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The Lady of the Terrace by Warwick Deeping

 

The lane had promised well from the moment that it had lured Quentin North through that ruinous archway near the church of Santa Maria. It was a tortuous and elusive alley, refusing to surrender itself to one bold glance, but playing its part behind the star-bright veil of the Roman night. High walls shut it in, walls that were covered with ivy and flowers, but here and there it, rewarded a romantic soul with the glimpse of a garden or a vineyard, a grove of cypresses or the bell-tower of a church. It went gently up-hill with persuasive persistence, like a woman beckoning a man on.

"I wonder if you are fooling me."

He paused, glanced at the stars, and then strolled on again.

"I'll put up with your tricks till I have seen round the next corner."

The lane might have laughed softly to itself. It had played upon his patience, but at the next corner it was ready to justify itself, to uncover something with a dramatic gesture.

"Hallo!"

North stopped dead. A great black cloud seemed to glide across the stars, a cloud built of ilexes, cypresses and stone-pines towering above the white retaining wall of a terrace. The wall was a smother of creepers that hung like shadows, and the lane looked like a narrow gorge running at the foot of a cliff. The black trees, the white stonework and the silver gleam of the stars made North draw a deep and half exultant breath.

"And I thought I knew all Rome!"

Quentin North strolled on till he was under the wall, and then stood looking up at the trees above. He had a great love for trees, and these Roman cypresses and pines made noble outlines against the stars. They offered him mystery and stateliness, a something he loved more dearly than the subtle, man-made beauty of any church.

Stone vases were ranged along the coping of the wall, with clipped box trees growing in them, and these vases played a trick on Quentin North. He noticed their existence, and yet failed to observe that their regular spacing was broken in one place, for just above him there appeared to be one vase too many. Had he been less absorbed in studying the trees he might have discovered that the whitish thing just above him was not a vase at all.

It was a woman wearing a white cloak and leaning her arms on the coping of the wall. She remained there, quite motionless, looking out over Rome.

But she was fully alive to the presence of the man below her. In fact, he had taken such a stand that he was not to be overlooked. In staring at the trees, Quentin North was staring right over the woman's head with a persistency that might have been either insolent or amusing.

Possibly she chose to see in it an element of humour. Perhaps she herself was not innocent of an impulse towards devilry. At all events, she gathered a handful of moss and earth from the wall and flung it down on the man below.

The stuff landed on the brim of North's slouch hat. It came like a bolt from the blue, compelling him to leave his star-gazing and to take note of something more vital. And then it was that he discovered the white shape above him to be out of rhythm with the stone vases spaced along the parapet.

"Thank you. I am very much obliged."

He spoke ironically in Italian, and proceeded to dust his hat. The woman was smiling with an air of casual, girlish wickedness, but she caught the foreign flavour of his Italian and drew her own conclusions. The man spoke Italian like an Englishman, and his slouch hat, coat and belt marked him out as one of Garibaldi's legionaries.

"Did you speak, signore?"

Her voice was the voice of an actress, a voice of infinite flexibility.

"I beg your pardon—I did. After all, you were quite right in throwing that stuff at me. I must have seemed a rude beast."

She laughed softly.

"Oh, no; just a mad Englishman."

He stood back against the opposite wall.

"How do you know that I'm English?"

"Because your Italian is so perfect."

"Oh, come now, that's rather brutal. I admit that I must have seemed a rude beast, staring up like that; but the truth is, I did not see you."

"No?"

Her voice was mockingly incredulous.

"The fact is, I thought you were one of those vases—I mean—I suppose I must have thought so—subconsciously."

"Thank you," she said; "I know the English have a way of turning people into stone!"

Her voice provoked him, for it was a very beautiful voice, not only in the subtlety of its tones, but in its hinting at the fineness of the instrument that produced it.

"I am afraid I put that very clumsily. I was enthralled by those trees of yours."

He had come by a sudden desire to make her talk to him, to discover who she was, but she remained silent; and her silence made him feel like a fool of a bear begging for cakes at the bottom of a pit. He put on his hat, moved a few steps, still looking up at her.

"I hope you have forgiven me, signorina? Good night."

She answered him with an air of careless abstraction.

"Oh—of course. Good night."


The year was 1849, and Rome had once more become a city of romance. The Byronic spirit was abroad in her. Garibaldi and Mazzini were her men of the moment; the republic had been declared; the Pope had fled. There was stir and passion in Rome; men walked with their heads a little nearer to the stars, and their blood simmered with heroic audacity. Half Europe was sending her soldiers to smother this breath of liberty that had been born in the great city. The Austrians were moving in the north; the French had landed at Civita Vecchia; the Neapolitans and the Spaniards were on the march. A desperate enterprise this for reckless idealists and adventurous fanatics, and for men who had grown tired of a tame life.

Quentin North had run to help brandish the torch. He was young, an aristocrat, a poet, Byronic in his intensity, and yet nothing of a cynic. A kind of romantic restlessness had made him an adventurer.

"I wonder whom that villa belongs to? I wonder who she is?"

Such was the drift of his thoughts as he walked on down the lane. Her voice had provoked in him a rebellious curiosity. He was a mere boy in his knowledge of women; they were either angels or devils, for no woman had captured him as yet.

"Some mad Englishman!"

She smiled over the incident, this lady of the terrace, resting her chin on her hands and gazing out over Rome. The fingers of her hands were long, slender and delicate. She carried her head proudly, even with a suggestion of arrogance, the arrogance of one who despised many of the things that simpler folk held sacred.

"Dear Saints! what a dust men raise over a few words or phrases! I am very tired of preachers and prophets."

She yawned, and then turned her head as though to listen. Someone was coming along the terrace under the shadows of the trees, someone whose shoes flip-flapped grotesquely on the stones. There was a sound of heavy, stertorous breathing, as of some ponderous animal making its way up-hill.

She turned from the balustrade.

"I am here, Father."

"So I see, my child; a white plume in the helmet of the night."

"You are late, Father."

"True, my child."

"And out of breath."

"Still more true, my child."

"Which comes of walking fast after supper."

"In order, my dear, to enjoy your wit!"

He was a very fat man was Father Giuseppe; the irreverent called him the "good Silenus." A great, rotund mass of good humour, with little eyes twinkling in a rosy face, he seemed the most benign and harmless of creatures. No one would have suspected such a fat man of possessing a fierce share of energy and ambition. He was a great laugher was Father Giuseppe, and when he laughed men forgot to wonder whether he was cunning.

"Rome is quiet to-night. Let us sit down, Father. I have remembered your cushion."

He was still blowing like a grampus, but he could behave gallantly even when out of breath.

"The Contessa is very kind to a fat old man. I kiss your hand."

She smiled cynically, and led the way to a marble bench under a stone-pine. La Contessa Venosta was a widow, and still young; but if she retained any of her illusions, she did not boast of them. It did not thrill her to know that she was called "La Belle Anna." Pride, and the dissolute escapades of the vain dandy, her husband, had made her look at life with ironical eyes.

"Well, what are the heroes doing?"

Father Giuseppe chuckled.

"They have been a little sobered by the news. They are not crowing so loudly, and their feathers look ruffled. And yet you are not tempted to fall in love with these noble fellows?"

"Since my husband's death I have ceased to believe in heroics."

"Come, come! I know the poor man was very foolish. Your pride has no pity."

"My pride is a statue, Father; it demands a cold repose. I have no patience with these fanatics, these ferocious egoists. They wish to change things to their own advantage, that is all. The old days were well enough. I prefer the aristocrat to the butcher."

Giuseppe rubbed his hands.

"Of course. It is ridiculous to believe in people who would make a flag out of the tail of a shirt. Mazzini is that sort of man. Well, the French are coming."

"And you are in touch with the French?"

"Possibly, possibly," he chuckled. "I think we shall manage the business for them. Besides, I know the Italians; they are my people. They will clank their swords and talk a great deal, but they will not fight."

"None of them?"

"Then you believe that some are brave men?"

"Oh, I believe in nothing," she said coldly.

Father Giuseppe wagged a fat forefinger at her, and read her a little lecture upon the perils of too casual a philosophy. He enjoyed being sententious, especially when he could end his discourse with a wink of the eyelid.

"It is necessary to be in earnest about something, Contessa."

"Supper is a necessity, Father; you cannot contradict me there."


The terrace of the Villa Venosta was a noble platform from which one could view the sunset and watch the dome of St. Peter's floating like a great black bubble upon a sea of gold. Monte Mario and the Janiculum were outlined against the glow. Rome herself lay deep in a kind of purple haze.

A spruce little officer in the uniform of the carabinieri straddled a chair on the terrace, as though he were riding a horse, and talked gallant nonsense to the Contessa Anna. This Captain Costello had a plump, wax-coloured face, a neat black moustache, sleepy eyes, and an air of cynical self-confidence. He was giving a humorous description of the Republican troops in Rome.

"Yes, we are very gay birds, I assure you. We have plenty of feathers and gold lace; we crow like game-cocks. The French will fire a few cannon-balls; the cocks will turn into a cackling crowd of hens; we shall surrender; everybody will laugh; a few fools will be shot."

"And you?"

He laughed.

"Oh, I am not nervous; I am quite impartial; I can cheer for both parties. Besides, I am such a good fellow, and my uncle is a cardinal. It is an amusing farce."

Captain Costello continued to entertain her with descriptions of heroes whose hair hung down to their waists and who made a boast of never washing, but Anna had the air of a woman whose interest was wholly artificial. She was listening to a sound that emerged from behind Captain Costello's chatter. Someone was walking up and down the lane at the bottom of the wall with the regularity and the persistence of a sentinel.

"It is a woman's right to be inquisitive."

She rose from the seat, leaving Costello poised open-mouthed in the middle of a droll word-picture of Mazzini, and crossing the terrace, looked down into the lane. The coincidence proved dramatic. That absurd Englishman was standing there, staring up at her with innocent intentness.

"Good evening, signorina."

He saluted her with just a trace of embarrassment. His lean, brown face looked boyish under the brim of his plumed hat. By his long blue coat and black belt she knew him to be one of Garibaldi's men.

"It seems that my trees still interest you, sir."

He answered quite gravely.

"I desired to see them by daylight." And then, as though to smother any possible repulse: "That glimpse of Rome down yonder is particularly fine. I thought I knew Rome, but this is a discovery."

She smiled enigmatically.

"Your military duties cannot be very exacting. Does the general never drill you?"

"Garibaldi is not a pedagogue."

"I see. He believes in liberty, of course—liberty in the ranks."

Costello had twisted his chair round and was listening with both his ears. Then curiosity overcame his discretion. He got up, crossed the terrace, and poked his head over the wall.

"The devil! It's North—Garibaldi's 'Englishman.' Greetings, my dear sir."

The Contessa threw a quick and angry side-glance at Costello. He should have effaced himself, waited her pleasure before thrusting himself into evidence.

North's eyes seemed to darken slightly.

"It's you, Costello!"

"Most certainly."

And then, glancing from North to the Contessa Venosta's cold face, he chattered on.

"Am I to be called officious? But it seems that I can play the part of cicerone. Quentin North, Esq., private in the Legion, be honoured by being presented to La Contessa Anna Venosta. Now we all know each other, and the world is at ease."

North saluted. The Contessa bent her head with sudden mock graciousness.

"If Signor North is a friend of yours, Captain Costello, no doubt it would please you to show him the view from the terrace. The little gate and the steps—you know them."

Costello gave her a wondering look and bowed.

"An excellent notion, Contessa." And in an undertone: "Really, the man will amuse you; he is so grim, so drunk with star-wine. I will fetch him up."

Yet Captain Costello was disappointed in his idea of making the Englishman play the heroic fool. The sunset was splendid, a pageant of scarlet and gold, but Quentin North remained as stiff and grey as an English landscape in winter.

They walked the terrace, the three of them, and it was Costello who did the talking. Anna Venosta seemed absorbed in her own thoughts. Every now and again North stole a look at her, while he pretended to listen to Costello's vapourings.

The sun had sunk below the hills. The evening grew chilly, and the Contessa's manner suggested frost.

The carabineer flattered himself on being a man of subtle sensibilities.

"Phoebus Apollo has thrown us a hint. And I have to inspect the guard. We will drag ourselves away, Contessa."

He made his bow with a flourish, and glanced meaningly at Quentin North; but the Englishman might have been blind by the calm way he took Costello's departure for granted.

"Good night, captain."

"Then you do not go my way, North?"

"I think not."

Costello left them with a blank face and the air of a man who could not quite decide whether he ought to feel insulted. He loitered for a few moments outside the gate that opened into the lane, as though he expected to be joined by a very much chastened and routed Englishman. But no Quentin North appeared. Costello shrugged his shoulders and walked on.

Anna Venosta and Quentin North were talking to each other with strange frankness.

"You have seen the view from my terrace, Mr. North. If you are quick you will be able to overtake Captain Costello."

"I am very grateful to you, but I have no wish to overtake the captain."

"And you are very slow to take a hint!"

He looked at her with those keen, unflinching eyes of his.

"Contessa, if I am in the way—if I am offensive to you—send me off. But I have never liked being the slave of whims and little conventions. I want to talk to you; I have been waiting for that chatterer to go."

His calm directness challenged her, though she could detect no shade of insolence in this attitude of his. It appeared to her that he was unlike any other man that she had ever met, a kind of new creature whose behaviour piqued her curiosity.

"Are we such old friends?"

Her eyes studied him.

"Perhaps Captain Costello is an old friend?"

"Mr. North! And yet I do not think you wish to be rude to me!"

"What is rudeness? To insinuate mean things? Let's ignore such an idea——"

"Well?"

"If a man like Costello can be suffered to talk to you—then—I—ask at least an equal right."

She began to smile a little. The man was an original; his sword-play was strangely virile and aggressive.

"But all this is beyond me——"

"Beyond you?"

"You arrive here—by chance; you are absolutely unknown to me; you claim a kind of intimacy that in Italy——"

They turned by some mutual impulse and stood facing each other, with the sunset dying in the west and night falling like a curtain from the branches of the trees. A sudden subtle curiosity possessed them. They looked at each other with questioning intentness, and with something of the naïve hostility of children who meet for the first time.

"Contessa, life is very simple for all of us—here in Rome."

"I see nothing but complexity."

"Impossible."

"Be arrogant—like most Englishmen."

"Arrogance! I don't think I am guilty of that. Let me explain. You are La Contessa Venosta, a Roman woman; I am a man who chooses to see in this blaze of liberty one of the finest things on God's earth. The facts are very simple—I want to talk to you, a Roman woman, about Rome, Italy, Garibaldi."

A flash of wickedness escaped her.

"But why to me?"

His eyes held hers.

"That puzzles me. Why does one desire any particular thing in this world? Why does one walk a mile to look at some particular view?"

She laughed softly to defend herself. His frankness and the strange sincerity of those eyes of his troubled her.

"You spoke of facts. Has it not occurred to you that I am an aristocrat?"

"Of course."

"And a devout Catholic?"

"Certainly."

"And that therefore I may have no love for these excitable and loquacious—ragamuffins?"

She had scored a hit. He looked at her almost blandly.

"No; I refuse to believe that."

"And why, indeed?"

"Because anyone with a living soul——"

The steel of his intensity began to glitter, and something within her hardened and clashed with it.

"Thank you. Please do not create a heroic atmosphere for me. Let us be frank. I have no faith in Italy."

"No faith in your own country?"

"No."

Their spirits were in combat—instantly. It was as though his intense idealism exasperated and touched her pride. She counted herself a worldling and a cynic, and this man seemed ready to hold up a light to her soul and boldly catechise her upon her most intimate prejudices.

"And you tell me that this great adventure does not move you?"

She answered him with hot perversity.

"Not in the least. It strikes me as pathetic and ridiculous—even a little contemptible."

"My dear lady!"

She flushed.

"You are one of those heroic people who rush about the world in search of adventures. Believe me, you will be disillusioned here in Rome."

"I refuse to believe it—I refuse even to believe that you believe it."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"I find your obstinacy rather tiresome. I am afraid the French will soon drive your heroes into the cellars."

"On the contrary, I can swear that we shall give the gallant French a very gallant repulse."

"Oh, as you will. A few days will settle the question——"

"Shall we make a wager of it? I will lay you a challenge. If we do not win our first battle—then I will forget that there is such a place as the Villa Venosta."

"Then, my dear Mr. North, I think I shall be certain to be rid of you. Good night. I am sorry that our acquaintanceship has been so brief."

She gave him an ironical and tantalising glance, and swept away down the terrace towards the flight of steps that led up through the ilexes to her villa. Quentin North had to find his own way back into the lane. His eyes had a set and almost fierce look, for he chose to feel very much in earnest about that rather extraordinary wager.


It was close upon noon on that cloudless April day when the Roman cannon near the Porta Pertusa fired their first shots at the attacking French.

Anna had been reading in her boudoir, but the sound of the guns brought her out upon the terrace. She had tried to treat the whole affair with dispassionate and casual curiosity, but the thunder of the guns sent a sudden thrill through her. It is not easy to remain impersonal when life and death meet in the smoke of war.

She chose a place where a stone-pine threw its shade, and leaning her arms on the wall, looked westwards over Rome. She could see the Janiculum, St. Peter's, and the mass of the Vatican, and here and there the flash of the cannon on the walls. The rattle of musketry swelled the increasing thunder of the guns. A haze of smoke began to rise, and hung like a thin cloud of diaphanous silver. Overhead the sky was as blue as a sapphire, and birds twittered in the branches of the stone-pine, whose flat top shaded the terrace.

The sound of musketry over yonder came in gusts and then died away to nothingness. She was conscious of an effort to retain her poise and to smother an incipient and passionate curiosity. She did not feel any fear, but a kind of wonder stole upon her. Men were killing each other, letting blood flow for the sake of an idea.

And somewhere that irresponsible Englishman was taking his share in it. She could almost see that brown, intense face of his, rather grim and a little exultant. Had he forgotten that wager of his? Of course, there could be but one end to the business, for raw volunteers and Italians could not be expected to stand against troops like the French.

Yet she stayed there on the terrace the whole of that afternoon, lunching on some cold chicken, bread and red wine that a servant brought her from the villa. The battle enthralled her. It had spread like a storm along the western walls of Rome, and had enveloped the Janiculum and the villa gardens outside the walls. Now and again she could hear a faint cheer or a confused roar of voices drifting between the fiercer burst of musketry.

And Quentin North? He was standing at the upper window of a little stone house near the Villa Pamfili, firing steadily at the French. There had been a wild tussle in the gardens, an affair of bayonets and clubbed muskets, discipline and gallantry pitted against gallantry and ardour, and for the moment discipline had won the day. Garibaldi's legionaries were holding on in the grounds of the Villa Pamfili, little parties of desperate men, but elsewhere the Italians had been driven back under the walls of Rome.

A youngster, who had had his arm broken by a musket ball, sat on the floor and watched North loading and firing. There had been a bayonet attack on the house, and a bloody fight in the room below, but the defenders had driven the French out and piled furniture against the broken door. The French had taken cover behind shrubs and walls, and were firing at the windows.

The youngster with the broken arm seemed fascinated by North's steadiness. More than one bullet had entered the window and flattened itself against the wall.

"The devil! but you have a cool head, comrade."

North was ramming home a charge, with the pleasant smile of a man who had no trouble in the whole wide world.

"A charging elephant is worse than this."

The boys eyes grew rounder.

"So you have shot elephants?"

"Yes. But this is fairer sport. The other man always has an honest chance of potting you."

So the afternoon wore on, and North kept firing steadily. Great things were preparing—a gallant storming forth of men, with Garibaldi riding on his white horse, a figure of Liberty. But of all this North knew nothing. He and the men who held the house saw no more than the flash of the French muskets and an occasional blue-coated, red-legged figure moving in the background.

"Hallo! Listen!"

It was the boy who spoke, bending forward, eyes ablaze.

"'Garibaldi! Garibaldi!' Hear them shouting?"

Over the Corsini Hill and up into the Pamfili grounds came that great charge, cheering, storming, glittering towards victory. The red blouses of the men who led the Legion flamed like torches in the van. Young Italy followed with a shout of exultation.

North forgot all caution, He leant out of the window, waved his hat, and cheered. But the French sharpshooters had forgotten him. There was sterner trouble to hand.

"By God! they are rushing on like a forest fire!"

Men were shouting in the room below.

"Come on, comrades!"

"Charge!"

"Out of this rat-trap, Garibaldini!"

North fixed his bayonet and half tumbled down the stairs. And in ten seconds he was in the thick of a bayonet fight, lunging at blue-coated Frenchmen in a world of rose bushes and flowering shrubs.


Anna Venosta still kept her watch as the sun sank towards the west. The sound of musketry had died away, the cannon on the walls were silent, but she could hear people shouting in the streets. The battle was over. She imagined that the French had forced their way into Rome.

So the Englishman had lost his wager! She was conscious of a sudden spasm of regret, and was angry with herself for being guilty of such an emotion. The man had annoyed her; he was an arrogant, hot-headed fool.

Then she heard someone coming up the lane, and the slovenly, pattering footsteps were very familiar. Bending to look over the wall, she saw a fat man in a black soutane and big beaver hat perspiring up the slope. It was Father Giuseppe.

"You have brought news?"

He stared up at her, and his face was purple and furious. He had the air of a man who had been shocked and scandalised beyond belief; his eyes rounded off their astonishment.

"News! My dear lady, I have never walked so fast in my life!"

"To oblige me?"

He frothed at the mouth.

"The French have been beaten—beaten by that mob of tailors and schoolboys! You would hardly believe it—they are on the retreat to Civita Vecchia!"

She could not help smiling at his glowing disgust.

"What! Garibaldi—that man who never combs his beard—has won a victory?"

"The devil's in the fellow!"

"And you, Father, are you going to sup with me?"

He fidgeted from foot to foot.

"Well—no, Contessa—not to-night. Desolated, I assure you. But to be frank, Rome may be a rather unpleasant place for a day or so. I have a friend over yonder—a quiet, retiring fellow who has offered me a bed."

She waved him away.

"I understand you, Father—yet how could anyone have the heart to hurt you? Sleep well. Besides, these people should be in a good temper to-night. There will be illuminations and rejoicings."

Father Giuseppe went perspiring up the lane, a conspirator whose plans had gone very much astray.

An hour or two later, just as the sun was Bearing the horizon, Winged Victory followed in Father Giuseppe's steps—so far as the Villa Venosta, and no farther. It was Quentin North, a little drunk with exaltation, his lips black with biting off the ends of cartridges, a red bandage round his left arm. He stopped by the gate in the wall, pushed it open, and climbed the steps to the terrace.

The level rays of the sun shone on him as he emerged from the deep shade of a grove of ilexes and cypresses. Nor had the dramatic chance miscarried, though he had not calculated on such a chance. She stood there as though she had been awaiting him, her head held high, a glint of arrogance in her eyes.

"Yes, I have heard the news. It is amazing, but I suppose it is true."

His eyes laughed in his exultant face.

"True. And I have won my wager, madam. And Italy has proved herself against the most gallant troops in all the world."

She looked him over, her nostrils touched with a fastidious pride.

"Pah! and is this what a victorious soldier looks like? Thanks, Mr. North, for the favour of your presence."

He smiled a little grimly.

"The picture-books make us look too clean and pretty."

"But that dirty red rag!"

"A little fellow did it with a bayonet."

"And have you been dining on powder?"

"One has to bite the cartridges, you know."

"Yes; and it interests me in a way—this sordid reality."

"Sordid! Is blood spilt bravely sordid?"

"Are you aware that half your coat is hanging like a beggar's?"

He gave a whimsical tug to the offending fragment.

"Somebody did that in the scuffle—or I may have caught it on a spike when I jumped down into that sunken road."

His eyes flashed to hers.

"And you are a Roman woman. Do you think the Roman legionaries looked like show soldiers when they had broken a charge of the Gauls? And the Roman women would have kissed their bloody harness."

The hot colour rose to her face.

"Mr. North, this terrace of mine is not a stage for ranting. I choose to take my own view of life; I do not quarrel with yours."

"But I do most certainly quarrel with yours, madam."

"Your frankness is irrepressible."

"I ask you to believe in Italy—the new Italy, not the old Italy, ridden by Germans, priests, and petty pomposities——"

"Perhaps I insist on being part of the old Italy."

He looked at her steadily and with sudden strange gentleness.

"No, I refuse to believe it. Doesn't this struggle of a people to be free touch your heart? Doesn't the splendour of a Roman Empire stir you?"

"Not in the least."

"It must."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Mr. North, I do not know why fate should have thrust you upon me. You are a very extraordinary man, and I have suffered you with great patience. I think I am older than you are—if not in years, at least in knowledge of the world. You are the slave of dreams."

"Dreams! Why, to be sure, if one did not dream, where would the world be? And would you call yourself the slave of facts?"

"Yes."

"Well, I saw youngsters in anguish to-day who cheered and laughed in spite of their wounds. Those are plain facts. And do I look on you as no more than a thing of so much bone and flesh, a complicated bit of chemistry, a pretty machine? What does an artist put into his picture? The mysterious, dream-soul of life as he sees it. You might call that stone-pine there a chunk of wood, but it is more than that—the tree has outlines, character, beauty."

She turned away and leant her arms upon the wall, perhaps because she wished to avoid his eyes.

"Mr. North, I am an incurable cynic. Life has not taught me to believe in people."

"Then life might begin to-day."

She cried out at him as though she were in pain.

"Oh, you weary me! This is an infliction! Please go!"

He watched her for a moment with grave eyes.

"Contessa, I ask you to pardon me. Perhaps I have been preaching, playing the prig. I will wish you good night."

She did not answer him. He waited, and then went on.

"The fascination of life is in its contrasts, its enmities, its antagonisms. It seems that I exasperate you."

"Have you not wished me good night? And yet you are still talking!"

"True. That was a palpable hit. And now see in me your most obedient and devoted servant."

He drew himself up, saluted, and marched away, leaving her to watch Rome decking herself with the lights of a great rejoicing. The city was in a triumphant, carnival mood, ami a candle seemed to shine in every window. But Anna Venosta's heart was full of restlessness and vague rebellion.

It is possible for a soul to wither little by little, to grow cynical and apathetic, and remain contented with the small, luxurious happenings of a selfish life. Such a soul may resent any attempt to revitalise it, for the rebirth of emotion may mean the rebirth of pain.

Such, in measure, was Anna Venosta's fate. The passion had died out of her life. She had satisfied herself with a proud and ironical scepticism.

And suddenly a bold and impetuous force had thrust itself into her life. A voice cried to her almost brutally: "Dead woman, awake!"

It was as though someone had roughly roused her from sleep to bid her go out into the thick of a storm. Her pride and self-love turned angrily upon the intruder. She repulsed the idea of being dominated by any man's personality.

Yet Quentin North had roused her to a sense of spiritual pain. She, the woman, had most strangely inflamed the living man in him; she had seen that in his eyes. He was no ordinary man; he did not come mincingly to kiss her hands, but he came with passion and a scourge.

Each day, towards sunset, North walked up the lane to the villa, entered the gate, and made his way to the terrace. She was there, ready to give him battle—for a battle it had become. She could have had the gate locked against him; but Anna Venosta was no coward, and even discovered a bitter fascination in the conflict.

Such a woman was not to be won with sighs and little tendernesses. Only the shock of a defeat could break her cold and hostile self-confidence. Quentin North never realised that fact, but the blood of his ancestors was more potent than mere intuition. There was much of the Puritan in North, a glow of ethical passion that made him say and do things that would have seemed outrageous in a mere worldling.

"You are a woman in bondage," he told her, "in bondage to old, selfish prejudices. And I am going to break those chains."

She taunted him and accused him of arrogance.

"Are all Englishmen such egoists? You wish to dominate the world. And you talk to me as though I were a soul to be saved from purgatory."

"And so you are—you, a daughter of Dante, who should be in Paradise."

"My Savonarola!"

She would laugh at him, making a kind of cloud of her mockery in which she could hide herself from his too fierce sincerity. And often he laughed with her at himself, and then she was near loving him, despite her obstinate pride.

"Here am I holding forth like an old, ferocious Jewish prophet! Laugh away. But I am going to make you burn for Italy."

"You have climbed to the regions of perpetual snow."

"Nonsense. There is fire in the heart of it. Some day you will surprise yourself."

Her glance was ironical.

"Perhaps."

So the days passed; and then he came to say good-bye. He was in a crusading spirit, elated, happy, bright and clear of eye.

"We march to-night. We are going to discourage the Neapolitans. Pray for us."

She shook her head.

"No; I shall show you no mercy."

"Au revoir, then—till I come back."

His eyes looked at her with a sudden challenge.

"I believe you hate me."

"No, not quite; but I defy you. You have made me declare war to the death. I may be a woman, but I do not surrender."

Her bitterness puzzled him.

"There is something in you that I do not understand."

"I do not think you will ever understand. Be gentle with those poor Neapolitans. They are Italians, too."

His eyes still questioned her.

"Perhaps I am a bit of a fanatic."

"Perhaps."

She did not confess that he had humiliated her, and that her spirit was in revolt.


Garibaldi and his army launched themselves into the unknown, leaving Rome garrisoned against internal treachery, for the French were quiet at Civita Vecchia while the French Republic puzzled out the problem of what to do in a very awkward political situation. Captain Costello and his Carabinieri had been left behind in the city, with orders to patrol the Campagna and keep a watch upon the road to the sea.

Now, Captain Costello was one of those bland fellows who contrive to be popular with everybody. He served the new republic and plotted against it with the clericals; he pretended to admire Garibaldi, and in the course of his duties so arranged it that he became the familiar gossip of certain French cavalry officers who rode out from Civita Vecchia. Lastly, he chose to be in love with the Contessa Anna; her estate in the Romagna was worthy of any man's attention.

And Anna Venosta encouraged him during that month of May. He was a smooth cynic with an amusing tongue, and he helped her to resist the too dominating memory left by Quentin North. She was in rebellion against the man's masterfulness, and out of sheer perversity she coquetted with Costello.

Yet in her heart of hearts she scorned this sallow little dandy, with his perfect manners and his cynical chatter. She suffered him out of malice, and yet herself suffered for allowing her malice to express itself. Costello served as a contrast, and the more she saw of him the more vivid became her mind picture of Quentin North. The one man was all fire, intensity and brave fun; the other sniggered at life and took great care of his moustache and his hands.

Nor was the news that Costello brought her wholly comforting to her cynical pose.

"This Garibaldi is really an extraordinary fellow. The Neapolitans are on the run. One may have to revise one's opinions."

"Then there may be more in it than wild adventure?"

He held up one hand.

"Let us call the thumb the Roman Republic. Then we have, firstly, the French; secondly, the Austrians; thirdly, the Neapolitans; fourthly, the Spaniards. Finger number one has had a bad bruising; finger number three has doubled up. We have left the Austrians and the Spaniards. Now, supposing the French choose to recognise the Roman Republic, what then? Will the Austrians dare to march south out of Tuscany and risk trouble with the French? The whole problem will be solved by the good politicians in Paris, despite our dear Pope. Mazzini and the rest of them are not such fools as we imagined."

Her eyes gazed into the distance.

"Then a dream may come true."

"What dream, Contessa?"

"The dream of a united Italy."

He chuckled, and spread his hands.

"Oh, yes; they might leave us to quarrel among ourselves."

Sometimes Father Giuseppe joined them. He had quite recovered his good humour and his air of fat benignity, and although Costello served the Republic, they appeared to understand each other very well. Father Giuseppe had adopted a playful, paternal attitude.

"Young blood, young blood—that is what it is, my children. The boys must break out of school and do some mischief, and presently they will come back like lambs, and we shall forgive them."

He chuckled and rolled to and fro on his seat.

"We, too, have suffered from fanatics—God forgive them—but we grow more tolerant. Why, here am I sitting beside the brave Captain, who is anti-clerical."

The two men smiled at each other like sly dogs.

"But then, Father, you are such a good fellow."

"Ha! ha! I do not make trouble for poor sinners; I try to mend it—eh?"

He turned to Anna Venosta.

"Never be led away by fanatics, Contessa; they are vampires who thirst for the blood of other men's souls. The unselfish are, of all people, the most selfish—and the most cruel."


Strange rumours spread through Rome. It was said that the French had landed more troops at Civita Vecchia—that the French Government had decided to recognise the new Republic, and had sent a warning note to Austria. Other people were less sanguine. The new troops were to play the part of enemies, not friends. Rome doubted herself, was disturbed, began to cry out for Garibaldi. And Garibaldi himself had been warned of the sinister trend of events; he and his men were making a forced march for Rome, victorious troops who adored their General.

Thus it befell that two men met among the laurels and ilexes above the flight of steps leading from the lane to the terrace of the Villa Venosta.

Costello's teeth showed white in his sallow face. He was ready with his politeness, and far too clever to betray surprise.

"Congratulations, man of victory!"

He held out a hand. North took it, and found its fingers cold and flabby in his grasp.

"How are things in Rome?"

"Precarious, sir—very precarious. We may want twenty Garibaldis and twenty Legions."

"So the French are likely to give trouble? Well, one Garibaldi should be enough."

North had the look of a man who wanted to pass on. Costello smiled at him and stepped jauntily aside.

Anna Venosta was sitting in a gilded Renaissance chair under the shade of the trees. The chair suggested a throne, and her poise was the poise of a queen. She had heard North's voice in the shrubbery, and the blood had rushed to her face. For a moment she had struggled with a confused tangle of emotions—anger, fear, and a kind of unbidden exultation. But she was more than mistress of herself when Quentin North appeared.

Her eyes took in his tall figure and all the vivid details of his manhood. The sun had tanned him a rich bronze; he looked lean and strong; his eyes seemed bluer than ever, more confident and intense. The man was built for mastery. His dominating look made her perverse pride turn to steel.

"So the Neapolitans ran away from you?"

He saluted her.

"They had a bad cause to fight for. Besides, they are Italians; their hearts may have been with us."

"An Englishman explains Italy to an Italian!"

"Why not? You may see your true self in the eyes of a friend."

"But you always forget that we are enemies."

"Then let us be very frank with one another. You have been in my thoughts all through this month, Contessa, for somehow you seem to be Italy to me—proud, doubting Italy, not caring to be saved. And yet Italy may have to be saved against her will, lifted up by strong men and set by force upon her throne."

For the first time he hinted openly at his love for her; nor did his eyes trouble to conceal the light that burnt in them. Yet it was a strange love, making her think of a fanatic with a scourge. He did not bring her homage, but a passionate challenge, an ultimatum that bade her choose between two ideals.

She flushed haughtily, for she was an aristocrat, and this man a mere commoner.

"Well, let us be frank. Your arrogance is extraordinary. By what right do you come and preach to me——?"

"Because I cannot help myself."

"What a simple excuse! Am I so flagrantly decadent, so utterly depraved, fit to amuse myself only with men like that little captain of Carabinieri?"

His eyes held hers.

"Supposing you are what you say you are, shall I agree to it? I see in you another kind of woman."

"A thousand thanks. So you would save me from myself, lift me out of the dust of my beliefs! Mr. North, I am indeed grateful to you; you do me too great an honour in condescending to see possibilities in me."

She rose from her chair, very pale, and drawing her breath more rapidly.

"Have I no pride in myself? Am I to go on my knees before you and confess imaginary sins? Who are you to demand such a thing from me?"

She saw a spasm of emotion pass across his face.

"I assure you—you wrong me. We have crossed swords, you and I. Somehow I could not help attacking you."

"A woman! Oh, heroic man! And now you will find me stronger than you thought."

Her eyes looked past him, to discover Father Giuseppe padding ponderously along the terrace, coughing suggestively behind his hand. Her face cleared. A glitter of malicious amusement leapt into her eyes.

"Father Giuseppe, I have been expecting you all the morning."

Quentin North swung round with the look of a man attacked from behind.

"Mr. North, this is Father Giuseppe, a very old friend of my family. Mr. North, Father, is a merciless enemy of ours; he will have it that I ought to be wearing a red blouse. But, of course, we forgive the English many things.

"Mr. North, will you bring the Father a chair? You will find one at the end of the terrace."

North went without a word.

Father Giuseppe was no fool. He had a quick and human grasp of life, and a genial knack of making himself pleasant under the most difficult conditions. Moreover, he knew more than North imagined, and could guess shrewdly at many things that he did not know.

"I am charmed to meet you, Mr. North; I am always charmed to meet an Englishman, even though he is on the other side of the chessboard. And no doubt you think me a tyrannical, Jesuitical, crafty old man."

He laughed delightedly, enjoying his joke.

"You see in me, Mr. North, a brutal and pitiless reactionary. I help to grind down the peasants, to keep the people ignorant and superstitious."

He beamed at North as though he loved him, but North seemed to have grown mute and inarticulate. He looked steadily at Father Giuseppe and smiled.

Anna lay back in her chair.

"The old things are always evil, I suppose."

"My dear Contessa—consider—my—antiquity!"

He glanced at North.

"You will support my grey hairs, sir."

North straightened himself uneasily.

"I have been given food for thought, Father. Have you ever seen a man overrun himself in a race?"

Father Giuseppe spread his hands.

"Enthusiasm is admirable. At my age, I have to be polite to the hills."

They exchanged quick, questioning glances. North betrayed the restlessness of a man who realised that the proper moment had arrived for him to go.

"You will pardon me—there will be a roll call at noon. Yes, it is most confoundedly hot standing to attention on one of those piazzas."

He looked at Anna half-hesitatingly, but she did not unbend.

Neither Father Giuseppe nor Anna Venosta spoke till Quentin North had left the terrace.

The old priest gazed at the sky as though he were lost in contemplation.

"Strange people, the English—so very stupid and so full of adventure. Quite a fierce fellow, that. He looks at you with the eyes of a Viking."

Anna was frowning to herself, and Father Giuseppe did not worry her. He sat and beamed at life, knowing that a man may learn more by waiting than by asking impertinent questions.

"Father Giuseppe."

"My child."

"I want to teach that man a lesson."

"Nothing could be easier—as he appears to be in love with you."

"Love!"

She smiled bitterly.

"Yes, I suppose he was fated to rouse the devil in me—the devil of pride. I have wondered whether he is just an arrogant fool, or a heroic madman. He has hurt my self-love."

"How, my child?"

"It seems that I am a degenerate daughter of Rome. I cannot rise to a noble inspiration. I belong to the old, cynical, selfish, frivolous order of things. He has been trying to talk the new ideals into my soul."

Father Giuseppe sat with half-closed eyes, stroking his chin.

"So you do not love him, my child?"

She answered hotly.

"No. I want to show that man that he is not my master."

"It should be easy."

"Oh, he is no ordinary mortal. He carries his head high above mere words."

The priest nodded.

"I have some worldly wisdom, Contessa," he said.

"Well?"

"Nothing touches a man so sharply as being made a fool of."

She glanced at him quickly.

"You mean——?"

"I could tell you how it might be done; but you must not be angry with me."

"I can promise that."

Father Giuseppe began to speak very slowly.

"It is known in Rome that the French have declared war on Mazzini's Republic. There will be a second attack on the city, for the French are in earnest, and determined to wipe out that previous defeat. Now, it is of the utmost importance, for political reasons, that there should be no second fiasco. We are going to use our wits as well as the bayonets of our friends—besides, a little cunning will save much bloodshed."

He rubbed his hands together.

"A little diplomacy, a little artfulness. At present they are exchanging pourparlers, while General Oudinot is massing his army and Garibaldi preparing his defence. Now, my daughter, can I trust you to remain in earnest?—for the trust is great."

"I am asking to be given a weapon, Father."

"Yes, I think you will use it. Know, then, that there is an armistice, and Oudinot has let it be understood that he will not attack before Monday morning. To-day is Friday. But the French will attack before Monday morning."

She said nothing, and he watched her shrewdly.

"In war, Contessa, it is the duty of a general to take nothing for granted. He should assume that the other fellow has a card up his sleeve. It is Garibaldi's duty to suspect Oudinot."

"So that if he is tricked by a promise, the responsibility is his?"

"Exactly."

Her face hardened.

"Well, and what next?"

"It would be very useful for General Oudinot to know how Garibaldi has placed his troops. It would be of especial interest if he were informed how the Pamfili and the Corsini are to be held on the night of Saturday."

"I see. And how would the information reach him?"

"I would undertake that."

"And how is the information to be obtained?"

"My daughter, I am offering you your weapon."

She left her chair and walked up and down the terrace. Presently she returned to him.

"The Englishman can tell me this?"

"Of course. He is a favourite of Garibaldi's."

"But will he tell me?"

Father Giuseppe spread his hands.

"My daughter, you are a very beautiful woman, and a very clever one. Let us show this barbarian that we aristocrats are not fools."


Anna Venosta did not succumb without a struggle to the importunities of her pride. There were moments that night when her spirit revolted from the thing that Father Giuseppe had tempted her to do, and when an irrepressible tenderness stirred in her heart. She had varying mind-pictures of Quentin North—at one moment he appeared to her as the adventurous, impulsive lover; at another as a figure of dominant and fanatical arrogance. She hesitated between two impulses, but in the end her perversity won a victory in that battle of unrest.

"I will let him decide it," she said to herself. "If he comes to-morrow, I will not spare him. If he does not come—then I may relent."

It was an arbitrary and unreasonable bargaining with her own self-love; but many of the tragic happenings of life arise out of some little poisonous piece of perverse pride.

And North came.

"We quarrelled rather horribly yesterday. I suppose I ought to ask your pardon."

His eyes looked softer and less intensely blue.

"We should always quarrel, you and I."

"Should we?"

She fancied she caught a gleam of masterful humour in his eyes, and she chose to misinterpret it.

"Supposing you call a truce for one day."

"I'm ready to hang up the white flag."

"But you will contradict me within five minutes."

"I'll promise not to."

"Then you had better do the talking, and I the listening. Go and bring a chair from the belvedere."

She watched him walk away, and her smile was the smile of a Circe. He returned with a certain triumphant boyishness, carrying the chair by one leg.

"What am I to talk about?"

"Why not about yourself?"

"Thank you."

"What it feels like to be in a battle."

"Quite simple. Men differ. I begin by being most horribly afraid."

"You are jesting."

"Nothing of the kind. Most of us are cowards, and are too cowardly to confess it."

She smiled with an air of girlish delight.

"That interests me immensely. But do you worry about what is likely to happen? I mean—well, everyone knows that the French are going to attack the city again; and supposing you were up on the Janiculum—say in the Villa Pamfili—knowing that you would have to bear the brunt——?"

He seemed amused.

"I might feel rather more on the alert. But I shall not be on the Janiculum to-night."

"I thought the Legion were there. Someone told me so."

"No; the infantry of the line have that honour—four hundred bayonets or so. There is an armistice till Monday."

"Where are you? Quartered in Rome?"

"Yes."

"That's strange. I should have thought Garibaldi would have had his best troops in the first defences."

"Garibaldi may think differently. In a game such as war you want something in reserve—a bit of iron to hurl at the enemy at some critical moment."

"Ah, I see. You are the Old Guard."

"Thank you; I'll pin that in my hat."

He drifted into talking of himself, despite his vow that he would do nothing of the kind. He had met Garibaldi at Monte Video, and fallen under the man's spell.

"You want to be a man of the wilds," he explained, "to value Garibaldi. He is not a tame creature."

"A tiger."

"Say, rather, a lion."

"And have you always lived what you English call the 'wild life'?"

He laughed.

"There are different varieties of the wild life, Contessa. You have heard of the Puritans—well, I belong to a Puritan family, and dissipated young men are not encouraged. But I know what civilisation is—perhaps you have heard of Eton and Oxford—and when I am at home I am quite the squire, the little baron of my village, though I have no title."

"Then you are an aristocrat, a man of family?"

"Oh, I suppose so."

She had begun by being very kind to him, and then her mood changed. Perhaps her own heart accused her of treachery; perhaps she was not happy in persuading him to betray the cause he served. It was as though she craved for self-justification, a rewounding of her pride.

But North did not anger her that morning, and so she was compelled to create her anger in accusing him of trying to disarm her pride. He was seeking to master her with other weapons, using the net instead of the sword.

"Perhaps some day a few heroic Italians will land in England, tell your people they are mere ignorant brutes, try to begin a revolution and turn out your Queen."

She spoke sneeringly; and he looked at her in surprise.

"England is not Italy."

"And would you take part with a mob of fanatics against your own class, against all your traditions?"

"If the fanatics were in the right, I might be one of them."

"But you prefer these things to happen in other countries. Yes, you English are very shrewd. You sit still and gather money, and when you want a little adventure, you help to make a bonfire of someone else's house."

"It is you who are trying to force a quarrel on me now, Contessa!"

"I? Not in the least. Besides, Father Giuseppe is coming to lunch with me; I thought I heard the gate shut. And Father Giuseppe never quarrels."

She had suddenly grown restless and ill at ease, and North was trying to reason out the change in her. Yesterday's quarrel had made him self-critical; he had tried to see life from her standpoint, and the effort had humbled him a little. He had begun to understand her proud resentment, the way she had repulsed his revolutionary enthusiasm.

"Anna——"

He was leaning forward, looking at her intently with the eyes of a lover. She started, and tried to think that the blood had not rushed to her face.

"I think you had better go, Mr. North."

"But I want to try and tell you——"

"Here is Father Giuseppe. I saw that he bored you yesterday. Need I say more?"

North rose and bowed to her, his eyes still searching her face.

"If I have spoken rudely—at any time—forgive me. And so—good-bye."

He met Father Giuseppe half-way down the terrace. They exchanged smiles and a few common-places, and then passed on.

Father Giuseppe took the vacant chair, fanning himself with his hat.

"One wishes oneself on the mountains, especially when there are so many hot-headed people about."

Anna did not seem to hear him.

"I do not wish to appear inquisitive, Contessa."

She turned her head slowly and gazed at him.

"What am I to tell you?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Why, nothing, if our English friend is so masterful that——"

She interrupted him almost fiercely.

"Listen. The Janiculum will be held to-night by four hundred men. Garibaldi's Legion will be in Rome. They are expecting nothing."

"Contessa, may I kiss your hand?"

She glanced at him with sudden scorn.

"No. I have done this for my own ends, not to help in treachery. Now—go!"


Anna Venosta did not attempt to sleep that night. She dismissed her maid, drew an arm-chair to the open window of her room, and sat there in the darkness, with Rome spread below her all patterned with yellow lights. She had crossed the threshold of the great emotional experience of her life, and had entered the silent chamber where love burns like a sacred fire. But as yet the light of it blinded her. She was groping her way towards the flame that would scorch her hands.

She had scorned Father Giuseppe, and in scorning him had come to discover that it was possible for her to doubt herself. Doubt, indeed! Her headstrong, southern pride had thrust the suggestion aside with a gesture of fierce impatience. This Englishman had persuaded himself that she was a listless, slack-souled aristocrat. Italians can strike with a knife when a phlegmatic northerner would be content with a savage sneer.

Yet when the dusk fell a merciless unrest had seized her. There was yet time to warn Quintin North and to sacrifice her passionate perversity to some nobler impulse, but such an action would imply surrender and a confession that she was not so strong and so reckless as she had thought.

So the night passed, for an intense and increasing curiosity had forbidden her to sleep. The lights of Rome died out, and the city lay black and silent, as though waiting breathlessly for some tragic thing to happen. Now and again Anna Venosta drowsed for a few minutes in her chair; once she lit a candle and read, but she could not lose herself in the book. She spent most of the time leaning her arms on the window-sill and staring at the dark mass of the Janiculum rising westwards beyond the city. Would anything happen? Had Father Giuseppe managed to send a message to the French? Were Oudinot's regiments gathering silently for a surprise attack?

The tension slackened a little; she almost felt that she could sleep.

"Crack!"

The faint report of a musket shot broke the waiting silence of the night. A second shot followed the first, and then a whole spatter of musketry broke out like the noise of a watchman's rattle. The duller sound of an explosion answered it, and then for a moment silence held.

Anna Venosta stood leaning against the window-frame.

"The Janiculum."

She murmured the words to herself.

Then a vague, confused outcry drifted to her like the sound of a distant sea. Scattered musket shots seemed to tell of disorder, a scrambling mêlée in the dark. She heard men cheering, though the sound was very faint and unreal. But she knew what had happened. The French had attacked; they were pouring through the pine woods of the Pamfili; they had caught the garrison asleep.

Day was breaking, and somewhere in the city a big bell began to boom. For a while it tolled on in the silence, and then others joined it, clashing their alarm notes as the sun rose. Then the cannon awoke on the western bastions. Drums were beating in Rome; men were running to arms, shouting to each other and to the women who leaned out of the upper windows.

Anna Venosta listened to all these sounds as though fascinated by them. The sun rose over the Campagna, a great ball of gold; the black trees grew green; away yonder on the Janiculum men were killing each other in the freshness of that summer dawn. She stood there dazed, wondering.

Her face was very pale, her eyes troubled. She was thinking that Quentin North might be dead before the sun set over the Janiculum.

Quentin North was in the first rank of the second company when the Legion marched up the hill to the Porta San Pancrazio. The men were pale, some with fear, and some with fury at the thought of the trick that had been played on them. Garibaldi, on his white horse, rode on ahead.

The tall Swiss who marched next to North had a strange far-away look in his eyes.

"So they have taken the Corsini?" he said.

"Well, we have got to retake it."

"Confound their cleverness. And we had only four hundred men up there. A bad blunder."

He sighed and changed his musket to the other shoulder.

"Well, it does not matter to me."

"Why not to you, Fritz?"

"I am going to die to-day."

"Nonsense."

The Swiss nodded his head with placid sadness.

"Yes, I am going to die to-day. I feel it in my blood; but I shall charge with the best."

They reached the open space within the walls, and stood to their arms, waiting. The battery on the bastion of the Casa Merluzzo was blazing away in front of them; sharpshooters lined the walls; French bullets whined overhead. A boy behind North lay down and was whole-heartedly and fearsomely sick, while a big, bronzed Romagnol cursed him for a coward.

"Let him alone, comrade," said North. "He is only leaving all useless kit behind him."

The men laughed. Other regiments came swinging up, dusty, sweating, fiercely excited, to muster under the shelter of the wall. Garibaldi had ridden through the gateway to see for himself how matters stood.

"Avanti! Avanti!"

A staff officer had clattered back through the Porta San Pancrazio. Garibaldi's Legion was to attack.

Then Quentin North spent the most devilish two hours of his life. Everything was in favour of the French—ground, numbers, arms. The Italians had to charge up an open road, crowd through the gateway of the Corsini, rush up the broad path between box hedges, and then climb the double staircase that led to the house, while the French fired at them from under cover, from the gardens, the woods, and the windows of the house.

The Corsini was taken and lost again three or four times within the first hour, while Garibaldi sat on his white horse outside the Porta San Pancrazio and sent company after company up that fatal road. The Corsini could be taken, but it could not be held. The whole French army was massed on the ground behind it.

Quentin North paid no less than three visits to that house of death, and was driven out of it with the remnant of each attacking party. He had come off scatheless, save for a bayonet scratch over the ribs. He was not amazed at his luck, simply because a man whose blood is red hot from fighting for his life is too busy to be amazed at anything.

"Forward! Forward!"

Once more he found himself in that bloody house. The French had been driven out again, and the Garibaldini were piling up dead bodies in the loggias to make a rampart. North was in the act of seizing a blue-coated figure, when the figure moved and sat up.

"Pardon me, my friend, I am not dead yet."

The Frenchman was an officer, brown-faced, keen-eyed. His arm had been broken by a rifle bullet. He smiled at North in spite of the pain.

"I'm sorry, sir. Look here, perhaps I can make you more comfortable."

He put his arm round the Frenchman, helped him to his feet, and led him into one of the rooms of the villa.

"The place might be clearer, sir, but there is a corner here."

"A thousand thanks. You are English?"

"Yes."

"We have always fought each other like gentlemen."

"And yet you attacked us this morning."

The Frenchman waved his sound arm.

"It is war, they say; but I do not approve of it. Of course, you should have been prepared. And then—it was a priest and a woman who sent us information."

A burst of firing warned North that a counter-attack had begun. He held out a hand to the Frenchman.

"No doubt your friends will be here in a minute."

"Au revoir, sir. I hope that some day I may be able to serve you."

The French came on bravely, a blue mass that glittered with steel. The Garibaldini repulsed the first rush, but the second proved too strong for them. There was fighting in the loggias, in the rooms, on the great double stairway, till the Corsini was lost once more, and a few wild eyed men found themselves outside the great gateway, where they were sheltered from the French fire. Quentin North was one of them, for his luck still held.

"Damnation! Nine of us left out of sixty-three!"

"Where are the Lombards and the infantry of the line? Are we to batter ourselves to pieces while the others sit still in Rome?"

A man fell, doubled up; he had been shot in the stomach, and had dragged himself as far as the gateway. North carried him down to the Porta San Pancrazio, passing Garibaldi on his white horse.

"So you are still alive, my Englishman?" Garibaldi said.

"We want more men, General. The French are behind there in thousands."

Garibaldi's eyes looked sad. He was King Death on a white horse, sacrificing the men who loved him.

All day the fight went on for that battered villa on the hill. Towards evening a mad cavalry charge and an attack en masse carried the grounds and the ruins. For the moment victory seemed to seize the wings of the sunset; but the French attacked once more in their turn. They were too strong in numbers. The troops of the Republic were driven back on Rome.

About three hours before sunset Anna Venosta went dry-eyed to her room. She looked like a woman whose blood burned with fever; her hands shook as she opened a cabinet and sat down at her table to write.

"If you are alive, come to me. I must see you.

"ANNA."

She closed and sealed the letter, and when she had written North's name, rank, and regiment on the cover, she sat and stared at it awhile with an air of tragic indecision. A silver handbell stood on the table. Presently she stretched out her hand, rang the bell loudly, and sat waiting.

An old manservant entered.

"Hugo!"

"Yes, signora."

"Take this letter. Can you read what is written on the cover?"

The man scanned it, pouting out his lips and wrinkling his forehead.

"Yes, signora."

"That letter must be delivered to-night. If the English gentleman is dead you will bring the letter back to me."

Hugo bowed.

"I will do my best, signora."

"Go—at once."

Night had fallen, and the last cannon-shot had been fired. The men of the Legion, such as were left of them, were bivouacking under shelter of the walls close to the Porta San Pancrazio. Many of them were wounded; many of them almost too weary to eat; they lay about among their piled arms, sullen and dispirited, listening to the French bugles and staring at the stars. They had fought a great fight to retrieve what had been lost by someone's folly; they had failed. If any of them cursed, they cursed in silence.

A plaintive voice was heard asking questions.

"Is this Garibaldi's Legion, gentlemen? Will anybody tell me where the Legion is to be found?"

"Under your nose, old jackass!" said someone who was too tired to be polite.

"I want an English gentleman, Quentin North. I have a letter for him. Is he alive? Does anybody know of him?"

A man sat up.

"Here you are. I am Quentin North."

Hugo picked his way among the sprawling men and delivered his mistress's letter.

"Thanks; and how the devil am I to read it?"

"I have a little lantern, signore, under my cloak. I will light it."

He did so, and the light flashed on North's haggard, unshaven face, with its stern eyes and powder-blackened mouth. His uniform was torn and dirty, his hair hanging over his forehead.

"Pass the lantern."

North fixed it between his knees, broke the seal of the letter, and bent his head to read. There were only a dozen words in the letter, but he sat staring at it for quite a long while.

"Very well. Take the lantern; I am coming with you."

North got to his feet and signed to Hugo to show the way.

"Don't tread on anyone, my friend, for we are not in a good temper to-night."

It took them the best part of an hour to reach the Villa Venosta, for the narrow streets of Rome were crowded with restless and excited people. Moreover, North had to stop at a wine-shop and drink some wine, for he was dead beat and giddy. The wine and a slice of bread heartened him, though his face still looked haggard and grey.

Old Hugo appeared to have received very definite instructions, for he took North to the main gate on the north side of the villa, and so through the gardens to the house. A lamp was burning in one of the open loggias that faced the garden, and the old servant looked curiously at North and pointed to the loggia.

"The Contessa is there. I have obeyed my orders."

North's eyes were no longer dull and sunken in his head, for he could see a woman standing there beside one of the carved stone pillars. An unshaded lamp hung from the roof.

"Anna."

She drew back.

"No; do not come too near me."

The light showed him to her, a haggard and rather wild-eyed man in a torn and bloody uniform.

"Dear God!"

Her eyes looked shocked.

"You are wounded?"

"No, nothing but a scratch. I know I must look a fairly filthy object. But you sent for me, and I came."

She stared at him as though dazed. She seemed to be struggling to control herself, for the man's eyes were hungry, and his pale face made her afraid.

"Yes, I sent for you."

She pressed her hands to her breasts as though to force herself to speak.

"No; I have nothing good to say to you. I wanted to prove to you that my pride was dangerous when challenged. Your masterfulness maddened me."

He looked up at her, astonished.

"What am I to understand?"

"It was I who helped to give the Corsini to the French."

"What!"

"Now will you call me weak—a child to be lectured?"

"Good God!"

He recoiled, and then took three quick strides towards her, his face as pale as her dress.

She spread her arms.

"Yes, kill me, if it pleases you."

"Kill you! Can't you understand what you have done? Was it my fault, you Roman tigress?"

Her eyes flashed with a kind of exultation.

"You call me tigress now. I am not the tame creature that you thought."

"God forgive me if I piqued you into betraying me and the cause I serve."

He had recovered his self-control, and stood looking at her with an air of inexpressible sadness.

"So our friend the priest was a spy?"

She made herself meet his eyes.

"Father Giuseppe believes in the things that you hate."

"Oh, I know that. But that you—— What was my arrogance but enthusiasm, the froth on the surface? Besides, I thought——"

His face had grown haggard again, his weariness returned.

"Well, it is all over. I suppose I misunderstood you utterly. I must have done. I believed in you even when we quarrelled. It was beyond my wildest imaginings that a woman could go about to stab a man's honour because he had tried to open her eyes."

She stretched out a hand with dramatic passion.

"Enough! We shall never understand each other. I ask you to leave me."

He turned, hesitated a moment, and then walked away into the darkness.

Anna Venosta leant against one of the stone pillars, her bosom moving as though she were about to weep. But her eyes remained full of a dry and sullen anguish. She knew now that she loved the man, that she had never understood the great mystery of life until that moment.

So the French laid deliberate siege to Rome, and those June days echoed with the thunder of guns, battery blazing against battery in an artillery duel that could have but one ending. More than twenty thousand French troops lay outside the city.

Quentin North was one of the best shots in the Legion, and he was one of the picked men chosen to reply to the fire of the French sharpshooters who tried to pick off the gunners on the bastions. On June 10th he was lying between two gabions at the Casa Merluzzo with a big flaxen-haired Pole who had become his comrade in arms. They were firing at the French, and the Pole was talking.

"Have you seen the White Lady, comrade?"

"No. Who is she?"

"Everyone is talking of her. She wears a white dress, and she seems to know no fear. She goes everywhere, caring for the wounded."

"Look out! That little fellow over there is a devil of a shot. He hit the gabion that time."

The Pole was a reckless gentleman.

"I fear no French bullet. Let me look round."

"Don't be a fool, man."

But the Pole was on his knees, leaning on his musket, his fair hair blowing. And next moment he was lying in North's arms with a bullet through his chest.

North managed to carry him behind a pile of sandbags on the rampart.

"I have it, comrade. It is under the heart."

"You brave madman. I'd change with you if I could."

He was kneeling by the wounded man, when someone came forward softly and knelt down on the other side. It was the White Lady. She carried a haversack filled with bandages, dressings, and a flask of wine.

North stared at her in astonishment.

"You!"

For the White Lady was Anna Venosta.

She smiled at him, a strange, sad smile, and then bent over the Pole. His eyes were growing dim, but he looked at Anna Venosta with the solemn air of a child.

His lips moved.

"The White Lady."

His blue, child's eyes seemed to ask for something, and the woman in Anna Venosta understood. She bent and kissed his forehead.

"Exquisite," he murmured, and died.

North knelt there speechless, gazing at the woman in white. Presently he spoke.

"Anna!"

She kept her eyes lowered.

"I do what I can," she said simply. "You see, after all, I was in the wrong."

North's mouth was twitching.

"God forgive me," he said, "and God bless you."

She rose from her knees, and North's eyes grew suddenly anxious.

"It is most infernally dangerous for you here."

She smiled at him.

"Is it? And for you?"

"It is my business."

"And mine also."

"Still, there is no need for you to come up here where the guns are firing. I will see you to a safer place."

She looked at him very earnestly.

"Must you always manage people and give orders? Cannot you suffer me to be brave, to take my share? You scolded me because I was selfish, and now——"

But North had caught her hand, and his eyes looked into hers.

"Forgive me. Yes, I understand. You are a Roman woman; your pride must be suffered to be noble. I——"

He staggered suddenly, recovered himself, and put his hand to his side.

"Confound those Frenchmen."

"You are hit!"

He smiled at her, but there was blood on his hand and his face had gone grey.

"Thank Heaven, it took me and not you. I think I'll——"

She caught him as he tottered, and let him slip gently to the ground. His blood had stained the bodice of her white dress just over her heart.

"Quick! Is it serious?"

He was smiling.

"It has smashed one of my ribs, I think. No, I'm not a dead man yet; but I feel I'm bleeding——"

She unslung her haversack and set to work with swift, soft hands that did not fumble or hesitate, despite their haste. And North lay and watched her face with a kind of wondering joy. He did not ask himself whether he was going to die. Even the pain did not matter. He was conscious of her nearness; he felt the soft movements of her hands.

Someone's shadow fell across them.

"Hallo! Work for me? Why, it's our Englishman."

"Hallo, Fabrizi! A bullet in the side, that's all."

"Contessa, I think you are braver than any of us."

She made way for the surgeon.

"I am very glad that you have come," she said.

Half an hour later Quentin North was being carried on a litter through the narrow streets of the Trastevere quarter towards the Tiber. Anna Venosta walked at his side.

"Where are you taking me?" he asked her for the third time.

She looked down and smiled.

"No, it is not to one of the hospitals. They are so crowded with the poor fellows; and you would be such an obstinate patient."

He smiled back at her, and lay and watched the blue sky between the high houses. It was as though he were drifting along a canal. A pleasant languor possessed him, in spite of his wound. The men carried him across the Tiber. They were sturdy fellows and made light of his weight, and the people gave way when they saw that they carried a wounded man.

North knew Rome pretty thoroughly, and he was able to tell in which direction they were going. The truth dawned on him at last. They were bound for the Villa Venosta.

He spoke to her.

"Contessa!"

"Yes."

Her hand rested close to his on the litter.

"I know where you are taking me."

"Does it grieve you?"

"But in Italy——"

"This is the new Italy," she said, "where people are not afraid of being brave."


The windows of North's room looked out on a green mass of trees, rolling ilexes and pines, out of which tall cypresses rose like obelisks. His bed stood close to the window, so that he had a sensation of being cradled on the tops of the trees. It was very peaceful here, in spite of the noise of the guns; and to lie in a bed is an event in itself to a man who has been carrying a knapsack for two months. Moreover, though the bullet had broken a rib and bruised the lung, it had not penetrated. Fabrizi had been able to extract it and to stop the bleeding, which had threatened danger for a while.

"You will have to lie in bed for a fortnight," he told North, "even if you have no fever. I would not trust that bruised lung of yours very far."

And North obeyed like a child. He had lost much blood and was very weak.

Anna Venosta's old nurse had charge of him, a big, broad-bosomed Italian, with great soft eyes and the arms of a man. And North laughed at the way she handled him, for she was absolutely tyrannical in her carrying out of Fabrizi's orders.

Then Anna would come into the room and sit beside his bed. At first a mysterious shyness possessed them both, but it gave place to a tranquil and exquisite sympathy. They did not seek to explain things to each other; they uttered no confessions, but each understood what was passing in the heart of the other. For the moment the tragedy of the siege of Rome had ceased to be a tragedy. The noise of the guns seemed very far away.

Then an awakening came to Anna Venosta.

"Father Giuseppe is in the garden, Contessa."

She went out to him with a quickening of the heart. He was all smiles, a benignant creature, with eyes that hid his cunning.

"So the wounded hero is being rewarded?"

Her mouth hardened. Father Giuseppe had a way of knowing everything.

"I had Mr. North brought to the house," she said calmly. "The hospitals are so crowded."

"Exquisite magnanimity! And he has converted you to his views?"

"I found that I preferred courage to the philosophy of a spy."

He blinked at the words.

"Contessa, I forgive the taunt. But let us be frank. Rome will be taken before the end of the month."

"It is possible."

"And has it not struck you that it may be inconvenient for the Contessa Venosta to be found sheltering a revolutionary? Many of these gentlemen will be put against a wall and shot."

She held her breath.

"I do not believe it."

"Because you do not wish to believe it. But let us be amiable. You know I have some influence in our party, and"—he leered—"you did us a signal service. I may be able to smuggle this meddlesome English gentleman to some safe place. But, of course, such a thing cannot be done unless——"

He looked at her meaningly.

"Explain."

"We must understand each other."

She had always suspected Father Giuseppe of a certain worldliness, but never till that moment had he shown her the cloven hoof. He had hardly begun before she realised his infamy, and she flashed her scorn.

"You say this to me! Certainly life is very amazing. Well, I will give you my answer. Rome has not fallen yet; there are men in Rome whose passions have been aroused. You will leave Rome, Father Giuseppe, to-night, for to-morrow I shall denounce you to the Republic. You remember what happened to Rossi."

Father Giuseppe's eyes stared at her like the eyes of an ox.

"But I might denounce you, Contessa."

"Denounce me—and see what happens. I am a Roman, an aristocrat; I will meet you face to face, and it will be you who will be taken——"

He held up his hands.

"Enough. I will not vex you. Oh, these women of ours!"

"And you will leave Rome—yes, for I shall denounce you. And do not think that you will be forgotten in the future, even though liberty is defeated for the moment."

She had cowed him.

"It is best to respect madness," he said. "I shall find friends at Gaeta. Farewell."

The Republic was doomed. Even North, lying abed in his upper room, gathered enough news to know what must happen. The French had taken the outer wall, and their guns dominated the situation; it was only a question of time.

He grew restless, troubled, and importuned Fabrizi to let him get up.

The doctor refused.

"You are not fit yet. What Is worrying you?"

"I suppose the crash is coming?"

Fabrizi shrugged his shoulders.

"Any day."

"Well, can't you see that I must get out of this house? I am a marked man. I can't hide behind a woman's petticoats, and compromise her in the eyes of those confounded clericals."

Fabrizi humoured him.

"Is there anything I can do?"

"Yes; send me a tailor. Yes, I have plenty of money."

Fabrizi took his departure, and the same day a very urbane Roman came up to take North's orders.

"The signore shall have everything in two days."

Anna knew of these commonplace happenings, of the arrival of new clothes, a new hat, new underlinen. They were mere straws showing which way the wind was blowing; she had guessed what was passing in North's heart.

"He is a Quixote," she said to herself; "he would get himself killed to save the reputation even of a dog."

But she pretended to see nothing.


By noon on June 30th the French had taken the last western defences of Rome by assault. The Constituent Assembly was preparing to surrender, and Garibaldi was on the eve of that famous retreat of his in which he lost an army and a wife. Fabrizi had rushed in to see North and tell him the news.

An hour after Fabrizi's visit old Giovanna hurried to her mistress in a state of great excitement.

"Signora, the English gentleman is mad! He will not listen to my orders; he has dressed himself, and is trying to walk."

In fact, North was already on the stairs, steadying himself by holding to the handrail, his face nearly as white as the marble of the steps.

Anna met him on the last flight,

"This is very wicked of you."

He smiled weakly.

"Dressing and shaving are the devil when you have been in bed for three weeks. I thought I was stronger."

She passed an arm under his shoulders and steadied him down the last steps, and so into a little salon that opened on a loggia and the garden. There was a couch by the window; she made him lie down.

"Why did you not tell me?"

"I did not want to advertise the fact. Besides, I could not stay here."

"And why not?"

He lay back and looked up at her.

"You know as well as I do what has happened and what may happen in Rome. I have got to get out of your house. Do you imagine that I am going to hide here and expose you to persecution—and other things?"

Her eyes glimmered at him.

"Of course, I knew that you would try to do this; but supposing I refuse to let you go?"

"If I have to crawl on my hands and knees——"

"And that is gratitude?"

He sprang up, inspired above mere physical weakness.

"Gratitude? Isn't it the only honourable gratitude I can show you? I can't tell you everything here—in your own house—under your protection. What I feel is too deep and fine for that."

"Why not forget these imaginary obligations?"

He shook his head.

"No."

"You make it very hard for me."

"Anna—I—— No—I will not say it. You see—I want to——"

She saw that his strength was going.

"Lie down, Quentin; be at peace with yourself and your honour. If I do not question it what do other people matter? You must trust me."

He sank back on the couch, and sat with his head between his hands.

"Curse this wretched body of mine!"

"Oh, come! it has been a very brave body. Think what it has suffered these months. And you are still afraid of me?"

He did not answer her.

"I think you love me a little—or am I dreaming? I want you to love me, Quentin."

He caught her hands almost fiercely.

"Love you! Oh, my God! of course I love you. Yes—I think I have been fighting for you all this time——"

She was on her knees beside him.

"Then—what matters?"

He looked into her eyes for several seconds, and then kissed her.

"I couldn't help that, dear. Now help me to get down into Rome. I don't mind surrendering to the French; they are gentlemen. And some day soon I shall come back."

She was smiling.

"What need is there for you to surrender? And do you think that I thirst to stay in Rome?"

"Well?"

"Supposing—supposing we escaped? Haven't you any imagination, Quentin? Must I explain everything?"

He drew her closer.

"Anna—you mean——? Why, of course. Why shouldn't we? Oh, dear heart! But there would be danger for you."

"Surely love is blind! Would you be afraid to face danger for my sake?"

"You're splendid! But how——?"

"Remember that I am not a fool—and that I am a woman of the world. And I am going to see the English consul."

"Freeborn?"

"Of course. I know him. I think he will be kind to me."


It is probable that Mr. Freeborn, the English consul, was the busiest man in Rome during the days that followed the surrender. All sorts of people rushed to him for passes, and being a big-hearted and enlightened man, he contrived to help many of the Republicans to disappear. Nor were the French over keen to serve as gutter-police to the clericals and the reactionaries. They were soldiers; they preferred lo wink at the escape of enemies whom they respected for their gallantry.

Freeborn's rooms were crowded. He himself was being scolded by a couple of strident American women when Anna's name was brought to him. He beheld a vision of beauty and an excuse for ejecting the Americans.

"Well, Contessa, how can I serve you?"

She smiled, and in few words told him the truth. Her charming audacity and her courage delighted him.

"North! Of course, I met him once. One of Drake's Englishmen. But this is rather bold, Contessa, and not quite veracious, though the little piece of mendacity could be eliminated in an hour or two."

"Then you will be kind enough to give me the pass?"

He laughed.

"I cannot refuse to lose my place in such a romance, Contessa. I will give it you."

An order went to the stables: "The Contessa's travelling carriage to be ready in an hour." As for Quentin North, he was fast asleep on the couch in the little blue salon.

Anna found him there, and, bending over him, touched his forehead with her fingers. He awoke, and looked straight up into her eyes.

"Hallo! Back again!"

He sat up, and seemed fascinated by her smiling and half-mischievous tenderness.

"I have seen Mr. Freeborn."

"And was he sympathetic?"

She gave him a sheet of paper. It was a pass for Quentin North, Esq., and his wife—the Contessa Venosta.

North's astonished solemnity changed suddenly to exultant appreciation of her romantic sense of humour.

"Well, I'm——"

He stood up, lifted her hand and kissed it.

"Signora, this is the greatest honour that has ever fallen to me. I most devoutly pray you to suffer me to correct the slight error in this document."

"It will always be a puzzle," she said, "whether I asked you to marry me or whether you asked me——"

"Well, I think I fell in love with you the first time I saw you. That should be decisive."

The Contessa's travelling carriage was quite a stately affair, with its black horses and its servants in their liveries of black and silver. North and Anna stood in one of the loggias and watched the luggage being loaded.

"Quentin!"

"Yes."

"Have you any money, or shall I lend you some?"

"I have about fifty pounds English on me in notes."

"And I have four thousand francs."

He laughed boyishly.

"Then we are not beggars. Besides, there are bankers at Genoa and Turin who know me. I can draw on them up to a thousand pounds."

The travelling carriage was ready, old Giovanna came to tell them.

"And a hat has come for milord."

"A hat! In the very nick of time; a genuine English chimney-pot! I shall have to wear it while we are in the public eye, Contessa."

"Ah, those English hats! I will try to forgive you."

They started on their journey, looking like aristocrats who were seizing their chance to leave Rome now that the mob Republic was at an end. North sat for the picture of the typical Englishman, stiff and a little bored, and wearing his hard hat as though he had been born in it. The thoroughness of his pose made Anna smile.

"Tell me that you are not like that in England, Quentin."

"Not quite so complete. Do not be afraid of the English. I shall not let you see very much of them."

"And are they not charming people?"

"At a distance, perhaps. Hallo! we are approaching the critical occasion."

The carriage was rolling across the Piazza del Popolo towards the city gate. The French had a guard posted there; blue-coated infantrymen went to and fro with fixed bayonets.

The carriage was stopped just inside the gate, and a French officer came to the window. He had his arm in a sling. A corporal and three privates stood at his service.

"Your pass, monsieur?"

He stared hard at North, and North returned it. A slow smile spread over the Frenchman's face. He glanced at Anna and saluted her, and then read the pass that North had handed him.

"Good! we have met before, sir."

North remembered him. It was the French officer whom he had helped in the Corsini.

"I remember the occasion, Captain. I am glad to see that you are well."

The Frenchman beamed at North.

"My friend, this is very fortunate. It gives me great pleasure, this coincidence. We shall always think of each other as gentlemen. Therefore I wish you and madame bon voyage. Open the gate there, and let the carriage pass."

He saluted them, and North raised his hat. The gates opened, and the sentries stood aside to let them pass.

"That officer recognised you."

"Yes. You see, we met in the Corsini."

"He might have stopped us."

"The French are gentlemen, God bless them! And I will dare to prophesy that some day French and Italians will be brothers in arms."

The carriage rumbled out through the Porta del Popolo, and North caught a glimpse of the noble trees of the Borghese green against the sky. A few urchins ran shouting beside the carriage, and he threw them a scattering of coppers. Anna was leaning back in her corner. A sudden silence had fallen on her, her eyes looking into the distance.

"It is not exile, cara mia."

He touched her hand, and her eyes lit up.

"No, I am not sad."

"You looked like a Cassandra."

"But I do not foretell misfortune."

They held hands for a while, and then Anna leant forward and looked out of the window.

"Tell Luigi to stop for a moment. I want to look at Rome."

North called to the coachman, and the carriage drew up at the side of the road. Anna Venosta's eyes were fixed on the city, bathed in the late sunlight, its brown walls the colour of old gold. A great tenderness softened her eyes. She drew back suddenly, as though to hide her emotion.

"Luigi can drive on."

North bent over her with the devotion of a strong man who loved.

"Your heart does not fail you, cara mia?"

"No, no."

"We shall return. I could make Italy my own country."

Her eyes had suddenly filled with tears.

"We can work for the new Italy," she said, "you and I together. And Rome shall be no more a dead city."

"No, but the noble heart of a noble land."

 
 
 

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