi believed that he must be the only industrious person in
Madrid; they shared between them this floor of an ancient palace; they were
of an age and friendly; Hermoza, alert, eager, pursued knowledge with steady
step and clear gaze; Barlucchi was enervated by his adoration of beauty,
sighed with the lassitude left by sumptuous dreams; Hermoza knew of his
useless passion for the Bellefonds, the most costly courtesan in Madrid, and
thought the obsession commonplace; Barlucchi knew some of the problems the
physician dared to essay to solve in his retorts and furnaces, and considered
such ambitions ridiculous.
Yet they tolerated each other and even took a pleasure in each other's
When, in his idle despair, Barlucchi heard the tinkle of Hermoza's
glasses, he rose languidly, yawned, and crossed the spacious landing that
divided his apartments from those of the doctor; up those wide, shallow
stairs, supporting themselves by the baluster of gilded iron which curled
into the involved shape of fern fronds, had come many clients for both young
men; creatures who seemed wraiths of beautiful women, creatures who seemed
spectres of haughty gentlemen, imploring drugs, soporifics, music,
medicine...to make life endurable.
Hermoza greeted the Italian indifferently and continued his experiments;
he was lean, red-haired, and freckled; he wore trodden-over slippers, a spare
black gown, spectacles, and a turban of white linen; he was yet young and
In his outer room he stood at a table and poured drops from a violet phial
that curdled the liquid in a pale glass bowl into the likeness of seething
milk; an inner door was open and Barlucchi could see the elongated necks of
retorts, the opaque shapes of bowls and bottles, the orange square of the
furnace door; thin vapours hesitated in the hot atmosphere; the room was
furnished indifferently with worn chairs and a discreet screen.
"How idle you are!" remarked Hermoza.
"I am tired of writing music, I soothe every one but myself. I detest
Spain. The very air is heavy with slumber. Madrid is like a rotten
pomegranate decaying in the desert."
"Yet you remain here because you earn a great deal of scudi, and
loll and grow fat; whereas in Naples you would have to quarrel with others
for a bone."
"Not at all. In Naples the life is free, active, joyous, every one is
alive, even the beggars dance—"
"Bah! you are an idler; even your music is not very good. You turn over
the same tunes again and again."
"Is that not what they want? Farinelli has sung the same four songs to His
Majesty every night for ten years—and has he not the Cross of St. Iago,
three thousand gold ducats every year and more influence than anyone in
"The King is a lunatic."
"Nevertheless, it is very agreeable for Farinelli who, after all, has a
voice like a nightingale."
"And it is very agreeable for you who, in return for a sonata for the
clavier, an ode, a motet, or a symphony, can obtain
money, caresses, velvet clothes, Tokai, and down pillows."
"You misunderstand me," protested the Italian, mildly. "I am oppressed by
all this luxury, I am profoundly dissatisfied—I wish to write a mighty
opera on the theme of Armida or Circe, but I never even finish a
symphony—every day I dream more..."
"Of Beatrix de Bellefonds?" sneered the physician, peering into the glass
globe that was now dense as white coral.
"She is my chief illusion."
"You are enamoured of her because a hopeless love requires no exertion. It
is easy for you, knowing all endeavour useless, to sigh and slumber."
"You think I have chosen her out of laziness?"
"Certainly. Does she not belong to the Duque de Sommaja, Viceroy of
Aragon? You might as reasonably hope for a smile from the Madonna of the
Seven Swords on the High Altar of the Cathedral."
"I know that all my desires are impossible, that is why I am tormented,
the world I wish to inhabit does not exist—I describe it in my music,
and Giambattista Tiepolo has been there—you can see it on his
"A crazy, motley universe," mocked the physician. "Lilac parasols, diamond
cuirasses, palaces upside down, leopards entangled in mantles of rose
brocade, peacocks plucking at grapes made of emeralds...hurry, folly,
"And everywhere love," interrupted Barlucchi. "Love in pearls, in radiant
clouds, in translucent seas, in fields of roses and lilies, riding a white
hippocampus or a unicorn with a coral horn, blowing a gold trumpet, playing
on steps of alabaster—air, light, beauty, love—"
"Enough!" cried the physician, "this is all very trivial—Tiepolo,
like you, gets excellent pay for his dreams; you drive people crazy between
you—every one is tantalized with glimpses of the impossible; many
become imbecile with melancholy, because painters and musicians create this
world no one can enter."
Barlucchi approached the table.
"What do you create, Hermoza? With your ugly smells, powders, fumes
"Knowledge," smiled the Spaniard with a fierce red glance.
"And what is the use of this knowledge save to preserve illusion? These
women in black lace veils, these men in dominos, who come here—what is
their errand? To buy some mess to prolong the Spring—a wash for the
face, drops to keep the eyes ardent, a drug to renew strength and
spirits—above all, to beg for the elixir of love, of youth!" Barlucchi
spoke excitedly; his smooth, plump face flushed, his large black eyes
gleamed. "Yes, you old charlatan," he added hurriedly, "you deceive as deeply
as I, and not so pleasantly—yes, that is true, you rob all your
clients, for you can do nothing for them—nothing!"
"Oh, can't I?" sneered Hermoza, "I assure you that they are very well
"That is only because you are clever enough to hoodwink them—despite
all your concoctions, they have gout, dropsy, and pimples; they become
wrinkled, bent, blear-eyed, soft, fat and swollen as a bursting fig, or thin,
hollow and dry as an ear of corn when the grain is shaken out—they lose
their teeth, their noses become red and glistening, they can no longer slip
their rings over their twisted knuckles—they turn from each other with
disgust and to God with despair, and then they come to me, to Carlo
Barlucchi, for music, for memory, for hope, for oblivion!"
"How noisy you are," remarked Hermoza. "Even if it is as you say, some
people manage to slip out of the world quite content. It is all this hectic
nonsense of Love, Beauty, Youth, that complicates life so."
"Bah! you understand nothing!" cried the musician. "Why do I talk to such
a dried hide of a man?"
"Why don't you go and write a Cantata for the Bellefonds?"
"Because my heart is so dismal. I have youth, money, good looks, and I am
merely wasting my time. I allow every opportunity of pleasure to escape me
because I cannot possess the Bellefonds. I must be a fool."
"What is that you are making?" asked Barlucchi gloomily.
Hermoza was pouring the thick white liquid into bottles the colour of a
"A lotion for the Bellefonds to wash her arms with——"
"She is already as pure, as pale-skinned as a magnolia leaf."
"But she is afraid, you see," grinned the Spaniard, "of a little mark, a
little stain, a tiny wrinkle."
Two eunuchs in the Sommaja livery pushed open the door and Beatrix de
Bellefonds entered, attended by two duennas with greenish bilious faces, long
scraggy necks, and farthingales a hundred years out of fashion and two pages
from Andalusia, short, swarthy, wearing the Sommaja colours of flame and
citron; one carried a white spaniel with bells of scarlet glass on its
collar, the other supported a stand on which a macaw, green as verjuice, tore
to pieces a luscious over-ripe peach.
The Bellefonds was delighted to see the handsome young musician; it gave
her great pleasure to torment him; she was insolent with success. For six
months she had belonged to the Viceroy of Aragon, and as he applied all the
revenues of that kingdom to his own pleasures he had been able to give even
this rapacious courtesan all she wished.
She was fond of saying:
"Sommaja gives me everything I want."
It was true that she lived under lock and key, behind lattices, that she
went abroad in closed litters or coaches with the curtains drawn, and never
without two eunuchs, the two duennas and the two pages, but if she missed the
liberty she had enjoyed in France she did not complain.
She spread her splendours on the sunken leathern seat, she unlaced her red
silk corsets on a chemise of silver-threaded lawn, lamenting the oppressive
heat; her pale hair, lengthened with braids of pearl and ribbons sewn with
diamonds, fell to her waist; a dozen veils and laces of precious tissues
drooped from her shoulders.
She also accused Barlucchi of idleness.
"How you waste your time! As I came up the stairs I listened in vain for
your music—I thought, 'He is asleep or with his mistress'."
"Would not that be wasted time?" asked Hermoza, considering her without
"There is pleasure in slumber, in love—but Signor Barlucchi, he does
She snapped her fan on to her bosom wickedly, inviting the young man to
look at her warm, voluptuous, transient loveliness from which she had loosed
off her black satin mantle; she wore a black tricorne with an emerald
agraffe; she had several flowers at her corsage so that she might continually
drop and readjust them; with a hand that held a scrap of batiste she jerked
up her garlanded flounces to the knee, showing gauze stockings, silk shoes
with mother o' pearl heels; the duennas brought out their rosaries and the
harsh mutter of their prayers accompanied the whispering chatter of the
"You know that I have no mistress," said Barlucchi coldly.
"How foolish you are!"
"I know that, Madame de Bellefonds."
"And how handsome," smiled the lady, "but you must be careful you do not
become too plump. I dislike a man who looks as if he fed on snails. Why do
you not write me a song?" she added.
"Because you have no means of paying him," sneered the doctor, handing the
pages the lilac-coloured bottles and winking at the ugliest duenna.
"Sommaja will pay," smiled the Bellefonds, adding her familiar
boast—"he buys me everything I want."
Barlucchi had frequently wondered what kind of man was the Spanish grandee
who could afford this beautiful woman, who paid for her jewels, her palace,
her horses, her attendant, her whims; he had seen him occasionally in the
distant gloom of a corridor in the Alcazar, or in profile outlined against
green leather curtains, riding in a gilded coach drawn by six Polish
steeds...he did not seem real to the musician, but yet he appeared to hover
disdainfully, an invisible power, about his mistress and servants.
Barlucchi's tormented heart ached with envy...to have so much power and
wealth, to be able to own such an insolent, greedy, gorgeous creature and,
even better, to cast her aside, if one tired...
"Eh, but you look melancholy," mocked the lady, pleased with his
flattering distress. "I will certainly tell Sommaja to order you to write
something gay for me."
"I was wondering," said Barlucchi sombrely, "if you ever consider the day
when you will be a heap of yellow bones."
"Such a commonplace," she retorted, rising, "is in the worst possible
taste. Besides, the soul is immortal."
"But I spoke of the body, and that is really all you are concerned
The courtesan faced him with disdain; when she was startled out of her
affectations her eyes were hard with sternly-acquired wisdom.
"Do you not think one must be very valiant to dare to be beautiful?" she
asked. "I spare nothing, I miss nothing, I take every hazard, and know that
in the end I lose them all—put that in your music for me. Only virtue
is cowardly enough to tremble for the future."
"Yet the day will come when you, too, will buy oblivion at a high price,"
Barlucchi warned her, "but my music will not give it to you, for I shall be
dead of pining sloth."
"I wish you were dead now," complained the physician peevishly, "for I
want to get on with my work."
Every one laughed at him.
"You must be the only industrious man in Madrid," mocked the
She left them, with her studied walk, her swaying grace, her fingers in
her loosened corsage, the wilting blossoms of her bouquet crushed in the
pleated lawn, her eyes slightly reddened and swollen as if she had not slept
last night, keenly turned to Barlucchi; the duennas tripped, the eunuchs
waddled, the pages dawdled after her; their high heels went tap, tap, on the
wide, worn, spacious stairs.
"Can't you see how trivial and ridiculous she is?" asked Hermoza
impatiently. "If you saw her without all those fantastic ornaments I doubt if
you would even find her beautiful. Come, Barlucchi, come, you are living in a
fry tale, nothing of what you prize is real, why don't you go out and observe
how other people live?"
"Why should their lives be more real than mine?" protested the musician.
"However, I will do as you say, I will nose round Madrid and search for
reality—perhaps thus I may forget the Bellefonds."
"As long as you leave me in peace—" grumbled the physician,
shuffling towards his laboratory.
Carlo Barlucchi passed into the airless streets of Madrid; the heat was
dry, heavy; the shadows seemed as solid as substance in the doorways and
across the alleys under the massive gables of the houses.
The first person Barlucchi met was a ragged melon-seller; the musician
would have liked to question him on matters of philosophy, but was absorbed
by the beauty of the melons, the broad gleaming swell of the rind, like a
lute, the rosy gash moist with juice; details always distracted
him—that was what the doctor meant, he lived in a fry tale...
On the shadowed steps of a monstrous church two little water-carriers ate
figs; they were so dirty Barlucchi would not stop to question them; he turned
into a wine-shop, the smell of the olla podrida, of the garlic and
onions hanging on the filthy walls, of the customers themselves, was
"Would Hermoza call that real life?" murmured Barlucchi, as he
retreated—"is nothing genuine save it is verminous?"
As he continued his way through the hot streets he reflected: "Besides
these people also seek illusion, oblivion, though they can afford only bad
He entered a huge church; hundreds of gigantic saints frowned on the
facade; before the wadded curtains at the door vile beggars pointed out
neglected sores and deformed limbs; inside the church was dark with brown
shadows, vast, lofty, filled with the vapours of stale incense, sparkling
with many altars that glittered through the gloom; a monk was praying before
a cavernous chapel where the trembling stars of candles lit pictures of
writhing tortured martyrs.
When he had finished his devotions Barlucchi addressed him, and begged him
for a copy of his prayer.
"What, father, pleases God best? How does one get out of a faery tale to
"My son," replied the monk, "I have long since ceased to compose prayers.
They have all been said so often. Every day I recite the letters of the
alphabet, and beg God, Who, with those signs has composed holy writ, to make
Himself a prayer as best suits Him out of my offering."
"As for your second question, you had better go to Suliman Ali, the wise
Eastern; he really knows everything—a wicked man, but useful; he lives
by the Perseus fountain, the house with the yellow-tiled balcony and the
knocker shaped like an Amphitryon."
The musician hastened to this address, near hopeless of any assistance in
rearranging his confused life, even of ridding himself of the passion that
was wasting his youth.
A dwarf answered his knock and seemed vexed at being disturbed.
"You cannot see Suliman Ali," he snarled, "because he hanged himself this
morning. When it is cooler I shall cut him down."
Barlucchi thought this a sour jest, but the deformity offered to show him
the dangling philosopher; Barlucchi hastily refused and asked if the wise man
had left a message?
"Only this: I have tried every vice under the sun and there is nothing in
any of them."
"He might, perhaps, have sampled virtue."
"How could he? He always maintained there was no such thing."
The dwarf slammed the door and Barlucchi went to the Alcazar and found his
friend and patron, Carlo Brioschi, called Farinelli—either, as his
friends declared, from some property in his family or, as his enemies
averred, because his father had been a baker and he had grown up daubed with
Farinelli ruled Spain, but with such lazy good nature that he offended
none; all day he rested, fed, made his toilet; every evening he sang his four
songs to Philip de Bourbon King of Spain, and thus kept His Majesty the safe
side of lunacy.
Farinelli was becoming plump, he had many chins below his pink, soft,
hairless face; his diamond rings cut into his fat fingers, his pale satin
coats were tight under the arms, and under the stiff azure velvet bow that
held in place his long powdered curls, his neck showed in little rolls of
flesh; still he was yet very agreeable and comely, as his portrait by his
friend Amicone shows.
Always he had been treated as a deity; in London, where he was almost
received with frenzy, they had cried—"One God, one Farinelli!" His
powers were certainly transcendant; he would really warble like a celestial
nightingale; to hear his sustained notes rise and fall in the "Folia," or
twenty-four variations by Corelli, or swell and diminish in some of the
compositions written especially to display his execution by his teacher
Nicolo Porpora, was indeed to be admitted to Paradise.
Barlucchi told him of his quest.
"If I am in a dream, an illusion, a faery story, I want to get out of it.
Also, I am obsessed by the Bellefonds."
Farinelli, used to dealing with imbeciles, smiled indulgently; he had
himself no fault but vanity, no vice but gluttony, no passion save for fine
clothes and sleep.
"Caro amico," he said, that light famous voice as carefully used as
if he dispensed gold, "have you had any dinner?"
"No, I forgot about it."
"I thought so. You will not talk so much nonsense when you have discussed
my capon, truffles, pineapple, Falerian."
Barlucchi stamped his foot in impatience.
"Every one puts me off. I must be right or wrong."
"Of course," soothed Farinelli, playing with his stars.
"Well, then, which is it? Either I do move in a dream, as Hermoza says, or
I do not—either the Bellefonds is worth pining for or she is not."
"Exactly," smiled Farinelli.
His smooth blandness further irritated his protégé.
"You, of course, caro maestro," he exclaimed, "care nothing but
preserving your voice for those four songs—"
"Of course not," agreed the singer, opening his small eyes wide. "Does not
the domestic felicity of Their Majesties, the welfare of a vast kingdom,
depend on my four songs?"
"But, how foolish!" murmured Barlucchi ungratefully, for his own fortunes
had been made by the tenor.
He escaped and entered the apartments of His Eminence the Cardinal
Archbishop, who was always pleased to see him, and for whom he was composing
His Eminence, with silver scissors, was clipping off the withered leaves
from a jasmine plant that grew in an alabaster vase; he was watched by
Catalina de Rabais, who had once been a dancer in the courts of the Alhambra,
capering in tatters for a few pence; now she was nearly as indulged, nearly
as insolent as the Bellefonds; she rubbed her dark skin with violet-coloured
powder, and put kohl under her eyes till the whites appeared like
"Eminence," said Barlucchi, "I have not brought the Mass, but a
The Cardinal Archbishop listened courteously. And had his answer
"The only reality is the persistence of the dream, knowledge is as obvious
an illusion as beauty; the King listening to Farinelli, the beggar with his
patch of sun, his white piece—each in his degree tries to blind himself
to the misery of his fate—if Life is a deception, Death is at least a
certainty, and you are lucky if you can approach so grim a fact by means of a
faery tale. The pictures of Signor Giambattista Tiepolo, that you mention,
contain as much truth as you will find in flea-bitten galley-slaves
quarrelling over their chains, or an old blind hag dying in a
"What jargon!" said Catalina, who resented the last allusion.
"As for your second question," continued His Eminence, "the woman worth
waiting for has not yet been created. If you miss a single possible hour of
pleasure you are a fool. Patience is as alien to love as fidelity. There are
a number of ladies in Madrid who, if given the opportunity of a closeted
half-hour would make you forget the Bellefonds."
Barlucchi found something definite in this; he took his leave gratefully;
Catalina ran after him, he had left his glove by the pot of jasmine, she
contrived to whisper to him, to suggest an appointment; she admired him very
much, she longed for his kisses, she assured him that, viewed under proper
conditions, she was really prettier than the Bellefonds but despite the
Cardinal Archbishop's advice, the musician's melancholy black eyes
"You are not the woman."
He returned to his apartment, lounged over a meal, slept a blank hour,
awoke to find himself summoned by his servant...A client, a personage, the
Duque de Sommaja, Viceroy of Aragon.
Adjusting his person with agitated hands Barlucchi hastened to the outer
room and stood obsequious in the presence of the grandee, who entirely
effaced his surroundings by the splendour which enveloped him like an
Ignoring Barlucchi, and staring straight in front of him, the Viceroy
"A piece of music for a lady. Play it now."
"Your Excellency," stammered the musician, "I do not compose as rapidly as
"No?" replied the Viceroy coldly, "then I will wait." He waved away the
lackeys who had crowded after him, and seated himself near the spinet.
"Excellency," implored Barlucchi, who felt very uneasy. "I cannot—at
a moment—I lack the theme—the title—"
"The theme," replied the grandee, "is a woman—the title,
As Barlucchi hesitated, the Viceroy added:
"You are a musician, are you not?"
Barlucchi was stung by that; he seated himself at the spinet and began to
play; there was certainly some inspiration in the theme of the Bellefonds. In
his music he might express another man's passion for her and his
own—Capriccio in his native tongue—vagary, whim, temper,
expressive of her and himself, of the canvasses of Giambattista Tiepolo, of
his own saunterings through Madrid that morning.
He composed as he played, intervolved melodies rushing up to a suspended
climax, halting, returning, at once petulant and melancholy, self-confident
As he played he looked over the top of the spinet at the grandee, looked
with awe, curiosity, with a touch of fear at that magnificent figure; to the
vivacious and volatile musician it seemed impossible to credit the sedate,
austere Spaniard with any human feelings.
Diego Lopez de Figuerra, Duque de Sommaja, Viceroy of Aragon, Knight of
the Golden Fleece and of Saint Iago, sat immobile, his long limbs
disposed with stiff grace, his wide-skirted coat rigid with metallic thread
and bullion embroidery, a smother of lace and diamonds on his breast, his
chin held up, the nostrils of his aquiline nose curving down, rows of pomaded
curls, precise, exact above his powdered ears and flowing to his waist
behind; a wooden image, thought Barlucchi, endeavouring to feel
But the narrow, dark eyes of the Viceroy, which flickered quickly beneath
his languorous lids, proved him no image.
He deigned to approve the music but declared it needed
improvement—polish—an added grace, a final provoking
impertinence; he condescended to promise a return visit.
Barlucchi detested and admired him; in the presence of the lover of
Beatrix de Bellefonds his own passion increased; as he played he felt he was
the other man's proxy in the affair; a torment, but one he could not
After, as he considered, he had perfected his piece he went across to
Hermoza's apartments to plague the physician with his melancholy and his
music, but that personage, screaming with annoyance, drove him away and
locked the door in his face.
"I am engaged on a most interesting experiment!" he yelled through the
keyhole. "Go away, you stupid idiot!"
Barlucchi, however, did not lack distraction; a negress tapped at his
chamber; she brought a basket of rice straw full of rose-gold
nectarines—a gift from Catalina de Rabais; the choice stolen treasure
of the Cardinal Archbishop's gardens.
Barlucchi was pleased that the lady had become enamoured of him, but it
was useless to think of returning her passion until he could rid himself of
his obsession about the Bellefonds.
The days so hot, so lazy, settled to a formal pattern for Carlo Barlucchi;
every afternoon Sommaja, sumptuously attended came to hear him play over
Capriccio, every evening the negress brought a basket of nectarines,
every night he lay awake sighing for the Bellefonds.
Hermoza frequently came to see him and ate or pocketed Catalina's
"What a fool you are!" he remarked; "why don't you try to win the silly
woman? My invention has been very successful. Sommaja is pleased."
"What," cried Barlucchi, "he comes to see you also?"
"Certainly. He seeks knowledge as well as beauty. A clever man."
The piece of music had reached perfection; Sommaja admitted as much;
Hermoza's work had also been completed with delight at least to himself; he
carried away the neglected pannier of fruit, with ugly grins of pleasure;
both these tasks had been hurried to a conclusion through the indolent
sequence of dry summer days when Madrid and her gardens rank with over-ripe
flowers and fruit, seemed to corrupt in the sun.
The day the music was finished Sommaja told Barlucchi to send it to his
palace; the musician ran after him with the sudden recollection of an
omission on the part of his patron:
"Your Excellency has not given me the lady's name?"
He stopped; the grandee was leaving Hermoza's apartments and had a
nectarine in his hand, one of the Prince Archbishop's nectarines, named
"Fortune's Kiss." Barlucchi thought this strange, and stared.
Sommaja stared also as if he perceived an impertinence.
"The piece of music Capriccio is for a lady named Catalina de
Rabais," he said with stern coldness, and haughtily descended the stairs,
leaving Barlucchi confounded.
Had the grandee, then, left the coveted Bellefonds for a woman whom he,
the humble musician, could have had so easily—the cunning, wanton, dark
Barlucchi could scarcely realize his good luck; he had to find Hermoza and
tell him about it; the physician was in his laboratory, eyeing the nectarines
which stood in a row before some sinister, murky, elongated bottles; he
hastily put a bag of scudi into his pocket as Barlucchi entered, and
"Sommaja certainly pays very well."
"One of your nectarines."
Disgusted by this rubbish the musician hastened away and wrote "For
Beatrix de Bellefonds" under the piece, Capriccio; he would not sell
it to Sommaja, but himself present it to the lady for whom it was
Afterwards, with the scroll in the pocket of his gala coat, he went to the
barber's shop and there spent the entire afternoon, a fact he eternally
repented afterwards; but the day was so hot, the barber's parlour so cool,
with a lemon-scented fountain spraying on green marble, the barber himself so
entertaining with his scandalous gossip...In the purple twilight, which
seemed full of the golden heat vapours of the day, Barlucchi, shaved,
frizzled, powdered, perfumed, with his guitar slung round his shoulders, full
of joyful anticipation, waited before the severe palace with the latticed
windows, where Beatrix de Bellefonds resided.
As he was about to begin the Capriccio that was to console the
forsaken beauty by striking his guitar and opening his mouth, he saw a
side-door open and some shadows, black as Erebus, come forth.
Barlucchi's hand dropped from the strings, his song was unuttered.
The dark shapes were four monks carrying a coffin.
Barlucchi approached this dismal procession.
"Who is it," he whispered, "you carry away?"
"Beatrix de Bellefonds," replied one of the monks. "She died
penitent—they all do."
"What did she die of?" stammered the musician.
"A nectarine she ate this afternoon—it was overripe, and the heat,
you know, Señor—"
They proceeded gravely on their way with the slender coffin; laughter made
the distracted musician glance upwards; Catalina smiled from a high window;
her expression scorned him for lost opportunities; her mockery was eclipsed
by a steady hand that closed the grille before the window; Barlucchi
knew that those long fingers belonged to the Duque de Sommaja.
He ran back to his apartments and, exhausted with rage and grief, broke in
on Hermoza, who was cooking himself a chicken spiced with bay leaves.
"I know what you sold the Viceroy!" sobbed Barlucchi, "in that
"No, you do not," snapped the doctor; "I have been far too careful.
Besides, she was a jealous woman and would not let him go quietly, and
boasted too much—it got on his nerves to hear her continually
saying—'He gives me everything I want.'"
"You have destroyed the creature I would have given all the stars
"No, you would not—you are in love merely with your own dreams.
Besides Knowledge must destroy Beauty, that is its mission."
Barlucchi crept to his own room, unslung the guitar, and sorrowfully drew
the piece of music from his pocket; he wished that he had given it to the
monks to put in her grave. He could only tear the score to fragments, and
that was a poor revenge, for both he and Sommaja had every note by heart.
Soothed by his tears the musician had glimmering glimpses of how order and
light might be obtained and the balance held, between the dreams of the poet
and the account book of the money-changer; but he knew that he was not the
man to accomplish this, and a soft resignation fell on his spirit.
Sommaja had, after all, proved a benefactor; he had removed the Bellefonds
beyond the reach of any man's longing, and he had taken Catalina, who was
beginning to annoy Barlucchi with her negress and her baskets of fruit; the
musician became philosophic; perhaps a third woman combining the merits of
both these beauties might be discovered in Madrid? He was also hungry, and a
tender aroma from Hermoza's capon penetrated his dusk-filled apartment.
Barlucchi crossed the landing; the physician was dismissing a late and
"Señora, no art can conceal pride or a squint—all you can do is to
allow one to neutralize the other; let your arrogance be so high that people
are shaken in their conviction that you have a defect."
The capon was deliciously cooked—the sauces were excellent—the
wine superb; the fruits appeared to have been grown in Giambattista Tiepolo's
far-drawn world; Hermoza generously shared these delicacies with the subdued
musician, whose appetite was not spoilt by the reflection that the
scudi the Viceroy had given for the poisoned nectarine had probably
paid for the feast.
Lights flickered up in the high-set windows of Madrid, a warm breeze
fluttered in the close streets, as if a thousand people yawned with relief at
the setting of the sun; Farinelli strutted to the room of the green mirrors
to sing his four songs to the King.
As Carlo Barlucchi raised his glass and drank to the inscrutable faces of
goat-bodied Chimera, he heard the doleful pipe of a beggar playing
below one of the melodies he had used in Capriccio.
A TUNE FOR A TRUMPET
Set for the Imperialist forces under the command of
Albrecht von Wallenstein, Duke of Friedland, Sagan, Glogau and Mecklenburg,
Count Palatine, at Castle Karolsfeld, outside Nuremberg. [THE EMPIRE,
Trumpets blared in the courtyard of Castle Karolsfeld. The Castle which
rose black amid black pines into a black sky, was empty save for three
people—a wounded man, a woman, and a pastor.
Some months before, the Imperialist forces had passed through Karolsfeld
and one wing of the Castle was now merely a wall, half-consumed by fire, and
those rooms yet habitable in the other portion had been pillaged and defiled;
here and there on a wall hung some decorations, some rent tapestries and
splintered wood smashed by wanton blows from pike or musketoon, and in the
room where the sick man lay was a scant arrangement of broken furniture, a
torn tapestry across the unglazed window, and a poor lamp burning rank oil
standing on a cracked and broken marble table.
The wounded man lay on an old mattress and some rank straw which had come
from the stables; his cuirass and gorget, rusted with dried blood and flung
beside the rude bed, dully reflected the coarse lamplight; his wound was
festering and his tainted blood ran thickly; he held the woman's hand; the
pastor supported his head on which the yellow hair hung flat and dank with
The three listened to the trumpets and to a great clatter and stir which
came from below, splitting the sombre melancholy of the night into a thousand
fierce interwoven noises.
"The Imperialists," whispered the wounded man, and he added, on a bitter
note, "I had hoped they would have overlooked Karolsfeld on their
Without saying anything the woman loosened her hand from his and gave him
to drink out of an earthenware mug. The pastor rose, crept to the window,
lifted the tapestry and looked out on to the wide and magnificent courtyard,
one side of which had been battered down so that the forest loomed sudden and
fierce into the building, and then was full of men and horses; as far as the
old man's eyes could see straining into the dark, was the flicker of
torchlight and the shape of waggons, carts, furled pavilions, and the crossed
lines of pikes and spears.
In the centre of the courtyard a man in black armour had raised at the end
of a pole a bowl of flaming pitch, and the crimson light of this streamed
over the glossy shapes of rearing horses, the vague forms of plumed and
cloaked men, and over a mighty banner which moved slowly and solemnly in the
night breeze and was emblazoned with monstrous double black eagles.
The pastor dropped the tapestry. He was grave and composed. The woman
still held the mug of water to the dry lips of the feverish man.
"As we expected," said the old man, "Wallenstein—on the march to
Saxony, as I suppose."
They had had news of that oncoming march earlier in the day from flying
peasants whose clothes appeared scorched by cinders from their burning farms.
Wallenstein was retreating before the Swede after a nine hours' battle, and
was like enough to come that way...by Karolsfeld.
"They appear in some disorder," added the pastor quietly. "What shall we
do? We should have left before, even if it were only into the woods."
The woman did not answer. She knew the woods were no safer than the
castle. For months she had fled from one pressing danger to
another—hiding, creeping, lying in concealment. The pastor had
sheltered her until the fireballs had fallen upon his roof, and when her
betrothed lover was wounded in a foray as he rode with his party to join the
Swedes and staggered back to her hiding-place, he had found her and the old
man homeless; between them they had dragged him to the ruins of his castle of
Karolsfeld, and there he had lain, a helpless man for two days. The woman had
crept out to the devastated village and found some store of dried fruit put
by for the winter in one of the fallen cottages, and in another a little
grain, which she had pounded into meal, and so with wild-berries, and fish
that the old man had got from the river which ran below the rock on which the
castle stood, they had lived, while the young man prayed to find the strength
to lead the woman and the pastor, through no matter what adventure, to the
Swedish lines or Nürnberg; but, instead, he had become weaker. A blue pallor
had begun to show through his fine tanned skin and often he had had to clench
his hands to control the desire to cry aloud with agony.
"Wallenstein," he murmured, stupidly, "Wallenstein in defeat."
The woman rose and straightened her gown. It was of silk and torn by the
sharp bushes from among which she had gathered the wild-berries. She
"Surely Wallenstein will not touch a woman, a wounded man and a
The prostrate youth put his fingers to the bloodstained rags on his
"We are in great danger," he sighed out and slowly swooned.
Covered by a small handkerchief, which she had in happier days embroidered
with bright blue flowers, was a precious drop of brandy in a horn cup; the
pastor had saved this for a desperate emergency; as the woman, on her knees
again, with careful anxiety moistened her lover's distorted lips with these
costly drops, she was unconscious of the gathering noise and disorder which
overwhelmed their melancholy peace. Loud murmurings lifted the silence as the
sullen light lifted the dark.
A scarlet flame of pitch was being carried up the dark stairs where in
gaunt niches lay the shattered busts of Caesars carved from crimson
This was the end of a hard tumultuous day for the Imperialists, and all
the men murmured and groaned among themselves; as they moved, their armour
rattled like an echo of the crackling fusillade of the Swedes to which they
had been for ten hours exposed.
As the blast of an angry storm the Imperialists entered Karolsfeld.
The door of the chamber where the three fugitives waited was flung open
and a scarred soldier entered, followed by others, holding out a torch of
flaring pitch; Wallenstein could endure no lesser light.
The pastor and the woman looking round in silence, endeavoured to
distinguish one man from another in the group that this red light disclosed,
but all these warriors were hot, flushed and bitter, in armour, cloaked and
plumed; all spoke and moved as if with one volition, so that it seemed to the
pastor that he did not see many men but one gigantic symbol of war, a cloudy
impersonal cohort of Mars.
But the woman distinguished one from the press.
He was bareheaded and carried his broadsword under his arm. She knew him
for the leader and the great Wallenstein. He had in close attendance on him,
a dwarf in a fantastic habit of sulphurous yellow and acrid green, who was
nearly rolling drunk yet sucked continuously at a horn of liquor he had slung
round his waist.
More light, and the little group it revealed, arrested the progress of the
Imperialists, who had believed they were sweeping through an empty and ruined
The pastor stepped forward, putting up a silent petition to God that he
might find strength to face this fearful man, and Wallenstein detached
himself from his officers and came down the room, accompanied only by the
lolling dwarf and the soldier with the pitchpine flare.
"Who is here?" he asked, and snatched a soiled cloth from his waist to dry
the sweat on his forehead.
The pastor made no salutation to the Bohemian who was to him as the Prince
of the Powers of Darkness—the Bohemian who was reputed to be able to
stamp the devil out of the ground by thundering with his mailed foot; the old
man had nothing to lose but his life and his honour; though of the first he
had grown wearily careless, the second he yet held precious.
"Sire, I am Martin Gernsheim," he said.
"A heretic priest," commented Wallenstein, glancing down at the speaker's
"A servant of the Lord."
"And these?" Wallenstein waved his hand towards the straw.
The woman still knelt there with her unconscious lover's head on her lap
and looked over her shoulder at the Imperialists.
"That," replied Gernsheim, "is Graf Sylvain Eckhardt Erlangen the owner of
Karolsfeld, who has returned here after much disorder and vicissitude of war
to die, as I think."
"Graf Erlangen," repeated Wallenstein slowly, "that is a noble name. I
knew his father—he had a better judgment and bore arms for the Emperor.
Who is the woman?"
"She is Graf Erlangen's betrothed wife, Saba de Hohendorff; her father,
her brother, her cousin, all have been slain in the war, and she is reduced
to seek some shelter with me. This is her and his last retreat. I do not ask
too much, even from you, Graf Wallenstein, when I demand protection for a
dying man and a noble lady."
"You speak," replied Wallenstein, "like all your fry, cunningly and
presumptuously." He turned to the woman. "Stand up," he commanded.
She rose, and again she smoothed out the thin silk gown torn by the wild
The soldier slightly dipped the pitchpine flare and illumined her from
head to foot.
Wallenstein stared at her, shifting his sword under his arm and twisting
round and round his lean wrist the cloth with which he had lately wiped his
brow. A slight cut had broken out into fresh bleeding and the red blood had
soaked into his soiled linen.
Saba de Hohendorff stood motionless under this cruel scrutiny. Tenderly
bred and through all her youth admired and cherished, she hardly yet realized
what war made of men. She stood timid, but without any great fear or
supplication, before the Imperial commander.
Wallenstein remembered a figure he had seen over a wide church porch in a
deserted village; so had that stone saint stood in flowing gown and
close-girdled, with serene look and helpless hands; and he, riding by sullen
and discontented, had chanced to glance up; the stone countenance pure and
undefaced, had seemed to smile at him with compassion. Even as he had looked,
one of his men had raised a carbine, fired, and shattered the figure, so that
the stone shards had fallen down before the battered church door. Wallenstein
had explained to none why he had stopped the march to hang that soldier.
The brandy, the light and the noise had restored Graf Sylvain to his
senses. He writhed on to his side, plucked at Saba's skirts to pull her
aside, and whispered:
The two men peered at each other with curiosity.
"I am glad that you and no lesser captain have come," whispered the young
Graf, "for I must, being myself, as I take it, dying, entreat your protection
for an old man and this lady."
"Ah, young Erlangen," replied Wallenstein softly, "you have come to a
fearful pass. I recall Karolsfeld when it held a hundred serving-men in the
kitchen and fifty horses in the stables."
Graf Sylvain did not answer, but the pastor said:
"And now there are but rats and owls, sire, and such is war."
Wallenstein turned to his officers and said that he would make his
quarters in Karolsfeld that night, bade them inform the sutlers and have his
furniture and provisions brought into the ruins, and a large pavilion set up
in the courtyard, with the Emperor's flag and his own raised above the
highest fragment of the battered keep. "Or, if that be higher, the tallest
pine tree. The moon rises, so you can the better see, and, if I recall well,
Karolsfeld is on a mighty height."
"You keep us," said Martin Gernsheim sternly, "in a suspense as to our
Wallenstein replied negligently:
"Erlangen is noble and dying, I have no business with him, nor with you.
There are many wounded men with me and sufficient surgeons. If you will, you
may have him carried out to the pavilion and given what comfort there
"And the noble woman?" asked the pastor. "Where shall I find fitting
accommodation for her?"
"You will find none," replied Wallenstein, "you will leave her here with
me for company."
The wounded man groaned out: "Then I will not be moved."
Saba de Hohendorff turned from one to the other, bewildered, and beginning
to be afraid.
"She stays," said Wallenstein, "and you may do as you please."
He seated himself on the chest by the window, from which he pulled down
the square of tapestry and, seeming to be lost in dark brooding, stared down
at the hubbub below, over which then fell the quiet light of the rising
The sutlers were coming in with the baggage—beds, utensils,
furnishings and provisions were being hurried into Karolsfeld. Gold and
silver dishes mingled with earthen pots; kettles, ladles, baskets and cradles
of wine were dragged up the stairs; grease and bread were handed out to the
soldiers on the confines of the wood and the courtyard, and some began to
Wallenstein, as if he noticed none of this, remained at the window-place,
and his major-generals and marshals, believing him in the worst of moods,
left him and as quietly as might be, departed from the room.
The Imperialists had been ten hours under fire, and ten hours in retreat;
none of them had uttered the word "defeat" for, although the famous Swede had
thrust upon their forces with all his ferocious valour, with all the force of
his famous and victorious soldiers, he had not been able to break their
ranks. Wallenstein had resisted a murderous and infuriated discharge from
culverin, cannon and musket; his Black Cuirassiers, his Uhlans, his Poles and
Bavarians had fallen, but not fled, before an atmosphere that sparkled fire,
crackled as if lashed with whips. Amid clods of earth raised by falling
cannon-balls, splinters of wood and shards of stone, falling farms and mills,
amid flaming trees and smoking turf the troops of Wallenstein had stood
steady. But, in the night, without disclosing his plans to any, not even to
Piccolomini or Pappenheim, those brilliant and most successful of soldiers,
the Imperialist commander had drawn off his shattered troops and left the
Swede undisturbed in Nürnberg. For ten hours the men had marched towards
Saxony; waggons went heavily with the wounded and dying, the dead in their
blood-besmirched, dirt-befouled clothing marked the track of the retreating
Wallenstein, like one in heavy thought, had ridden ahead of all,
immediately before the standard of the black eagles of the Empire. At one
time, as they passed through the beautiful woods of early autumn he had seen
a bird in a wild cherry tree among the yet green fruit, and, taking his
carbine from his saddle, had fired at it, watching to see it fall; he who was
glutted with the slaughter of war had turned in his saddle to see the little
bird lying in the sweet grass; he had seemed more like a man tormented than
one who has satisfied his lust.
Those who knew him were aware that he would not leave his place by the
window where he sat looking down brooding upon his half-unseen army which
spread over the wide slopes of the mountains. As he sat there with arms
crossed, they brought him water in a great bowl. At Wallenstein's feet lay
the dwarf, now sunk into an intoxicated slumber; his chest heaved with
spasms, and his crooked face twitched. Wallenstein pushed him aside with his
foot and washed away the blood, the dust and the sweat from his own face and
Saba de Hohendorff, who had taken a little stool and sat by the head of
her lover's straw pallet, watched Wallenstein. She had never seen him before,
but no other name since the war began—and that was all her
youth—had ever been so frequently in her ears as that of Albrecht
Wenzel Eusebiws, Graf von Wallenstein, Duke of Friedland, Prince of the Holy
Roman Empire, and Generalissimo of His Imperial Majesty's forces. No
filthy ogre in an old gossip's tale told by the fire in the long winter
nights had had so many vile deeds put to his account as this man. Saba
herself, in deadly terror, had fled before his troops for weeks. Yet, it was
more with curiosity than fear that she surveyed him, and the pastor, standing
patiently but without hope beside her, smiled upon her tenderly for her
Wallenstein was dishevelled. During the halt he had given his men five
hours before, amid the trampled cornfields and the hacked orchards, he had
taken no repose or refreshment. His black-enamelled field armour was dinted
and marked, his cloak torn, his linen collar fouled. Round his smooth-shaven
face the black hair hung tangled; but, beneath his lowering brows with the
dissatisfied frown, his golden-hazel eyes sparkled with the fire of genius.
There was a painful expression in the lines of his lips; in that tanned,
lean, aquiline and implacable face, hated by so many, feared by so many more,
was a certain grandeur and beauty, sinister and melancholy.
They set a table for him near where he sat and kicked the dwarf out of the
way, an act of which he took no heed. He laid his broadsword in the
window-place and taking his tablet, frowned over something that he found
within. The three by the hearth believed he had forgotten them; but, when he
looked up and saw the meal was spread, he beckoned to Saba to come across the
The wounded man caught at her skirts; she gently disengaged herself and
obeyed the command of Wallenstein.
Looking at her across the top of the tablet which he still held open,
Wallenstein asked her:
"Do you not wish your lover attended to? Why have you all remained there
mute, watching me? There is everything in my camp that you can require."
"You said I was to remain, Sire."
"Yes, but not your two companions—they may go."
"They will not go without me," replied the girl simply. "We have been
companions too long and he may be dying. If he is, I shall not see him again
"I do not take him to be dying," said Wallenstein, "he but lacks
He then spoke quietly to one of the soldiers who were bringing in the
food, and ordered him to send up a surgeon to see to the wounded man.
"Does that pacify you, does that please you?" he asked Saba. "The old
heretic, too, for your sake I will let him go. I will give them both a safe
conduct to the Swedish lines. Is that enough?"
Saba moved forward as if about to kiss his hand, though it was still
stained with blood, but the pastor was quicker and, catching her by the
wrist, prevented her.
"You must not accept any of this," he said in a quick whisper. "We will
take nothing, we will remain together."
Wallenstein frowned and waved the old man aside and bade the girl sit
down. She did so. The room was smoky from the flaring resin torch which had
been fastened in the doorway, though the pan with the pitch in it had been
taken away the smell of it yet was in the air.
A surgeon entered and stooped over Graf Sylvain; the wounded youth, whose
heart was throbbing violently, tried to thrust him aside, but his hands
feebly slipped away and Wallenstein smiled to see him forced to submit to the
ministrations of the Imperialist surgeon.
The girl sat at the table with Wallenstein and looked at the pastor.
"The Lord presseth a crown of thorns oft upon our brows."
Wallenstein laughed and asked the old man to eat: "I am particular about
There were pastries and meats and fruit, but the sight of them filled Saba
with a rising nausea. She abhorred the colour of the wine and the sound of it
as Wallenstein poured out into the long green glasses engraved with the
double eagle. Martin Gernsheim came nearer to the window so that he could see
beyond the dark figure of Wallenstein into the courtyard and the pinewoods,
where the moonlight now showed clearly the bluish-black shapes and the
rust-red boughs of the trees. The sutlers moved about with their pots and
provisions among the soldiers; some of these ate riotously and others were
already drowsy and falling among the baggage, all had an air as if they
foresaw the coming day as without hope.
With fatigued and bent bodies the surgeons moved about, they continually
replenished their pocket-flasks with brandy from casks.
Startled by the invasion of light the owls fled from the ruined portion of
Karolsfeld into the depths of the wood, their sweeping wings brushed the
folds of the floating standard, fringed from musket-fire.
Wallenstein sat in the window-niche against the half-fallen piece of
tapestry he had pulled aside. When he saw that Saba would not eat, he took
away the meat from in front of her and placed before her fruit—early
pears and cherries just ripe.
Martin Gernsheim knew that it was his intention to keep the maiden with
him and that he did not even concern himself to argue about this.
The wounded man on his straw groaned and writhed as the newly-bandaged
wound flushed out red on the clean linen swathed across his chest. Saba
endeavoured to eat the fruit. A light wind blew chill on her young bosom, the
outline of which was softly visible beneath the silk gown.
The pastor spoke without passion and as one disgusted with the meanness of
his words, which were so beneath the occasion. He pleaded with Wallenstein to
allow the maiden to go with them; he spoke of her purity, of her noble birth,
of her misfortunes, of her great love for young Sylvain Erlangen, lying there
"Prince, there sits a lovely and an innocent creature, as it might be in
this chance of war your own sister, or your own wife."
Wallenstein did not answer, the pastor could see that he greatly desired
to keep Saba with him. What could anyone say to move the firm determination
of a man who had absolute power—a disappointed, a defeated, and a
"Prince," stammered Martin Gernsheim, "she is a good creature."
Wallenstein frowned, thrusting his forefinger between his gorget and his
white, soiled linen collar.
A faint cloud, like the heavy breath of a sigh misting a glass, blurred
"Noble lady," said the pastor, "let us go. The great Wallenstein will not
keep us, he will give us a safe conduct for all three."
The man of peace fixed his pale, watery but resolute eyes on the features
of the man of war.
Wallenstein pressed his nether lip with his teeth until it was white; his
hand, twitching, fumbled with his buckles. He said nothing and the pastor
whispered to the maiden:
"Rise up and come with me."
Outside, one of the soldiers was playing a hymn-tune on a metal flute, and
against this melody was the different rhythm of a drum, to which could be
heard the tap of heavy boots of men dancing.
Wallenstein looked down, looked at his coat and the folds of his mantle,
which were spotted with grease and blood, and handed the leaf that he had
torn from his tablet to the pastor. It was a safe conduct for all three.
Martin Gernsheim did not venture to thank him, but Saba drew away so
quickly and quietly that when Wallenstein raised his eyes her place was
empty. He put his elbows upon the table and thrust his fingers into his hair,
with his thumbs under his chin, to watch the three depart. Graf Sylvain,
under the surgeon's direction, was helped up by two soldiers, but showed
great weakness, upon which Wallenstein directed that a litter was to be
brought for him.
Saba had put on her little coat of blue velvet with swansdown edging,
which had once been so pretty but was now dirty and dishevelled. She pulled
nervously at the pastor's sleeve and said:
"Shall I not thank him—shall I not go back?"
The pastor said, "No." His only anxiety was to get them quickly away from
Karolsfeld. Glancing over his shoulder he had seen Wallenstein's face take on
a dead look and his dark eyebrows lifted up over his eyes which smouldered
with a diabolical fire.
"Leave the man to himself," he whispered, "and what has he done? If he had
behaved otherwise it would have been the greatest shame to him and his
And Sylvain on his litter murmured: "If we thank him it sets us very
So in silence they left Karolsfeld, going noiselessly down the shattered
stairway because they had to follow the litter which was carried awkwardly
round the corners.
To the pastor it seemed incredible that he had contrived to save the
maiden from a man like Wallenstein. As he held and patted the cold little
hand, he thought tenderly and with gratitude of those noble virgins in the
old Christian story whom angelic protection had preserved immaculate.
When they reached the bottom of the stairs they heard a great shouting
from above. The voice was strained and seemed to be that of some one in
agony. There was a heavy ado and a running to and fro of Croats and Heyducks
and a commotion which seemed like to split the dark shell of the castle. The
soldiers set the wounded man down in the courtyard, where was a great medley
of light and noise. Graf Sylvain implored the pastor to take Saba away..."I
shall be well enough, I have his promise, do you get her out of this."
Here in the courtyard everything became a confusion of movement and sound,
all had leapt to their feet, whilst the minor officers gave orders. Martin
Gernsheim thought that possibly the Swedes were upon the Imperialists, but he
discovered that the cause of all this confusion was the shouting commands
that came from an upper window.
Wallenstein was leaning from the window of the room where they had left
him; his black hair, his lose cravat blew out into the night breeze, which
was then freshening, and the moon was reflected in his black armour. They
could not hear what he said. His major-generals and his colonels came
thundering down the stairs to enforce his commands. The soldiers seemed to
understand very well. They brought out a great wheel, too large to be used
for any but a fearful purpose.
"What are they going to do?" asked Saba.
A tall Transylvanian dragging up a coil of rope said:
"He is going to punish some prisoners, he is going to punish someone."
"Who are the prisoners?" gibbered the pastor.
"Oh, old man, we have a great many Swedes, Germans, deserters, and some
"And are these all to be put to death?" asked Saba.
"Certainly they are to be put to death."
"Some will be broken on the wheel, some will be hanged, some will have
stones put round their necks and be thrown in the river; eh, girl, don't you
know all that?"
"Why is this?" asked the pastor, "we left him sitting quietly."
The Transylvanian had passed on with his coil of rope and was helping his
fellows to set up the wheel.
A moaning psalm rose from the lips of the Swedish prisoners who had
glimpsed their fate.
Two Black Cuirassiers came out of the Castle dragging between them the
dwarf. He was to be beheaded for being drunk in his master's presence.
"Take away Saba," groaned Graf Sylvain. The soldiers had placed his litter
in a doorway.
The surgeon who had dressed the wound stood beside them.
"She is safe," he said. "Wallenstein has passed his word, and as for the
other his wound protects him; for the rest what can you expect? The Swedes
have given him a set-back, and that is the first time anyone can remember
that of Wallenstein."
"This slaughter, this massacre," gasped the pastor, wiping his forehead
and clasping his hands. "Can nothing be done?"
"Nothing," said the surgeon. "It is his mood. When he has been silent for
long, you may be sure he will fall into a frenzy at the end of it. It is,
perhaps, a convulsion or reaction—who knows?"
"Can you not reason with him, restrain him?"
"Anyone who attempts to do that will himself be sent to the wheel," said
the surgeon; he added, in a confidential tone—"You see, he allowed the
lady to go; now a woman, and one whom he fancies, can very often soothe him;
but in this case—"
Saba overheard these words and understood them.
She saw the Swedish prisoners—hardy, shabby, small men, many with
bleeding feet and foreheads being brought out, and they continued to sturdily
sing their song of Protestant defiance, although their faces were blanched
and distorted when they were brought near the gallows and the wheel being so
The pastor and the surgeon endeavoured to draw the girl to safety, to take
her away into the pinewoods where she would see none of this frightful
spectacle, and the sick man, with a frantic and feverish force, entreated her
Saba slipped out of their hands, returned to the Castle and forced her way
up the staircase, which was then full of terrified men—soldiers,
sutlers and camp servants; when they saw her pressing up some murmured, all
seemed to make a way for her, to hustle her roughly forward and upward,
passing her from hand to hand so that she scarcely touched the steps at all,
bringing her at last to the door of Wallenstein's room.
A tall field-marshal, whose armour was covered with looped tassels and
scarlet ribbons, said to her: "If you go into him you may change his
Saba was alone among enemies. She hurried on and looked about her in the
chamber lit by the flaring pitch-pine for Wallenstein; he stood there by the
table, which still bore her plate with the untouched fruit. He had wrenched
off his gorget and torn open his black taffeta cravat and soiled white linen
collar, so that his neck was bare; he had pulled at his cuirass with a force
which had broken the strap, so that it hung from one shoulder only. His sword
was again slung up under his arm and, straddling with his hands on his hips,
he gazed out like a madman, on the scene of the execution of his orders for
death and torment.
Saba came up to him, her breast heaving. When he saw her his voice fell
and he stared:
"I sent you away," he said gloomily.
She nodded, unable to speak.
"Why have you come back?" he insisted.
Unable to think of an apt reply, she said, foolishly:
"I was afraid of the forest, the dark and the shadows, and even the
He did not hear what she said, but he was pleased and soothed by her
beauty and gentleness, the soft lines of the silk gown, by the delicate fair
face and disordered blonde hair. She sat down at the table and said,
"I am hungry, and fatigued."
She began to eat the pear and the cherries that he had given her before
and which she had rejected.
Wallenstein looked at her and as he paused, the hubbub and commotion in
the chamber was silenced, and, so long as any orders did not come down from
that room, the hubbub and commotion in the castle and in the courtyard was
silenced also. But there was still to be heard the tap of the hammers and the
drag of the rope as gallows and wheel were put into place.
Saba finished the cherries, and Wallenstein still gazed at her. She then
offered him a pear and asked him to cut it for her..."If it pleases you."
His eyelids lifted, showing a look of pleasure at this request.
Saba said, watching him:
"That is a fearful noise without. Can you not tell them to cease that we
may have a little peace?"
He asked: "Have you come to stay with me?"
Saba said, "Yes."
"But what did the heretic priest say, and are you not the betrothed wife
of Sylvain Erlangen?"
"Nevertheless, I have come to stay," she said steadily; as she took the
pear from him their fingers touched. "Do you care for music, Prince? I have a
guitar hidden in this house, and I can play on it well enough to beguile a
"Aye," he muttered, "I am a tired man tonight."
"Be done then," she said, "with all this noise and stir without."
He sat opposite to her at the table; she smiled, and as his convulsive
nervous tension relaxed, she saw how sad the man was, how fatigued and
tormented. In the faces of the men behind him she saw relief and gratitude.
They glanced and signalled one to the other. They crept away, the confusion
of sound diminished below. There was no longer the tap of hammer, the drag of
rope, or the psalm of the prisoners; the cackle of the drunken dwarf rose in
Saba gravely finished eating her pear, and Wallenstein still regarded her.
Then she rose and went to him and unfastened his cuirass, as she had learned
to fasten and unfasten the cuirass of her lover Sylvain Erlangen, and laid it
down in the window niche. He drank a little wine and ate a little bread, but
never ceased to look at her. Presently he asked her where she kept the
She said, "I will fetch it." And when she rose he followed her, taking
with him a burning lanthorn.
The guitar was in the turret chamber which she had used as a bedroom since
she had hidden in Karolsfeld. Above this turret apartment now hung
Wallenstein's standard and that of the double eagle. On her bed was a
soldier's blanket, and in a broken goblet she had placed a bouquet of autumn
daisies, strong white and yellow.
Wallenstein set the lanthorn on the table beside these. Saba took the
guitar from a hook on the wall; one of the strings was broken. She mended it
with steady fingers, her face was serious. Everything was by then silent and
the moon going down behind the mountains, so that between this setting and
the rising of the sun there would be a little space of dark.
Saba took off her small jacket trimmed with soiled swansdown and seated on
the bed, began to play her guitar. She was very skilful in small fine arts.
The soldier listened, pacing up and down the narrow room and as she played,
told her of the last day and night—the ten hours' attack by the Swedes,
the ten hours' falling back from Nürnberg. She learnt from what he said that
he was a man who would venture to storm heaven and set his heel on hell, that
he had been forced to draw away from the Swedes and their leader—a
Protestant northern invader—he, the mighty Bohemian, the greatest
soldier in the world! Not in precise words did he tell her this, she sensed
it. She did not remind him that he was making this confession to one who was
a Protestant and of his enemies.
The oil of the lanthorn failed, the flame flickered wearily from side to
side. Wallenstein tried to guard this fleeting fire. Saba rested her soft
bosom against the guitar. She said:
"It is a terrible thing, Prince, to have so much power. You spend your
life among maimed and dying men, wounded limbs, ambulances, doctors,
massacres...You march through towns in mourning, you tramp across the country
bleeding to death..." Her voice faltered and grew stammering, she had no
longer the strength or the courage to touch the strings of the guitar.
Wallenstein endeavoured to stay the flame in the lanthorn; he told her he
was afraid of the dark. She was the first person to know this and he was put
to many shifts and devices to keep a light in his pavilion or in his
He spoke that like a confession, bending low over the dying flame, which
faintly illumined his tormented and sombre face—yes, afraid of the dark
ever since he had been a small child and woken up screaming at the blackness
round about him—the alive and terrible dark.
"There will be a little moon yet," she said in faltering, husky tones.
But he replied that the moon had gone behind the shoulder of the mountain
and the thickly-placed pines.
"I am greatly to be pitied," he muttered, "more to be pitied than you or
anyone." He was still absorbed in watching the sinking flame, and she crept
nearer the door.
When it became utterly dark she surely could escape, even if it was only
to dash herself to pieces from the ramparts, to fall perhaps, near where her
lover lay muttering maledictions on her name for turning back. But when she
had her hand on the door, the flame sank out suddenly and in the darkness she
heard the soldier cry—
"Don't leave me!"
She stood still; first the complete blackness, then the faint grey square
of the window, then that obscured by his black figure. She had no protection.
She snatched up the goblet of daisies and held it against her bosom, for a
second it formed a barrier between them, then fell, the flowers and the
broken earthenware across their feet—her thin, small shoes, his thick
and heavy boots.
He embraced her closely, she was consoled by the knowledge of his need of
her, his fear of the dark.
In the courtyard among the soldiers the sick man moaned and languished on
his litter. Now and then the surgeon attended to him and the pastor spoke
words of consolation. Presently both became yawning and drowsy and slept.
Only the young man lay wide awake, rigid, staring up at the black
In the morning the Imperialists departed.
Wallenstein was early in the saddle. He rode away with a great guard of
Spanish and Italian generals, of field-marshals, colonels and glittering
commanders, he had hung the Golden Fleece round his neck and there was a
diamond in his hat. The Black Cuirassiers, on a whetstone in the courtyard,
once more sharpened their swords, now worn so thin that they seemed like
ribbons. Wallenstein looked back and up as his flag and the flag with the
black eagles were taken down from the highest turret of Karolsfeld—the
turret which was higher than the loftiest pine. The expression on his face
was the same as it had been yesterday when he had glanced round at the cherry
tree from which he had shot the little bird with his carbine—an
expression more of a man tormented than of a man who has gratified a
Saba de Hohendorff came down the turret stairs to find her lover. She had
plaited up her hair, fastened the blue jacket with the soiled swansdown close
to her chin, the rents made by the wild bushes in her gown were longer. She
came to the sick man's litter. He turned away his head and as she bent over
him, struck out with his hand at her, feebly. The pastor looked at her
sorrowfully. The angels had not been able to protect her...the prisoners had
been spared, but she had been sacrificed.
She appeared to have been weeping, her beauty was eclipsed; she seemed to
the pastor altogether a lesser creature than she had been yesterday; she had
nothing to suggest. He advised her to keep out of Graf Sylvain's sight, if
she wished him to recover his health. He said he would pray for her soul.
Saba did not answer. She looked down at the face of the man who yesterday
she had believed she loved, at the high cheekbones glazed with the scarlet of
fever, at the cracked lips and the sunken eyes.
"He does not wish to speak to me?" she asked.
The pastor shook his head. "No, that you can understand." His tone was
different from the tone he had used yesterday when he had called her "a noble
Saba stood aside; she crept to the door and sat on the top step with her
hands clasped round her knees. She saw a cart brought up and Graf Sylvain put
in, and the pastor get in beside him. He did not look back at her. The
surgeon had evidently arranged this accommodation. They went off through the
forest to the Swedish lines, she supposed, to at least some adventure in
which she would have no part.
Nearly all the army had departed, only a few stragglers remained. These
were women, draggled and tawdry; old men and a few peasants with wine, beer
and vegetables, which they hoped to sell to the soldiers.
Saba sitting apart, alone, watched a filthy old harridan making porridge
over a fire of dried thistles and last year's fir cones. She was hungry,
faint and cold. When the old woman had finished her mess she put a little of
it in a wooden cup and, crossing the courtyard, offered it to Saba. The girl
ate it as eagerly as a famished animal. The hag surveyed her with some
Sensing this pity in the bleared gaze bent upon her, Saba's tears again
began to fall and were caught in the empty bowl which the old woman took away
and wiped on her apron.
"You had better come with us," she suggested.
But Saba de Hohendorff continued to weep.
The trumpets of the Imperialist army rang out over Karolsfeld as the
rearguard glittered down the mountain side.
A Florentine night-piece composed by Nicolo Antonio
Porpora for His Serene Highness the Grand Duke Gian Felice of Florence.
[ITALY, 18th Century.]
Everything inclines to its own conclusion."...The Virtuoso, Nicolo Antonio
Porpora, seated lonely in his small chamber of the vast palace, found in the
opening bars of his Serenata the theme that would bring it to an
end...The work was a failure—a false composition—undertaken to
order, with no heart in it...Where he should have evoked gaiety and
voluptuous pleasure he had evoked melancholy and a sense of
disillusion—the terror of fruition which is so near decay. He desired
to write motets and masses, but the Grand Duke had ordered a serenata, and
Porpora, for his livelihood, was forced to obey—had he been independent
he would have composed the melodies which lay tranquil in his soul, but that,
it seemed, could never be—the artist always at the service of a prince!
He played and mused over the incomplete Serenata. "Rondo al Gran
Duca"—what should that be—what did he know of the Grand Duke,
after all? Nothing very admirable. Certainly he was gallant, and young, and
not ill-looking. But the Virtuoso thought that his master's brains were not
of the finest quality, he knew him to be idle and selfish, obstinate and
extravagant, wilful and reckless; how put these qualities into music?
Porpora dropped his old violet-veined hands, which had become dry and
delicate from making music, plucking at strings, touching keys, bows, stops,
sighed in the warmth of the night and went to the window; as he leaned out
and looked to the right and the left he could see the immense blank white
façade of the palace, which alarmed him with its impressive aloof air of
power; the night was of amazing beauty. "But the most amazing of all,"
thought the Virtuoso, "is that we find it wonderful. Ever since I have known
anything I have known the moon, yet, on a night like this, I still marvel at
it. Everything inclines to its own conclusion, and they say the moon is
dying. How does the Grand Duke spend his nights, and for whom does he wish
the Serenata written? It will be a cold composition—how will it
go? Capriccio, I think—a loose affair without order or method,
as the young man is himself..."
Porpora returned reluctantly and with an air of fatigue to the spinet;
into the warm, breathless silence of the immense palace, into the voluptuous
stillness of Florence—silent beneath the September moon—the
halting, hesitant, contradictory notes of the Grand Duke's Serenata
rose from beneath the fastidious fingers of the Virtuoso...Beauty, that was
it, one must search for beauty, and there the night helped—the night,
like the artist, ignored or transformed all that was vile or sordid, ugly or
contemptible—the night, the hot moonlight night of September gave the
illusion of immortality to loveliness, to passion and to art...Perhaps,
inspired by the night and avoiding the fear of disillusion which touched his
withering heart, the Virtuoso might yet compose something that had a breath
of sublimity in it, even if it was not a masterpiece for a generous and
reckless young prince. There was everything in the night, the transparency of
water and the glitter of gems; the perfumes from the palace garden, the
odours from those flowers which were crushed and bowed beneath the heat of
the day might make a priest forget his book, a saint his meditation; these
odours, stirring through the open window, mocked the music—the melody
not yet created, the theme already faded and effete...
"It requires something grand and splendid," thought the Virtuoso in
despair; "something that dazzles with ornament and is adorned with fancies;
something that is easy to learn, too, sweet and yet austere. A young man
should write for him—whatever I compose will have a note of irony
through it, and that unkind satire which is a gibe at infirmity."
Yes, an amazing night, a lovely night—the moon enveloping all the
city of Florence with a piercing and a poignant radiance! The rose, the
oleander, the lily and the laurel, syringa and myrtle—pouring out this
unseen libation of perfume—the overwhelming beauty of the
night...enchantment. The feebleness of the music that faltered from the
spinet was like the lament of humanity for its own weakness and inadequacy in
the face of a night like this. What should one put into a serenata?
Perhaps, when she turned, the pins—of gold or silver, would they
be?—would fall through her loosened bronze-coloured hair, and strike on
the alabaster tiles of her chamber—would that be a harmony one could
reproduce? Or, if she ventured on to her balcony and leant against the rigid
iron of the balustrade, what sound would the stiff taffetas of her dress make
crushing against the sides of the window?
A bell lamented from Santa Maria dei Fiori. Porpora thought of the
dome of the cathedral, where the moonlight would glisten gracefully on all
those high plaques of coloured marble, faded rose, azure, amber, pearl; the
clock of white silvered porcelain on the mantelpiece struck twelve times. The
Virtuoso sighed, tore up his score, and returned to his labours—a
Serenata for the Grand Duke...September and moonlight in Florence.
While the echo from the last stroke of the bell of Santa Maria dei
Fiori lingered in the translucent air a man drew back into the shadows of
the arcade of a silent palace on the bank of the Arno. He had lightly and
cautiously closed the shadowed side-door behind him, and he now lightly and
cautiously looked to right and left along the curved embankment with the low
balustrade; his eyes were quick, his perceptions acute, and he at once
observed a group of men lingering darkly in the distant strip of shadow which
the moon, rising behind him, cast from the palace as far as the parapet which
edged the yellow, noisy river. The darkness of this group of men showed that
they were sombrely cloaked against observation; their stillness showed they
waited for some one—possibly for him, Gian Felice, possibly for some
one else; it would, in any case, be reckless to pass that way; he believed
there were four or five of them. He paused, not alarmed or hesitant, but
swiftly considering. He had been visiting Engracia on an errand of farewell;
he was invaded by a sensation of futility and depression. If among these
lurking enemies was her husband, or this was his arrangement, it would be
very stupid to be killed for the sake of a mistress one had, with some
difficulty, discarded—in any case, it would be detestable to be cast
into the Arno and washed down through Pisa to those muddy flats where the
winding river carried its refuse to the sea...Gian Felice therefore waited in
the shadow, wondering whether they had perceived that he had left the palace.
If they were not waiting for him and he declared himself, he might pass them
without mischance, but such an action had a dull and undignified air. Gian
Felice, keeping close to the flat front of the palace, moved away from where
the group of assassins lurked, but he peered cautiously back over his
shoulder, which was muffled by a dark cloak, and perceived that they, also
cautiously and with a creeping, stealthy movement, were following him,
waiting, no doubt, until some lonely spot was reached where his cries and
struggles would not be heard. He believed that while he kept along the banks
of the Arno they would not venture to attack, for at his first cry for help
many of those lattices would be thrown open, lights and voices would break
the drowsy moonlight, and, even if they succeeded in murdering him, it was
not likely that they would escape pursuit; therefore, as long as he kept flat
to the palace like that—so one with the shadows that if they essayed a
shot they would have no good aim—he was safe enough; but, presently,
the palaces ended and the embankment concluded sharply in the city walls and
fortifications, a labyrinth of dark and intricate lanes leading to the viler
quarters of the town.
Gian Felice, crouching like a cat in the shadow, grinned beneath his mask;
he had an angry sense of being trapped. How often he had been warned of just
such a situation as this, and how lightly and mockingly he had disregarded
all such warnings! But now...folly and imprudence were all very amusing until
something happened. On the other side of the hastening river the blackness of
cypress trees rose into the pellucid silver of the sky and across the
glittering white marble circle of a window in a marble church. Gian Felice
thought of requiem masses and his own body being borne into the chancel,
while organ and choir proclaimed an official regret. The sharp smell of
lemon, the drowsy perfume of night-scented lilies coming from a courtyard
enclosed behind a gilt-scrolled gate, gave him an intense desire for life. He
was angry with himself for ever having been bored, or weary, or full of
lassitude; if he escaped this present peril he would enjoy every minute of
every hour of life, without scruple, remorse, regret, or hesitancy.
The assassins were gaining upon him, already he seemed to feel the
muffling folds of a heavy cloak flung over his head, rendering all cries
useless. Should he stop now and strike on one of those silent, locked doors,
and demand assistance. But they were too close; before he could have made the
gesture they would have been upon him.
Who could it be? Engracia's husband, was he so interested and so careful?
It was well known that, despite his fifty years and a constitution enfeebled
by all manner of excesses, he was more likely to be sighing beneath the
balcony of another man's wife than protecting his own...Perhaps the affair
was political, perhaps they mistook him for some one else. Gian Felice
reached the dark angle of a column, he stood at the corner of a narrow lane
where the massive buildings were only a foot or so apart, where the shadow
was thick and solemn, for in these narrow alleys the light of the moon could
not penetrate until directly overhead, and then even only as a line of light;
with sardonic swiftness Gian Felice at this important corner turned and fled
with rapid violence into the obscurity of the dark by-street. He was
immediately followed by his pursuers. He could hear their footsteps on the
cobbles, and, at the thought of what would happen if he fell or they overtook
him, Gian Felice became profoundly vexed. This would, indeed, be a stupid
extinction of a life that had been by no means without a pulse of
delight—a life which had, perhaps, with a careful juxtaposition of
events, led precisely to this moment—" All things inclined towards
their own end." Yet the rhythm of his flight soothed his apprehensions, for
he was a fine athlete, and even now the exercise of his strength and powers
pleased him. He was being gained on, however, by his pursuers, and they were
not so far away.
Sharp and clear amongst all those darkened windows in the dark palaces he
saw a small lamp which hung in a high apartment between the leaves of a
partially opened lattice. The rays of this light, like kindly indicating
fingers, showed a balcony, where stone acanthus leaves supported pillars of
red marble and wound downwards into the heavy coronals of caryatides who
upheld the rich foliated porch above a deep-set door. Gian Felice, who began
to hear the pulsating of his own blood hammering in his ears, was guided by
that insistent light, mounted the nearest caryatid—a foot in the stone
drapery, a foot in the crooked stone elbow, another on the crown of stone
flowers, and so up on to the balcony. He could hear them below, almost upon
him, panting, whispering. The light came from a small lamp hanging in bronze
chains in the window-place; he turned it down and threw his cloak over it in
one movement. When the pursuers came up to the palace where he lurked it was
dark as the others and by no means to be distinguished from them; Gian Felice
waited, motionless, save for a soft caress for a bruised hand. They had
passed, but they were not satisfied, he heard them going to and fro in the
narrow street beneath. Conscious of the indignity of his position he became
angry and cast over in his mind a plan of revenge...Intolerable that he
should thus be pursued through the streets of Florence, that his heart should
be made to beat so high, his forehead become damp, his limbs to tremble!
Insupportable! and he inwardly raged that he could not very easily discover
who these pursuers were, or even if they knew him or not; for all he could
guess they might have been hunting another man, for he could scarcely flatter
himself that he was the only recipient of the favours of Engracia.
He turned into the room which was in darkness and then longed for some
glimmer of the light which he had so impulsively extinguished; he dared not
descend into the street by the same way he had ascended, for he believed that
the assassins would be lingering there. How then, without a light or guide,
find a way out of the palace which might be the residence of an enemy? Gian
Felice moved, slightly hesitant, through a blackness so complete that even
when his eyes became used to it he could distinguish nothing. Making his way
delicately with outspread hands, careful as a tight-rope dancer, he avoided
the furniture in the room and proceeded without noise. He hoped in this
manner to find the door and so to get out on the stairs and leave the palace
by some exit at the back; but his good fortune did not long attend him. His
foot struck some slight object and a jangled wail of music arose. He had
knocked against a guitar. A woman's sigh rose in a pant of terror from the
dark—a woman's voice, startled from dreams, whispered in deep
"The light! where is the light?"
He heard her move, apparently she was searching for a flint and taper.
Gian Felice had never found women among his enemies, but he was a little
alarmed at the present situation; never before had he been so utterly in a
woman's power. He judged it best to declare himself and not to wait for any
revelation he might make when the light came.
"Signora," he whispered earnestly, cautiously approaching the direction of
the voice. "Flying for my life from a number of assassins, I took refuge in
your open window, and quenched your light to confuse my pursuers. If you will
be so generous as to show me the way out of your house I shall always
consider you my guardian angel."
Gian Felice felt this speech to be rather cold and formal, but surprise at
the presence of a lady and doubt as to her appearance made him unable to
better accomplish a compliment at a moment's notice. She was silent; he
commended her for that—at least she would not betray him with a
senseless clamour of useless alarm. He grasped what he knew must be one of
the slender posts of her bed and waited for her answer to his appeal. When
this came it was completely commonplace. The voice out of the dark said:
"Supposing my husband should come in?"
Gian Felice had heard that remark so often and in such different
tones—of coquetry, alarm, invitation, and menace...
He sighed and replied civilly: "Precisely; therefore, may I entreat you to
get me out of the house as quickly as possible?"
The unseen lady sighed also, and asked him what hour it was?
"I do not exactly know, Signora, I heard midnight strike when I first
noticed I was pursued, and that cannot be more than half an hour ago."
"Plenty of time, then," said the lady's voice, but still in a sighing and
melancholy fashion; "my husband is out on a most important affair, and it is
not likely he will return much before the dawn. I am alone in the palace,
save for a few servants—most of whom are devoted to me—"
"Then," replied Gian Felice, "I shall not much inconvenience you by asking
you to assist me in my escape."
"Particularly," returned the voice, softly and sadly, "as I am myself
"You were expecting a lover?" he asked regretfully, "and I have put out
the light which was to have been his signal?"
"How you mistake me!" protested the voice, wistfully; "I have no lover,
and that light which you extinguished illuminated a little image of the
Mother of God."
"But," protested Gian Felice, confounded by this innocence, "you said that
you were escaping tonight..."
"And so I am, I am going to a convent. I always had a religious
inclination; and once I am in the convent the good Sisters will see that
neither my husband's violence nor his money gets me out again."
"You are leaving the world?" said Gian Felice regretfully, "and I think
your voice sounds charming—I believe you are a beautiful woman, and I
am already more than half in love with you."
"I am quite pretty," conceded the voice tenderly. "I have that dark,
thick, yellow hair that belongs to the ladies of Siena, my features are
tolerable, and my eyes a pleasant blue—a colour which, as you know, is
not very common in Italy. I was married at fifteen to a man of fifty-five,
and I have been singularly unhappy. I am tormented by his causeless
They always were, he knew that "causeless jealousy."...
"Is there no refuge besides the convent from a jealous husband?" protested
Gian Felice. He walked along beside the bed and, delicately searching, found
the lady's hand outside the coverlet. She did not resist, but allowed her
fingers to lie in his.
"If you knew my whole story, I declare you would pity me," she said with
another sigh, "but I have finished with this life. I have made all
arrangements secretly through Jacinth, my woman. At two o'clock the convent
gate by the fig tree will stand open, and I shall pass in; it will close
behind me for ever."
"What caused you to take this most desperate resolution?" asked Gian
Felice, caressing her hand, which he had found young, small and soft.
"My husband was so absurd as to become jealous of the Grand Duke."
"Jealous of the Grand Duke?" exclaimed Gian Felice. "Who then, are
"Who then are you, should I not ask?" commanded the lady, slightly
"I am sorry that I spoke harshly," apologized Gian Felice humbly. "I am a
gentleman of Naples, on a visit to Florence."
"Remain incognito, if you please," replied the lady indifferently,
"I have done with things of this world, as I have said. My name is Dionisia.
My husband is a provincial nobleman of some pretensions; perhaps it would be
more prudent if I did not give you his title."
"Let us both be nameless," agreed Gian Felice, "such a proceeding appears
to fit the complete darkness in which we meet and shall, no doubt, part. But,
tell me, how is it possible that your husband should be jealous of you and
the Grand Duke?"
"Why should it not be possible?" retorted the lady. "Not having seen me
you cannot possibly judge whether I am unlikely to attract the attention of
the Grand Duke—which is not so difficult, after all. He has been
pleased, let me remind you, Signor, with lesser beauties than I have
pretension to be—"
"As to that," replied Gian Felice, "I always thought that his taste was
excellent. Where did you meet?"
"At the Opera," cried the lady; "we were one side of the theatre and he
was the other, and my husband would have it that he was looking at me and
"Signalling at the Opera!" exclaimed Gian Felice.
"Oh, everybody knows that he has a code of signals: for instance, when he
touches his cravat twice it means, May I send you a box of sweetmeats? When
he twists one of his curls round his fingers it means, Will you be at home
"Ah, does it, indeed?" said Gian Felice dubiously. "Everybody knows of
this secret code?"
"Of course," said Dionisia, "such things soon get about, do they not? And
my husband swore that he saw him making these signals to me."
"And I could swear," remarked Gian Felice, "that he never even noticed
"You cannot possibly swear any such thing until you have seen me,"
complained the lady, pulling her hand away from his, "and whether he did or
not, it was quite sufficient for my husband to make my life a torment to me.
And I have decided to leave the vanities and temptations of the world, to
retire to a convent and there dedicate myself to the service of heaven."
"And did not the Grand Duke give any indication of rescuing you from your
"Alas," sighed the lady melodiously, from the dark, "I have neither seen
nor heard anything of him since that day, and I fear that even if I took his
fancy he soon forgot me. I take this mortification as a punishment for the
sin I was guilty of in—"
"In what?" asked Gian Felice eagerly.
"In regarding him with too indulgent an eye," admitted the lady. "I
confess that I could not help contrasting him, very favourably, with my
husband—" then she added, on a note of sweet thoughtfulness, "and if I
had allowed myself to love him, and if by any chance he should
have—well, not loved, but amused himself with me, my heart would have
broken in despair; therefore, it is better that I go into the convent."
Gian Felice tried again to find her hand on the silk coverlet. This time
it escaped him. The darkness weighed on his eyelids and oppressed his
"May I, at least," he asked, "escort you to the gate of the convent?"
She replied simply: "Yes, I will help you to get out of the house, and you
may come as far as the convent gate if you wish; since you tell me you are a
stranger here and in peril of your life I owe you just this much kindness,
for I have heard that Florence is a very wicked city and full of sin,
especially at night. My husband, himself—and, since you are a stranger
to all of us, I may tell you this—is out on an evil errand."
"Ah, is he indeed?" asked Gian Felice, rising to his feet.
"That is why I have chosen to-night to escape, for I know he will be fully
occupied. He betrayed himself to me by chance, and since then I have watched
him, and come at the truth of a conspiracy."
"A conspiracy," repeated Gian Felice softly, but alert.
"He and a number of other gentlemen who have, they say, their grievances,
are out to-night to assassinate the Grand Duke."
"Indeed they are!" exclaimed Gian Felice, "and you appear to take that
very calmly, signora."
"I take it very calmly," replied the lady, and he felt that she smiled,
"because I have taken steps to prevent it. This morning I sent a note to the
palace, warning the Grand Duke of the conspiracy, telling him to remain
indoors...It seems he was expected at a certain palace—how my husband
found that out I don't know, but I suppose the Grand Duke was betrayed; in
any case, the assassins will wait in vain."
Gian Felice was silent, nor did she speak—the darkness seemed to
dissolve them into a dream in the heart of the other, so that they appeared
to be a voice, a sigh, answering each to each; striving against this
illusion, he said, sighing:
"Do not enter a convent, there must be happiness somewhere—"
Crescendo—fruition—completion!—the words seemed to hover
in the dark...
"We are born with the seeds of death in us," whispered the lady's voice,
"we never touch the utmost, nor achieve perfection—it is better to
forego everything than to be content with a second best."
"But you could have loved the Grand Duke," said Gian Felice warmly, "and
he, I am sure, could have loved you."
"He has loved too many," replied Dionisia, "and I have never loved at
all—we are not fairly matched. Memory is better than a
"Come," he said, moving towards the head of her bed, "we will escape
He heard her rise, he heard her move about in the dark room and take up
the guitar, strike the strings and sing to it, so faintly that her murmur was
but another added sweetness in the night...
"Why hast thou gone from me, my lost delight
Wilt thou return to me one summer night?
When my lone lattice high
Opés on a midnight sky—
Empty and bright!"
She passed him and he felt the lightest touch from her drapery; he heard a
door open, and she begged him to wait for her in the corridor.
"You are safe, and I shall not be long before I join you."
Gian Felice waited in the outer greyness, for here a window opened on to
the garden, which the moon's rays were already beginning to illuminate,
rising above the blackness of the crowded palaces opposite. She joined him;
he could discern nothing of her since she was cloaked and hooded with dark
and decorous material—still a shade among shades was Dionisia; he
followed her down the shallow stairs through the intermingled greynesses of
many shadows, and down another sombre corridor, and out through a side door,
which led into a by-street, where the lingering glooms of night still hovered
before the ever-mounting moon.
"Let us make haste," whispered Dionisia from behind her mask, "in case
somebody endeavours to overtake us."
They walked swiftly between the high palaces, which were all blank,
shuttered, silent, and unlit. A peacock screamed from some distant pleasance,
and from high, straight walls hung cascades of roses—all pallid,
colourless in the moonlight; above these lofty walls showed the erect spears
of cypress, the black boughs of chestnut and honeysuckle emitting its pungent
nocturnal scent, brightly ringed by fireflies, which, gay and useless as
disembodied joys, hovered wilfully in the moonshot air.
They came out into the Grand Piazza, in the centre of which stood the new
monument to the Grand Duke, erected but a few months before; a huge figure in
bronze on a rearing horse, raised on a massive plinth of stone; the flying
curls, laurel wreath, Roman attire and raised arm of this authoritative and
commanding potentate, colossal in size and grandly sweeping in outline, was
harshly and blackly relieved against the pale moon-filled sky.
Gian Felice and Dionisia, small and frail in comparison with this gigantic
bronze warrior, crept into the shadow of the plinth and waited, to ease their
beating hearts and rest their trembling limbs, for they had come with great
rapidity through many winding and cobbled streets, and she was faint with
regret and he with expectancy.
"We are nearly there," whispered Dionisia. "How utterly lonely it is here
in the great Piazza which, in the daytime, is so full of noise and
An ancient beggar had fallen asleep at the base of the statue; a
half-broken viol d'amore lay across his ragged knees; his old age, his
dirt and his rags were all glorified by the moonlight. He appeared a figure
of ivory and ashes; his white beard swept the broken instrument; he was like
Time asleep over a ruined dream of great beauty, as he reposed, weary, on the
hard stone in the hard shadow, while high above his head leapt magnificently
into the air in petrified action the bronze horse and the bronze rider.
"It is the Grand Duke," whispered Dionisia, peering up, "how large and
implacable and magnificent he looks!"
"In reality," smiled Gian Felice, "he is only an ordinary man like
"How close here seems the perfume of myrtle and roses! I never realized
how many flowers there were in the city! In the daytime one cannot smell them
Gian Felice took Dionisia's hand as they stood together in their infinite
loneliness in the middle of the empty piazza, ringed round by silent palaces,
beneath the huge statue of the colossal figure, close beside the old man,
asleep, with the broken viol d'amore; the peacocks shrilled faintly in
the distance, protesting against the intensity of the stillness...
"Are you still wishful to go into a convent?" he asked, inclining towards
her, tenderly putting back her hood, expecting a radiancy of fairness.
But she was masked; he lifted the lace of this from above her lips and
kissed her; she kissed him in return, and yet the kiss fell somewhere between
them, and was lost in the night as an unfolded blossom born in the darkness
may fall from a high tree into a quick river and disappear, useless, no one
ever knowing of its existence.
She caught his hand and pulled him away from the statue and the beggar;
even while he thought that she was still indulging a caprice, a whim, she had
drawn him to the cold gates of the convent, close by the city wall, where the
great bastions rise up on the slope of the hill. Before them was the open
gate and the fig tree, its large unpruned leaves square-cut in the light,
which was now beginning to flush with the opal tints of dawn.
"I think no one has followed us, no one has observed us."
He asked her if she would not take off her mask; she shook her head and
ran into the convent garden. Under the fig tree he saw two waiting nuns come
forward, enfold her, enclose her, and lead her into the cloister..."Wilt thou
not come back to me, my lost delight!..."
All the manifold trees of the city were stirring in the western breeze,
the silver haze of the sky began to brighten with a warmer gold as Gian
Felice returned to his palace—the immense black facade of which looked
like a barrack, a prison, monstrous—a dwelling for giants.
The young man entered by a secret door with a secret key. He went
noiselessly down a long, quiet corridor and paused at an open door of a
chamber where Nicolo Antonio Porpora his Virtuoso, had fallen asleep across
the spinet. Gian Felice entered the chamber and, for the first time since he
had left Engracia's house, took off his mask, revealing a face of notorious
beauty, where the eyebrows slanting towards the nose had the air of wings,
and the lips mocked even at what they offered.
The old musician had drowsed into slumber across papers where scores had
been crossed out, words underlined, words effaced..."Rondo al Gran
Duca"—"Serenata for the Grand Duke"..."Capriccio!"
"An amazing night! Why do we find it amazing?" "The fear of
disillusion—the dread of completion."..."What we have never enjoyed we
can never lose."..."Immortality lies in incompletion."..."All things incline
towards their own end."...
Such the senseless scrawlings the Virtuoso had put across his music; Gian
Felice read them and smiled. This was his Serenata—broken and
unfinished; he thought of the old man asleep beneath the great bronze
statue—Would not that be the real Serenata—for ever
The Prince, smiling, woke the Virtuoso, who sprang up, startled and
humiliated, adjusting his wig, clutching his papers.
"Ah, Your Serene Highness will forgive, will excuse—I have done
nothing, written nothing; the heat, the moonlight—I strove to capture
an illusion, it was not easy; Your Serene Highness will pardon?"
"I, too, have tried to capture an illusion," said the Grand Duke. "She did
not know me, and I never saw her, and yet I think it was She—the
dearest dear, the sweetest woman..."
"It is an enigma," sighed the Virtuoso, not understanding in the
"Therefore it can be put into melody," smiled the Grand Duke, "which is
always an enigma—eh? You can have no definite statement in Melody, why,
therefore, in Love?" Fingering the keyboard, he misquoted Dionisia: "What we
have just missed is always ours—"
"An infinite regret is preferable to satiety," sighed Porpora, "and I can
put none of these things into music. Your Serene Highness must get another
Virtuoso...Scarlatti, perhaps, could have done it, or Jomelli?"
"She was extraordinarily simple," mused the Grand Duke, "she thought that
I read my letters, that she had saved my life—I wonder which was hers
out of that heap this morning they brought in with the chocolate! Ah,
Porpora, there is another day beginning, and you have not finished my
"I have slept, Serene Highness, I am refreshed, I will begin."
"Think of my effigy," smiled the Grand Duke mockingly, "on the bronze
horse, in that new statue on the Grand Piazza, and see me now—spent,
fatigued, disappointed—and combine the two, if you can, in your
Rondo al Gran Duca."
"What was her name?" asked the Virtuoso.
"Perdita, for she is lost—and she is of the sweetness that must be
"A moth flutters in out of the night. If you let it go the memory of it is
yours; and, if you try to capture it, you have but a pinch of silver dust on
The Virtuoso's relaxed hands stumbled over the keys of the spinet in an
endeavour to recapture some of the themes he had thought of for his
"If pins of gold and silver fell through her bronze-coloured hair and
tinkled on the alabaster tiles..."
"If it was so dark that you could not see her," interrupted the Grand
Duke, "and you heard her rise from her bed, and heard her sigh, and if in
that darkness your foot struck against the guitar and it gave out a jangle of
music, and if you heard the gates of a cloister, the grille of the convent
parlour closing behind her, if you knew she had seen and loved you, yet met
you again and did not know you, and you had never glimpsed her
face—there is your Serenata, Porpora!"
He smiled sadly and pushed back the damp black curls from his forehead; he
thought of the sleeping old man and the broken viol d'amore in the
moonlit market-place beneath his own pompous statue; meanwhile he considered
what a stupid tinkle Porpora was making on the spinet...
"The man is old and knows nothing."
While the Virtuoso, playing aimlessly, was reflecting: "The young man is a
fool and his head is empty."
The Grand Duke yawned, the music ceased at that signal of tedium, and the
sun came up over Florence.
A FANFARE FOR SILVER TRUMPETS
Set for His Most Catholic Majesty King Philip of Spain
on his arrival at Madrid. [SPAIN, 18th Century.]
Three young men came out on to the gilt gallery round the prow of the
state galley; they found the prospect so charming and sumptuous that they had
a great desire to take a draught of it; as they stared at the wide harbour
and commanding citadel of Bordeaux, at the great crowd of decked French
shipping, they first smiled and then giggled at each other, but furtively,
for they had been very strictly brought up.
The pale, azure grey of the winter morning was a discreet background for
the Bourbon gesture of challenging splendour and pomp.
The royal vessel on which the three young men (secretly impressed and
outwardly stately) stood was towed by four barques painted blue interspersed
with fleur de luce and golden crosses; each of these barques had a
pilot and twenty-four oarsmen plying oars also blue, their gay habits were
covered with silver lace; besides these there were other boats, one
containing the numerous musicians, with their shining violins and haut-boys,
who had played during the whole sea passage from Blaye; beyond came two small
brigantines, each carrying six pieces of cannon which were continually firing
and flying blue and silver flags.
"They are replying to our cannon," remarked the elder youth who was the
King: all three listened and heard volleys from the fort artillery and musket
shots from the mansions and castles on each side of the river.
The harbour behind the royal vessel was covered with shipping, so that one
might have walked from shore to shore across the decks of a number of boats
and sloops of all sorts. On many of these were being served, with the
greatest diligence and nicety, an entertainment of fruits and other
refreshments, which had been sent out by the magistrates of Bordeaux.
The young King, smiling excitedly, surveyed this glittering scene. He then
watched the two boats moving alongside the royal vessel, one containing the
rich provisions and the servants who were to prepare them; the other laden
with contrivances for keeping the dainty victuals hot. This breakfast was
served with so much dexterity and everything was so delicate and savoury that
the King was charmed with existence.
"It is really, after all, very entertaining to be a great monarch," he
sighed, with a slight air of relief.
Educated very severely, entirely under the eye of, and following the will
of, that great and redoubtable potentate, his grandfather, the King of
France, he had rather dreaded this journey to a strange people and the
wearing of this alien crown, hitherto borne by the greatest enemies of his
own country; but all this was very agreeable; his two young brothers, the Duc
de Berri and the Duc de Burgogne, agreed with him that to be the centre
figure of such a gorgeous spectacle was no mean situation.
"But you must remember," observed the Duc de Berri, who was shrewder than
either of his brothers, "that we are yet in France, we know nothing of the
conditions of Spain where you are to rule, Philippe."
But the young King, whose elegant manners covered a complete ignorance of
everything save the power of Rome and the might of the Bourbons, replied
"Spain is the land of the Golden Fleece—everything is of precious
metal and even, so I hear, the saucepans have diamonds in their handles!"
And then the three youths laughed together in their excitement.
So the royal ship arrived, preceded by splendid vessels and followed by a
gorgeous display of three or four hundred shallops and boats laden with men,
equipment, flags and trumpets. His Majesty and the Princes were again saluted
by the discharge of cannon from the shipping, the forts and the batteries.
There was a great concourse of people; nothing could have been louder than
their shouts of welcome—louder even, Philippe thought, than the guns or
"Long live the King! Long live the King of Spain!"
A violent fanfare of trumpets rent in the cold, pure air; the young man
smiled with gratification as he stepped on to the wooden bridge lined with
tapestry, where the magistrates of the town waited to receive him. This
ingenious contrivance was set upon four wheels, one end was strongly attached
to the royal ship, the other sloped towards the door of the royal coach.
Above all this was a canopy of cloth of tissue with a fringe of lace and
gold; this, when the King had passed beneath it, was immediately taken down
and given to his Majesty's footmen, who divided it amongst themselves with
suppressed quarrelling (so that it might not be used on a less august
The King was conducted in the huge state coach to the Archbishop's palace;
the swelling balconies, crowded with ladies, were adorned with floating
tapestries, scarlet-hung scaffolds arranged along the streets were filled
with cheering people, the roadways were all cleared, the shops shut, and the
burghers under arms.
The high gate of the King's lodging was set with crowns of laurel, the
arms of France and Spain, and hung with silk Persian cloths.
The magistrates of the town in robes of white satin and scarlet waited
upon His Majesty. The three young French Princes began to feel slightly
fatigued and squeamish, for the passage from Blaye to Bordeaux had been rough
and they had been too excited to eat discreetly of the delicacies sent on
board the ship.
However, the King, who had early learnt the niceties of etiquette,
received with an agreeable smile the presents offered him by the magistrates
of Bordeaux—four great baskets, in one of which were three dozen of
white wax flambeaux, in another two quintels of all sorts of curious comfits
in different painted boxes, and two others full of all manner of native wine
in gold-stoppered bottles. They also presented to the King and the two
Princes two great baskets of oysters, covered with seaweed. Then there were
speeches and compliments, receptions, listening to harangues, the replying to
them, and the whole day passing in a whirligig of glory, excitement and pomp.
All day long twenty-four pieces of cannon that were placed on the walls were
answered by the artillery of the citadel, and, by the time the fireworks were
beginning to rise into the darkening sky, the three young men felt slightly
sick from the continuous noise, the amount of sweetmeats and glasses of wine
that they had been forced, in a manner of compliment, to endure; but the
King, at least, did not admit his own discomfort. He was determined to enjoy
every moment of what he must consider the sumptuous prologue to a great and
Philippe de Bourbon, Duc d'Anjou, a cadet of the great house of France,
had suddenly, through a complication of politics, found himself on the throne
of the Spanish Hapsburgs—a position for which he had never been trained
and to which he had never aspired; slightly bewildered but definitely
gratified by the beginning of his new glories, the young man resolved to be
equal to all the lofty and heroic precepts with which his grandfather had
regaled him since his accession to the throne of Spain.
King Philippe was an amiable and elegant young man, who practised all the
virtues he knew, and it was not his fault if these were but a few.
His brothers told him that he had behaved very well during that exciting
and bewildering day.
It was really very splendid in the streets of Bordeaux—"Almost,"
agreed the young Princes, "as splendid as in Paris, Marli, or
In the paved courtyard of the Archbishop's high palace there were four
fountains running with wine which splashed the bare breasts of stone nymphs,
and illuminations and bonfires throughout the whole town, so that the facades
of the churches and mansions were stained a leaping red; then, of course,
there was the public supper and afterwards a ball for His Majesty, while many
of the magistrates kept open table at which anyone might get their glut of
sweet wines and pastries.
In purple and silver, powdered, perfumed and curled, His Majesty sat in
the great hall in which, with so huge a press of people, the pages might
scarce get round the tables with the meats.
The young King on his chair with arms, on a dais and under a canopy, felt
himself a little giddy from the murmurs of the crowd and the continual
salutes of the cannon answering each other without, the whizz of the
fireworks, the lustre of the gleaming chandeliers, the melody of the violins,
and the walls lined with mirrors that gave back a thousand radiances, the
vivid gold and azure of the decorations, the extremely rich and glorious
dresses of his attendants—all so dazzling that it was like venturing to
stare into the face of the sun to look round the hall.
When he nervously glanced up he saw the inside of the pavilion above him
hung throughout with crimson velvet edged with gold lace four fingers broad.
Round the table was a great valance with a very deep fringe of knotted
tinsel. There were twisted gilt banisters against the walls covered with
velvet, with hangings weighted with gold fringe—everywhere he looked,
gold, and an excess of splendour, the whole lighted with an infinite number
of wax candles in Florentine copper sconces which, in their burning, gave out
an acrid but voluptuous perfume. On the walls, too, of this great room were
plaques and inscriptions, representing the glories of His Catholic Majesty
and the arms of the several kingdoms which composed the Spanish monarchy.
The heat melted the sugar on the marzipan models of heroes, a monkey was
choked with a silvered almond, behind the curtains of Utrecht velvet the
lackeys dipped spoons into the custards and the pages sucked their fingers
soaked in caramel; huge pineapples on filigree dishes overtopped goblets
formed of ostrich eggs, and on the arras above the door a wreath of gigantic
flowers surrounded a buskined huntress who pursued, in eternal chase, a
"I am a great King," murmured the dazed young man to himself, "I am the
King of Spain and I know not what besides. It is truly a remarkable
Then, in a little pause from the trumpets and kettledrums, one made him a
speech; Philippe did not know by this time who spoke to him, but he
mechanically leant forward and smiled in that amiable fashion which was
already making him popular.
What was this pompous fellow, with his feathered hat in a fat hand and his
trailing crimson robe and gold chain, saying?
The young King, with dutiful gratitude, strained his ears to listen.
"Your Majesty has just entered the first years of your youth, yet the fame
of your virtues has penetrated to the extremest parts of the world. The exact
integrity, that love of justice, that heroic humanity, that moderation, that
advanced prudence, that sincerity, that inviolable fidelity which have gained
the admiration of every one about you, have made your name adored in the most
distant countries. A hundred different nations that compose one only—an
immense Empire—What said I?...The entire world comes to the feet
of your august Majesty's throne."
"He means me," thought the young King.
A slight blush crept into his cheek, not at the flattery of the pompous
fellow at the foot of his throne, but at the faint smile which he fancied he
had seen pass across the face of one of his governors—the old Duc de
Noailles. Of course, if it had been a smile, it could not have been an ironic
one; everybody declared him a great King.
The speaker, bowing lower, continued:
"Your Majesty is the greatest and most magnificent object that God has
placed in the universe."
Philippe looked round the crowded room. He heard this sentiment generously
applauded. He glanced at his brothers and saw no dissent in their candid
eyes; all seemed to admire and acclaim him a mighty monarch.
It was rather difficult for him to conceive how he could be so great,
since he could remember doing nothing save living exactly as his grandfather
and the priests had directed him. But there it was.
There was a great deal more in the same style, but the young King, who was
then convinced of his invincible greatness, found it unnecessary to listen.
His giddiness and sense of sickness passed and he felt instead a buoyant
exhilaration, an unnatural exultation he could not remember experiencing
before, and he glanced with a lively interest past the bowed head of the
speaker and round the heated faces of those crowding about the sumptuous
overloaded table. He had, perhaps, drunk a little more of the potent wine of
Bordeaux than he was aware of, or, the perpetual insidious strains of
flattery had really turned his amiable head; for he began to believe that he
was almost Jove himself, wielding a handful of lightning, seated on the
highest peak of the heavens, and commanding a galaxy of gods and
Precisely at this moment, when his head seemed to be in gilded clouds and
his feet on a world composed of an immense circle of lapis lazuli studded
with diamonds, a curious adventure befell the young King of Spain.
Among the many countenances there, all eagerly and slavishly turned
towards him, he suddenly beheld one face only—a face that seemed so
detached from the others that all in that proud, magnificent chamber seemed
but a background; a young girl, one of the public admitted to this costly
banquet, had contrived to come quite close to the throne, had slipped between
the King's governors and guards and stood at the corner of the dais looking
directly at his youthful Majesty. Gazing at her the young man forgot his
recent godlike pose, forgot even that he was master of sixty-three kingdoms,
that Holy Masses never ceased in his dominions, that the sun never deprived
them of life, and that he had a right to command all strange nations...
All this preamble vanished from his mind and he stared directly at the
young girl as a youth might stare at a maiden met by chance in the confused
gaiety of a country fair.
She returned his glance without shame and her gaze seemed to pierce beyond
the formal hollow flatteries of the moment, and to pay him a tribute beside
which all these other homages were but brittle indeed.
She was about eighteen years of age, of a majestic, lively countenance,
and very neatly dressed. Her long, closely-curling locks of a saffron yellow
were her chief ornament, about her slender rounded waist was a little girdle,
as if she were seldom far from domestic duties, but her hands were as fine as
those of the ladies of Versailles who bathed continually in milk and essence
of lilies; he could not have described her, but he found in her something
charming which distinguished her from all others of her sex. He heard no
words further of the magistrates' address, but, with his plumed hat on his
knee and leaning forward a little from his high seat, he gazed at the
On a side table near the King's throne were lilac china baskets full of
sweetmeats, Persian rose-leaves and Italian violet petals preserved in dyed
The girl wore a little silvered apron of Dresden silk, and, in the slight
confusion into which she fell under the King's gaze, she had caught up the
ends of this trifle to her bosom. The young man leant forward and without any
further ceremony took the dish of sweetmeats and turned the comfits into her
With modest blushes she received his present and retired into the crowd,
the young King smiling on her and signifying by many tender glances the
impression she had made upon his heart.
When she had withdrawn and the feast had come to an end the King asked his
two brothers if they knew who the damsel was, and they replied she might be a
lady of good quality, as there were many such among the press, but that she
was no person of any distinction.
"I cannot understand," smiled the Duc de Berri, "why you, Philippe, are
the least interested in this young person who seems to me of the most
But the King thoughtfully replied that this maiden was the only object he
had ever seen in all his life who had moved him to the extraordinary emotion
he now felt.
The Princes smiled and yawned; they were both drowsy and excited.
The King retired to the Archbishop's closet and, calling up a page who had
stood near his throne, bade him inform himself of the name and abode of the
lady to whom he had given the sweetmeats. At the same moment, feeling
inspired, the young King wrote a note on gilt-edged paper perfumed with
"Love reigns in the heart of kings as well as in those of
their subjects, and the greatest monarch in the world glories in their
submission to his empire. You may think it strange, my dear, that I am
affected by the charm of your person, but I beg of you one hour's interview
wherein I may show you the excess of my affection."
This he signed with a flourish and in Spanish fashion—"Félipe, Yo
At the same moment he drew from his finger a very pure diamond, which had
been his grandfather's last present to him; he gave this to the page and sent
it with the note to the lady. In an hour the answer arrived, and the King had
so far contrived to detach himself from the ceremony of the evening as to be
able to receive it privately.
"I assure you that if love reigns over the hearts of kings, constancy, virtue
and fidelity reign also among women as well as among queens. I thank you for
the billet you have been pleased to give yourself the trouble of writing.
Perhaps, great Prince, if I had been blest with the blood of queens you would
not have noticed me. I cannot answer you but with sighs and regrets;
nevertheless, sir, I would keep your fine diamond as a token of the precious
regard with which it has pleased so great a monarch to honour me; though what
I have to say to you cannot be what you expect, I am prepared to grant you
immediately the interview you do me the honour to desire."
But here the young King felt himself at a loss.
He was very much under the observation and still felt under the dominion
of his ancient governors, the Duc de Noailles, the Duc de Beauvilliers, the
Marquis de Seignelai and the Marquis de Razilli. It was difficult for him to
believe that though he was now undoubtedly a great king he could really do
what he liked in his own time.
"We are leaving Bordeaux to-morrow," he sighed.
"But the lady has made an appointment for to-night, sire, and she lives
not very far from this palace, in a little side street which has the
prettiest garden in the world and where, even now in the winter, the laurels
are quite glossy, and I smelt the perfume of Roman hyacinths coming from the
"But how," said the King, "shall I get there? How contrive to escape the
scrutiny of my guardians and gentlemen?"
The page had led a much freer existence than the King and had a great deal
more experience. He pitied his sovereign, who had been deprived of most of
the pleasures of life, and pointed out to him that it would be easy to
pretend to retire to bed, being fatigued and overborne by the day, and then
to rise and creep out to the rendezvous.
"She is, sire, a Mademoiselle de Sourdis, daughter of one of the gentlemen
of the town, of no particular beauty or pretensions; but, since she has taken
the fancy of Your Majesty—"
The King interrupted:
"This is more than fantasy, this is fate."
The page smiled respectfully, he thought the words meant the same
So the King, with the help of the young Gascon, managed to excuse himself
from all the formalities of the pageant and retired at last into his great
bedchamber, which glittered on all sides with mirrors and lustres, and was
hung with a hundred pompous mottoes and arms proclaiming Philippe V, after
the King of France, the greatest king in the world.
When the last violins and kettledrums were silenced, the last fireworks
spent, when, finally, the candelabra and wax-lights were extinguished in the
banqueting hall, the tired serving-men asleep among the débris of the feast,
when even the lap dogs had ceased yapping and the crimson parrots no longer
screamed with excitement in their twisted cages, then the young King, wrapped
in a dark velvet mantle, with a travelling mask on his face, a black peruke
(stolen by the page from the toilet of one of his gentlemen) over his own
blonde hair, crept down the cool marble stairs of the Archbishop's palace
into the cold moonlit street of Bordeaux.
The young King discovered true beauty in this silver dark, this lovely
night sky, these clear, mournful shadows, in the blank facades of the houses,
and in the cold alien wind. His mind was cleared of all the gilded confusion
of the gorgeous day; if he could no longer credit that he was a great King he
at least was tolerably certain that he was a young man engaged upon a
The page went with him as far as the door of Mademoiselle de Sourdis'
On a thrice-repeated rap the lady herself admitted him and, taking him
lightly by the hand, drew him into a small chamber which was more modest,
humble and sweet than any chamber he had ever beheld. It seemed to him like a
dolls' house for neatness, smallness, and prettiness. There was one little
crystal lamp, which gave a light of singular purity, a fine, small fire on
the hearth which glowed with a peculiar clarity, and the girl was dressed as
he had observed her at the banquet, in a housewife's neat attire, with her
keys at her waist. On the little tulip-wood table were his gift of sweetmeats
and his offering of the diamond. She put both her hands in his when he had
taken off his mantle and periwig, and looked at him earnestly.
This, and not the triumph of his progress, was faeryland to the King. He
"Mademoiselle, you have opened a little door for me on to something that I
did not know existed."
He had not meant to say that, for he had many pretty set-pieces ready; but
her earnest look had extorted from him an expression of the truth.
"Monsieur, that is exactly what I wished to do—open a little door
"My dear, this is most extraordinary, that we should meet like this, speak
like this. Who are you?"
"To me it is the most natural thing in the world. Do not you, sir, know
the moment when it arrived?"
They sat together between the clear little fire and the bright little
lamp. He could not remember ever feeling so safe or so familiar with anyone.
He knew she would neither rebuke him, command him, nor fawn upon him, and
this was rare indeed for the King of Spain to feel so at ease and so
confident. For he was a man who had always been bidden and over-ruled, and he
did not as yet know himself.
"Mademoiselle, why did you look at me like that at the banquet
She answered on a beautiful note of compassion:
"Because, sir, I so pitied you, I was so deeply grieved for you."
"You pitied me—and I am the King! What do you mean—you pitied
She said: "Ah, you were the King, sir, but now you are not."
"It is true," he replied gravely, "that I no longer feel master of
sixty-three kingdoms, or Jove with his lightning, or—What was it that
fellow said? The grandest object in the whole of the world.' But I feel as if
I were something better than all that, and that is possibly the man you
favour, for I am most extraordinarily enchanted by you."
"And I have never liked one better," she admitted. "We have, of course,
been waiting for each other a great while. But, perhaps, we shall lose one
another after all. You have not the courage, sir, to escape—"
"To escape!" repeated the young man, and the word fell with a fearful
sound on his ear.
She looked at him most tenderly and the tears came into her kind hazel
eyes. She had a beauty in her simplicity beyond any beauty which he had
hitherto guessed at; to him she was the clue to the cypher which holds the
secret of the world.
"Do not you see," she added earnestly, "that they make a fool of you? You
are no more than their poor puppet, and, once you are in Spain, it will be as
if you were in prison."
He laughed indulgently.
"These matters are beyond your feminine understanding. Let us discourse of
what is within your comprehension, dear." And he made an eager movement to
take her in his arms.
She put him by without ado.
"Did you not read my billet, sir, that I have something extraordinary to
tell you? Well this is it, that you have with me a chance to escape. This is
not a mere amorous interview. I believe I really love you, and I think that
you really love me—yes, even after these few minutes...it is quite as
extraordinary as that, you know—real love. And I thought that we might
King Philippe no longer laughed.
"Proceed. How could I escape with you?"
"If you never returned to the Archbishop's palace, and you and I went away
together—I know where we could go—to a little farm where you
might earn your living, dressing the vines and tilling the ground, and they
would never think of looking for you there. I daresay we should be, as far as
this world goes, extremely happy."
This was so amazing to the young man that he cast about in his mind for an
explanation and fell on two of the crudest possible.
"You are bewitched or lunatic," he sighed regretfully and tenderly. "We
cannot possibly understand each other, we are so differently placed."
"We are human beings, sir, and surely there should be something in common
between us. We are young and man and woman, and surely it is not so strange
if we should love one another."
"I came here to love you," replied the King simply.
"But not to escape with me, sir?"
"To escape with you! That is beyond all measure fantastical!"
"Love itself," said the girl, laying her hand lightly over her heart, "is
beyond all measure fantastical, and that passion which calls itself love, if
well-regulated, sober and logical, masquerades under a false name."
The young man flushed.
"No king ever had such a suggestion made to him."
"No king, perhaps, had so fortunate a chance," replied Mademoiselle de
Sourdis. "Do you know Spain—do you know what is before you?"
"I know very well."
She insisted: "I am giving you the best of good advice, I am giving you a
warning. Do not go on with them. Come with me—I offer life—and
The King of Spain drew closer to the small clear fire, for he felt himself
shivering. He could not believe that this maiden was of mortal flesh, but
credited that she might be some celestial messenger, so composed and
resolute, yet so tender and gentle she stood before him and put forward her
plea; she spoke so ardently with the tears overbrimming her sweet eyes and
running down her unprotected cheek. She was as one who pleads for more than
mortal good and offers more than mortal bliss. He had come to find an
entrancing, but a light and passing love, and had found himself entangled in
something so vast and deep that he was both bewildered and exalted.
"You will come with me?" she urged, and knelt beside the chair whereon he
sat shivering over the fire.
He, not looking at her, repeated his lesson: "I am the King of Spain,
master of sixty-three countries, the grandest object on the face of the
earth...What else? I have forgotten all they said. Of course, I am a great
"Alas!" she said, "some day you will know differently."
Without a blare of trumpets saluted the first colour of the dawn.
The King got to his feet.
"Hark!" he said proudly. "Fanfare for the King of Spain!"
Still kneeling at his feet, she answered:
"Some day you will hear it differently."
Her raised her up and kissed her hand; she was so encompassed with regret
he felt for her no more passion.
"I will go back and think this was a dream," he said, sighing.
"A dream that you," she sighed also, "may sometimes for your pain
And into his pocket she put his sweetmeats and his diamond.
"Will you come with me?" he said, without hope. "My dear, I will take you
to Madrid—I will set you up in a palace, instead of you taking me to a
cottage amid vineyards I will put you in a vast castle among the finest
gardens in the world."
She gently shook her head.
"Then we must part, and I am sorry, sir, for I shall not be able to
The King turned away. He put on his black peruke, his dark-coloured
mantle, and closed the door on this strange adventure.
Mademoiselle de Sourdis remained in her humble, neat room, put out the
lamp and raked over the fire, so that there was no longer light or warmth in
her charming chamber.
When the King woke on the morrow he complained to his brothers of heavy
dreams, and when the royal cavalcade left Bordeaux the King looked from the
window of his coach of green leather at the blank facade of the little house
in which he had passed last night that curious half hour.
From Bordeaux the King went to Bayonne, where His Majesty and the two
Princes stayed two days, where they were received with all the magnificence
and honour worthy of their great dignity, and thence they went to the Isle of
Bidasso, where the great Treaty of the Pyrenees had been signed, and there
the King must bid adieu to the two Princes, his brothers, and all his French
gentlemen, and embark on a small ship from a canopied gangway built and
adorned like the royal structure at Bordeaux.
At the ship's side he bade adieu to all his countrymen, accompanied by
their mutual blessings and murmurs of regret. The Duc de Noailles must hand
over His Majesty to the Duque de Harcourt that he be conducted to the Duque
d'Alba and the Duque d'Ajen; the vessel was then towed by four shallops,
which passed between the densely crowded strands of the French and Spanish
territories. The air was filled with shouts and acclamations of joy. The King
looked backwards with homesick longing at the lines of the French coast. Even
his governors—the Duc de Noailles and the Duc de Beauvilliers—he
regretted in that moment; and, as he presently stepped on to Spanish soil, he
could not venture to think of Mademoiselle de Sourdis.
Of all his French gentlemen none was left him but the Gascon page; he,
like the King, had been bred at Versailles, where everything was in
abundance, and thought when he entered Spain he was going to the conquest of
the Golden Fleece, that he would be received with unparalleled magnificence,
with the daintiest dishes and the most delicious wines, but found instead he
had come into a country as poor as it was proud, where the people were
satisfied with an onion, or a clove garlick to flavour their diet; found they
must bring their own beds to the inn, that they must make use of mules
instead of horses, and that their servants must sleep on the cloak bags on
the road. So great were the inconveniences and poverty of His Majesty's
progress that the young page remarked that it put him in mind of the caravans
that traverse the deserts of Arabia, for there were no refreshments to be had
save what they carried with them.
The King kept up his spirits and remembered the directions of his
grandfather. On his landing, he was encouraged to see the people run on all
sides to see him; they lined the road throughout the country and fell upon
their knees even in the dirtiest places as if God Himself had passed by.
The King, leaning from his coach window, threw among them handfuls of
money, provided by King Louis, to receive in return their empty blessings as
they scrambled for the louis d' ors among the dust.
It was cold and the wind high. The Spanish grandees were all silent and
gloomy; they had with them a great number of priests, who insisted on the
King attending to his devotions in public and private every day, and so the
progress continued to Madrid. There he must alight from his coach to make his
devotions in many churches, and then must go to the Palace of Buen
Riposo, where the Captain of the Castle came to meet His Majesty in the
garden of the Brazen Horse and presented him with the keys of the apartments,
of the churches, of the dungeons.
The days passed in pompous addresses and flattering harangues—all,
like the Spaniards, haughty, grave and serious; no one smiled or jested and
the Mass bell scarcely ceased.
Palace and garden were grey and the clouds were low and blackish. The
King, seeing no friend and no Frenchmen beyond the page about him, felt
serious and grave also; his head ached and he ate little.
The grandees and the priests were continually instructing him.
"Sire, you must do this and that. Sire, this is the custom in Spain. Sire,
it is so with the Kings of Spain. Sire, so you must be dressed, so you must
behave, so you shall live, be wedded, die and be buried."
These great palaces of Spain were churches and cemeteries as well as
habitations; he found that he walked continually above graves.
In the long, mournful, dark galleries, hung with tapestries of indigo,
green, and blackish blue, were portraits of his predecessors, the Kings of
Spain—Félipe and Carlos...one after another. This King of Spain died
mad—and this, and this. The long, pale faces seemed to gibber at him
from to canvasses; he detected in them a likeness to his own and hurried
The harangues and the compliments were over; life became infinitely
monotonous, the days extraordinarily long. How weary it was! Though every one
was stiff, it seemed as if they wished to loll and yawn; the black hangings
were still in place for the late King.
"What shall I do?" said Philippe. "How shall I divert myself? These grey
days are intolerable."
"There are Your Majesty's devotions," said Cardinal Portocarreo
"And when I am finished with my devotions?"
"There are various amusements for a King of Spain—sometimes there is
an auto da fé, when we burn the heretics in the public square of
Madrid. Then Your Majesty may hunt with the grandees and, for the rest, His
late Majesty amused himself with spillikins."
The King looked at himself in many mirrors. He walked alone down gigantic
corridors, scaled immense staircases; the paintings of emaciated saints, the
tortured limbs of martyrs, glowed white and ghastly from the black canvasses
on the high walls.
Priests, dark-cowled, sombre, muttered before altars that glittered with
wavering scarlet and yellow lights. He had to attend the masses said before
the tombs of his predecessors, and mark the epitaphs which noted how they had
died—many young and all mad.
Yet His Majesty kept up his spirits, smiled, conversed, laughed after the
manner of Versailles; but the grandees and the Cardinal told him the King of
Spain should be more sedate in his deportment...they also informed him there
was no money for ballets, masquerades, or even a French cook.
"I shall become used to this," he said to himself, "I shall soon discover
how delightful it is to be a great King."
The French page reported that he had discovered a diversion for His
A certain Spaniard had made a pleasant conceit for the King and desired to
be admitted to His Majesty's presence to have the honour of showing him the
strangest spectacle in the world.
"This, sire," said the page, "is really amusing."
"If he is amusing," said Philippe, "admit him at once."
So this person was borne before the King in the garden of the Brazen
Horse; the wind moaned in high trees, the fountains were dry, the dovecotes
The adventurer was carried on a chair, according to the mode of Paris.
Before and behind the chair was fixed a pole having at one end a flag with a
queer device of a dancer, and at the other a packet of poison which was
labelled "Death." This fellow leapt from the chair and made an obeisance to
the King. His coat was of all colours, like that of Arlequino, and hung about
him in fantastic rags. His eyes were squinting and lively, his hair reddish,
his features keen. He was large and stout, an extraordinary mimic, and very
facetious, laughing at every word he spoke, and the King was delighted with
him because he reminded him of France.
The King shivered in the garden and clenched his hands in his muff; he
felt the damp ground through the thin soles of his shoes with the monstrous
The Brazen Horse curvetted, gigantic, into the grey air; implacable
appeared this animal of metal as if he trampled on all the shuddering
aspirations of humanity.
Seeing His Majesty, surrounded by several grandees, standing under a
pepper tree which as yet bore no leaves, the adventurer made several comical
The King, diverted, asked him his business and the adventurer made his
compliments to the King.
"Sire, I am come to present to Your Majesty a new wonder, unknown to the
world till this day. Admire, sire, the marvel, the most famous of all shows,
and remember, sire, that Your Majesty, though the greatest of Kings, has
never seen anything so surprising."
After this address he took a cage from one of his porters; confined in it
was a large rat.
The adventurer received this dainty beast in his hand and exposed it to
view, and the King looked at it keenly.
The creature had had its tail cut off, so had lost the greater part of its
ugliness; its ears had been pierced, and in them hung pendants of small
pearls; it had a necklace adorned with ribbons of various colours. Fastened
between its ears was a tiny peruke of a fair colour.
The adventurer now bade the porter stretch a cord from a small portable
table that he had brought with him, to the chair in which he had been carried
to the garden of the Brazen Horse, and on this he placed the rat, producing
with a flourish his flageolet from his pocket; he bade His Majesty observe
the great wonder he had just announced, and so began to play the flageolet,
upon which the rat daintily raised itself on its hind legs and began to dance
with much exactness upon the cord.
This greatly amused and charmed the ruler of Spain.
"Why," exclaimed the King, "surely it is known that these creatures are
very fearful and put to flight at the least noise?"
"Yet, observe, sire," said the adventurer, who had caught this remark,
"that I have made him so tame and familiar that no ape will caper on the rope
with more boldness and assurance."
Then, playing again, he caused the rat to perform a succession of Spanish
dances with the greatest precision and composure, the pearl pendants dangling
in his ears, the ribbons fluttering from his necklace, and the fair peruke
floating over his head.
The King and the page laughed, the Spanish grandees smiled; as the day
darkened down the Brazen Horse appeared more monstrous in the twilight.
The performance over, the King would have rewarded the adventurer with
fifty pistoles. The fellow refused, putting the rat back into his cage, and
took his departure from the garden of the Brazen Horse, as he went playing
softly upon his flageolet the little prologue for the rat's dance, which all
that day rang in His Majesty's ears, so that he could eat no supper nor take
any interest in his devotions, or the talk of politics with the Cardinal and
When he was alone in his bedchamber that night he awoke and thought of
Mademoiselle de Sourdis; such a supernatural terror possessed him that he
rose from his high-canopied bed, crept softly among his sleeping gentlemen,
and so came into an antechamber; the moonlight was full in this vast room and
showed a hundred menacing figures from portraits, from tapestries, and from
statues; they all appeared to grin and threaten the King of Spain.
He thought: "What did I see to-day, and who was the man in the
As if forced by an invisible presence he turned and looked at himself in a
gigantic mirror, where the moonlight lurked like an enemy, chill and bold.
His fair hair hung crimped upon his shoulders, his bed-gown was tied with
lace and ribbons at the neck, after the Spanish fashion he had been forced to
wear a pearl in his right ear; his features were fine and small.
"Where had he seen such a figure before?"
The lady had offered him a chance to escape, he had not taken it; he had
He continued to stare into the mirror where the moonlight made the
reflection of the room appear even more gigantic and dreadful than it was in
sombre reality; and stared, lonely, until the dawn light replaced the
"They cut off its tail, pierced its ears, adorned it, trained it to dance
upon a rope, and, when it had satisfied them by this performance, they took
it and put it back into a small cage in which it could scarcely move; without
hope, its small eyes twinkled through the bars..."
The King put his fingers to his quivering lips. He saw in the mirror not
himself, the great monarch, the master of sixty-three kingdoms, but the
dancing rat, adorned for the gratification of its master.
"So, Your Majesty! Thus, Your Majesty! It is the custom of the Kings of
Spain—Your Majesty will advance three steps—Your Majesty will
bow—Your Majesty will put your hat on your knee—Your Majesty will
return your hat to your head—Your Majesty will attend so many masses,
listen to so many sermons, go so many times to confession..."
The King drew back from the mirror. On the table was an open
miniature-case; the portrait showed a gaunt, frightened, plain girl of
thirteen, whom all the painter's art had not been able to make
beautiful—Marie Luise Gabrielle de Savoie, his future queen, the
priests' choice—in all the opposite of the girl at Bordeaux, who had
spoken to him as no woman would dare to speak again.
What would the rat be doing now? Peering through the bars of its
cage—waiting, without hope, for the day and the signal to come out and
dance upon the rope?
Mademoiselle de Sourdis had warned him; she had said, "Some day you will
The early trumpets sounded through the silent palace. His Majesty must
rise for early devotions, according to custom...
Fanfare for the King of Spain.
But, to His shuddering Majesty, not daring to look into the mirror, the
sound was exactly the same as the prologue on the adventurer's flageolet
which had heralded the dance of the rat.
A PLAY — HOMAGE TO THE UNKNOWN
(Omaggio a la Incognita)
A Burletta performed before His Serene Highness the
Margraf Karl Wilhelm of Baden-Dürlach and His Excellency the English
Resident, Sir William Fowkes, in the theatre of the château at Karlsruhe, on
the occasion of the birth of his grandson, Karl Frederic, afterwards first
Grand Duke of Baden, in 1728. [ITALY, 18th Century.]
||Whom everybody knows.
||Lord Charles, an English Nobleman.
||The Rev. Theodosius Prose, D.D., his tutor.
||Lucie (Mezzetin with domino and mask).
||The Contessa Rosina, The Conte Rinaldo's lady.
||The Conte Rinaldo, of the Italian nobility (Mezzetin with mask)
||Italy. A Room in a lonely villa on the Brenta.
||Midnight to Dawn. Summer.
SCENE. A baroque chamber.
Window C. back curtained; light given by girandoles of
candles. Door L. and entrance obscure in the shadows R. Near window a sofa,
centre of stage a table and two chairs. By wall an old chest. As curtain
rises enter MEZZETIN, one of the innumerable clowns of the Comedia Italiana.
He wears brocade doublet and breeches, a loose cap of the same material, a
circular cape which hangs below his hands, a large falling ruf and huge
coloured spectacles. He cuts a caper in a self-absorbed manner and is closely
followed by the Two TRAVELLERS. The first is young, elegant, in a rich
travelling costume; the second is elderly and wears the garb of a clergyman
of the Church of England of this period; while the first traveller appears
delighted with everything, the second is in a very ill humour.
Mezzetin. [Turning and bowing to the travellers.] Here,
Signori, you may take your entertainment. There is a. view over the river and
presently there will be a moon. There will also be violins. Perhaps something
else—an adventure—a surprise!
First T. Delightful! What a charming apartment!
Second T. Moonlight! Violins! But what of a supper and a bed?
Mezzetin. Ah, Signor, that comes afterwards.
Second T. Does it, indeed? But I, sir, have travelled twenty miles
to-day in a vile coach, over a viler road; my bones are sore, my throat dry,
my stomach empty.
First T. Sir, this is not an inn!
Second T. [Bitterly.] So I perceive, I wish it were. [To
MEZZETIN.] What is this place?
Mezzetin. [With a caper.] We call it the Villa
Second T. Discontented House! And a very good name, too, I'm sure.
[Looking closely at MEZZETIN, speaking to FIRST T.] And now I see our
guide in the clear light he is confoundedly queer-looking. A disreputable
fellow, my lord, I dare swear. And I think it were better to pass the night
in the coach on the roadside.
First T. [Taking of hat, mantle, etc.] It is all charming,
and I intend to stay. [To MEZZETIN.] What is your name?
Second T. I thought as much. The outlandish creature is not even a
Mezzetin. What is a Christian?
Second T. Sir, my cloth is insulted! I refuse to stay. I dislike
the place, I dislike this mountebank!
First T. On the contrary, my good doctor, I am enchanted with
Mezzetin. [To SECOND T.] If you will have a little patience,
perhaps I shall be able to enchant you, too.
Second T. None of your impudence, sir. I am a clergyman of the
Church of England; this is an English nobleman of whom I am in charge,
sir—in charge—morals, conduct, health and purse in my charge,
First T. Confound it, doctor, if you are bear-leading me you need
not rattle the chain. [To MEZZETIN.] Sir, you must think us uncommonly
uncivil. You find us stranded on the road at midnight and you offer us
hospitality, for which we have not yet thanked you.
Mezzetin. Do not do so, Signor, till the adventure is ended.
Second T. Sir, I do not intend the adventure to begin; perhaps
those miserable postillions have mended the coach.
First T. No, they are all comfortably asleep on the roadside.
Second T. Then what of our baggage exposed in this thievish
First T. Never heed it—let us say good-bye to common sense
for this one night, doctor.
Second T. Common sense has never yet been in your company, my lord,
so no need to say good-bye to it, since we began travelling in Italy it has
been nothing but folly after folly.
Mezzetin. What did you come to seek—in Italy?
Second T. Polish, sir, instruction, ruins, the classics,
antiquities, cabinets of curiosities—
First T. I'm heaving sick at the mention of 'em,
Mezzetin. I saw a girl to-day in a coach.
Mezzetin. [Skipping up to him.] Ah, I perceive you have kept
your eyes open, at least—now I can tell you—
Second T. [Indignantly drawing him away.] I'll not have it.
[To MEZZETIN.] I've had enough trouble without you, sir. Quite enough
of girls in coaches, or on balconies, or in gondolas—and His Grace's
instructions are most explicit.
Mezzetin. Aha! [Pokes SECOND T. in the ribs.] Oho!
Second T. [Furious.] You're crazy, sir. This is a terrible
country. In England you'd be shut up, sir, shut up, I repeat. His Grace
said—' My dear Dr. Prose, I insist on no entanglements between my on
and any of the frail sex.'
Mezzetin. I suppose his hands are full of his own affairs of that
nature? Anyhow, I regard his remark as a mere formality.
First T. I never regarded it at all.
Mezzetin. Bravo! Now will you repose yourself and wait for the moon
First T. Willingly. [Throws himself on sofa.]
Second T. I refuse, sir, definitely, to wait for any moon. [To
FIRST T.] My lord, I must insist—I must use my full authority. I am
responsible for your safety. I mistrust this place, we may be murdered before
the morning—or dead of hunger and fatigue.
Mezzetin. Neither the one nor the other, I dare promise you,
Signor. As for your authority, here you have none. This is the Villa
Malcontenta and I am Mezzetin.
Second T. You're an impudent rogue, and I'll have the whole affair
reported to His Majesty's Resident in Venice—His Britannic Majesty,
Mezzetin. Who is His Britannic Majesty? But I know who you are!
Panteleone, eh? The dry old pedant—you have lost your beard which made
you look like a goat. But you still have that expression of mingled malice
and stupidity which is so amusing.
Second T. [Furious.] Sir, I am Theodosius Marryatt Prose,
Mezzetin. You must think of a better joke than that, you know,
Panteleone—people begin to get tired of your squeaky voice and your
eternal hostility to youth and beauty. Everyone makes fun of you and laughs
at you behind your back. You are so old and so silly.
[FIRST T. laughs from sofa.]
Second T. [With dignity.] My lord, I regret that the care I
took in your education has resulted in failure—no well-bred gentleman
would have laughed at such a vulgar tirade.
First T. Dear doctor, I regret my indiscretion. But I am resolved
to spend the night here. Who knows what my happen? After all, this tour is my
last chance of the romantic and absurd. When I return to England I shall
marry an heiress, drink port, sleep through your sermons, and so decorously
proceed, led by gout and apoplexy, to the family mausoleum. As for Mezzetin,
you must not regard him—we have entered a world of phantasy, let us
play our parts with spirit.
[He rises; SECOND T. sinks, fuming, into chair by table.] Mezzetin,
who am I? What am I?
Mezzetin. [Studying him.] Young. There is your passport to
all we have to offer. You are graceful, too, and have taken some care with
your dress. When you gaze in the mirror you try to imagine what you look like
to a woman. You are anxious to please. You are ready to believe anything that
is agreeable. Yes, you will do very well for Florio or Crispino, or any of
the young lovers who are always endeavouring to escape from Panteleone's
Second T. [Taking snuff vigorously.] Disgusting, sir!
First T. I am grateful for your description. It is true I am eager
for any adventure. Is there a lady in your Villa Malcontenta?
Second T. [Rising.] My lord!
Mezzetin. [Unheeding SECOND T.] There is. Awaiting precisely
such a charming fellow as yourself. First T. Delightful, Mezzetin!
Second T. [Furious.] My lord, if you were a little younger,
I'd give you a thrashing with the birch.
First T. [Smiling.] And if you were a little younger,
reverend sir, I'd put up a play of fisticuffs that would keep you quiet a
while, you old torment!
Mezzetin. [To audience.] You see, it is always the same
story. These two can never agree—one is eager for his reputation, the
other for his pleasure. But we really ought to be sorry for the old man, he
is hungry and, at his age, that is serious.
[While MEZZETIN is speaking the Two TRAVELLERS are regarding each other
with defiance, the young man is smiling but the other is angry. MEZZETIN
returns to them.] Signor
Panteleone, would you like some supper?
Second T. [Bitterly.] Sir, your most obliged. Considering I
have not eaten since midday, and then was forced to content myself with a
sickly mess of the devil knows what—
Mezzetin. You are hungry? Well, what would you like?
Second T. [Glaring.] Ham and eggs. An apple pudding with a
good short crust. A pigeon pie. A tankard of ale and a pipe of Virginia. That
is what I would like, sir. But I quite realize I am not in a civilized
country. Therefore, bring what you have and be damned to you!
First T. [In affected horror.] Sir! Never have I heard you
speak so profanely.
Second T. [The same.] Never have you seen me in so profane a
situation. I consider your conduct abominable, my lord. Abominable!
Mezzetin. That is what you will say of the supper. All the same I
will fetch it.
First T. And the lady?
Mezzetin. Never fear, signor, the lady is as impatient as you
[Exit into obscurity R.]
Second T. Really—well, really! My lord, I shall have to
report this to His Grace. Under my very nose! Have you lost all sense of
First T. I hope so. We are in faeryland, I do believe.
Second T. I fear you have caught the malaria—you must be
delirious. I wish I had not left the quinine in the coach.
First T. Why do you think I am out of my senses, good doctor?
Second T. Talking of faeryland! This draughty, decayed
villa—damp, too, far too near the river, this tawdry furniture, that
insolent ruffian, in his absurd dress! Faeryland! Well, I don't make much of
our chances of a meal and a bed. There's no comfort—
First T. There's a lady.
Second T. Now, sir, now—I will not have it, do you hear? I
will not. I've always drawn a line—
First T. Why, so have I—but not in the same place as you,
[Sounds of music without, a pleasant melody on strings.]
Ah, a heavenly harmony!
Second T. Heavenly indeed! Well, sir, if that is what we are to
hear in heaven I for one shall be disgusted, sir, disgusted.
First T. [Curiously.] Dr. Prose, what is your idea of
Second T. An empty stomach, sir, makes a dull mind. I've no ideas
on any subject whatever.
First T. [The same.] But you are so pious, so careful, so
diligent at prayers, so exact in your behaviour, so circumspect in your
speech—you forego all that is really agreeable, save a good meal now
and then—in short, you lead a very miserable sort of life; now you must
have some idea as to what you expect as a reward, sir?
Second T. You have never ventured to speak like this before, you
must be bewitched.
First T. I hope I am. Come, sir, do you not expect a handsome
acknowledgment from the Almighty for your good behaviour?
Second T. You, sir, are blasphemous. As for what I expect, I have
no doubt I shall get it, no doubt at all, sir.
First T. Yes, yes, good doctor, but what is it? If this
isn't heaven, tell me what is? Heaven—to be young, well, idle, in
Italy, awaiting the unknown!
Second T. That's the devil of it, my good sir—the unknown may
be a couple of cut-throats.
First T. You are spoiling the music. Hark, how sweet! In this
country they cage nightingales.
Second T. I wish they caged lunatics! Then we should not have been
plagued by this detestable Mezzetin fellow. [Catches hold of the young
man.] I insist, my lord, that you leave this place, we will sleep on the
road—in the coach—we will walk to Venice—
First T. If you please, you may, sir, but I shall remain.
[While they are struggling together enter MEZZETIN from L. bearing a
tray with fruit, wine and food.]
Mezzetin. [To audience, placing tray on table centre.]
There, you see, they can never agree. It is always the same. If I leave them
for a moment they come to blows. I perceive I shall have a very fatiguing
evening. [To TRAVELLERS.] Signor, you are served.
[The musicians play. The moon is rising. SECOND T. sinks exhausted into
chair by the table and eyes the refreshment while straightening his
Second T. [With a groan.] And I was always certain of dying
in my bed, with good Mrs. Vinegar—[to MEZZETIN]—my
housekeeper, sir—making my possets.
First T. [Pouring wine.] Why forego this pious hope,
Second T. I shall not survive the night. The food is probably
poisoned—the wine drugged; and I swear the house is damp—I
believe I have a palsy. [Groans.]
Mezzetin. [To FIRST T.] He is very tiresome. We shall have
to get rid of him.
First T. [Drinking.] Where is the lady?
Second T. [To MEZZETIN.] I forbid the lady to appear! I
forbid it! But should she appear, I shall know how to deal with her; it will
not be the first time, sir, that I have been called upon to place before a
straying sheep the terrors of eternity, the pangs of hell, the wrath of
heaven, in all their most awful colours.
First T. Have something to eat and drink, sir—the wine is
Mezzetin. [Pressing food on him.] You have no idea how this
will improve your spirits.
Second T. Improve my spirits! They require no support. I
thank my Maker I am fortified by celestial comfort. But the body, sir, the
body that faints, that fails. [Drinks.] Ah, if I am to have a vigil
to-night against the powers of darkness, I must keep my strength up.
[The music ceases. FIRST T. leaves table and goes to MEZZETIN. SECOND
T. absorbed in his meal takes no notice of them.]
First T. [To MEZZETIN, whispering.] Is it the lady I saw in
Mezzetin. [The same.] It is.
First T. Is it the lady who dropped the rose from the balcony at
Mezzetin. It is.
First T. Is it the lady whose prayer-book I shared in the wayside
church outside Florence?
Mezzetin. [More and more delighted.] It is!
First T. What shall I call her?
First T. The unknown! [Goes to table and picks up
wine-glass.] Homage to the Unknown! [Drinks.]
Second T. [Eating steadily.] The cooking is not
bad—for foreigners; the wine [drinks
First T. Why has the music ceased?
Mezzetin. You will hear it again presently. The musicians rest. The
lady is preparing herself.
Second T. [Shaking his finger at MEZZETIN.] And so am I!
[Drinks again.] I feel better, decidedly. Ready for [drinks
again] Vice itself—herself, I should say.
First T. What shall we do with him?
Mezzetin. That is always the question—perhaps the lady will
be able to manage him. I will fetch her. Second T. [Jovial.] Fetch
her, sir! Bring in your straying sheep! [Drinks.]
First T. No, no, this will spoil everything. Where is my romance,
my adventure, while he is here?
Mezzetin. [To audience.] I told you I should have trouble
with them! However, I must do my best. [To FIRST T.] Have patience,
and leave it all to me.
Second T. [Shaking bottle at him.] Aha, you rogue! You think
to get the better of me, do you? Well, sir, you are mistaken. Here I am,
quite comfortable, I shall not budge, I shall not sleep. I shall not allow
this graceless youth out of my sight.
Mezzetin. Bravo! you play your part very well. I will go and fetch
you some coffee to help keep you awake.
First T. [Imploringly.] Mezzetin, do not forsake me!
[MEZZETIN puts his finger on his lips and skips out L. FIRST T. turns
despairingly to SECOND T., who continues drinking; he is now very genial, but
none the less firm.]
Oh! sir, allow me this one night.
Second T. Tut, tut, sir. No nights, no mornings, evenings, or
afternoons. Nothing, sir. I will return you to your respected father if no
better for your travels, at least no worse. How difficult it is to keep from
corruption in this godless age. [Drinks.] Now, when I was a young
First T. Yes, I know—but now I am young—
Second T. [Slightly tipsy.] I proved the hollowness of all
vanities; believe me, my dear Charles, there is nothing in—any of 'em.
First T. Sir, oh, I am sure that you are right, but I want to find
out for myself.
Second T. Mustn't. Positively mustn't. Strictest orders—not
to find out for self. [Drinks.] Find out what? That's what want to
First T. So do I. Now, dear Dr. Prose, if you were to stretch
yourself on that sofa and just meditate a little...
Second T. Mustn't. Positively mustn't. Why? Want to find out. Ah,
my dear Charles, you won't get round me.
First T. Sir, I implore you to drink yet another glass of this
Second T. Mustn't. Positively mustn't.
[Music heard again. Enter from L. a Lady in domino and mask—bauta
First T. Ah, Incognita!
Second T. [Shaking his finger.] The strayed sheep! Ah,
[The LADY advances timidly. FIRST T. tries to snatch her hand, but she
Lady. I am frightened. I fear I have undertaken too much.
First T. [Whispering.] Never mind the old man, we will get
rid of him.
Lady. [Unheeding this.] Have I been too bold?
Second T. [Retaining his seat.] Much too bold. Now, listen
to me, listen to good old Prose.
Lady. [Turning to SECOND T. anxiously.] Oh, sir, I am all
Second T. Mustn't be naughty girl—positively
mustn't—naughty girl won't go to heaven—good old heaven!
Lady. Alas! I am overwhelmed—I blush!
Second T. Ought to have blushed before. [Bracing himself.]
Madam, your behaviour is—indiscreet, unbecoming, disgraceful.
Lady. Oh, into what a situation have the transports of love hurried
Second T. Alas! What confession do I hear? You love this wretched
youth? You have pursued him, and, if guardian—poor old
Prose—hadn't been faithful old dog—who knows? [Shakes bottle
at her.] Begone! Avaunt! False siren, I conjure thee, depart! [Drinks
[The LADY flings herself at feet of SECOND T. FIRST T. watches from
Lady. The purity of my passion must be my excuse.
Second T. Purity of what? Excuse for what? I said—begone!
Lady. Give me one kind word to treasure in my memory! We knew each
Second T. [Startled.] The Devil!
Lady. No, your own Lucia!
Second T. Mine? But are you not pursuing old Charles here?
Lady. That insipid boy! No. Indeed you mock. I love you. And have
long done so.
Second T. [Rising.] Mrs. Vinegar! Mrs. Vinegar! Bless my
soul, I forgot—Mrs. Vinegar not here!
Lady. Who is this Signora Vinegar? Is she your beloved?
Second T. Madam, you confound me! My lord Charles, help!
First T. [In background.] Nay, sir, the adventure is to you,
not to me, after all. I cannot interfere.
Lady. [Clasping SECOND T's knees.] Are you
Second T. Neither I merely uncomfortable. But what's uncomfortable?
Lady. Pray do not. Is it possible that you have forgotten Lucy?
[Offers wine.] Come, drink again and you'll remember.
Second T. [Puzzled.] Lucy? [Drinks.] Not little Lucy
Latimer of the Grange?
Lady. The same—we exchanged rings, vows and kisses—
Second T. My faith, so we did. I'd forgotten.
Lady. Oh, fie on your fidelity!
Second T. 'Tis so long ago.
Lady. It is yesterday.
Second T. Is it? You by the fireside with your knotting and I
coming in out of the cold, and the smell of winter apples cooking for jelly,
and your little sister Jane putting up the holly—is that yesterday?
Lady. Yes, indeed. And you were going to ask me to marry
you—why did you not do so? We should have been so happy.
Second T. [Wistfully.] Should we, my dear? Why, so I
thought. But we had no money. And I was selfish, I suppose. I like comfort,
too. I went to London as tutor to a proud lord's whelp—and then the
church...well, well, poor Lucy!
Lady. Have you never since felt the happiness you had when you used
to visit me? You brought me a nosegay once.
Second T. [The same.] Why, so I did; why Lucy [turns to
the LADY] and you remember the robin we used to feed and Scamp the
Lady. Who used to go with us on our walks? And a little coral scarf
I wore with ribbons to match?
Second T. [Eagerly.] Yes, yes, how could I ever have
forgotten? But surely this is a very long time ago. [Sadly.] You are
hooded and masked, but underneath your hair must be grey, like
mine—your face lined, like mine—We dream, Lucy, we dream.
Lady. Why, then, wake?
Do you not hear? Is not that the melody I used to play on my spinet?
Second T. Indeed it is. Oh, Lucy, I haven't missed it all? [In a
panic.] I am not old, it has not really gone by—lost? I am not an
old pedant in Italy, but a youth in England.
Lady. You are young and I am Lucy—Come [raises him from
chair]. You are tired from a long ride through the snow; you will rest on
the sophy while I play to you; then supper and all the family! And we will
arrange our marriage day.
[While speaking the LADY leads SECOND T. to sophy. He gets on to it,
she puts cushions under his head.]
Second T. [Drowsily.] That is comfortable, Lucy, very
comfortable. And how prettily the spinet sounds! Dear Lucy, do not forget to
wake me in good time.
[He falls asleep. FIRST T. comes forward. The LADY throws of domino and
mask and reveals MEZZETIN. Music ceases.]
First T. [Laughing softly.] I knew you from the first! Your
figure is too angular, your voice too squeaky! And yet you deceived him.
Mezzetin. When you are as old as he is dreams will easily send you
to sleep, too.
First T. [Looking down at SECOND T. asleep on sofa.] And so
he had a Lucy! Who would have thought it?
Mezzetin. Who is there who has not had a Lucy? No nut so dry,
Signor, that did not once hang green on a tree.
First T. But I hope you do not deal only in deceptions, I hope
there really is a lady and that you do not intend to slip on another disguise
and fool me.
Mezzetin. [To audience.] You notice how ungrateful he is!
After all the trouble I have taken! Well, we shall see if I deserve his
thanks or not. Having disposed of age, cynicism and decorum, we now proceed
to the real matter of the night.
First T. [Clasping his hands.] And quickly, I hope!
Mezzetin. First, we must set the scene. Help me to turn the sofa so
that you are not disturbed by the slumbers of sleeping propriety.
[They turn sofa away from audience, or, if this is not practicable, put a
screen about it, so that the sleeping tutor is hidden from audience.]
His wine was well-flavoured and he will certainly sleep till cockcrow. Now
[goes to window and draws curtains] the moon has risen and really
looks very pretty. [Gently claps his hands.] The music!
First T. And the lady?
Mezzetin. No, we are not ready yet. [Draws table to back, pulls
out another couch from L.] Now, the scene is set. But what about you,
Signor? You look a little English. Come, I must disguise you more in
accordance with the humour of the night and the Villa Malcontenta.
[MEZZETIN opens a chest—or the ottoman couch—takes out a
large gold lace ruff which he claps round FIRST T's neck; a gay satin coat
which he makes him change for his travelling coat, and ties a large knot of
ribbons on his sword. FIRST T's appearance now is that of one of the
travellers in Watteau's "L'embarquement pour l'Ile de Cythere."]
First T. [During change of dress.] How shall I repay you for
all this trouble you are taking, Mezzetin?
Mezzetin. By always believing in the impossible.
First T. Who are you, Mezzetin?
Mezzetin. [Handing him a mirror.] Behold yourself! Are you
First T. [Looking at him.] Yes, I feel free of much that
went with my clothes. I believe that I too could cut capers and sing; in
short, I have become Arlequino waiting for Columbina—but who are you
who work these miracles?
Mezzetin. I am Fantasy, day-dreaming and the unattainable. I beckon
just round the corner where no one has been yet. I reside in those violet
horizons which no man has reached. I am all you missed in the past and all
that will evade you in the future. I am all that is incredible yet pursued,
all that is never credited, yet longed for. Those who do not know me are no
better than blind worms, but those who do know me are always tormented by
First T. As I am tormented by you now. Where is the lady?
Mezzetin. I will fetch her. [To audience.] It is always the
same! You see how impatient and unreasonable he is! Do not blame me if things
go wrong. As you can observe, he looks quite charming and his manners are not
bad. But he is very inexperienced and lacks tact and discretion. Something
disagreeable will occur and I shall be called upon to put it right.
[MEZZETIN skips out R.]
First T. [Nervously, looking after MEZZETIN.] I wish I had
asked him for more advice. What does one do in such a situation? Who is she?
Am I the subject of a great lady's caprice or merely the victim of a jest on
the part of this clown? Is she perhaps married? I feel very uneasy and wish I
had taken another glass of wine.
[Goes to table now at back and looks for wine.]
The good doctor has drunk it all! Every bottle is empty. I hope I do not look
a fool in this carnival attire. [Returns centre stage.] Ah, here she
is! If only this had happened before how delightful it would be, but the
first time one cannot help feeling nervous.
[Enter R. the LADY. She is young and pretty, wears a loose, dark silk
mantle with sleeves. Her hair is unpowdered, she carries a small cluster of
flowers, her manner is very serious.]
Lady. Good evening, traveller.
First T. Good evening, madam.
[They study each other with grave embarrassment.]
Lady. Who brought you here, stranger?
First T. Mezzetin.
Lady. He also brought me. Do you know why?
First T. I cannot answer that, madam.
Lady. Why has he brought us together in this room in the Villa
Malcontenta—with music and the moon?
First T. [Yearningly.] Because we are young. And it is a
summer night in Italy.
Lady. There are so many summer nights. And one is young so long. Do
you like my flowers? When Mezzetin came to fetch me I was watering the plants
on my balconies and I picked some of the blossoms to bring with me. In the
moonlight they were silver. Here they appear gold.
First T. Like yourself, you are gold and silver both.
Lady. No, I am flesh and blood, like yourself. [approaches
him.] I believe we must be about the same age. How old are you?
First T. I have forgotten.
Lady. Why, so have I, now I think of it.
First T. [The same, bending towards her.] Who are you, you
Lady. Mezzetin says you must call me the Unknown.
First T. Why, so I will.
Lady. And who are you?
First T. Let me also be unknown for to-night.
Lady. As you please. It does not really matter. [Gives him
flowers.] Take these, already they begin to fade.
First T. No, no! With kisses I will revive them. [Kisses the
Lady. They droop the more from your warm hands and lips.
Suddenly it is silent!
First T. [Putting flowers on couch L.] What does that mean,
that we shall be disturbed?
Lady. Who is to disturb us? I am here alone, everyone has gone to a
festival in the village.
First T. Even Mezzetin?
Lady. Yes, he has gone to join the merrymakers, he is never long in
First T. Will you not take off your mantle, which is so dark and
[The LADY takes of mantle; she wears a sacque of pale flowered material.
FIRST T. takes her hands.]
It was you I saw looking from the window of the coach?
Lady. Was it?
First T. [Eagerly.] I was idling on the bridge at Pisa, the
coach swung by, it was lacquered green and the arms on the side had many
quarterings; you peeped between the leather curtains, there was a spaniel
with silver bells on your knee and beside you a man, ill-favoured, wearing a
violet coat—Who was he?
Lady. I have forgotten.
First T. [Releasing her hands.] You forget too much!
Lady. Everything. I am too young to have memories.
First T. No memories—of me?
Lady. You are in the present. While you are here I shall not forget
First T. But afterwards? When I go away, then will you forget?
Lady. How can I tell?
First T. [Mournfully.] Love should be immortal and never
Lady. Love is—but you did not speak of him, but of
First T. You are not faithful?
Lady. To love. He has many aspects—to-night yours and mine;
to-morrow, perhaps, who knows, that of another man for me and another woman
First T. No, no, it has always been you! In the woods at home, in
the sunbeams across my chamber wall, between the pages of my books at
college—during these travels—always you [imploringly].
Have you had no such dreams of me?
Lady. You expect too much. The present moment is ours—and
First T. You learned that philosophy from the rogue Mezzetin.
Lady. No, from experience.
First T. What have you experienced—at your age?
Lady. It is true that I am very young. It is also true that when I
was at school I used to hear a few stories...Ah, well, I fear you are very
pragmatical. While you talk of fidelity the clock is ticking.
First T. I always thought of you as constant, pure, noble...
Lady. There was one talked of virtue and did not see he stood upon
a quicksand. As it swallowed him he lamented his wasted sermon. So time will
swallow you up in the midst of your nice debates.
First T. [Vexed.] I feared I should make a fool of myself!
Yet surely I do not offend by praising you. I said you were constant, pure,
Lady. But did you say I had a neat ankle, a pretty wrist, a slim
waist—nay, you have not even glanced at these details of my person.
First T. [Confused.] I did not presume—I may not
Lady. Then if you may not presume or venture I had better return to
watering my poor flowers. [Turns to R.] First T. [Eagerly.] Do
not go! I will not be so stupid! You must forgive my awkwardness. I have been
looking forward to this so long, I really hardly know what I am doing.
Lady. Do not think I am not sorry for you. Alas! it is difficult
for any of us to be perfectly natural even in the most natural of
First T. [Aside.] I am torn by a hundred doubts and fears! I
fear to do the wrong thing—I fear still more to do nothing at all!
Lady. What are you whispering to yourself? You should know your
part without rehearsal.
First T. How can I if I have never played it before?
Lady. But you say you have seen me so often; surely, then, you were
ready with your style of behaviour when we met?
First T. [Aside.] I become more and more confused. Is she
fresh from a convent—a lily grown in the shelter of a cypress tree? Or
is she one of those dangerous creatures against whom I have so often been
warned? I should like her wholly innocent—and yet I long to meet an
accomplished woman of the world who will help me to overcome this confounded
Lady. I am not as beautiful as you expected? You are
First T. [Eagerly.] Indeed, you are more beautiful
[approaching]—now I see you close I discover a thousand
Lady. And a thousand hesitations.
First T. The second the result of the first.
Lady. Perhaps you would prefer me in another costume?
[SECOND T. snores loudly.]
Oh, heavens, what is that?
First T. Only the sleeping protest of drugged propriety—my
tutor, Dr. Prose, is slumbering on the sofa.
Lady. It was a jarring note.
First T. You were saying—about the costume? Truly, I think
that sacque rather shapeless.
[The LADY unbuttons and takes of the sacque. She wears a lace undress
beneath, showing much of her shape.]
Lady. [Turning about.] How is that?
First T. Adorable!
Lady. I hope that you are more at your ease. Sit down on this
[He does so on couch L.]
[Standing before him.] Who am I?
First T. I have ceased to care.
Lady. But, consider, I might be a great lady, who fell in love with
you on the bridge at Pisa. I might be a maid in her mistress's clothes. I
might be a girl whose parents are away, I might be a poor player acting a
familiar part, I might be something worse than any of these with my eyes on
your pocket-book, watch and rings.
First T. Incognita, I ask no questions.
Lady. [Seating herself beside him on the sofa.] Yet I had a
thousand answers ready for you! [Taking his hand.] Yes, it is true we
have met before, riding on a white camel across a desert, sharing a lilac
sunshade in a garden of oleanders, seated on a balcony overlooking an island
weighed to the water's edge with roses; or in the snow driving fast towards a
castle with lights in the upper window...Ah, what drowsiness of sun or frost,
what skies lavender with heat, purple with cold, what immortal trifles, fans,
slippers, ruffles, ribbons, fruit and sweetmeats—[leaning towards
him as he, absorbed in her words, leans towards her] Kisses, caresses,
and the final ecstacies—darkness and sleep.
First T. [Entranced.] Take me with you on yet another
journey to so joyous a destination.
Lady. Sometimes I sit seated among rosy clouds, a gold sceptre in
my hand, a diadem of pearls on my brow, Tritons, Loves, surround me, blowing
horns of coral; dwarf negroes lead up a white hippocampus, from a balustrade
of the purest alabaster my lover looks down and offers me a paroquet; to
escape him I mount a little car of opal drawn by peacocks. [She rises.
FIRST T. springs after her.]
First T. But you cannot escape your lover—
Lady. [Holding him back.] While, sometimes I am only poor
Brighella, the despised varlet—[she throws off the lace robe, and
shows herself in the satin trousers and jacket of Pierrot or Brighella, but
her neck and bosom are open on a quantity of ruffies]—whose
business is to run your errands and make you laugh.
First T. [Ardent.] Laughter and errands are over for
to-night—come to me—
Lady. [Still holding him of.] What will you give me if I do?
I have already everything—youth, and a thousand dreams—
First T. [The same.] I will give you yet one more dream.
Lady. I do not want it. I am complete—a circlet of pearls
exact to my throat, a crystal of wine full to the brim, a sheet of paper
loaded with expressions of devotion and each different—who is more
content than I?
First T. [The same.] Why then did you come here to torment
Lady. Ask the butterfly why it chooses the carnation instead of the
syringa as a pausing place! I know not why I came, nor why I shall go.
First T. You are cruel. You say you want nothing, yet you take from
me the little I have.
[Music again, very soft.]
Lady. They play for us—adagio—
First T. You torment me. [Catches hold of her.]
[She wrenches free. Music ceases.]
[She runs to sofa L., the FIRST T. after her. He catches her
You see, you have made the music cease.
First T. [Triumphant.] What does the music matter? I have
caught you. [Holds her closely.] Yes, and you shall not so easily go
Lady. You seem to have forgotten your timidity.
First T. [The same.] I have forgotten everything, as you
advised me. I only remember that the present hour is ours.
Lady. And that I am the lady of the coach?
First T. [The same.] That is indifferent to me. The only
thing I am sure of is that you are the lady I have in my arms—and it is
the only thing that matters.
Lady. [Embracing him.] You have learnt your lesson very
well. I love you. I always have loved you.
First T. [Draws her on to couch; they sit there close in each
other's embrace.] And I love you. I always loved you.
Lady. There is no more to be said.
[They kiss. Enter L. a MASK. He is handsomely dressed, wears a huge old
fashioned peruke and a mask fashioned like the visage of a wolf; he carries a
cane and wears a sword. For a second he surveys the lovers, who do not
perceive his cautious entry.]
The Mask. [To LADY.] I see I have timed my arrival
[The lovers start apart, the LADY shrieks.]
I missed you at the festival. Who is your companion?
Lady. Mercy! Pity! Forgiveness!
First T. [Dazed.] Who is this?
Lady. My husband.
The Mask. [Advancing.] Yes, Signor, her husband.
First T. [The same.] You are married?
Lady. [Vexed.] Of course. Why don't you say what is
customary on these occasions?
First T. But I don't know what that is—
The Mask. A fool. Where is your taste, Rosina?
Lady. [To FIRST T.] You really must do something. Don't you
see that this is serious? You must face him.
First T. [Rising.] I'll face anyone, of course. But I never
knew of his existence—and nothing has happened to cause him any real
Lady. He never will believe that. I know his suspicious nature.
The Mask. And I know your complete untrustworthiness, Rosina.
[To FIRST T.] Signor, who are you?
First T. [Defiant.] A traveller.
The Mask. [Touching his sword.] I shall be delighted to send
you a stage further on your journey.
First T. What do you mean?
Lady. You will have to fight him, of course.
First T. Shall I? I've learnt to fence, but I never fought anyone
Lady. [Vexed.] Is there anything you have done before
except ask questions?
First T. [Indignant.] You take this very coolly. I believe
you deceived me, too.
The Mask. Of course she did. What did you think she was here
First T. [To LADY, simply.] Then you don't love me? And you
are not the lady of the coach? And what about our dreams?
Lady. [Whispering to him.] I will answer all those questions
when you have disposed of my husband.
The Mask. [Overhearing.] And I will answer them now. She
does not love you. She is not the lady of the coach, for I never allow her
out of the villa. As for dreams, she never has any; and, as for disposing of
me [draws], that, madam, will not be so easy, for I am well used to
this sort of affair, while I see that your lover is as green as grapes in
First T. [Bracing himself.] But I daresay I am able to give
a good account of myself. [Flings of coat.] But, please take off your
mask, you look really horrible.
The Mask. [Grim.] If you saw my face you would be further
alarmed. [Takes of coat.] Know, Signor, that I am of the most ancient
blood in Italy, and judge of my feelings when I see my wife, in this wanton
attire, in the arms of a stray gallant!
First T. [Tears of the knot of ribbons from his sword and draws
it.] My blood, sir, is not unworthy to satisfy you—
Lady. Yes, indeed, I am sure he is nobly born, and we did but kiss,
my Rinaldo. Have mercy!
The Mask. None. I shall kill him—then deal with you. You see,
I know the correct procedure in these cases.
First T. Indeed you appear to do so, while I am but a novice and
cannot understand why this pleasant adventure must end in my death.
The Mask. [Fierce.] How did you enter my villa?
First T. The coach lost a wheel in a rut; while we were waiting on
the road up came a fantastic fellow called Mezzetin—
The Mask. Aha! Mezzetin I I know him—he is a very great
First T. —and he invited me here.
The Mask. Well, no doubt of it, you must die. And do not delay. I
am tired with the festival I have been attending.
First T. If you would take off your mask I should be
obliged—you bewilder me.
The Mask. [Flourishing his sword.] These are excuses. Defend
Lady. [Who has slipped on her mantle.] Will you not give
him, poor youth, five minutes to say his prayers and farewell to me?
The Mask. [Seating himself on couch.] Certainly. No one
shall say I am ill bred. He may even kiss you—seeing no one will ever
kiss you again. Have you ever thought of that, Rosina? One kiss must be the
last kiss for all of us.
Lady. [Shuddering, to FIRST T.] He intends to kill us
First T. I will defend you to the utmost; but, alas! I have so
little skill. I perceive now how rash it is to enter into these adventures
unless one has had some experience.
Lady. [Approaching him.] He allows us one kiss. After all,
this is an agreeable way to die. I shall never be old and you will never be
surfeited. I shall never be ill, nor you infirm; when they lay us before the
altar in the chapel everyone will say how fair we are and what a pity it was
we were slain.
First T. Yes, there is consolation in that. And I shall not be
mourned very much. My brother will take my place with the utmost elegance. I
am too young to have any attachments or possessions of my own and therefore I
shall forfeit nothing but dreams and hopes—and who knows but that these
continue after death?
Lady. Yes, perhaps now we shall really ride a white hippocampus
protected by a lilac parasol—I shall find a couch in the chalice of a
lily and you will string for me pearls which an endless sea of eternal azure
washes to your feet...Oh, I am happy! [Embraces him.]
First T. Then you do love me, after all? Then I am happy, too.
Everything is endurable save disillusion.
The Mask. [Still seated on couch.] You are too young to know
First T. It is not knowledge, but intuition. When I thought this
lady was a vulgar creature who had deceived me I was wretched, now I find she
is glad to die with me I am serene again. I therefore conclude that anything
is preferable to the misery of disenchantment.
The Mask. A pretty speech. Three of your minutes are gone and, if
you wish to say any prayers—
First T. Prayers? To whom?
The Mask. That was what I was wondering. Your idols must be very
inefficient or ill-paid, otherwise you would never be in this situation. But,
perhaps you chance to be a Christian.
First T. I wonder—I never thought about it till now.
Lady. No, you are a pagan like myself. We return to the earth like
blooms nipped by a late frost, fall and are trampled into the field to rise
again; and we have been a thousand fanciful shapes, you and I—and shall
be another thousand yet. I have embraced you in the mountains of the moon, in
the grottos under the sea, on the clouds beyond the sunset, in twilight
groves of Hades, on sweet violet paths of Parnassus—all the Muses
assisted at our union, and Apollo played our marriage ode—on an
iceberg, green, purple and glittering, we floated to extinction in the
midnight of the North, and we were born again on an island of the South where
the perfume of monstrous blossoms was so powerful that I fainted in your
First T. [Enraptured, embracing her.] This is ecstasy, this
is what I sought! I am satisfied! [They kiss.]
The Mask. [Rising.] Just as well. The five minutes are
[The lovers passionately and reluctantly part; the LADY retreats to the
couch and the TRAVELLER faces his opponent; he takes of his ruff and fancy
coat given him by MEZZETIN and recovers his sword, which he has laid aside to
embrace the LADY. The MASK does not take of his coat; they make a few passes
at each other.]
The Mask. You do not seem nervous.
First T. [Exalted.] On the contrary, I am delighted to
die—Strike! I cannot fence with you.
The Mask. Oho! I am slain!
[He falls prone R. FIRST T. steps back amazed and horrified. The LADY
rises with a shriek.]
First T. [In dismay.] Is it possible I have killed him? He
does not stir! Quick, take off his mask and let us see if we can help
[The LADY runs to the prostrate MASK and bends over him.]
Lady. It is useless, he is dead. Your sword went right through
First T. [The same.] This is dreadful. I feel rather sick.
Are you sure he is dead?
Lady. [Rising.] Quite sure. He does not breathe. Now we are
First T. [Throwing away his sword with a shudder.] But this
is different; I never meant to kill him.
Lady. But remember that he was quite ready to kill you.
First T. This is his house—you are his wife.
Lady. No, his widow.
First T. I do not know what to do. I was quite prepared to die
myself but not to kill someone else—what of our enchanted isles beyond
Lady. We must postpone the visit.
First T. [In horror.] I shall be arrested—perhaps
hanged—and I do not even know whom I have killed!
Lady. This is Italy and these accidents are not uncommon. I daresay
I can put some gloss on it.
First T. You seem to take it very calmly; after all, he was your
Lady. That is just why I do take it so calmly. Dear me, you really
have a great deal to learn!
First T. You've changed again!
Lady. So have you.
First T. [In despair.] Nothing lasts! My moment of ecstasy
when I thought we were going to die together has gone.
Lady. It would not have been a moment of ecstasy if it had
First T. What shall I do?
Lady. You talked of fidelity, but now it seems to me you have
forgotten me—now, when you can love me without hindrance.
First T. [Doubtfully.] Oh yes, I must, no doubt, love you
just the same. But this dead man has chilled my blood; it appears that after
all I am a Christian, for I feel that I have committed a sin.
Lady. [Enticing him.] Commit another—with
First T. I have just killed your husband!
Lady. That is what makes it so easy. We shall not be
[She draws the reluctant and bewildered TRAVELLER to window; he puts
his head in his hands, his elbows on the sill. She watches him; THE MASK
rises to a sitting position, takes of peruke and mask, revealing
Mezzetin. [To audience.] You see what a variety of
experiences I have given him—love, fear of death, killing a man, wooing
a widow, and the knowledge that there is nothing in any of it I
[Rises.] But he seems depressed. It is always the same. They are never
[As the TRAVELLER remains in the window-place with his face hidden the
LADY slips away from him, crosses stage, smiles at MEZZETIN and with her
finger on her lips creeps out R. The TRAVELLER looks up, misses the LADY,
comes centre stage and sees MEZZETIN, who cuts a caper.]
First T. [Amazed.] I had forgotten you—and yet you are
the cause of all the mischief. Through you I have killed a man!
Mezzetin. [Pointing to wig and mask.] No, only a mask.
First T. [The same.] What, it was you? You dared to play a
trick on me! I shall thrash you, rogue!
Mezzetin. [With clasped hands.] Tricks are all I can play.
You would not punish me for following my profession, Signor?
First T. [Bitterly.] No, I should punish myself for being
such a fool as not to know your profession. [Looking round.] Where is
Mezzetin. [With the same mock humility.] Pardon, my Signor.
As you seemed to have lost interest in her she has gone.
First T. Who was she?
Mezzetin. Aha, my Signor, did you not drink homage to the Unknown?
That is exactly who she is—la Incognita!
First T. [Angry.] Why did you interrupt me in that
ridiculous disguise? I was being more successful than I expected—I was
really getting very curious and excited—her kisses were
delicious—when you came in—
Mezzetin. Exactly, I thought your emotions would be heightened by
an interruption. If things go too smoothly they become dull, and that must be
avoided at all costs. Besides, though that is a detail, she really is
First T. The wife of Mezzetin? Impossible! Your wife!
Mezzetin. Precisely. Why not? Do you think all the fools are
bachelors? No, indeed, Mezzetin is a married man. [Capers.]
First T. [Furious.] I do not believe you—that lovely
creature! I have had enough of your lies. [Snatches up his sword.]
Where is she? You are intolerable.
Mezzetin. Oh, dear, oh, dear. What shall I do? I have made him
[Runs round stage, the TRAVELLER after him with drawn sword.]
This comes of interfering with Englishmen!
[He knocks into screen or couch R. and wakes SECOND T., whose head
appears above couch.]
Second T. Mrs. Vinegar! Mrs. Vinegar! My slippers! My
Mezzetin. [Shrilly.] Coming—coming!
Second T. The woman becomes intolerable! Where am I?
First T. [Clutching MEZZETIN by the collar, still very
angry.] We've both been fooled, sir, by this wretched scoundrel here!
Mezzetin. [Struggling in his grip.] And if it is the last
time you're lucky.
Second T. [Coming round the sofa, putting his wig and cravat
straight.] Charles! My lord! What is this place? I feel
First T. [Throwing of MEZZETIN.] We have been the victims of
Mezzetin. Well, if you are never the victims of anything worse,
you're lucky again!
Second T. I recall—the broken coach...
First T. It must be mended by now.
Second T..,.and the Villa Malcontenta!
First T. [Still bitter.] Well-named!
Mezzetin. Now, what can I do to put him in a good humour again? It
will soon be dawn and they must go on their way.
Second T. I believe I had a strange dream. About Lucy [checks
himself]. 'Umph! I am afraid that the wine was not very good and that I
drank a little too much of it.
First T. [Bitterly.] I drank scarcely a drop, and I too, had
Mezzetin. And yet neither of you feel grateful for these same
Second T. Now at least I feel extremely sober.
Mezzetin. Alas, what intoxication survives till the dawn? The
rising sun always finds us sober—or asleep.
Second T. I remember this horrid fellow. So it is the dawn!
[With sudden suspicion.] My lord, how have you spent the night?
First T. Not as I wished.
Second T. [Sternly.] You evade me.
First T. [Mournfully.] No, it was I who was evaded.
Mezzetin. [To SECOND T.] Signor, do not question the youth
too closely, because he himself hardly knows what happened. You had better go
on your way and think as you please on what has occurred.
Second T. I fear, sir, I must think as I don't please.
[Sniffing.] There is a perfume in the air...[Eyeing FIRST
T.]—a disorder in his looks—I accuse a petticoat!
Mezzetin. Take care, Signor, that a petticoat does not accuse
Second T. [Indignant.] Accuse me, sir—of what? Of what
sin could a petticoat accuse me?
Mezzetin. Have you forgotten Lucy? Are you sure you had no
companion in your strange dreams? That none of this perfume clings to your
own person? That your looks are not disordered?
Second T. I remember nothing.
Mezzetin. Then be careful not to give yourself away. Silence is the
only cure for a bad memory.
First T. [Putting on hat, etc.] Let us go, sir.
Second T. [Dubiously.] It certainly seems to be time we did
so...My lord [with discretion], when we return to England this will be
one of the episodes we shall forget.
First T. Only one? Do you intend others, then? I, for my part, want
no more such experiences.
Mezzetin. Hark, they play an aubade to set you on your
[Music. The TRAVELLERS bow to MEZZETIN and exeunt, L.]
Young man, come back!
[FIRST T. turns back from L. MEZZETIN takes his hand. The LADY enters, R.
MEZZETIN takes her hand.]
[To FIRST T.] You will see her again. Under many disguises.
[The LADY kisses her hand to FIRST T.]
Never bear her any ill will for she means no harm. And she is really very
First T. [Bewildered.] I do not know what to think!
Mezzetin. You must not think anything! It is all a matter of
sentiment. Go on your way, Signor. [Waves him of L.]
First T. [Departing, to LADY.] I shall pursue you
[Exit L. MEZZETIN takes the LADY, still holding her hand, to the
footlights, facing audience.]
Mezzetin. [To audience, while aubade is softly played.] The
travellers, old and young, have gone. We remain and shall prepare our
entertainment for the next wayfarers. It is wonderful what you can do with
moonlight, wine, music and a few masks. Perhaps some day you will pay us a
visit. We shall always be ready to receive you. We have welcomed so many
travellers, if we are good for nothing else we offer them, at least, a
trifling diversion. We give to the old memories, to the young hopes, to all
another illusion either in the past or the future, and if our benefits are
not very substantial we never destroy anything, not even the tenderest,
sweetest falsehood. Perhaps you want to know who we are? We do not know
ourselves. We have a thousand shapes, a thousand names. Yet I am always
Mezzetin. And she is always—La Incognita. Good night and good
morning both, for, if you are going home to bed, to us it is always the
beginning of a new day.
[They bow. Music fades away.]
SUPPER WITH MADAME OLSHAUSEN
And Prince Clement Louis of Grafenberg-Freiwaldau,
Generalissimo of the Imperial Forces, in a summer pavilion outside Mons.
[SPANISH NETHERLANDS, 18th Century.]
"I cannot conceive of any situation from which a man of breeding could not
extricate himself with credit."
"And yet Your Serene Highness has had your difficulties," replied the Duke
of Glückstadt with as much irony as he dared show in the presence of his
"Precisely, my dear Duke—I've had my difficulties, but no one has
known about them."
Prince Clement Louis of Grafenberg-Freiwaldau, Prince of the Holy Roman
Empire, Generalissimo of the Imperial Forces, gave his amiable smile
which did not cover good nature but complete indifference. Agreeable to all
and interested in none, he was not popular with the ruling princes of the
Empire, and the French nobility who composed his staff; but as his cold
severity and his ruthless imperiousness were disguised by social tact and
exquisite breeding, they were none of them able to find any cause for
offence. He was one of the most considerable commanders of the day, and well
knew his value: he could have made all these subordinate gentlemen devoted to
him if he had so wished; but he did not think this same devotion worth any
trouble to gain. He worked with other weapons.
He then looked with his unruffled amiability at the Duke of Glückstadt,
who plainly had something to say and did not know how to say it
Prince Clement Louis rather suspected that thee young German prince had
come as a spokesman for the other generals; something was wrong no doubt, and
he was expected to set it right. It would be, likely enough, one of the usual
petty jealousies between themselves. Prince Clement Louis never allowed such
matters to disturb his serenity.
The Imperial Forces were besieging Mons, and these two gentlemen sat in a
small farmhouse which was the Imperial Headquarters. It was evening of a ripe
summer day, and Prince Clement Louis hoped that the young German prince would
not be long in coming to whatever affair he had in hand; for he, the
Generalissimo, had an appointment for supper with Madame Olshausen, who was
established in a small château or summer pavilion, in the woods beyond the
"I believe my dear Duke," he said pleasantly, "that you find yourself in
one of these awkward situations that we were discussing. There has been some
trouble, perhaps, with the French generals, or with the other German princes?
If so, tell me plainly, and I will do my best to smooth matters over."
"Your Serene Highness always does that," replied the young German, "but I
believe that this is a matter which even your tact will not so easily deal
"Are you speaking," asked the Prince suavely, "for yourself? Or do you
come as a spokesman for the others?"
"As a spokesman for the others, Highness."
Prince Clement Louis smiled: he knew perfectly well why this young officer
had been chosen to voice the complaint of his fellow-officers; he was at once
the youngest of all the German princes who served the Imperial Eagle and the
most agreeable to the Generalissimo. He was both sincere and
ingenuous. He might venture far in delicate matters and give no offence. The
others, arrogant and quarrelsome, would not be able to control themselves,
and would damage their cause by the passion with which they put it
Prince Clement Louis encouraged the young man with a brilliant look and
smile. He really did not want to waste time; it was a delicious evening, and
it was also two days since he had seen Madame Olshausen.
"Your Serene Highness knows, as well as we all know," said the young Duke
hurriedly, "that there is a spy in the camp—some leakage of news of our
"That has been discussed at the Council," replied the Generalissimo. "It
can scarcely be any matter between my officers and myself."
"We believe that that is precisely what it is," replied the young man
earnestly, "but it is very likely that Your Serene Highness will take what I
am about to say extremely amiss."
"Then don't say it," replied Prince Clement Louis with smiling arrogance.
"Let us waste no time, my dear Duke, on anything which is likely to cause
"Monseigneur," persisted the young Duke stubbornly, "there is a feeling of
great discontent, of unrest, almost of panic among the men—among us,
too, very definitely—about this question of the spy."
"You say the spy," replied Prince Clement Louis calmly, "but we do not
know there is a spy: every possible investigation has been made, every
possible precaution taken, and we have discovered nothing."
"But the ambush of the artillery train," replied the young man quickly,
"and our surprise on the ramparts—the attack on the
"No surprise at all, for the garrison was ready to meet us."
"A great many men were lost on both those occasions, Monseigneur."
"Both occasions may have been coincidences; we must consider the
possibility of that. For myself, I was inclined to think there was a spy at
work; but, as I say, after the most extensive investigations, nothing was
discovered, and I cannot conceive yet, my dear Duke, quite what your mission
"You have ordered," replied the other, flushing thickly under his fair
skin, "you have ordered, Monseigneur, a night attack on the citadel for
to-morrow. If the enemy should be apprised of that..."
"It is quite impossible," interrupted Prince Clement Louis. "Unless you
entertain the monstrous supposition that one of my officers himself is a
traitor; but that is an idea I refuse to entertain."
"There is no need to entertain it!" exclaimed the young man with some
heat, "that is the last thought which has entered into any of our minds,
Monseigneur; but we have considered—there are these two things ahead:
the night attack to-morrow, and Maréchal d'Orbitello coming up with the
reinforcements which we so greatly need. Supposing, Monseigneur, he was met
and cut to pieces, like the artillery train?"
"That also is impossible," replied the Generalissimo. "The secret has been
sternly kept, even my secretaries know nothing about it; the code is in my
own possession, the messages have gone to and fro with a man of the utmost
reliability. There is no one beyond yourselves, Highness, who can know of
these two plans of mine."
"If they fail," insisted the young Duke, rising impatiently and
restlessly, "we, it seems to me, are likely to be slaughtered in our
trenches. If there is some one in our camp who knows the weakness of our
numbers, that twice reinforcements have been cut off, that we have lost what
we did lose by that last surprise—which certainly, before God, sir, was
a betrayal!—Maréchal d'Isenburg has only to come up from Brussels and
annihilate us where we are. Our liaison has been interrupted and cut;
there, too, is surely the work of a traitor!"
Prince Clement Louis looked steadily at the flushed and earnest young
"I don't quite believe in this traitor of yours, my dear Duke," he
replied. "Plans will go wrong: each case, as I say, may have been a matter of
chance. I am forced to this conclusion, though I must say it seems unlikely;
for there is no one whom I can possibly suspect...no one, indeed, to whose
advantage it would be to betray me; for those who serve under me will find
obviously their best advantage in supporting me."
"We think we know who has betrayed us," said the young Duke of Glückstadt,
"and I have been sent here on the abominable errand of telling Your Highness
whom this person is—or whom we think it is."
"Why 'abominable'?" demanded Prince Clement Louis haughtily. "Shall I not
be rejoiced to know? Never have I had so many misfortunes as during this
siege of Mons; and if you have been skilful enough to discover the author of
them, why should it be any offence to me?"
The young Duke did not reply, but walked uneasily up and down the worn,
flagged floor. The windows were open on the violet twilight, and the air was
pleasant with the perfume of late hay brought from the low fields beyond the
Prince Clement Louis glanced at the old clock beside the kitchen stone.
Madame Olshausen would be already expecting him; it was a pity that this boy
could not come sooner to the point...
A small dim mirror, painted with a wreath of faded flowers on the frame,
hung beneath the clock; and there Prince Clement Louis could see himself, in
his ornate uniform, richly laced with knotted bullion, with his Orders
sparkling over the lace on his breast, his long, stiff, military, powdered
and pomaded curls, clasped with a diamond buckle, and his smooth,
expressionless face, so handsome as to be almost effeminate.
He was not yet thirty, and had been commanding armies since he was
eighteen; and, though he was so good looking and so amiable, with such a
charming address and—when he chose—such caressing manners, his
reputation was that of an unscrupulous, ruthless, arrogant and inflexible
man. He had great gifts: those of energy, secrecy, indomitable courage; an
unyielding fortitude and immutable patience. None of this showed in his
appearance, which was splendid, superb and careful—almost to
foppishness. He spent a great deal of the money that he made out of his
successful campaigns and his various governments on lace and jewellery.
Now, while he was waiting for the young Duke to speak, he was arranging
the ruffles at his wrists, which were tied by wide black ribbons, and had
been pulled awry by his gauntlets, which he had just removed. He had been
reviewing the cavalry, and there was a speck or so of dust on the bullion on
his cuffs. This he flicked away, still waiting for the Duke of Glückstadt to
"We think," stammered that young man at last, red in the face with passion
and agitation, "that Madame Olshausen is the spy."
Prince Clement Louis stared at the speaker, without any change in his
"She accompanies Your Highness everywhere. She would have ample
opportunity to discover your secrets and to sell them," insisted the young
German prince, "and those creatures can always be easily bought. It is the
petition of all of us that Your Highness send away this woman."
"But of course," replied Prince Clement Louis, with a mild courtesy which
veiled a limitless arrogance, "it is quite impossible for us, my dear Duke,
to discuss my private affairs. That is my answer to you all; and
now"—he rose—"as I have an appointment with Madame
"I've no doubt, Monseigneur," interrupted the young German obstinately.
"And how do we know she will not, to-night, get everything out of you about
the attack, about the reinforcements coming up—if she doesn't know it
already! There have been a good many lives lost through this spy,
Monseigneur, and we do not intend to stand by and see any more sacrificed. We
demand that this woman be sent away, or at least arrested or watched."
"Who is in this?" demanded Clement Louis. "All of you?"
"All of us, Monseigneur. It is the common opinion of all of us, and it is
noised abroad in the camp, even among the soldiers."
"And yet it never occurred to me," remarked Prince Clement Louis coldly,
"and certainly I am better acquainted with the lady than any of you could
The young Duke wanted to reply—but dared not: "But you sir, are
"You have introduced," continued the Generalissimo smoothly, "a subject
that—as I said at first—I could not possibly discuss with anyone.
If I were to take what you say seriously, I should have to be offended, and
treat your interference as insolence; and I have no wish to do that. You are
either all of you deceived by some foolish gossip of the camp, or you wish to
insult me. Whichever case it may be, I shall take no notice of your action,
it would be beneath me to do so."
"And we, I suppose, Monseigneur," replied the young man hotly, "are to
wait here meekly and see all our plans go wrong—perhaps be murdered in
Prince Clement Louis picked up his gloves from the plain kitchen
"Believe me," he smiled, "there is no danger whatever of that. For your
own satisfaction I will tell you—and you may repeat it to your
fellow-officers—that the woman is a fool, and absolutely incapable of
what you suspect her; whoever this spy is, if there is a spy, it is some one
of education and intelligence. Madame Olshausen knows no language but German;
she can scarcely read or write; and she has just sufficient brains to keep
out of all serious affairs. This is for your own satisfaction—to your
formal embassy I have no formal answer; I absolutely decline to discuss my
The calm assurance with which he spoke almost shook the deep conviction of
the young man. Was it possible that they had, after all, made a mistake? That
all the little shreds and scraps of evidence which, put together, had pointed
to Madame Olshausen as the spy, were wrong? And yet there were several of
them, older, wiser, more experienced men than himself, who had assured him
that it was she and no other, and that only the infatuation of Prince Clement
Louis for his mistress prevented him from seeing what she really was—a
spy in the pay of the English and Hanoverians.
Hesitating, frowning, the young Duke said:
"It was damned odd about that artillery train, and damned odd about the
assault upon the glacis. If it happens again—"
"It was," agreed the Generalissimo calmly, "as you remark, Highness,
damned odd...But I don't think it will happen again. It is possible,
of course, that we have some traitor at work, though I've combed the camp
"Does your Highness know," persisted the young Duke doggedly, "the
antecedents of Madame Olshausen? You took her from the stage when she was
playing in the Italian comedy, under the name of Minetta; but who was she
before that? Ask her, Monseigneur, if she was ever at the Elector of
Hanover's Court, under the name of Madame Aurora Frey?"
"The woman has never been at any Court," replied Prince Clement Louis
contemptuously, "and are you telling me that you have been investigating her
"We have had to take measures of self-defence," replied the young man
sullenly. "It was not until we had some very clear and good grounds to go
upon that we ventured to approach Your Highness. We can, if you wish, put all
our evidence before you; and we would appeal to you," he added with dignity,
"to put your officers, your men and your Emperor before this woman."
"I have never," replied Prince Clement Louis, "had any creature attached
to me who would be likely to be the least danger to any cause. Please credit
me with sufficient sense to know an intriguing woman of the world from a poor
actress of the Comedy. There is really no more to be said."
"There is a great deal more to be said," protested the young Duke, "but I
understand from Your Serene Highness that it cannot be said without
"You are to understand exactly that," replied the Generalissimo. "I bid
you good evening, or I shall be late for my appointment."
"With Madame Olshausen?"
"Precisely, with Madame Olshausen."
"And what am I to tell the others?"
"What you please, my dear Duke. You have heard what I have said, and you
can gauge my sentiments and attitude. Any interference of the nature you
suggest is grotesque. Do not force me to have to tell you all that it is
dangerous as well."
"You carry it with a very high hand, Monseigneur. It is our lives that
hang on this matter."
"And my honour; one will be regarded as jealously as the other. Good
evening, Highness!" And Prince Clement Louis picked up his hat and left the
farm, looking back with smiling malice at the discomfited and angry figure of
the young Duke. His Serene Highness, with a light-coloured summer cloak over
his gay uniform, rode rapidly to the pretty little pavilion where he had
installed Madame Olshausen.
For six months he had taken this woman with him everywhere, and he could
not remember any connection of the kind which had endured so long. He utterly
repudiated the idea that she in any way obsessed or infatuated him; but she
certainly was charming, and he found in her company a satisfaction that he
had never yet discovered in female society. Nothing could have amazed him
more than what the young Duke of Glückstadt had just said to him. Practised
as he was in social tact, it had been difficult for him to conceal this
complete surprise, for Madame Olshausen, whom he had first seen dancing in
the Italian comedy in Vienna, was the most inoffensive and foolish of
creatures, and, as he had himself just declared, was totally
illiterate—a peasant-girl with no training beyond that of the circus
and the theatre; indeed, her complete ignorance of all worldly affairs had
been one of her main attractions for him; who was always weighed with heavy
responsibilities, faced by grave issues, and involved in many ramifications
of statecraft. With her there had always been relief and pleasure; in her
company life went lazily. She had an air of innocence and freshness, and in
gratitude for her gift of lovely gaiety he had solicited from the Emperor a
barony for his favourite. For the past three months she had held Olshausen
and its important revenues.
How lunatic were those men to suppose that he could possibly have thus
favoured and protected a woman who was in the least likely to betray him! He
was almost as sure of her loyalty as he was of her fidelity; but not quite:
he was always prepared for any woman to betray him with another man, though
so far he was not aware that this had happened—largely, he supposed,
because there were few men who had qualities to render them formidable as
rivals. He had always been the most powerful and the most charming
personality of any society in which he mingled. Any woman of taste or
judgment was not likely to forsake him; but he always allowed for caprice. If
he had been told—or if, rather, he had discovered—that Minetta
Olshausen had been unfaithful to him, he might have believed it without too
much difficulty; but that she was betraying him—stealing and telling
his most intimate secrets for money—he refused to credit for a
Insolent stupidity to suggest such a thing! She was not capable of the
mildest, most obvious, intrigues; why, he had been able to be completely at
his ease with her—to say things before her—that he would have
said before no one else; even, now he came to consider the matter (and he was
bound to consider it a little after what the Duke of Glückstadt had said), to
visit her with his code in his pocket, to leave important papers in his coat
that hung all night in her chamber, to read letters in her presence and leave
them lying on her dressing-table. She, a peasant from the Tyrol, knew nothing
but that dialect, and a little German; Italian, and French, in which he
usually corresponded, would be impossible for her to decipher.
Certainly those men had been right in this: that, if she had been both
intelligent and false, she had had considerable opportunities to betray
The Prince was amazed at their impertinence, and did not quite know how to
deal with it; he would force Madame Olshausen on them, of course, at every
possible opportunity; he would give a supper, and invite them all, and set
her at the head of the table. She should go with him everywhere. Her coach
should have a prominent place at all reviews. He would induce the Emperor,
when he had taken Mons and Brussels and could ask for more rewards, to make
her a Duchess.
Both his pride and his passion jumped in this. Minetta Olshausen pleased
him so much that he was prepared to do anything for her save marry her: he
believed that he loved her; he certainly could not think without a wrench at
the heart, most uncommon to his cold temperament, of leaving her; and now, of
course, he could not have left her without submitting to the dictations of
his officers. She was secure in her position for a long time to come, through
his arrogant pride if not through his affection. He decided, as he rode
through the slender avenue which led to the little château she occupied, that
he would make the most desperate efforts to discover who this spy was, and
thus vindicate his judgment.
It had been, as the young Duke had remarked, "damned odd" about the
artillery surprise; and also about the attack on the St. Nicholas Gate; but
if there were a spy at work, surely he, Prince Clement Louis, who had never
failed in anything yet, could discover the odious traitor, and that without
too much ado? As for the matter of this request of which Glückstadt had been
the mouthpiece, he would have to break any officer who mentioned it to him
again; or, if a ruling prince dared to do so, insult him to such an extent
that he would return home.
The Generalissimo could ill afford the withdrawal of any troops,
but he would rather that half his forces left than be in any way dictated to
by another. Madame Olshausen should stay even if the Confederacy fell to
pieces; if need be, he reflected, he would leave the Emperor and obtain a
command somewhere else. He was sufficiently famous to be able to demand his
own terms. Poor young Glückstadt had spoken of a difficult situation which
might arise to confound the nicest in judgment; and he had replied that he
could not credit any such situation, which could not be efficiently dealt
with by men of tact and breeding; and he smiled as he thought of the young
Duke's embarrassment. There was no great difficulty about this particular
situation: he knew how to deal with those generals of his, and also with
She was waiting for him in a room which she had already been able to
render charming. Whenever she followed the army, she took with her a quantity
of baggage; and whatever deserted mansion or devastated chateau might be put
at her disposal she rendered it almost immediately civilized and delightful.
Her few servants were installed with her, and a troop of Black Cuirassiers
kept guard in the court of honour. Prince Clement Louis knew all the
household and all the soldiers; they were particularly selected for this
delicate work. As for the servants, not one of them could possibly be a
traitor, for they all came from his own estate of Grafenburg Freiwaldau.
She greeted him with the most tender affection, the most joyous delight,
and with her own hands took off his mantle. She was finely blonde and as pale
and exquisite as the most fragile manner of flower, and, dressed in fine,
floating laces and shimmering blue ribbons (for she knew that he liked both
laces and ribbons), and hung with pearls which were part of his lavish gifts
to her, she appeared like a creature too ethereal for mere humanity.
Supper was prepared and the pale candles lit. He saw to it that she was
well-served. In everything he was fastidious and sumptuous.
Madame Olshausen said she had been dull all day, that it was rather lonely
and sad in the little pavilion in the thick woods, from which you could not
even see the great fortress, nor the camp; but you could, she added, hear the
guns firing, and there was something grim and frightening in that sound.
"The next time there is a review," he replied, "you shall come to it; you
would like that, would you not?"
And she flushed with pleasure and cried out her gratitude; for never
before had she received such an open honour.
After supper, which His Serene Highness enjoyed without the least alloy in
his pleasure, the cloth was drawn and a case of small models of soldiers set
out; Prince Clement Louis carefully arranged these. They were one of his
chief amusements, and often something more than an amusement; for he
preferred to plan the disposition of his troops in this manner instead of on
Madame Olshausen sat on the arm of his chair and watched him as he quickly
arranged the cavalry in small squads, one behind the other. He was already
planning the manner of his state entry into Brussels, and he saw these small,
lead figures magnified into the size of his Dragoons and Hussars, and the
tiny metal flags into the grandeur of great standards, bearing the Imperial
Eagles and his own arms and those of the Allies, and crowned with wreaths of
"Ah, so sure of taking Brussels!" she laughed; and he answered:
"Of course! I have never yet sat down before a town I have not taken."
"But there's Mons in the way," smiled Madame Olshausen.
"Mons will fall in a day, or two or three days."
"You're expecting reinforcements?"
And he, remembering the conversation with the young Duke of Glückstadt,
was almost startled:
"Did I tell you that, Minetta?"
"Of course you told me that—how else could I know?"
How else indeed? And he had always used the most careless freedom towards
her, as he would have used it towards one of his own generals...or a
"Well," she laughed, putting her tiny hand caressingly on his epaulettes,
"I hope we shall soon leave Mons. I want you very much to take this town, for
I am rather weary of this little pavilion in the woods."
"I come here," he smiled, "almost every night; it is only in the day time
that you are alone. Are you beginning to be tired of following the army?"
He turned to look at her as he spoke, and saw reflected an infinite
passion in her candid eyes. He could not doubt that she loved him. He could
scarcely doubt that he loved her...
The Prince continued thoughtfully and with precision to arrange his
military pieces. When he had them set out to his taste, he left them on the
table and leant back in the deep chair with arms. He had realized that he was
fatigued. He had been up with the dawn, inspecting the trenches. It was two
nights since he had been able to repose himself in the little pavilion in the
woods; and he asked Madame Olshausen to call his valet, and, when the man
came, gave him his Orders, taking them off one by one: the Golden Fleece, the
White Eagle of Poland, the White Eagle of Prussia, coveted stars and crosses
that had been his since he was a boy.
The valet took these away and locked them into a Chinese lacquer cabinet.
Prince Clement Louis stood up to take off his heavy coat, and as he did so
thought to put his hand in his pocket: there were some papers there,
including that private cipher code that he never was without. He put all
carelessly on the table beside the array of metal soldiers, and then he
turned and went into the inner bedroom, which was so pleasantly lit by one
If it had not been for that absurd conversation with the Duke of
Glückstadt it never would have occurred to His Serene Highness to turn back
and look at Madame Olshausen through the half-open door.
She was still seated, so pale and airy and fair, on the arm of the big
leather chair which he had just left; and she was bending over the soldiers,
with her hands just hovering over those little squads of metal cavalry. He
had not noticed, ever before, that she had shown any interest in those little
toys of his; but was it over the soldiers her tiny hand was hovering?...Or
over those papers that he had left—almost purposely left—for her
She was certainly flicking over the papers, and now she looked round, and
assured herself that she was alone—not seeing him in the shadow of the
door, so slightly ajar; and now she was reading: surely, although she could
scarcely read or write her native tongue, she was carefully and deliberately
reading that French document! Prince Clement Louis waited...a moment, two
moments, five moments; and still Minetta Olshausen was reading the papers he
had left on the table.
This was the first time that he had ever watched her, so sure and so
careless had he always been in his dealing with the little Columbine. He went
back into the bedroom, and considered. Of course, very likely there
was nothing in it. In fact, it was absurd to think there was anything
in it! She could not really have been reading. And that French paper had not
been of any importance. What was of importance was in code, and it was
ridiculous to suppose that she could de-code his cipher, the secret of which
was known only to himself and his correspondents.
He came back to her. She was half curled up in her chair, in her flounces
and ribbons and pearls, and seemed almost asleep. He gathered up the papers
quietly, and, with them in his hand, asked, with even more than his usual
careless indifference in his manner:
"You were never at the Court of Hanover, were you, under the name of
Madame Aurora Frey?"
She shuddered and stiffened; under her drooping lids her eyes gleamed as
he had never seen them gleam before, but her self-command was admirable, She
"Monseigneur, what do you mean? I do not know the name at all."
The sound of the guns broke across the night: the usual night attack of
the artillery on Mons.
Madame Olshausen sprang up, nervously wringing her hands. She seemed about
"I cannot endure it!" she cried. "It is so terrible, the cannonading day
"But it has never upset you before," remarked Prince Clement Louis, never
ceasing to watch her keenly.
"It upsets me now!" she cried, throwing herself on to his breast; and that
action heightened his suspicions. She would, of course, if she thought he
doubted her, bring into play all the allurements which she knew affected
him...endeavour to reduce him with every possible grace.
She clasped him closely and began to sob a little, resting her exquisite
head on his breast; and the Prince, returning this embrace, for purposes of
his own, asked again:
"You have never heard of Madame Aurora Frey?" He held her tightly, and
this time he could have no doubt that the name caused her to stiffen. She
became almost rigid in his arms.
"No!" she gasped out at once. "Why will you tease me? Of course it means
nothing to me, and I have never been to Hanover."
"I thought not," he answered smoothly, "but some one mentioned that name
to me to-day, and connected it with you."
"Who was it?" she asked too quickly.
"It doesn't matter," he replied, "since there is nothing in the story, eh,
Minetta? It can be of no importance?"
"Of course, of none," she replied.
"Go to bed now," he said, disengaging himself from her, "and I will join
you in a little while. I have some work to do still."
She left him, obedient at once. Never had he known her anything but
obedient. She appeared more than ever innocent and childlike and
When she had left him, His Serene Highness sat for more than half an hour,
carefully thinking, with no change in his expressionless face. Then he sent
for Madame Olshausen's woman, Frau Dotler—a creature in whom he could
have complete trust; and, sitting there in his brocaded dressing-gown by the
table on which the lead soldiers stood undisturbed, he questioned her; and to
every question received a satisfactory answer.
Madame Olshausen neither sent nor received messages. She went out alone
sometimes, certainly, but there was not the least reason to suspect her of
"You think her," asked Prince Clement Louis, "very simple and foolish and
illiterate, do you not—a peasant girl, in fact—about the simplest
creature that you've ever had charge of?"
The woman said respectfully that so she did think.
"So I believe myself," smiled His Serene Highness. "Now will you give me
your keys, her keys and go to bed; and please see that someone is sent down
to my headquarters for Dr. Hartmann? I shall require his attendance up here,
say, in an hour's time."
Having given these orders and received the keys of Frau Dotler and Madame
Olshausen's keys brought from her dressing-table, Prince Clement Louis again
sat silent a little while, turning many things over in his mind. They were
very trivial-looking keys—nothing, as Frau Dotler had explained, was
locked up save one cabinet, where the lady kept a few letters (those written
by His Highness when they were separated by the vicissitudes of war) and a
few of her more precious jewels.
Before he proceeded to use these keys, he looked into the bed-chamber and
saw her, by the light of the silver lamp, asleep. It was convenient that she
should be asleep, and he always had been able to trust her to do the
He unlocked the brass and tortoise-shell cabinet which the waiting-woman
had indicated, and found therein what she had said he would find: letters,
his own letters, and a few valuable pieces of jewellery; but he was skilful
at careful searching, and acute in his observations; and in a few moments he
had found something more than either letters or jewellery. In the flat bottom
of the case that held a string of brilliants was a careful copy of the key to
his private cipher, short transcripts in French of letters which he had
lately sent, and a German version of the Italian despatch he had lately sent
in code to Maréchal Monsanto.
No further proof was needed: the woman was exactly what Glückstadt had
said she was—what every one, save himself, had discovered her to be: a
spy...an adroit professional spy.
The first emotion that Prince Clement Louis felt was amazement at her
sheer cleverness—her diabolical cleverness. She must be an educated,
accomplished, clever woman, and she had passed herself off on him, who so
prided himself on his knowledge of human nature, as an illiterate fool, and
lulled him into an entire carelessness of which she had taken a deadly
advantage. He remembered with a chill at his heart the assault on the
Nicholas Gate which had so terribly failed; and his artillery train, ambushed
and cut to pieces in the morass; and those two other secrets—she knew
of them. Had she had a chance to betray them? He did not think so, for her
woman had said that she had not left the pavilion for two days. She had
lacked a chance. It was clear she employed no messenger—she was too
subtle for that...probably she went herself to some rendezvous far beyond the
lines, and delivered her information to some emissary of the enemy.
He took the papers and destroyed them, replaced the jewellery carefully,
and again locked up the brass and tortoise-shell cabinet.
Who was she? Aurora Frey, of the Hanoverian Court? Minetta, of the Italian
Comedy? the Baroness Olshausen, of Imperial creation? Who was she? He would
not be likely ever to know now, nor did it greatly matter. A spy, and, with
that appearance and that skill, worth her light weight in jewels twice over
to whoever had the luck to employ her. And through it all she had loved him:
he was convinced of that; and he loved her. Somewhere between them was a
romantic dream which even this could not spoil; a deep passion which even
this could not mar. But he had always been master, both of his dreams and of
his passions. Never had they dominated him—nay, not only not dominated,
never had they influenced him...
And now, how to get out of this? He had boasted to young Glückstadt, that
there was no situation, however complicated and delicate, from which a
gentleman of tact and breeding and experience could not extricate himself. He
would have to act at once. If he allowed her to-morrow, she would use it to
betray him again.
Two more heavy losses. Too more deep blows at his prestige and his pride.
Enough to send all those murmuring officers and princes into open revolt. And
he had his obligations towards them—already they had suffered
profoundly through this woman of his, through his infatuation. Reinforcements
must come up and the assault on Mons must be successful.
He passed to the table and gazed at his array of metal soldiers. That
triumphal entry into Brussels must not be jeopardized. He could have her
arrested and put out of the reach of any further mischief; but to do so would
mean to make himself an object of ridicule to all those men whom he
considered—nay, whom he knew to be—his inferiors. How they would
smile and sneer, even to his face..."We knew—we had to warn you before
you noticed it! If Glückstadt hadn't spoken you'd have gone on in your
blindness till we were all massacred in our tents. You, who were so
impervious to feminine influence! How she took you in! She made such a fool
of you that you talked openly in front of her, flung about your
correspondence, even the key to your secret code!"
For the first time in his life he would give these men the opportunity to
sneer at him. A great many people had disliked—perhaps hated—him;
but so far no one had been able to despise him; and he did not intend to give
anyone, now, that excuse.
The way out, then? The boasted tact and fortitude which he had told
Glückstadt would help a gentleman out of any difficult situation?
When the doctor arrived from the headquarters at the pavilion in the
woods, he found His Serene Highness, still in the brocaded bedgown, seated by
the table on which was that imposing array of lead soldiers. A carafe of
water and some glasses were beside him, and he handled a rose-coloured phial
which appeared to contain scent.
"Your Serene Highness looks extremely pale," remarked the doctor with
"You are mistaken," replied Prince Clement Louis. "It is not for myself
that I have sent for you, but for Madame Olshausen." And he led the way into
the charming bedroom where this lady still lay asleep, and roused her with a
pressure of his hand on her bare shoulder.
"She was taken very ill at supper, my dear doctor. I was quite alarmed. A
fit or seizure, followed by a great faintness. She has had these attacks
before, but never so badly as to-night."
The young woman sat up in bed, surprised and confused to see the doctor
standing beside her lover. She appeared to glow not only with youth and
beauty but with the uttermost bloom of health; but His Serene Highness
"You observe, doctor, how she is flushed with fever!"
"Indeed," protested the lady in amaze. "I am perfectly well, and I do not
know, Monseigneur, to what you refer."
"It is quite usual," said the doctor, bowing, "for the patient to forget
such attacks, madam. Now, if you permit me a prescription."
The Prince interrupted:
"I dare say there will be no need of that, if you think she seems well
enough; but I thought I would like you to see her, my dear doctor. And now
you are awake, Minetta, perhaps you would like a glass of
chicory-water—it is a favourite refreshment of yours, and I have had
some freshly prepared."
"I would like it well enough," she said bewildered, "but indeed I do not
know what this means! I am perfectly well!"
"I hope," smiled the Prince, "that you do not deceive yourself." And he
offered her the glass of water which he had held in his hand since he entered
She drank it hastily, and then he urged her to lie down and rest.
"Now the doctor has seen you, I feel more at ease."
The two men went into the outer chamber.
"She seems, Monseigneur," began the doctor respectfully, "in perfect
"She is not in perfect health; she is in a very dangerous state," said
Prince Clement Louis; "and I must beg you, Dr. Hartmann, to remember it. You
will please stay at the pavilion to-night; you may be required again. I have
never consulted you for Madame Olshausen's health before, but that is not
because I have not been anxious about it, but because she has such a dislike
of physicians; but to-night the attack was too severe for me to ignore
The doctor bowed, filled with a vague uneasiness, and, smilingly dismissed
by His Serene Highness, retired.
Prince Clement Louis returned to the table and the array of soldiers.
Nothing would blemish that triumph; no one would be able to sneer at him...He
put the pink phial carefully in an inner pocket of his brocaded gown. He had
several such. They were certain legacies from his mother, who had been
devoted to his interests. She had left, besides the phials, a curious
reputation in most of the Courts of Europe, not unconcerned with the sudden
deaths of notable personalities whose political interests were opposed to
those of her employer; but she had been a great princess and a very beautiful
Looking at the pompous array of soldiery, Prince Clement Louis
"How shall I ever replace Minetta? How shall I ever find anyone so docile
and obedient and delicious? And I am sure that she loves me as I love her; it
could hardly be otherwise. But dreams and passions must not interfere with
more important matters."
What was a mistress compared to a city—or any woman compared to a
successful campaign, a triumphal process, and the laurels gilded by the
Emperor's gratitude? What was any love-affair, however charming, compared to
the respect of his officers and his obligations towards them? Nothing—a
grain of dust in the scale.
Everything was silent in the pavilion in the woods. Prince Clement Louis
went into the bedchamber of Minetta.
Soon after dawn, the frightened Doctor Hartmann was roused by the Prince
himself, standing at his bedside.
"I told you you would probably be needed, doctor. Madame Olshausen is
dead. She died suddenly just now, in my arms. An attack like that of last
night. And it was over immediately, before I could call assistance."
The doctor, in a panic, began to huddle on his clothes. He noticed that
the Prince was partially dressed and seemed perfectly cool and unconcerned,
though he was even paler than he had been last night.
"Is Your Highness sure," he stammered, "that the lady is really dead? Some
"Perfectly sure," said Prince Clement Louis. "There can be no possibility
Through the quiet rooms of the pretty little pavilion the two men went to
the bedchamber of Madame Olshausen. The sun was already shining in the trees,
which pressed quite close to the open windows; and the birds were singing in
the pale, light leafage. But in her room the curtains had been drawn.
She was certainly dead, in her frivolous laces and ribbons, half-naked in
the charming, disarrayed luxury of her coquettish bed; and His Serene
Highness, gazing down at her, remarked:
"You see, my dear doctor, I was quite correct in my opinion as to her
state of health?"
And the doctor muttered, not caring to look up into the cold, reserved
face of the Prince:
"Monseigneur, you were perfectly right."
The attack on Mons was successful. In three days the city fell. The relief
coming up under Maréchal d'Orbitello was not ambushed. The pride of the
Generalissimo was in no way blown upon. With the death of Madame
Olshausen all cause of discontent and complaint was removed. She had a
pompous funeral, and he his triumphal entry into Brussels. If his lonely
spirit was at times struck by shafts of a surprising agony, he had the
satisfaction of knowing that he had dealt successfully with a very delicate
A PROMENADE IN THE COLISEUM
(Passegiata nel Coloseo)
A design by Giovanni Battista Piranési for an Almanac
by John Evelyn, Esquire. [ROME, 18th Century.]
Herr Stoppelmann had come to Italy to study gardening and see what choice
rarities he might bring back with him to adorn the parterres of the German
prince who employed him; Herr Stoppelmann was a very learned pedant, and knew
more about horticulture than any wise man would seek to know about
He had been sent to Rome by a fellow enthusiast, who told him to search
among the ruins of the Coliseum and the Forum for a certain bell-shaped
flower of a curious greenish, milky hue, belonging to the species of a Brumal
jacinth, the bulbs of which were very difficult to obtain; but which, when
once planted in a rich, loamy soil, covered in the winter with dry straw or
peasehame, would, in the spring, bloom into a plant that would grace any
Herr Stoppelmann had stayed several days in Rome, and searched the ruins,
but had found no trace of any but common weeds. It was not a good season of
the year for such as shared Herr Stoppelmann's enthusiasm, for the farewell
frosts and nipping winds were prejudicing the choicest flowers and spotting
them with freckles; and the alternating of these yet continuing frosts and
sharp winds, with the sudden quick, piercing heat of the sun, scorched and
destroyed those delicate flowers which Herr Stoppelmann had come expressly to
Italy to see expanding their loveliness under the native azure of their
Now it happened that some one on whose opinion he did not very much
rely—and yet who had spoken with a certain conviction—had told
Herr Stoppelmann to promenade the Coliseum by moonlight, and then he would
very likely see his Brumal jacinths growing by this silvery light of night,
and coloured, not white (said his informant), but purple or crimson, and of a
far fairer and more exquisite beauty than its milky pale fellow. And
therefore, on this sharp evening of early Italian spring, which would in any
other country have yet been winter, Herr Stoppelmann, soberly dressed in his
russet and black, and with a number of his inseparable books in a strap
tucked under his arm, walked round the ruins of the Coliseum—which,
black as it was against the pale moonlit sky, almost frightened him by the
immensity of its shape and the grandeur of its design. It dwarfed all
buildings to a pitiful insignificance he had ever seen or ever imagined, and
made him, for the first time in his life, wonder if his particular duty and
passion of horticulture was of that preeminent importance which he had
hitherto considered it to be.
"If I had not been a florist," he mused, sitting on one of the large
fallen stones and gazing round the arena, "I would have liked to be an
He did not see his pursued flower growing in the crevices of any of the
fallen ruins, nor adorning the mighty walls which yet rose undefiled,
undefaced by time. He saw silvery, silky weeds and brambles and pallid
daisies, nipped by the frost, black and white hellebore, wicked, poisonous
plants; and here and there a scattering of white violets, where the stones
overlapped one another and had formed, by their shelter, a damp, mossy
shelter: all these Herr Stoppelmann perceived through the pale, misty light
of the frosty moonshine, but he found no Brumal jacinth, nor any rarity which
resembled that coveted variety.
So he was sitting, now fatigued, and presently took out his books,
unstrapped them, and by this same moonlight began to read one of
them—Kalendarium Hortense—which was a classic English book
on gardening and he in his leisure, was translating it into German; he opened
it at the thumb-marked passage which he was at present digesting:
"How to take off a reproach which Box may lie under,
otherwise a most beautiful and useful Shrub for Edging, and other Ornaments
of a Coronary garden, because its scent is not agreeable to many. If,
immediately upon Clipping, when only it is most offensive, you Water it, the
Smell vanishes and is no more considerable..."
So absorbed was Herr Stoppelmann in this book—to translate which had
been so agreeable yet arduous a pleasure to him, and which he had prefaced
with seven pages of dedication to his master, His Serene Electoral
Highness—that he was considerably startled to look up and see two
men regarding him with downcast looks and folded arms: two masked men in
cloaks. And Herr Stoppelmann realized, with an unpleasant start, that he was
alone in the Coliseum by night, and that he had heard it was a place of no
good repute, much frequented by banditti and assassins.
Having been educated at Leyden, Herr Stoppelmann of course knew all the
languages in Europe, and almost everything else there was to know besides;
therefore he addressed the two strangers in a flowing Tuscan, and asked them
rather timidly if they had any business with him?
"Well, we don't know yet," replied one of them in another
dialect—that of the Romagna—"we were rather amused to see
you here, sitting one a stone and reading a book. Couldn't you find a more
comfortable place or a more comfortable occupation?"
Herr Stoppelmann rose and bowed. His nervousness had been increased by the
fact that he noticed the two strangers were shabby, heavily armed, and wore
strips of black ribbon tied rather negligently over the upper portions of
their faces, as if they wished to be masked and yet could hardly take the
trouble to disguise themselves.
"I am," said the German, "a horticulturalist and an antiquarian. I have
come here to look for a flower which is said to bloom on the Roman
ruins—but that will not interest you: in fact I was already convinced
that I came on a fool's errand, and I was merely passing the time, because
the spot was so imposing and the light so clear. In fact," he added
nervously, "there is no reasonable explanation at all of why I am here. I
fell into habit and took out a book I am translating, and proceeded to read
"I should read it at home, if I were you."
"I am not at home here," said Herr Stoppelmann, who had a liking for
exactitude of phrase. "I am staying at an inn—'The Three White
Horses'—it is not far."
"Return, then, my dear fellow," said one of the strangers, "to the Three
White Horses,' and ask them to gallop you away out of Rome as quickly as
"I do not understand the drift of your jest," said Herr Stoppelmann, "but
I am quite willing to leave the Coliseum to you. It no longer has very much
interest for me—in fact, I find it rather overwhelming."
One of the strangers had now thrust his hand into the leather bag he wore
strapped round his waist, and brought out a handful of coins.
"If you are an antiquarian," he remarked, "perhaps you would care to buy
these. I have dug them up in my promenades round the Roman ruins."
Herr Stoppelmann looked eagerly at the treasure, and found many of the
coins were of the first importance—though only of interest to a
"How much do you want for these?" he asked, forgetting his fear of the two
strangers in his eagerness to acquire these curios, which he was quite sure
he could re-sell at a very handsome profit to His Serene Electoral Highness,
who had an obsession for this manner of rarity.
Seeing that he was prepared to bargain, the other two sat down on the
stones near to Herr Stoppelmann, spread out the coins and proceeded to argue
in the most amiable fashion about their value and their price; Herr
Stoppelmann getting the antiques for what he believed to be far less than
they were worth, and the others selling them for far more than they had ever
hoped to obtain, the three became good friends, and chatted amiably
together—especially when the two Italians produced a flask of Aqua
Vita and pledged the professor in the fiery refreshment: while they
civilly drank to the exchange of these ancient coins of the Roman Emperor for
present coins of His Holiness the Pope—of good negotiable value in the
inns of Rome.
The liquor was of extraordinary potency, and Herr Stoppelmann, between the
effects of it and the pleasure of having secured the antiquities (which now
lay comfortably in his pocket) became quite garrulous, and told the friendly
and agreeable strangers—whose manner was so much more pleasant than
their rather sinister appearance—all about his journey to Italy and his
search for rare plants, and he became so encouraged by the sound of his own
words as almost to believe himself in a professorial chair in a Dutch
university, talking to a large number of students.
So he began to discourse gravely on how cats will eat and destroy Marum
Syriacum, if they can come at it; therefore it is best to guard it with
furze or holly branch, together with other secrets not till now divulged, he
declared pompously; how tuber roses will not endure the wet of September,
therefore they are best set in pots, wrapped in papers, and put up the
chimney; how the first ripe pear is, rightly treated, the Hamden Bergamot,
and the first for baking the Arundel pear, while the most excellent is the
Louis pear; and so he discoursed to a polite if inattentive audience, and
pleased by the manner in which these two men—who looked so ruffianly
and acted in so gentlemanly a fashion—sat and listened to him, Herr
Stoppelmann at last asked them if it was entirely the charms of his eloquence
that held them there in the Coliseum at this hour of the night?...and they
answered, "No, they had some other business."
"We are not only gentlemen of leisure," confessed one, "nor do we entirely
make our living by selling the coins and curios which we dig up in the ruins
of Rome. We may be hired for private and intimate affairs."
"Oh," said Herr Stoppelmann, rather checked in his discourse. "You are
not, I suppose, assassins?" At which the two masked men smiled with a
"We, on occasion, do undertake work of that kind," admitted one. "But
there is no need for you to disturb yourself, for you are not the victim whom
we are out to seek to-night."
At this Herr Stoppelmann was considerably startled, and the discourse on
horticulture died away on his lips. He even made a hasty attempt to rise, but
his two companions detained him courteously.
"I cannot be a party to murder," cried Herr Stoppelmann, whose brain was a
little confused by the Aqua Vita, and who scarcely knew what he was saying,
yet felt he had heard something about which he must protest. He could not,
however, make his escape, for one of the gentlemen who had admitted to being
an assassin was holding him by the cloak, and he saw, at this moment, a third
man coming to join them, at which his blood ran very cold indeed with a nasty
The two gentlemen who detained him, however, told him that the newcomer
was no friend of theirs.
"Perhaps however," stammered the German, "he is your victim."
"Nothing of the kind—our victim will be walking with a lady."
The new-comer had now joined them, and seeing that they were alone in the
vast arena of the Coliseum and that he was passing them so close, it seemed
only civil for him to salute them—which he did with a very gracious
air, and even paused and made some conventional remark about the clarity of
the moonlight and the grandeur of the Coliseum.
"I hope," he added, "that you are not molesting this gentleman," and he
smiled agreeably at Herr Stoppelmann and touched his sword—for he was a
young and vigorous man, obviously of noble birth, and armed both with rapier
The two assassins bowed in recognition of his quality, and declared that
they were hearing a most elevating discourse from the other gentleman, who
was a horticulturalist in search of a certain flower which was supposed only
to bloom on Roman ruins.
"And we have taken the occasion to sell him some Roman coins which we
discovered in the Forum," said one. "There is nothing in all this to disturb
"But you are perhaps waiting for some unfortunate," remarked the stranger.
"I have heard that the Coliseum is a most dangerous place at night."
"Why then, does your Lordship wander in it unprotected?" asked one of the
"I do not know," replied the stranger with a certain languor, as if any
place was of indifference to him, "I came to Rome to keep an appointment, and
I am rather too early. So to fill in the time I thought I would walk in the
Coliseum and see the moonlight."
As he spoke, Herr Stoppelmann looked at him with some relief. He was glad
to have a companion, and to be no longer alone in the society of the two
admitted assassins. It was all very well reading about such affairs in the
comfort of one's chamber, but he had no wish to be an actor in one of the
innumerable scenes of violence that he had often heard disgraced the streets
and the ruins of Rome.
The stranger was youthful and handsome, though without much fire or
animation. He seemed as one lazy in his wishes and languid in his desires. He
carried himself gracefully and with a certain careless nobility, and he was
finely dressed in expensive travelling clothes. His hair appeared to be newly
dressed and powdered, and was clasped by a paste buckle—very
recklessly, Herr Stoppelmann thought. There was also paste, or maybe
diamonds, in the young man's laces, but he eyed the assassins coolly, as if
not in the least apprehensive of any danger from them.
"Truly," he remarked disdainfully, "Rome is very badly governed when it is
possible for gentlemen like you to lurk here waiting for their victim,
He then addressed the German:
"And you, my good sir, had better come with me. You are hardly in the most
desirable of company."
The two assassins shrugged their shoulders.
"One must live," one of them remarked carelessly. "We do very well for
ourselves, and no more harm to others than anyone else, I think. We are very
practised in our work, and our victim dies instantly—just a stroke
between the shoulder-blades, and all his troubles are over. We then take him
up and very neatly convey him through the streets, making him look like a
sack of rubbish, and drop him into the Tiber. There the current is rapid and
the waters are muddy, and likely enough he is not found again."
"Or washed up into the drains, perhaps," mused the young man, with a
shudder. "Whom are you waiting for to-night?"
"A gentleman who will be presently promenading here with a lady," answered
one of the assassins.
"Then I must stay and protect him," replied the young man, "for the lady's
sake, if not for his."
Upon this both the assassins laughed.
"For the lady's sake!" they cried. "It's the lady who has paid
us—and paid us well—to make away with the gentleman."
"Ah, her husband!" exclaimed the young man, with an accent of surprise and
"No, in this case it is not her husband, but her lover. I believe the
affair touches politics—but that is nothing to do with us. If you, sir,
are an adventurer, as we are, perhaps you would care to join in the business
and share the reward?"
"That is a strange suggestion to make to me," remarked the young man.
"Well, you can hardly be an honest traveller, your Excellency," smiled one
of the assassins, bowing again, "or you would not be walking here at this
time of night. There's many a year that I've known the Coliseum, and I've
never seen an honest man in it by moonlight yet, unless he's been lured here
to meet his end, just like the gentleman whom we have to deal with to-night
will be lured here by the lady."
The young man considered thoughtfully, and then shrugged his shoulders. It
was none of it his business. He had a most important appointment to keep, and
could not by any means remain in the Coliseum and help this unknown stranger
to free himself from the trap that was awaiting him. Besides, perhaps he
deserved it. The young man always made a chivalrous point of being on the
side of the ladies, and if the lady had decreed the assassination, perhaps
she was justified in doing so. He thought to himself: "If I see a couple
proceeding round the ruins, I will warn the gentleman and risk the lady's
displeasure. If I see a guardia', I will tell him that there is a crime
meditated in the Coliseum. If I see neither of these things, I will go to my
rendezvous and forget all about it." He could not, of course, be too
severe—there were certain turns of good fortune in his own life that he
owed to assassination.
"I suppose," he remarked after he had made these reflections, "you have no
objection to my continuing my way?" And both the assassins said politely that
they had no objection whatever.
"We never interfere, as a matter of professional honour, with any but
those whom we are paid to attack," they assured him. "And whatever your
business is, we are assured that it is no more lawful than ours, and you may
go on it undisturbed."
"It certainly," admitted the young man, with an elegant smile, "is no more
lawful than yours. You are right there, and we may consider ourselves, I
suppose, birds of a feather." And he lifted his plumed hat and bowed to the
three of them.
But Herr Stoppelmann sprang forward and caught him by the flowered brocade
of his sleeve.
"Indeed, sir, do not leave me in the Coliseum. These gentry are very
courteous, but I should be glad to be rid of their company."
"I will see you to the street," said the stranger, "and then I am afraid I
must leave you, for I have—as I believe I have already remarked—a
very important appointment."
The two assassins allowed them to depart without any attempt to interfere
"What an extraordinary country," gasped Herr Stoppelmann as they made
their way carefully over the half-ruined seats of the Coliseum.
"I suppose it is," said the young man. "I have lived here nearly all my
"In Rome, sir?"
"No, not in Rome, but in Italy. One gets used to these things. Who are
"I," said Herr Stoppelmann with some pomposity, "am in the employment of a
German prince whose name I do not feel at liberty to divulge. Politics, you
know, my dear sir—politics."
The young man caught his arm, for he was stumbling over a large block of
masonry in his way.
"I am writing a book," gasped the horticulturalist, when he had recovered
his breath. "Hortus Deliciarum." And then he began to relate of his
search for the flower, white in most places, but purple when found in the
Coliseum by moonlight.
The young man laughed. "There's a double meaning in that, I think."
They had now left the gigantic ruins, and stood on the ground outside,
where was the half-fallen fountain where the gladiators used to wash their
wounds; and beyond, the facade of some baroque houses—flat, white,
adorned with wreaths of fruit, with green blinds drawn against the
The young man took a diamond studded watch, round as an apple, from his
breast-pocket, and looked at the time.
"I am due for my appointment," he observed civilly, "and now sir, I must
bid you good night. I would willingly escort you to your inn, but I have not
"May I not know your name?" said the German, bowing, "so that I can thank
"Call me," said the young man, "Porphyrios."
Slightly apart from the other silent shuttered houses the silent shuttered
house with the green persianes faced the gigantic circle of the
Coliseum. To reach this Porphyrios had to pass two monstrous pillars, above
which the acanthus leaves scrolled round the capitals like frozen waves, and
where all the hard, curling fronds were picked out by the moonlight into hard
shapes of black and white. Beneath these pillars, on a waste of ground, grew
some ragged grass, and a herdsman, clad in goatskins, sat there asleep; while
three white kids browsed round his feet.
Porphyrios paused, and looked at this and at the house he was about to
visit. He was on a foolish errand, but life without folly was hardly
conceivable to one of his temperament. He had been for years in love with a
woman who had blighted his fairest prospects, alienated his best friends and
overclouded his reputation in its tenderest point. He had finally, after a
due consideration of all these facts, dismissed her, and she had come to Rome
and married, on the strength of the pension that Porphyrios had allowed her,
an old man with a ruined reputation and an ancient name. So he (Porphyrios)
was well rid of a dangerous love affair, and yet not in the least
rid—for he must secretly write to the lady and beg to see her again,
seeking out the chains from which he had with such difficulty delivered
himself; and she had told him that she had too many enemies to be able to
venture abroad, but that if he cared to come to Rome she would meet him, and
she named this house near the Coliseum, which was a caffè and
sweetstuff shop, and had rooms above—let easily for obscure and
To come to Rome had been to come into a city of enemies. He was therefore
in disguise, but he might be recognized. When he had seen the two assassins
just now, waiting in the Coliseum, he had believed they were for him. He had
not been afraid to meet them, for he was well armed; but he had been rather
relieved to discover that he was not their destined victim. Now he paused,
and wondered how his foolish adventure would end, and if Antonia Camilla was
worth the risk he took.
The caffè that Porphyrios approached, and above which were the
rooms where he would meet his beloved, was not—as might be
supposed—of the better sort, for this was a dangerous and avoided
neighbourhood; but it was famous for the making of sweetmeats, and, in the
day-time, many gallants would throng there to buy gifts for their mistresses.
Soon after the dusk fell it was deserted, and now the doors were closed and
there was only a dim light coming between the lattice of the shutters.
Porphyrios pushed the door and entered into a small white room, set with
chairs and tables, and the walls painted with arabesques surrounding figures
of dancing girls. The air was heavy and sickly with the smell of hot sweets,
and on the table were many delicacies ready for sale on the morrow, such as
cream toast or pain perdu, blancmanges, jellies, orange pudding,
bateleo pie, sullebubs, marchpain, chocolate creams, salladmagundy and pippin
frazes—all these set out temptingly in clear silver or glass
Porphyrios crossed this room and opened a door at the back, which stood
ajar, and looked into the kitchen, where a fair and plump young girl was
making jelly, straining some finely-clarified lemon-juice of a pure white
colour into a swan-skin jelly-bag, which hung on a clean saucepan; the
lemon-juice poured out as clear as rock-water; while over a charcoal fire an
old woman was stirring hard some boiling cream, and pouring on it a mazarine,
and flavouring it with a piece of cinnamon—all of which made a medley
of potent, sweet perfume in the close air.
"Ah, you are the gentleman for whom the lady waits upstairs," cried the
old woman. "You go up one flight and stop at the first door. She has been
here half an hour."
"But I," smiled Porphyrios, "am punctual to my appointment."
The old woman and the young girl looked at him curiously, each pausing in
their delicate, frivolous labours.
"You are not masked," they remarked, "and we should know your face
Porphyrios thought it had possibly been very foolish of him to come
unmasked, and yet it scarcely mattered, and he was of a temperament that
finds it most difficult to take precautions. He would rather face the
consequences of imprudence than be at the trouble to be prudent.
So he went up the narrow stairs boldly, as one embarked on a just design,
and knocked at the first door he came to; and her familiar voice said
"Enter!" And when he had entered and seen her, he did not grudge his pains,
or his long, tedious travel, for she seemed to him to represent all the
grandeur of Nature and all the profuseness of God in sending beauty on to the
earth—for of grace and fairness and gaiety and voluptuous charm she had
an amazing plenty, and she always roused in the breast of Porphyrios a
gratitude to heaven for the gift of her, for she was more noble and sumptuous
than any woman, not only that he had beheld in the flesh, but whom he had
beheld through the imagination of artists and poets, painted or described;
and he had always cherished her as a great rarity, which perhaps a hundred
years would not produce again. It was true he owed himself a certain
compliment for the discernment which made him perceive these manifold charms,
for he had taken her from an obscure—even a shameful—position.
Therefore her lustre shone all the more brightly in contrast to the dingy
nothingness from which she had sprung.
All this was quickly in his mind as he stood inside the door and looked at
her again, as she sat on a yellow sofa with her hands folded in her lap and
her mantle disposed decorously over her shoulders; but he knew that when she
took the mantle off her bosom would be bare.
All this was Antonia Camilla to Porphyrios, and because of her he had
abandoned everything—things of great moment and sharp import—to
come all this tiresome way from Florence to Rome, at peril of more than his
life; yet to others she was but an ordinary woman, and to some she was very
"I never thought you would come," she smiled, staring at him, and her note
was more one of triumph than of welcome.
"Why did you make this appointment?" he asked, scarcely caring what remark
he made, so long as he had the exquisite pleasure of talking to her
"It was difficult for me to get to Rome, and this house is in a dangerous
spot—even for Rome."
"Could I receive you in my own palace?" she asked, "when you have given me
a jealous old husband?
"I give you!" he protested. "My dear Camilla, you married the man
yourself—it was your own idea."
"What was I to do?" asked the lady mournfully. "Since you dismissed me, I
had to seek another protector."
He did not remind her of her pension. Why ruin with recriminations this
delicious moment of reunion? He took his seat beside her on the sofa, and
with a sigh unclasped her cloak and laid his head on her bare bosom; and she
caressed his smooth cheek and long curls with familiar tenderness.
"I would not have believed," he sighed, "that you could so soon forget an
"An injury?" she repeated, as if she had never heard the word before.
"Oh, Camilla, of course I did you a gross injury when I sent you away from
Florence, and I thought you would revenge it on me by refusing to see me
"Revenge?" repeated the lady again as if the word was alien.
"Do not let us talk of such ugly things, my love. Only tell me that you
love me still and are pleased to see me again." And he ended with pleading in
"The fact that I am here is sufficient to show that I still love you,"
said the lady mournfully. "I also take risks, though I am, compared to you,
Porphyrios, a most unimportant person. But my husband has his notions of
honour, even though he knows my past history he is very jealous of my newly
acquired virtue, and if he should discover that I had given you an
assignation here, my life would not be safe for half an hour. He is an adept
in removing those he dislikes."
"Why," exclaimed Porphyrios, half angry, "did you marry such a
narrow-minded and dangerous man? However, we will not trouble ourselves about
him—I want you to return with me to Tuscany."
"But you also are going to be married, are you not?" said the lady; and
she rose from the sofa and began to set out a service of silvered porcelain.
"You will need some coffee and refreshments," she smiled. "You must have come
a long and tedious way."
"I am to be married, it's true," agreed Porphyrios sullenly, "but that, as
you know, is a matter of State. I shall see as little as possible of my new
wife, who is thirty years old, plain and bigoted; and you shall have
precedence on all possible occasions."
"In short," said Camilla delicately, "your discarded mistress will return
in triumph. What will all your friends and my enemies say to that?"
"I do not care what they say," said Porphyrios. "I want you above
everything. Life goes to a different melody when you are near me." And he
looked with the greatest gratification at her extraordinary beauty, as she
moved about preparing the coffee.
The room was a charming setting to these remarkable charms of hers, for it
had been arranged, with some art, as a temple for sweet, stolen interviews
and delicious private love affairs. The walls were covered with pale green
watered silk; the furniture was delicate and gilded; the tables were of pale
alabaster; the couches were piled with down cushions and the windows were
hung with thick velvet curtains; and there were many mirrors on the walls, so
that the occupants of the secret chamber above the sweet shop should be able
to see themselves and the object of their adoration in all the delicious
attitudes of surrendered love, repeated again and again from every possible
"It is six months since we have seen each other," mused Antonia Camilla,
"and you are not in the least changed."
"But you are more beautiful," declared Porphyrios, "even than my fervent
longing painted you; and if you will only return to Florence I will put
Tuscany beneath your feet."
At this he rose and would have taken her in his arms, but she put him by,
saying he would spill her coffee, which she had just heated and which was
giving out a pungent aroma. But Porphyrios would have none of this, and took
his beloved frankly in his arms, and held her close and told her all her
praises, and how he would never allow her out of his sight again, and what he
would do for her when he had her again in Florence; and how she should set
her foot on all who had opposed her and called her wanton and profligate and
extravagant, and even spy. He would dispose them in their several places, and
listen no more to their vicious conversations; he would even force them to
promise to do her homage. How she should live in every profuseness and
magnificence, and be the greatest, noblest figure in all Tuscany!
Antonia Camilla listened to this with downcast eyes. "And what title have
I to all this greatness?" she asked.
"Your whole title is that you continue to love me."
"Can one control love?" said the lady softly. "Does it come and go as one
calls it—if one is once cast off, can one come back again? I am married
now to an old and jealous man, who rates me pretty high."
"But not so high as I do," cried Porphyrios with some indignation, still
holding her close. "And who is he? We may pension him or remove him. You are
my incomparable love, and nothing more must be set between us."
"All extremes are pernicious," said the lady. "Love me with more
moderation." And she escaped from him and served him with his coffee.
Porphyrios, looking all round the room, saw her loveliness repeated again
and again in the many mirrors, and felt grateful towards whoever had hung
them there, so admirably to extol his lady's beauty by reflecting it so
often; then Porphyrios, waiting in delight for the return of all the joys he
had once known with this lady, wondered idly if he really knew her, and if
any of the images he saw reflected round the room were the lady herself. He,
indeed, was aware of nothing about her save the fact that she inspired him
with love. She might be sordid and covetous, violent and mean, for all he
knew of her—and what did it matter?
The lady now approached him, and when he had drunk his
coffee—looking on her the while with doting glances of extreme
"It is a beautiful night, and I feel stifled in this room. The moonlight
is delicious, and I suggest that we should take a promenade in the
Porphyrios set his coffee-cup back on the tray, and the lady perceived
that the look on his face had become fixed, and was no longer soft and
melting, but of an odd hardness. However, he said quietly:
"Certainly, if you wish, we will take a promenade in the Coliseum."
He rose at once and put on his hat and cloak.
"You are not offended, are you?" asked the lady, a little aggrieved by his
coldness and the sudden change that had come upon the ardour of his
"Of course I am not offended," he replied; and he looked again round the
mirrors at all the images of Antonia Camilla.
They went down the silent stairs and through the shop that was filled with
sweetmeats waiting to be sold on the morrow, and out into the open space
where were the two ruined columns, the sleeping goatherd and the kids, and
past the fountain where the gladiators washed their wounds, till they came to
the Coliseum; and all the while the lady hung on his arm.
They entered the intense darkness of one of the entrance arches, and came
out on to the wide brightness of the arena, filled with tumbled masonry and
tall trees, and shrubs and plants, all misted and grey in the moonlight. But
Antonia Camilla said that she did not wish to wander there, but to promenade
above the tiers of the boxes, and particularly to the Imperial box above the
main entrance, where the Emperor used to sit; and this was precisely where
Porphyrios had seen the two assassins waiting.
He did not move when the lady expressed this desire, but sat down on one
of the stones and thought of how he had treated Antonia Camilla, casting her
away with a pension to a marriage with an old man; and how unlikely it was
that she would never forgive this. How little he had known of her to expect
that she would forgive it, and what a complete fool he had been to come from
Florence to Rome to trust himself to this wronged woman!
The lady became impatient.
"We shorten the night," she said, "by dallying too long here. Will you not
come and make my favourite promenade with me?"
This time he rose, and allowed her to conduct him to the ruins of the
Imperial box. How dark and gigantic the Coliseum looked, and how clear and
bright was the sky above, and how strange their destiny—these two
lovers, one conducting the other to the place where two assassins lurked; and
when they had nearly reached it, Porphyrios paused and said:
"This is a melancholy spot for us to say good-bye. I should never have
come, Antonia Camilla. I might have known that you could never forgive."
And he saw, as he glanced away from her intense and terrified face, the
two assassins were approaching him, their hats pulled over their eyes and
their arms raised and hidden by their cloaks.
"Those two men are coming to murder me at your instigation," sighed
Porphyrios quietly, "and I am sorry that we should have come to this,
The lady hesitated, but, seeing the two ruffians hastily approaching, she
"You were a fool to suppose that I should forgive. You were a fool not to
guess that there would be someone who could pay me even higher than
you—that rely revenge would chime with my interest. My husband is a spy
of France, and I serve him as well as I once served you. And now, good night
to Your Highness, for these men are here to put you to death."
But Porphyrios had already covered the two approaching murderers with his
pistol, and they cowered back, surprised and confounded; for they could only
attack the undefended and the unsuspecting—whenever they were faced,
they fled, as they fled now squealing, scrambling and stumbling over the
ruins and dropping out of their wallets the money that Herr Stoppelmann had
paid them for the antiquities.
"You see," said Porphyrios, "my only misfortune to-night is to be the
misfortune of losing you." And he looked at her mournfully. Here in the
monstrous ruins of the Coliseum, under the bright moon in the pale sky, they
stared at each other most intently; and then she again essayed her fate, and
struck him with a bodkin she had in her breast, so that the blood ran down
his wrist from the slight wound she had made, and Porphyrios laughed
"Shall I escort you back to your lodging?" he asked mournfully.
But the lady turned and left him, and walked alone through the blackness
of the Imperial box; he was quite sure that she still loved him.
Porphyrios sat down and mused bitterly. He did not notice that the blood
was running from the scratch on the back of his wrist over the flowers that
grew by his side; tall bell-like flowers rising elegantly from amid brambles.
How clumsy he had been; why did he not follow Camilla; before morning she
would betray him, of course: but it would be worth it, to a man of
Herr Stoppelmann had lost his way, and, as the Coliseum was the most
conspicuous object in the city, he had made his way back there, intending, if
need be, to pass the night under the arches, which despite his meeting with
the assassins seemed to him to be safer than the narrow streets or the
deserted temples full of sinister figures; seeing a tall purple flower
growing in the moonlight he exclaimed foolishly: "Ah, sir, have you found the
"It is a white flower stained with my blood," replied Porphyrios, looking
down mournfully. "That is the only purple jacinth you will find in the
Herr Stoppelmann remembered the lady, the two assassins, and queried the
rest. Porphyrios with a sigh bound up his wrist, said good night to Herr
Stoppelmann, and went his way, which was not the way to the sweet shop.
When the horticulturist came to write his diary of his journey abroad for
the benefit of his Serene Electoral Highness, he put in this incident, told
with many illustrations from classical authors. But he could not explain it;
nor, he felt sure, could Porphyrios.
"Who was Porphyrios?" asked His Serene Highness bored with the diary; and
that Herr Stoppelmann could not tell either. But when he was sent, some years
later, to the Court of Florence with a present of variegated tulips for the
Grand Duke, he was astonished to see in this gentleman the stranger of that
promenade in the Coliseum; or to believe that he saw this; discretion made
him dubious of his own senses.
The Grand Duke did not appear to recognize him, and Herr Stoppelmann did
not venture to recall their mutual adventure to his mind. But later, Herr
Stoppelmann strolled in the gardens with His Highness Karl Ferdinand Maria,
Archduke of Austria and Grand Duke of Tuscany, who showed him his red Roman
nectarines and other tempting fruit growing plentifully on the walls, and
told him how he had hung there three bottles of mixture to keep away the
wasps. Herr Stoppelmann interrupted to say how neats' feet kept off earwigs,
"which are pernicious," he added. "Nor ought you to be less diligent to
prevent the ants, which above all invade the orange flower. Cast scalding
brine on their hills and other haunts. Look diligently under the leaves of
mural trees for snails—they stick commonly somewhat above the fruit. Do
not nip off the bitten leaves, for then they will certainly begin
Here His Highness checked Herr Stoppelmann, who was again inclined to
think he was in a chair at Leyden, and to talk a great deal too much, though
no doubt to good purpose.
"None of your glasses of beer to entice wasps and flies is of much use,"
he smiled. "They will get the peach just the same, even if they perish
afterwards. And, believe me, my dear Herr Stoppelmann, they will think it
worth it. I was once in that situation. To avoid a trap baited with poisoned
honey, I left my peach untasted, and, believe me, I have regretted it ever
Herr Stoppelmann was left to his own reflections on this matter, and to
decide whether or no it dealt with the promenade in the Coliseum—and if
so, whether it indicated that His Highness regretted, not the folly which had
led him into the trap, but the wisdom with which he had extricated
"I believe," thought Herr Stoppelmann, "that is probably what he means, he
was so fond of that lady that he would rather have had another hour or two of
life with her and been slain—than lost her and escaped. He is sorry,
not that he discovered her perfidy, but that he let her know he had
discovered it. He regrets, not that he escaped, but that he did not eat his
peach before he fell into the jar of sweets. The prize would have been worth
the penalty—the sweetness worth the suffocation. I wonder," he
reflected to himself, rubbing his long chin.
But His Highness, who seemed indifferent about most matters, proceeded in
a leisurely manner to display the rest of his collection of peaches—the
quince peach, the musk peach, the Grand Carnation, the Portugal peach, the
Crown peach, the Savoy Malacotan "which," said His Highness, "has this
advantage—that it lasts till Michaelmas, and few sweet delicious things
have so long an enduring."
A SUMMER NOON IN ROME
(Mezzogiorno in Roma)
And a philosophic discussion on Love in the fountain
court of a palace in Rome between
THE EXILED QUEEN - Christina of Sweden
THE PRINCESS - Princess Palatine
THE PHILOSOPHER - Mons. Rene Des Cartes
THE ORIENTALIST - Mons. Jean Bochart
THE PROFESSOR OF GREEK - Mons. - Isaac Vossius
THE CARDINAL - Cipriano degli Angell
THE LEARNED LADY - Frau Anna von Schurmann
THE MARQUIS - Eugenio della Ferranti
[ITALY. 18th Century.]
The hunted man paused at the corner of the street by the great fountain;
from the wide lips of a marble river god, the purest of waters trickled into
a huge white basin where the gossips met in the evening and the girls stayed
to freshen beneath the crystal-clear drops the bouquets wilting from wearing
over their warm bosoms.
It was the high blaze of noon and the streets were empty; green lattices
shrouded the high narrow windows in the white facades of the houses built
between the gigantic acanthus-crowned pillars of an antique temple.
The pursued man waited, listening to the distant footfalls of those upon
He had little breath to run further, but he began to hope he had
outdistanced them and that they had lost their way in the great city so
silent in the midday heat. As his strength returned he moved on cautiously;
there was a bullet-hole in his purple cloak; he contemplated this with a sly
In the last fortnight his life had been attempted several times, but never
so openly and audaciously as on this occasion.
A yellow and scarlet parakeet shrieked, high on a shaded balcony, and the
man knew the extent of his own fear by the great start he gave and the urging
movement of his tired feet.
He could surely hear them again, he could just see them rounding the angle
of the white houses by the marble fountain...snatching at chance he turned
into a black archway which led to a cellar of a small, unguarded fruit-store,
half-beneath the pavement.
From among piles of water melons, damp yellow and green figs, overripe
bursting plums and the last grapes swarming with tiny flies, he peered up
into the street and watched his would-be assassins go swiftly past.
They had, then, missed him; the moment he was safe he became ashamed of
his fear, but consoled himself for this shame by the reflection that in the
first struggle he had been totally disarmed; the ruffians coming behind had
cut his sword-strap and soon wrested from him the dagger he wore in his belt.
It was a miracle (though he did not know what god he must thank for it) that
he had escaped.
He was exhausted from running and, frowning at his unworthy situation, he
flung himself down on a pile of hempen sacks filled with onions and salad
which had been brought up that morning from the country.
The fugitive wiped the sweat from his throbbing forehead and endeavoured
to set straight the habit which had been so rich and precise when he left his
apartments an hour ago.
A girl came from the shadows at the back of the store; from the inner room
she had heard his movements and she expected a customer.
She was amazed both at his splendour and his disorder and stood silent,
contemplating him; the hunted man returned her scrutiny with equal interest
for, although he had seen many such girls walking in the streets of Rome, the
circumstances of their meeting gave a peculiar emphasis to the beauty of this
peasant, and, to the man's heated imagination, she seemed almost like a saint
or goddess whom he had evoked for his salvation.
Her skirt was of faded blue-dyed linen, her bodice of white linen, and a
faded kerchief of many colours was folded on her bosom; this barely concealed
and did not disguise her shapeliness. Her arms and neck were bare and there
was nothing on her glossy black hair but a classic fillet of thin silver
which served to keep her heavy locks in place.
The young man rose, uneasy at having been discovered in so undignified a
position; his eyes had become used to the warm murk of the cellar shop, and
he could now discern on all sides richness and colour piled high, the dark
green mottled sides of gourds and pumpkins beside the vermilion skins of
love-apples, the opulence of bruised peaches and crimson nectarines set on
curly green leaves, wilting in the heat; pears hanging by azure strings from
hooks in the walls, and red earthenware jars holding plumey clusters of sweet
basil tied together by scarlet ribbons.
The girl asked if he wished to make a purchase and he replied ruefully
that he believed he had no money; but he pulled off a small gold ring which
he had always disliked and offered it to the girl in exchange for a drink of
water and five minutes in which to recover his composure. The price he
offered for these small favours was high, but he intended the ring as an
oblation to the goddess of good luck.
The girl stared at the ring, turning it over in her brown palm. She told
him (he did not know why) that her name was Marianna, then she stared at him
again, at his purple cloak with the bullet-hole, his costly habit, laced and
prinked with silver, his falling collar of heavy lace, his curls of a thick
amber-brown, his smooth, warm-coloured, southern face, which was given an
alert and eager expression by the slight upward turn of eyebrows and
nostrils, and the odd, sly lift at the corners of the full lips.
Without comment she brought him precisely what he had asked for—an
earthenware jug full of the famous Roman water brought by the Claudian
aqueduct from the Sabine hills. The red pottery was cool, damp and delicious
to the touch; the young man drank eagerly from the jug. Marianna handed him
figs, heavy with the hopes of Autumn, bruised with their own rich
"You have been in some danger?" she said.
"Yes, ah, yes; there are certainly some rascals who desire my life, but I
suppose that is not such an uncommon thing in Rome."
"You should defend yourself."
"I do what I can—I even wear under this habit a corselet of stout
"I mean," replied the girl, "you should ask protection from His Holiness
the Pope, or one of the great princes of the city."
"There are many excellent reasons why I cannot do that. I am a foreigner
"Yet you speak our language very well; of what nation are you? And what,
if I may have the courage to ask as much, is your name?"
The young cavalier had recovered his spirits and with his spirits a
certain effrontery which, however, did not pass the limit of good
"I come from Spain—Valentia, and my name is Eugenio; after all," he
added, with a smile, "I daresay they were no more than common street thieves
and rascals who attacked me."
"But in broad day!" exclaimed she, amazed; "and could you not, sir, have
shouted for help? Though everyone is now asleep in the heat of the midday,
still there would have been soon someone to your rescue."
"And I should have been despatched before they arrived," replied the young
man. "No, sweet one, I know what I am about and, believe me, I have a
"Then, signor, I implore you to invoke this protector, whether it be of
heaven or earth."
"My protector," smiled Eugenio, "is very much of earth."
He picked up his hat, which he had removed when Marianna entered, for he
was very exact in all the niceties of courtesy, brushed the dust off it and
adjusted the long feather.
Marianna turned the little gold ring, which was twisted in the form of two
hearts, about on her palm, and appeared both amazed and bewildered. Eugenio,
pausing in the doorway, suddenly knew that it was not the little gold ring
that he disliked but the woman who had given it to him; he was as thankful to
be rid of it as if it had been a thing of ill omen.
"Oh, signor," exclaimed the girl fearfully, "you will set forth again so
soon? Will you not hide here?"
"Would you hide me?" he asked gaily.
"Why, certainly, signor; and you know," she added, with an ardent passion
of eagerness, "this is really a very convenient place, it is built upon an
old temple. You go down many, many steps and there is the ancient building,
and beyond it a passage which leads right under the walls and out into the
"And catacombs," added Eugenio, with something of a shudder. He disliked
all that was dark and underground.
"No one uses the passage now," urged Marianna. "Sometimes I and my brother
for pure adventure go down there with candles, and we know our way very
precisely now by means of a string, and, if it would be of any use to
Eugenio laughed, but not in derision, and thanked her tenderly for her
"I am, however, sweet one, quite sure of my protector, to whom I must now
immediately recommend myself."
He left the dark, cool cellar shop with the girl standing there, and came
out again into the street, smitten and dazzled by the excess of sunlight; he
was then near his destination and feared no further attack; but he kept his
slanting, dark eyes warily this way and that and his shrewd glance keenly in
all doorways and passages. He left the streets and turned into a noble
piazza, in the centre of which a basalt elephant bore a marble column on his
back; in the shadow of the plinth of this monument a player of a hurdy-gurdy
and a vendor of melons were asleep side by side—the instrument and the
fruit were alike glossy and striped.
Eugenio took his way across the flat Roman pavement. A sharp flight of
steps receded from a triple porch of a haughty church, where the sun picked
out from hollows and blots of purple shadow gigantic figures of saints and
martyrs who, with fluttering stone robes and hair, appeared to resist an
Eugenio, dainty and wary as a cat, sidled round the church; peering
cautiously back he saw that the man with the hurdy-gurdy had come on his
knees round the plinth of the elephant and castle, and had a carbine levelled
Throwing up his cloak Eugenio ran agile and fleet-footed he gained the
high iron gates of the palace which was his destination; they stood ajar;
Eugenio slipped in, closed them, and peered through the metal scrolls and
roses. The hurdy-gurdy player had not followed him; at a more easy pace he
proceeded through the garden.
The drowsy peace of noon pervaded everything; there was a sense of
eternity in this sleepy quiet; the dusty green of ilex trees hung over the
whiteness of termini, the dry, curling leaves lay on the stone blocks
of these guardians of the noon-like coronals.
In the shimmer of the fierce light the facade of the palace, rosy-gold,
appeared as unsubstantial as a sunset cloud. Fine palms, jade-green lemons
among their smooth leaves and lilies flecked with red and purple grew in the
stone pots upheld by bronze fauns along the sun-swept terrace.
Eugenio was familiar here and he entered at once by the long window,
grateful not only for this ultimate protection but for the relief from the
The apartment was curtained in pale green; the lattices, also of this
colour, admitted only a translucent light. In the centre of the marble floor
a sunk pool filled the air with coolness; through the clear water grew the
sharp leaves and the purple blossom of iris, and below, between the stems,
swam small carp, glittering with a metallic brilliancy. In the centre of the
pool a fine fountain cast a cascade of drops high into the shadowed
Beyond the fountain, in an alcove hung with straw-coloured silk, was a
little group of people very well known to Eugenio, and occupied, as he so
often found them occupied, in a philosophic discussion. The exiled Queen, who
had resigned her throne out of caprice and extravagance, was the mistress and
centre of this company, among whom Eugenio recognized the Cardinal Cipriano
degli Angeli; Jean Bochart, the orientalist; Isaac Vossius, the professor of
Greek; the Princess Palatine, who was shortly to become a Protestant Abbess;
and Anna von Schurmann, the most learned blue-stocking from Utrecht; while,
leaning over the back of the Queen's gilded chair, was the elegant French
philosopher, Monsieur Des Cartes.
Eugenio was welcomed gaily by all these people with whom indeed he was
tolerably familiar. The young Spaniard, who had played many parts in his
short life, was known to the fantastic court of this discrowned Queen as the
Marquis della Ferranti, Master of Her Majesty's Horse.
This titular office was a sinecure, but the young Marquis held another
position not so easily explained, but infinitely powerful; he was the
favourite of this Queen who had disdained marriage. She now beckoned him to
her side and he took up a dutiful post at her footstool, grateful for the
coolness of the room and the sense of safety that encompassed him. Here, at
the very feet of his powerful protectress he need no longer fear the obscure
designs of his enemies.
"We are having a philosophic discussion," said the Queen, "in which you,
Eugenio, must join. The subject is no less than this: Which is the more
powerful passion—love or hate?" She glanced round her learned
And Eugenio glanced at her.
Slight and aquiline with eyes too large, vivid and brilliant for her thin
face, the Queen appeared devoured by some inner ardour; even this drowsy
noonday occasion found her keen and animated. She was curiously dressed in a
cavalier's habit of white satin, heavily embroidered with steel, and her hair
hung like a man's on to her thin shoulders. She wore a sword, a great diamond
on her breast, and on her knee were the plumed hat and embroidered gauntlets
of a gentleman's attire. The other two women in the company suffered
themselves without dispute to be eclipsed by Her Majesty.
The Princess Palatine was exhausted by the misfortunes and passions of a
life spent in exile and retreat. She already wore almost a religious garb.
There was a fanatical belief in her dreamy eyes and what remained of her
beauty, wasted in waiting, was no more than the perfume of her
The learned lady from Utrecht was attired stiffly in the Dutch style, and
chose every possible opportunity to display her pedantry; when she was forced
to be silent and listen to the others her nervous fingers cut out an endless
procession of figures of birds, Chinamen, fishes, stars, and monsters in
paper—these were scattered all over the floor near the edges of her
stiff silk skirt.
In secret amusement Eugenio listened to the discussion, inwardly he felt
vastly superior to all the disputants; they seemed to him to have lost their
wits in musty pedantry and to have no understanding of life as he, Eugenio
Marquis della Ferranti, knew it. They spoke in soft, indifferent voices and
their abstract arguments crossed and re-crossed each other in the lazy
afternoon air as if they made a pattern of lace in the shadows.
Isaac Vossius, the Dutch professor of Greek, was so wise that he was
credulous of everything. It was said of him that he could believe in anything
save the Bible; while the Cardinal was such a tolerant man that he disagreed
with nobody save those whose opinions differed from his own.
Both these men declared that the passion of Hate was far fiercer, more
violent, and more powerful than the passion of Love.
Eugenio laughed in his sleeve at them for a pair of dry old fools.
The learned lady from Utrecht knew nothing of either love or hate, but
kept up her part of the dispute by extracts from the classics, illustrated by
modern verse and prose—Greek, Hebrew and Latin.
The Queen slipped her fingers into Eugenio's curls and remarked that they
were somewhat disordered; then, in a louder voice, demanded the French
philosopher's opinion on the matter of the discussion.
"Love or Hate—which is the stronger? You, who know the secrets of
the human soul, must decide our difficulties."
The Frenchman's bright eyes twinkled under the heavy fringe of his
"I have had," he said, "some visions in my time, but I do not know that
any of them would throw light on this matter. I recall when I was in Germany,
returned to the army after the Emperor's coronation, I was in winter
quarters; I had no society whatever and no diversions of any kind. Luckily,
neither had I any cares nor was I agitated by any passions, so that I
remained shut up all day long—shut up with the stove and my own
"And what sprang from this dismal seclusion?" asked Her Majesty.
The Frenchman glanced with irony at the Dutch man.
"I do not know; I tried to get away from pedantry, from rust, from the
foolishness of those who speak nothing but Latin as soon as they have pulled
a doctor's cap over their ears. In brief, I endeavoured to be a philosopher
though always remaining a pious churchman and to do everything in the manner
of a gentleman."
Eugenio smiled secretly and, putting up his fine hand, pressed the Queen's
Bochart, the orientalist, now began to talk of the pendulum, and Saturn's
rings, and the new discoveries in astronomy.
The Queen bid him back to the point.
"You will make me think," she said, "that you are no more than dried
specimens, such as one keeps in a case or a box and brings out for inspection
in a particular company. Have you then, no passions—any of you? Cannot
'you tell me which is the more potent—Love or Hate?"
At this Des Cartes declared roundly for Hate, and ran over all—war,
crime and impiety—which had been produced from this terrible force.
"And if," he added, "you ask me what Love has produced, I shall
reply—very little, a stray good deed, an odd good work, here and
The Cardinal interrupted, for he felt he had not had enough of the
conversation, and he wished to stave off the noontide drowsiness, he feared
also to disgrace himself by dropping asleep and snoring in his too easy
chair. Therefore he began to argue with more vigour than conviction on the
power of Love.
"Love created God," he declared.
To which Bochart, the orientalist, countered: "But Hate created the Devil,
and we all know, without reflection, who is the more powerful of the
The Queen looked down at Eugenio.
"You have nothing to say?" she smiled. "Will you not enter into this
interchange of pleasantries and let us know what is your opinion on this
grave and weighty matter?"
Eugenio replied by glancing up with a confident smile. Well he knew the
value of his shapely lips, his smooth features, his rich locks and brown
complexion, his flattering tongue and his gay air; and well he knew her
value—coy and fine, nobly born and by no means disposed to play the
penitent in the desert.
"One must speak by experience," he said, "and according to one's age. In
five-and-twenty years one has not been through as much as in five-and-sixty.
Though I have learned a great deal of love, I am yet unversed in the powers
"Innocent and noble youth," murmured the Queen, "you are indeed well
fitted to be the exponent of this mighty passion," and, with her hands on his
shoulders, she half turned him about as if exhibiting him to the company.
"I suppose," said the French philosopher, rather sadly (for in his younger
days he had been gallant and now regretted his wrinkles and his wig), "that
you, madam, consider this youth, with his beauty and his comely carriage, his
grace and his ease, worth all of us philosophers with our quips and our
arguments, our science and our learning?"
"Possibly I do," admitted the Queen thoughtfully, and quoted the doctrine
on which Malebranche built up his philosophy. "` So to judge all things
according to its own inward life to the exclusion of all outward impressions
produced by the mere senses and all the fantasies of the imagination; only
that knowledge must be tried which teaches us what we are '."
She looked steadily at Eugenio; he noted the wrinkles under her large
He thought the moment appropriate to kiss her hand and murmur—"You
have taught me to be what I am—your servant."
Smiling at this touching language the Queen did not appear to be further
interested in the argument.
Seeing her thus, the Princess Palatine, who considered herself the Queen's
dearest friend, clapped her hands and summoned an African page, who brought
in drinks of sherbet and iced water in which floated slices of lemon.
The Queen now roused herself (she, as all the company, seemed drowsy) and
asked them how the argument had concluded.
No one knew.
It was decided to give Eugenio the casting-vote.
"Why, Love is the stronger passion," declared he confidently and with a
triumphant look at the Queen. "Love is like the sun and Hate is merely the
black cloud that sometimes, but never entirely nor for long, obscures
"Eugenio has decided," sighed the Queen, and rose.
She walked towards the fountain and looked between the iris flags into the
still water, broken only by the flash of the glittering fish. In her white
satin, gold-tagged cavalier's dress she appeared a haggard youth, and her one
beauty was the quantity of her fine curls which fell to her waist.
They left her with her favourite: the learned lady, the disappointed
princess, the orientalist, the philosophers and the Cardinal—all took
their leave of the discrowned Queen and entered coaches and chairs; with
languid movements they yawned.
"How thankful I am that they have gone at last!" said Eugenio, approaching
his mistress by the iris flowers; "I thought they would never leave, with
their tedious arguments and fruitless discussion. Why, madam, do you
encourage these tiresome and rusty pedants—these women who have
forgotten their duties and never known love?"
The Queen put the toe of her soft boot on one of the paper figures that
Anna von Schurmann had cut out and, fixing her large melancholy eyes on
Eugenio, asked him why his dress was so disordered.
"I perceive," she added, "that there is a hole in your cloak, which
appears also scorched."
"You bring me," said Eugenio, "exactly where I would be. You will remember
that I was attacked in the streets of Rome, a few days ago?"
"I made nothing of it," smiled the Queen, "Rome is not a safe city for a
"But now you must make something of it," said Eugenio, "for again I have
been waylaid and only with the greatest difficulty escaped with my life."
"How was it that you did escape?" she asked in low voice. And he triumphed
to see the emotion which paled her thin cheeks. Those dusty idiots might well
discuss which was the stronger—love or hate; he had no need to argue on
the matter; the infatuation for this woman for him held not only safety but
all high fortune. "Attacked?" she murmured, "someone tried to assassinate
"Truly," said Eugenio; and he related to her the story of the attempt made
upon him in the deserted noontide streets—how he had leapt into the
salad-monger's cellar shop (he did not mention the girl), how he had been
pursued by the assassins who had passed the door, and afterwards how the
hurdy-gurdy man, who had seemed nothing but a beggar, had endeavoured to get
him with a carbine, even at the gate of Her Majesty's palace.
"Who are your enemies?" murmured the Queen.
Eugenio protested that he had not the least notion.
"There are a complication of intrigues in Rome and somehow I have offended
someone. There are those jealous of my favours with Your Majesty; perhaps I
have incurred the enmity of someone who is altogether strange to me—how
can I tell? This, at least, I know I am not safe in Rome."
"What shall we do?" asked the Queen.
"Leave Rome," he suggested, pressing her hand with the seriousness of a
"You rely on me?" she asked.
"And the power of love," smiled Eugenio charmingly.
She regarded him thoughtfully; never before to him had her eyes appeared
so large, dark and mournful.
"You wish me to leave my beautiful villa, my elegant company of friends, a
climate that suits me, and all the amenities of Rome, because you are in
"My love," declared he on a superb note of passion, "will compensate you
for all that you lose."
Christina pulled at the tips of the iris flags and watched the reflection
of her own face in the dark waters below.
"Truly," she mused, in a low voice, "you have almost persuaded me that you
love me, and as we have just decided in our argument that love is the most
powerful of all passions it is therefore only just and fitting that for you I
should abandon everything."
Smiling with triumph he pressed her hand.
"In Spain I should be safe."
"Would you—would not your enemies follow you?"
"How would that be possible when I am under your protection? I rely on
your protection—the protection of love."
"I am tired of these terms of speech," said the Queen, in a low, moody
voice. "I hear too many empty arguments. What did I not say just now? The
only doctrine I can hold by...What is that—what is the truth of our own
wretched little souls? Are we capable," she added rapidly, "of any pure and
disinterested feeling—are we not merely full of arrogance, ambition and
lust? Are not many of us utterly bewildered and incapable of distinguishing
right from wrong? What is all this tremendous flow of words that surrounds us
but the shameless invention of wicked men to torment us?"
Eugenio cared little for this speech.
"Madam, it is quite sufficient that we love each other," he pleaded, with
all the ardour he could throw into his seductive voice and graceful
"It should be sufficient," agreed the Queen, sombrely.
"And I am in danger," he urged, "I scarcely dare leave your palace."
"And here you think you are safe?"
Eugenio observed that bars of sunshine falling through the lattice of the
tall windows had become less on the marble floor and the air was of an
oppressive and sultry heat.
"Madam, there is a storm coming up," he remarked; the Queen, in a low
tone, bade him open the windows.
Eugenio did so and saw that the sky was covered with dark yellow clouds,
that the leaves of the ilex trees were turned backwards by a low menacing
breeze, that the flowers growing in the vases on the terrace appeared wilted,
as if there were an acid in the air.
"A storm," breathed Eugenio, "how still everything is! Where is our late
"They have all returned to the city," replied the Queen.
"But your household, your servants—they also seem abroad. Never have
I noticed the palace so quiet."
"You and I are here, Eugenio, and that is sufficient," said Christina.
"Presently, I do not think there will lack some few others to complete our
He did not understand the meaning of this nor greatly trouble himself
about it, for that she was often obscure in her speech and eccentric in her
manner. Eugenio did not, indeed, greatly trouble himself about the Queen in
any particular, he was so sure of her; rather than lose him she would leave
Rome and journey with him anywhere, so that he was safe from his mysterious
enemies. So, despite the gloom of the nearing storm, his spirits were light
and easy, and he knew that the Queen was watching his beauty and elegance as
in his rich and tasteful habit he leant at the open window.
The first flash of lightning darted behind the avenue of ilex trees and
showed the looming whiteness of the gigantic termini, showed something else
to the sharp eyes of Eugenio, which had become during the last few days so
alert; this was the creeping figure of the man with the hurdy-gurdy who had
levelled the carbine at him from behind the statue of the elephant and
Starting back from the window Eugenio exclaimed:
"Madam, there is one of my would-be assassins actually within your garden
I Pray call someone and have him arrested!"
The Queen came to the window and looked out for herself, though Eugenio
cried out that she possibly put herself in some peril.
But Christina gazed steadily down the ilex avenue and into the tawny light
of the gathering storm.
The man with the hurdy-gurdy leaned against one of the smooth grey stems
of the dark trees and was now turning the handle of his little instrument,
which emitted a brisk yet squeaky melody.
"It is only a poor beggar," she said indifferently, "why should you
disturb yourself for nothing? If this is the worst you have seen, I believe
you are the victim of a fantastical imagination, Eugenio."
Still turning the handle of his instrument the hurdy-gurdy man came up the
empty avenue of ilex trees.
Eugenio clapped his hand to his side to realize that he had not replaced
his sword of which he had been despoiled in the street.
Alarmed by the still attitude of the Queen, whom he believed paralysed
with fright, he began to call for assistance, shouting up one by one the
members of the household, but there was no reply from the marble arches of
the palace then filled with dun shadows. Infuriated by this silence Eugenio
ran to the doorway, which was usually shrouded by a thick silk curtain, but
now when he raised this he found the bronze portals in place and locked; he
hurled himself on the other entrance, through which had come the learned
company of the philosophic discussion; here, a grille had been fastened in
Eugenio was a prisoner in the marble room with the iris pool—a
prisoner, unarmed. There was but one way of escape and that through the
window and down the ilex avenue, up which had come the man with the
"There has been some treachery here, as I take it!" he cried fiercely,
turning on his mistress.
"There seems to have been treachery enough," whispered the Queen, without
looking at him.
"Madam, how is it possible—the palace empty—no one answered to
my shouts—both the doors fastened upon us—who is this assassin
creeping up the avenue?"
"A musician," replied the Queen, "he plays an elegy for a fool."
"Madam! Christina!" exclaimed the young man, drawing back from the
window-place, "I am unarmed; I lost my sword in the streets. I came straight
to you and did not think of taking other weapons—"
"I said an elegy for a fool," repeated the Queen, and turned round on him,
her hands on her hips, with such an expression of pain and contempt on her
face as caused him to utter a cry of alarm.
"You came to me, you were safe with me, because I was a queen, and you
were my lover? Love is the stronger passion, eh? You have had no experience
of hate? I will enlarge your knowledge of women and the world."
The trapped man began to perceive that she was his enemy.
"How is this possible?" he shuddered.
She pulled out a package of letters from the pocket of her masculine
"You have a mistress in Valentia, younger than I, more beautiful, more
charming—a woman whom you really love, a woman to whom you write
lightly of me. For a month I have been intercepting your letters. You would
be safe in Spain—and near her, eh?"
"Madam, I never wrote them—they are forgeries," he lied
"I know your hand, my Eugenio, and more, I know your heart and your
mind...These are your words' She is not young, you have no cause to be
jealous; she never has been fair, you have no reason to be peevish, for I do
very well by her favour. I shall grow great by her infatuation. She is
surrounded by fools who know not how to take advantage of her. You must not
be angry with me if I have persuaded her I love her, for our fortune hangs
upon my success.' Was it not foolish, my Eugenio, to write these things and
trust them to the post?"
"There has been treachery!" he cried, "I swear there has been
"Enough to shame Judas, but swear no more—"
The hurdy-gurdy man had approached nearer and then, still turning the
handle of his instrument, he mounted the terrace. The thunder began to roll
in the clouds and the lightning to flash the quicker over the empty ilex
The young man fell back before the Queen's eyes.
"You, was it you?" he stammered. "You cannot mean assassination?"
"Why should I not? You see, after all, you understand very little,
Eugenio. The wise men were right when they argued that the power of hate was
stronger. You shall see how powerful it is."
Even then he could scarcely credit his atrocious destiny.
"Do you mean that you set those assassins on me, that you have trapped me
here with these closed doors, knowing me unarmed and trusting you?"
"I trusted you," said Christina.
"But I—I never thought of murder."
"I would as soon be slain as mocked at," said the Queen, and, leaning from
the window, she beckoned to the hurdy-gurdy man, who placed his instrument by
the pot of wilting agaves and crept across the terrace where, on the hot
stone, the round drops of rain were falling.
Eugenio's throat was dry and his shapely limbs shuddering. It was as
intolerable as incredible. He had walked smiling, claiming protection, into
this hideous trap. Hatred for the woman shook him. How it had always sickened
him to have to pretend to love her—she, with her eccentricities, her
cruelties, her treacheries!
"It is true that I have been a fool," he stammered, "but you—what
"That is what you may now judge," she said, turning on him. "Did I not say
that was all I held by—the truth? This is my truth, for what you have
done to me I will see you destroyed." She lifted her lips at him like a cat
he had once seen ready to fly at its fellow.
The hurdy-gurdy man, a tall, sinewy ruffian with a beastly countenance,
blocked up the window beside her.
Eugenio snatched off his cloak and cast it over the head of this ugly
fellow and, in this second's respite, fled down the ilex avenue. They would
be guarding the gates, but he knew another way out of the villa garden. He
ran, ran, ran, thankful for the rain splashing on to the hot marble flags and
the dust beneath the ilex trees, rattling on the dry leaves and staining the
dry whiteness of the watching termini.
By the wide secret pool where the nymphs of Diana were still supposed to
bathe on moonlit nights of June, past the water organ where Tritons formed of
shells grinned at him, through a grove of olives, where grey-pink doves
sheltered from the storm in a temple dedicated to Venus, Eugenio fled.
A leap over a parapet, a drop from a wall, helped by the hanging branches
of flowers which tore his hands, and Eugenio was again in the streets of
Rome, now emptied by the storm as they had, a few hours before, been emptied
by the noontide sun.
She would have set spies for him everywhere; he paused, panting, and
considered what he should do—friendless, penniless, a stranger, and
pursued—so, in a few moments had his fortunes fallen!
In his angry distress he recalled the girl in the fruit store and her talk
of a way of escape through the catacombs and subterranean passages, ancient
temples and forgotten grave vaults. The lightning flashed behind the florid
cornice of the ruined temple of Mars the Avenger. The white goats browsing on
the scant weeds among the columns once dedicated to Jove the Thunderer ran
bleating for shelter into an archway where Latin letters, a foot long,
recorded the glories of a forgotten hero.
Eugenio ran, doubled, turned and came to the vegetable shop half-sunk
beneath the cracked marble pavement.
Marianna was there, silent among her wares, still turning over on her
brown palm the ring he had given her and which the Queen had given him.
"Child, you see, I have come back," he gasped, "I want you to help
"God be praised!" she said simply. "They are after you even now?"
"I do not know—I hope they have not seen where I went, but it is not
safe for me in the streets of Rome."
"And the protection you spoke of?"
"That failed me entirely. I have no hope but in you, Marianna."
Again the girl said joyously:
"God be praised!"
She beckoned to him to follow her without more ado, and led him through a
room at the back, then down a wooden ladder, she holding a burning lanthorn;
so they came out of the storm-darkened streets into the quiet sombreness of
the underground cellars, where amphori of Roman wine were piled round an
alabaster altar. Following the girl with the light, Eugenio traversed passage
after passage until they reached a round and lofty chamber. Here she lit two
candles and, swiftly as she had escorted him from the shop, he now perceived
that she had brought with her all his necessities—a knife, bread,
cheese, wine, fruit—all which she took adroitly from her apron and laid
on the mosaic floor of the underground chamber.
"From here you can very easily get out into the Campagna," she said, "you
will want nothing but a little money."
"I have two diamond studs which, perhaps, if you are clever you can sell
He was not thinking of what he said, but of the beauty of the
girl—her dewy eyes, her blooming cheeks, the lines, the light and
lustre of her rich youth.
Earnestly she assured him of his safety, no one would think of looking
here—"And you may escape, signor, when you will."
"But to-night I shall stay here," he replied, pressing her hand.
"I must go now," she said, "but I will return and bring you a pillow."
He allowed her to go; in the confidence of delight he awaited her
Eugenio was at ease and peaceful in the underground mosaic chamber; while
he waited for Marianna he stretched himself at ease; ate some fruit, smoothed
his hair. How delicious to escape from the hate of a Queen and, deep in the
earth, to embrace one who was more than a queen—a goddess, young,
Then, recalling her stupid discussion, Eugenio laughed aloud; he had been
right, after all. Love was the stronger passion.
The candles glittered on the gilt mosaic; he heard her light tread and saw
her small lamp...
A VISIT TO VERONA TO SEE
THE RUINS OF THE AMPHITHEATRE
"When the sun grows troublesome it was the custom to
draw a covering or veil quite over the Amphitheatre. This veil they
oftentimes made of silk, dy'd with scarlet, purple or some such rich colour.
The effect the colour of this veil had upon the audience that sat under it is
finely described by Lucretius." ("Remarks on several Parts of Europe," by J.
Breval, Esquire, 1726.) [ITALY, 18th Century.]
At precisely the same moment as the Conde Florio de Moncada's travelling
equipage swung into the courtyard of "The Lily Pot" a lady was alighting from
a white jennet at the door of that hostelry.
She was attended only by a small Indian groom and seemed too elegant to be
travelling thus unescorted.
As the coach, the sun glittering on the pale green varnish and the coat
with twenty quarterings on the panels, drew up by the wide entrance of "The
Lily Pot" the Conde Flaminio de Moncada glanced from the window and whispered
"There she is Florio, come you must admit that it is becoming very
The elder gentleman smiled indulgently at his brother:
"We will remain in the coach till she has gone into the inn."
Flaminio smiled also; for a week the lady on the white jennet had
travelled the same road, stayed at the same inns and taken no notice of their
existence; her behaviour had been as decorous as her mode of journeying was
strange; both had obliged the brothers to notice her very particularly; a
beautiful creature without a doubt, and well-bred.
The lady slipped modestly into the inn, which was soon in a hubbub over
the arrival of my lords of Moncada; two Spanish noblemen travelling for
health and pleasure...eh, but a grand entourage...the post chaises
followed; my lords brought their own valets, grooms, cooks, barbers...twenty
liveried attendants...a severe hooded dame, who was nurse to the younger
gentleman, a woman to wait on her...eh, "The Lily Pot" was used to splendour,
but padrone, lackeys, ostlers, chambermaids were eagerly impressed by this
display...a courier had bespoken rooms days before...the whole of the piano
mobile for the two foreign Excellencies...one was ill, be it understood, eh,
but a pity! Verona had been ransacked for luxuries—early peaches,
apricots, pineapples, for the invalid; the courier had brought feather-beds
and silk hangings with him; the padrone bowed these great ones into the fine
apartments overlooking the gardens, nervously wished these better, timidly
hoped these were not too mean...for their Excellencies?
And behind his humble protestations of duty was a sharp flicker of
curiosity; the courier, a cunning Levantine, very able at his work, had
whispered something of the history of his two masters.
"The affection between them—it was prodigious! their wealth,
extraordinary!—but, what would you? Some bitter drop in the cup we must
all have, and the Conde Flaminio was ill, dying, perhaps! A wound received in
a duel had caused a malady in the chest, and consider this, the lady who was
the cause of the duel had forsaken him for his rival, and ever since his
brother has been carrying him from place to place, from doctor to doctor, in
the endeavour to please and distract him, and the oddest thing is that they
contrive to be perfectly happy."
The Conde Florio courteously thanked the landlord for his attention and
ordered a light collation...the chambers were very good; the walls painted
with sea-nymphs who offered branches of coral to plumed heroes on silver
ships; the wide windows stood open on a garden full of palms, lilies,
carnations and pepper trees like green foam; the sharp brightness of noon
filled the Verona sky.
Leonilda the nurse with the long puckered yellow face, tenderly arranged
the Conde Flaminio on a couch by the window and gave him one of her own
brewed cordials; the sick man turned his graceful head on the violet pillows
and looked across the garden; the lady of the white jennet, forgotten by all,
was seated in the shade of the yellow marble wall; she had a musing air and
did not look up at the windows.
"Florio, she is really very charming and she reminds me of Isabella."
The elder brother glanced sharply out of the window; this was the first
time he had heard that name since Isabella had married Flaminio's rival; yes,
the girl appeared gentle, sad and pleasing in the blue shadow; some azure
rosy doves were about her feet, she seemed their sister.
"Flaminio, she must be no better than a vagabond—to travel
"I suppose so," the other sighed and smiled. "But is it not peculiar that
she is on the same road with us—at the same inn continuously?"
"No doubt, but if it amuses you at all, my dear brother, I am very
Their own lackeys, in liveries of black and green, served iced sherbet,
hollowed oranges filled with jellies, candied melons and marchpane; a
delicate shadow obscured the cool chamber. Florio anxiously studied his
brother to see if he had suffered from the fatigue of travel; the wasted
face, still so noble and handsome, was very like his own, the thin haughty
countenance of an Andalusian cavalier, the nose a fine aquiline, the arched
upper lip darkened, the outline clear, the complexion sallow but pure, the
eyes of a dramatic darkness, the eyebrows sweeping, and the rippling hair so
black that all the anxious barber's pomade could scarcely darken the thick
ringlets...all through Italy the severe faces, the costly heavy clothes,
brocades, velvets, embroideries of the Spanish grandees had been stared at
for their quality of exotic bravura.
The beauty of the younger brother had not been eclipsed by his malady; his
complexion was like amber-tinted alabaster and a faint shade of violet
increased the melancholy shadow of his eyes; but the elder brother was
flushed richly with warm blood and his glance was lively with a thousand
pleasures, enjoyed and anticipated.
"Already I love Verona, we shall stay here a long while, shall we not,
Florio?—" He interrupted himself: "Look who has come into the
Florio glanced over his brother's couch, a company of four dingy men were
pacing in front of where the lady sat musing amid the doves; they were too
nondescript to be respectable; all heavy, sombre, shabby, they had rather the
air of hired bravos; Florio had noticed them at the last stopping-place,
well, he had considerable treasure and Italy was infested with thieves...
Two by two they paced up and down, talking together; the lady was munching
biscuits which she took neatly from a silver paper; when she threw the paper
away one of the loiterers picked it up and put it in his pocket.
"It is very disagreeable for a gentlewoman to travel alone," murmured
Flaminio gazing from his cushion at this scene. "Should we not offer her some
"She needs none," replied Florio. "They are not speaking to her, and it is
not so disagreeable to a gentlewoman to travel alone that none of them do
it." To distract his brother he brought out his most recent purchase;
everywhere they travelled he bought rare, costly and foolish objects to amuse
Flaminio; this last toy was a suite of gold medals that had cost a great sum
and had been snatched from the agent of a princely collector; there was a
Victoria Othonis, accounted unique, two brass Latins (the Greek
being common enough) of the same Emperor, a Pax and a
Securitas, besides the greatest curiosities of all, a collection of
those medals called Spintriae, which Tiberius struck in his delicious
retreat at Capreae to commemorate his darling pleasures.
Flaminio discovered but a languid enthusiasm for these treasures; Florio
called in the violins and when the music had discoursed for an hour the sick
man was asleep.
The lady was alone again in the garden; when the Conde de Moncada went
downstairs he discovered the four ill-looking fellows in the common parlour;
too quiet, too withdrawn, one in a book, one in the Gazette, two in
De Moncada beckoned up the padrone hovering anxiously at his service:
"Who were the four ruffians? He had seen them before—though he was
well escorted, an attempted robbery would be disagreeable."
The padrone was overwhelmed; the strangers had seemed what they
pretended—harmless, petty merchants, but he would make enquiries...De
Moncada cut short nervous protestations...it was no matter, he regretted
having spoken, it was, after all, rather beneath a Moncada to express
suspicion or anxiety.
He went alone into the streets of Verona, where the rosy red and tawny
yellow palaces threw violet shadows across the splendour of the afternoon; he
observed, with a distant curiosity, the life he saw about him, of market,
shop, church and street; he was so used to his own magnificent existence and
fitted into it so perfectly that the existence of anyone placed in other
conditions seemed to him not only gross and ridiculous, but false.
De Moncada intended to carry his brother to visit the several curiosities
of this city older than Rome; the cabinet of rarities belonging to Prince
Moscardo, the gardens of the Marchese Giusti and the tomb of Pope Lucius, but
now was at a stand for occupation, and out of pure idleness, crossed the
Adige and walked about the marble amphitheatre; this Roman ruin, so vast and
melancholy, was overgrown with wild flowers, vines and grasses; the lower
stories were converted into warehouses, stables and haylofts; in the arena
the tumblers in scarlet trousers performed their contortions before a ring of
children and idlers; in the huge bare area this group appeared as small and
as bright as insects.
De Moncada walked on the broken masonry above the seats where the nobles
of old Rome had once watched the chariot-races; it was scarcely with surprise
that he came upon the lady of the white jennet; she was seated on the
overturned capital of a fluted column and had plucked a bouquet of wild aster
from the ruins; this, De Moncada knew, was a pagan flower dedicated to the
spirits of evil.
It seemed imperative that they should speak, if only because she so
deliberately looked away from him and because the place was strange, lonely,
De Moncada uncovered, paused, bowed.
"Do you not, signora, find these solitary walks, this unprotected
She looked at him and blushed slowly; she had that quiet beauty which is
pathetic in its air of resignation to the heritage of loneliness; an Italian,
surely one of the honey-fair women of Siena with smooth, heavy hair and dusky
gold eyes; she pleased his fastidious, alert taste.
"You, signor," she answered softly, "are the first who has spoken to me in
ten days' travel."
He did not know if this was wit or innocency and asked her, smiling, if
she intended a rebuke?
"A rebuke? I am so grateful for any company." Her expression was of a
childlike candour which caused him to mistrust her profoundly, and to linger
in her society.
"I was watching the tumblers—how far away they seem," she added.
"How vast the arena is! How melancholy!"
De Moncada told her that during the heat of summer festivals the whole of
that mighty area used to be covered with a veil made of silk, dyed with
purple and scarlet and spangled with stars...
"Lucretius wrote a poem on the effect of this starry canopy on the people
who sat beneath—the glare of common day being excluded, they came to
believe themselves, beneath the rich Campanian luxury, transported into
Heaven, and in that rosy light, felt neither the defects of others nor their
The lady answered this formal speech with enthusiastic candour.
"Oh, that such a starry canopy might fall over one's own life and
"Are you, then, unhappy or distracted?"
She rose; he admired her gown of striped saffron taffeta, her hat of
Livorno straw, her comely shape and her modest allure, he was quite
unprepared for her next words.
"Oh, how can you, sunk in sloth and extravagance, understand such as
At this hint that he was despised the grandee frowned, and became even
more impassive than was his wont.
"If you would care to confide in me, signora, you would discover that I do
not lack width of sympathy."
But the lady turned away hurriedly, protesting that her story was too
commonplace to endure his august scrutiny...all she would say was that her
name was Faustina, that she travelled on urgent business of her own and that
she begged him to put one so unworthy out of his mind...
"An accomplished hypocrite," thought De Moncada, and paid her far more
attention than he would have paid to a simpleton; "one is not a hypocrite for
nothing, and when one is lovely, it is worth while to discover what is
beneath the deception."
But Faustina's last remark, made as she turned away, had no savour of
"You, signor, have contrived to draw the starry veil, the rosy canopy, so
completely over your own existence that your life is entirely artificial,
would you not sometimes care to see things in the common light of truth?"
She seemed too mournful and disappointed to wait for an answer, nor had De
Moncada any to offer to such an obvious absurdity; because he was wealthy,
idle, elegant, extravagant, was he less a human being than the beggar nursing
his sores and dining off black bread and onions?
He watched her walking with a mournful air, along the marble ruins, the
asters, the colour of a winter sky, in her hands, and the hem of her dress
disturbing the fine ferns that grew round the acanthus leaves of fallen
"She will contrive another meeting very soon," he thought.
Even sooner than he had believed, and in a manner in which he had not
considered possible; he was playing chess that evening with his brother in
the piano nobile of "The Lily Pot" when the painted door flew open and she
broke in upon them; her tumult of distress was as startling as her entry; it
appeared as if she was pursued; De Moncada sprang up and Flaminio raised
himself on his couch, scattering the glittering chess-pieces on the shining
"As you are Christian gentlemen, I entreat you to save me," stammered the
lady with a swooning movement forward; De Moncada caught her to prevent her
falling at his feet; he looked not at her but at his brother.
Flaminio, who had been very languid all day, was now full of animation;
his comely face was flushed to a semblance of health, his eyes sparkled with
"Did I not say," he cried, "that she was in need of our protection?"
"Indeed, noble cavalier," answered Faustina, "I am." She gently withdrew
from De Moncada's support, at the same time giving him a reproachful glance.
"I meant to tell you this afternoon—"
"You have been meeting my brother?" exclaimed Flaminio jealously.
"...By chance—in the amphitheatre, he was not encouraging, but you
signor, perhaps have a tender heart?"
"I have also a useless arm," sighed Flaminio, "but I am sure that my
brother's sword is at your disposal."
"For what cause?" asked De Moncada drily.
The lady had now seated herself, with a baffling mingling of simplicity
and assurance in her air; De Moncada was alarmed by the intensity of
admiration with which his brother regarded her; how skilfully he had
concealed his interest in the fair, mysterious stranger, until it has been
thus startled from him...she told her tale demurely; the daughter of a noble
house, she had been offered a brutal choice between an old, ugly husband and
a convent, and had contrived to flee the dilemma with one faithful Indian
groom and jewels she sold one by one...she did not deny that she had
deliberately taken the same route as the brothers, their splendid equipage
had given her confidence.
"That your tale has been the theme of a thousand romances does not render
it impossible," remarked De Moncada. "But one character is missing—it
is usual in these circumstances for the lady to elope with a lover."
"I had none."
"That is hard to believe."
"She means," put in Flaminio eagerly, "none whom she favoured. But what,
signora, is your destination?"
"Rome. I have a widowed aunt there, the Princess Dolabella, who will, I am
sure, afford me every protection."
"We also travel to Rome," cried the younger brother with impulsive
delight. "If we can assist you—"
Faustina drew her chair slightly nearer the couch.
"That is what I came to entreat. I have just discovered that I am
followed—oh, the horror of it!" She seemed too overcome to continue and
Flaminio caught at her delicate hand in deep compassion at her distress; De
Moncada surveyed both critically; they appeared like lovers, in youth, beauty
and mutual tenderness.
"How, signora," he asked, "can we preserve you from your pursuers?"
She had her scheme ready; she had seen women in their retinue—the
nurse, the serving girl...Might not she, poor, humble, hunted creature, be
absorbed into their splendour? No one would look for her among the servants
of the Spanish grandees, she could disguise herself, she would be no trouble,
nay, she was skilful with her hands in cooking, needlework, nursing...the
little groom, too, was a useful creature..."And you, noble cavaliers, will be
doing a good deed that will certainly be rewarded in Heaven."
Flaminio could scarcely allow her to finish her pretty speech before he
had passionately agreed to her request...they both looked at De Moncada like
children coaxing for an impossible favour, which, however, they are sure of
obtaining...the elegant young man on the couch, brilliant-eyed, flushed with
pleasure, the girl whose hand he was clasping and whose glance held an eager
appeal...remembering her remarks made at the ruins, De Moncada smiled; before
that smile she had the grace, or the innocency, to blush.
"If this does not appear an incredible adventure to you, signora," he
remarked, "there is no need for it to appear so to me. You will be safe from
your pursuers in our apartments, and Leonilda, the duenna, will see to
Flaminio added nothing to this; he kissed her hands, and joy suddenly
filled the eye of the elder brother; the two of them had contrived, as the
courier had observed, to be very happy together on their travels; they had
enjoyed everything; even Flaminio's illness had not been able to overshadow
their joy in each other and in the pursuit of life and beauty; they were
philosophers; "If Death travels with us we will show him we are good
company." There had been no need for this consoling angel, who with such
practised tenderness was bending over the invalid...
De Moncada went downstairs and summoned the padrone, who had a thousand
apologies, a million regrets...the four miserable strangers proved, upon
investigation, to be most dubious characters...he was about to forbid them
the inn, to send for the police...
"You will do nothing of the kind, leave these people to their designs.
They amuse me—you understand?"
"But if your Excellency has any treasures—"
"I am well able to protect them."
"But—" the padrone ventured on a whisper of timid respect—"one
little word—there is a Lady, I hear—if your Excellency will deign
"No less. She travels with them, but apart, her tricks have emptied many
pockets—such a charming creature with so well-bred an air!"
"Of what use would she be to them," smiled De Moncada drily, "if she were
not precisely that? Not a word. I will deal with the case, which I understood
perfectly from the first." And he smiled at the recollection of the biscuits
eaten from the silver paper, which, when flung away, no doubt contained the
message—"Take care, we are watched."
The padrone permitted himself a sigh.
"No doubt the poor lady cannot help herself, they are her
masters—she could not get away from them if she would."
De Moncada went out into the garden; the fireflies danced among the
apricot trees on the wall, the stars formed a scattered coronal over Verona,
the dusky violet of the sky was stained by the golden lights of the city; a
church bell was ringing, a guitar strumming; the windows were open on the
balcony of the piano nobile, standing beneath, De Moncada could hear
his brother's voice, his excited laughter; they were playing chess; their
hands were frequently touching as they moved the pieces of crystal and
"How shall I deal with Flaminio when he discovers who she is? I have
bought him everything he desires, shall I not buy him also this illusion? And
is not that the only enviable gift—illusion, the starry canopy?"
When he went upstairs the game of chess was over and Flaminio lay reposed,
half-asleep on his cushions, the yellow silk book of verse from which he had
been reading aloud, slipping from his fingers...at the far end of the room
stood the lady, graced with the tender shadows of lamplight which muted her
charms to a wraithlike loveliness; she held the case that contained the
medals of Otto and Tiberius; her fingers were on the clasp.
As De Moncada knew her prey his course became clear; they must be
accomplished rogues, since he carried with him nothing more valuable than
that suite of medals.
Flaminio roused at his entrance, beckoned to him and whispered that she
was sweeter than Isabella, than honey, than jasmine, that she had effaced the
stinging memory of Isabella...
"You know, I have been musing about her ever since I saw her first. Is it
not a charming, romantical episode? So strange, so delicious, I feel sure she
will cure me—or make my last weeks delightful."
De Moncada pressed his brother's hand, so thin, so hot, looked into that
wasted, happy face and remembered all the wise, regretful doctors had said of
that incurable malady and the fantasies it brings; when his brother slept he
went to the corner where the lady still stood; obscured, silent, he took the
case of medals from the cabinet at her side where, furtively, she had placed
"Signora, my brother's attendants will take him to his chamber, but you
must wait here till I return."
"Yes." She gazed at him very earnestly, as if beseeching an explanation,
he had nothing more to say; but, before he left the piano nobile, he
gave instructions to his lackeys to keep the lady close until he came
In the common parlour of "The Lily Pot" the four dingy men sat gloomily
over a supper of garlic stew and sour wine; they had not that appearance of
confidence De Moncada would have expected from the hopefulness of their
present enterprise; they were all considerably alarmed at his entrance, the
more so as he locked the door behind him; by this they saw he was in concert
with the padrone, and (they feared) the police.
One asked with servile insolence:
"What does your Magnificence in our poor company?"
De Moncada placed the case of medals on the dirty table; four pairs of
eyes flashed to this, then to his face, implacable with the composure of the
"I believe that these medals are the object of your present industry? No
doubt His Serene Highness would pay a good price for the golden Otto
He who appeared to be the leader of the quartette replied, with admirable
presence of mind:
"We can compromise no great names, but it is quite true that we could find
a market for the medals, but—" he shrugged, "we could not get your
The others grinned at this impudence, but De Moncada said:
"On the contrary you are well able to do so, you have with you a
They all peered forward.
"You take me—'tis a creature too pretty for your business." De
Moncada glanced impressively from one to another of the expectant evil faces
and removed squeamishly a pace away from such greasy ruffians. "I have a
fancy to take her into my household."
"Your Excellency's household?" Their amazement was amusing; they gaped at
each other, they nudged frayed elbows into lean ribs; they mouthed plainly
enough—"Hist, 'tis a lunatic!"
De Moncada dealt with them briskly.
"The case of medals is yours if you at once leave Verona and make no
attempt to molest the lady, who is, henceforth, one of my retinue; in brief,
I buy her from you."
The leader of the four rose, and bowed before the superb presence of the
"A cavalier of industry has his honour, ours is pledged to carry out your
wishes in every particular—at the price of the suite of medals."
"Should I see you," replied De Moncada, "anywhere near my equipage I
deliver you at once to the police, and I have no doubt you will be broken on
He watched them contemptuously as they clutched at the case, tore it open
and gloated over the treasures...Flaminio had cared so little for these
expensive rarities...the girl was more cheaply bought...to purchase a dream
with gold, that were cleverly done, eh?
One ruffian lamented:
"Yet, I regret Rosetta, 'twill take us long to train such another."
"Silence!" another snarled, cringing before De Moncada. "I would sell
twenty wenches for the Tiberius set alone—I will at once send Rosetta
to your Excellency."
De Moncada unlocked the door.
"She is already in my apartments."
They shot glances at each other and appeared confounded; then sly laughter
"We did not know, Excellency, the jade was so quick and cunning."
He flung open the door.
"Wretches, begone, and remember that if you ever permit yourselves in my
sight again you are no better than dead men."
They bowed, they scraped, they slobbered thanks and were indeed gone
across the sala d'entrata into the warm gaiety of the night.
De Moncada was as convinced that he would never see them again as he was
of his own eternal salvation; he returned light-hearted to his prisoner of
the piano nobile; reconciled to her situation, she was seated at his
costly harpsichord, playing by the light of pure wax candles in crystal
stands some music of his she had found on the keyboard—a setting of
verses by Carlo Goldoni.
"Donna Leonilda, your duenna," she smiled, "begged me to play so that your
brother might hear in his chamber." And she sang, in a voice sweet as
honeycomb, fine as silk, words so full of gaiety that they filled the
gracious room with sparkles of gold.
De Moncada advanced, master of the situation and of her destiny; she rose
and did not seem frightened.
"Child," he said, though he was but little the elder his gravity saved
this title from absurdity, "I have rescued you from your odious
employment—I have purchased your freedom and in return I expect some
service from you."
She curtsied; she was not the woman ever to say "I do not
understand"—her method was to wait till all was clear.
"The four ruffians who were your masters have gone," he continued. "I gave
them the case of medals you were about to—remove—and they will
not be seen again. I shall now keep you in my household and, Faustina or
Rosetta, whichever is your name, I expect you to maintain before my brother,
the very silly tale you told us."
"Does he believe it?"
"He is young, romantical, ill. It has been my pride to buy him every toy
he requires—I wish to buy him this dream."
"To draw over his common skies the starry canopy, eh?"
"You're quick. You will have no difficulty in playing the part I have
assigned to you."
Her response to these commands was not what he had expected; she sat down
on the seat before the harpsichord.
"You're slow. And absurd. Did I not tell you this afternoon that your life
is so artificial that you understand nothing?"
"I understand very well that you are the accomplice of these cavaliers of
industry. And it is impossible for us to dispute. I must ask you to play the
part I have assigned to you, or—"
She filled in his impressive pause:
"The police, I suppose?"
"You could expect no more than justice. But I would give our compact a
more elegant turn. I have saved you from a detestable existence, and you I am
sure, are soft-hearted. I beg you to consider my brother."
"I do. And I have your meaning. He is grievously ill and has taken a
fantastic fancy for me—my foolish tale was magic to him, and not to rob
him of that enchantment I am to continue to play a
De Moncada answered:
"It is impossible that my brother can live very long," and crossed himself
without discovering his pain.
"I am all compassion," she sighed, more outwardly distressed than he. "And
were I what you think, I would gladly play the persecuted damsel to give a
noble cavalier a little ease. But, unfortunately, signor, you have wasted
your case of medals, your time and your patience. I am not the partner of
At that De Moncada became angry; he thought that he deserved at least
"How have you so much impudence? I found you with the case in your
"Pure idle curiosity, I assure you," she replied sadly. "Your brother was
reading poetry and I was—bored."
De Moncada permitted himself a smile.
"Come then, with your next invention. If you are not these men's decoy,
who are you?"
"You would never believe me if I told you the truth."
"I already know the truth," but he was a little puzzled, a little shaken
by her steadfast expression; to strengthen himself he added with grandeur. "I
am not accustomed to make mistakes."
"Alas! you are not accustomed to have them pointed out."
They were interrupted by the padrone, escorted by the lackeys,
still insisting on being brought into His Excellency's
presence—pompous, important, with deep reverences to the lady; with
much parade he handed to De Moncada the case of medals—His Excellency
would forgive the intrusion, but he must deliver this personally—the
case had His Excellency's name and arms—eh, a fortunate chance!
Pale with chagrin De Moncada demanded:
"Where has this been obtained? You did not dare to inform the police about
"Nay, nay, but they were already well known in that quarter and were
arrested as they were about to leave the city; this, with other stolen
property, was found on them—-"
De Moncada was about to explain, in deep vexation—"I gave
them the medals"—when the padrone added:
"And with them was the little minx of whom I ventured to warn your honour,
the sly Rosetta—"
De Moncada, being quite unable to speak, the lady replied:
"The noble cavalier is grateful to you for your zeal—I congratulate
you on the activity of the police in Verona."
The tone in which she said this caused both to look at her; she seemed to
command the situation, and under cover of her serenity the padrone took his
leave; the young man stared at her and exclaimed:
"Is it possible I am a fool?"
"Is it possible that any of us are not?"
"But I thought 'twas you the padrone pointed out—and the silver
paper—was there no message in it?"
Plainly she did not understand his allusion; he told her the episode of
the biscuit, and she forebore to laugh, but answered:
"How many different tales I could tell you and how doubtful you would be
of them all!"
"I hardly deserve the truth—but of your charity—"
"Do not lower thy Spanish pride, cavalier, 'tis that which I from the
first, admired in thee."
At this familiar address he came nearer, forgetting his late discomfiture;
lovely were the wax lights in the pleasant chamber, the fireflies danced
without under the stars, the night flowers were prodigal of their perfume;
the young man felt that till this moment his life had been of an intolerable
formality, filled with pedantries and follies; she put her hand lightly on
"What did you say to me to-day in the amphitheatre—' Beneath that
Campanian luxury all seemed transformed '? Such a starry veil, shot with many
rich colours could I weave for thee—dost thou remember Civita
Nova and the tower on the sea shore?"
"I remember." He was enthralled; for the first time in many months he had
forgotten his brother; she held out hopes to him as the sirens in the wall
paintings held out branches of rosy coral to the plumed heroes; he, as they,
paused to take the gift.
"A woman looked down on thee as thou went by in the blue afternoon, the
sea was turning gold as she came down the stairs with a little Indian
groom—'Stay, cavalier, stay!'—but thou would'st not pause."
"Ah, I never knew!"
"So I followed thee. I am rich, free, a princess. I do what I
please—of all my suitors I chose thee. But thou! Where is thy nobility?
In thy eyes I was a thief—"
He implored her pardon, all his grandeur forgotten...yet knew that he
could never hope for forgiveness; he was worse than a fool, he accused
himself bitterly of every stupidity, of every meanness; all the painted
sirens looking at him seemed to smile in unison at his surrender.
She assured him, with gentle sighs, that this was too late—"One
misses by a hair what a world of regrets will never regain."
This was the one moment of the young man's life beside which all the
others seemed a crowded nothingness; the lady leant towards him and kissed
him; the fireflies and the stars seemed to dance into the lonely chamber and
the sirens on the walls to catch them on their branches of coral...
She broke his enchantment with laughter.
"Wilt thou have thy starry canopy withdrawn?"
She drew away from him; still laughing she emptied her pockets on the
harpsichord...his jewels, his brother's watch, the case of medals..."Was it
ever so easy to fool a man!" She had stolen the last under his very
eyes..."Though I do not work for these four ugly ruffians, you were correct
as to my profession."
The candles burnt clear on a cold world; the night air was bitter; the
impossible pleasure, the incredible happiness had, in vanishing, left an
acrid perfume behind, the ashes of illusion reeked in the nostrils of De
Moncada; but his breeding enabled him to preserve his composure even in face
of her mockery.
"One is fortunate if one can even kiss one's chimera—why did you
tell me? You might have escaped with your plunder."
She answered with what he knew was not the truth.
"I could not resist showing you how clever I was," and she turned,
empty-handed, to the door, knowing the kiss had secured her from
Doña Leonilda opened the folding doors' that led to the bedchamber of the
"The Conde Flaminio is very ill—he is light-headed and asks
continuously for the lady."
"Doña Faustina, a noble orphan who travels in our charge as far as Rome,"
said De Moncada, with a grand gesture towards the lady at the door, "she
will, out of her great compassion and gentleness attend you to my
The duenna, wiping a tear, hurried back to her patient; the lady
hesitated, her mockery vanished in distress...she had never met such a
foolish man nor one who had made her behave so foolishly...sharp regrets
stung till she sighed in pain.
"Signora, my brother is waiting."
Without giving him a glance she passed between the folding doors the
duenna had left open; De Moncada heard the joyful cry with which his brother
greeted her; he carefully put away the riflings she had returned: "The dreams
of an Emperor, the pleasures of a Tiberius lie now in a little yellow
coin—the arena of Verona bereft of the silken veil that gave illusion
to thousands is grown with weeds and used by mountebanks—I believed I
had clasped a divinity and found I embraced a pickpocket who wanted my
watch...without such changes and deception love would be very dull."
The grandee listened to a pleasant voice singing very low to the sick man;
it seemed that the painted sirens hid their faces, that the heroes sailed
away and that the false flames of the fireflies withered in the beams of the
moon which began to blaze over Verona.
"Surely her behaviour means that she loves me—she has all the arts
that create illusion—what more could I demand of Venus? Surely she will
help me to draw the rosy veil over the dying eyes of my brother—what
more could I ask of the Holy Virgin?"
The moon rising above the towers of Verona sent a pure radiance that
shamed the wax lights in the pleasant chamber; the sirens faded into a mere
design of rose and gold while the Spanish grandee added to himself:
"I am indeed fortunate."
Told to the Cardinal Archbishop, Prince Louis de Rohan,
at Strasbourg, of the Maréchal le Duc de Pillars and the Revolt of the
Camisards. [CEVENNES, FRANCE, 18th Century.]
Monseigneur the Maréchal de Villars rode into the town of Lodéve, after
riding through devastated Languedoc, in a contemplative mood. Although this
was his own country it was as strange to him as if it had been the centre of
the newly-discovered Indies; he had been sent to quell the revolt of the
Camisards, those French Protestants who, for six years, had defied the
authority of His Most Christian Majesty. It was, of course, a very
extraordinary thing that it was necessary for a Maréchal de France, one who
had contended on equal terms with the greatest generals of the age, who had
served with glory for ten years in Flanders and was one of the most
consummate politicians and courtiers at the Court of Versailles, to be sent
to quell the rebellion of a handful of heretics and peasants. There were
those who were surprised that Louis Hector, Duc de Villars, had accepted such
a task—even to please the aged and querulous King, who regarded him
with close affection, even in the face of the rewards and flatteries that
same affection promised in the case of success; but M. de Villars was one of
the most amiable, as well as one of the most able of men, and, remarking
"Another ribbon with a jewel at the end will incommode nobody," he had taken
his three thousand dragoons and, after tedious and slow marching, established
his headquarters at Lodéve, in the midst of that gloomy range of desolate
mountains, The Cevennes, where the desperate and frantic Protestants made
that last stand which disturbed with a civil war a kingdom that had too many
other wars to confront.
M. de Villars (his fine countenance thoughtful) had ridden through these,
to him, unknown regions, so wild, sombre and remote from what he called
civilization; he had passed burnt villages, ruined churches, razed granges,
and smouldering farms, and turning in his saddle, had made this ironic
comment "that but for the hills it might have been Flanders so complete was
the devastation." His predecessors in authority had not been
merciful—torturing and burning, the rack, the wheel, and the gibbet had
been for six years tried as a means to bring the Camisards to reason; most of
the inhabitants of Languedoc were in the galleys, in prisons, in exile, but
there still was the obstinate remnant, led by a certain Captain Cavalier, who
had shown himself a bold and resolute leader with the power of inspiring
confidence in his men. Perhaps not more than six thousand of these fanatics,
ensconced in the woods and caves of the gloomy mountains where the Rhone
divides le Bas Languedoc from the Province of Dauphiné; mystical, desperate
heretics who had witnessed and survived the atrocities committed by Du
Chaila, Archpriest of The Cevennes, ferocious, exalted avengers of innocent
blood who had helped to drag Du Chaila out of his house and murder him one
howling winter night, obstinate rebels who were resolved at no cost to submit
to Roman Catholic government; a Maréchal de France was to subdue this handful
of untrained heretics, of rude peasants.
"Who is this Cavalier?" asked M. de Villars indifferently.
No one knew; some said he was a baker's boy, some a farmer's lout; in that
devastated and desolate country there was no one to give him exact news of
Captain Cavalier...the few wretched people left on the ruined land fled at
the approach of the spreading armies.
De Villars' instructions at Versailles had been precise enough: "Get
Cavalier, and the revolt is quelled." And the Maréchal had wagered a thousand
louis d'or that he would get Cavalier and quell the revolt and be back
at Versailles in three months...and that, mon Dieu! was too long an
Established at Lodéve he disclosed his plans to no one, but he stopped the
persecutions instantly; there were no more arrests, the hangman rested,
gibbet and wheel waited in vain for fresh prey; after a we k or so of this
indulgence, the tormented people who survived began slowly to creep again
about the ruins of their devastated homes. M. de Villars, amiable and
composed in Lodéve, waited and watched, accepting boredom with good breeding,
and took the opportunity of adding a few chapters to his "Mémoires" on the
arts of war. It was a hot August day of sultry, brazen heat when a man
requested permission to see the Maréchal de Villars; this stranger was at
once admitted to the soldier's presence; this stranger, who had said he was a
native of The Cevennes (his accent proved this at least to be true) and that
he was a Roman Catholic gentleman, bearing the name of La Fleurette.
The Maréchal de Villars received him in the sombre, ill-lit parlour with a
serene courtesy that should have put him at his ease, but he appeared rather
overwhelmed by the presence of the Maréchal, who was one of the handsomest,
most extravagant and charming of men at the Court of Versailles, then in the
prime of his years and the height of his glory, and adorned in all the
bravery of the most sumptuous Court in Europe, laced uniform, orders,
tassels—as carefully arrayed as if he was in Flanders, in the company
of ruling Princes.
La Fleurette, on the contrary, wore a coffee-coloured suit of a provincial
cut, a plain neck-cloth, carelessly dressed hair, and a hat without buckles
or plumes; his lean face was dark and earnest, and he had powerful, nervous
"Monseigneur," he began defiantly, overriding his own embarrassment, "I am
a Roman Catholic—I have suffered at the hands of these Camisards, these
rebels, for every one severity which has been visited on them by the
Government they have retorted with two, or even three atrocities, they are
robbers, murderers, ravishers, and they are kept together by this man who
calls himself Captain Cavalier."
"So much I knew," agreed the Maréchal pleasantly.
"It's extraordinary," exclaimed La Fleurette, walking up and down
uneasily, "that a Maréchal and peer of France should be sent against such a
horde of ruffians, and "—he paused, significantly, and added with a
certain ferocity—"do you believe, Monseigneur le Maréchal, that you
will succeed in capturing this Captain Cavalier, or in coming to terms with
"Monsieur," replied M. de Villars, "both my training and experience have
taught me to believe nothing. Do you know anything of this Captain Cavalier?"
he added indifferently.
"I know a great deal. I have wormed myself into his confidence. He
believes me one of his supporters now, and I have come here to betray him
into your hands."
"For what reason and for what reward?" asked M. de Villars, who had heard
this manner of offer a great many times in the course of his numerous
"The man is ruining the country. But for him the others would submit; the
terms he asks are impossible, His Majesty would never grant them. Why, the
bold ruffian dares to demand the release of all the Protestants from the
prisons and galleys, and the guarantee of liberty of religion in The
Cevennes!" La Fleurette laughed fervently and harshly, his quick eyes
To this outburst M. de Villars replied, with a pleasant smile: "Is this
Cavalier a gentleman?"
La Fleurette appeared startled, he was taken aback, and hesitated, and
then said: "No, he is a peasant."
"But, I think, a noble and generous one?" added the Maréchal indulgently.
"Tell me how you propose to deliver him into my hands."
"A woman baits the trap," answered La Fleurette sombrely. "He will come
to-morrow night to the Château of Castelnau, which is outside the
town—you may have seen it, Monseigneur. The lady is a Roman Catholic
and a Loyalist; but she has, at length, by agreement with me, consented to
receive this rebel-lover of hers who has so long solicited her in vain.
Captain Cavalier will be alone with the lady and her servants, all Loyalists,
in the château to-morrow night. If you come with a few of your guards, you
can surprise him."
M. de Villars smiled, he flicked a speck of dust from his brocaded cuff
and remarked, quietly, "I shall be there."
"I should advise you to come yourself," added La Fleurette, "and not to
bring too many soldiers, for that will attract suspicion; nor is there any
need for a considerable force, Cavalier will be undefended."
"I shall come myself," replied the Maréchal, who seemed amused at the
other's rustic simplicity.
"Certainly," added La Fleurette, and this time, violently: "If you do not,
I and some others who are in this will think that you are afraid...Cavalier
is a man...he is never afraid...we should like to know that you are his
"I will certainly come myself," replied M. de Villars, and, after a
moment's pause and reflection, M. La Fleurette was ushered out with a certain
The Maréchal had the curiosity to go to the tall, narrow window and watch
his strange visitor cross the courtyards, pass the sentries and the groups of
lounging soldiers, mount a shaggy-looking horse and ride through the quiet,
hot streets of Lodéve. M. de Villars reflected: "I have three thousand
dragoons quartered here, and he knew it—brave, no doubt, as he said
It was a night of suffocating heat and purple thunder clouds riding
against the moon, which hung above the gloomy mountains of The Cevennes as M.
de Villars rode up to the Château of Castelnau; he halted awhile outside the
gates of the garden; all was quiet, all looked, even by the moonlight, as
every residence in The Cevennes looked, ruined and deserted; beyond the
gardens were dense woods.
M. de Villars was admitted instantly, at his first light knock on the
door, and one ragged, abased creature led his horse away, while another
conducted the soldier to a decayed and dismal room with tarnished furniture,
lit only by the coarse rays from a broken lamp; La Fleurette was seated at
the rough table with a pile of papers under his hand.
"Good evening, Monseigneur," he said, 'rising; his weather-beaten face was
pallid, his lips strained and his eyes bloodshot. "How many soldiers have you
"None," replied the Maréchal serenely, seating himself immediately by
right of his rank.
"None? But have you not come here to capture Captain Cavalier?"
"I believe," replied the Maréchal, "that Captain Cavalier and I can come
to terms without the aid of a troop of horse."
La Fleurette stared at him with savage incredulity. He snatched up the
lamp and held it closer, while he scanned the calm and handsome features of
M. le Maréchal de Villars, who endured this scrutiny with the most amiable of
glances and smiling serenity.
"You have come here alone!" gasped La Fleurette, "two miles outside the
town, in this lonely part, without even a couple of guards?"
"You may see for yourself," answered de Villars negligently; "you are, I
perceive, of the type that only personal evidence will satisfy."
La Fleurette set down the lamp. "I could scarcely credit," he muttered,
"that any man, even a fine gentleman, could be such a fool. If I told you
that five hundred of the most resolved Camisards were in the woods round this
house, and in an inner chamber were their most trusted leaders—Captain
Cavalier's officers, Ravenal, Conderc, Rustalet—that you have walked
straightly, deliberately, into a trap—a simple, banal sort of a
trap...By heaven!" he added, in an access of excitement, "I had not believed
in a deed so easy!"
M. de Villars did not reply; baffled by his look of amusement La Fleurette
hastily left the room, locking the door behind him.
A quick scrutiny, a swift enquiry, showed him that the Maréchal had spoken
the truth—he had brought no soldiers, not even a valet with him. La
Fleurette therefore returned eagerly to his sumptuous prisoner, who had
neither changed his attitude nor his expression, but sat pensive, as if
slightly bored, at the mean table which held the lantern and the papers.
"Are you satisfied, M. la Fleurette, that I am alone?"
"I am satisfied," replied La Fleurette roughly. "Sign, in the name of the
King of France, these Camisard terms, for which they have been fighting for
six years!" He struck his hand violently on the pile of papers, "Here they
are, carefully drafted—our demands—"
The Maréchal, whose splendour was strangely out of place in the sordid
room, and whose serenity contrasted strangely with the violence of the other,
"My dear Captain Cavalier, I shall obviously sign nothing."
"You know me, then?" cried he who had called himself "La Fleurette."
"I know you, Captain Cavalier."
"Well, then, since you know me," said the Camisard leader sternly, "I may
tell you, M. de Villars, who are so great a soldier, so brilliant a
politician, that you have walked into a very simple trap—there is no
lady in this Château, it is the meeting place of the leaders of what you term
'the rebellion'. We planned this desperate scheme to get hold of you; we
thought we could dispose of your troop of horse and hold you prisoner until
you signed our terms, but I never hoped it would be as easy as this..."
"It is not so easy," replied M. de Villars, "though not, I hope, too
difficult. Of course, I shall not sign."
"You are in my power," replied Captain Cavalier harshly.
"Precisely for that reason I shall not sign. And you, my dear Cavalier,
will not endeavour to force me. On the contrary, you will permit me to ride
back to Lodéve, exactly as "—he rose as he spoke—"I
permitted you to ride out of Lodéve yesterday."
"But you did not know who I was," protested Captain Cavalier.
M. de Villars turned away his face with a look of amusement.
"I brought your description with me to Languedoc, my dear Captain
Cavalier; your movements, too, have been watched; the Government has its
spies. I knew you yesterday, and I guessed your trap...not so difficult; I am
now in your power, precisely as you were in mine yesterday; then, by simply
lifting my finger, I could have sent you to the rack or the wheel; now, by
lifting a finger you can send me to something equally unpleasant. But, of
course," added the Maréchal carelessly, "it would be impossible for you to do
"Why?" demanded Captain Cavalier roughly and fiercely, "I am not a fine
courtier, I am not a peer of France, I am not even a gentleman."
"But I," M. de Villars gently reminded him, "treated you as one, Captain
They looked steadily at each other in the uncertain light, and the glance
of M. de Villars bore down that of Captain Cavalier.
"It's I who have been the fool," muttered the rebel sullenly and
"Not at all," said the Maréchal amiably, "merely a little impetuous."
"Why did you come here?" questioned Captain Cavalier, baffled and
humiliated, "why put yourself in my power?"
"That we might come to a direct and personal understanding. It is possible
in no other way," replied the Maréchal. "I have always liked to meet my
opponents face to face. It is my office to quell this rebellion, yours to
maintain it. I have never failed in any task yet that has been set me, and
this is by no means the most difficult of my tasks."
"A threat?" demanded Captain Cavalier, "and from a man in my power?"
The Maréchal smiled: "From the man who had you in his power
Frowning, uneasy, troubled, Cavalier pointed with a gaunt finger to the
papers he had prepared. "Sign those," he said, "and the war is over. I meant
that you should sign them, with one pistol at your head and another at your
"But, by now, you will have perceived, my dear Captain Cavalier," replied
the Maréchal with his gracious smile, "that that was rather a crude error of
judgment—slightly...provincial! You will perceive also that it would
have been perfectly useless. No force or menace would induce me to sign what
I did not wish to sign."
"What is to prevent me," muttered Captain Cavalier, "from giving the
signal to have you delivered to those who would have no scruples or nice
feelings in dealing with you—those who would tear you limb from limb,
as the representative of the King and the Pope?"
"There is nothing to prevent you," declared the Maréchal delicately, "but
it would be without precedent for one General so to treat another."
"I am no General," replied Cavalier sullenly and uneasily, "I am a mere
peasant of Languedoc, and proud to take command of her inhabitants..."
"You are a soldier," returned M. de Villars, "and, I believe, a noble and
generous one. I have heard it said in Versailles that Cavalier has behaved
like a gentleman, though a heretic—"
"You heard that at Versailles?" asked the rebel, looking up across the
thick, hot shadows of the narrow room.
"I have heard at Versailles, and elsewhere nothing but honour of you,
Cavalier; I should like to see you on my staff, when next year I open the
campaign in Flanders."
"Why did you come here?" muttered the rebel, baffled and overwhelmed
before the serene glance, the pleasant voice, the commanding presence.
"To make your better acquaintance, my dear Cavalier," replied the Maréchal
suavely, "that object being achieved, it is useless to prolong the interview
to the point of tedium."
With no more than this, M. de Villars rose and left the room with as much
ease and leisure as if he had been sauntering from one gallery of Versailles
to another, drawing on his gloves and adjusting his fringed sash after his
Captain Cavalier did not attempt to impede his enemy's departure; he fell
back naturally before him and followed him down the dusty, dark stairs out
into the hot moonlit courtyard, where he whistled, and sullenly ordered the
ragged groom to bring the Maréchal's horse, which came pacing delicately
through the desolation.
The Camisard leaders within the house and the Camisard soldiers hidden
without the house waited tensely for their chief's signal; it was not
When the Maréchal found the long white road to Lodéve clear before him,
and Cavalier who had escorted him a short distance on foot, was sullenly
leaving him, he turned in his saddle:
"Captain Cavalier, here is the counterpart of those papers you wished me
to sign—the terms, I believe, are the same." He took from his breast a
sealed packet and held it out.
"Signed?" cried Captain Cavalier, halting, "already signed?"
"Signed before I left Versailles," replied M. de Villars, "my instructions
were to grant you the terms if I found you worthy of them—if I could
trust you to keep them."
The rebel leader grasped the package stupidly: "Signed before you left
Versailles? And you never told me yesterday, or now when I might have had you
killed for refusing to sign—I don't understand...why you played this
"Endeavour to do so," smiled the Maréchal, "it is well worth while. Good
night, Captain Cavalier!"
When the rebellion was over and peace was restored to the devastated
province of Languedoc, when the Maréchal de Villars had returned to
Versailles and had collected his thousand louis d'or, when Captain
Cavalier had a pair of colours in His Majesty's Musketeers, someone had the
curiosity to ask M. de Villars how he had contrived, after so many had
failed, to subdue the obstinate and ferocious peasant and turn him into a
loyal soldier of His Majesty?
"By treating him as a gentleman," said the Maréchal de Villars