Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership
DefectiveByDesign.org

Title: Because of These Things
Author: Marjorie Bowen
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0900461.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: July 2009
Date most recently updated: July 2009

Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Because of These Things
Author: Marjorie Bowen

First published 1915

* * * * *

DEDICATED, VERY HUMBLY, TO A
PASSIONATE JOY AND AN
OVERWHELMING GRIEF
GIUSEPPINA

Sicily, Nov. 6th,1914--Kent, May 19th, 1915
Tempus fugit

* * * * *

..."but...all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named
among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking,
nor jesting, which are not convenient;...let no man deceive you with
vain words: for _because of these things_ cometh the wrath of God upon
the children of disobedience."

Epistle to Ephesians v. 3-6

* * * * *

BOOK I # THE STRENGTH OF PASSION

* * * * *



I


The coach, that had been slowly proceeding through the starless Italian
night by the light of the two lanterns either side of the box seat came
to a stop, with a violent jolt, and lurched heavily to one side on the
cumbrous leather straps. Guard, postilion, and coachman dismounted, and
their short, vigorous Italian curses disturbed the heavy, warm
stillness.

With exclamations, complaints, and much reluctance, the passengers
opened the now slanting door and descended into the circle of lantern
light that revealed the broken wheel.

Two of these passengers were Italians, and, after the first annoyance,
took the discomfiture good-humouredly; the other two were Englishmen,
and bore themselves with all the haughtiness customary to their race
when travelling in a foreign country.

"Harry," came the severe and proud voice of one of these gentlemen, "we
had been better situated if you had taken my advice and hired a coach
for ourselves. See what comes of travelling in a public stage!"

The other responded more quietly; he had, in fact, been roused from
sleep, and still yawned and blinked too indolently for bad temper.

"We can walk into Bologna," he replied; "we must be near the gates." He
stretched himself and flung back his fawn-coloured mantle.

"And leave our baggage in charge of these?" asked the first speaker,
pointing a shapely hand at the five Italians gathered round the broken
wheel.

"Come, Frank, thou art too suspicious," answered his companion, with
familiarity and good-nature. "Even though these be Papists and
cut-throats (and I make no doubt they are), they must deliver the
portmantles in Bologna." So saying, he strode up to the guard and
demanded, in a tone of command:

"How far is it to Bologna?" He spoke a tolerable Italian, though his
accent was without grace; he translated the man's courteous answer as:
"Two miles--and the alternative to sleep here all night!"

With that he pulled out a gold repeating watch and glanced at the dial.

"Ten o'clock, Frank--will you walk to Bologna?" he cried.

"We have no choice," returned the other; "but speak to him, I pray you,
about the baggage--I would I had enough of the tongue to do so myself."

"Fellow," said his friend, pointing to the darkness that concealed the
top of the coach, "have an eye to yonder portmantles. I am Mr. Middleton
and my friend is Mr. Moutray--you will find us at the palazzo of the
Countess Odaleschi, in Bologna."

At this name the two Italian gentlemen looked up from the wheel and
regarded the foreigners with a more interested scrutiny than they had
yet shown. Mr. Moutray noticed this, and flushed with annoyance, pulling
his hat over his eyes and stepping further out of the rays of the
lantern as resenting even a glance of casual curiosity.

Mr. Middleton fee'd the guard, who was vehement and expressive in his
assurances and apologies, raised his hat to his fellow-travellers (who
showed no disposition to leave the scene of the disaster, and who
appeared, indeed, quite reconciled to a night on the road), and taking
Mr. Moutray by the arm, set off along the highway to Bologna.

As soon as they stepped out of the radius of the long lantern beams,
complete and impossible darkness engulfed them. With a laugh Mr.
Middleton went back and returned with one of the coach lamps--a
cumbersome thing that cast, however, a clear radiance over the dusty,
rough road.

"By God," said Mr. Middleton, "I'll pay you a compliment, Frank--there
are no roads in Scotland worse than this."

Francis Moutray did not respond; his companion guessed that he was
considering a grievance, and became silent too. He had learnt that
silence was the only weapon with which to meet the young Scotchman's
sombre moods of deep depression and reserve.

As they stumbled over the rough stones and into the hollows of white
dust, it was Francis Moutray himself who spoke first.

"Saw you how yon fellows stared when you gave the name of the Contessa
Odaleschi?" he demanded impatiently. "Surely I will go to an inn and not
to the residence of this woman."

"What have you against her?" asked the Englishman lightly. "I tell you
that when I met her in Paris she had a charming salon and was much
thought of--her first husband was a Contestabile Colonna--"

"Her father was the Duke of Northumberland--and her mother--who?"
interrupted Francis Moutray.

The Englishman gave him a swift look across the yellow light of the
lantern he held.

"Ah, you know that," he commented.

"I heard it yesterday, and there was light talk about her--a coquette of
fifty!" replied Mr. Moutray drily.

"You pragmatical fellow!" exclaimed Mr. Middleton. "I produce you an
invitation from the most famous and charming lady in the Italian States,
and this is my reward."

"I am," said Mr. Moutray firmly yet wearily, "desirous to be rid of this
country which I find an offence and an abomination. I hear the Pope is
as great in Bologna as in Rome," he added abruptly.

"'Tis his second city," admitted Mr. Middleton, and he smiled at the
scorn and bitterness with which the young man--Calvinist and Northerner
in every drop of his blood--spoke. "But when you come to Italy, Frank,
you must tolerate the Pope."

"I came for my instruction and for the pleasure of your companionship,"
returned Mr. Moutray rather coldly; "but I am eager to be in my own
country, and I shall never again leave Scotland, no, nor Glenillich
either."

"So you say--but you misjudge yourself," smiled the Englishman. "'Twas
not wholly the pious desire for instruction, Frank, that brought you on
this tour. Your blood is warmer than you admit, and your spirit is too
ardent to be satisfied with Glenillich and the kirk."

"My father was so satisfied," retorted the young man half fiercely, "and
methinks it would have been well had I followed in his footsteps and
remained to rule at Glenillich, nor been drawn by idle curiosity to
traverse the lands of pagans and idolaters."

"But you were of too lusty a habit to endure the life your father led,"
remarked Mr. Middleton keenly. "Believe me, you will never be a saint,
Francis, for all your Puritan ancestors, your dominie and pastor in
Geneva bands, and the works of theology you have consumed."

The truth of this stung Francis Moutray like a prick on the bare flesh,
and he flushed hotly.

"The Devil is busy about all of us," he said, and he spoke with a
feeling and a sincerity that redeemed his words from the impression of
hypocrisy or foolishness. Mr. Middleton held the lantern higher.

"And you perceive him rather unusually busy here?" he answered. "Does he
not tempt you, Frank, austere as you arc, with all the entrancing wares
he has to offer?"

"I have seen nothing yet for which I would make traffic with Satan,"
answered the young man with some real loftiness.

Mr. Middleton lightly laughed.

"You have not seen everything," he remarked. "You are very young."

"Well," returned Mr. Moutray wearily, "I would I were in Scotland and
away from these heathen countries."

"This is the end of our pilgrimage," said Harry Middleton. "Give me but
a few days in the gay Bologna and I am ready to accompany you home."

Francis Moutray did not speak again until they reached the gates of
Bologna, where they had to pull out their passports and answer the
inquiries of the Swiss Papal Guards, and then, when all preliminaries
were over and the gates were opened for them to pass through, he
murmured something under his breath that Mr. Middleton could not catch
the sense of, but the tone of which caused him to look at his companion
sharply.

The young man was standing in the full rays of the yellow lamp that lit
the interior of the old worn gate arch, and his eyes were fixed on the
dark vista of the long, dimly illumined arcaded street of Bologna.

He had removed his hat some time since by reason of the oppressive heat,
and his face showed clearly pale between his dark hair and his dark
clothes; his haughty and pensive features wore a look of black
melancholy and bitter apprehension that startled his companion.

"Why--Frank--?"

Francis Moutray half-turned.

"I have a premonition that this city will be fatal to me," he said
simply.

Mr. Middleton shrugged his shoulders and laughed; he was well-used to
these Gaelic superstitions, glooms, and forebodings.

"Thou art not thyself,"' he answered kindly, and, thrusting his passport
into his pocket, he turned and asked the gate-keeper the whereabouts of
the inn at which they had arranged to stay the night.

Mr. Moutray sighed, half angrily, clapped his hat on his brow, and
strode forward into Bologna.

"Nay, return to Milan," said Mr. Middleton mildly, catching up with him.

Francis Moutray suddenly smiled, with a flash of some humour.

"Now--on foot?" he asked. "I will stay the night here, at least."

The streets were empty, the city silent, here and there fluttering lamps
lit the arcades, here and there a coach rattled over the stones and
echoed into the dark distance; at intervals a light showed in one of the
arched windows of the tall palaces. The strangeness and the oppression
were extraordinary to Francis Moutray; something in the city of which he
could see so little affected him powerfully with a sense of attraction,
a sense of repulsion, and a sense of doom. His hereditary melancholy
deepened unbearably; he felt old and useless, a weight as of the world
on his heart, and the dark, arched street became to him as awesome as a
highway to hell.

The inn was in darkness too; all hope of the coach had been abandoned
for that night, and the landlord and drawers had to be roused from their
beds.

Francis Moutray declined supper, left Mr. Middleton at a hearty meal,
and was ushered upstairs into the room prepared for him--a large chamber
with a stone floor and a thick, white mosquito-net hanging round a black
four-poster bed. The flickering flame of the thick yellow candle shot a
wavering light over the walls and the painted ceiling, revealed too,
near the bed, a great picture of the Madonna holding her Child.

The landlord withdrew, leaving the light on the old black bureau, and
Francis Moutray stood looking at the one picture in the room.

He left as if he was face to face with the menace of the city--a thing
hitherto not seen, but felt.

He stood for some while, quite still, staring at the flamboyant
oil-painting of the Mother and Child, both of whom seemed to regard him
with a peculiar and derisive smile that affected him like a narcotic,
for presently his senses dazed, and he thought that the figures moved
and pointed at him and mocked.

A clock struck midnight; the first of the strokes roused him. He strode
up to the picture, pulled it from the wall, opened the door, and put the
Papist symbol in the dark passage.

As he returned to his chamber he became suddenly acutely conscious that
he was tired to exhaustion. He flung off his hat and cloak and cast
himself down in the huge chair beside the bed; the windows were shut and
the room close and oppressive, even the shiny marble floor was damp with
heat. Francis gasped for air, but he knew that to open the window would
be to let in a cloud of poisonous nightflies; even now a faint circle of
them hovered round the candle flame and dropped, singed, into the
guttered pools of coarse tallow.

Francis hated the room. His apprehension grew, it was with him like a
living companion, to whisper, to suggest, to warn.

He rose up again and turned the key in the lock; he looked to the
pistols in his belt, and put his sword on the chair, ready to his hand.
His fatigue increased until it was as if he had been drugged; all his
mental fear and dread could not keep his body alert, his knees and hands
shook, and the lids fell heavily over his eyes.

"The Papist picture has bewitched me," he murmured, as he dragged off
his coat and, pulling aside the white net curtains, fell on the narrow
bed.

The pillows and mattress were hard, the linen neither fresh nor cool,
but Francis Moutray sank at once into a sleep or swoon in which the most
powerful and vivid dream of his life came to him--came in a flash, like
a streak of lightning against a midnight heaven.

He thought that a woman grew up from the darkness, formed rapidly, and
came to instant perfection out of a swirl of fire, jewels, and flowers.
She was dressed like those Italian ladies he had lately met, in full
vanity of brocade and velvet, lace and gems; she was beautiful with the
beauty he had dreamed of in profane and forbidden dreams, not with the
human beauty he had seen with his waking eyes, and he knew that she was
Temptation and Evil and Desire, no longer a dim, haunting shape to sting
secretly and be thrust away, but a visualized form, full-grown,
challenging, dominant. She had a look of the Madonna he had flung from
his room; she was the thing he had dreaded, feared, yet sought to find;
he wanted her and he hated her--both passionately.

He made a movement of pain and she slowly approached the bed, holding
her soft hands on her full bosom--her movements and her looks were
tender and caressing, yet the movement and look of some one advancing on
her prey.

Francis shivered, yet longed for her approach. The room was certainly
full of a vague horror; reality was mingled with his vision, and he
could see the circle of light and the circle of flies about the
candle--it worried him that he had left it burning, and he tried to
move, but his limbs were as powerless as if they were under a leaden
pall, and the woman came nearer. He looked at her, knowing she was but
the embodiment of his own fancies and fears and desires, yet seeing her
clearly, actually a creature of flesh and blood yet touched with the
terror of dreams. She came nearer, and the cambric on her bosom heaved
with the beating of her heart. She was fair, and her blue eyes sparkled
with an unearthly fire. She reached the bed and drew aside the
mosquito-net; her lips were full and moist as those of the vampire who
lives on men's blood--but gently curved too and sweetly smiling.

With a sob of horror and despair Francis sac up, overcoming, with an
effort of agony, the inertia that bound him; his staring eyes gazed into
the soft orbs of the phantom who bent down till her loose locks touched
his feverish forehead.

She was pervading him, overcoming him, absorbing him...

"You want my soul!" he shrieked, and he called on God and seized the
fair mischief by the throat...She made no resistance, she was slack in
his grip; his strength came to him in a rush of triumph, he flung her
down, dragging the mosquito-net from the pole. She faded, drooped, and
all the flash went from her jewels, all the colours from her robe.

Francis laughed.

"Come to me now! I have often wanted you, and now you are dead I may
hold you in my arms!"

He tried to lift her on to the bed, but he observed that she was covered
with blood from head to foot, and with a moan he let her slip on to the
marble floor.

"I have murdered her!" he said. He fell back, and an awful sense of
loneliness possessed him--loneliness and horror and the hot sickness of
his fantasy. He struggled up again with desperate strength, and
stretched out his arms over the torn curtains where he thought the lady
lay; his hand knocked against the chair, and a loud clatter roused him
from the thick horror of his dream. He sat up, clasping his hands to his
damp forehead; he perceived that the room was empty and the marble floor
unstained, and that the noisy rattle which had awakened him had been
caused by his sword and pistol being cast to the ground by his own
violent movement.

He sprang up and, with shaking hands, replaced the weapons, then
stumbled to the window and pulled it open. The fresher air of the outer
night revived him and dispelled his confused fancies. Regardless of the
poison supposed to linger in the night air, he fastened the casement
back on the rude clasp and stood staring into the darkness that
concealed Bologna.

He now scorned himself for his vision; he felt his forehead and pulse,
and knew himself feverish. This was not the first time he had found
himself weakened and delirious with fever since he had crossed the
Italian frontiers. He cursed the country and cursed the heat; he thought
of the picture of the Virgin in the corridor and shuddered,
half-accusing her of having put a spell on him; but did not the whole
country stand for witchcraft and damnation?

The thick flame of the candle sank out under the weight of the thronging
mosquitoes, the rank smell of tallow filled the room. Francis Moutray
fumbled his way back to the bed and, falling on his knees beside it,
dropped his head against the disarranged coverlet, and sank into a
delirious sleep, while without his window the coloured Italian dawn
began to reveal Bologna.



II


Vittoria Odaleschi had a history as scandalous and romantic as any lady
in the scandalous and romantic Italian States. She was the most admired,
most criticized, most envied, and most powerful woman in Bologna;
nothing honourable was ever said of her, neither during her childhood,
when her father, the English Duke, made her, at fourteen, the hostess at
his Roman feasts--nor during her brief married life, nor during her
gorgeous widowhood; but she had a reputation for wit and shrewdness and
daring not to be eclipsed by any reputation in the Papal See.

More money was lost, more marriages made, more rendezvous kept, and, it
was added, more crimes planned, under the painted ceiling of the Palazza
Odaleschi than in the whole of the rest of Italy. Her beauty was not as
famous as it had been twenty years before, but she had still numerous
cavaliers, and her mansion boasted the attractions of youth and fresh
loveliness in the persons of her two daughters. Her high-reaching
schemes to secure a brilliant match for each of her children had roused
much profane laughter among her votaries, but this passionate ambition
was the most laudable, as it was now the strongest of the feelings that
animated her worldly soul.

On the day after the arrival of Mr. Middleton and Mr. Moutray in
Bologna, the Contessa received a note from the former gentleman, written
in very fair Italian, and asking when he might be received.

Vittoria smiled to think that the Englishman did not know that the
Palazzo Odaleschi was always open to young men of good family with money
to stake on the gambling tables and to spend on the beautiful women who
followed in Vittoria's train.

She put the letter down and thought a little. She had a good memory, and
she soon recollected that she had met this Mr. Middleton a year ago in
Paris, when she had gone there to sell some property belonging to her
late husband. She remembered that she had taken the trouble to have
inquiries made about him, and had discovered that he was a rich English
esquire with large estates in Surrey and with foreign tastes, unmarried,
gay, but prudent. She had liked him, but he was no use to her, and her
invitation to the Palazzo Odaleschi had been the mere politeness of a
manner by nature and cultivation sweet and flattering.

But in a postscriptum Mr. Middleton reminded her of "her gracious offer
of hospitality," and asked, in a way that admitted of no refusal, if he
might bring his travelling companion, Francis Moutray, Laird of
Glenillich.

Vittoria shrugged and smiled, and sent one of her black pages in a
frivolous gilt cabriolet to fetch the two gentlemen and their vails from
the inn. She reflected, when her messenger had gone, that she could not
any longer afford to be too careless in encouraging the gallants who
waited on her. There had been a great feast last night, and she had
noticed that the gambling saloon was not so full as usual, and that some
of the ladies had lacked cavaliers. There were many women who were her
bitter enemies, very willing to do her a mischief, and she perceived,
with the practical prudence that was concealed beneath her wanton
frivolity, that she was losing ground, and that she would scarcely
recover it unless she could bring about the marriage of her daughter
Emilia with the son of Prince Orsini.

Occupied with these sombre thoughts, the Odaleschi sat in her private
chamber drinking chocolate, and gazing at herself in the small mirror of
Venetian glass surrounded with a border of heavy crystal flowers that
hung above her ormolu toilet-table.

Everything in the room was luxurious, splendid, ponderous: the lofty
ceiling was crowded with bright paintings of cupids, birds, flowers, and
fantastic shields displaying the Odaleschi quarterings; the floor and
walls were covered in Eastern tapestries, and the bed was hung with
heavy draperies of blue and yellow Genoa velvet. Above the bed was an
elaborate crucifix in gold and ebony, and beneath it a lamp of
lapis-lazuli on a gilt bracket, while on the opposite wall was a
painting of the school of Rubens, representing the Rape of Ganymede.

The Contessa's perfumes, lotions, powders, rouges, pomades, Hungary
waters, and pastilles were all encased in chased gold; the candlesticks
were gold also, and heavy enough and tall enough to light the holy
vessels on the altar instead of the toilet of the Odaleschi. She was
fond of telling in her mad moments how a cardinal, who was in love with
her, had robbed these candlesticks from his church and put gilt in the
place of them, with a pound of lead in each to make them heavy.

But she was in no mad humour now but one very pensive, as she sat with
her chin propped on her hand and gazed across the profaned gold on her
dressing-table at the reflection in the mirror that hung on the wall
beyond. No one knew her age, but she had long left her youth behind.

Still the Northern blood of her father had served her well in preserving
her beauty long after the period when her Southern rivals faded. Her
nut-brown hair was still abundant and glossy, her figure still comely
and straight, and if her large dark eyes were no longer perfectly
brilliant and no cosmetics could quite disguise the ravages on her soft
face, if she kept her throat covered even when her bosom was bare,
still, by candlelight, when dressed with art, she was yet a beauty by
reason of the delicacy of her features, the grace of her movements, her
expression of sweetness and gaiety.

She wore, as she sat before the mirror, a robe of white silk with raised
flowers in velvet that fell open over a gown of lawn and lace that
swathed her to the chin; heelless slippers of crimson brocade hung on
her feet which rested on a small red cushion; on her lap was a silver
box full of bonbons wrapped in blue and pink papers.

After a long and intent scrutiny of her reflection she threw back her
head with a half-humorous, half-defiant movement.

"Ah, _Dio_!" she exclaimed, "it is nearly over!"

When her face was utterly bereft of beauty she would be as bankrupt as
the merchant who has lived on trading in silver and gold, and one day
finds the mines empty and himself ruined, if he has not been prudent
enough to save from the fat days.

And the Contessa had not saved a maravedi; her sole investments were her
two daughters, and she was hampered there, because, for the first time
in her life, she felt proud objection to anything ignoble; when it was a
question of her children she was virtuous and rigid. She wished to sell
her daughters, but the price was to be marriage, an honourable name, a
fine establishment; and the girls had been educated, guarded, kept
severely in a convent, for this end.

"When they are married they may do as they please," smiled the Contessa,
"but there shall be no breath against them before."

And her smile became bitter when she reflected that she might have
married a reigning Duke, had not scandal so persistently connected her
name with a Roman noble that her father was glad to give her to the
Contestabile Colonna, who took his bride and her dowry without question,
which no other of her admirers had been prepared to do; and when for the
first time a widow, scandal had prevented her securing a finer second
match than a Bolognese noble.

"If I had not been a little fool," thought Vittoria, "I might have been
the mistress of a court instead of a burnt-out woman scheming how she
may escape penury."

She rose to shake off these recollections, and the forgotten silver box
of bonbons fell from her lap, and the blue and pink papers scattered
over the floor.

The stiff velvet was pulled aside from the door, and Giovanna Odaleschi
entered.

When she saw the scattered bonbons she stooped without a word and began
picking them up.

Vittoria watched her daughter with an eager expression touched with
fierceness; the younger woman was in the full radiance of opening
beauty--a creature of colour, of softness, of sparkle and grace.

Her white, slightly untidy mob showed the long curves of her rounded
limbs; her hair, as dull a yellow as amber, was carelessly knotted with
a black velvet ribbon. Her warm, flushed, dusky blonde beauty had a
peculiar character; her neck was long, her features small, her lips
full, her brow low, her eyes large, slow-moving, and of a sleepy look,
the deep brown of them veiled by the gold glint of lashes thick and
curved. She was lovely and complete in her loveliness, but she was not
the classical type then in fashion; there was more in her of the
bacchante or nymph than the goddess or the queenly women so admired, and
there were those who found the touch of the strange in her far from
attractive. The Orsini prince, who was wooing her sister, had likened
her, with her long body, long throat, small head, and cluster of yellow
hair, to the Medusa changing to the snake.

Her mother caught a little sigh in her throat. Emilia would be safe in
the Palazzo Orsini, if human wits could get her there--but how could
Giovanna be provided for?

So far she had evoked no offers in the marriage mart of the Odaleschi
palace.

"Come here," said Vittoria gravely and with a yearning note.

The girl obeyed and came, her hands full of the sweetmeats. Vittoria put
her bleached, perfumed, and cool fingers under her daughter's round
chin. Giovanna stood controlled but restive, with shifting eyes.

"Have you a lover, Vanna?" asked Vittoria intently and sadly.

"No," said the girl frankly, "nor am I like to have till you have
married Emilia. She will permit no gallant to come within reach of the
tip of my fan."

"Is there anyone you want for a lover, Vanna?"

"No."

Vittoria gazed into the small exquisite face. She saw passion there and
wit and gaiety, wilfulness and pride, but she did not trace in those
fair features the strength of will, the clearness of intelligence, the
judgment and penetration that had balanced her own hot-blooded follies
and imprudences.

"Trust me, _carina_," she said rapidly. "I will make you a
princess--only wait, be patient, be prudent--Emilia is three years
older."

A mischievous look brightened the sleepy brown eyes to a golden flash.

"I have only left the convent six months," returned Giovanna, "and you
are always warning me! What do you think I shall do?"

She gently moved her face from her mother's hand and shook the bonbons
on to the dressing-table.

Vittoria thought of her own youth.

"You have plenty of temptation to fall in love," she said.

"And if I do?" answered the girl. "I am nineteen. You were married at
fifteen."

"Yes," said the Contessa sharply, "that is why I sent you and Emilia to
a convent. I did not want you spoilt too."

"Spoilt?" Giovanna laughed lightly and freshly. "Madonna! You have had a
lovely life!"

Vittoria looked at her swiftly, then sank into the chair before the
dressing-table.

"Listen to me, Vanna," she said coldly. "I have plans for you. I know
you are impulsive and impatient, and that is why I speak to you plainly.
You are going to marry a great man--there is no one coming here at
present good enough for you--you must marry as well as Emilia, if not
better--"

"Emilia is not married yet," remarked Giovanna with a touch of malice.

Vittoria glanced over her shoulder, and the vigour and energy that had
made her a power in her time showed in her alert face.

"Emilia _will_ marry--as I wish," she said, "and so will you. Amuse
yourself with these cavaliers, but go no further with them than
compliments."

Giovanna came behind her mother's chair and gazed at the reflection of
her glowing face in the thick Venetian mirror.

"How can I," she replied, "when you always have an old woman about me?"

"When you are married," said her mother, "you shall do as you wish."

"_Dio_!" cried Giovanna, "when will you marry me?"

"When I can find the husband rich enough and powerful enough, Vanna."

She was still turned in her chair, and as she spoke was gazing anxiously
into the careless young face above her shoulder.

"_Carina_," she said, with a sudden deep note in her voice, "you do
believe that I love you and am labouring for your good, do you not?"

Giovanna instantly flung her arms about her mother.

"_Madre mia_!" she cried passionately. "I care for no one at all but
you. I will do whatever you tell me. I do not love anyone; no, I do not
think I ever shall, either. Find me a good-tempered husband,
_carissima_, and I shall be content."

Vittoria returned the embrace ardently and gazed into her daughter's
face with searching eyes. Giovanna's frank innocency of expression put
the seal of truth on her simple words; she was untouched as yet by any
emotion, plastic to any influences, heart-whole and joyous.

"Jesu and the Holy Virgin protect you," said Vittoria in a trembling
voice; she felt that, as she embraced her daughter, she was enfolding
her own lost girlhood--and that innocence and light-heartedness which
she herself had never known.

Giovanna gravely drew a crucifix of gold and ivory from the bosom of her
mob and pressed it reverently to her lips; attached to the fine chain by
which this crucifix was fastened to her neck was a little reliquary that
contained a lock of the hair of Santa Caterina of Alexandria.

"I am well protected," said the girl, with a serious look. "Santa
Caterina guards me! The Reverend Mother said this holy relic would bring
a blessing."

"So it will," returned Vittoria; she was still a religious woman,
despite everything, and a generous benefactress of the Church. "Keep it,
Vanna, always, and pray to the saint every night to give you a good
husband; and when you tell your rosary add a prayer to the Holy Virgin
to the same purpose."

Giovanna slipped her treasures back into her slender bosom, over her gay
young heart, and turning lightly about, snatched up some of the bonbons
and began to unwrap them and crack them with her strong white teeth.

"When are you going to give another _festa_?" she asked.

"When Emilia is married," replied the Contessa firmly.

Giovanna made a grimace.

"Not before?"

"Not a soldi more do I spend on dazzling the Orsini," said Vittoria. "He
is in love--let love work his way. Besides, child, it is as well you
should know that we have very little money now. Once "--her eyes
gleamed--"there was a _festa_ every night for me."

"Ah!" exclaimed Giovanna greedily; she stretched her limbs with a
luxurious movement, "will the Orsini give Emilia a _festa_ every night?"

"He is one of the greatest princes in Rome," returned the Contessa
drily.

"Find me such a lord!" cried the girl.

"If there is such another in Italy, you shall be his wife," returned her
mother, with the old indomitable spirit flushing her faded cheek and
restoring something of the lost brilliancy of her beauty.

Giovanna stood thoughtfully silent; the glamour of the dawn of life's
spring-time showed in her eyes and in her fresh lips.

"Is it better to be loved or to have a _festa_ every night?" she asked
gravely.

The Contessa stretched out her hand for her gilt rouge pot.

"Tell Clarisse to come to me," she said. "I must dress--two strangers
are to attend the reception this afternoon--nay, they have produced an
old invitation and must stay here--foreigners, Vanna."

"I hate foreigners." Giovanna ate another sweetmeat.

"An Englishman and a Scotchman," continued Vittoria.

"On their way to Rome, to the Palazzo Muti?--the King of England?"
demanded Giovanna with some interest.

"I have only met one of these cavaliers," answered the Contessa
languidly, "and from what I can recall he was very staunch for the
established government in England, and spoke of His Majesty at Rome as
the Pretender only."

Giovanna lifted her shoulders.

"I do not know when they will arrive," continued the Contessa, "but if I
am not ready, you will receive them--you and Emilia. I believe they are
persons of quality," she added.

Giovanna came to her gracefully, kissed her, and left the room with a
smiling farewell.

When she was alone Vittoria slipped back in her chair in a weary
attitude, and, holding her hand over her brow, began to consider how she
could use Emilia's marriage (when it was accomplished) to secure a match
as brilliant for Giovanna; the younger girl was nearer her heart, and
she forgot her own troubles in dreaming over the gorgeous future she
might gain for her tall golden daughter.



III


When Francis Moutray found himself in the imposing salon of the Palazzo
Odalesehi, he already knew the scandalous history of the aventuriere who
was to be his hostess; he knew that she was the daughter of an English
duke and a French lady of good family and frail virtue; that she had
been married at fifteen, with a reputation already smirched, to a man
whose wife had died in suspicious circumstances; that she had made more
noise in Italy than any other beauty of the same type; that most of the
murders, marriages, intrigues, and duels in Bologna were traced to the
Odalesehi palace; and that the Contessa had been five times banished the
city, though she returned from each exile with an undiminished hold on
the aristocracy of Bologna, who found her their principal amusement,
their main theme of scandal and the most lavish patroness of their vices
and passions.

With this knowledge of the lady arming him, Francis Moutray was prepared
to meet her with some curiosity and much disgust; these tales of her
filled him with aversion; he found no pleasure in such corrupt
splendour, nor was he in the least apprehensive of being tempted by any
lures so obvious and so alien as those this stale siren employed; when
told that "he who entered the Odalesehi palace must be prepared to leave
his skin behind" he had smiled, but Mr. Middleton had left his jewels
locked away at the inn for fear the Bologna ladies might beg them of him
for a token.

The salon into which they were conducted was of that rococo magnificence
held to be the height of taste and fashion; in each compartment of the
vaulted ceiling was painted a mythological subject in bright colours,
and from the gilt ribs and bosses hung heavy chandeliers of cut crystal,
furnished with scented tapers; the great expanse of polished floor was
gleaming with reflections, the windows hung with Venetian velvet and
stamped leather, the tables and chairs placed near the walls were gilt
and heavy.

An entrance enclosed by two dark red porphyry pillars gave on to a
formal garden on which the spring-tide sun sparkled and where a fountain
sent up a long jet of radiant water against the background of the
cypress trees.

Several Italian gentlemen were also waiting for the Contessa, though it
was yet some time before the hour when her usual reception began.
Francis cast a condemning eye over the foreign fashion of their dress,
the affectations of their courtesy, and withdrew himself to the door
open on to the garden that he might not be offended by their voluble
talk.

At one end of the salon three shallow marble steps led to a dais behind
which were gilt folding-doors.

Presently these doors were opened by two footmen in the Odaleschi
livery, and the Contessa, attended by her two daughters, made her usual
entry. Francis glanced up, and the sight of three lovely women, who, at
this little distance, might have been sisters, was certainly a gracious
thing even to his prejudiced eyes.

The Contessa wore a purple brocade, and her powdered hair was dressed a
foot above her fair pale face; Emilia and Giovanna were each in light
yellow gowns, with long shawls of white lace; Vittoria kissed the tips
of her fingers to the waiting cavaliers, who, with the exception of
Francis, all bent low, and the two girls curtsied. When they had
descended into the salon and the presentations had been made, Francis
Moutray gazed with searching curiosity at the celebrated beauty.

As his eyes flickered over her he knew that she was not perilous for
him; he saw every wrinkle, every stroke of paint on her face, and
something brutal in him was satisfied that this enchantress was being
deprived of her weapons by time; he looked from her to Emilia, who was a
dark creature with an aloft and dreaming air, and his appraisement of
her was careless; his last consideration was for the golden Giovanna,
who was laughing with Mr. Middleton.

He noticed at once the strangeness of her beauty, the long throat, the
small delicate head, the full lips, and with a horrid thrill he
recognized in her a likeness to the woman of his vision the night
before.

His eyes remained on her, and his heart beat slightly faster as
something of the terror and fascination of his dream came over him
again.

Giovanna turned and looked at him.

Her sleepy eyes widened, brightened, then the lids drooped again, a
faint blush overspread the small oval of her face; she turned again to
Mr. Middleton and made some remark.

Francis could not catch what she said, but he knew she was talking
English; the sound of his own tongue on her lips gave him a peculiar
sensation; he remembered her English blood.

Again Giovanna looked at him gravely; this time the drowsy eyes came
bright as gold; she moved away from Mr. Middleton and stood in the
entrance to the garden.

The salon was beginning to fill; the Contessa's attention was taken by
her guests; Mr. Middleton was endeavouring to return Emilia's coquetries
in Italian; Francis stood watching Giovanna.

He told himself that she was a thing to be despised, such as her mother
had been at her age--her mother's bait now; a deep regret for this
possessed him, and mingled with this regret was a stirring of all the
old desires and longings he always held chained and bound in his soul.

Giovanna looked at him again, then passed out into the garden; he saw
the sunlight flash over her as she went.

For a moment he held himself motionless where he was, struggling with a
horrid remembrance of his dream; then he said to himself, "Why should I
be afraid of this poor creature?"

And he followed her.

There were several people in the garden, seated on the coloured tiled
benches or wandering in and out of the intricate paths; Giovanna stood
beside a flowering bush of myrtle; she was pulling one of the flowers to
pieces with her long fingers. Francis Moutray stopped before her.

"You speak my language?" he said in English.

"Yes." She looked directly at him without either confusion or coquetry.
"The Contessa is proud of her English father, and we have always been
well practised in his tongue."

He hardly heard what she said, he was gazing at her so intently; he
noticed she had a little mole behind her left ear, that her lashes were
brighter than her hair, that her whole skin had a golden look over the
rose and white.

Then their eyes met.

"Where do you come from, Signore?" she asked.

"Scotland," he said briefly.

She seemed about to speak, but her breath appeared to die in her throat;
she stared at his dark blunt-featured face, dark with the cold darkness
of the north, at his grey eyes that regarded her so sternly, at his
plain attire; then she glanced at his bare, brown and muscular hands.

"What is your name?" she asked.

"Francis Moutray."

"I am the Contessa Giovanna Odaleschi."

"I know," he smiled; "a famous name. You must have many cavaliers."

"Not one," she shook her head. "I am only six months from a convent."

He felt rebuked for his estimate of her; was it possible that she was as
innocent as her air proclaimed her? His blood gave a quick leap at the
thought. "Six months is long enough," he said.

Her eyes were suddenly mysterious.

"Yes--or six weeks or days--or minutes," she answered. "But I have
chosen no one."

"But you--living in this palace--know something of love?" he insisted.

Her face took on a closed look.

"Will you be my _cavalier servente_?" she asked. He flushed, half in
anger, half in shame.

"I do not know your customs," he answered, and drew back a step.

"Nor I yours," she smiled. "No Italian would have refused me--like
that."

"I am a boor," said Francis quickly. "I did not mean to hurt you. But I
am only a few days in Bologna."

"Only a few days!"

"Yes."

"And then?"

"I return to Scotland."

"You do not like Italy," asked Giovanna; her lids had dropped and her
face was clouded.

"It is so--different," he replied.

"From your country?"

"Yes."

"You come from the north where it is cold and bitter," she said. "Why do
you not stay here?"

Francis laughed.

"My place is in my own country."

"Ah!" she gave a little sigh.

"You do not understand why I cannot stay?"

She looked at him sadly. He saw a little pulse beating in her throat and
the moisture on her lips; behind the heaped amber locks of her hair the
frail bridal blossoms of the myrtle swayed in the breeze; again the
memory of his dream came over him. She looked now like the same woman
who had advanced to his bedside the night before.

He stepped back from her and took his eyes from her face.

"Do not go," she said.

"Do not--go?" he echoed stupidly.

"Why should you?"

She dropped the ruined flower and touched his left hand with her right.
They both started and flushed; she drew back instantly.

"What have you done to me?" she trembled. "Ah, _Dio_!"

She moaned as if she had been hurt; he stared down at his still tingling
hand, and braced himself.

"I take too much of your time," he said, his voice was hoarse and came
with difficulty, he found himself trembling.

This real flesh and blood was a thousand times more to be dreaded than
the allurement of his dream woman; he could not believe his
senses--could not credit that this creature had so captured him. He
longed to touch her again to prove her power--he hoped that this time he
might find her flesh cold and her hand powerless to make his heart
quiver, but her whisper, "What have you done to me?" thrilled in his
blood, and he did not dare approach her by a single step.

"Shall we not return to the palace, Donna Giovanna?" he asked.

She shook her head; in the small exquisite features was fear and
bewilderment and a wild curiosity.

"Whatever her mother may be," was his thought, "I dare swear this child
is immaculate!"

A wild triumph followed the reflection--if she was still unwon, would
she not be a glorious creature for some one man's winning?

Mastering himself he returned to the palace, leaving her
unceremoniously, and never looking back to the myrtle bush.

Among the throng of cavaliers and high-born ladies (for even the noblest
dames of Bologna did not disdain the entertainment afforded by the
Contessa's "conversazione") Francis found Mr. Middleton.

"Which girl is spoken of with the Orsini?" he asked.

"The Contessa Emilia."

"Ah," Francis averted his eyes; "the other, Harry, might be saved from
this wanton crowd."

"What makes you think so?" asked the Englishman sharply.

"I have spoken to her," replied Francis moodily; "she has the means of
grace within her--have you marked her?"

"She is not considered so great a beauty as her sister."

"I was speaking of her soul, not her body," retorted Mr. Moutray
impatiently, at which Mr. Middleton laughed.

"She is a fair woman though," he said, putting up his glass to survey a
passing beauty, "and beware, Frank, of fair women whom you meet in the
Palazzo Odaleschi."

Francis answered gravely and with a sudden touch of tenderness:

"This maid is but a few months from a convent; this--" he glanced round
the gorgeous room, the gorgeous company--" is not where she should find
herself!"

"She is guarded as jealously as one of your own Puritan children,"
answered Mr. Middleton. "The Contessa is too wise a woman not to
understand the market value of a fair reputation. Both these girls,
Frank, aim to be princesses."

Francis smiled darkly.

"This is a tawdry crowd, Harry," he said, "and makes me more than ever
eager to be gone."

"Our stay is but for a few days, and enjoy them, Frank, for what they
are worth."

"Nay," said Mr. Moutray wearily, "with or without you, I return
to-morrow."

With that he left his friend, and, pushing his way brusquely through the
groups of the Contessa's guests, found a quiet seat behind one of the
great pillars at the top of the marble steps.

There, unnoticed and alone, he put his elbow on his knee and took his
brow in his hand, while he stared at the chequered pattern of the
black-and-white tiled floor.

His forehead was burning, his blood rushing in a full tide through his
body. He was roused at last as he had always feared to be roused, as he
had always believed he never could be roused; his passions were loosed
at last from their long bondage. Giovanna Odaleschi! He shuddered as he
thought of her--the woman of his dread, of his vague, restless desire,
the woman who formed the temptation of his dreams; last night he had had
a premonition and, like a fool, disregarded it, and now it was no vision
of fever but a real human creature. Giovanna Odaleschi!--the child of
Papacy, corruption, vice. No doubt but she was light as the wind
herself--a foreigner--all that was abhorrent to his training, his creed,
his ideals--yet desirable as water in the desert, as sweet as fresh
honey on the lips. Giovanna Odaleschi! He shuddered at the name.

With the gloomy superstition of his wild and sensitive race, he began to
think that she had bewitched him--began to imagine that it was she who
had really appeared to him last night. He had heard good cases of these
handmaidens of the devil sent to tempt the weak flesh of Christians. He
rose and pressed his brow, that was still hot and beating with last
night's fever, against the cool, polished surface of the green marble
pillar.

With angry, brooding eyes he watched the company passing to and fro in
the salon; and presently he saw her.

She was seated on one of the huge gilt chairs that bore, on a red velvet
cushion, the Odaleschi arms in gold braid, and she was listening, in a
pensive way, to the chatter of three ladies and a cavalier.

Francis Moutray tried fiercely to find fault with her; she was too tall,
too slender, her carriage was peculiar, her manners too free. He tried
to set against her allurement the modest charm of his own country-women
as he had seen them at the kirk or on the heather, with the silk tartan
drawn over the blue snood of maidenhood.

But he knew that his swift fancy was not to be so cheated and deceived.
He gazed at her, at her movements, her gestures, the fall of her yellow
gown, the turn of her small head, and even more strongly his blood
flowed in a hot tide of passion and desire and yearning.

His soul sickened and reproached him, placed his God, his duty, his home
before him, pointed out the gulf of utter sin into which he was peering,
and he turned away with a mighty effort, making a resolve that, if
carried out, would have averted a dismal tragedy.

"I will leave this city, this country of abomination, where I have
stayed too long," he cried to himself. "I will tear these wanton
thoughts from my soul--I will go home and serve God honourably."

He thought of Harry Middleton's protestations, laughter, and long
advice, and he decided to leave the Odaleschi Palace early the next
morning before anyone was astir--to return alone to Scotland.
Strengthened by this resolve he came from the shadows of the green
pillar and mingled with the other guests.

The women were gay, the men amiable; they spoke to him without ceremony,
and he answered as best he could in his uncertain French, while his
glance was ever turning towards Giovanna Odaleschi.

She never looked up, nor round, nor caught his glance--his sad reluctant
glance that admired her with such unwilling fervour; once he came so
near her that he could distinguish the pattern of white roses round the
hem of her brocade gown, but still she did not raise her head.

Presently he heard her laugh. He paused in his conversation to listen,
and turned his dark intent face towards her; and while she was laughing,
she saw him and rose suddenly to her feet, put the tip of her feather
fan to her startled lips, and slipped hastily through the crowd.

"She is afraid of me," he thought, and all his blood danced, but the
instant afterthought was strong and bitter--"as I--my God!--am afraid of
her--"



IV


Francis Moutray did not admit to himself that he was flying from the
influence of a girl to whom he had only spoken once. He argued that he
was sick of his travels, sick of his travelling companion, weakened with
fever, weary of the heat, that his estates needed him, that his
neighbours would wonder at his absence, and so reconciled himself to a
secret flight from the Palazzo Odaleschi.

He went to the "Corona d'Oro," and ordered a saddlehorse, and hired a
servant to go with him as far as the frontier; his portmantles had not
yet been brought to the Palazzo, save one that was no larger than he
could carry himself.

The long summer Italian evening gave him ample leisure for these
preparations, and the Contessa had too many guests and too much on her
mind to pay any attention to the doings of so obscure a unit as the
Scottish cavalier, and Mr. Middleton was too absorbed in extracting all
the enjoyment he prudently could out of the Odaleschi's entertainment to
give much heed to his friend whom he had lately found impossibly moody.

At supper Francis saw Giovanna again; the sight of her, powdered and
adorned, radiant and admired, shook his senses into fierce protest
against his flight. The meal was an agony, he could not eat nor scarcely
speak, and the strong Italian wines he drank to give him strength fired
him to a deeper delirium of anguish.

He fortified himself by the thought of his completed preparations; by
the next dawn he would be out of Bologna, please God, and soon out of
this cursed country.

His place was some distance from Giovanna, so that he could not hear her
voice, and he was glad; yet he knew he fiercely hated the man seated
beside her who was near enough to her to count the pearls on her
neck...to feel her breath on his cheek when she turned to speak to him.

He laughed at himself for this jealousy--some man would have her when he
was gone--she might even become what her mother was...and he wanted her
in a convent! He was mad, he told himself with fierce contempt--mad to
concern himself with the purity of Giovanna Odaleschi.

And he did not use the term "mad" in any conventional sense, there was
no other word but that of "madness" to describe the new emotions, the
revolt in his heart, the upset of all the values by which he had guided
his life, the desperate resolve of flight--all these strange sensations
and weaknesses that tormented him; he told himself that the fever had
still hold of him, that the Italian sun and the Italian wines had made
his mind cloudy. When he rose to leave the table he was shivering as if
indeed the malaria had touched his blood.

He looked across the crowd at Giovanna; the last time, he told himself,
that he ever would look at her. She was standing with her back to him,
the long lines of her figure showed through the fine white folds of her
hoopless dress; her small drooping head was crowned with a wreath of
summer violets--little Italian violets odourless and brightly pale.

"Fair mischief," said Francis Moutray in his heart, "this is the last
chance thou wilt have to dazzle me!"

He left the company unnoticed (the Contessa was hardly aware of his
existence, and Mr. Middleton was absorbed), and went up to the great
bed-chamber given him in the left wing of the palace.

To his Northern eyes it seemed large enough for a ballroom, the walls
and the ceiling were painted with landscapes and figures, gay-coloured
and heathen; the bed was draped with Genoa velvet and covered with a
great square of rich hand-worked lace, inside the curtains hung the
mosquito-nets. Francis, seeing them, shuddered, thinking of last night
and how he had torn the nets in his fierce struggle with the phantom
woman; and now she was a phantom no longer, but a creature to whom he
had spoken--a creature who had cried out, "What have you done to me?"

His one candle in the stick of red Florentine copper gave a leaping
light that did not touch the corners of the vast room nor the high
ceiling; there were sconces and a chandelier, but Francis did not light
them; he sat in the deep armchair between the bed and the wall and
dropped his cheek on to his palm.

He felt bound, burning hot; every nerve in his body tingled to the sense
of the alien in the atmosphere; everything was strange--the warm air,
the vast room, the heavy furniture. He was acutely aware that all
belonged to a world he did not understand but hated, and a world that
had no place for him...the world where Giovanna Odaleschi moved and
flourished, where she would continue to bloom and laugh when he had
gone.

The thought of her moving about this palace when he had put land and sea
between them caused him a physical agony; he groaned, dropped his hand
from his damp brow, raised his head. As he did so he gave a great start,
for a second he thought another man, a complete stranger, was seated
close beside him; then he saw that he was gazing at his own reflection
in the great mirror hanging on the opposite wall. He saw himself
engulfed in shadows, sunk in the huge chair, the ragged light of the
candle on his face; it startled him to notice how strange he looked.

His face was flushed and softened, the dark brown hair loosened and
falling over his white cravat, the fine features, usually so austere,
expressing wild unhappiness...he was frightened at his eyes, it seemed
to him as if a soul that was not his looked out of them.

He put his right hand to his face, and with the other groped for the
candle-light and put out the coarse flame.

He flung himself dressed, ready for his flight, on the bed, shrouded and
concealed by the heavy curtains, face downwards on the great pillows
where the darkness was like the darkness of oblivion.

But it brought him no peace; his wild thoughts threw the pale bright
figure of the Contessa Giovanna on the intense blackness. He saw her, as
he had seen the woman of his vision last night, advancing towards him,
coming soft-footed to the bedside and holding out her arms.

As soon as the summer dawn showed in a pale line between the velvet
curtains, he rose and made his few preparations for departure. For two
nights he had scarcely slept, and he felt giddy, but he resolved to rest
at the first inn--not here. "I shall not sleep," he said, "until I have
left Bologna behind--until my face is set homeward."

He found water in his chamber and bathed his face; he put on his dark
hat and mantle over the steel-blue silk he had worn the night before,
took up his gloves and his small portmantle, left a note for Mr.
Middleton and a guinea for the servant, and stepped out on to the grand
staircase.

The palace was absolutely silent from garret to cellar. His spirits rose
when he saw that he was not likely to meet any difficulty in making his
escape (for escape he named it to himself); he had another guinea ready
for the porter at the gates, who would be well enough used, he was sure,
to people coming and going at all seasons.

He descended the first flight of stairs, turned down a corridor, came to
another staircase, descended that, found himself in a part of the
building strange to him, and realized with deep vexation that he did not
know his way out.

When he had been conducted to his room he had not noticed where he was
being guided; when he had come up after supper he had come by the back
staircase from the salon that was not near the entrance.

He resolved, however, to return that way, and from the ground floor find
an exit; but in retracing his steps again lost his way in the palace
that was vaster far than any house in which he had ever been.

Vexed and humiliated he went from passage to passage, from staircase to
staircase, then began to traverse a suite of state-rooms that opened
from one to the other and were all painted and splendidly furnished;
these rooms gave on to the garden, and Francis thought that from one of
them steps must descend from the window to the terrace below.

When he had crossed the fourth room, however, he found himself in a
windowless antechamber of white marble, lit only by a tall door of
stained glass in a screen of cedar wood, that formed the end of the
suite.

The light that struggled through the coloured squares was the uncertain
light of dawn before sunrise, and the whole antechamber was dim, silent,
and oppressive--a shadowed, chill whiteness in which Francis could
hardly see his surroundings. He realized that he had been again foiled
in his attempt to leave the palazzo, and was turning on his heel with a
kind of impatient despair, when the low but distinct sound of a voice
made him turn again and pause.

A woman's voice reciting Latin--a prayer, Francis thought; it came from
behind the cedar-wood wall or screen, and Francis now guessed that a
chapel or oratory was concealed by the glass doors, for he noticed a
faint perfume of the powerful and, to him, infinitely repugnant incense
such as the Papists used.

He had now a stronger reason for endeavouring to find his way out of the
palace as quickly as possible, for one person at least was awake, and
might any moment discover him. But instead of leaving, he lingered, and
finally, putting his portmantle down by one dim white wall, he crossed
to the stained glass door, shuddering, reluctant, but irresistibly
drawn.

He thought that it was Giovanna's voice, that she was there praying to
her images, and he thought that he was strong enough to look on her once
more and then to go, when he had seen his vision of the torturing
night--the tantalizing phantom, that always faded before it touched him,
resolved into beautiful reality. He trembled at the thought of meeting
her alone, in this remote, silent hour; he waited at the door of the
oratory, his hat off and the brim pressed to his lips, for he could not
bring himself to enter a Papist place of worship.

The voice faded into a silence that lasted so long that he had almost
forced himself into pushing open the door that concealed her and her
idol, when he heard a step.

Her step, he knew it already; he leant back against the carved cedar
wood, and his heart gave a sick lurch.

"I will look on her once, and go," he said.

The door swung back with a gentle creak and Giovanna Odaleschi stepped
into the white antechamber.

She was in white herself, a white gown that hung from throat to ankles,
and a white scarf was twisted round her head, showing the pale oval of
her face as she stood for a second in the open doorway; the heavy golden
light from the chapel was upon her, changing her garments to an amber
colour, and the bluish smoke of the incense and the sickly strong
perfume of it rushed out into the cool air.

Francis moved a slow step forward, and she, seeing him, paused, and
allowed the door to fall into place behind her.

With eager and despairing eyes he stared at her through the veil the
obscure light put between them; the peculiarity of her person was
heightened by the fantastic effect of her white figure in the white
room. She looked abnormally tall, long-limbed, and slender, and her
small head had an extraordinary look of delicacy, like the drooping bell
of some Eastern flower.

When she saw the young man in his light travelling cloak leaning against
the wall with his hat crushed to his breast and his feverish eyes fixed
with such a passionate intentness on her, she gave a faint exclamation
in her own language, but she showed no surprise, nor did he, nor had he
felt any even when he first heard her voice. It seemed to him that from
the first this was inevitable, in no way to be avoided. She spoke in an
even, natural voice.

"You are up early," she said. "I often come here to pray--my rooms are
near. How did you find your way here? These apartments are generally
shut since my father died. They were his."

"I found the door open," answered Francis, marking with fury the Papist
symbols about her, the dark crucifix hanging at her bosom, the breviary
in her hand.

"Why did you come?" asked Giovanna; her manner was grave, even sad, all
the coquetry that she had displayed last night had gone.

"I lost my way," he said hoarsely, knowing that he had but too well
found it, that this way he had been meant to come by the magic that had
bewitched him since he had entered Bologna.

"Lost your way?" she echoed; she came nearer, bringing with her the
smell of the incense that was so hateful to him. "Why are you abroad so
soon?" she added.

He did not answer; he realized that they were talking in a great
intimacy, with no restraint or embarrassment, and it was not his way to
be easy, especially with foreigners and women. He watched her as she
came slowly across the white floor, even as his vision had come, slowly
towards him. In that moment he hated her; she stood for all that was
alien and evil, and he hated her the more that her presence troubled
him, and she shook his soul to tumults of longing and desire.

She gazed at him in a calm way, then her glance fell on the portmantle
beside him.

"Ah, you are going?" she said.

He was usually acutely sensitive to anything approaching the
undignified, and avoided ridicule as he avoided dishonour, but now it
did not occur to him that there was anything foolish in being caught by
the daughter of his hostess in attempting an escape from her house.
These outside considerations did not affect him at all, the issue seemed
to be only and entirely between him and her.

"Yes, I am going," he answered, and squared his shoulders as if he
replied to a challenge.

She did not ask why; she threw out her hands with a foreign gesture and
said softly: "You hate us all."

"I hate the Papists," he said bitterly, "and all their mummery and
witchcraft."

Giovanna made the sign of the cross hastily.

"Of course you are a heretic," she said.

Francis laughed.

"I am leaving Bologna. I am leaving Italy. Farewell, Signora, for we are
not likely to meet again."

"Ah _Dio_!" she exclaimed with an intense accent; she moved swiftly
towards him and held out her two slim hands exactly as his vision had
done.

"Signore, how have I offended you? Yesterday you would not speak to me
nor look at me, and now you leave me!"

He drew back before her.

"You have been very hospitable," he answered hoarsely, "but I was not
made for these soft delights."

"I do not understand," said Giovanna in a humble voice.

Francis felt for her a sudden pang of pity that quenched his hate; how
could she understand anything? He flushed and quivered as again the
thought came to him that perhaps she might be saved from the damnation
surrounding her--that _he_ might save her.

"Why would you not be my cavalier?" asked Giovanna. She slowly unwound
the white scarf from her head and neck, and the light was now strong
enough to reveal the soft lines and hues of her bared throat and ears,
the crushed coronal of curls on her small head.

Francis averted his eyes.

"I am going," he said.

She was puzzled, bewildered, like a hurt child; she lifted her hand and
let it fall.

"Your country is very far off?" she asked, and in that sentence he saw
the ignorance of her mind laid bare; she was no more than a child, he
thought, and like a child might be taught and led...

"I come from Scotland," he answered her.

"There arc many Scotch gentleman in Rome," said Giovanna.

"They are cursed Jacks and traitors and Papists," returned Francis, "men
who would never dare show their faces at home. I am Mr. Moutray of
Glenillich."

The light was now strong in the antechamber and they could see each
other clearly, could mark how pale and strained the features of either
were--her eyes seemed red with weeping, and his were heavy and flushed
with blood.

"You have not slept," she said.

"No," he admitted in a rough voice; "and you?"

"I have been praying--"

"To those images!"

She pressed her hands tightly over her heart with a gesture of terror.

"How different we are, you and I!" she cried--"different in everything!
I never met before one like you!--nor you a woman like me, I think--"

"There is a gulf between that nothing can bridge," said Francis
hoarsely. "Go back to your idolatry--it is not for such as me to strive
for the souls of such as you!"

"My soul?" repeated Giovanna. "Are you thinking of my soul? I am good,
Signore; I am but newly come from the convent--I mean to be good all my
life."

"Poor child!" said Francis.

"Why do you say that? Do you think I am a useless creature? I know that
I am--only a woman--but a woman can do something."

"What can she do?" asked Francis.

"Love," said Giovanna simply.

At that one word, at her voice and her look, he trembled all over, and,
turning hastily round to conceal his emotion, caught up his portmantle.

"Tell me how I may leave the palace," he asked, "and farewell again,
Signora."

She put out her hand, then withdrew it; he moved away from her, his
cloak slipped from his shoulder on to the marble floor. She moved as if
to pick it up, he with a word of protest stooped and their hands met.

As her fingers touched his she began to sob.

"Are you going?" she asked, "are you going?"

He raised her, repelling her light weight that seemed to lean towards
him; her hands clung to his wrist ruffles.

"Are you going?" she repeated for the third time.

He stared down on to her closed eyes.

"What else," he asked, "can I do?"

He pushed her gently away from him, and she suddenly retreated and
looked at him, bright eyed and very white.

"Go, then," she said, "doubtless it is better."

"Before God," cried Francis Moutray, "it is better."

But his heart was sick and heavy and his feet faltered as he turned
away.

"When do you leave Bologna?" she asked.

He struggled with himself, he knew that servant and horses were waiting
for him even now at the inn, and that he had meant by full sunrise to be
well on the way to Milan; but he was making compromises, desperate
compromises, with himself.

"To-night," he answered.

"Where are you staying?" she asked.

The name of the inn was on his lips, but he made a violent effort over
his weakness.

"I shall spend the hours seeing Bologna," he answered with an unsteady
laugh.

Giovanna drew her breath sharply.

"Go through these rooms," she said, "and take the second staircase--it
will lead you to the gates."

He bent his head, then dared a last look at her; she was faintly
smiling, and it fired his blood with ecstasy and terror.



V


Several hours after the dawn when Francis and Giovanna had parted,
Vittoria Odaleschi entered her daughter's chamber.

The girl was seated by her white damask-hung bed, her elbow resting on
her knee, her chin resting on her hand.

"Vanna," said the Contessa sharply, "what is the matter? Emilia tells me
that you have refused to go with her party to the _casini_. Are you
ill?"

Giovanna shivered.

"Yes, I think so," she answered faintly.

"Why did you not come to Mass this morning?" demanded Vittoria, closing
the door; she sat down near her daughter, her billowing panniers and
huge skirt, all glittering with gold tinsel, wholly concealing the
chair.

Giovanna held out her right hand in which a letter was crushed; her face
frightened her mother, for her eyes were heavy, her lips swollen and dry
with fever, her cheeks colourless.

"I love a man and he loves me," she said fiercely, "and--he is going
away."

Vittoria put down the coquettish tricorne hat, mask, and black lace
shawl she carried, her eyes sparkled and her features blanched beneath
the French red and white.

"Who is it?" she asked.

"The Scotch milord," cried out Giovanna; "he is flying from me! Why? Am
I ugly or hateful? Madonna, help me to bring him back."

Vittoria had scarcely noticed the man, never even perceived that he had
left the palace.

"Speak to me coherently," she said in a calm voice; "tell me
everything."

"There is nothing to say," returned Giovanna; "we met yesterday--we
loved. I rose early this morning to pray the Virgin send us happiness,
and when I left the chapel I met him--he was leaving--he would not stay
nor tell me where he would lodge, but all the while I knew he loved me.
I sent my page to follow him--he was at 'La Corona d'Oro.' I wrote to
him, asking him to come back--he answered me--" she held out the crumpled
scrap of paper in her hot, moist hand--"refusing--I do not understand."

The Contessa did not understand either; her world was a world where
women were paramount, the amusement and the authority of a decadent age,
and no man refused to interpret aright the language of gallantry nor to
accept a lady's favour. But this was not what troubled Vittoria, the
thing that cut to her heart was to see the marks of passion in
Giovanna's wretchedness, that Southern passion was even more her
daughter's inheritance than her own.

"Who is this man?" she asked with deep anger.

"I do not know," answered Giovanna. "I love him."

Vittoria rose.

"Only yesterday," she said, "I told you what I intended for you," her
eyes blazed. "You will have no lover till you are safely married."

"I shall only have this one lover all my life," replied Giovanna.

Vittoria laughed.

"You had better have stayed in your convent," she said.

Giovanna pressed the letter to her lips and rocked herself to and fro.

"Bring him back to me," she implored.

"Vanna," cried the Contessa impatiently, "you must never see this man
again."

Giovanna laughed now, and the sound of it frightened her mother.

"I love him," she repeated, rising in her dishevelled mob and pushing
back her fallen hair; "do you not understand? And if I cannot have him
for my lover and my husband--"

"Your husband?" broke in Vittoria.

"My husband," repeated the girl, "_mine for always_! He must come back
to me or I shall be mad--think of it "--she put her hand to her throat
and the words came hoarsely--"he--will--go--away, and one day some other
woman--Oh _Dio_! save me!"

She sank on her knees on the bedstep, and abandoned herself to bitter
sobbing.

Vittoria looked at her with dismay and anger but little pity.

"You will not give yourself to this nameless foreigner, this rude
heretic, this barbarian," she said with great pride and authority. "Do
you think that I have guarded you, adored you, tended you, for that?
Forget this man--"

Giovanna lifted her haggard face.

"_You_ were not so old as I," she said, "_you_ did as you chose--you
married where you loved--"

"You speak of what you do not know," returned the Contessa sternly. "I
made mistakes, and I want to save you from them--"

"This is another life and another mistake, _mine_, not yours," said
Giovanna passionately. "Do not tell of the past--this is _my_ time now;
if you will not help me, I will win him for myself--he loves me--"

"He flies you," cried Vittoria, catching at straws, "he does not
appreciate you, _you, my_ daughter, worthy of a prince--"

"He loves me," answered Giovanna; "could I but see him he would not
leave me. Oh, heart, heart! Mother, he must not leave Bologna
to-night--"

Vittoria caught her by the shoulders and dragged her to her feet.

"What do you want from life?" she asked; "think, you are not a child.
Here is everything women want--to your hand, for the picking
up--consider, you like these things--gallantries, luxuries, idleness--"

"I liked such pleasures till yesterday," interrupted Giovanna; "now I do
not care--no, for none of these--"

She lifted her tear-stained face defiantly, and Vittoria stared down
into it with frightened, angry eyes. She could not blind herself to the
sincerity and force with which her daughter spoke, and she knew what a
power passion could be, but her life had too long been idle intrigue and
restless liberty for her to consider the question of such self-sacrifice
as Giovanna wildly proposed, nor had she it in her to conceive an
unselfish love for any man.

"You mean you would leave me, leave your country, and go with this man
if he asked you?" she demanded.

"Yes," shivered Giovanna, "at once--anywhere--"

"He is a foreigner," remarked Vittoria bitterly, "and a cursed
heretic--and what can he give you?"

"It does not matter," answered the girl. "You speak as if I were
thinking of my own advantages--and I tell you--" she drew herself away
from her mother's grasp--"that I love him."

The English blood that was in the Contessa and that made her so bold, so
prudent, and often so eccentric, helped her to take a practical view of
this fantastic affair; all the graces and languishing coquetries of the
famous beauty fell from her; she looked her age, and her face formed
into hard lines.

Giovanna had fallen across the bed again, and the fine contours of her
long, slack limbs showed through the twisted folds of her muslin gown;
her face was concealed in her hands, and the knot of rose-coloured
ribbons which fastened her curls was slipping down the silken length of
her hair.

"Let me see the letter," said Vittoria. She took the crumpled paper from
the girl's moist, hot hand and spread it out.


"Signora Contessa,--I thank you for your offer of further hospitality,
but I may stay no longer in Bologna, therefore I cannot even wait on you
this afternoon, which is to the regret of your obedient servant,

"Francis Moutray of Glenillich--"


As the Contessa read this letter she flushed angrily.

"A boor," she said, with an accent of scorn, "a barbarian--and if I
remember well, a man of insignificant aspect."

Giovanna at once sat up; her face too was crimson and her whole body
shook; Vittoria had used the unforgivable weapon in scorning the man her
daughter had chosen; the girl's tears died in an angry heat, she felt
wronged and bitter, she recalled gallants of her mother's whom _she_
would have spurned, and her heart swelled.

But Vittoria continued, careless or unheeding--

"And with this creature you would fly the delights of Bologna--the
future I can assure you!" she said. "It is a caprice of youth, and a
foolish caprice, and I pray you forget it."

Giovanna's clear brown eyes flashed black with passion, but she made no
answer.

"There are better gallants than this," added Vittoria, flicking Francis'
letter with her delicate finger-nails, "to be had by lifting an
eyebrow--put a cushion on the balcony and smile down the street for half
an hour and you will have a dozen to choose from better than this
Francis Moutray."

Giovanna's heart suddenly and for ever closed to her mother, who was,
she told herself passionately, either incredibly stupid or incredibly
cruel--at least it was plain that she either did not or would not
understand, and a deep reserve fell over Giovanna's heart concealing the
tumult, the passion, and the pain.

Still she did not speak, and Vittoria stood helpless, not able to read
her at all.

"It is impossible that you can love this man," said the Contessa at
last, flinging down the letter.

Giovanna looked away and smiled.

"It is not love, it is fancy," continued Vittoria; "do I not know?"

"Too much!" flashed Giovanna, "too much, Madonna, ever to understand
me!"

"Do you scoff at experience, you foolish child?"

Giovanna rose with a certain dignity and a certain calm.

"Your experience is no use to me," she answered. "I am free, am I not?
My life is my own--"

"You are _mine_," interrupted Vittoria, with pain in her voice.

Giovanna shook her small head.

"No--God made me a free creature--and if you will not help me, I will
pray to Him and to the Virgin to give me good counsel."

"God will not listen to you," said the Contessa angrily. "What you ask
is mortal sin--this man is a heretic."

Giovanna trembled.

"There is that between you that nothing can bridge," added Vittoria.

Giovanna turned sharply away. Francis Moutray had used these very words
that morning; foreboding and despair fell over her heart; she moved to
the elaborate and frivolous toilet-table covered with scents, unguents,
and washes in gold and silver boxes.

"It is he and he only," she said, more as if speaking aloud to herself
than addressing her mother. "I shall never care for anyone else--never
even see anyone else. It is for all my life."

To the Contessa these words sounded like folly; she knew passion and
devotion, emotion and sentiment, but she despised constancy, and all her
instincts and training and experience were against a single love exalted
by self sacrifice, nor could she regard marriage as anything but a step
of material advancement and a safe-guarding of reputation in a woman's
life.

She smiled, and Giovanna, in the depths of the dressing mirror, saw the
smile, and the breach between them was complete, though the Contessa was
not entirely aware how she had stung her daughter.

Nor was she at that moment watching Giovanna; her quick and daring brain
was already conceiving a plan to end this foolishness,--the fellow said
he was leaving--probably only a ruse, but it must be seen to that he did
leave both Bologna and Italy; she had seen the name of the inn heading
the letter Francis had written, she would have the place watched, and if
he lingered in the city her plans were ready; she was a power in
Bologna.

This resolve brought her sudden comfort. She banished the dismal
forebodings that had arisen (for her finest, truest feelings were bound
up in her children, and she would have given her life to have saved
either of them from a spoilt career or failure, as she imagined
failure), that Giovanna was madly rushing on destruction.

With her air of the great lady, the coquette and the woman of the world,
she crossed to the slim, silent figure of her daughter and kissed her on
the forehead--tall as Giovanna appeared, her mother was taller.

The girl did not speak and made no response; Vittoria gave her an
anxious look, then smiled brilliantly, as she reflected that she who had
been equal to the college of Cardinals and the Pope himself, was not
likely to find much difficulty in dealing with a simple girl out of a
convent--she pictured Giovanna soon mistress of a Roman or Florentine
palace, and the Scotchman soon enclosed in the grey fogs of his
impossible island.

Picking up her armoury of weapons, the fan, the mask, the lace shawl,
the Contessa left the room to join the aristocratic company who were
already assembled on the benches outside the palace.

But Giovanna remained in her room, in untidy undress, seated before the
dressing-table and staring with red eyes at her wretched reflection in
the glass.

She considered dismally that by her impulsive confidences to her mother
she had made her case worse; she knew that she would be watched now as
the young wives of the nobles who thronged the Palazzo Odaleschi were
watched.

She had meant to find the friend of Mr. Moutray, but he too had
disappeared, and now there was little chance of her meeting him.

And to-night _he_ might be leaving Bologna; she shivered to the soul as
she pictured him riding away, and sought desperately for the cause of
this flight.

He loved her, of that she was sure; she did not come of a race of women
schooled to be diffident or shy. Love, religion, and politics were the
three interests of her world, and love came first with most, certainly
with those who frequented her mother's salons, and she felt neither
shame nor wonder at her own feelings, nor at her expression of them, but
his attitude, the contradiction with the lips of what the eyes told her,
this reluctant flight--these were beyond her comprehension.

She could only think of two explanations, either he was married (not a
very potent reason in her eyes), or it was religion keeping them apart.

This last obstacle she did tremble before; she felt the barrier it was
between them, the awful position of a heretic; she knew the
impossibility of a union with one, and already felt herself cowering
before the wrath of an outraged Church--the Church that condoned
everything but apostasy.

She recalled his scornful gesture, his scornful words, evoked by the
sight of the crucifix hanging at her bosom, and fresh tears of agony
began to sting her tired eyes.

She saw the huge, yawning chasm between them. She was not stupid, and
she pictured clearly enough the differences between their Gods, their
countries, their outlook, and their positions; yet it seemed to her, in
the generous strength of her swift passion, that all these obstacles
could be lightly swept away; it was bitter to consider that he did not
find it so easy on his side.

With an unsteady hand she poured some Hungary water over her
handkerchief and held it to her throbbing, aching head.

She pressed the wet cambric over her closed lids, and pictured him as
she had seen him that morning in his light travelling cloak with his hat
pressed to his heart, his dark eyes shadowed, his features wan and
fatigued--looking at her, moving reluctantly away.

She had his portrait by heart: she knew every wave in his soft hair--she
remembered the pattern of the lace of his cravat, the make of the
tassels on his sword hilt, the red silk roses on the flourishing of his
waistcoat--all these trivial details that were important because they
helped to form the picture of him...

When the Contessa Emilia entered in swaying white silk hoops with pink
rosettes and high-heeled mules buckled in gold--Emilia, perfumed,
powdered, and smiling--she hardly recognized her sister in the
dishevelled, tragic figure at the dressing-table.

"I am not coming to the _casini_," said Giovanna, rising and facing her
sister.

Emilia stared, shrugged, laughed, and went away to her amusements;
Giovanna pulled the crucifix from her bosom and, resting her elbows
among the combs, ornaments, and complexion washes, pressed the holy
symbol to her dry lips.



VI


The Contessa found Mr. Middleton among the company lounging in front of
the Palazzo Odaleschi. She spoke to him, graciously and decisively, of
his friend, and the Englishman, who had what he termed 'Moutray's
confounded foolish letter' in his pocket, began to think that there had
been more than mere whim in the flight of Francis, so clearly did the
Contessa let it be understood that it would be for Mr. Moutray's own
good to leave Bologna at once.

Curiosity and some apprehension for the safety of his travelling
companion sent Henry Middleton round to the "Corona d'Oro" as soon as he
could unconspicuously leave the company.

It was now nearing the fall of evening, the first dusk began to creep
over the long afternoon, but Francis Moutray was still at the inn.

Mr. Middleton found him, in the bare parlour with the painted walls,
wearing his travelling coat, his hat on his knees, smoking a long clay
pipe and staring out of the window at the little garden where some fowls
scratched the dust under the vine-covered arbours.

"Eh, Frank," cried Mr. Middleton, "what turn is this?"

Francis Moutray showed a face so violent in expression that the
Englishman's jovial humour was checked at once; he had always known that
the mobile features were capable of expressing passion, but he had not
looked for this transformation. Mr. Moutray spoke quietly, however.

"Have you also left the Palazzo Odaleschi?" he asked.

"To find you, Frank, to ask you how you have offended the Contessa."

Francis turned his smouldering eyes away.

"I offend the Contessa?" he repeated slowly.

"She hinted plainly that you had better leave Bologna no later than
to-night for your own sake," said Mr. Middleton, flinging his hat on the
table and thrusting his hands jauntily into his embroidered
pocket-holes. "What is it, Frank? Hast thou an intrigue at last?"

Francis was silent, but obviously startled and amazed.

"'Twill be too dark to start soon," continued Mr. Middleton, "and 'twere
best you went."

"She threatens?" asked Francis moodily, knocking out his pipe. "What can
she mean? I do not think I shall leave Bologna."

"Why? You meant to this morning."

"I have changed my mind," replied Francis gloomily. "I am not well; I
have a touch of fever. I shall stay till to-morrow."

"There is some mystery here," cried Mr. Middleton impatiently. "What
occurred between you and the Contessa during those few hours you were in
her house?"

"I never spoke to her," returned Francis shortly.

"But she is not a woman," persisted the other, "to talk idly. She has
some grievance against you, believe me. And she is near as powerful in
this city as the Pope himself."

"A fitting lieutenant to His Holiness!" said Francis fiercely. "I am not
afraid of this woman, even though she has all the bravoes in Bologna in
her pay, as I doubt not she has. And as she has seen fit to threaten me,
for that reason I shall remain."

"But confound me, Frank," cried Mr. Middleton, "what has she against
you?"

Francis did not answer; he did not himself know. He held it
inconceivable that Giovanna should have spoken to her mother about that
meeting in the dawn, and he flattered himself that the young Contessa
did not herself know the reason of his flight, so utterly new was he to
this type of woman. He knew that Giovanna was extraordinary, but he
clothed her, unconsciously, in the conventional modesty and stupidity,
reserve and shrinking, that he had always been taught to associate with
her sex.

Nor, in his pride and arrogance, could he believe that a creature such
as the Contessa would take offence if he did deign to notice her
daughter. Indeed, he now thought that perhaps she hoped to frighten him
into a formal offer, since he had heard that she was looking for a
husband for the girl, and he smiled at the idea. Such a marriage was as
utterly preposterous in his estimation as it was in that of the
Contessa.

But to Mr. Middleton, alert with idle curiosity, enlightenment suddenly
came: he remembered a remark Francis had made the day before, he
recalled the disappearance of Vittoria's youngest daughter from the
company.

"'Tis the Contessa Giovanna!" he exclaimed. "Thou hast been caught in
the springe of love at last!"

"What makes you say that?" cried Francis violently, and rising as he
spoke.

Mr. Middleton laughed.

"Confess you were caught in conversation with the lady, Frank. The
Odaleschi is a very Argus where her daughters are concerned. I warned
you."

"She overacts the part," returned Francis scornfully. "She is a fitting
sentinel for youthful innocence! I hate her, Harry."

"But Giovanna?"

Francis would not use the heathen, Papist name.

"The Contessa's daughter and I could never have anything in common," he
said half angrily, half mournfully. "What would my marriage with such an
one mean but black misery?"

Mr. Middleton started in real surprise.

"Marriage? By Heaven!" he exclaimed.

Francis whitened at having betrayed where his wild thoughts were leading
him.

"Is she not an honourable woman?" he asked fiercely, stung into further
indiscretion.

"She is not the wife for you, Frank. You have fever, indeed, or are
deeper in love than ever I thought to see you. Ye heavens! Giovanna
Odaleschi!"

Francis' face took on an expression akin to that which had come over
Giovanna's when her mother laughed at her lover, but the long training
of reserve helped him to control his leaping, unreasonable anger.

He answered quietly:

"I do not think to see her again. I shall leave Bologna to-morrow."

Mr. Middleton thought this course the wisest too, and was about to say
so, but a spirit of mischief checked him. He had often wanted to see the
austere, cold, moody Francis moved, and the idea of his being roused at
last, and by the daughter of a woman whose name was a byword in Italy,
amused him immensely.

The rage and disgust of the Contessa at a heretic foreign suitor for her
daughter, the scorn and loathing of Francis for the Papist and the
wanton, the immense pride of each, the desire of Mr. Moutray to go, the
alluring figure of Giovanna drawing him to stay--all these things seemed
to Mr. Middleton to hold the elements of a very pretty drama, and one he
was not minded to miss. He had no wish to do Francis Moutray any harm;
he had, indeed, a certain affection for him, but he was a man of little
imagination, and he did not see the potentialities of tragedy in the
diversion he was arranging for himself by the discomfiture of a
travelling companion who was never congenial and often moody to
discourtesy.

Affecting a careless air, but with a look of amused malice, he said:

"Leave Bologna, Frank, but, as you say, what need to hasten as if you
were afraid of the girl? To-morrow will do, since you must leave me--but
spare me your company to-night.".

The manner of Francis Moutray responded instantly to that of his friend;
he became cold and indifferent, and stretched and yawned carelessly.

"Where are you going to-night?" he asked lazily.

"The Palazzo Rossi--I met the Marchese yesterday and he gave me welcome
to the gala he holds to-night. 'Twill be a grand fête, Frank, such as
one only sees in Italy. Will you not come?"

Francis Moutray hesitated; he looked out of the window where the warm
purple of the Italian dusk was falling, giving magic even to the
confined garden and the dusty vine arbours. He wanted to stay, he wanted
to taste to the full the idleness, the luxury, the nameless air of
pleasure that was so insidiously alluring; but, apart from being ashamed
of such desires, had he not vowed to put miles of the long white road to
Milan between himself and Giovanna Odaleschi?

"You said you were not leaving to-night," put in Mr. Middleton, who knew
perfectly well that Francis had only made that statement in pique, "and
surely you might as well be amusing yourself as sitting in this
miserable parlour?"

"Indeed, I am not well," said Francis, but he felt the excuse was
childish, and amended it by rising with a laugh on his lips, "but I am
well enough to go to your masque with you, Harry. I have been a sorry
companion to you, and you will be glad to see me ride homewards," he
added, and the smile that still lingered on his dark, thoughtful face
eradicated the gloomy and frowning lines in a sudden and lovable fashion
so that he looked, in his slimness and erectness and grace, only a
youth--a handsome youth with melancholy in his blood.

"You will be happier in Scotland," responded Mr. Middleton, "where there
are no Giovanna Odaleschis to disturb you!"

"Cease!" cried Francis, and the blood tingled to a flush in his cheeks.
"Say no more of that foolish fancy of mine. I meant nothing serious."

Mr. Middleton narrowed his eyes humorously, then pulled his watch out of
his laced pocket.

"I will order a coach and call for you at nine, Frank," he said. "I am
still a guest of the Odaleschi--they have an entertainment to-night, but
they will not notice my absence."

He thus skilfully informed Francis that Giovanna would not be at the
ball--a point Mr. Moutray had already resolved to be certain on before
he himself joined the fête at the Palazzo Rossi.

"I shall be ready," he answered indifferently, and Mr. Middleton left
him and rode back to the Palazzo Odaleschi.

Francis rang for his man, ordered his clothes to be put ready, ordered
the barber to be fetched, and his dinner to be served early, adding that
he would stay this night in Bologna, but no longer; the horses and
baggage were to be ready with the dawn.

When the servant had left him, Francis remained at the window.

He would not see her again, he told himself, he would go back to the
honourable, quiet, careful life such as his father had lived, such as he
meant to live, such as he had been trained to live all his days. Yet he
wished he had never come to Bologna with a force that showed how deeply
the allurement of the city and the woman had entered into his soul.

Both were the final realization of many vague, stinging and, as he felt,
wicked dreams; warmth, softness, idleness, beauty, luxury, and a fair,
useless, loving woman--dreams of these devices of the devil had often
troubled his austere, repressed youth; and the mingled longing for them,
and spurning himself for the longing, and the dreading of the eye of God
whose beam was directed into his soul and could read there his
wickedness, had been the cause of the black melancholies that at times
swept over his spirit as a storm of dark waters will sweep over and
overwhelm a strong swimmer until he can no more lift his head above
them.

But hitherto the temptations had been dreams only, obscure suggestions
of the blood, whisperings of sleepless nights, visions and fancies
founded on his country's vast lore of ballad and tale and the wild
legends that were rife in his native Ayrshire.

Now this wicked life was no longer a dream; he saw it before his eyes.
The woman was no longer the Elfin Queen who had lured Thomas the Rhymer
away, but a human creature, made for love, who had looked at him, bent
towards him--stood ready--ah, heart, heart, he knew it!--for his touch,
his kiss, his embrace.

He rose abruptly and began to pace the small but lofty room. A dull
triumph steadied the unhappiness of his unsatisfied desires. He had not
fallen. He would turn his back on Giovanna, on Bologna, on Italy, and
take up again the thread of his rigid life as a Calvinist laird, and he
would be stronger than before, for he would have faced the bait and
refused it--despised it and gone his way.

And he did despise these worldly things; he was austere and intolerant
as well as passionate, his gloomy creed suited him, and he clung to it
with more tenacity and felt for it even a stronger veneration than men
usually feel for an hereditary religion. He hated the Papists as the
descendant of the persecuted alone can hate the persecutor, and he was
arrogantly proud of the high standing of his name, the sacrifices his
family had made for country and faith, his substantial position (founded
on the reward King William had given his grandfather for loyal support)
and grave unblemished record; therefore one part of him did truly scorn
these cheap and soft delights of love and luxury and idleness and
ease--and yet--and yet--there was that in him that hungered and cried
out and writhed under repression, and threatened a terrible revenge.

He went up to his room presently--the same he had occupied that first
night he had slept in Bologna--but, either from complaisance (and he had
already noticed that the Romanists did not wear their bigotry as openly
as he did) or carelessness the Madonna had not been replaced.

The windows were open on the still lingering rosy light that fell in
prodigal beauty over the gardens and palaces of Bologna, and the room
was lit by two candles on the bureau that cast a soft illumination,
yellow as an August moon.

A certain scent, either of some flower that Francis did not know (and he
knew very few by name or sight), or of some wine from a cask being
opened below, or some perfume or unguent somewhere spilt or scattered,
filled the warm air; the bareness, the dirt, and gauntness of the room
were concealed by the wonder of the fading light and the sweet
fluttering shadows the two tapers cast.

On the bed were Francis' grey satin suit and his ruffles of Bruges lace,
his embroidered sword-belt, his silk stockings, and his red-heeled shoes
with cut silver buckles.

He glanced at his portmantles lying unstrapped, and thought, with the
curious pang a broken resolve brings in the remembrance, that he should
by now have been half-way to Milan.

"But to-morrow," he said to himself, "to-morrow--"

He reflected on that, that this was but an episode, that his real life
lay far outside these scenes, and would be resumed, as he had left it,
grave, calm, untouched.

As he considered this, a kind of exaltation of the spirit came over him;
he felt immeasurably stronger, he even smiled at the recollection of the
power the beautiful Bolognese had had to move him--he evoked her image
and viewed it without fascination; he felt that he could have met her
and turned away without a quickening of his pulses.

He knelt down on the warm stone floor and unlocked his private box; from
among the papers and jewel cases within he took out an Anglican Prayer
Book in an ivory cover with gilt clasps--a book too splendid for his
beliefs, but it was older than the modern days of stern simplicity. A
Moutray, who had fallen fighting for Protestantism in the Low Countries
under General Mackay, had carried it in his pocket on the battlefield
where he had met his death; the dry, yellowed front pages Avere
sprinkled with faded bloodstains.

Francis bowed his head, remained on his knees, and turned over the pages
with fanatical reverence.

He stopped at the Epistle to the Ephesians, used in the Church of
England on the third Sunday in Lent, and often resorted to for comfort
and strength by the young Calvinist.

He began to read the words aloud in a hushed, tense voice:

_"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love,
as Christ also hath loved us...But fornication, and all uncleanness, or
covetousness, let it not he once named amongst you, as becometh saints;
neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not
convenient; but rather giving of thanks...Let no man deceive you with
vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon
the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them:
for ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk
as Children of Light...and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works
of darkness, but rather reprove them."_

The broken, eager sentences ceased. Francis was silent, shuddering as he
had often shuddered before in face of the awful might and power of those
words--sentences that held as much of menace and terror as of strength
and consolation. Either by menace or by consolation they cooled the hot
rebellious blood in him; he put the old book back among his valuables,
turned the key on it, and rose outwardly composed and inwardly master of
himself.

As he turned to close the windows on the final glimmer of the daylight,
he was conscious of a great increase in the sweet, powerful perfume of
wine or blossom that he had before noticed in the room. So strong was
this wave of heavy scent that he instinctively turned.

His newly acquired Italian servant stood within the door in a charming
attitude of deprecation; he held a cluster of pure white and perfect
flowers.

"The gardenias," he said, and placed them delicately on Mr. Moutray's
lace ruffles, "for the Signore to wear to-night."

Francis came to the bed and looked down at the blooms which emitted the
overpowering and exciting odour. He had never worn flowers before, but
he had seen the Italian cavaliers with posies tucked into the velvet
arid lace of their cravats.

He picked up the flowers and gazed at them; his acute but stifled sense
of beauty was stirred to great animation by the strength and whiteness,
purity and delicacy of the strange blooms among the dark green leaves,
and as he looked at them the fine edge of his spiritual exaltation wore
away--he felt the blood stirring in his veins, rapidly, dangerously.

"_Because of these things_"--the warning darted through his brain; he
stepped to the window and flung the gardenias out, but before the
perfect courtesy of the valet's smile he was ashamed.



VII


There was no fête that night at the Palazzo Odaleschi, as Mr. Middleton
well knew. Vittoria and her daughter Emilia were engaged for the Palazzo
Rossi, and when Harry Middleton returned to the Contessa, he contrived
by a skilful whisper to the languid Giovanna that she should also be of
the company.

"Francis Moutray is coming," he said, and it was enough, more than
enough--a spark to tinder. She was like a creature transfigured, she
glowed at him with such honest gratitude, she seemed so frankly to
include him in her love-affair, that he was touched to a sense of shame
by her simplicity, her sincerity, and her unconsciousness.

When he saw her descend into the coach resplendent with the Odaleschi
arms on the gilt leather panels, he had a sense that he had inflicted an
injury on three people--the Contessa, Francis, and Giovanna.

But as he drove to the inn to fetch Francis, the mood of laughter
returned.

"Those two, Gods!" he cried to himself, and he tried to picture Giovanna
in the gloomy mansion at Glenillich, sewing with the maids, preserving
fruit and baking pies, or sitting in the old church listening to a
pastor, in Geneva gown and bands, preaching the gloomy theology of
Calvin. "But it is impossible," he assured himself, "it can never
be--neither love nor passion ever worked such a miracle as this."

So it came that Francis and Giovanna met at the fête in the Palazzo
Rossi--he unconsciously, she prepared.

Francis, turning from the dances in the great painted saloon, came face
to face with her, a late arrival, in the arch of the window, with a
crystal lamp illuminating her ardent beauty, and behind her the garden
and the moonlight--as behind her there had been the garden and the
sunlight when he had met her in her mother's palace.

A black lace shawl was folded over her fair hair and hung down over the
gold silk of her hoop; round her head was a coronet of cornelian stones,
and on her breast hung a large cameo of a pale pink colour set in a gold
filigree. He noticed this at once, and all the details of the gold
stitching and embroidery on the billowings of her skirt.

He paused a couple of feet away from her, and anger showed in his face
where she was eagerly looking for welcome.

"You look as if you had seen an enemy," she said, and shrank a little.

"So you may prove," he faltered, and put his palm across his eyes, for
at the unexpected sight of her his strength was dwarfed, his resolutions
shaken.

"Why?" asked Giovanna, without coquetry or lightness, but with a kind of
tragic question and apprehension. "Are you afraid of me? Did you not
know I was coming?"

"No," he replied, in a tone of such absolute firmness that she was at
once convinced and shocked; the tragic look deepened in her eyes, her
lips parted, she gave a short sigh.

"I should be on the Milan road," he said.

"I do not understand," she murmured; a certain gravity had fallen over
the gay sweetness of her manner, a certain dignity touched the usual
lightness of her demeanour. Francis instantly noticed this hint of depth
in her, and it increased her attraction for him a thousandfold--opened up
a thousand possibilities, a thousand tempting hopes--but he crushed and
repelled them savagely.

"I am not a man for dalliance," he said in a low voice, "in--this
world--I am out of place--in everything, these people, you--are
different--therefore let me go."

He looked at her as if she held him actually bound and he pleaded for
his release, and a certain gleam of triumph passed over her face and was
gone in another sigh.

"Well," she said, "go."

She swung the pink cameo on her breast and gazed out into the gardens.
He came a step nearer; he would go, of course, he told himself, but
first he must see her face again--she must turn once more and look at
him.

Behind him were the steps of the dancers sounding to the languid melody;
before him she stood, and beyond her the garden, silver beneath the
prodigal beauty of the moon, and in the air was a heavy sweet scent--he
knew it now--the perfume of the white flowers that he had cast from his
window...His heart began to beat unsteadily..."_Because of these
things_"--yet she must look at him again.

"Donna Giovanna," he said, "you know that I go, not from
discourtesy--but because I must?"

She looked at him now, and he came nearer.

"Who am I to keep you?" she returned. "I suppose we shall not meet
again. Walk with me in the garden a while."

He was not a churl to refuse, nor a stoic to endure the anguish of
leaving her now and facing the long struggle with himself alone in the
inn bed-chamber. He was strong enough to snatch these foolish hours, to
use them and fling them aside, and forget--so he said to himself as he
obeyed her little gestures and followed her through the open window into
the warm Italian night--warm, still, light, and perfumed.

She came beside him silently; she lifted her skirt from her feet--she
wore mules of dark velvet with big rosettes on them--as she walked the
high heels tapped on the stone paths. She was without words because she
could not understand; he was silent because he understood too much; both
were burdened with thoughts and uneasy with misgivings.

They walked on till the palace was far behind them and they could no
longer hear the dance music; the moon shone behind the tall cypress
trees, cutting a disc of fierce white silver in the dense blackness of
the foliage. They came to a pond surrounded by formal walks and hedges
of roses; facing the water was a stone bench beneath a stone figure,
both gleaming now like molten silver.

It was so utterly still that he could hear her low breath, and the
whisper of her gold silk skirt seemed a great thing.

She seated herself on the bench, and he, without a word, beside her, and
together they looked at the water black in the shadow of the cypress
save for the moon mirrored in the centre of the darkness. The smooth air
and the perfume seemed to permeate his blood, the struggle in his soul
was lulled, his uneasiness was soothed. He looked up at the great
expanse of deep luminous blue, and as he looked it seemed to him as if
his feet were lifted from the earth; he thought how seldom men looked
full up at the heavens, and, somehow, his constant fear of God, his
constant thought of God, slipped from him and seemed to be absorbed into
and lost in the great sweep of midnight sky.

He turned to glance at Giovanna; her face was towards him, and the
moonlight showed a smile on her lips like a smile of triumph, but faint
and soft and sweet.

Again a feeling of apprehension came over him--he had seen such a smile
on the face of the painted Madonna above his bed the first night he had
slept in Bologna. He turned to go, but again glancing up at the deep
violet sky starred with fire, the sensation of peace and enervation
returned to his heart.

He rose, but did not move away, and she sat with her hands folded in her
lap, and the great stillness seemed to close about them like a mantle
being swept tighter round their souls.

Giovanna rose also, and the black lace slipped from her hair which
looked misty dull under the circle of the cornelian coronet.

"I have lost my shoe," she said, and gave a little exclamation and
stooped over the shadows round the seat.

Her shoes were made like the clogs Francis had seen in his own country,
and slipped easily from the feet; they were dark too, and the missing
one was not easily found in the shadows, though both searched. She sat
down again at length and held out her silk-clad foot, and laughed.

"How can I return--so?" she laughed.

"I will find it," said Francis. He was on one knee before her, the end
of the ruffles of his cravat touched the ruffles of her petticoat; he
looked up, and she was gazing down at him with an air of solicitude,
leaning so far forward that the lace and lawn on her bosom were pressed
against her knee. He forgot the shoe, he continued to look at her
through the veil of the moonlight; he was calm and at peace. It seemed
to him that she belonged to him, was even part of him, and that this was
an inevitable fact which no person could alter and no circumstance
overcloud. She had the same sweet certainty; she smiled, and he lowered
his head against the hand she drooped against her knee.

She looked at the bent dark head in the attitude of surrender with
something of pity and compassion mingled with the great tenderness that
made her features radiate; then she stooped lower, and drew him gently
and steadily to her so that his face rested on her bosom. He came
without resistance, almost weakly, as if the strength had been all
smitten out of him; but she, as she folded him to her heart, dilated
with a dominant triumph as she gazed down on the arrogance, pride, and
reluctance, now so still, in her embrace.

She bent to kiss his hair, and he moved then and got to his feet and
drew her to hers, and she stood in one stockinged foot and one shoe.

"You love me?" he said.

"Yes," she said.

He put his arm round her waist and she hers round his neck.

"Do you love me?" he asked with a quick fierceness.

"Yes," said Giovanna.

"Have you ever loved anyone before?"

"No."

"You are not playing with me?"

"I do not play with these things."

"Kiss me," said Francis; he now was the one alert and triumphant, while
she stood weakly as if only his support kept her from falling.

She kept her face hidden on the velvet lapels of his coat.

"Call me Giovanna now," she said. She spoke as if they had both entered
into a new world where everything was different, and he understood with
a thrill, that shook to his heart, the chance there was for him as well
as for her. For a while both were silent, the new and marvellous
sensation of the near presence of the other being overwhelming; they
could hear each other's hearts, and she felt his breath passing her ear
and on her neck.

"Kiss me," he repeated.

She raised her head. He freed one hand to take her under the chin and
draw her face near to his; his lips pressed hers so fiercely that she
moaned, but the sound was stifled in her throat; he seemed to her to be
drawing the soul from her body. Her senses reeled, her hands fell
nerveless from his neck, and still his lips remained on hers; she felt
her mouth crushed beneath his mouth and her chin pressed by his chin;
her eyes closed, and she lost all sense of time and place--her throat
heaved with her pent breath. He released her at last and led her to the
seat, and she fell across it. She pulled a handkerchief from the bosom
of her gown and pressed it to her smarting lips; when she took it away
she saw, by the silver light, that it was stained by tiny drops of
blood; she thrust it back into her gown. It pleased her that he had hurt
her in the passion of his kiss; it pleased her to hear him breathing
heavily like a spent runner and gazing at her with eyes that held no
thought for anything but her...

"You will not go now?" she asked hoarsely.

At these words the outer world rushed in on Francis and overwhelmed him.
He made no answer; he had kissed her too recently; the moist warmth of
her lips still lingered on his own; he could not reason.

"Oh _Dio!_" said Giovanna, "this is love--love!"

"Have pity on me," broke from Francis. "I must go--"

She stared at him incredulously.

He turned to her with anguish in his face, in his voice in his gesture.

"Would you give up your _God_ for me?" he asked.

She shrank away in horror and clasped her hands together in an attitude
of prayer, as if she begged her outraged saints to spare the speaker.

"One cannot give up God," she whispered.

"You will not!" cried Francis; "you cling to your creed. And I cannot
surrender mine."

Giovanna understood; she had dimly pre-visioned this barrier--a terrible
one, she knew--he was a heretic. Her mother's words came back to her,
stinging her through the delight of her new joy; she too hated
foreigners and heretics--but he did not seem to her to be either; he was
now a thing apart, not to be judged by ordinary standards.

"Leave this now," she implored.

"I cannot," he replied passionately; "it is between us and always will
be--"

"Oh--" said Giovanna. "Oh," she added helplessly--"but we love each
other."

He looked at her with a bitter desperation.

"God is against it," he said. "Say adieu to me while we can speak it--we
must not meet again--"

She rose.

"Your love is weak after all," she answered.

"No--no--"

"You leave me for fear of hell," she continued.

Francis trembled.

"I will not deny God for you," he returned, "and how may I take you
without? You must be united to me in honour--"

"Either honour or dishonour I am yours," she broke in.

"Honour only can we consider because I love you," he said simply, "and
such a marriage as ours would be cursed by heaven and earth."

She had not been taught to regard marriage as the sole end of love, but
she had only one desire--to give all her life to the man before her,
and, as he spoke, the idea of marriage assumed a new proportion in her
eyes; instead of a convenience or a stepping-stone, she saw it as an
indissoluble bond between two who loved, keeping them apart and sacred
from the world. His words too showed her the quality of his passion;
this was no episode of a summer night--if he loved her at all he would
love her as his wife.

She felt an extraordinary gratitude and an extraordinary humility; she
stretched out her hands imploringly towards him and began to weep
silently.

"My dearest!" whispered Francis, "my sweet, dear girl!" he took the two
pleading little hands and impressed gentle kisses on them. "I shall
never marry...always you...in my heart. Do not weep--your tears sear my
soul--we should never have met..."

She crouched away on the marble seat.

"Is it impossible?" she asked from a dry throat. "Is--our love so
monstrous and unnatural that we must kill it thus?" she added in a tone
that was sharp as if with physical agony.

"You torture me," said Francis; "help me instead to be
strong--Giovanna."

She rose at that, instantly.

"I will try," she answered. "You think you must go away? It
seems--_wrong_. Why should we have such--pain?"

She put both her hands to her left side as if she had been stabbed there
and was concealing the wound.

"I am right," he said violently and fiercely. "You know I am right."

She was thinking of his kiss; she was bewildered; she wished to help
him, to understand. The magnitude of the obstacles dividing them she did
comprehend, but she needed time to think--to consider. Meanwhile he was
going. She drew herself erect; there seemed a certain chill in the air
that cooled her passion; she thought in one flash of her God, her
country, her family--

"It is better that you should go," she said, adding in her own language,
"There is the nunnery for me!"

He did not dare to touch her, no, nor to look long at her, he did not
even offer to take her back to the Palazzo.

He turned alone through the silent garden; he knew nothing by which to
measure the anguish of that solitude, the misery of walking away from
her..."Farewell," he kept saying in his heart--"farewell, farewell."



VIII


"Francis Moutray was at the fête to-night and you were with him," said
the Contessa Vittoria.

They had returned from the Palazzo Rossi, and were in one of their own
great gilt-and-crimson rooms lit by the rapidly increasing dawn.

Emilia had taken her silks, her yawns, her laughter, upstairs; the pages
and maids who tended the magnificence of all three ladies had
disappeared in the corridors of the quiet palace, and Giovanna was alone
with her mother.

She sat by an agate and ormolu table placed against the wall; it bore a
lamp of Florentine copper that diffused a ruddy light over her figure,
saving her from the chill touch of the dawn.

The Contessa stood in the centre of the room. She wore black and
scarlet, and held in her hand the velvet fantastic beak-shaped mask she
had worn that evening; her attitude was one of anger and pride, but in
her dark eyes was a look of pain and yearning.

"I was with him in the garden," replied Giovanna in a dead voice; there
were purple shadows beneath her eyes, and her lips had a swollen,
blistered look against the creamy colourlessness of her face.

"I know, I saw, but too late to prevent it," said Vittoria. "You are a
fool, Vanna." She spoke with conviction for she knew that only a few
such indiscretions, as Giovanna had committed to-night, had cost her the
almost royal match she might have had and made her glad to accept the
Colonna. "I did not know that he was to be there tonight or you would
not have gone, Vanna."

Giovanna did not trouble to betray Mr. Middleton. She was too weary, too
bewildered, too bruised in her soul, to give much heed to what her
mother said; her mind was fiercely engaged on her own problems.

The Contessa gazed at her intently.

"_Are_ you a fool, child?" she asked.

Giovanna made a helpless movement of her head and hand.

"I--love--him," she stammered; "he has gone because there is so much
between us--to be bridged. What shall I do?"

"Forget him," said Vittoria quickly; "choose another gallant."

Giovanna shook her head; she felt alien to her mother, impatient of her
talk. She wished, as she had wished ever since Francis had left her, to
be alone, to think out by herself the amazing gain and loss that had
come into her life; her mother seemed to her to belong to another world
and to be arguing in a foreign tongue.

The Contessa waited a while but, getting no word from Giovanna, spoke
again.

"If he has gone there is nothing more for either of us to do or say."

"He has gone," said Giovanna, "because of God."

"Of God?" Vittoria started and made the sign of the cross--then she
understood. "We must be grateful," she said, "that he fears God."

Giovanna stood up.

"It has changed everything," she answered heavily--"all my life. I do
not understand the meaning of all of it--but it seems to me that
love--that lasts--is a terrible thing."

Vittoria looked at her with wise, wearied eyes.

"What can you know of love that lasts?" she asked.

"I know I shall never care for anyone else," returned the girl calmly.
"I told you--I do not even _see_ anyone else. Do you not know this
feeling? It is as if a curtain had been dropped in front of all the
world and he and I were alone--the only _real_ things. Is not love a
real thing--stronger, perhaps, than God?"

The Contessa shivered.

"You speak terrible words--but I will forget them--since you have sent
this man away."

"No," replied Giovanna, "he left me."

"But you let him go? You saw the madness, and let him go?"

"Yes," said Giovanna.

"Then," answered the Contessa with her magnificent air of the great
lady, "there is surely nothing more for either of us to say. Come to me
with tales of another cavalier and you will not find me unsympathetic.
But you must have a husband by this time next month, Vanna," she added
firmly; and, indeed, she had already decided that a girl liable to such
wild and violent fancies was not safe unwed.

Giovanna pulled the chain of the red copper lamp, the flame sank out,
leaving her standing in shadow, for the light of the dawn had not yet
encroached upon her, and only touched into a faint colour the extreme
edges of her silk skirts.

"Why are you silent with me?" asked the Contessa, and her face was
haggard, her voice sharp.

"There is nothing to say," returned the girl on a note of suppressed
passion; "he has left me."

"So he says--but methought that he was to have left Bologna to-night. He
delays."

The Contessa continued to gaze with apprehension, suspicion, and
tenderness at the dimly seen figure of her daughter.

Giovanna, with the instinct of one nurtured in an atmosphere of
intrigue, at once divined her mother's meaning.

"We are in no conspiracy to deceive you," she replied.

The Contessa moved toward her, the rich domino over her arm, the mask in
her hand, and the silver lace gleaming faintly on her befurbelowed
dress; her beauty, that had been a delight and a ruin to so many, had a
definite look of age, a chill over it, like snow over flowers.

"Are you not happy with me, Vanna?" she asked in a low voice. "Do you
not care for me a little--?"

"Oh, you know--" trembled the younger woman. "But--for the moment--this
other feeling--Ah, I fear I have undertaken something beyond my
strength!"

She ended the broken sentences by putting her hands before her face and
her face to the wall.

The Contessa went up to her, bent over her, embraced her. If she was, or
had ever been, what the worst of her enemies said of her, the look and
gesture of unselfish affection she used now would, at least for a while,
have ennobled her above her sins.

"_Carissima_," she cried, "Christ and the Holy Virgin help thee!"

Giovanna was unresponsive in her grasp. She was thinking of Francis, of
his kiss, of his farewell--all her pulses beat to that theme; all that
was not he or of his, was an interference, an intrusion; and she could
not give her mother her confidence, for she recalled how she had spoken
of Francis yesterday.

The tears came to the Contessa's eyes as she felt the stiff, unyielding
young body in her embrace.

"Has he, in a few short hours, displaced me, and all you used to care
for?" she asked stormily.

"I suppose," gasped Giovanna. "Let me go to bed--indeed, I suffer."

But the Contessa did not remove her arms, and the two women in their
festival splendour remained together in the gorgeous ornate room with
the dawn light slipping between the opened shutter, and glancing over
them soft as a caress.

"You are mine," said Vittoria in her heart, "mine, and this foreigner
shall not take you away from me."

Giovanna writhed to be free, and moaned.

"I suffer," she repeated. "My head hurts and my heart. I want to be
alone in the dark--"

"In a few days you will have forgotten this--these fancies are soon
over," said the Contessa, slowly releasing her.

The girl replied by a wild look; she was burning and shaking with fever,
the disordered hair on her brow was damp, and her cheeks were utterly
pallid.

She turned away, walking heavily and with an air of infinite weariness.
Her mother made no attempt to follow; her plans were already formed, nor
had she any fear that she, Vittoria Odaleschi, bound by no convention,
stayed by no scruple, great in art, resource, and charm, would be unable
to cope with this mad affair. The foreigner, whom she scorned and hated,
she did not trust; she did not believe that the heretic was actuated by
her own horror of another creed, another race, nor did her long
experience of men teach her that one of them was likely to forgo the
chance of a beautiful, seductive woman and a large fortune--for the
Contessa knew that it must appear to every stranger as if the Odaleschi,
however ambiguous their position must be, were rich as well as noble.

Therefore she did not believe that Francis Moutray was leaving Bologna;
yet she had a trust--strange in a character so false and
unscrupulous--in her daughter's sincerity. She was sure Giovanna had
truly resolved to see no more of an impossible lover; it was round the
lover himself that all her suspicions and fears centred, and it was with
him that she was prepared to deal.

Giovanna was untouched by her mother's intentions, more through
carelessness than lack of insight. If she had considered the matter at
all, she would have seen that the Contessa would take powerful and
daring measures to prevent any frustration of her schemes or any affront
to her pride; but she was too utterly occupied with her own wild emotion
to consider what anyone else might do. She had, in a moment, won him and
lost him--lost him--and yet it seemed to her incredible that he was
really riding away.

She went up to her great dusky bedroom where the heavy curtains shut out
the light, impatiently took off her jewels, her cloak, and cast herself
on the bed-step with her face hidden in the velvet coverlet.

A complete lassitude crept over her; she was incapable of action, of
thought. One idea only beat in her startled brain: that she belonged to
this stranger and he to her, and that they were separated by that God
whom she had always held in the deepest awe.

In all her short, careless life no counter influence to that of the lax
but mighty Church that governed her world had ever disturbed Giovanna.
She was, like her mother, deeply and unthinkingly religious; she had
never rebelled against the yoke of Rome, principally because she had
never felt its weight; there was no pleasure, no licence, no sin, ever
likely to tempt her that the Church would not easily condone. She had
heard a Cardinal answer, to one who remarked that Bologna was becoming
too lawless--no fewer than two thousand deaths from murder and duels
having resulted in one year--"What will you? It is human nature." She
knew that priests were among her mother's guests, often the gayest at
the _festas_, and she was under no delusion as to the exceedingly
worldly part they played in political and domestic intrigue, but she
knew that these people were safe and saved, and that a heretic was
damned and lost.

So her mind told her, repeating the lesson impressed on it during her
whole youth; but her heart contradicted fiercely, declaring heaven and
hell to be shadows compared with the needs of earth, telling her that
nothing mattered but human love, and suffering and compassion and
yearning.

This struggle between a life-long belief, convention and conviction, and
an emotion more powerful than any she had believed it possible to
experience, left her bewildered and exhausted. She saw herself opposed
to the Church on the one point on which the Church was adamant, and yet
she could not believe that what she desired was sin; indeed, she was
more passionately desirous of being virtuous than she had ever been. All
frivolous, empty ideas had fallen from her; she wanted to be good, she
wanted to serve this man, to make him happy, to school herself in his
service; she wished to dedicate to him her beauty (which she rated very
humbly now), her gifts, all her life; to leave her country, her luxury,
her idleness, for his sake, she counted as nothing; she was eager to put
her whole life beneath his feet--but it was God he asked her to give up,
and before that she shrank in an abasement of horror.

The idea of moving him never occurred to her; she knew by instinct that
her spirit could not cope with his, and whatever she might do for love
of him, he would not move from his path for love of her. If he took her
it would be on his own terms--"Will you give up your God for me?"

The memory of these words of his was like a sword in her heart, an
actual pain burning and tearing.

He would leave her, and the loss would be complete and utter. She knew
nothing of him, of the country or the people he came from, but she knew
there was some woman somewhere whom he would one day kiss as he had
kissed her in the garden of the Palazzo Rossi.

He had said that he would forswear love for her, but she did not credit
that; such renunciation was not in her nature to comprehend.

She was herself so keen and sweet, so bright and ardent, so full of the
capacity for love, devotion, and pleasure, so utterly without spiritual
ideals--unless obedience to the Church could be called one--so direct
and sincere in her desire and capacity for material success and
happiness, that renunciation, repression, denial of human emotion was
for her inconceivable; had she discovered it at all she would have found
it arid and hideous.

Therefore the fiercest jealousy possessed her of the unknown woman, who
must some day win the man who was for all time now the supreme passion
of her soul. She loosened her hair and tore the ends of it, she pressed
her bosom against the coverlet; she did not feel the hard wood of the
step against her knees nor her cramped attitude. Her mind rushed ahead
down the dank cavern of the future; for her she saw loveless blackness,
and for him love for another; and so strong in her was the sheer human
instinct and passion, that, ignorant and timid as she was, she rose to
the height of the awful audacity of defying God. Even as the shrinking
sheep will turn at bay to defend its lamb and make a show of fight to
the attacking eagle, so Giovanna Odaleschi was wrought up to defy even
God for the sake of her love.

She clutched at the crucifix, given her at the convent, that she always
wore inside her gown, to steady herself against this awful blasphemy;
she put her lips to it, but it was not the silver Christ she felt, but
the fierce pressure of other soft human lips on her own.

"The devil has hold of me!" she moaned. She got to her feet, weak and
miserable; she wondered what he was doing now, if he was really leaving
Bologna...not before the sun was up...surely not before the sun was up.

She stumbled across the dark room and pulled aside the curtains; above
the garden and the towers the serene blue of the early sky glowed, and a
pale, lovely pink light fell on the buildings and the dark, straight
trees that rose between them.

"Supposing he was already gone," thought Giovanna.

She turned from the windows to the mirror and saw herself there,
red-eyed, hollow-cheeked, dishevelled.

"I am not beautiful enough, he cannot love me," she said in her heart,
and a greater despair fell over her spirit; she felt rejected by God and
man, useless and humbled, beyond expression unhappy.

She thought it a cruelty that this had happened--she longed to be as she
had been two days ago--only two days!

"Oh Madonna!" she prayed, "I only want this one thing in all the world,
and that is the thing you must deny me!"

The sun strengthened, joyously scattering the darkness in the heavy,
gorgeous chamber, rendering brighter the reflections of her own wan face
in the mirror.

"Am I never to be happy any more?" she asked herself. The crucifix
dangled on her breast above the pink cameo, she stared dully before her,
seeing nothing of the gay sunshine--nothing save the intolerable empty
future when Francis Moutray would have left Bologna and her own wretched
life.



IX


Francis Moutray wandered all night through the arcaded streets and
across the magnificent piazza of Bologna, pursued by the scorpion lashes
of remorse and thwarted desire; remorse that he had ever turned aside
from his own sphere to dabble with the votaries of the Scarlet Woman,
thwarted desire because his passions were roused and unsatisfied. And
something softer and finer than passion was also awake for the first
time in his heart and yearning for fulfilment--the instinct of
tenderness, of devotion, of protection, all the delicate emotions
belonging to real love; he wished to serve her, to watch her, to guard
her--to see her in his home, to speak to her by her name and confide to
her ail the fancies and resolves born of his loneliness and his
melancholies; but these feelings he repressed as sternly as his sheer
longing to be with her and to forget everything in her arms.

He had no thought of yielding; while she on her knees by her bed was
considering desperately how she might give everything up and retain her
love, he was fiercely revolving in his mind how he might retain
everything in his life as it was and cast away from him even the memory
of this violent love; but his struggle was as keen as hers; the thought
of her clung to his soul as persistently as perfume clings to a garment,
and was no more easily to be shaken off.

He wandered aimlessly; the city seemed to him a place of abomination,
full of monstrous temples to the Devil and palaces where sin reigned
supreme; lights flashed from high balconies, in side streets men fought
and quarrelled, monks and priests slipped to and from the churches,
coaches and sedans went up and down from one _festa_ to another, and
there was no peace or silence through the hot, moonlit night.

When the dawn came he was standing outside the great church in the
piazza and watching the peasants and their mule carts laden with
vegetables come in from the country to the market.

He stood huddled against the wall, a wretched figure, drooping together
as if in shame, With his riding coat over his grey ball dress and his
hat pulled over his eyes.

The sunlight crept over the buildings, changing the dusky shapes to
ivory and rose colour and gold that was flushed with red like thick
amber. Francis did not heed this sunshine nor the brightening blue above
the fairy clouds of crimson that was certain promise of a joyous day;
his limbs were weary and weak, his head heavy and hot with fever; he
looked with fierce and bitter eyes on the alien city, the alien
life--the alien people who were just gaily and thoughtlessly beginning
another day of their pleasant, idle lives. Something of the fanatic's
zeal possessed him; he longed for an angel with a sword to come and
smite these people, for hell to open in the middle of the piazza and
show the hungry flames that were waiting for all these wanton
souls...for they would surely all burn some day...even she...

Absolute despair overcame him as he thought of this, and again the wild
possibility of saving her, body and soul, flashed into his distracted
mind.

"But no," he said to himself, "it is but a trick of the Devil--that I
may take this woman to myself and so allow her to destroy me."

People were beginning to come to early Mass; a few ladies, attended by
pages and cavaliers, and a great number of peasants came up the low
shallow steps and, passing under the leathern covering of the door that
two beggars lifted, disappeared into the huge, dim interior of the
church.

None of them noticed Francis--figures of all degrees of strangeness were
too common in this city of licence.

He came forward a little and peeped under the leather the next time it
was lifted; he had never been into a Romish church, and he looked with a
shuddering distaste and apprehension at the incense-filled dusk through
which the candles gleamed on hangings of gold and blue and crimson--and
on images crowned and jewelled.

Here Giovanna must often worship her false gods, clasping the crucifix
he had seen hanging to her fair bosom; here, when he had left Bologna,
she would come to sob out to a leering priest her confession that she
had loved a heretic--and he would be in Scotland trying to forget
her--and neither would forget the other--ever--

Francis lifted his tired face to the gorgeous day.

"Something is wrong," he said in his heart. "She is not wicked, why
should she be damned? And I, what have I done that I should be
tempted...almost beyond my strength?" He turned wearily away from the
great church and wandered aimlessly about the city in the endeavour to
silence the anguish of his soul by fatigue of body.

When it was near seven he turned past the two leaning towers that rise
high above the houses and returned to the inn, meaning to order horses
and to leave at once for the Milan road.

He hoped wearily that Mr. Middleton, with his curiosity, his laughter
and his mocking, would not be there; he flushed with anger against the
man, recalling how he had inveigled him to the Palazzo Rossi when he
must have been aware that Giovanna would be present.

Mr. Middleton was not in the little painted parlour overlooking the
dusty yard and dusty vine when Francis entered, but a lady in a gorgeous
gown rose from the rush-bottomed chair by the window and smilingly gave
him "good morning."

It was Vittoria Odaleschi.

Francis stood, like a rustic, utterly at a disadvantage; he had entirely
forgotten to wonder at the Contessa's desire, as reported by Mr.
Middleton, for him to leave Bologna, and he was absolutely unprepared
for her to take any step in the matter, nor, though he knew her
reputation for eccentricity, could he have believed that she would come
to his inn and wait for him in this fashion.

He took off his hat with an effort at dignity; he was cruelly conscious
of his dishevelled clothes and of the freshness of her attire.

"I could not have looked for this, Madam," he stammered.

"No," she replied in her excellent English; "if you had expected me I
should not have been kept waiting half an hour."

She resumed her seat, with her back to the light. She wore a lace mob
cap in the English fashion, her velvet gown came to her throat in lawn
ruffles; she was painted and powdered, but she looked beautiful, and
remote from any thought of age. The charm of her smiling, composed
presence was a potent one, and Francis, looking at her, thought her a
wonderful woman--Satan's handmaiden--but wonderful; not like Giovanna
though, he decided eagerly.

"I thought you scarcely knew me," he said.

"I marked you," she replied, "at the _festa_ last night."

"You came here to see me?" he asked with a mechanical desire to speak,
and yet to gain time.

The Odaleschi smiled.

"You love the Contessa Giovanna," she said directly.

Francis stood grasping the edge of the table and staring at the lady,
the blood stormed his face, and he could find no reply to this sudden
and extraordinary statement.

Vittoria allowed her contempt to show in her sparkling brown eyes and in
the curl of her sensitive, painted mouth.

"Has your passion," she asked, "deprived you of your reason?"

Francis drew himself erect; her scorn cleared and steadied his senses.

"Who told you my feelings for your daughter?" he demanded, and disdain
equal to her own fired his weary eyes.

The Contessa, eagerly watching him from behind her languid white lids,
saw in his look and speech a flash of a quality she had not hitherto
expected; she saw he was neither coward nor fool.

"Giovanna told me," she answered, still smiling.

Again he was utterly at a loss. All his ideas of modesty, reserve, and
delicacy in a woman were outraged by the thought of Giovanna telling her
mother of their tremulous love-affair; scarcely even in his own soul had
he said yet definitely, "I love her "--and she had already hurried to
climax and catastrophe. Still there was a suggestion in this of swift
feeling, of sincere abandon, and the reflection that she too struggled
with passion stirred anew his pulses...He shivered and pulled at the
lace on his right cuff.

"She told you, Madam, perhaps of her own feelings?" he asked, probing
into this miracle of a woman with fear and a swooning sense of delight.

The Contessa was too out of touch with his world to read him; she
thought his remark was a challenge, and as such replied.

"You know better than I, Signore, that she imagines herself in love,"
she said, shrugging her shoulders, "notwithstanding that she could
choose her gallants from those of her own country and station--a woman's
caprice, Signore."

The oblique insult of words, the direct insult of tone, were not lost on
Francis; rage and loathing of the woman, and all she stood for, surged
up in his heart.

"I have not asked you for your daughter's hand," he said in a deliberate
tone.

She seized the black fan from her side with a gesture as if she drew a
dagger.

"There is no question of marriage," she replied with infinite
haughtiness, "between you "--she pointed the fan at him still as if it
were a weapon--"and an Odaleschi."

"Then why," asked Francis with a bitter gleam in the intent dark eyes he
never moved from her face, "did you trouble to come here to see me,
Contessa?"

"To suggest to you that you leave Bologna," said Vittoria, rising.

"Are you afraid of me?" he demanded.

She amended the sentence.

"Afraid _for_ you, perhaps, Signore. I have plans for my daughter which
are not to be interfered with by you--no, I shall not endure
interference."

It was monstrous, intolerable, to Francis that this woman should imagine
that he--Moutray of Glenillich--should deign to unite himself with her
house of tarnished splendour and notorious wantonness.

"There is everything between me and your daughter," he said--"country,
custom, and God. If you knew me better you would not suspect me of
taking a wife from--the Palazzo Odaleschi!"

She understood him and smiled.

"My father was an English Duke," she replied, "and you are a little
Scots lord; that a girl's whim should bring me to this discussion with
you--!"

He interrupted her, speaking with stiff, pale lips.

"I do not wed with a foreign Papist nurtured in the wickedness of this
city," he said,--"therefore why should we longer speak of this?"

"If you will not wed her," replied Vittoria, regarding him with narrowed
eyes, "why do you make love to her--first in the dawn and then in the
moonlight--and each time leave her weeping? Is your aim amusement?"

"You insult her!" cried Francis, torn between his hatred of the mother
and his desire to protect and spare the daughter.

"We have a different morality," said the Contessa coldly. "I fear we do
not understand each other. Giovanna is not destined for a convent, but a
good husband, and she shall not spoil her chances by such incidents as
last night, do you understand me? There are enough ladies in this city
who will very willingly listen to your flatteries, but my daughter is
not for your diversion. When she is married she chooses her own
gallants; while she is with me--"

"You guard the bait that is to lure riches into your trap!" flung out
Francis. His whole being was burnt dry with pity for Giovanna; he saw
her now as an ignorant child, a mere pawn, in the hands of this
monstrous woman.

"Put it as you please," smiled the Contessa. "You may say, if you will,
that I wish to see my child great and happy in the fashion--such as she
deserves--but it is no matter. Leave Bologna to-day."

It had been his own resolve to go, but now she threatened him--now he
thought of Giovanna dominated by her mother, hating, perhaps, her life,
but helpless--now he had this new bewildering vision of her overwhelmed
by passion, every instinct fiercely urged him to stay; indeed, to go
seemed a coward's act, unpardonable--yet reason whispered that it were
the wisest thing for her as well as for him.

He sank down on the rush-bottomed chair by the table and turned his
haggard face away from Vittoria, while his right hand fumbled
mechanically with the basket hilt of his sword.

In the thin authoritative profile, in the sweep of frowning brow, in the
full compressed lips, in the dilation of the sensitive nostril,
Vittoria's antagonistic gaze discerned a strength of purpose and of
passion equal to her own, however alien and different in expression.

She had no pity for him as she stood observing him; fair-looking and
composed in her fashionable silks, she was considering by what means she
best could, if he proved obdurate, have him removed from Bologna to
disappear in a Papal prison.

During the pause of silence that was upon them both, the door opened
impetuously, and she who was the centre of the whirling thoughts of both
stepped into the room--Giovanna, in white, with knots of rose colour and
a frivolous straw hat shading a piteous, pallid face.

"A rendezvous!" said the Contessa with a soft bitterness, "and an
indiscreet one!"

Francis sprang to his feet; Giovanna answered her mother.

"No--I came to say farewell to him--to see if he had gone," she said
confusedly; "and you? Why are you here?"

"To give a warning to your reluctant lover."

"My reluctant lover?"

"This man," said Vittoria in Italian, pointing at him
scornfully,--"disdains to match with you, and values you only as a
passing diversion."

Francis understood the words; his whole body became taut with ardour and
energy.

"Giovanna," he said, "will you come with me? Will you leave all this and
come with me?"

He spoke on a fierce impulse that overwhelmed all the careful cautions
of reason--the impulse of love renewed at the sight of her, at the
thought of her coming to him--the impulse of hate against this woman who
wanted to take her away from him and bring her up a wanton.

Instantly she crossed the room, leant over the back of the chair that
stood before him, and flung her arms round his neck.

"I have been waiting for you to ask me!" she said passionately, and with
great simplicity and sweetness.

He put up his hot hands and grasped her wrists as they rested on his
shoulders.

"Will you come with me? You must be sincere with me now," he said
hoarsely, hardly able to command himself in this moment of her
surrender.

"Do you hear him?" asked Vittoria, who surveyed them with a smile of
scorn and sadness; "do you understand him? He wants you to leave
everything for him--your God--your country--your people--"

Giovanna looked with questioning bewilderment at Francis--the
significance of the little English word "leave" touched her brain.

"'Leave?'" she repeated; "but you will stay in Bologna?"

In the intensity of his disappointment he put her away from him with a
force that was almost violence.

"I asked you to come with me, to leave this cursed life, your idols and
your wantonness--to put it all behind you for ever."

Giovanna shrank away from him; her face was tragic in the shade of the
gay rose-pink hat; she put her hand to her heart and looked at her
mother. Vittoria stood immovable.

"Are you going with him?" she demanded.

The girl's fingers fumbled for the crucifix on her heart, her eyes grew
round with horror, and her lips fell apart. She glanced again from her
mother, who stood for all she knew, valued, and feared; to her
lover--who stood for the contrasted wild, dangerous sweetness of love.

"Will you not stay here?" she asked in a shaken voice. Bologna was her
universe--contained all that she had hitherto loved.

"I leave the city within the hour," said Francis, "either with you or
alone."

Vittoria moved; the stiff rustle of her silk flounces sounded harshly.

"Go with him," she said, "mount behind him like a trooper's wench--you,
an Odaleschi! Let him caress you till he is tired, then leave you in the
first ditch he passes. If you have chosen that way--go, I say!"

Francis turned his back on her.

"Giovanna, you may trust me," he said. "I think you know it. The first
Protestant priest we meet shall marry us. I am a Moutray; in my own
country there do not lack those who would speak for me."

"Go with him," smiled Vittoria.

"No," panted Giovanna, "no--_Maria Vergine_, this is awful!"

She staggered to the impassive, dominant figure of her mother, and put
up feeble hands.

"God would curse me!" she whispered in terrified tones. "I dare _not_--"

Vittoria still stood immovable, regarding Francis with the clear,
mocking gaze that had quelled so many.

Pride and anger sealed his lips. He could not plead with the girl under
that contemptuous glance; besides, he recognized in Giovanna the
strength that was in himself. He would not leave his people and his God
for her, and when it came to the actual moment she clung, too, to those
things which were hers by birth and breeding.

There was a dreadful silence, then he raised his face, over which a look
of indifference, akin to a look of death, had settled.

"Farewell," he said; then to the Contessa, "You may believe that I shall
leave Bologna."

She also was very pale beneath the rouge that showed unnaturally bright
on her cheeks.

"Yes, I believe you now," she answered; she put her arm round her
daughter's shoulders, "God will help you to forget this, Vanna," she
added seriously.

The girl moaned like one half-insensible with pain, and allowed Vittoria
to draw her towards the door.

When he saw her being actually taken away from him, an awful despair
took possession of Francis; he sprang forward, passionately addressing
Giovanna:

"Dear, my dearest--say one word to me--do not go like this--"

She looked at him, but she did not resist Vittoria's gentle but
insistent strength drawing her away.

"I will pray for you," she muttered.

"I also, Signore," said Vittoria with a wise smile, and the door closed
on them.

It seemed to Francis that it had closed on all that made life desirable
for him; he stood rigid, bewildered, by his loss. In two days she had
grown as needful as the air he breathed; she loved him, she had stood
before him in sweet submission, and now she was gone--to a life that in
his eyes spelt damnation.

He stared at the window, but he did not see the shrivelled oleanders,
the dusty clusters of the vine, the fierce violet of the sky--all was
black and bitter as the final waters of oblivion to a lost soul.

He was still standing so when the Italian valet entered to know what
time he wished the horses.

"As soon as they can be saddled," said Francis. He went upstairs to
change into his riding clothes.



X


He rode all day away from Bologna, fiercely along the road to Modena,
the first stage to Milan; at Cavalcanti he dismissed the servant, being
in no mood for company, and declared he could find his way alone, at
least as far as the frontier, where he might engage another man.

He had almost fallen from his saddle with fatigue; for two nights he had
not slept, but he was worn out with the strength and fierceness of his
misery rather than by physical strain; he fell across the bed in the
room they showed him into at Vignola and slept till another twilight was
falling.

Rising then, with his brain confused and throbbing and his limbs relaxed
with weariness, he struggled, in the quiet of the inn chamber, with his
loneliness, his yearning, his regret; but he could not rise above his
passions, they mastered him, drove him before them. He called on his God
in vain; he might take the name of sacred things on his lips, but the
name of Giovanna was crying aloud in his heart.

Like a man under the influence of a drug he paid his reckoning, had out
his horse, and, leaving his portmantles regardlessly behind him, turned
back on the road lit by the gorgeous red glow of the sunset, towards
Bologna, that city so fatal to his peace.

Another sombre evening overtook him and there was no moon for hours;
dusky clouds presaging a storm had closed over the last rays of the sun.
Exhausted in mind and body, bewildered with suffering, in every way
desperate, haggard, and travel-stained, Francis Moutray arrived at the
Revizzi hostel, which was the double of that he had flung from at
Vignola--only he was now a stage nearer Bologna.

He could scarcely eat the food they put before him, but he drank heavily
of the acrid red wine, which added a heavy languor to his fatigue; it
was no later than nine and hardly yet completely dark when he went up to
the best chamber hastily prepared for him.

The day had been intolerably hot, but a wind had risen with the approach
of the storm and blew across the bare, whitewashed chamber, strong and
sweet from travelling through numberless chestnut groves.

Francis went to the window, hardly knowing what he did, and stared out
at the dusky darkness. The wind shook the boughs of sumach and wild
cherry tree that overhung the rocky slopes behind the inn and swept
along the little hawthorns that supported the young vines in the
neighbouring field; the whole rich landscape was still just visible in
the red radiance of the last sunlight confined beneath the heavy lowering
curtain of fast-approaching clouds; but even as Francis gazed this glow
faded, the view became blank and dead, darkness against darkness, then
was swiftly and finally absorbed into the night.

Francis mechanically closed the window against mosquitoes and the
malarious night airs and turned back into the room.

He could not rest nor sleep, and yet action was impossible until the
morning, even if he had had any plan of action, and he had none.

He did not know in the least what he should do in Bologna, but he was
reckless of the Contessa's threats and Mr. Middleton's laughter,
regardless of the sorry figure he would cut on his quick return--he was
going on the mere chance of seeing her, of hearing of her, of passing
near the place where she dwelt, and of treading the stones she trod.

He did not contemplate breaking his resolution; he meant to part from
her, but not so suddenly; he had found that to go out from her presence
into a world where he could never even hear her name spoken, where there
was no sign, no trace of her, was an impossible consideration. Of the
future he thought not at all; as a starving man will consider nothing
but the gratification of his desperate need, so Francis thought of
nothing but of satisfying his imperative desire to behold Giovanna
again.

He could not reason, he could not argue, he had no longer even the
strength left to despise himself; he was as helpless in the grip of fate
as an infant in a giant's grasp, beaten to his knees, exhausted, and
utterly overcome.

He sat down on the one poor chair, endeavouring to restrain himself, to
control himself till morning, and fixed his eyes on the tall flame of
the thick yellow candle that stood on the little black bureau; round
this flame a scintillating halo trembled, and he thought that he could
trace in the dazzle of brightness the golden lines of her head and face.
He was aware of an oppression in the air; the freshness of the fragrant
wind had gone, the heaviness of one of the sudden Southern storms fell
suddenly, the wind rattled at the casements, tore through the sumachs
and faded away; the thunder began, so violent and insistent, that all
sound or movement within the inn was lost.

Francis, superstitious and melancholy by race and temperament, was
always painfully excited by thunderstorms; sometimes they drove him into
an ecstasy of prayer, sometimes into fierce rebellion of the flesh that
he always expiated by passionate repentance--always the thunder opened a
door into that other world of mystery, horror, awe, and forbidden
delights that was neither heaven nor hell, a world that did not fit in
with Francis' theology and yet one that he knew well was there--the land
of fancy, they called it in Scotland, the haunted borderland that in
this land seemed unknown country.

Stung with a thousand fancies and glimpses of these nameless powers
Francis sprang up and began pacing up and down; his state was near
delirium; he projected shapes of horror about himself, he saw the candle
burn into a winding-sheet and beheld the headless goblin who was
believed to haunt his house start across the bed and hide beneath the
cold straight sheets; he felt an acute presage of some event horrible
and tremendous and a sense of such gloom and terror, such hopeless
despair, that his limbs shook and the drops of sweat stood out on the
swollen veins on his forehead.

The thunder crashed nearer and nearer and the summer storm came swiftly
to a climax of violence; thunder and lightning were incessant. Francis
opened his door and stood listening at the head of the dark stairs.

The lights were out and every one either abed or shut in the kitchens;
they did not get many travellers at this inn.

Francis went back for the candle; his lips and throat were dry with
thirst and there was no water in his room; he meant to go down and find
some.

With one hand on his sword (he was always on his guard in this country
of the foreigner and the Papist), and holding the candle in the other,
he descended the crooked wooden stairs into the common _salon_ or
parlour where he had seen water in a great red pitcher by the door; the
storm shook the walls about him, and the inner silence of the house
seemed the more intense compared with the outer fury of the thunder.

There was a light in the parlour; a lamp stood on a bracket against the
white wall and showed the stone floor, the scanty furniture, the wine
bottles and glasses on the table, and the figure of a woman standing in
a pensive attitude by the green shutters of the window.

Francis held his candle high above his head, for the lamp gave but a dim
light, and he felt his senses reel, for the woman turned towards him the
face of Giovanna Odaleschi.

Giovanna, no longer pale and frightened, but flushed and glorified.

He thought this was another of his bitter visions, she seemed no more
real to him than the woman who had approached his bedside the first
night he had slept in Bologna, and when he spoke he stammered:

"You--you--Giovanna!"

She came towards the table; there was a little pause in the thunder, and
in that interval the silence was absolute.

"I did not hope to overtake you so soon," she said. She held out her
hands. "How I love you!"

"I was coming back," he answered; "there was nothing else possible."

"No," she said, "there was nothing else possible."

They stood for a while staring at each other while the thunder rolled
about them.

"You have come to me," said Francis.

"Yes."

She was utterly different from the girl who had followed her mother out
of the inn at Bologna, being composed, erect, and giving the impression
of strength as with a kind of radiance; without her splendour and her
background she seemed another creature; he marked her plain coats and
petticoats of the striped woollens, the simple lawn wrapped round her
head, the bundle on the chair that was evidently all of her worldly
possessions that she had brought, and his reason staggered under the
wild thought that she was his, that she had left everything to come to
him.

"Will you follow me?" he asked.

"In everything--"

"My country--my God."

"Yes."

She took the crucifix and the rosary from her neck and gave them to him;
she drew a rosary and a Prayer Book from the pocket of her gown and put
them in his hands. He accepted these symbols of her faith and placed
them on the table; he clasped her round the waist, and, resting his head
on her bosom, broke into violent weeping, terrible tears, the first he
had ever shed.

She looked down with calm eyes at his bent dark head and heaving
shoulders; she was as passive before his passion as the seashore plant
round which the waves beat during a storm; an expression of eternal
wisdom touched her youthful mouth, she seemed to tenderly pity and to
tenderly triumph.

"Teach me what you will," she said; "do with me what you will. I am
yours now."

The thunder was dying down; the heavy rain could be heard outside
beating against the shutters. Giovanna drew herself away from Francis
and seated herself at the table, unfolding the lawn round her head and
showing her close curls and the ships of gold that hung in either ear.

"I escaped," she said, "this morning. While they were at Mass I slipped
out of the church unperceived, went home for a few _scudi_; then I went
to the 'Corona d'Oro,' learnt which way you had gone, and hired a coach
to follow you--I thought you would be at Cavalcanti by now."

He knelt down beside her and clasped her knees and kissed the folds of
her gown; a feeling of great peace was on him, of ease, relaxation, and
content.

"We must hasten," added Giovanna. "I stopped here because the storm was
so fierce, that the horses were alarmed--but now take me away...they
will be after me."

He sprang to his feet, realizing for the first time what she had done,
what powers she had roused against her; he did not, he never was to,
fully realize the sacrifices she had made for him, nor what this violent
resolution had cost her, but be did understand the position she had
placed herself in, and that she had thrown herself on his protection
against all Papal Italy, and his passion was exalted into a great
tenderness and admiration.

"Will you be happy with me?" he asked unsteadily. "Always?"

She repeated "always" and took up her little bundle.

The tears still washed his eyes; her trust was almost more than he could
bear; he took her small, soft, childish hand and kissed it humbly.

"God help me," he said; "God grant me the power to make you happy."

She followed him out of the inn and to her hired coach drawn up without;
the brief, fierce rain was over and the moon was mounting the clouds; he
brought with him the rosary, Prayer Book, and crucifix she had resigned,
and as, a little later, the coach clambered up the high winding road
that edged a little gorge and ravine grown with wild cherry and plum he
leant from the window and cast the three down the rocky slope, and they
were lost in the foliage and the darkness.

She did not even wince, he thought, but she sat opposite to him, and he
could only see the pale blur of her face.

They neither of them spoke; awe and wonder was too strong upon them; the
sense of fate, of the inevitable being accomplished, overwhelmed them.

They saw the landscape, tree and rock and road, glimmering wet in the
moonlight; they felt the air, warm and full of the fragrance of olive
and chestnut, blow in through the little wooden window of the coach; it
was her country, and she was leaving it for ever. She knew that never
again, once she had crossed the frontier, would she look upon the fair
fields of Italy; and of the land and people to whom she was going she
was utterly ignorant, as she was ignorant of the man to whom she had
entrusted all the future; but she was as free from sadness as from
regret. She lay passive in the hands of Fate, and moved blindly at the
dictates of her heart; she was with him, and she was satisfied with the
peaceful satisfaction of strong passions appeased.

Francis was on fire with love, with triumph, with a hundred noble
resolutions for the guarding and keeping of this soul committed to him
(to make his action right with God he insisted to himself that a
proselytizing zeal as much as a lover's ardour animated him, and that he
was more desirous to see Giovanna kneeling in the kirk at Glenillich than
to feel her in his arms); but even over the fires of this joy a faint
chill descended, a sense of apprehension as if this love of theirs was
built on no secure foundation, but was a dangerous ecstasy enjoyed on
perilous heights.

So the coach with the two strange occupants jolted over the uneven-cut
road, silence within and without save for the occasional crack of the
whip and the driver's shout to his stumbling horses.

Towards dawn she slept, with her head resting in the corner by the
window on the uneven leather lining and her hands folded in her lap.

Stiff and weary himself, but far from any thought of sleep, Francis, in
the pale light that now filled the carriage, gazed at her with an almost
incredulous amazement; it seemed impossible that this was the creature,
so aloof, so proud, so unattainable, belonging to a world so different,
so alien, whom he had seen a few days before seated at her mother's
table laughing with an Italian cavalier.

It was unbelievable that he had won her, that she was here, sleeping
before him in utter trust--his--body and soul; he could use the words
literally, for he recalled with a shudder of excitement the three
symbols of her false faith that he had cast out of the carriage
window...his to mould and shape...to guard and tend...he bent his thin,
eager, dark face towards her, he lifted her lax little hand to his
desperately beating heart.

"God help me, God guide me," he said from the depths of his soul, "to
treat thee with love and honour always!"

At Modena they arrived in the full daybreak, and there she woke for
awhile, only to fall asleep again, smiling at him, on the low white bed;
he kissed her forehead and left her. At Milan they went to a humble inn,
and he slept outside her door. He had taken up his luggage from
Cavalcanti, but she had nothing save the piteous bundle that contained
her nightshift, a few jewels, and a beloved Ariosto her father had given
her. His bankers had agents in Milan; he drew a bill on them, and gave
her two hundred _scudi_. He left her awhile in the inn while he went to
hire a coach to take them to the frontier where they could catch the
Swiss diligence--and when he returned she was out.

She came back at the dusk in a hired sedan, laughing and radiantly
happy; she had spent all the two hundred _scudi_ on clothes. Francis
could find no fault with her, though neither the extravagance nor the
fantastic nature of the garments she had bought pleased him, and she
perceived his instinctive disapproval.

"You must teach me how to please you," she said with an exquisite
tenderness. "I shall not be slow to learn."

He took her to him, giddy with happiness, and kissed, with all the grave
passion of his pure love, the long braided strands of silky hair that
crowned her small head.

"How I love you," he whispered to her. "I love you more than you can
ever imagine--or believe--"

At the first Protestant church they came to they were married; it was
the old Scotch church of St. Andrews in Paris.

The same day they drove to Calais, and at midnight got aboard a packet
bound for Leith harbour.

Pursuit, if there had been any, had not troubled them. They had
travelled rapidly and met with no stop or challenge, and as they stood
together on the deck of the little packet, with the dark water
surrounding them, the Contessa, the Palazzo Odaleschi, and all the heat
and perfume and sunshine, all the gaiety and sin of Bologna, seemed to
them both a dream from which they had for ever awakened.



XI


She who had been Giovanna Odaleschi and was now Mrs. Moutray of
Glenillich, stood in one of the lower rooms of her manor-house and looked
out on to the Scotch rain.

The summer had been dull, and the winter had come in almost with the
first breath of autumn, at least it seemed winter to Giovanna, who had
scarcely seen the sun since she left Italy.

The prospect of lake, moor, and hill she looked on now was colourless;
and the room, filled with comfortable, well-worn furniture and without
adornment of any kind, was colourless also.

Giovanna was _thinking_ for the first time since she had fled from
Bologna to overtake her lover.

A few words from Francis, a greyer day, the end of a mood, had brought
home to her, quite suddenly, the thing she had done and the conditions
under which she found herself. It was as if she had passed from darkness
into light; the darkness had been beautiful, full of dreams, concealing
realities; the light threatened to be cold and empty of vision. Looking
ahead, she shivered.

Yet nothing had happened; their love was still fresh, she did not regret
her exile, she could not sorrow for her mother and Bologna, for the old
life was dead like a flower without a root--withered completely; but
other things besides love were beginning slowly to creep into Giovanna's
mind as her spirit awoke from the first heedless intoxication of joy.

Fear was one of these things--fear of not being able to please Francis
in the way he wished--fear of being overwhelmed by what she had
undertaken--a terrible, secret, unacknowledged fear of God.

She was beginning to understand Francis, and it bewildered her. Lately
he had been several times gently displeased with her--at the gay clothes
she had bought in Milan, at her inattention in church, at her lax rule
over his household--all details, and Giovanna had been glad to swiftly
remedy them as far as she could; yet now, when she looked from the rain
to the great bunch of keys at her waist, she was aware that he wanted of
her what she had never expected to give.

She had never seen any life that was not idle luxury, she had never
conceived any love that was not all fire and passion and ardour and
adoration--and this life was severe, monotonous, filled with tasks
strange to her ignorance; and this love was restrained, often
speechless, often hard, often as if ashamed of its own transports. She
had discovered too that Francis was not sympathetic like her own
Southern men, but impatient of feminine whims, contemptuous of feminine
weakness--she had found, also, that while she had abandoned her God for
him, he was as terribly in earnest with his religion as with his love;
she had a powerful rival in his narrow creed, and one she began to dread
and fear.

The rain increased, shutting out the hills and splashing on the dark
lake; the few trees that were visible had lost their leaves--only the
melancholy firs rose in full dark foliage above the water.

Giovanna moved from the window. She was not a clever woman, and thinking
confused instead of enlightening her; in her heart, not her brain, she
found comfort. Her love was still a pure glow of joy, and there still
clung to her something of the bright satisfaction of sacrifice; it
consoled her to think how completely she had stripped herself to come
to him.

She turned her back resolutely on the dismal prospect, and moved to the
only piece of furniture in the room that could be called frivolous--a
large, plain harpsichord that stood in one corner.

The room itself was large and gloomy; Glenillich House had been a castle
when the Moutrays had owned half Ayrshire, and was still, even though a
wing was in ruins, too large for the style in which the present owner
lived.

As Giovanna seated herself at the harpsichord she was struck afresh with
the size and darkness of the room, and her fingers broke off the little
melody she had commenced, and fell into her lap.

While she stared in front of her the door was opened softly, and Francis
Moutray entered.

If she lost something by this environment, he gained; he was in his
place here as she had been in her place in Bologna. His masterful,
melancholy, brooding personality seemed one with the old house, the
heavy furnishing, the sombre, majestic landscape. As he advanced towards
his wife, he looked a handsome figure in his dark, uncourtly clothes,
with his air of health and hardihood, while her loveliness--clipped,
repressed, and lacking the sparkle and colour of her proper
background--seemed now to have in it something insignificant.

Francis crossed over to her and smiled; she lifted a face radiant with
love, but he did not kiss her.

"At the harpsichord in silk at this hour!" he said gently.

Giovanna in her loyalty was silent, but his words seemed to her
grotesque, in her mind women were one with silk and music.

"I wish you were serious," continued Francis, smiling; "cannot you try,
Jean?"

He had changed her name in his desperate desire to efface all traces of
her past life, to stamp out from her all flavour of the hated foreigner.

Giovanna looked at him; she had a premonition that he also had reached a
crisis, that to him also things seemed difficult and tangled.

"You want me to be--useful?" she asked slowly.

"Do you not wish to be?" he replied quietly.

Giovanna turned her small head away.

Francis felt tender towards her and towards her admission; she had been
very docile and sweet under his training and he could afford to be
patient.

"Beloved," he said, "you will learn."

She looked towards him again and smiled; but there were tears on her
thick brown lashes.

"What?" she asked. "Do you wish me to do as your Scotch ladies, spin and
sew and put the fruits in sugar, and make the pies and the wines, the
candles and the perfumes?" Francis had an unreasonable desire for her to
identify herself with his countrywomen, therefore it vexed him to hear
her say--"your Scotch ladies."

"Yes," he answered; "I want you to do these things, Jean, and look after
the people on my land. I want you to be honoured in Glenillich as my
mother was."

"But I know none of these things," said Giovanna, "and your servants do
not need me. They were here before I was--the steward and his wife do
everything."

"When you know your duties," smiled Francis, "I shall not need to keep a
steward." Giovanna rose from her seat.

"I do not know any of these things," she repeated, almost sternly;
"there is no one to teach me--I was not made for this--"

As Francis gazed at her the smile faded from his dark features; a
thought that was torture stabbed him--what was she made and trained
for?--merely to sit on a balcony and ogle the gallants below? He thought
he caught a look of her mother in her eyes and shuddered to his soul.

"You must learn," he repeated.

She came gracefully and gently towards him and put her arms round him.
There was lace on her bosom and at her elbows, perfume in her hair; he
would not yield to her caress. There were still moments when she was to
him a deadly Delilah, when her love seemed a secret guilty joy, her
kisses forbidden fruit; he put her away from him now as a man will put
away a temptation.

She, in her material frankness, her single-mindedness, did not
understand his morbid subtleties, she only knew she was repulsed, only
knew that she was hurt, and she cried out, between fire and tears:

"You took me for love's sake--I have given you love and you are not
satisfied!"

Her quick, outspoken candour silenced him, as it always did; she leapt
so swiftly to the essential things that he could never even put into
words that she left him breathless, and what she said now stabbed him,
for it stripped away the thick wrappings of deception he was for ever
putting round the fact that he had taken her for love, sheer earthly
love, passion that had overmastered, and not because, as he tried to
think, he had wished to save her for the Lord.

She saw him wince and was instantly all melting affection again.

"_Caro, mio caro_," she said, clinging to his shoulders, forgetful that
he hated to hear Italian words on her lips. "I will try--indeed--but
cannot we alter it?"

He shuddered under the warm pressure of her on his heart; he could not
resist embracing her, and she smiled happily as she felt his arms about
her.

"How--alter?" he asked unsteadily.

Her little head rested on his plain needlework cravat.

"Let us go away--this place is old--the people do not like me--we are
both free--we might have--the sun--"

Her words held a strong temptation for Francis; as she spoke he yearned,
with that old rebellion of his, for luxury a soft life, some gaiety, a
fine setting to their love--but he fiercely repressed these longings;
his place was here where his father's had been; Glenillich was their
home until it would be their tomb--she had already tempted him far
enough.

"It is impossible," he said briefly.

The hope died out of Giovanna's face; he took his arms from her and
moved away.

She saw in a swift review the future days passing, she could not see
what was ever to make one different from another save the formal visits
of people whom she disliked and who despised her; he had his estate to
look after, his theology to argue, his people to patronize, the book on
medals he was writing--what had she?

"I must learn to spin," she said in a shaking voice.

"Jean," he cried, "are you not happy?"

"Oh, my dear, yes!" she responded, with beautiful eagerness--"anywhere
if you are with me! But I am sorry not to please you more."

"Dear, my dear--if I love you!"

He kissed her little hand with something of her countrymen's grace; she
seemed then all sufficient in herself, even in her ignorance and
helplessness. He did not really want her to be a good housekeeper, but
he was resolved that she should not be inferior to his neighbours'
wives, and; that he would complete what he had begun, and make her a
perfect. God-fearing woman.

"Oh, I will try!" cried Giovanna, her eyes radiant; "but it is all new
to me--there is no one to teach me."

He thought her complaint just, and reflected.

"There is my cousin in Edinburgh. I think she would come for a while to
keep you company."

Giovanna instinctively shrank from this proposal.

"Do you _want_ her?" she asked again, with her quick frankness, "when
you and I are here--_loving_ each other?"

Francis flushed.

"Jean, we must take up our life as it is going to be--we each have
duties--obligations to ourselves, my dear, and to God."

"God!" repeated Giovanna.

His God was a menace, a terror, and a gloom to Giovanna; she had
formally entered his creed, she sat beside him in church, she read
prayers with him, all in the name of love, but in her heart hating and
fearing the grim observances of the heretic.

"You think too much of God," she said, rather wildly.

An unnatural whiteness succeeded to his flush.

"What do you mean?"

She glanced at him, timid at once before the first touch of his anger.

"I mean--I gave up for you--my God--but you are a slave to yours."

Francis was dumb with amaze and a sense of fatality that she, after
months of his patient training, could speak so; it confirmed his secret
belief that love of him alone kept her from her images.

"I did not part you from God," he said at last. "I took you from the
mummery, the anti-Christ's deceits that are the inspirations of
wickedness, wantonness, and vanity."

Giovanna winced now; his words still seemed to her blasphemy. The
avenging judgment she was for ever shutting out of her fearful thoughts
suddenly seemed to hasten nearer; it seemed awful that they were not
both struck down, withered by God's fire.

She shook off the horrid oppression.

"Do not let us speak of these things," she said with stiff lips. "I
followed you; I am in your hands."

He regarded her narrowly; the gold eyes were dim, the gold head bent,
but in her pose and voice were a rare dignity and decision.

He had only one point of view. It was not possible for him to realize
how things seemed to her; he was never to realize how tremendous was the
step she had taken, with such seeming ease, of leaving her religion; but
at this moment a dim sense of what she had done for him touched his
brain.

He kissed her until she smiled.

"She must be lonely," was his clumsy guess at the cause of her sadness;
and he devised a clumsy remedy.

That night he wrote to Miss Stacy Wigram, his cousin, and asked her to
Glenillich.



XII


The coming of Stacy Wigram to Glenillich was not in any way notable to
Giovanna, who found her a meek, housewifely girl without personality.

But this quiet, ineffective creature brought with her a person who was
destined to have a most powerful effect both on the lives of Giovanna
and Francis.

It was a Mr. Allan Forsythe, of a noble Edinburgh family, who was
betrothed to Miss Wigram, who had acted as her escort from the Capital
to Glenillich, and who remained at the house a few days, together with
Miss Wigram's other impedimenta of maids, servants, and footmen who had
filled inside and out the huge coach she had come in.

Mr. Forsythe was fair, eager, cold in temperament, levelheaded,
cheerful, and robust. Giovanna felt no sympathy towards him, rather the
reverse, and Francis privately disliked him, yet struggled against this
feeling, that was, after all, unreasonable, for Allan Forsythe was
guiltless of offence towards any man, and all Francis had against him
was that he was a lax Churchman, and at the time of the '45 had been
suspected of dabblings with the Pretender.

He had businesss to call him away and was not staying long; the first
two days, Giovanna, absorbed in Francis, graciously endeavouring to
conciliate her husband's gentle cousin and to learn from her the
household ways of Scottish ladies, hardly noticed Mr. Forsythe, but on
the morning of his departure she chanced to come into the
withdrawing-room, and found him there, at the spinet.

She would have gone away again indifferently, but even as she turned in
the doorway with one hand holding back the worn tapestry, he began to
play.

And he played an Italian air that Giovanna had heard ever since she had
heard anything--a melody as familiar and sweet to her as violets. She
stood erect and silent, listening, and in that moment, as she heard the
spinet give this echo of the past through her new home, a sense of the
unreality of life touched her almost unbearably.

The thin stream of music bridged the huge gulf she had placed between
herself and all that had formerly composed her existence; it seemed as
if it would not be a strange or monstrous thing if she closed her eyes
and opened them on the Palazzo Odaleschi flooded with lazy sunshine and
full of the whispered gossip of Bologna.

She turned towards the player.

"Where did you learn that music, sir?" she asked, her foreign accent
strong, as it was always when she was moved.

He looked at her fully with his capable, serene, cheerful blue eyes.

"In Rome, Mrs. Moutray," he answered.

"Rome?" The word seemed to bewilder her; it was the first time since her
wild flight from her country that she had heard anyone speak of it or
any town or person there, nor had she expected to ever hear these words
or to meet anyone who could in any way lift the veil she had dropped
between herself and Italy.

"I have been in Rome," said Mr. Forsythe.

She came across the dull room towards him--a figure of rare and
extraordinary grace in her slenderness, her poise, her rich and unusual
dress; she paused beside the spinet, utterly unconscious, and looking at
him with a brilliant and inquiring glance.

He noted, as he had noted ever since he had been in her house, the
exquisite fineness of her small features, her delicate hands and arms,
the elaborate arrangement of her amber curls, the impression of intense
vitality her slender body gave in repose; even in absolute stillness she
had a look of swiftness and motion only momentarily arrested.

He noted also her dress--which was one of those she had brought from
Italy--the blue and white coat of yarn and linen over a petticoat of a
poppy colour bright with a design of flowers, the amber necklace and
ear-rings, and the apron covered with silver lace.

Knowing the place whence she came, he could supply the background for
her gay and elegant figure--sunshine, palace, loggia, balcony, light
flowers, gallantry, brilliancy.

"What is there in Frank Moutray," he asked himself, "to win her to
this?"

She rested her elbows on the spinet and took her chin in her hands.

"When were you in Rome?" she asked.

"When the Chevalier St. George was there," he answered, "before the
'45."

"Ah!" cried Giovanna, "you are one of his followers?"

Mr. Forsythe smiled.

"In my heart, yes."

Giovanna's chestnut eyes dwelt long and gravely on his composed face.

"Are you returning to Rome?" she asked abruptly. "The Cardinal d'Orcko
and his father are still in Rome."

"Yes, I shall return, I think," he said; he added quietly, "And you?"

"I? Oh, never, never," replied Giovanna vehemently.

"You do not regret your country then, Mrs. Moutray?"

Again she said, and with great sincerity and force, "Oh, never,
never!--"

"Yet it must be a great change for you, and this a strange life."

As he looked at her he was wondering, as Giovanna herself had wondered a
few days before, if she had quite realized yet what she had undertaken,
what road she had set her foot upon.

"I am afraid of displeasing Francis," she replied with her Latin
frankness; "of that only, Mr. Forsythe."

He struck a few notes in a minor key, and looked away from her.

"You are not afraid of displeasing God?" he asked.

"How," asked Giovanna, "do I displease Him?"

"'Tis no matter of mine," he replied; "but you must have been--before
you married Frank--a Romanist."

"Yes," she said, and her eyes were frightened; "but I left that--for
him."

"Yet you believe in hell!"

Allan Forsythe looked at her as he spoke, and she saw in his face the
expression she had often seen on Francis' features--the stern expression
of the bigot.

"Are you of the Faith?" she asked, stepping a little away from him.

"I am a Papist," he answered sombrely.

Giovanna was silent in amazement and confusion and a terrible shame at
finding herself before a member of that religion she had spurned.

"Keep my counsel," added Allan Forsythe. "We are under such penalties in
this country, such disabilities that I, to be of any service to my
cause, must for the present deny my belief and practise it in secret."

"You are no better than I!" cried Giovanna.

"I have a dispensation for what I do," he replied, "and it is but for a
while and for a purpose."

"What I did was for a purpose," she said; "my heart is not changed, and
still I dare to pray to the Madonna. I think she understands. Any woman
would," she added passionately.

"God pity you!" he said.

His tone of grief stung her and lifted her from her shame.

"He must have forgiven me," she said, "for I am beyond words happy."

Allan Forsythe rose abruptly

"Why should I speak? But in time you might come to need one of your own
faith--"

"Oh," said Giovanna, "why?"

Allan Forsythe rose and closed the spinet.

"You are only a woman," he answered, "you must--some day--need God."

"I have," she replied, "my husband's God."

He looked at her with reproach and pity.

"Do you," he asked, "in your heart believe the faith of the heretic?"

"Please say no more," answered Giovanna. "I have left everything for
him. I cannot argue about it. I did it."

He looked sadly at her, in her beauty, her loneliness, in what to him
was her great sin; prophecy of infinite tragedy seemed to shadow the
grey background and the grey surroundings.

"I am not your father confessor," he said sombrely, "yet I could not
believe as I do believe and not speak to you. Since I first saw you the
thought of you and of what you have done has haunted me as something sad
and pitiful."

"My soul," replied the lady, with a touch of wildness, "is mine to do as
I will with--and I am not the first woman who has risked damnation for
the sake of love."

"You speak for yourself," said Mr. Forsythe; "you may have, some day, to
speak for others, to answer for them before God."

"Who?" asked Giovanna.

"Madam, do you love your husband so that you can look on your unbaptized
children with a serene heart?"

"My children?" said Giovanna; she looked at him steadily and her pale
lips parted again, but she said nothing more.

"God help you!" exclaimed Mr. Forsythe, "and forgive Frank this thing he
has done!"

Giovanna sank down into the window seat and pressed her hands together
on the poppy-red skirt; she looked out between the deep mullions at the
pines, and the hills, and the river, all swathed in mist, and her eyes
grew defiant.

It seemed to her as if her soul, naked and alone, was challenging all
the world, and all heaven, and God, yet she felt an extraordinary
serenity.

"I have lodgings," said Mr. Forsythe, "in Edinburgh, near the Tollbooth
and St. Giles' Church--when I am in Italy a friend of mine resides
there--you may care to remember this--'tis above a silk hosier's shop,
and the sign is the sign of the 'Saracen's Head.'--"

"Why should I," asked Giovanna, "remember this?"

"In case you might--in some extremity--need a priest."

Giovanna shuddered at that word.

"You see," continued Allan Forsythe, "I trust you with my secret."

"Why?" she asked simply.

"Because I cannot forget the faith you were baptized into," he answered,
"therefore I have told you what even Stacy Wigram does not know."

"Oh, 'tis safe with me," she said almost indifferently, and again turned
her defiant yet dreamy eyes towards the mist-drenched landscape.

Mr. Forsythe, under the influence of his belief, which was as strong and
deep as that held by Francis Moutray in his creed, and even the more
intense for being concealed, was about to speak again, when the Lord of
Glenillich himself entered the apartment.

He was flushed and red from riding, and flung off his mantle and shook
the water from his hat as he entered.

His quick breath, the frown of his dark eyes, and his silent glance and
sharp movements bespoke his ill-humour. He had been visiting his farms,
and as usual there had been a conflict of wills between his tenantry and
himself; he was not popular, and his marriage had given that point and
reason to the common dislike of him which had hitherto been lacking.

His energetic and restless spirits had been recently employed in
endeavouring to improve his estates, and every one of his attempts,
particularly that which tried to introduce rye-grass, had met with the
fiercest opposition; and Francis, austere and unsociable, a hard master
and proud to the point of tyranny, had found to-day that he was fairly
hated in Ayrshire, and that his marriage with "the wanton, graceless,
foreign woman, covered with pearlin' an' gowd," had made him an object
of real dislike and contempt.

As he looked now at Giovanna in her gay attire, sitting idle as usual,
gazing out of the window, his anger deepened; he was quick to spy out
faults in her, ever on the watch for the tainted blood to show in her,
for what she had been was ever in his mind; nor could he forget that she
was there, a sign to all the world, of how he had yielded to worldly
wiles and worldly lusts.

At his entry she had risen, and she stood watching him now with a face
quietly radiant, joyous, and content.

Allan Forsythe marvelled at her. From whence came this power, he asked
himself, which this poor, lonely creature, who had denied her God, found
to sustain her?

Francis did not speak to her, but began a conversation with Allan on the
farmers and the dull stupidity of their opposition.

And all the while Giovanna watched him; she was so sure of his love, so
proud of the great price she had paid for it, so calm in the sense of
fulfilment that following the heart's behests bestows, that the shadows
Allan Forsythe's words had cast over her happiness had already
disappeared. His words had raised strange memories of the past and awful
visions of the future; he had reminded her, by his manner and his
confession of his creed, that in his eyes and in the eyes of the Church
that was still to her the one Church of God, she was no wife, but a poor
dishonoured outcast. Yet now, when she looked at Francis, the
remembrance of this even did not sting; she was bound to him by his
laws, she was the honoured mistress of his house, and for the first time
Giovanna felt herself draw nearer towards her husband's God Who
protected her.

Presently Mr. Forsythe left, and then Francis came towards her.

"Jeannie," he asked, with a little smile, "is this girl going to be of
any use to you?"

Giovanna half closed her chestnut eyes and laughed.

"You mean Stacy? She is making--jam."

"And you?"

"I can make nothing, as you know."

"Dear love--will you not learn?"

"It is so--useless."

He tried to control his vexation, and standing as near to her as he was
now it was hard for him to be angry, yet the thought of the spectacle
her luxurious uselessness made before Ayrshire drove him into speech.

"What will you do with the rest of time, Jeannie?"

She put her pretty hands on his shoulders and brought her face near to
his.

"Love you," she answered; "is not that what you brought me here for--to
love you?"

This was so exactly the truth, and at the same time so exactly what he
was always endeavouring to conceal from himself, that he palpably
winced.

"I wanted your soul!" he cried. "I wanted to save your soul!"

Her hands crept together behind his neck and clasped there over the
loose knot of dark ribbon on the dark hair.

"Do you not care for me--my body--at all?" she asked.

She drew him to the window seat, and when he was beside her she laid her
head on his heart, so that the yellow curls crushed under his chin, his
cravat.

"My dear, are you afraid of love?" she whispered, "when I love you you
seem afraid."

He kissed her smooth and childish forehead.

"Afraid?" he answered; "no--not afraid--yet it seems so strange--so
wonderful--that we should be here--like this--"

And on his pale face was a look that was not wholly content nor
satisfaction.

Something was between them, even when he held her as close as this,
something seemed to lie between his heart and her own; she had resigned
all he had asked her to resign, she had followed him, obediently--yet
why did he think of her as a temptation, why could he never shake off
the oppression that there was wrong, _wrong_ at the bottom of their
love, and that with every kiss they took they were hurried a step
further towards some dim end of horror.

Giovanna raised herself from his heart and looked at him.

"Do you not care for _me_," she repeated passionately, "as I am--as you
won me?" She laid her hand on her slender bosom. "Now, while we are
young, can not you love me--without these doubts--these silences?"

He thought he traced her mother's tones in her voice,--the tones of the
enchantress, the soulless wanton,--and he rose up and put her from him,
and turned away.

Her eyes flashed and she bit her under lip, but the next second her
native sweetness returned.

"Francis," she said, making, as always, a pretty difficulty of the name,
"are you angry with me?"

"No," he answered hoarsely, "no--but you are _my wife_, not my toy--do
you not understand?"

She did not, she could not; in that moment he realized, for perhaps the
first time wholly, the great gulf between their outlook, the unalterable
differences of race and creed and breeding; she could not understand his
doubts, his temptations, his pride--something of this seemed to touch
her own consciousness.

"Is not love enough?" she asked desperately.

The truth of it all came in his reluctant answer:

"No," he said, "no."



XIII


Anastasia Wigram was meek and neither brilliant in looks nor wits, but
she was not wanting in the good sense few of her country folk lacked,
nor a certain dry discernment and plain courage that were also national
characteristics.

After she had been a month at Glenillich she came to her cousin when he
was in his library casting up his accounts, comparing his rent-roll with
the expenses he had been put to for the improvements his tenants so
disliked.

"I am taking my leave of you," she said cheerfully and quietly by way of
greeting. "I came here to make a good housewife of your pretty lady,
Frank, and I find it is a task not the greatest genius in the land could
accomplish. So I'll no' be staying to be in the way and interfere."

So saying she seated herself in one of the great worn leathern
arm-chairs and smiled at him with perfect good humour.

But his face darkened, and anger and disappointment and a kind of shame
clouded his expressive eyes; he flung down his pen with an impatient
violence. Of course he had known this thing, but he had evaded it, put
it off, hoped that, by some miracle, she would change; now he was face
to face with it; the neat, gentle little person in the plain grey gown
and blue snood was telling him the truth.

"She cannot learn," continued Stacy, "and from what I'm hearing of her
former life it is you who should not expect it--she comes from foreign
parts, Frank, where honest work is unknown and where a decent woman
spends her time on a cushion with flowers in her hair like any quean
among us."

Miss Wigram spoke without malice, with, indeed, a desire to put forward
the best case possible for Giovanna, and the calm contempt with which
she referred to the "foreign parts" was unconscious and no more than the
usual scorn of the Briton for every thing and person outside the limits
of his own isles; travel had, though against his will, effaced much of
this prejudice from the mind of Francis Moutray, yet still in his secret
heart he regarded his wife as of a heathenish inferior race, and every
time one of his country people spoke in the usual terms of pity and
contempt of the foreigner his blood burnt as if he had been personally
shamed. He had forgotten completely the fact that his wife was better
born than he, that her father had been a great noble, her mother the
daughter of an English duke, and she herself, in her own right, a
countess; he only remembered, and that vividly, the sort of woman her
mother was, and the sort of life he had snatched her from, and as he
looked at his fair little cousin he knew that for her to have imagined
how Giovanna had lived in Bologna was as impossible as for the Contessa
Odaleschi to imagine how her daughter was living now.

As he sat silent, moody, and melancholy, with these thoughts, Stacy
continued, still with the idea of defending and excusing the stranger to
whom her heart had gone out:

"How should anyone know of these things without teachings?" she
asked.--"I doubt but that Jeannie's mother was a feckless kind of
woman, who never went into her own kitchens or knew what her maids were
doing from one hour to another; and how was Jeannie, poor thing, to
learn, in that wild country, the ordering of a Christian man's house?"

"She might," said Francis, "learn."

Miss Stacy replied eagerly:

"I have done my best, Frank. _But it is not in her_. She will listen and
watch, as sweet and gay as a bird, but she spoils her cakes and her
sewing, and loses her keys, and gives jellies to the servants, and wears
silk in the morning--like a child, and when I speak to her, telling her
what is expected of the wife of a God-fearing man in a Christian country
she will listen gravely, and then I find her at her spinet, singing in
her heathen language, as if there was no such thing as bread to bake and
linen to spin and soap and candles to make!"

Miss Wigram finished rather breathless after her long speech, and looked
at her cousin deprecatingly, both on Giovanna's account and her own, for
she felt that she too had failed in the task of instruction entrusted to
her.

There was a pause of silence.

Francis looked at Stacy, and the thought entered his head that he might
have married this girl before Allan Forsythe had secured her, and that
every one thought, and was no doubt thinking still, that he was a
perverse fool to have passed over one of his own countrywomen and
family, with all domestic virtues and a good dowry, for a penniless,
foreign creature whose incapacity made her a byword.

He thought himself that he had been foolish and had made a wild and
reckless speculation of his marriage instead of a sober, pleasant
certainty; yet the restless, passionate, though repressed, part of him
could not wish the thing undone. He could never have conceived a
rapturous love for the good little housewife sitting opposite him--she
moved him no more than the prim painting of a long dead ancestress
hanging above the fireplace behind her--while the very memory of his
wife's kisses, his wife's outspoken passion, her beauty, given so
unreservedly and solely to him, caused all his blood to shudder; yet of
this passion that was so human, so earthly in tenderness and strength,
the religious fanatic in him was ashamed.

He turned his face away now from his cousin, as if he feared she would
read in his countenance his strange and secret thoughts.

But Stacy Wigram was far from being capable of even dimly surmising the
complex and conflicting emotions that moved Francis; she merely thought
he had fallen in love impetuously and made a foolish marriage, and she
let it go at that, with a kind hope in her meek heart that neither
Francis nor Giovanna would regret their union as much as Stacy's good
sense told her they would.

"So I'll go back to Edinburgh," she said at length, "and you must get a
decent woman to manage Glenillich." She looked critically round the
rather cheerless apartment. "You'll be needing new hangings here, Frank,
these are moth-eaten and past patching. It takes awhile to get a man's
house in order after he has been away a time!"

She rose, and Francis turned his face towards her. As he looked at her,
without speaking and with an arrested expression as of one pausing to
listen and consider, she was impressed as never before by something
unusual in his appearance. In that moment he appeared to her almost as
foreign as his wife, as utterly apart from herself as was Giovanna; she
thought too that she detected an expression of terror and
apprehension--a haunted look--and she, joining to her stern practical
religion all the wild superstition of the Scot, was quick to notice and
tremble before that look.

"Eh, Frank," she asked, "what ails you?"

The expression darkened a moment on his face, then was gone.

"Why, I am well enough," he answered, smiling, and he rose, an
attractive figure in his dark riding suit, with his dark, expressive
eyes and rich hair and refined, passionate face.

"You think, I suppose," he continued, "that I have made a failure, a
mistake, with this marriage?"

"Why should I presume to think so or say so, Frank?" answered the girl
with sincere modesty. "She is the most beautiful person I ever saw."

"Do you think," demanded Francis keenly, "a man might make that excuse
and hold himself justified--might he say, 'She is beautiful and
therefore I wedded her, never thinking of anything but that--never
thinking of what her race was, or her creed--of what this union might
mean--thinking nothing but that she was fair, and I maddened for her'?
Shall this be his excuse? Shall it not rather damn him for his lust?"

"You speak strangely," said Stacy. "If there is true love between you,
what need for else?"

Francis was silent. He would not admit the name of his feeling for
Giovanna; true love his cousin thought it, but he knew that the jealous,
fierce, exacting passion that consumed him was not anything so serene
and fair as Stacy meant when she said "true love."

And Stacy, watching him, noting his unease, his silence, felt that he
was disloyal to his wife, and fired with championship of Giovanna.

"She followed you from her own land, Frank," she said. "She is like a
dog to your bidding, and she worships even where your shadow falls, and
you are not the one to be wasting reproach on her, even in your
thoughts."

Francis paled, and looked at his cousin with passionate earnestness.

"My love for her gets between me and God," he said. "So much do I--adore
her--"

"She is your wife," answered the practical Stacy, "and 'tis a love God
should bless."

"He does--I trust He does," said Francis hastily. His little cousin did
not understand--how could she? he asked himself; no one could
understand. He tried to persuade himself that there was nothing to
understand, that all was simple and easy of comprehension.

He rose, and, with the sweetness that was seldom long absent from his
manner (a sweetness that was unconscious and came from the innate
gentleness of his heart, which still was a dominant quality, however
overlaid and repressed by the gloom and pride of his religion), he bade
his cousin take his thanks for her services during her stay in
Glenillich, and offered to escort her home to Edinburgh if Mr. Forsythe
could not come for her himself.

She thanked him, accepted his offer, and arranged her departure for the
morrow, and with that left him, smiling brightly into his dark and
thoughtful face.

Her going left Francis with a sense of desertion, almost of desolation;
he saw now, and more clearly day by day, that his wife was coming
between him and all his old life.

His neighbours came more seldom now, even the pastor and the elders were
not so warmly his friends as they had been; his relatives in Edinburgh
had received the news of his marriage coldly; his tenantry had taken
Giovanna as little better than the Scarlet Woman herself set above them;
and now Stacy, good-hearted, meek little Stacy, was leaving him--she
could not or would not be the friend and helper of his foreign wife.

He tried to look the thing squarely in the face. He had married
recklessly, in a wild humour, and he must pay the price, he told
himself. The natural generosity of his spirit recognized that she had
paid, and paid highly (though he was never to realize, in his masculine
absorption, how highly), and that he must not shirk his share of the
toll. Love demanded and love had given lavishly on his side--he loved
her in a fashion that, was beyond blemish, and so she loved him.

He asked himself, fiercely, why he was not content?--she appeared to be,
she had taken her sacrifices cheerfully, she bloomed joyously in the
dreary country that was a place of exile to her--and she had given up
her country and her faith, while he retained both, and she had bowed to
his God and submitted herself to his customs and smiled on his
people--yet still neither his pride nor his conscience were satisfied.
He could not be happy--he felt as if God demanded this woman from
him--bade him turn her from his house, and would not be satisfied until
he had done so.

Nor could he divest himself of a certain nightmare atmosphere that clung
to his winning of Giovanna, the hot corrupt city, the gorgeous palace,
the dirty inn, the picture of the Madonna he had turned out of his room,
the fever vision of the voluptuous woman who had crept up to the
mosquito nets, all were mingled in his mind with the touch of horror
that was common to his thoughts, all seemed to hold presage of ill
omen--as if their love had been from the first forbidden--an ecstasy
snatched from evil and from wrong.

One of his dreadful moods of black melancholy swept over him, the place
seemed peopled with ghouls and fiends; it was as if hell opened beneath
his feet.

He sat still, the sweat gathering on his brow, his hand before his eyes,
his elbow on the table among the letters and accounts he had been
looking over.

"Is God cursing me?" he asked himself desperately, "Will He never leave
me in peace while I keep this woman next my heart?"

And then she came upon him; he heard the door click, and turning saw her
in her white yarn gown embroidered with blue and her gold and amber
ornaments, smiling at him as she always smiled with steady sweetness and
a tender gaiety.

"Giovanna," he said; a light flashed into her face when she heard him
use her true name, and she came instantly.

"You are sad, you are angry?" she smiled, noting eagerly the haggard
look of his dark face, the limited expression in his large eyes.

"I feel as if the evil spirits were abroad to-day," he answered
hoarsely.

He rose and caught hold of her, and she laid on his breast the soft
hands that seemed useless for anything save to arrange the elaborate
braids of her gorgeous hair.

"You do not know of these things," he said, looking down into her clear,
frank, unshadowed eyes.

"No."

He wondered, with a horrid shudder, if it was because she had no soul
that she was never dimly aware of supernatural terrors, that she seemed
to have no thought or conception of anything beyond this earth; yet
because of this, he loved her, perversely, despite himself. Yes, he
loved her for this, her material gaiety and charm; the very sight of her
often, as now, banished the dark visions that tore his soul.

"You are a good woman, are you not?" he asked passionately.

She thought of what Allan Forsythe had said to her, and a pale fire
sparkled in her eyes.

"If you find me good it is well enough," she replied. "I have aimed only
to please you."

"But you love God?--you love and serve Him?" demanded Francis.

"Yes," said Giovanna.

"Do you say that only to please me?"

"_Mio caro_, you want too much," replied Giovanna; "love me as I love
you and think not so much of God."

Her near presence was overcoming him like a strong perfume, his senses
lulled his soul; at least that was how he explained to himself the
effect she, in her lovely affection, had on him and how he named the
quality of his passion.

He held her closer, closer, her hair pressed against his lips, and he
felt the blood rushing into his heart and beating there in furious
exaltation: it was worth it--surely worth it--worth even the terror of
God's burning Eye turned on him in judgment: as he held her that Eye
grew dim, faded, and finally vanished until he was aware only of
Giovanna, and a tremendous mystical sense of union in which all
individuality was merged, in which differences of race, of creed, of
character, were overwhelmed and forged together in the fierce heat of
love.

Giovanna lifted her face; her eyes were closed, the warm fragrant weight
of her head pressed just above his heart.

"Does anything else matter?" she muttered.

Francis bowed his head to kiss her, before their passionate lips had met
he had breathed, in a full sigh from his heart--"No." For that moment it
was true--but for that moment only--as too well he knew.




BOOK II # THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT


* * * * *


I


Allan Forsythe sat at his window overlooking the St. Giles' Church, and
read for the twentieth time a letter written in a hand delicate and
beautiful as a steel engraving.

It was from a lady whom he had only seen once before, and that occasion
was something over five years ago.

Nor had she written to him before, nor had he very often heard of her,
though he was still supposed to be bound, by somewhat fantastical and
unsubstantial ties to her husband's cousin, Stacy Wigram.

Still he knew something of the very remarkable story of the lady, and he
was not likely to forget either her rare personality or the vivid
interview he had had with her; therefore this letter written to him by
Mrs. Moutray of Glenillich and asking for an immediate and private
interview, surprised him and strangely held his fancy.

Since he had journeyed into Ayrshire soon after the marriage of Francis
Moutray, he had travelled several times between England and Rome and
Bois-le-Duc and been engaged in various skilful, energetic, but cautious
attempts to help the exiled dynasty of Stuart.

The cause was too thoroughly lost for him to have been able to make the
least headway with his intrigues, and he was both too obscure and too
prudent to meet adventures; therefore the years since he last saw Mrs.
Moutray had really been eventless, as he reflected with some humour and
some bitterness, and his position was exactly what it was when last he
spoke to her; he was still a concealed Romanist, still waiting for those
enormous changes which every year seemed to make more impossible; still
bound to Stacy Wigram; still hopeful, resolute, cautious, cold, a secret
fanatic; outwardly a well-placed man of secure fortune and calm
intelligence, with a taste for travel and for collecting cameos, which
last was the gloss he gave to his very frequent visits to Italy.

He had many reasons to be satisfied with himself; but as he stared first
out of his window at the dull November evening, and next at the letter
he held, he was oppressed by a sense of futility and even meanness in
his own career.

Mrs. Moutray's letter had chanced to rouse his mind to dwell on the
years that had slipped away since he had seen her, and his own use of
them did not seem very satisfactory; therefore he rather abruptly turned
his thoughts to the lady's record as far as it had come to him, through
casual talk and through Stacy Wigram.

There again the years had brought little change or little noticeable to
the careless observer.

Mrs. Moutray, despite the extraordinary circumstances of her marriage,
behaved like every other Scotch lady of her position, save that she was
credited with unusual idleness and a little extravagance, and that it
was known a paid housekeeper managed Glenillich.

She had always conformed to her husband's religion and to the customs of
his country. She had given him a son, and she was still of a beauty
incongruous to her position.

This was all Allan Forsythe knew of his cousin's wife.

It was, indeed, all there was to know; it comprised all the outside
history of Giovanna since her marriage, the inner history no one guessed
and no one cared about.

Francis Moutray had several times brought his wife to Edinburgh, but the
occasions had always chanced on the times when Allan Forsythe was
abroad; he had come now, as Allan had learnt from Stacy, on lawyer's
business connected with his estate; Giovanna did not mention him in her
letter.

Allan had replied to the letter at once, offering to wait on her, but
she had sent a hasty note saying she would prefer to come to his
lodgings. Allan smiled and wondered over a lack of ceremony that he did
not think would be very pleasing to his austere cousin. Edinburgh was
not as Rome, Paris, or even London; the lady's half-secret visit would
certainly not be approved of were it known.

The appointment was for this day and this hour. Allan stirred the logs,
for it was mid-November and cold even for the time of year; the
window-panes were blurred with fine rain, and a damp grey mist
penetrated the warm, comfortable chamber.

Exact to the hour named, Allan's servant ushered in a lady who curtsied
and then hesitated, but not shyly.

"Well met, after so long. Madam," said Mr. Forsythe.

She seated herself in the chair he placed for her and put back the hood
of the cardinal she wore.

"It was kind of you to see me," she said. "My husband does not know that
I have come, and I pray that you will not tell him."

Her disconcerting frankness, her foreign accent, her foreign gestures
were as noticeable as they had been nearly six years ago. Allan looked
at her with a curiosity that he was scarcely able to disguise.

She wore a maroon-coloured hood and cloak, and as she unclasped it, put
it aside, and revealed herself, his first impression was that her
beauty, always peculiar, had changed to a merely fantastic charm;
instantly, however, he perceived that she was a rare and entrancing
creature. She was still slender, but her long limbs were more rounded,
and she had the bust of a Juno; her amber hair was still elaborately
arranged in plaits and curls on the crown of her small head, and her
exact, delicate features, though they had lost the indescribable
exquisiteness of bloom and contour, the real loveliness of her early
youth, yet remained fine, vivid, and pre-eminently attractive.

It was not likely that she would please all or even many, but to the
few, the fastidious, the person of exacting and particular taste, she
would always remain beautiful.

Allan saw that among the princes, cardinals, poets, and great men who
made her mother's world, Giovanna would be considered a pearl among
women; he saw also that in Scotland she was more likely to be stared at
than admired.

The Southern bud had blossomed in the Northern soil, but blossomed into
an exotic flower which owed its beauty to other suns and other skies,
and had gained nothing from its environment. Giovanna, in every line, in
every movement, in every word, disclosed her origin; the North had made
no impression on her, she was, and ever would be, of the South.

Her dress set fashion at naught; it was rich and unusual. Had Allan
known the cost of its graceful simplicity he would have considered it
extravagant; as it was, he considered it inappropriate for Mrs. Moutray,
however suitable it might be for the Contessa Odaleschi.

She was foreign--foreign; an almost unconscious feeling of hostility
towards her rose in his Islander's heart. "How mad Francis was!" he
thought, and "madness" seemed passion to him who had never experienced
it nor considered its power.

"Keep this visit a close secret from my husband," insisted Mrs. Moutray,
turning on him her sweet candid eyes, "for my entire happiness depends
on your help and your silence."

All that was fine and generous in him prompted him to send her away at
once before she spoke another word; he was no friend of Francis, but he
knew his character well enough, and was fully aware that Mr. Moutray was
the last man to tolerate even remote interference with his affairs.

"Forgive me. Madam, if I urge you to have no secrets from your husband,
forgive me if I implore you to take this confidence that you propose to
honour me with to him."

She slightly coloured, but her frank composed gaze did not falter.

"I cannot," she answered. "If I had any relations or any friends whom I
could trust, anyone on whom I had a claim, I would go to them and not
importune you. But I have no one."

This gave him a strange glimpse into her life; was she, after six years
in her husband's country, as solitary as when she had fled her own gay
world? He became more afraid of her.

"Believe me, I think of yourself," he urged, "when I tell you you would
be wiser to keep nothing from your husband--he is not a man to brook
it--"

"Is it that you will not be troubled with me?"

"Nay," he said eagerly. "I, a poor idler, would welcome any task you
might set me. What man would not be pleased and honoured to serve such a
lady? But I see trouble ahead for you; I think I can do no kinder thing
than to tell you you act unwisely."

He was fully determined that he would be no partner with her in anything
she kept from Francis, and his resolve was unselfish and based on his
knowledge of her frank impulsiveness and her husband's brooding, gloomy,
and suspicious character. Mrs. Moutray did not seem daunted by his
diffidence.

"First hear me," she replied. "You may imagine that I do not come on an
ordinary errand to you who once told me plainly you despised me. Ah, I
recall it, if you do not--and at the same time you gave me this address
in case I ever needed you."

He recalled it too, well enough. Six years had a little changed him; he
would not have spoken those words now; he almost regretted them.

"I hoped that you had forgotten," he said.

"I have remembered, all these years," she said gravely. "And now I have
come to you, not for myself, but for another."

"Another?"

"My child."

Allan Forsythe looked at her sharply.

"I have a little boy, sir, not quite five years old," continued Mrs.
Moutray. She paused a moment, then added, with startling energy, "I wish
to save his soul."

He saw suddenly the object of her visit.

"Yon wish the child baptized?"

"Yes," she said. "For myself I can bear it, but not for him."

"You are not happy, then?" he flashed.

"Happiness," she replied composedly, "is not for them who love. But I
have chosen, and I neither repent nor repine, though I see now more
clearly what I did and what it meant. I know what you and other members
of Holy Church think of me, I know what I endure when I sit in the
heretic church. But it is by his side," she added quite calmly. "And I
have grown used to face the thought of hell. Perhaps God is more
merciful than men say; if not, we shall be together still."

Allan was startled at this quiet laying bare of an overwhelming passion;
there was nothing he could say.

"You may not consider me a wife," she continued, "but you must admit me
a mother, and as a mother I come to you. Will you help me save the boy?
You are my one hope."

Until this moment Allan had meant to firmly refuse to meddle in the
affairs of the Moutrays, but at this appeal the sleeping bigot in him
awoke; he saw that she was asking him to interfere in a matter far more
delicate and dangerous than he had ever guessed; he saw that discovery
would mean the total loss of her happiness and untold rage and agony and
humiliation to Francis; he saw that, by all laws of honour, he had no
right to help the wife against the husband, to alienate the child from
the father; but one argument alone outweighed all these--here was a soul
to be saved, here was a straying sheep to be brought back into the fold
of Holy Church, and all his ardour of the neophyte, all his secret
fanaticism, learnt from the ardent priests of his persecuted faith,
taught him that any means to this end were justified.

It seemed to him that God had sent this woman to him, and that it would
be blasphemy to refuse her request.

Yet it was a tremendous responsibility to undertake, and still he
hesitated.

"You yourself," he said, "have you no wish to return to the Church?"

"I belong to Francis," she answered. "The choice was given me, and I
chose him. I can take the punishment of what I did. But the child is
unconscious, innocent, he has never had a chance; and shall he be lost
through me?" she added with despairing vehemence.

"But Mr. Moutray would never allow a priest within his doors, never
permit his son to go to Mass."

She answered with a readiness that showed she had considered all
difficulties.

"I know. I wish to have him secretly baptized so that he is a member of
the Church--he can keep his religion secret as you do, sir; he is old
enough to understand, and I shall find opportunities when we come to
Edinburgh to see a priest. Then when he is older he can choose as I
chose."

Allan winced at the thought of the awful situation she was preparing: at
the terrible conflict between father and son there was bound to be some
day if the boy followed her teaching; at the treachery to Francis she,
who so profoundly loved him, was contemplating; but it was all in the
name of God, and the present, not the future, was their concern.

He felt too, in his inmost heart, that she was right; it was an
unbearable thing that the helpless child should be consigned to
damnation for her sin. Let him at least enjoy the Holy rite of baptism.

"I will help you," he said sombrely.

She gave a long, weary sigh of intense relief.

"I believed that you would," she responded simply. "You were my only
hope," she repeated.

"Heaven grant that I am justified!" he replied.

"Will you tell me," asked Mrs. Moutray, "what I am to do?"

He was puzzled, even confused, by her manner. She was asking such a
considerable service of him, she spoke so frankly and plainly, she
invited him to conspire with her against her husband, yet she showed no
intimacy or even friendliness; it was as if she regarded him as a mere
impersonal instrument with which to carry out her wishes.

In this, he imagined, she unconsciously showed her breed; the great
ladies of Italy were accustomed to take favours for granted.

"There is a priest here," he answered, "and I must consult him. When I
know more I will wait on you."

"I will come again," she said.

He replied almost angrily--he wished to make the affair as little like
an intrigue as possible:

"Nay, Madam, it is more reasonable that I should come to your house.
Under any circumstances I should see Francis."

"Very well," she answered, and rose; he thought how strange and fair she
looked in his precise room.

"What of Stacy Wigram?" she asked with a little smile, as she clasped
her cloak.

He used the frankness she had used to him:

"Three years ago her father died, and she will not leave her mother, who
is ill and alone. I--I wait. She knows my secret now. My wife could not
be a heretic. I wait to know if she will change. At present she says
neither yes nor no."

He sighed a little drearily His love-affair, like his political scheme,
had dragged till all savour had gone out of it; he and Stacy had carried
caution, prudence, and scruples to extremes. He perhaps began to find
that love too long delayed fades, and vanishes when it is at last
approached.

Mrs. Moutray did not feign much interest in his affairs. She smiled in a
preoccupied fashion, and asked him when he was likely to wait on her with
his news; she gave him an address near the Lawnmarket, and with mere
formal thanks was going.

But his curiosity would not allow her to escape so easily; she was to
him an extraordinary creature, and he longed to know something of what
lay behind her calm, frank reserve.

"Do you never think of your mother and sister, Madam?" he asked. "Do you
never wish to see Italy again?"

"One dead might as well desire to revisit the earth," she replied; "it
would be as hopeless for me to dwell on my former life. That is closed
to me as completely as if the gates of the tomb divided us. I may not
even speak of it; my former name sounds strangely to me now, so long it
is since I heard it or spoke it. I entreat you," she added hastily, "do
not mention Italy to Francis."

"So you both are playing at forgetting," said Allan. "And yet I am sure
you both remember very well."

"We never speak of the past," she evaded.

"Yet you think of it," he insisted. On his last visit to Italy he had
seen the Contessa Odaleschi in her gorgeous Bologna home, bereft of both
her daughters now, and defying age and poverty and failure with
undiminished courage and gaiety. She was sinking lower in her corrupt
and scandalous society, she was no longer the power she had been, but
she carried her head high, and had cast all her interests and hopes on
the Church.

He had seen Emilia too at a reception of Cardinal York in Rome; she
bloomed in the Orsini Palace now. Compared to the life Giovanna led, her
existence was a fairy tale.

"You heard of the marriage of your sister?" Allan probed.

"No; how should I? But she was to marry the Prince Orsini."

"She is in Rome now--I saw her last year. She is very beautiful and gay
and happy."

Still he could not move Giovanna to any expression of regret or remorse,
hardly to any expression of interest; more and more he marvelled at her.
He wondered if she quite realized all she had given up; she had been so
young--even now she could not be more than five-and-twenty.

She could not have understood, he thought, _everything_ sacrificed, and
for a hard, sour devil like Francis!

Mrs. Moutray gave him a smile that seemed to both penetrate and discount
his thought. She held out her lovely perfumed hand that seemed made for
kisses.

"I came in a hired chair which I dismissed at the corner," she said; "I
will return the same way. I think the rain has stopped. Please do not
come down with me. Remember, I shall be waiting."

She pulled her hood over her face and disappeared into the darkness of
the unlit stairs.

Allan went to the window and watched her going down the wet grey street.
He noticed her unconscious aptitude for intrigue; she might be frank,
even reckless, but she was not likely to make a mistake in subterfuge or
finesse.

Thinking over their interview, he smiled to recall how completely she
had bent him to her will and how utterly he had failed to draw her; yet
she had used no arts, unless her absolute directness was one.

Allan became desirous of seeing the other half of the puzzle--Francis
Moutray. The plot in which he had been so suddenly involved interested
him more than the vain intrigues for a lost cause to which he was used.

He thought over all he knew of Francis, and all he knew of her, her
world, and breed.

The result of his reflections was not pleasant. He frowned as he closed
the window.

"I hope he is kind to her," he said.



II


When Allan Forsythe visited the handsome house of the Moutrays near the
Lawnmarket, he found husband and wife together in the withdrawing, room;
she sitting idle behind the glitter of the Queen Anne tea equipage, he
near the window in conversation with two lawyers.

He was in negotiations for the purchase of a neighbouring estate which
he had always coveted; the present owner made difficulties about the
price, and Mr. Moutray was in frequent consultation with his advisers;
the business interested and absorbed him to a strange degree.

As he came forward to greet Allan, that gentleman saw that he also had
changed little in these few years; he still looked alert, hardy,
elegant, sombre; the dark waving hair was touched with premature grey
above the ears, and his eyes had a curious narrowed look which gave him
the expression of one bearing pain.

"He is not happy," thought Allan swiftly. "They are neither of them
happy."

Giovanna rose and joined in the usual courtesies; Allan, acting the lie
that this was their first meeting since Glenillich, felt more ashamed
than he cared to admit.

She was serene; her loose draperies of red and yellow, the black lace
shawl that hung open over her shapely shoulders, the little combs set
with topaz in her wonderful hair, her whole air and pose so gracefully
indolent, so unconsciously voluptuous, formed a picture incongruous
indeed to the handsome but dreary room furnished by the cold and
conventional taste of Francis' parents.

She had evidently touched nothing; the heavy walnut furniture, the faded
blue Venetian velvet on the walls, the insipid portraits by Riley, the
prim silver sconces, the dark cabinets containing Chinese monsters, the
well-waxed boards, the brass fire-dogs were all as they were a
generation ago when Giovanna had lain in her gilt cradle at Rome.

She sank back in her chair and, supporting her chin in her slender
fingers and her elbow on her knee, looked at Allan with a radiant smile.

Francis introduced the two legal gentlemen, and hastily explained his
business.

"I want to buy Fort Mary," he said, "but Winthorp asks too much."

"Adding to the estates?" smiled Allan. "You own half a county already."

The Lord of Glenillich waved aside this exaggeration.

"This ground is good for farming and pasturage," he continued, "better
than mine. I want to build. The people live like dogs. I mean to bring
some English farmers over."

"A dangerous experiment, Mr. Moutray," put in one of the lawyers. "The
people do so hate the foreigner--" Then perceiving his slip he
emphasised it by an awkward pause.

"That, sir," returned Mr. Moutray, with a sternness that showed how sore
a point this was with him, "is one of the ignorant prejudices which I
have to combat in my tenants."

"Quite so, quite so," agreed the other hastily, and beat a retreat by
asking Giovanna for another dish of tea.

She smiled at him kindly as she filled his cup.

"My husband is so set on this land," she said, "and it is a beautiful
place. Have you seen it, sir?"

"Yes, ma'am," returned the lawyer, his broad Scots accent heightened in
his agitation. "But the price is high. Mr. Winthorp is a rich man and
can afford to wait."

"I'll buy," said Francis. "Whatever the price, I'll buy."

"I think you will do well," agreed Allan. "An estate like Fort Mary will
not be long on the market. I recall it very well; it has been much
neglected, has it not?"

"Yes," answered Mr. Moutray. "Winthorp is never there. He squanders his
guineas in London. It is because I must spend so much on the land that I
wished to get a lower price; but, as I said, I will buy."

The lawyers took their leave, and Francis, wishing to have another word
on the subject of which his mind was full, accompanied them to the door.

Allan turned to Giovanna, who was still regarding him with her clear
smiling eyes.

"Why is Mr. Moutray so anxious to acquire this land?" he asked. He took
the topic as the first that came to hand and because he felt foolishly
embarrassed alone with Giovanna, but her answer startled him and roused
him to a real interest in the subject.

"I believe that he wants to build a church," she said. "And he has set
his mind on a site on the Fort Mary estate. The church at Glenillich is
very poor and old."

Allan could not repress an exclamation. "Ah, Madam, have you realized
how devoted your husband is to his creed and what you are doing in
deceiving him on this matter?"

"I have thought of all of it," she answered quietly, "but it is a
question of the boy's soul."

He could not gainsay her; to do so would be blasphemy; yet he did not
care to look ahead into the future.

"He builds his churches," continued Mrs. Moutray. "May I not build my
temple in the child's heart?"

"You still _believe_?" he asked.

She turned her head and looked steadily into the flames.

"Yes, I still believe," she replied. "Even though I no longer have the
right to pray. I still believe. Should I else do as I am doing?"

He took a sealed letter from his breast pocket and laid it on the table
beside the heavy silver urn where the bohea emitted the fragrant
perfume.

"I have seen Father Hilton," he said gravely, "And there are the
arrangements we made--in that paper. Let me know if they are convenient
to you."

She swiftly concealed the letter in the bosom of her dress; he noticed
her sudden pallor.

"Thank you, thank you!" she said hastily. "Would you not like to see the
boy? He understands something. I have spoken to him. I have instructed
him--"

"Will he keep the secret?" asked Allan.

"Ah, yes."

Allan turned away; the bigot, the enthusiast in him was pleased--had not
his whole life's labour come to obtaining recruits for the Catholic and
Stuart cause? But the man, the gentleman, in him revolted at this secret
setting of the child against the father, at this conspiracy of the wife
against the husband.

"I think of the future," he said sombrely.

"I too," she replied at once. "I think a great deal about the future--of
the future in this world and the future beyond."

While the sentence was yet unfinished Francis returned.

"Forgive this dry intrusion on your visit," he smiled. "Those gentlemen
came unexpectedly."

"Nay," said Allan, "I was interested. You are buying Fort Mary? It is a
fine estate; was it not supposed to be haunted? I heard that was why
Winthorp would not live there."

"Haunted?" said Francis.

Giovanna laughed.

"You do not believe in spirits, Madam?" asked Allan.

"Nay," she said, with a little shake of the head.

But Francis spoke coldly.

"We may not disbelieve these things for they are testified to in Holy
Writ."

From this Allan had a glimpse of the wide difference between husband and
wife; he knew enough of the South to know that Giovanna was typical of
her race; he knew that the Southerns were not romantic or fanciful,
though their passion, their colour, their beauty might make them appear
so to the Northerner to whom romance and fantasy really belonged;
Giovanna was material, passionate, capable of great loyalty, of
boundless devotion, gay, brave, superstitious, and frank--Italian--from
a country where fairies and elves were unknown, a country where everyone
was too occupied with the hearty things of the present to attend to the
things of the past; Giovanna's one spiritual expression was a blind and
unthinking belief in the faith in which she had been bred.

Francis was introspective, moody, mystical, always striving after the
things of the spirit, hating his own carnal desires, ridden by nightmare
fancies, aware of the borderland, the world within the misty glens and
gloomy mountains, assimilating the legends which had always encircled
his life.

She saw the most complicated problem as a simple thing, he tortured the
most simple issue into complications; she gave no thought to her soul,
and he was always fighting his flesh.

There seemed to Allan Forsythe the elements of tragedy in these two. In
want of a safe topic of conversation he continued speaking of Fort Mary,
for he had no interests in common with Francis Moutray after all these
years.

The estate had an interesting history; the ancient mansion once standing
had been deserted on account of having been the scene of one of the
savage crimes common enough in the sixteenth century; at the time of the
first Highland risings in favour of the Stuarts, the Government had
bought the neglected land with the purpose of building a fort there--to
be called Fort Mary in honour of the then Queen, but the Highlands being
soon after quieted, the scheme was abandoned and the land sold to a
London speculator, who in his turn disposed of it to a family of Scots
who returned to their country after exile; they loyally retained the old
evil savouring name of Ardnamurchan.

They began to repair the old mansion, but for some reason not properly
understood, never finished the work, nor ever lived on the estate which
they subsequently abandoned, and which had since passed by marriage into
the hands of a family named Winthorp; the present owner, in his turn,
selling to Francis Moutray.

"Will you take down the house or finish it?" asked Allan.

"I shall destroy it," replied Francis. "I intend to build a church. It
is a fine site."

"Glenillich kirk is large enough for the village," smiled Allan.

"Nay," said Mr. Moutray, "it is not large enough for the dead or the
living, and for constant repairs costs more than the erection of a new
one. Besides, it was once Romanist, and the theatre of idolatry and foul
deeds."

"Why," answered Allan, "I did not know that you were loyal to the Church
of Scotland; I believed that you belonged rather to the select remnant
of the faithful who found the present establishment a poor compromise."

"His people were Puritans," put in Giovanna.

"Nay, Covenanters," corrected Francis gravely.

"So many names!" smiled his wife.

"We were enemies to Episcopacy and Independency alike," said
Francis,--"but we accepted the Established Church as we accepted the
established government, and to both have been loyal. If I incline
inwardly to a severe creed, at least I see no great errors in that to
which I subscribe. We may split straws too finely, Mr. Forsythe."

"I always thought straw splitting a fault of the Dissenters," returned
Allan.

"Ah, you were never a good Churchman," said Francis keenly.

"I believe in tolerance," answered Allan, making the usual mental
reservation--"except to the other side."

"Ah, toleration!" cried Mr. Moutray impatiently; he crossed to the
fireplace and stirred the falling logs with the toe of his boot. "When
do you leave us again?" he asked, with an abrupt change of
subject.--"You are always on your travels."

"I think to go abroad again in the spring."

Francis gave him a quick glance.

"Collecting cameos?" he asked.

"Amongst other things," smiled Allan, with a flush on his fair face that
was not wholly from the fire.

"Foreign lands please you?"

Mr. Forsythe shrugged his shoulders.

"One must do something."

"Is not my cousin Stacy waiting for you?" asked Francis, still looking
at him with grave, dark eyes.

"Nay, I am waiting for Stacy--she will not leave her mother alone."

"My aunt could live with you," returned Francis; and Allan, remembering
what obstacle these two had overcome, recognised the excuse as feeble
indeed, but he could not pretend to even comprehend, much less to have
ever felt, the passion that had lifted them over such mighty
difficulties.

"I wait for Stacy," he repeated. "It is in her hands; that is all I can
say."

"Ask her to come to a decision," said Francis. "It is near seven years
that this betrothal has lasted. I do not want my cousin to grow old
waiting. You should not go abroad again, Mr. Forsythe, until she is wed
or freed. Forgive my interference. I am her nearest male relative now."

"Sir, she shall have her choice," returned Mr. Forsythe. "The delay has
never been of my seeking."

Which was not literally true; he had been willing enough to postpone his
marriage until the re-establishment of his king and his faith; but that
had been in the old days; now he was bitterly aware how distant the hour
of that triumph must be.

"I am glad to have seen you," said Francis, with that sudden smile of
his which rendered his face wholly charming, "for this has been on my
mind, Mr. Forsythe."

Allan, seeing no further opportunity of speaking alone with Giovanna
(who all this while had sat mute gazing into the fire), soon after took
his leave.

As soon as he had gone Francis turned sharply to his wife.

"That fellow is either a fribble or he is playing a part. I hope Stacy
will have the good sense to give him up. I always wondered why my uncle
consented to the marriage."

Giovanna rose.

"You do not like him?" she asked, and she raised her brows as if she was
distressed.

"No," said Francis bluntly. "I have seen little of him, but I do not
like him; his father was suspected of dealings with Bar-le-Duc, and I
mistrust these visits abroad in search of cameos."

Giovanna slightly started.

"But you yourself collect medals," she smiled.

"I do not go abroad two or three times a year to look for them, my
dear," he smiled back.

Giovanna turned her head away.

"Well, it is Stacy's affair, not mine," she answered.

"Do not see more of him than you can help," said Francis abruptly.

"Why, what chance have I of seeing him?" she asked, looking at him
quietly.

"He might come here again, you might meet him at Stacy's house. At the
best, he is an idle man; at the worst, a dangerous one."

"You have taken a very sudden dislike to this poor gentleman," she said.

"I have these feelings, these instincts, about people," he replied
frowningly. "I felt a premonition of evil, of disaster, when that man
was in the room. When he looked at me I thought it was the look of an
antagonist."

"Fancies," said Giovanna; "fancies."

"Aye," he said, "fancies;" he sighed and took her slack hand. "But I do
not like Mr. Forsythe."

"You will see no more of him when we return to Glenillich."

She put her soft pale face next his dark cheek. She was wholly his, she
felt herself sincere with him in word as in deed, yet her free hand was
over Allan's letter which lay warm upon her bosom.



III


When Allan Forsythe left the Moutray's mansion he went direct to another
which was, in size, in pretension, in furniture, in stiff and sombre
taste, almost exactly similar.

This was the home of Stacy Wigram in Castle Street, where that lady
lived with her mother, and had lived all her life the same serene,
uneventful life, filled with small duties, small gossip, small
excitements, and great sacrifices.

The most tremendous thing that had ever happened to her had been Allan's
proposal of marriage; but perhaps seven years had worn off something of
the wonder and sweetness even of that, yet she never complained. She was
in her usual place in the drawing-room at her usual task of needlework;
a lamp stood on the table near her elbow, and the cheerful fire
illuminated her neat figure in the blue woollen gown and muslin cap and
apron.

She greeted Allan as always--quietly and kindly; he took the deep, worn
leather chair opposite her, and regarded her keenly.

He could not but mark with a pang how the weary, monotonous years had
sharpened the fine features that had been so exquisite, how the bloom of
twenty had not survived to twenty-seven, how the colour had slightly
faded from lip and cheek, how a slight primness--the precision and
gravity of the exact housekeeper--had taken the place of the girlish
gaiety and light-heartedness he first loved her for. He blamed
himself--why had he so delayed his marriage?

"You are very silent this afternoon," said Stacy, "and I get silent too,
always in the house with sickness. Today mother was too ill to come
downstairs at all. There is a nurse with her now," she added, as if
excusing her own absence.

"The house is over-big for you," said Allan.

"It is my home," she answered simply.

He still looked at her and was silent again. The object of his visit
was twofold: he wished to bring his betrothal to a climax, as he had
promised Francis, and he wished to make Stacy his confidante in the
affair Mrs. Moutray had entrusted to him. He thought his future wife had
a right to know, and he thought that he would feel less guilty towards
Francis were Stacy a party to this intrigue.

He approached his first object first.

"Stacy, dear," he said with real feeling, "how long are we to wait?"

She put down her needle and raised her honest eyes.

"You wish to be set free?" she asked with startling quietness.

The shock of her words brought the blood to his cheeks.

"You know that is not true," he said vehemently; "it has been you who
has delayed our marriage--"

"Lately," she returned, "since my father died; but for five years before
that it was you who made the postponements, Allan--and after five years
of waiting, would you expect that I should show eagerness to press you?
Nay, and there are other questions you have lately raised--your
politics, your religion--"

"I trusted you with my secrets, Stacy."

"And they are safe with me. But they are more delays, are they not?"

"Not if you will decide," he answered hastily. "But perhaps it is you
who wish to be free."

She leant forward, her hands were clasped on her knees; her eyes
suddenly filled with tears.

"It has been too long," she said. "I have not been unhappy, but I have
changed. It is quite natural that you should wish it to end."

He rose in his agitation.

"Why do you speak like that?"

"Love would never suffer this discussion," she said.

"Stacy, you hurt me--"

"Please speak no more. If you had loved me you had married me before.
Lovers do not postpone, Allan."

He thought of Francis, but he would not acknowledge the truth of what
she said.

"Stacy, you are gloomy to-night, you speak without thinking."

She put out her hand with a gesture that stopped his speech.

"There is another obstacle you have lately raised. You tell me that you
are a concealed Romanist. You ask me to share your faith. I cannot."

"So soon decided, so coldly put!" he cried, surprised and hurt.

"Coldly?" she repeated. "Well, perhaps the fire has died a little in
seven years. I cannot change my creed."

"Why?" he asked.

She gave a little smile, a little lift of her brows.

"We have had Romanists and Covenanters in our families, I know, and I am
no stern believer like my cousin Frank. I think it is enough to know of
God and serve Him--I never could understand intolerance--yet I see no
reason good enough to warrant me in leaving my father's faith. I like it
better than yours, Allan."

"You dismiss the matter so lightly!" he cried, deeply wounded.

She answered gravely:

"Nay, I have thought over it a great deal. I do not care for your creed.
It permits you to live in deceit, to intrigue against your country, to
be little better than a plotter and a spy."

"Is that how you think of me?"

"Oh, my dear," she exclaimed, "how useless this is! I set you free--I
set you free!"

"I did not come to ask you for freedom--I came to ask you to be my wife
immediately."

"Would you take a Protestant wife, Allan?"

He was silent.

"Go your ways," she smiled. "God bless you, Allan."

"You misunderstand me," he said hotly. "I think you purposely
misunderstand me."

"Do not let us quarrel," she implored. "That would be truly a sorry
ending."

A fear and dread of losing her possessed him now. She had been his
comfortress, his patient listener, his meek adorer so long that she
seemed like part of his life; he really wanted her, he found, not as he
had wanted her once--differently, but no less eagerly.

"Stacy," he replied, "this is all moonshine and madness. Are we, in a
moment, to break up the affection of all these years?"

She looked at him sadly as if she saw the selfishness that moved him.
She had long known that he did not love her, and she--quiet, demure,
commonplace woman as she was--wanted love or nothing. No one would have
called her romantic, she did not herself consider that she was, yet
nothing would have induced her to make a marriage of mere affection,
mere friendship; and she was aware that affection and friendship were
all Allan had to offer her now.

Her face was very pale, and the tears that had gathered in her eyes
overbrimmed and ran down her cheeks.

"Say no more," she murmured, "it is over."

He was truly bewildered, truly overcome; in a grotesque way he
remembered how he had meant to tell her of the service he had undertaken
for Mrs. Moutray--and now she was shutting him out from all confidences
for ever.

"Do you mean this?" he asked.

"Yes," she replied. "Come to me when your King Charlie is back and your
Pope of Rome has churches all over Scotland."

Her words were not without bitterness, and they revealed to him the
futility of the grand schemes for which he had postponed his marriage.
He was working on a hopeless cause, as she knew.

"Well," he said sternly, "I work for the God and king I believe in. I
can do little, but I take no shame in my work."

Her faint smile was not without mockery.

"I am not the woman who would be a good wife to a Papist plotter,
Allan. You should have found a foreign lady from the Pope's own country,
as Frank did."

He strangely blushed and strangely thrilled; what would not life have
been with such lovely passionate loyalty as Giovanna's by his side?
Surely she was more fitted to adventure for the true faith with him, as
Stacy was more fitted to spin and sew in Glenillich House!

The reflection angered him.

"So you dismiss me!" he exclaimed, and his nervous fingers pulled at his
wrist ruffles.

"Put it like that if you will," said Stacy. She could not even begin to
explain her feelings: how she had loved him, the long waiting, the
gradual disillusion, the change in both of them; now she felt scarcely
regret, only a great weariness.

"Very well." he replied. "Little did I think of this end--"

"Nor I," she interrupted; her eyes flashed in her pallid face, and her
voice was suddenly animated. "Would you give up your plots, your Church,
and live quietly with me in Edinburgh?"

"It is too much to ask."

"I know," she smiled; "therefore, good-bye."

He was still thinking of Giovanna.

"Frank Moutray's wife gave up more than I am asking of you," he cried.

"Yes," said Stacy; "poor soul! I have seen something of her of late. How
she has paid for his love! But women do pay for love--terribly."

"She is happy--as you would be."

"Jeannie Moutray is not happy. Frank holds her a frail thing reclaimed
from foulness--he is always watching her to spy her mother in her--he
almost counts his love for her a thing to do penance for, I know, I have
seen. I would not have such a marriage. I'll keep my creed and my
liberty, Allan."

"Frank Moutray is a gloomy bigot."

"You are no better," she smiled. "He thought she was damned as the
handmaiden of the Scarlet Woman, and you think I am damned as a heretic.
But at least he had love, great love, to give her--while you--"

He turned sharply towards her.

"Stacy, dear little Stacy," he cried, distressed, "I love you--believe
that I love you and want you--"

She rose decisively and held out a shaking hand.

"Good-bye, Allan."

"Stacy!"

"Good-bye, dear."

"Nothing more?"

"No--nothing more."

Plainly she was lost. His pride could plead no more; a certain
resentment hardened his pain. Giovanna was still in the background of
his thoughts; he felt a certain secret gladness that he had not told
Stacy of the secret he shared with Frank's wife.

"I hope I leave you my well-wisher?" he said.

"I have your secret," she said simply. "It is as safe with me as if I
was your wife--believe that."

"I believe it."

He looked round the dark room that was so familiar to him, he gazed at
the modest, simple lady who had been so dear. He was sorry, sorry
indeed; it was failure--a piece with all his life.

"Good-bye," he said again, and left her. So the past was dead between
them and buried in her heart.

She had wanted this moment, looked for it, shaped it. She did not regret
the sudden ending to hopes that had once been so gorgeous; she told
herself she was glad this mockery of love was over; but when she heard
the door shut after him she did not feel the gladness, only a great
desolation.

She thought of her cousin's wife.

"Would I have given what she has given as the price of love? Would I?"

From force of habit she took up her sewing and returned to her place
beside the lamp; but she could not see the stitches for the tears in her
eyes.

Allan Forsythe, walking up Castle Street through the drizzling rain, was
also thinking of Giovanna; he thought of her more than of the woman he
had just left.



IV


Father Hilton, the able and energetic Jacobite to whom Allan had told
the story of Giovanna, made neither difficulties nor scruples about
receiving the child into the faith his mother had forsaken; nay, he saw
rather a just vengeance in this on the heretic who had beguiled the
daughter of a powerful Romanist family from her duty.

It was the aim of his life to make converts to his religious and
political creeds, and the son of the Lord of Glenillich, child as he
was, was regarded by Father Hilton as an important recruit.

With the secret teaching of his mother and the Church, the boy would
grow into a faithful follower of Pope and Stuart, with the result that
one of the fairest estates in Scotland would one day be in the hands of
a man pledged to the true faith and the true King.

Father Hilton, more hopeful than Allan, dreamed that Charles Stuart
might be on the throne before this lad was grown, or at least that the
Romanist religion might be practised openly; in any case, and whether
the good cause triumphed or no, the heir of Glenillich, a Papist and
under the influence of an Italian mother, could not fail to be a
valuable asset in the hands of the vanquished and oppressed party that
was so strenuously struggling for their old supremacy in Britain.

Glenillich was a wealthy estate; the present owner, by his interest,
prudence, and enterprise, had greatly increased the value during the
last few years, and when he had cultivated Fort Mary the worth of the
property would be yet further augmented.

So reflected Father Hilton as he waited in his chambers for the coming
of Allan Forsythe and Mrs. Moutray; he smiled to think that the harvest
the heretic was so carefully sowing should one day be reaped by a
Papist.

He lived, when in Edinburgh, in a turning off the High Street, called
Rosamund's Wynd; as a matter of necessity he was always in disguise, and
passed for a writer to a London newsletter. Amongst some he was
suspected of alchemy and credited with a search after the philosopher's
stone, a supposition based on his solitary life, the books in foreign
languages on his shelves, his absorbed air, and his long absences
abroad; pilgrimages in search of the magnum opus these were supposed to
be; pilgrimages in a sense they were, and success was as difficult to
achieve on these ways as on those trodden by the eager seekers after the
secret of eternal wealth and eternal youth.

Father Hilton sat at his window and looked into the narrow street which
was lined by open shops and booths, mostly gold and silver and copper
smiths, whose wares glittered against the dark recesses of their shops.

The mist of evening was beginning to deepen and a chill little wind
whistled round the corners and shook the great hanging signboards. The
priest's trained eyes noticed a public chair coming along his street; as
he watched it stopped at his door, as he had expected; a lady and a
child descended; she paid the bearers, and when the empty chair had gone
she stood a moment confused, holding the boy by the hand and looking up
and down the street while her garments were stirred and shaken by the
wind.

Then a man detached himself from a group who were idly gazing at a great
silver ship hanging in one of the shop windows and joined the
new-comers; it was Allan Forsythe, who had been loitering about until
she came; they entered the house together, and Father Hilton came from
the window and lit two thick candles in copper sticks which stood on a
plain table inside the door.

The room was very simple, the house very old, the beams of the ceiling
were warped and twisted, the floor uneven and sunken in places; a large
desk with many locks, shelves of books, a chest covered with a rug, a
few chairs completed the furniture. Above the table with the candles was
a large picture; an oil-painting representing a dark cavalier, badly
painted, smoke blackened, and cracked.

The priest himself was a man of rather insignificant appearance, attired
in the ordinary garb of a humble citizen; he was between forty and
fifty; a pair of horn spectacles rested on his nose, and inside his
coat-pocket, though not visible, was a case of small pistols.

Allan came up, as always, without being attended by the servant attached
to the chambers, and himself ushered the lady and the boy into the
presence of the priest.

"This is Mrs. Moutray, father," he said as he closed the door.

The priest looked at her with calm curiosity as she stepped quickly
forward.

She wore a black cardinal of thick material which obscured her
slenderness and her loveliness; but Father Hilton, a swift observer,
recognized her fineness, her quality.

Giovanna, on her part, turned on the priest a glance brilliant in its
keenness.

"Sir," she said hastily, "do you speak Italian?"

"Not well, but I understand it."

She drew the boy forward into the candlelight; both Allan and the priest
looked with eager interest at the child, who stood surveying them with
unabashed gravity.

He is, thought Allan Forsythe, strange.

Elphin Moutray had indeed an air of reserve, of thoughtfulness that was
remarkable in so young a child, and the expression of his grave peaked
face had in it something peculiar. He possessed all the usual delicacy
and grace of high-born children, and was besides distinguished by a
certain wild beauty not properly belonging to ordinary childhood.

He was tall for his age and very slender, his complexion was a smooth
unblemished olive tint, his long locks a heavy dead brown, his eyes were
hazel, preternaturally large and liquid, his features were extremely
delicate, his chin notably pointed; his mother's taste was obvious in
the fine flourishing of his grey satins and the exquisite embroidery of
his falling muslin collar and ruffles.

Allan and the priest both had the same feeling that here was not a mere
infant, but a personality already complete.

"Father," said Giovanna in Italian, "this is my son--you know my story?
Mr. Forsythe has told me that you believe me, and will be my friend."
("Padre, que sto e mio figlio; Lei conosce la mia storia? II Signor
Forsythe mi ha detto che Lei mi crede e sara il mio amico.")

She paused.

"Yes, it is true," replied the priest. ("Si è vero.")

Giovanna gazed at him with eyes blazing bright.

"Do not speak of my sin before the child," she asked. "He understands
nothing of what I did. I do not wish him to understand." ("Non mi parli
del mio peccato in presenza del bambino--non capisce nulla di quello che
io ho fatto; non voglio che lui capisee.")

It moved and touched Allan to hear her speak her own language so
rapidly--it could not have passed her lips since she left Italy--unless
she had used it in private prayer; he marked her foreign gesture, her
Bolognese accent--how completely she belonged to the dear cities of the
South!

Swiftly she continued speaking with her native frankness, yet with a
certain pride she took all the burden of what she had done; she knew
what she must appear in the eyes of a priest, especially as she had not
come as a penitent, but she implored him not to think of her, not to
notice her, but to pity and take the child.

As she continued speaking she became greatly excited and distressed, and
her language became so rapid and impassioned that it was difficult for
both Allan and the priest to follow the swift Italian.

"Madam," said Father Hilton, when she had come to an end. "I am prepared
to leave you to God and your conscience--may you find grace and mercy.
As for your child, though in the eyes of the Church he is born in sin,
yet I am, aware that in the eyes of the worldly he bears no stain and at
the present he need not know how he stands before God--that will be your
duty; to enlighten him some day, your duty and your penance."

A painful red stained Giovanna's face; she twisted her fingers together
on her breast as if to control the violent beating of her heart; Allan
realized now the full depth of the humiliation she was enduring to save
her son's soul; he had not before considered this aspect of the
case--that if her child became a Romanist he would grow up to believe
his mother no true wife and himself misbegotten.

It was not the policy or meaning of the priest to insist on this point;
the heir of Glenillich must be always considered as legitimate enough to
retain the estates.

"Perhaps," said the priest, not unkindly, "Mr. Moutray may one day be
brought to leave his errors and make you truly his wife."

"Never," she replied firmly. "Nor would I ask him. I gave all up for
him, and I do not complain. But with the child I thought I had no right
to make, for him, this sacrifice."

An angry sparkle lit the priest's mild eyes.

"Are you then so defiant in your error?" he asked.

"I have come about my son, not about myself!" she cried desperately.

It was a tangled business at best, and one, Father Hilton reflected,
that was not for him to straighten.

"I will give the boy the blessings of baptism," he said drily. "And pray
God to pardon me if I do wrong."

Giovanna gave a quivering sigh of relief and sank into a chair, drawing
the boy towards her; she was trembling violently and her eyes swam in
tears; Father Hilton went into the inner room.

"Does the boy understand?" asked Allan in Italian.

For answer she turned to her son.

"Elphin," she asked in English, "do you understand why we are here?"

As she addressed him the child's whole demeanour changed, he glowed and
smiled and crept closer to her; every fibre of his body seemed to
respond to her voice; it was plain she had an unusual influence over him
and that there was an unusual affection between them.

"Yes," he answered.

"He knows," said Giovanna, "that the true worship of God is forbidden in
this country, that it is practised only by a few, and that secretly; he
knows that we come here to-day, secretly, that he may be baptized into
the true faith, that henceforth he too must worship in secret--praying
God and the Virgin to forgive us all."

"And I must tell no one, not even my father," said Elphin with great
gravity in the childish voice, and slowly and distinctly as if repeating
something learnt by heart. "And when I go into the kirk to pray, I must
pray to be forgiven for being there, and I shall have a book and a
string of beads; and when we are alone you will hear me pray, will you
not, mother?"

Allan's conscience utterly misgave him as he listened; here was a burden
to put on a child of a few years!--a baby to be trained in difficult and
subtle deceit--what could he make of it all? It was plain he was merely
following Giovanna's directions; but when he did begin to
understand--and believe--would it not be pain and suffering twisted into
the very inmost threads of his existence?--yet all objection was
silenced before the fact that they were saving his soul.

Father Hilton returned in his priest's robe and carrying an embroidered
cloth and a wrought silver basin; Allan locked the door and set his
back against it, while the priest arranged the chest as a kind of rude
altar on which he placed the cloth, the two candles, and a tortoiseshell
and ebony crucifix which he took from his desk.

He handled this last very lovingly, and told Giovanna that it was the
gift of the late saintly Queen Clementina Sobieski, presented to him
when he had received special licence and permission to perform the
ceremonies of the Church outside consecrated walls.

Many a dying exile had clasped that crucifix to his breast, while he had
thought, perhaps, more of the country he would never see again than of
the Paradise to which he was departing; it had been smuggled in to many
a death-bed of one who had denied his faith through prudence during
life, and at the last sought comfort and hope from the forbidden symbol.

As Father Hilton placed it now on the improvised altar, Allan went on
his knees; the last crucifix Giovanna had seen was the one she had put
into Frank Moutray's hands as they left the inn on the Milan road--the
crucifix he had hurled, with rosary and book, out of the coach window
into the dark gorge grown with wild cherry and chestnut.

As she again saw, after these strange years, the revered emblems of her
childhood's faith she rose to her feet (not daring to kneel), and
pressed her face against the wall.

Father Hilton, used to minister to the oppressed, the exiled, the
fugitive, knew how to make the little service impressive.

He put some questions to the child, who, well schooled by Giovanna,
answered correctly; he gave a simple homily on the duties of Faith and
Obedience; he read some prayers; and then he received Elphin Moutray
into the bosom of the Church, baptizing him with some holy water from a
crystal phial that he had brought from Rome.

Allan stood for godparents and parents both; the priest objected to the
heathen name of Elphin, which brought with it no saint's protection, and
the name of John was substituted...

Giovanna stood against the wall watching the strange little group of
three figures in the red light of the candles.

She was shut out--she was not fit to kneel; if the priests were right,
she was lost and damned.

She remembered once seeing a peasant girl grovelling in the dust outside
a church door in Italy--her face, one of awful agony--"absolution
refused!" the passers-by had said, and when the priest left the church
after the service and the poor sinner tried to clutch his robe, he had
shaken her off.

"As she was then, so am I now," thought Giovanna. "I cannot even ask for
pardon, for I am not penitent."

When the ceremony was ended, the priest gave the child two little books,
a silver crucifix, and a rosary.

He wished to say some words to Giovanna, but she was eager to be gone;
her husband, she said, would notice any longer absence and it was
already dark. "And what," she added, "can you have to say to me?"

He could only tell her, "If you need me, you can find me through Mr.
Forsythe."

She left them both with hasty farewells, but Allan overtook her at the
foot of the dark stairs; he was greatly moved by her courage, her
distress, her loneliness, her remarkable situation; secretly he thrilled
to think that there was so strong and hidden a bond between them--that
he was the godfather of her child--secretly he quivered to an unbidden
thought--he was freed from Stacy Wigram and she was no wife--at least he
was at liberty to play with the thought of her reconversion...

She pleased him by not thanking him, but she insisted that he should not
escort her home; he got a chair for her and helped her in; as she was
carried away down the dark street he had a glimpse of the child's white
face, the eyes blazing with excitement, gazing from the narrow window of
the chair.

He realized then, and with surprise, that the boy affected him
unpleasantly.


V


Glenillich lay in a pleasant sheltered valley protected by a low chain
of hills; a little river ran through the valley, which was fertile and
highly cultivated. In a secluded portion stood the house of the
Moutrays, surrounded by large grounds and a park filled with pines,
oaks, and ash, and containing a little lake.

At the distance of about a mile was the village of Glenillich--a
collection of fifty ancient cottages, a few houses of a more decent
order, a church, an inn, and a schoolhouse.

Against the background of the wild, wide, and beautiful country the
village seemed but a few huts, so dwarfed and insignificant did it
appear. The church, in the midst of the houses, was half-sunk into the
burial-ground which sloped to the edge of the river; ivy covered the
ancient bricks and the leaning spire, and almost completely closed the
narrow, deep windows; near by, in a little grove of ash and yew, stood
the square-built manse, nearly as old, as decayed, as reverent, as
sombre, as the church itself.

On either side--each huddled up against the other and all huddled close
about the church, the manse, and the graveyard--the village houses
stood,--all ancient, small, poor--all thatched with thick straw roofs
that darkened the small top windows--all seeming to own some ancient
inmate who on fine days might be seen at the door on a three-legged
stool, dozing in the sun.

The most pretentious house in the village, after the manse, was occupied
by the schoolmaster; there were one or two others of good appearance,
owned by small farmers, and the inn was a fine, if old, building
slightly beyond the village and pleasantly situated on the banks of the
river; and near a little beech wood were several modern cottages of neat
brick with slate roofs which Francis Moutray had lately built.

Of all the laird's unpopular attempts to improve his land, this was the
most unpopular. The peasants, to a man, were against the new buildings;
the minister even dared to preach against them; the schoolmaster spoke
against them to the children.

It was not in Mr. Moutray's nature to conciliate; his reply was to
threaten to pull the whole of Glenillich down when the leases expired.
Meanwhile he brought farmers from the Lowlands, and even from
Cumberland, to occupy the new dwellings and exploit the new lands he was
laying out. Just beyond the village the valley broadened into a large
heath and several miles of pasture-land--comprising the estate of Fort
Mary--in the middle of which stood the neglected park and ruined mansion
of the former ill-fated owner; the latter stood on a noble eminence, and
commanded a fair and spacious view of the sloping meadowlands, the
spreading heath, the distant mountains.

Adjoining the mansion were the remains of a chapel and an old private
burial-ground, in which lay the princely ancestors of the man who had
ended his line on the scaffold, and some Covenanters killed in one of
the obscure affrays of the last century and hastily laid to rest in the
neglected burial-ground.

No definite story of horror, no tale of ghost or evil spirit, clung to
the place, but it was infinitely melancholy, both by reason of the
lonely situation, the brutal story of the last occupation, and the sad
associations of the little burial ground where the dust of knight and
lady mingled with that of murdered men. No sun, no green of tree, no
brightness of flower, no song of bird, could dispel the inevitable
sadness of these ruins--a place once inhabited, now forsaken--a place
once the scene of violent passions suddenly quenched in blood, now
silent to everything but the owl's cry--a place where the dead had been
laid with love and agony, with pomp and terror, and now so long
neglected that every name was obliterated from the stones--a place where
once God had been worshipped with song and prayer, where now the birds
flew in and out of the roofless church and the bramble and wild rose
rioted where the altar had been--a place where all had been and nothing
now was--a place that had no secret memories, but only those of death,
murder, degradation, unhappiness. Such a spot needed no evil spirit to
haunt it; in itself it seemed accursed, and as accursed it had been
shunned, under one excuse or another, by four generations of men, when
Francis Moutray, in sheer defiance of his own gloom, his own
unhappiness, bought the land.

He meant to purge the spot. Church and mansion should be levelled to the
ground, a new and spotless temple should arise; the ruined park, the
unkept heath, should be divided into farms and cottages, the
pasture-land recultivated after the new methods he was introducing.

He met with neither sympathy nor encouragement in his schemes; like
everything else he did, the purchase of Fort Mary was unpopular.

"The place was cursed," the peasants said. "Other people had left it
alone, the laird had better not meddle. He might pull down the house and
leave not one brick of it--but who would pass the spot without thinking
of the red murder done there?"

The spring Francis finally entered into possession of Fort Mary, the
feeling against him in his village, his farms--even among the dependents
on his own estate--amounted almost to hate.

For he was too proud and too sincere to excuse or soften what he did. He
was putting all his energy, all his strength, into the improvement of
the land, and he did not mean to allow a few poor peasants to hinder
him; he had always, for all the humility taught by his religion, been
impatient and regardless of the common and ignorant people.

Yet he was conscious of the atmosphere of dislike and opposition
surrounding him, and while he hardened his pride it increased his
restless melancholy.

A melancholy that work, religion, love, might deaden but could not cure;
a melancholy that nothing could cure, for it came of his old struggle
between soul and body, spirit and senses--the desire for human love,
human pleasure, human gaiety, human extravagance and beauty, and the
yearning towards self-denial, self-sacrifice, self-negation--the
teaching which his bitter creed had burnt into his soul, the fear of
God's eye, the fear of the Devil's snares, the fear of hell fire.

He had never forgiven himself that surrender to passion which had
resulted in his marriage; he never could forgive himself while he
remained so intensely, so unhappily, bound up in his wife. True it was
that he had taken her away from her idolatry, her vile surroundings;
true it was that she conformed to his every wish, but that did not
deceive him--he knew that it did not deceive her, that it deceived
nobody. The truth was never spoken, yet somehow all were aware of
it--they had taken each other through love, and what she did she had
done through love of him, not because of any revelation from on high.

That was the hideous thing which was eating the joy out of his life,
this woman whom he could not cease to love, to need, the mother of his
son--his wife; at heart she was a Papist, at heart she was the daughter
of Vittoria Odaleschi, adventuress of adventuresses, at heart she was a
foreigner who obeyed him, but did not understand. When she knelt in
church beside him he felt that they were mocking Heaven, when she
permitted his pretence that she was ardent for good as he knew it,
virtuous as he understood virtue, religious as he understood religion,
he felt it a blasphemy which God some day must avenge.

For he knew that the only thing which kept her walking in the paths of
Calvinistic rectitude was her love for him; from a thousand chance
words, sighs, smiles, glances, from her large sympathy with the sinful,
from her ignorant fearlessness of the powers of darkness, from her
frankness on things that to him were awfully sacred, from her lax
charity, from her idleness, her gaiety, he knew, very terribly he knew,
that she did not comprehend his code, his creed, his traditions, or his
pride.

She disbelieved in his God, she disliked his country, she was indifferent
to his position, to his coat of arms, to the legends, the fine records
of his house (and here his pride was doubly hurt, for it forced him to
admit how much better born she was, how splendid her lineage); she was
not impressed by his estate, she was useless as the mistress of his
establishment, she was unpopular with his people--yet he loved her as he
had loved her when he had turned back to Bologna mad for a sight of her
face.

There was the tragedy for him--he loved her, he needed her with a
restless, unhappy passion that was never at peace, never satisfied.

He was dependent on her; his loneliness wanted her company, his gloom
her cheerfulness, his introspective melancholy her material gaiety, she
was balm and wine and sunshine to him; the sight of her beauty warmed
his days, he longed for her caresses as a thirsty man longs for water;
if he could have believed that she was a saved soul, if he could have
looked upon his love as other than forbidden fruit, upon her as other
than a temptation and a snare, he might have been as happy as he now was
unhappy.

As it was he could neither do without her nor wholly surrender himself
to her--sometimes he thought she was virtually dragging him to
damnation, so bitterly was he aware of his dependence on her, so clearly
did he see there was no tie between them but love. At first, in the joy
of having carried her off from her false faith and her wanton city, he
had sincerely, earnestly endeavoured to draw her soul up to a level with
his, both in major and minor interests. She was radiantly sympathetic,
she was the most exquisite of companions, but after six years and more
he was compelled to admit that she cared for the things that were life
and death to him as a mother cares for the toys of her child--for love
of him she could pretend everything--but she was unchanged, unchanged, a
daughter of that sin and darkness typified by Rome.

Never had they spoken of these things, her perfect obedience left him no
chance for complaint; yet both knew of what was between them, they
seemed to embrace across a chasm, kiss through flames.

There was the child, of that Francis hardly dared to think; it seemed to
him that the boy was strange; he shuddered at his abnormal fondness for
his mother, at his coldness for himself.

Once he had tried to take the boy away and send him to be schooled in
Edinburgh, but she had opposed this with such frantic agony that he had
given way; in his heart, however, he had set a limit to his
complaisance--when Elphin was seven he should leave his mother.

Francis often took his melancholy, his forebodings, his torments, to the
ruined mansion and graveyard of Fort Mary; the utter isolation of the
ill-reputed spot was but too well suited with his moods.

That spring that saw the place really his he went there more frequently;
one day he asked Giovanna to accompany him; he would like, he said, to
show her the plans for the new church on the place where it was to be
built.

Giovanna was not interested in Fort Mary nor in the church; she was, on
the contrary, extremely interested in a gorgeous embroidery she was
making (needlework was her one occupation), but she assented at once
with her unfailing sweet obedience. But Elphin who had been sitting at
her feet while she sewed, and listening to some stories she was telling
him (legends of the saints, all the stories she knew, poor lady),
scowled at his father for taking away his companion.

Francis saw the scowl, and there was something so mature and
antagonistic in the child's expression that he had not the courage to
chide the boy, but tried to believe he had not seen that look on the
face of his baby son.



VI


The day was clear and beautiful, the air soft, as Francis Moutray and
his wife rode to Fort Mary that April morning; the heather had taken on
a fresh flush of purple, new green tipped the pine boughs, and the
violet and primrose were blowing beneath the hedgerows; the sky was pale
blue pearled with small clouds; bright insects winged their way across
the moors; to Francis it was perfect spring weather, to Giovanna it
conveyed no idea of spring at all--it was more cold, more colourless,
more barren than a Southern winter; she missed the sun more than she
ever admitted to herself.

She was not a good horsewoman and very seldom went beyond the limits of
the village, she had not before seen the estate of Fort Mary, and as
they left the pleasant lands about Glenillich and turned across the
cattle-track which led towards the ruined church and mansion she glanced
once round the wide lonely prospect and then at her husband.

"Why did you buy it, Frank?" she asked.

"It is a fine piece of land, and I paid very little for it," he replied;
he had long ceased to hope that she would comprehend his plans for his
property, his pride in Glenillich.

"Dear, I do not like it," she said with her bright frankness.

He halted his horse and pointed with the stock of his whip round the
rolling moor and neglected pasture land which opened out between the low
hills.

"In two years all this will be cultivated and peopled with pleasant
homes."

"It will take money?" she questioned.

"Yes, a great deal, but it will repay me. Perhaps you would like a new
house built here, Jean? Glenillich is old-fashioned."

She turned her head quickly towards him with a lovely sparkle in her
eyes.

"Oh, will you?"

He did not relish the eagerness of her tone.

"Is the old place so distasteful to you, dear?" he asked gently.

"No, no!" she exclaimed hastily; never would her loyalty be brought to
confess how she disliked her dark, heavy home, nor how she welcomed any
excitement in the even monotony of her days.

He said no more and they rode further and further into loneliness; the
hawk and the eagle flew over the narrow glens into which they passed;
the fox slipped away into the undergrowth; they were gaining higher land
and leaving the valley and the moor behind them.

The sombre pines closed over them, excluding the sunshine; they rode
slowly, one behind the other, on the narrow path between the trees, and
so came on to the disused road which led to the gates of Fort Mary
House, better known still by the ill-reputed name of Ardnamurchan, as it
had been called when the Moidarts lived there.

To say "gates," however, was but a way of speaking--there were none; the
brick walls had partially crumbled away and the entrance was merely
indicated by the granite pillars placed there by the last man who had
proposed to rebuild, and who had advanced no further than this in his
project.

Within there was a fine avenue of beech, ancient trees that must have
shaded John Moidart when he left his home the last time. The late owner
had had the ground between them cleared of undergrowth, so that there
was a tolerable approach to the house.

A moat had encircled it but was now filled with brambles and trees which
had not been cut away for a generation, and beyond this wilderness of
wild green rose the ruins of Ardnamurchan. There was nothing left but
the walls and one broken down tower, and these walls themselves were
fallen into gaps and crumbling heaps of masonry, overgrown with ivy and
wild plants.

In the interior of the mansion, now open to the skies, grew a little
cluster of silver larch trees, and through the few remaining window
sockets the trailing creepers flowed.

A temporary wooden bridge had lately been laid across the moat, and over
this Francis and his wife rode, and on into the heart of the ruins.

The floor of what had been the entrance and dining halls was carpeted
with grass, moss, and little violets, and where the hearthstone had been
a young beech tree grew.

"It is pretty," said Giovanna.

"It is awful," said Francis. "Do you not feel that?"

"Nay," she replied; "it is lonely--but no more than all your country
here, Frank."

He dismounted and fastened his horse to the young beech.

"The place is cursed," he said briefly.

Giovanna laughed; the sound jarred on him and roused his old futile
longing to make her like himself--to make her realize that border-world
he realized, to change her material light-heartedness, her pagan gaiety,
into awestruck comprehension of the things of the spirit.

"There was a horrid crime done here," he continued, as he helped her
from her horse. "You have read of it? John Moidart slew his wife in the
stables here. No one has lived in the house since."

"Yes, I have heard of it," she said, shaking out her dress. It was plain
she was not moved; bloodshed had been considered neither surprising nor
horrible in Bologna.

"It was an awful thing," insisted Frank.

"Yes," said Giovanna; "but she had been unfaithful, had she not?"

"So at least he thought."

"Well then--what else could he do?"

Francis looked at her sharply; did he not yet know her completely--was
there yet another aspect of her to be probed?

"You think he was justified?" he asked.

"Why, yes," she answered simply. "He had to do it, for his honour's
sake."

Deep in his heart a response to this stirred, but he answered quickly:

"It was a hideous crime. He died for it in Edinburgh market-place."

Now she was plainly surprised.

"Ah, you have savage laws," she said, and unconsciously her manner was
the manner of one of an old civilization speaking of barbarians.

"Do you uphold murder?" asked Francis.

"Murder? I don't know. But it is blood alone that can wipe out
dishonour. I have never thought about it--but death is not too hard a
punishment for unfaithfulness."

"Jean! You say reckless things!" he smiled. "If I was unfaithful to you,
would you kill me?"

She answered with her shining frankness, which was like a lamp to carry
truth into dark corners.

"I think I should," she said. "But why do you talk of such ugly things?"

"It is indeed idle, my dear, as you know, for you have me for ever. Also
you do not mean what you say. You do not realize how awful a thing
murder is, how insupportable was the curse of Cain, how horrible the
punishment both of man and God."

She was silent. She did not dare to quote her own country, her own code,
so there was nothing to say; but as she looked at his dark face, flushed
with the eagerness of his words--his beloved face so inexpressibly dear,
she said to herself: "I could never let him live to belong to another
woman."

"Is there not a church?" she asked aloud. Holding up her skirt she moved
across the ruins towards the larch trees; she was, as always, richly
dressed beyond need. Her clothes were of her own design, partly of her
own making; after her husband and child, they were her one interest in
life. Francis had often tried to check this useless luxury that was the
matter of such unfavourable comment among the neighbours, but the task
had proved too difficult. He was not a petty tyrant, and could not
override all her soft excuses and sweet evasions; besides, all the
suppressed instincts of the beautiful and sensuous in himself were
pleased by her lovely appearance.

He thought now, as he watched her, how incongruous and yet how exquisite
her figure looked among the Gothic ruins.

Her riding-habit, fashioned like a man's in the coat, was of emerald
green cloth heavily embroidered with silver, black feathers weighted her
black hat, a collar of red fox opened on the fine lace on her bosom, and
the soft knot of her blue satin cravat fastened by a silver brooch; the
tight, long coat, the trailing skirt, emphasized the upright slenderness
of her figure. She walked rapidly, parting the brambles with her
riding-stock.

"Jean, take care!" cried Francis, and hastened to her side.

"Why?" she smiled; but as she spoke she stepped through the broken wall
and saw for herself the danger.

Outside the cincture of the house the ground sloped at this point
straight into the moat, which here had fallen into a tarn or pond filled
with black water and ringed with bracken and water plants; the banks were
a foot or so deep, and it was crossed by a couple of rude planks and
overshadowed by some fir trees.

"It is very deep," said Francis, looking down, "and never dries, even in
the summer; I will have it drained. Come here, Jean, that is not the way
to the church."

Again they crossed the ruins. There was no sound but the incessant
rustling of the larches; though they were surrounded by the decaying
work of man's hands they seemed infinitely far from anything human--as
far as if they had been in a desert in which none had ever stepped
before.

They circled the house and came upon a long building almost totally
destroyed.

"This is the stable where Moidart killed his wife," said Francis. "When
he discovered her guilt she was out riding; he went to meet her, but
missed her--he found her in the stable here, where she was feeding her
horse herself. He killed her with her own riding-crop before she could
say a word--"

"Poor creature," said Giovanna, but she looked at the remains of the
stables without a shudder. "Supposing she was innocent, Frank?"

"In any case he is in hell," he said grimly, moving on.

"And she?"

"She too, if she was guilty. Is it not as deadly a sin to break the
eighth commandment as the sixth?"

"So I thought," she replied. "But why do you speak of death and hell?
They have nothing to do with us."

"Not now--but we are not immortal."

"I am not afraid," she said, thinking of her own case.

"She knows neither God nor Devil!" he thought, as he strode on through
the briars and stinging nettles.

Close to the house, but on a slightly higher eminence, stood the church
and the burial-ground heavily shaded with firs and yews; below, the
ground fell away suddenly into a valley beyond which stretched a noble
extent of moor bounded by low hills.

It was a magnificent prospect thus glimpsed between the thick twisted
trunks of the ancient yews; the sight of rolling country, the lift of
the distant hills, seemed to rob the spot of much of its melancholy. Yet
even with this relief, melancholy it remained. The little church was
leaning to one side and seemed about to sink into a grave--a dead thing
among the dead. Some pious hand had made some rude attempts at
preservation; the building was in a better condition than the house, the
roof was still there and the doors still clung to the hinges; a great
bell, fox-red with rust, showed through the ivy on the steeple.

The graveyard was overgrown with tall grass and such weeds as would
flourish in the dank shade of the yews; there were no flowers--not even
one daisy or pimpernel. The moss-grown graves were, like the church,
sinking crookedly into the ground. Time, weary of these vain memorials
of forgotten men, was levelling them with the dust they covered.

Until the time of the Covenanters, none save the Moidarts and their
wives had been buried here. Crusading knights lay there with their
dames; lords and ladies in coifs and ruffs showed their crude effigies
among the nettles; here lay the father and mother of the last John
Moidart; here he himself rested beside her he slew--so much favour was
granted a noble family. His brother put a stone over them with the name
and date, then went abroad to die, the last of his name.

Among the noble dust and proud tombs of this ancient family were the
tortured bones and plain head-stones of the Covenanters who had died for
their stern beliefs.

They lay huddled to one corner, the grave of each marked by a granite
stone on which the name was rudely cut.

Giovanna, in her radiancy, her bright garments, moved through this gloom
and darkness with her light, quick step.

"You will pull all this down, will you not, Frank?" she asked. "It is so
old and sad."

He was at the church door.

"I will build a new church," he answered. "But I cannot disturb the
dead."

"Yet take away some of these trees and let the sun in--see how dark and
chilly it is."

He looked round and saw she was seated on a flat tombstone, the shade of
a huge yew dimming her brightness, her green gown trailing over the rank
grass, her riding-crop lying on the mossy grave. He could not repress an
exclamation.

"That is Jane Moidart's grave," he said. To his quick sombre fancy this
figure in the riding-habit with the riding-stock might have been the
ghost of the woman lying beneath; in such a garb had Jane Moidart been
slain--her riding-whip had slain her. He wished Giovanna would move.

But she did not.

"Had this lady any children?" she asked irrelevantly.

"No."

"Ah, _poor_ creature," said Giovanna slowly.

He wished she would leave the grave of Jane Moidart; he wished his
perverse fancy had not pictured her as the ghost of the murdered woman
seated on her own tomb with the weapon of her own destruction beside
her; he began to wonder if this long-dead creature had been fair and
slender, and her age?

Dark and damp was the shade of the yew trees; the greenness of the
grass, of the mossy tombs, of the low, sweeping boughs, seemed the
colour of decay, yet Giovanna sat amid this melancholy obscurity with
her radiancy undimmed; she glowed with a beauty, health, and strength
that seemed to lighten the very gloom.

Francis set his back to the church door and regarded her curiously.

"What are you thinking of, Jean?"

"Of you--as always."

"In what way are you thinking of me?" he smiled.

"I was wondering why you bought this place."

"I told you."

"Yes--but how strange--for you--so young, Frank--to care so much about
building a church--what is the real reason?"

"I fear," he answered sombrely, "that much of what I do will always
remain strange to you."

It was a rent in the veil always between them; he wished he had not made
it, and yet he longed to tear all concealment away and speak to her
without disguise. She made no answer, but picked up the riding-whip and,
with the butt of it, cleared the deep-cut name of Jane Moidart from the
moss which filled the letters.

"Speak to me," said Francis. "When you are silent I feel as if you did
not belong to me--speak to me!"

"What can I say? I fear to displease you." She raised her head, but in
the shade of the heavy hat and the heavy yew tree her face was but an
indistinct oval.

"You do not belong to me," he said. "Your soul is not mine."

"My soul?" she cried wonderingly.

"Perhaps you have no soul! Sometimes I feel as if you had not, Jean."

"Yes, I have a soul," said Giovanna. "It is in the hands of God. Why do
you speak of it?"

He came nearer to her, goaded by her calm into disclosing something of
what had so long seethed in his thoughts.

"You believe in God, Jean?"

"He who did not would be a fool, Frank."

"But you do not think of Him much?"

"Oh, my dear, my dear!" her voice, her sigh, her gesture towards him
were like perfume and warmth. "I am alive--I love you--I try to make you
content, why will you not be happy?"

He shuddered a little as if he listened to the lure of the siren, the
wooing of the enchantress.

"Listen, Jean--there are other things beside love and happiness--do you
not know of them?"

"There is pain and death--hate, and--loneliness," she said.

"All those are of the body. Jean, my wife--do you never think of the
things of the spirit?"

She lifted her head so that he could see her face; she smiled very
tenderly.

"Do you never think of God overhead, of the Devil beneath--do you never
feel--in such a place as this--influences of another world about
you--things beyond our ken, mysterious, fearful--do you never wonder
what our ultimate destiny will be?"

She made a gentle little movement with her head as if to excuse herself.

"No," she said, still smiling.

Francis gazed at her steadily.

"Do you never feel the need of self-sacrifice, self-abnegation,
penitence, remorse, humiliation, that your spirit may be purged and made
ready for something better than this world?"

"No," repeated Giovanna.

He gave a deep sigh--how useless it was to speak to her--he felt
baffled, defeated, terror-stricken before this woman who had no
imagination, no spirituality. "What am I mated with?" he
thought--then--"Will God ever forgive me my passion for this woman?"

She saw his trouble, his distress.

"I know I am stupid," she said humbly.

He could have laughed in despair over such an excuse.

"You do not understand--you do not comprehend," he cried. "You are like
a child, you do not see beyond the limits of your own flesh and blood."

"No," she admitted. "This world is all I can cope with, Frank."

"But you believe in damnation?" he flashed.

"Yes," she stammered. "I suppose so--and yet--I do not think about it."

"If you think about none of it, what keeps you honourable?"

She was bewildered, she frowned and reflected. She had no code, she
acted on instinct; love was her guiding star, she obeyed that as kindly
as the sea ebbs and flows in accordance with the moon.

"Perhaps I am not honourable," she said. "I do not know--I try to make
those I love happy--Frank! Why do you speak of these things? I always
anger you--"

"It is terrible," he answered with a catch in his voice, "that we are so
apart in this."

"We are together in love," she said, rising. "I think I have proved I
love you. I have put myself in your hands very completely. You took me
for love's sake--more than love I cannot give you. You are right, I do
not understand--I am only a woman. When you are tired of me, put me
away; while you love me, do not torment yourself with these fancies."

"Jean, Jean!" he cried miserably. "Do you not see that it is because I
love you that I want your soul too?"

"I am all yours," she said. "First you, then Elphin--nothing else in the
world."

He felt humbled, yet sickened with doubts.

"Love that comes between a human being and God is wrong," he murmured.

"That I do not understand. Why did God let us love, then?"

"Talk no more of it," he said. "We get into a labyrinth."

She looked at his dark, pale face so strangely moved, so strangely sad;
it seemed as if she pitied him and yearned over him as a mother will
over the fantastic troubles of her child.

"Come out into the sun, Frank."

She took his sleeve and then his hand, and drew him out of the
churchyard. He felt a tremendous strength in her warm fingers, a
serenity and a repose in her pagan simplicity that not all his intricate
faith could give him--at that moment he also felt as if she was right
and he was wrong.

When they were clear of the funereal yews and stood in the pale light on
the verge of the hill, with the wide prospect before them, she turned to
him and said gently:

"Are you building this church, Frank, as an expiation for loving me?"



VII


He had always believed her as clear-sighted as she was unimaginative,
but he was not prepared for this question, which showed an exact reading
of his whole attitude towards her; he felt unpleasantly humbled that she
found him so transparent, and startled that she recognized the
quicksands on which their love was built.

She marked his amazement and distress.

"Ah, Frank," she said kindly, "if you could forgive yourself for taking
me we should be happier. If you could forget your God for a little
while."

"As you say, do not speak of these things," he replied hastily, "for you
are like a child in understanding."

They paused on the edge of the hill that sloped beneath the churchyard;
the fair landscape spread beneath them, brimming with soft, bright
light.

Giovanna was silent; as always in these discussions, she did not dare
remind him that she had sacrificed something for him, and therefore
might justly expect a generous return, for she was forbidden to mention
her former faith, her former country, her former people.

"Jean," said Francis, "in some things we are apart--it is terrible that
it should be so. But there was everything against us."

She glanced at his averted face and saw that he was deeply moved.

"If you did not love me you would think me vile," she said.

There again she spoke the bitter truth that he had hardly voiced
himself.

"And you," he replied slowly, "are only held to me by--affection--and
that is an ugly thing for me to know."

"Yes, only by love," smiled Giovanna, "and that is not enough for you?
Surely I am of no understanding!"

He could not answer this nor explain to her the kind of woman to whom
affection would be the lightest chain of all, one whom honour, loyalty,
piety and chastity would keep to her duty; if Giovanna ceased to love
him he believed she would leave him, and that, for Francis, was to
consider her a light woman.

She spoke again as if she heard and answered these charges,

"Have I not been good since I have been with you? Have you ever had any
fault to find with me, Frank?"

None, he knew, none--it would have been better for his peace if she had
made some lament, some complaint, if she had shown some yearnings for
her old home; her utter abnegation, her complete renunciation he could
not believe in. Behind her resignation or her content, whichever it
might be, there were the makings of such a woman as her mother was, he
thought; in brief, he held her perilous, and this conviction was his
daily torture.

"What we cannot understand," said Giovanna, "let us not talk of. Our
love is not ordinary, but heroic--since it can bridge so much."

Her frankness half frightened, half pleased him, as always; he liked her
strange choice of a word. Heroic! Considering what each had given for
this love, it might be called heroic--she had paid with all her worldly
possessions, and he with his soul's peace.

"Let us go home," he said, as if rousing from a reverie. "You are
right. It is folly for us to talk on themes on which we cannot
understand each other."

She pulled down one of the dark branches of the churchyard yew which
drooped over the low wall behind her and gazed at the spray of funereal
foliage.

"You speak as if I angered you," she said. "I am sorry, Frank."

"Oh, my dear," he cried wearily, "I wish I could let everything go,
drift as you do, accept everything simply as you do--be content with
love. But I cannot--there are so many things besides our present ease
and pleasure. Now we are young--but when we are old--"

"Love will be old too," said Giovanna.

"Ay," he added sombrely. "All earthly passions will pass and vanish--and
if man hath not something else to turn to, in what is he better than the
brute? He shall rejoin the dust which was his idol, and if he shall
have glimpsed higher things and ignored them for his earthly lusts, what
may he expect but hell?"

Giovanna let go of her yew bough and gathered up her long skirts which
trailed over the close grass and heather of the hill-slope.

"You must not think so sadly," she said. She was quite serene; he could
no more frighten her with his spiritual distresses and terrors than a
child could frighten a grown man with fairy tales; what he said was
outside her comprehension, and therefore she attached no meaning to it.

"Let us go home," repeated Francis gloomily; he turned and walked back
through the churchyard, his hands folded behind him, his head bent.

Into his grief and his indignation, both so long repressed and so
futile, there crept a certain anger against Giovanna, a more definite
disloyalty than he had yet felt against his love.

She was perilous, she was unsafe; she was swayed entirely by her
passions, no law nor honour nor morality would restrain her--he even
recalled as evidence against her the lack of reserve, the boldness she
had shown in their stormy love-affair--the way she had followed him; it
was only by chance--the chance given by his standards--that she was his
wife--she had never asked for it or seemed to expect it--he believed she
would have come with him on any terms. He remembered how she had
laughed delicately at his reserve towards her, his attitude of
chivalrous respect before their marriage in Paris; then he had viewed
her with exceeding tenderness, with unquenched passion, and her complete
unquestioning surrender had seemed to him to reveal the strain of the
heroine--now it seemed to him to reveal the strain of the light o' love.

Never had he understood that these ceremonies of his Church were
indifferent to her--they neither awed nor held her; when she thought of
them at all she feared that she was damned for participating in them.
She was true to him because of her own nature, which Francis had never
truly valued; her complete personal modesty had prevented him from ever
allowing that she was of a descent infinitely higher than his own; from
both sides she came from families who had touched royalty in their
alliances, and she had all that courage, that indifference to disaster,
that fineness and poise of spirit which have made men in all ages endure
an aristocracy, however corrupt and shameful. All that made Francis hold
her as unsafe was but this showing of noble blood in her; she came from
people who had been too great to be bound by conventions, people who had
been their own laws; she could have managed such a salon as her mother
reigned over, she could have followed her lover in the rear of an army
and lived with the camp stragglers. It was neither his God nor hers but
her thrice-refined breed which made it possible for her, almost a
princess and of a luxurious nation, to live as the wife of a Scots
landowner, fill her days with interests both dull and petty, and remain
serene, unrepining, and sweet.

This difference in their birth counted as much as the difference in
their nationality and creed to make them unintelligible to each other,
but they were unaware of it; or if it ever occurred to Giovanna, she was
too loyal to let her thoughts dwell on it, and he had certainly never
considered that statesmen, soldiers, knights, great ladies, patrons of
learning, scholars, generations of brilliant, enlightened nobles, gay
and great, were behind Giovanna, while behind him was a line of humble
Scots gentry, all undistinguished, who had thrown their whole energy
into the religious questions which disturbed their country, and never
known a wider interest.

Francis, wandering across the churchyard in his musing, hit his foot
against a grave.

It roused him; he stopped, and observed that it was the tomb of Jane
Moidart that barred his way, and he winced that his blind wandering had
brought him, in a circle, back to the spot he had so hastily
quitted--the ill-omened grave.

About the defaced stone lay the little tufts of deer grass and moss that
Giovanna had uprooted with her whip from the deep-cut letters of the
name.

As he stared at the tomb Giovanna joined him; it was now fast growing
dark in the upper shadow of the yews, and the sun was low enough to cast
long rays of heavy gold light through the trunks and tip the spears of
unkempt grass with radiance.

"Come, unless you would have a moonlight ride back," said Giovanna, and
she laid her hand caressingly on his arm as if to draw him out of his
abstraction.

His mood had not affected hers; he marked her brilliant smile, the
sparkle of her eyes, the flush in her clear cheeks, and he was jealous
of these high spirits which were never overcast by any sullenness of his
nor any gloom of her surroundings. They returned to where the horses
were tethered within the ruined walls of the mansion; Francis had
withdrawn again into his thoughts, but Giovanna observed a dozen
objects of interest--a lizard, a butterfly among the ivy, a thistle with
leaves stained as with milk, a bright insect clinging to a flower, the
swift flight of a disturbed owl, and, finally, an old woman.

There was something strange in this sudden sight of a human being in a
spot so desolate, but the creature and her occupation were ordinary
enough. She wore the decent grey of a superior peasant, heavy latchet
shoes, and a scarlet shawl, and she was engaged in gathering roots and
herbs in the ditch by the huge oak tree which overshadowed the entrance
to the ruined mansion of Ardnamurchan. Giovanna observed the labour she
was using for such a mean reward, and instinctively opened the satchel
at her side; the giving of alms was a matter of course to her, coming as
she did from a country where the very poorest offer charity.

"Look at the poor old woman, Frank," she said impulsively, and she
stepped towards the object of her compassion. "Here is a piece of silver
for you, my good mother, and a fine evening to you and a peaceful
night--"

Francis turned vexedly to the horses; he considered that Giovanna
pampered his peasantry and earned more contempt than gratitude by her
reckless giving, and, even if this were not so, he had no wish that his
unpopularity should be mitigated by his wife's graces.

The old woman, hearing voices, turned, and Giovanna, seeing for the
first time her face, could not repress a cry.

It was a woman of about sixty, with a sober, intelligent countenance,
but on her forehead was stamped a red cross, which reached from the root
of her nose to the neat bands of her grey hair and from one temple to
another.

Francis had looked up on his wife's exclamation and, on seeing the
woman's face, he cried out angrily:

"Come away, Jean, have no trafficking with that creature!"

But Giovanna had already put a piece of money in the woman's palm, and
observed that the terrifying mark on her forehead was a wound, cut
almost to the bone and still fresh.

"How did you come by that hurt?" she asked compassionately.

Francis stepped to her side and took her wrist.

"Get to your horse. Madam. I have already commanded you."

Giovanna flushed crimson and turned away; the woman tendered the money
to Francis.

"I am no wanting alms given with an ill-will, laird," she said. "Let
your honour's lady take back the siller."

Though this was spoken respectfully in that Lowland tongue which was
almost unintelligible to Giovanna, Francis resented it as an insolence,
and harshly told the woman she was trespassing and bade her leave his
lands.

"And have you bought Ardnamurchan, laird?" she replied. "It is an ill
purchase, and an ill beginning you make to turn away the wretched from
plucking a few berries and roots--"

"I know you and your reputation," said Francis, turning on his
heel,--"and I bid you begone."

The woman threw down the silver at his feet and turned away, leaving her
gatherings in the grass.

Giovanna had already mounted; when Francis joined her she turned to him
with a flash of anger.

"Speak to me civilly before others," she said.

"Obey me when first I speak," answered Francis. Her angry words, coming
after the secret discontent with her that he was feeling since their
conversation in the churchyard, caused him to flame into wrath. "I know
these creatures and you do not; you wrong me and yourself by this
compliance--"

"Oh, you are hard," cried Giovanna. "I was ashamed for you when you
spoke to the poor wretch so."

For the first time they were exchanging angry speech; hitherto his
reproofs had been disguised with caresses, or, when they were not, she
had always known how to turn his ill-humour by gaiety and sweetness, but
now they showed openly as antagonists.

They realized this, and their eyes dropped; Francis, to cover his
confusion, spoke:

"That woman has an ill reputation, she lives here alone from her
fellows, who will have no kind of commerce with her. They consider her a
witch, and if the act against sorcery had not been lately repealed I
think she would have been burnt. It was lately supposed that she had
laid a spell on a certain dairy wife, and the relatives marked her, as
you see, with the cross to render her powerless."

They rode away from the mansion and down the ancient avenue; then
Giovanna answered in a cold and reserved way:

"Is this woman's misfortune a reason for denying her charity?"

"Yea," said Francis, "she is dishonest, corrupt, and well-reputed able
to work evil."

"That," replied Giovanna, "is silly ignorance."

He remembered instantly that witches and Papists were supposed to be
one, as much as the Devil and the Pope were one.

"I know not," he answered sharply; "some think that these people be no
more than melancholians, but we have the authority of Holy Writ for
believing in warlocks, and we might as well discredit Satan himself as
his messengers and heralds."

Giovanna could not answer this. She was quite ignorant of the Bible, but
she had a strong, natural common sense, and she had never been taught
any superstition but the one of the supremacy of the Romanist Church;
the superstitions of Scotland, the reading of future deaths in the
blade-bone of a sheep, the dipping of clothing in south-running water to
procure the gift of seership for the owner--all such charms and spells,
the tales of witches, warlocks, brownies, ghosts, fiends, and imps had
first amused, then disgusted, then become indifferent, to her; and now,
angered as she was by her husband's ignoring of his discourtesy, his
half championship of things that were to her as follies, further
inflamed her against him; she paled and gazed down on her saddle.

Francis was angry too, angry enough to deliberately provoke the proud
silence of his wife.

"I think you believe in nothing," he said. "No mystery nor wonder moves
you--and to be so is to be as the brutes of the field."

"Perhaps I am even so," returned Giovanna in a kind of defiance. "The
brutes are good and loyal, and fierce and patient--I have seen much
nobility in a dog--"

"You talk blasphemy," he cried.

"You push me to it," she replied. "You always want more of me than I can
give; I am mere flesh and blood, Frank, with all my interests on the
earth and all my instincts of the body, as I think God meant them to be,
or why did He make life itself spring from love, which you take to be
from the Devil?"

Francis had seldom seen her so moved.

"You disturb yourself for nothing," he said coldly.

"You anger me," she answered, "you weary me. If I no longer please you,
let me go."

At these words Francis shuddered. To regain his composure he turned his
eyes from her and fixed them on the golden and purple expanse of moor
over which they were slowly riding.

"God in heaven!" he cried; "when will you learn you are not my chattel
but my wife?"

"I am yours as long as you love me, Frank."

"You are mine till death by God's sacrament," he said hotly.

Giovanna, on the edge of a passionate answer, regained her self-control;
her natural sweetness overcame her anger.

"I entreat you do not let us contend, Frank--if I have offended you,
forgive me."

He recognized her generosity, but his nature was too reserved to permit
him to emulate it; he had often envied her easiness with words.

"Say that you forgive me, Frank," she insisted.

He did not admit himself in the wrong nor ask her pardon for his
rudeness, but he turned, raised her gloved hand from her saddle, and
kissed it; she, knowing him, was satisfied.

But this brief dissension seemed to leave traces behind. For several
days Francis was moody and melancholy beyond the ordinary; then he
announced his intention of a solitary journey to Edinburgh. He gave two
pretexts: he wished, he said, to learn why Stacy Wigram had broken off
her betrothal, and he wished to consult his lawyers and his architects
as to the rebuilding of the mansion and church of Ardnamurchan.

It was the first time that he had ever left Giovanna alone in
Glenillich; her passionate faithfulness was hurt, but she made no
comment, and they parted tenderly.



VIII


Francis spent several days in the capital in a kind of gloom, neither
calling on those for whose sake the visit had been made nor in any way
courting company.

To avoid the disturbance of opening his house, he had taken lodgings
near the Lawnmarket for himself and his domestic, and commonly took his
meals at a tavern close by, in Raymond's Wynd, called "The Arms of
Orange."

Francis had conceived a disgust to waiting on the lawyers, or summoning
the architects; he felt disinterested in the formalities of one and the
technicalities of the other, he even began to feel a dislike to his new
property and to unpleasantly recall the dark churchyard and the
dismantled house where he had come to sharp words with Giovanna. To
distract himself he resorted to a noted antiquarian shop where he
endeavoured to find a certain gold coin of the Emperor Aureilan which he
wished to add to his collection, but not discovering it, this trifle
further discontented him, and he yet again postponed his visits to his
cousin and to Allan Forsythe; he was strangely indifferent as to what
these two, with whom he had pretended to be concerned, did with their
fortunes.

He was always thinking of Giovanna, thinking of her with a different
background to the one he had given her, thinking of being in company
with her in some of the Italian cities he had seen, of loving her as he
had never yet allowed himself to love her, amid the southern flowers,
the southern colours, in that sunlight and under those skies which had
seemed so beautiful that they must be of the Devil's making.

Francis knew that these yearnings were of evil prompting and that never
would he give way to them; he would live and die in Glenillich, and they
would grow old, and never would he have loved her amid the beauty to
which she belonged, never loved her as she might be loved--and that
thought was torture.

At times it was such torture that he almost hated her as the cause of
it; it seemed that she wanted his soul, as if, like the witch-wife the
peasant brought home as his bride, she would allow him no peace until he
had cast her back into her native elements of mystery and damnation.

Then his mood would change, and he would consider her in a passion of
tenderness for her lovingness, her sweetness, her beauty, her eager,
generous, ardent spirit, and then he would wish that, were she lost or
soulless, so might he be, as long as he might be there to comfort her
through the torments of that future existence in which he believed so
intensely.

One evening after he had been near a week in Edinburgh and not yet
attended to any of his business, he met Allan Forsythe as he was turning
into Raymond's Wynd.

Francis, forced to put a good grace on the meeting, invited Allan to
dine with him at "The Arms of Orange." Mr. Forsythe accepted, and the
two turned into the tavern, glad to be out of the sleet and mist of the
raw evening.

"I see you delay your going abroad this year," said Francis, as they
seated themselves at his customary table. "Yet Stacy tells me that your
marriage is broken off," he added bluntly.

Allan snuffed the candles that stood between them and did not
immediately answer; his fair, smiling, but rather hard and heartless
face was beginning to lose the delicate freshness of his youth, it had,
even in the yellow candlelight, a pallid and bleached look, and the fine
lines round mouth and eyes were becoming more deeply marked. Francis,
noting his face, his neat dress, his careful movements, suddenly
realized how much he disliked him, and leant back against the wooden
screen eyeing him discontentedly.

"Stacy hath broken it, therefore it is past mending," said Allan at
length. "I had her final answer some days ago."

"It is a pity, Mr. Forsythe," said Francis with energy, leaning across
the table. "This affair hath dragged seven years and more, my cousin is
not a young girl nor can my aunt last long--what is Stacy's future?"

"I have her definite refusal to consider our contract existent," replied
Allan. "It is therefore useless for me to do anything further in the
matter."

It was quite impossible to explain to Francis the question of religion
that kept him and Stacy apart, therefore he saw no use in wasting words
over it, and turned composedly to select his dinner from the bill of the
day which the drawer brought.

But when the dishes were chosen and the man had gone, Francis spoke
again:

"What was my cousin's reason, Mr. Forsythe, for this sudden breach?"

Allan slightly flushed.

"It would be more satisfactory to you, sir," he answered with perfect
civility, "if you were to ask her yourself."

"Aye, I will ask her," replied Francis. "I hold you to blame, you should
have married her out of hand, years ago. There was never any real
obstacle."

It was the truth, but Allan parried it deftly:

"It was Miss Wigram, not I, made the delays, Mr. Moutray."

"That is a woman's part--to make delays--as it is a man's to overcome
them," returned Francis drily. "And methinks you made some delays too,
notably these journeys to Italy."

"They were to pass the time," said Allan lightly. "I ever had a taste
for travel. This year I am not going."

"Why?" asked Francis; "has some other lady replaced my cousin?"

Allan smiled; he was amusing himself by wondering what this man would do
if he was to quietly answer with the truth: "I am staying in Scotland
because I want to see more of your wife, because I am interested in her
and in a secret we share."

"No, there is no one," he said, "but I fancy to stay at home."

The dinner was laid and the tavern began to fill; instinctively both
gentlemen turned the conversation to less personal topics.

Mr. Forsythe spoke of Ardnamurchan, and discovered a lively interest to
view the place; he could divine no way to see Giovanna save through an
invitation to Glenillich.

This Francis never thought of proffering; he discussed, willingly
enough, his plans for his new property, but he issued no invitation and
he never mentioned his wife--the only subject on which Allan would have
been interested to hear him speak.

The city dweller listened with courteous indifference to these agrarian
details, plans of husbandry, and farming; he could himself have opened a
hundred channels of interest, for he was well acquainted with the great
events of Europe, but he was equally well aware that Francis Moutray
cared for little outside his own particular domain. When the dinner was
over, Francis ordered some spiced wine, and chanced, as it was brought,
to mention the gold Aurelian coin which he had been unable to find.

"Why," thought Allan, "I have such an one," and he began instantly, with
the instinct of one trained in secret intrigue, to plan how he might use
this coin to gain admission to Glenillich and Giovanna. "I might find
one," he began.

Francis was about to reply with some eagerness, when, to Allan's
vexation, he was interrupted by a gentleman who came round from behind
the next screen and cried out in a great jolly voice, "Why, Frank!"

This gentleman, who was very handsomely dressed and had his napkin still
tucked over his flowered muslin cravat, was plainly an Englishman.

"Frank Moutray!" he repeated.

Francis turned swiftly and recognized Harry Middleton.

No meeting could have been more unpleasant, more humiliating, or more
unexpected, to Francis; he paled and stammered in his surprise and
vexation, and could hardly proffer his hand. But Mr. Middleton, who knew
him of old, was in no way put out.

"I have a nodding acquaintance with this gentleman," he said, bowing to
Allan, "and as my friend has just left, I will join you over a bottle,"
and he took the third seat at the end of the table--a proceeding as
disagreeable to Allan as it was to Francis.

But Mr. Middleton was in no way disturbed.

"My dear," he said to Francis, "you served me an ill turn--you left me
with never a farewell, and I got not as much as a word of greeting on
the occasion of your marriage--"

Francis was humiliated to the heart at the sudden appearance of this man
who had been witness of his struggles and surrender in Bologna, the one
man who was possessed of the details of his wild courtship--a man he had
hoped never to see again.

Striving to command himself, he asked Mr. Middleton how he came to be in
Edinburgh?

"Why, with whom but the Maxwells," replied that gentleman, "where you
and I met near seven years ago and planned our grand tour."

Allan's dislike and indifference began to vanish; he perceived that Mr.
Middleton had been with Francis during that fateful visit to Italy, on
the subject of which Mr. Moutray was always dumb.

"Ah," he remarked, with easy cordiality, "you were Mr. Moutray's
companion when he was in Bologna."

"And a fair trick he served me," smiled Mr. Middleton, "stealing his
lady and leaving me to bear the brunt of the--" 'scandal,' he was going
to have said, but he changed it clumsily--"trouble, and I was nearly
knived, sir, for the success of this grave Romeo."

He leant back and laughed; the years had mellowed him, although he was
still capable of a malicious pleasantry, but his florid face and lusty
voice mostly expressed good humour.

Francis regarded him with pure aversion; it seemed incredible that he
had once liked this man, sought his friendship, and been glad to take
him as a travelling companion. Now he merely represented an episode of
the past that Francis wished to blot out.

Allan perfectly gauged Mr. Moutray's feelings, but it did not suit him
to spare them.

"Have you been lately in Italy?" he asked.

"I have but a month returned," said Mr. Middleton. "I was in Germany and
afterwards in Rome."

"I, too, last year," said Allan. "Are you never going abroad again, Mr.
Moutray?"

"I have all my interests at home," replied Francis briefly.

"Ah, I have been hearing news of you from the Maxwells," cried Mr.
Middleton. "You have been buying up haunted land, eh, Frank?--and are
become a very perfect farmer. But where is your lady, the Countess--I
did not know you were in Edinburgh, though I have met several of your
acquaintances. May I not see the Countess, Frank?"

That he should give Giovanna her title seemed to Francis' perversity
like an insult.

"My lady is Mrs Moutray of Glenillich, sir," he replied, "and knows no
other title. She is at present at home. I am here merely upon affairs."

"Still the same Frank," laughed the Englishman. "You are a strange
compound, man. Well, you gave me the gobye, but I bear no malice, and we
may as well be civil when we meet--after all, I always liked you."

"Thank you for the compliment," returned Francis, "which I return. If I
made no effort to pursue our friendship, it was because we had little in
common."

He spoke calmly, but when he raised his wine-glass it was noticeable
that his hand shook.

"It was because you were mighty uncivil," said Mr. Middleton
good-naturedly, "but I forgave your abrupt departure because of the
circumstances--how does the lady in Scotland? I met her sister in
Rome--"

This allusion was too much for Francis' patience.

"Sir," he interrupted, "I wish for no news from Italy--do you
understand?"

Harry Middleton glanced at him with narrowed eyes.

"As you wish," he replied. "I perceive you are still a bigot. Give me
leave to tell you that Emilia Colonna is a lady queens do not disdain to
receive, and methought your wife might have been glad to have a message
from her--"

"I will have no news from Italy," repeated Francis. "You say you find me
unchanged, therefore you will know what manner of man I am--"

"But your wife--?"

"Please omit her name in a tavern," said Francis, and he abruptly called
for his bill.

Mr. Middleton glanced at Allan and raised his brows.

"I am sorry to have disturbed you, Frank," he said.

Allan put his fine finger-tips together and smilingly remarked:

"What is the talk of the Pretender's chances in Rome, Mr. Middleton?"

"Why, sir, they say that he has none since Henry York went into the
priesthood, and that he knows it and is praying himself to death."

"A lost cause," remarked Francis, and with the more pleasure since he
suspected Allan of favouring it. But Allan was serene, he had purposely
started the subject to save the conversation from becoming a quarrel.

"And the young Chevalier--as they call him--still wandering about
Europe? No news of him at the Palazzo Muti?" he asked.

"Since his brother took Orders he is too incensed to return home. They
say he has a Scots lady for company and drinks over-much."

Allan smiled; this careless Englishman confirmed what he had
suspected--that all those outside the Stuart intrigues regarded them as
hopeless; Allan himself was growing lukewarm in this cause; he was
becoming more interested in Giovanna than in Charles Stuart.

Francis paid his reckoning and rose.

"I will see my cousin to-morrow," he said, addressing himself to Allan,
"and afterwards beg your company again."

Allan bowed.

"And I am dismissed?" asked Mr. Middleton heartily.

Francis gave him the address of his lodging.

"Come and see me when you will, if you can be plagued with me," he said
civilly, "but I see you find me, now as then, sour company."

The three gentlemen passed out of the warmth and lights of the tavern
into the damp chill of the autumn night.

Francis showed no desire to linger; he took his leave and turned towards
his lodgings. Allan did not offer to accompany him, for he had a desire
to speak to Harry Middleton; that gentleman also seemed to delay his
departure; the two watched the graceful figure of Francis Moutray until
it was nearly lost in the obscurity of the street.

"You are some connexion, sir, of Frank?" asked Harry Middleton.

"I have for seven years been contracted to his cousin, and know him
well," smiled Allan, not quite ingenuously, for he did not wish to check
any of the other's confidences.

"A queer fellow he is, sir," was the reply. "Of a very melancholic
temperament, and his marriage was the most amazing thing I ever heard
of--and if you are intimate with him you might help me, Mr. Forsythe."

They had moved from the tavern door and stood under the swinging sign of
"The Arms of Orange."

"Willingly," replied Allan. "I know well enough that Frank Moutray is
difficult in temper."

"You saw him to-night? He would not have me mention the Princess
Colonna, and I have a message from her to her sister."

"Did you see the Contessa Odaleschi?" asked Allan; it was a question he
had longed to ask before, but neither he nor even Harry Middleton had
cared to mention his-wife's mother in Francis' hearing.

"It was that I wished to speak of," replied the Englishman, "but
broaching the edge of the subject I received such an ugly reception that
I'll be hanged if I try Frank again on the matter. But you, if you will,
may hear the business and take it to Frank, who, perhaps, will receive
it more kindly from you."

"I will, very willingly," said Allan.

"Then I must pray you to come to my lodgings," said Mr. Middleton. "It
has been a mad business this, and I shall be glad to finally wash my
hands of it. How is the lady, eh--happy?"

"I believe so, she has, you know, a son."

"So I heard. Poor Contessa Giovanna! She was never considered so great a
beauty as her sister, but she was a lovely wench."

"She is," said Allan, "very lovely still."



IX


Harry Middleton, when they were at ease in his lodgings, told Allan all
that he knew of the flight of Giovanna, of the nine days' scandal and
wonder in Bologna--that city of scandal and wonder--and the Contessa's
stern refusal to allow of any pursuit.

"But I think it broke her, both her affection and her pride," he added.
"She lost her influence, the creditors began to harass her; two years
ago she gave up her famous _salon_ and went to Rome."

"So I heard."

"She talked of entering a convent, and she has written a deal of
religious poetry; but she would be nothing less than abbess and her past
has been too openly notorious--she lives very well in Rome, in the
shadow of her daughter's position. Rut I think that she is most
unhappy."

"She gave you a commission for her daughter?"

Mr. Middleton leant back in his chair and stretched his limbs to the
fire.

"I met her in the Palazzo Orsini; she knew me and spoke to me of the
Contessa Giovanna. She said she had never heard from her, nor could she
have written, even if she had had a mind, for she knew not where to
address her letter. I told her I was not in touch with Frank Moutray and
did not greatly desire to be, for he had behaved to me with bare
courtesy, but that I was going soon to Scotland where I might certainly
chance to meet him, and should, of a surety, see his friends. She then
told me that she had no desire to enter into communication with her
daughter, but she seemed wistful. 'I could have forgiven anything,' she
said, 'save his being a heretic and a foreigner.' I put myself at her
service if she wished to send some message to the young Contessa, though
in truth it was a mission I had no relish for, and she said, well, she
had a few jewels that she was too old to need (though on my faith, sir,
she is yet a most gracious fair woman); Emilia had the greater part, but
she would trust me with a few bagatelles for Giovanna if I would see
them delivered to her. What could I do but agree? And she was very
gentle and pretty in her thanks and gratitude.

"Before I left that _festa_, the Principessa Emilia sent for me.

"'I perceive,' she observed, 'that my mother has been asking after
Giovanna, and now I want to know the news also.' I protested there were
none, and that I had seen neither her sister nor Frank since they fled
from Bologna, but that I knew they were in Scotland. Thereupon she gave
me a letter she had prepared, and entreated me to deliver it to her
sister. This I did not promise, but said I would attempt it, if she knew
no other messenger, which she agreed to. The dance being then over, she
summoned her husband, the Orsini prince, and presented him to me.

"'We are both of a mind in what I have writ there,' she says, taking his
hand, 'and that is, if Giovanna chooses to come to Rome, our house is
her house and we will protect her'; and he said, yes, it was so. The
Principessa is a great beauty, and I perceived that he was very
enamoured of her."

"It was generous on their part," said Allan, judging the action from his
own secret standards of a Romanist.

"They _are_ generous and large dealing, these great Italian nobles, and
very tenacious of the ties of kinship. If the Contessa Giovanna
returned, the Orsini would, I doubt not, tide her triumphantly over all
and make a good match for her--for she is, you know, in their eyes, not
married."

"That would be a shrewd blow for Frank Moutray," mused Allan. Crazy
thoughts darted into his brain: if she returned, if he could bring her
back to the true faith--if he established himself in Rome--in some wild
distant future the Orsini might bestow her on him; it was so unlikely as
to be an absurdity, but it was an absurdity that strangely pleased.

"Of course she will never leave him," he added aloud; his thin face
flushed slightly and he gazed into the fire.

"That I know nothing of," returned Mr. Middleton; "but to come to the
point of my story. I heard no more from these ladies until the day
before my departure from Rome, and then there came a messenger from the
Contessa with a letter reminding me of the favour I had promised her,
accompanied by a casket containing the ornaments. She had spoken of them
so carelessly that I imagined them to be of but little value and but
trifling in number, and it was to my amazement that I found she had sent
considerable valuables. I disliked the idea of being burdened with such
a responsibility, and waited on the Contessa early next day, but she had
gone with the Orsini to their villa at Frascati, and as I was due to
leave Rome I had to bring the casket with me.

"When I reached Edinburgh I inquired of Frank from the Maxwells; they
gave me some particulars of him and said he was at Glenillich. I was in
a dilemma how to discharge my trust; I did not believe either a visit or
a letter from me would be well received--then to-night I heard Frank's
voice in the tavern--and there you have the situation, sir."

"Frank Moutray will receive this very ill," said Allan.

"I know. I did not even dare broach the Contessa's name to-night, and
you saw how he closed my mouth about the Principessa Emilia? To be plain,
Frank wearies me, and I shall be well content to be clear of the whole
business."

"The messages were to her, not to him," remarked Mr. Forsythe.

"I know; but how, in the name of Heaven, am I to get at her? I've no
wish to go uninvited to the wilds of Ayrshire and have Frank's pistol
emptied into me for my pains. If the lady had been in Edinburgh--"

"She is not likely to be," said Allan, "but I believe I shall see her
before long," he added, purposely exaggerating his chances.

"Then, sir, I wish you would take this commission off my hands, I should
be vastly obliged; deliver the gewgaws to the lady, and the business is
over. You are a relative, you know both, and even if Frank be angry you
will know how to manage him; as for me, I confess I have neither time
nor patience to follow his moods."

"If you will leave the jewels with me," answered Mr. Forsythe
slowly,--"I will give you a discharge for them and endeavour to
deliver them."

Mr. Middleton expressed honest relief and gratitude, and rose to open
the deep cupboard behind him.

Allan sat still, gazing into the fire. He was strangely stirred by what
he had heard to-night of the passionate wooing and flight of Giovanna;
he was moved and fascinated by the strength and power of this emotion;
he was utterly incapable of any such action himself, utterly incapable
of any such feeling, and therefore the story attracted him and filled
him with a kind of envy.

He was more interested in Giovanna than he had yet been in man or woman,
but there was nothing of passion in this regard for her--it was curious,
contained, secretive, and, above all, cautious. Mr. Middleton's remark
about not wishing to have Francis Moutray's pistol emptied into him
impressed Allan; he intended to be very circumspect in his dealings with
the lady.

He glanced up, to see that his host had placed a long casket covered in
stamped leather on the table and was unlocking it. Allan rose.

"I shall be glad to get them off my hands," said Harry Middleton. "I was
always fearing they would be stolen."

He pulled out the trays and emptied the contents on to the black surface
of the table. Allan knew something of gems; he was a dilettante in many
arts.

"Why, these are very beautiful and valuable," he exclaimed in a startled
tone.

"I thought so." Mr. Middleton pushed the gems together, and pulled out
of the box a piece of paper. "There is a list I made of 'em--you will
find it correct."

Allan was examining the jewels which flashed gorgeously in the
candlelight; they were indeed extremely costly and set with the fine
Italian workmanship; some were pieces of the greatest loveliness and
rarity, dating from the first century.

"There is a fortune here," said Allan.

Mr. Middleton shrugged.

"She was one of the wealthiest women in Italy in her time," he remarked.
"And she has had many worshippers--"

He laughed, and his eyes flickered over the jewels.

"The wages of sin, Frank would call them!"

Allan returned the gems to the casket.

"I will try and deliver them," he said, "and, if I cannot succeed,
return them to you."

"Here is the letter," replied Mr. Middleton, and taking a sealed packet
from his notebook he laid it inside the case which he then locked, and
handed the key to Allan.

"If you have no luck," he remarked, "I must endeavour to find another
messenger; I do not wish you to embroil yourself with Frank on this
account."

"I will do my best," answered Allan quietly. He went to the desk and
copied the list of jewels in his neat hand, added beneath that Mr. Harry
Middleton had delivered them to him, and put the date and his name.

The other folded away this paper with an air of relief, gave Allan many
warnings as to the danger of the custody of the jewels, and finally
parted from him with much cordiality.

Allan went home to his elegant apartments, entered his bedroom, locked
the door, opened the casket, and, after carefully putting away Emilia's
letter, took out the treasures. To examine them and handle them gave him
great pleasure; they reminded him of Giovanna.

The most beautiful piece was a parure, or set of ear-rings, necklet, and
bracelets; the design was that of a cluster of grapes, each grape an
emerald, shaded with leaves of fine enamel in deep tints of green, the
stalks were formed of gold, and each bunch was nearly two inches long
and composed of about twenty or thirty stones. There was also a gold
necklace of Etruscan design hung with fine tassels of the precious metal
and set with lapis-lazuli; a pendant shaped like a dragon, with a single
pearl for the body and rough silver starred with topaz for the
exquisitely modelled head and tail; a pomade box of root of sardonyx,
bearing a coronet in rubies; a pair of ear-rings of rosy pearls set as
the centre of a flower of pale milky green jade--an Eastern ornament
this; a bracelet of sapphires buckled together with cinnamon diamonds,
the whole set in chased gold; a hat buckle of four table diamonds; a
string of aquamarines and heriots separated by beads of carved silver; a
gold hair-comb surmounted by a mermaid cut out of a solid piece of
coral; an antique seal ring; a head of Diana cut on a purple topaz; a
watch of gold filigree with a black opal in the back; a carved and
painted ivory fan, the outer sticks adorned with chrysolite and rubies
in the shape of flowers; several pins for the hair, of cameo, amber,
lapis-lazuli, topaz, and silver; a number of rings, curious and
valuable; a necklace of cat stones and another of yellow diamonds; many
chains and pendants of the beautiful workmanship of the fifteenth
century; and a pomander of gold fretwork in the shape of a pomegranate.

The casket gave forth an exotic, faint, and foreign perfume; like the
gems, it recalled Giovanna to the man who stood turning over these
costly trinkets. He wondered how the Contessa had come by them--some
were, perhaps, hers by inheritance, some had probably been love-tokens,
others, perhaps, bribes or rewards, others her own purchases or mere
gifts.

It was, of course, folly to suppose that Francis would allow his wife to
accept them; it was equally foolish to suppose that she would not wish
to accept them. Allan meant to deliver them secretly; the idea of
sharing the secrets and the confidence of Giovanna pleased him. He
walked up and down his handsome bedchamber, picturing his next interview
with her; then he went thoughtfully to the cabinet where he kept his
cameos and other treasures, and, opening a small drawer full of coins,
took out the gold Aurelian which Francis had been searching for to add
to his collection.



X


Giovanna, though left alone for the first time since her marriage, was
neither lonely nor unhappy; she had a kind of gaiety, of simplicity,
that was like a charm against gloom or melancholy; she could take an
intense joy and interest in things which others would not even notice.
Thus, though she took no part in the management of her own house, though
she saw no one save her own dependents, her days were full.

To begin with, there was the companionship of Elphin; both mother and
son unconsciously allowed themselves greater freedom and felt more at
their ease than when they were always at the disposition of Francis, on
the watch for his commands, adapting themselves to his moods.

Then there was her needlework--all the laces and silks she took such
pleasure in stitching, the fine embroidery of her own design she was
making for Elphin's falling bands.

They would too be happy for hours while she played the spinet and he
listened; she had no written music, but she had the natural gift for
melody of her people, and could remember and improvise enough to hold
the child enthralled. Another occupation and delight was a tame fox,
captured when a cub and taken and cherished by Giovanna; it was now a
beautiful animal, intelligent, unscrupulous, loving, full of elegant and
endearing ways and devoted to its mistress.

Giovanna named it Rinaldo.

Francis had considered it an outlandish pet, and, in deference to his
wishes, it had been kept unobtrusively in the background, but now it
followed her and Elphin like a dog and came to meals with them--meals
that were no longer served with state and ceremony in the great
dining room, but in Giovanna's own chamber, on a little table by the
window that overlooked the lake.

This was the only room in the house that Giovanna had ventured to alter;
she could not do much here, but she had made it more like Italy than
pleased Francis.

She had bought hangings of a dark rose-coloured velvet for the sombre
walls, she had pleaded to have the dull ceiling repainted--blue with
roses; on her last visit to Edinburgh she had coaxed a pink carpet (the
only one in the house it was) from Francis, and she had rearranged and
cleaned some old pieces of Chinese furniture she had found there. The
curtains, the cushions, the settees, were all of her own working, and
all in colours of red, rose, tawny, gold, and brown.

The spinet had been tuned and moved here; there were always flowers on
it--even now, in winter when there were none, there was a bunch of
heather.

The room was charming and totally unlike any other apartment of the
house save her bedchamber, and even that was not so gay, for it
contained tapestries and furniture which Francis considered it
sacrilege to move; and at the first hint of his opposition she had
desisted from alterations.

In the antechamber, or boudoir, she spent the greater part of her days,
always with Elphin. The child adored her with a dumb passion that was
extraordinary and almost terrifying in one little more than a baby; he
was reserved, grave, almost sad, but in the absence of his father he
laughed more than he had ever done; yet Francis was tender and indulgent
towards him. This change in him troubled Giovanna a little, yet she
could not deny to herself that they were very happy alone together.

They would go for walks in the grounds, feed the swans on the lake, go
to the farm and watch the poultry, to the stables and caress the horses,
into the cottages on the estate and gossip with the housewives--all
which diversions were tacitly understood to be forbidden when Francis
was at home.

They found wonder and interest in everything--in the tiny mosses that
grew beneath the pines, in the wax-like bells of the heather, in the owls
and bats that came out at night, in the big star which always appeared
first, in the manifold changes of the moon, now clear as ice in a
steel-blue sky, now misted with blood like a blood-stained veil, now
dazzling in faint gold light, now like a drifting wafer, now like a
buckle of precious metal.

In the evenings or on the wet or chilly days, Giovanna taught Elphin
Italian from the Ariosto which was the sole relic of her youth, or told
him some rich and highly coloured tale woven from the gorgeous incidents
of the "Orlando Furioso," and the stories of saints and martyrs, knights
and emperors, which she recalled from her own childhood.

Sometimes she would read to him from the secret books given him by
Father Hilton, teach him to tell the rosary, and to pray to St. John who
was now his patron, and by whose name she sometimes, when they were
quite alone, called him.

She spoke to him of his baptism as of a mystery; she parried the direct
questions of his innocence by saying that God would reveal all in time;
He is very merciful, she always added. She laboured to explain to his
understanding that she followed Francis' God because women must obey
their husband, but to save his soul she had introduced him into the
Church she had left, but secretly, until he was older; then (and she
sincerely meant it), he could tell his father, and between them they
could decide.

She bade him say his prayers and always ask for grace for heretics, and
to remember, in after years, to always confess his sins and obey the
priests. This was the extent of her theology, she knew nothing of the
doctrines of her own Church save the central facts of the sacraments,
confession, and obedience; nearly seven years' acquaintance with the
doctrines of the heretics had taught her nothing of their beliefs that
she could grasp save their sternness and severity, their hatred of
natural human passion, their laudation of abnegation of the senses, and
suffering of the soul.

Often Elphin, his infant mind fumbling with this confusion of creeds,
asked her questions which she could by no means answer.

She was, poor lady, uneducated and unlettered in these things; beyond
her phantasmagoria of tales, her knowledge of some Italian poets and
novels, her art with the needle, and her little gift of music, she knew
nothing.

But if she had remained in Italy she would have learned, for she was
naturally apt, cultured, and passionately fond of all grandeur and
beauty. She might have been such a woman as Vittoria Colonna, had she
had the chance; but this possibility, as all the others she had
possessed, she had sacrificed to Francis Moutray.

When Elphin insisted on knowing where God was, she, thinking of the most
magnificent thing she knew, told him--in the sun.

Her chamber faced west, and at the hour of twilight Elphin would climb
into the window-seat to watch the matchless glory that he called God
walking over the hills.

And so the days passed, solitary days, but rich with love.

Francis delayed his return, but that did not disturb Giovanna's
serenity, for he wrote by almost every express, and his letters were
those of a lover.

Once or twice the pastor came to see her, and from his speech she gained
strange glimpses into the little world of Glenillich, still so
incomprehensible. She listened courteously to his talk of a Covenant, of
falling from Grace, of the wickedness of dancing and singing which he
had discovered in the village, of the strange rumours of witchcraft, of
the people's discontent at Francis' reforms and their rage at his
proposal to bring over Cumberland men to work the new estate he had
purchased.

And when the good man had finished, she went back to her sewing, her
child, her tame fox, her tales of Italy, and of Ariosto's fairyland.
Every Sunday she went to the kirk; she tried to conform to the customs
of Glenillich by appearing quietly gowned, but she did not avoid censure;
her silks, her curls, her grace, some bright ribbon or jewel
unconsciously worn, all aroused repulsion and dislike. She began to
notice the looks, the whisperings (less concealed now the laird had
turned his back), and her nature, eager to be liked by all, was hurt and
humbled.

She shut herself more and more into the house, and a little sense of
loneliness overspread her life, like the first touch of frost in
glorious autumn days. Once, when abroad beyond the confines of the park,
she met the woman she had seen in the ruins of Ardnamurchan.

Giovanna gave her good-day somewhat timidly and wistfully; the woman
stopped and gazed at her with pointed curiosity.

Autumn was changing into winter, and, though the sky was clear, cold
white mists rested on the mountains and about the frozen ground. The
lady was walking near a hedge of briar, she was gowned and wrapped in
black velvet; on one side of her walked Elphin in embroidered scarlet,
carrying a large brown muff, on the other the fox with a silver medal
round his neck.

Giovanna flushed under the woman's scrutiny, for she felt as if she owed
her some reparation for their last meeting >' but as it was impossible
for her to admit her husband in the wrong, she could say nothing.

"If you had been a poor creature instead of the laird's lady, they had
drawn blood above the brows from you as they have from me," said the
woman, pointing to the still unhealed scar on her forehead.

"Why?" asked Giovanna, bewildered.

"There are reasons enough for thinking you not canny," replied the other
in a tone more respectful than her words. "Your gowd and pearlin', the
wild creature that follows you like a kitten, the way you fear neither
dark nor kirkyard."

"They think I am a witch?"

"Many do, my lady--many hang a bit of rowan plucked between the two
Beltan days and tied with red thread against the doors where you enter
or pass."

This was the sum of her speech, but she spoke in the dialect of the
place, and Giovanna found it difficult to understand her words though
she grasped the sense of them.

"A witch--an enchantress--they think I am that?"

"Well," returned the woman, "it is hard to believe that the laird would
have married a foreigner and a Papist if he had not been bewitched."

Giovanna was more amused than vexed or annoyed.

"You speak to me very freely," she smiled. "Do you think I am something
evil?"

"God and your ladyship forgive me if I take a liberty," said the
peasant, "but I know what it is to be suspected of devilish dealings,
and maybe I would give you a warning not to wander too far from the
mansion at nightfall now the laird is away."

"What do they do to witches here?" asked Giovanna.

"When I was a child they burnt them alive, my lady, or tortured them to
death; now there is no law against them but no law for them, and many a
woman has been so persecuted she would rather have gone to the stake.
There was old Janet, who lived on the Moss of Glenlassie, they tossed
her in a sheet and dragged her to and fro the pond, they set her wet in
the stocks and put irons on her legs to make her confess when she had
last seen the Devil. And when she had on a hundred pounds' weight she
confessed, and they wanted to burn her, but the magistrates would not
allow it, yet neither would they protect her, and she hanged herself in
despair."

The woman spoke with fervour and a certain eloquence, and her words were
emphasized by that sinister mark on her forehead.

"There are times when I am minded to do the same," she added. "It is ill
living in a world where all have blows and curses for you and none the
kind word, where the children run away from you and the old folk spit on
your shadow."

"Why do they think you are a witch?"

The woman smiled bitterly.

"When I was young, I was bold and gay, fond of dancing and the fiddle,
caring nothing for the dark nor the talk of ghosts and brownies. Then
they said I had bewitched their cattle and their crops, and one or two
to whom I gave high words had misfortunes, and before I was thirty I was
a witch, and there was neither home nor husband for me. And now they've
marked me--well, if I had the power they think, they should smart for
it."

"How do you live?" asked the lady.

"I have a little chicken farm, and some, through fear, buy of me, but
this year the grain has been so dear I have made no profit, for none
will deal with me, save these few, through fear."

"This is a dreary country," cried Giovanna, "where you make a sin of a
laced handkerchief or a laugh; but of me you need not be afraid, for I
believe not in these things. Come to Glenillich and I will help you."

"It would do your ladyship little good to befriend me--I would not do
you such an evil turn for your kindness," replied the woman
earnestly.--"And take my warning about going abroad alone."

"They hate me?"

"It is said it is you who influenced the laird to buy Ardnamurchan and
introduce the rye-grass and build the new cottages and bring over the
Southrons, and that you are no better than a Papist who has brought
ill-luck on Glenillich."

"I knew nothing of any of these things!" cried Giovanna. "My husband
never speaks to me of them "--then, suddenly checking herself, she
added: "I will take your warning--even now it is late--remember I shall
be always glad to help you."

She gave the woman a piece of money and passed on, smiling a pretty
farewell.

"What did she say?" asked Elphin, catching at her hand.

"Hush, dearest, you must not think of it; she talked of ugly things. Bad
fairies they say are here, but it is not true, my darling. There is
nothing bad or wicked anywhere, you must think of that--you do believe
it, do you not?" added Giovanna anxiously.

"I should _like_ to believe it," replied the child gravely. "_She_ was
ugly, that woman."

"Thou must always be kind to those who are ugly, my Giovannino," said
his mother, "for they have a great misfortune to bear."

They were passing into the grounds of the house when they were stopped
by a man running swiftly towards them out of the twilight.

It was the minister. Giovanna stopped courteously.

"Mrs. IMoutray," began the pastor, out of breath, "I saw you speaking
with old Alison, which is a thing I would request you not to do, as the
woman is believed to be a proved witch, a diabolic person of foul
dealings."

"Oh, sir," cried Giovanna flushing, "I am sorry for your understanding
if you give credit to such tales."

"Are you denying the existence of witches, Mrs. Moutray? Does not Holy
Scripture say, 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live'? And was there
not the Witch of Endor and Baalam and Simon Magus?"

"Excuse me from this argument," replied Giovanna haughtily, "and learn I
take your interference with my action ill."

She was turning away, but the minister, his long dislike of her inflamed
by her words, stepped in front of her.

"I give you a warning, Mrs. Moutray, and one I shall repeat to the laird
on his return. Take care how you tread, for there are many who believe
you are no better than a Papist. You are slack in your religion, at
best, and it breeds ill in Glenillich--as for such as old Alison--"

Giovanna interrupted; her sweetness of temper was not meekness, and her
anger could be fierce.

"I will tolerate no more," she said. "Your presence offends me."

She stepped aside from his path and hastened away towards her home.

When her anger had died away she was not wholly happy about the
incident; Francis would be vexed, she knew, both about her speech with
the woman and her quarrel with the minister. She found the house gloomy
that night, and her bright spirits could scarcely resist the sense of
emptiness and loneliness that hung over Glenillich.

She sat in her own chamber with Elphin by her side and the red fox in
her lap, when an express was brought her from Francis.

It said nothing of his return, and contained news that was not agreeable
to Giovanna, namely, that the betrothal of Stacy and Allan was broken
past any mending.

Giovanna had meant to ask Allan to take Stacy into his confidence with
regard to the baptism of Elphin as soon as they were married, and now
her frank mind was vexed that a man unattached shared her secret--a man
who was no relation at all, as he would have been as Stacy's husband. It
seemed to her unfair to Francis; she hoped that Allan would marry soon
and that she would never see him again.

When the maid had put Elphin to bed, Giovanna still sat on by the fire.

Even this room was not cheerful in the evening when the wind shook the
flames on the hearth and the hangings on the wall and rushed through
the pine boughs without, when all was still and solitary in the house.

"I am lonely," said Giovanna. "Yes, I am lonely. I am also an alien
here."

She allowed herself to think of Italy; she allowed herself to admit that
she longed to be there, that this was only playing at happiness--real
happiness had she left behind long ago. She started at this heresy to
her loyal love, and checked the thought; she was happy, she told
herself; she regretted nothing.

But for all her gaiety, courage, and pride, the poor exile dropped her
face on the soft fur of the red fox and wept.



XI


Giovanna's impulsive letter, relating the incident of the woman Alison
and the minister, sent Francis into a fever of annoyance.

To learn that his wife was considered as a concealed Papist, a blight
and an evil in Glenillich, that she was subjecting herself to rebukes
from the minister--making his name, in brief, a subject of gossip and
reproach--was gall to his soul.

The more so as in his heart he could not but agree with them.

During these weeks while he lingered in Edinburgh, away from the charm
of her presence, he had brought himself to definitely regret his
marriage.

It had failed; he had betrayed the traditions of his country, his
family, his faith, his own instincts, and for this--failure.

A failure, he sternly called Giovanna; as a lover, a mistress! but as a
wife a failure.

Yet he loved her, he wanted her still; that was his deepest
mortification, that he was not strong enough to resist her charm.

So he argued inwardly during the fit of black melancholy into which he
fell at Edinburgh. He imagined he was lost, damned; he believed that he
was cursed until he put this woman out of his life; yet the lover, the
passionate, sensuous strain in him, forced him to write her love-letters
by every post and wear her portrait over his heart.

He made some indifferent attempts to reconcile Stacy and Allan, he
attended half-heartedly to the business of Glenillich and Ardnamilrchan,
and the daily conflict in his soul brought him to the verge of an
illness.

One evening he fell into that fever from which he had never been utterly
free since he had endured the malaria in Italy.

These slight recurrent attacks of fever seemed to him part of the spell
of that fateful land, and always they brought to his mind that night in
Bologna when he had torn the mosquito-nets from his bed in his attempt
to strangle the woman of his vision.

As he sat alone in his rooms, his head burning, his body shivering, his
mind battling with a thousand horrible fancies, Allan Forsythe was shown
into his presence.

At first Francis was vexed by the appearance of this man, so cool,
composed--always the same. He roused himself with an effort from the
deep wand chair before the fire.

"I am very bad company to-night," he said.

Allan glanced at him keenly, noted the careless dress, the dark hair
disordered, the dark eyes bloodshot, the brow flushed, the cheeks
scarlet.

"You should return to Glenillich," he remarked, taking the chair
opposite. "The city air is close and foul after Ayrshire."

"I look sick?" asked Francis grimly.

"Sick, or in at ease."

Francis propped his chin on his palm and gazed into the fire.

"I wish you would come to terms with Stacy," he said moodily.

"Why return to that matter?" asked the other with calm good-humour. "I
have resolved never to marry."

"Why?" demanded Francis.

"Because I am afraid of failure."

Mr. Moutray's eyes flashed.

"But to my errand," continued Allan. "I brought you this."

He took from his pocket a leathern case, opened it, and handed to
Francis the gold Aurelian coin that had lain in his cabinet five years
or more.

But to enhance the value of the gift he embellished it with a fiction.

"I heard you were searching for such a coin, and as I knew one who had
this, I made inquiries and at length obtained it."

Francis was genuinely pleased; he had really wanted the coin; it was a
beautiful specimen, and he was both surprised and moved by Allan's
thought and trouble.

"You must permit me to purchase this from your friend," he said.

"Nay," smiled Allan. "I gave him one of mine in exchange for it--an
Alexander of Macedonia that I have in duplicate--so I beg you to accept
it as a gift."

Francis, thus gracefully put under an obligation, could make no demur;
he thanked Allan warmly, but that gentleman waived the subject and
brought the conversation round to Ardnamurchan.

"I was talking with your architect to-day--he says you have some curious
old glass in your church and some tombs interesting to the antiquary."

"Maybe," replied Mr. Moutray; "it is a gloomy spot. The grave of the
murdered Jane Moidart is there."

Allan affected a vast interest in this lady, of whom he had hardly heard
before, and Francis was led on to recount the dreadful history of the
deed which was supposed to have left a curse on the lands of
Ardnamurchan.

Allan was impressed--impressed as when Harry Middleton told him the
story of the winning of Giovanna; it was again the curiosity, the
half-envy, half-wonder of the coolblooded, confronted by a tale of sheer
passion.

"That story opens up the old question," he said, warming his
hands.--"May a man kill a faithless wife?"

"Nay, murder is murder," replied Francis. "There can be no excuse. And
to murder a woman," he shuddered, "and one whom one had loved."

"Yet it has been thought forgivable," argued Allan.

Francis recalled Giovanna's defence of Jane Moidart's punishment, her
characterization of the murderer's execution as "barbarous."

"Aye, among Papists, perhaps," he said bitterly.

The remark was so unexpected that Allan started.

"Have Papists a different code in the matter?" he asked.

"You should know," replied Francis, "you have been abroad oftener than
I; it is a matter of common knowledge that in Papist countries they do
these things."

"Yet it is unlawful, for when I was last in Rome there was a certain
Count executed for killing his wife--though it is true that there were
doubts cast on her guilt."

Then Allan checked further defence of his secret creed, and with adroit
abruptness came to the point of his visit.

"I should be pleased to see Ardnamurchan, if you would any time have
me," he said frankly.

"Why, come when you will," replied Francis, "but if you would see the
church you must come with me when I return, for I intend to have it
pulled down by the spring."

"I could not so force myself," protested Allan, "much as you tempt me."

But Francis had already seized on the idea of this visit as a relief and
as a means of mitigating the embarrassment he so hideously felt at the
thought of meeting Giovanna again. In a few weeks the architect was
coming, but Francis preferred Allan (little as he cared for him) as a
distraction, and besides he felt under an obligation for the gold coin;
therefore he pressed Allan to accompany him in a few days when he
returned to Glenillich.

Allan accepted the invitation he had so carefully planned to obtain; a
very curious emotion stirred his heart at the thought of the interview
with Giovanna, when he would show her her sister's letter and her
mother's jewels.

"He is neglecting her," he said to himself. "What is her life alone at
Glenillich? He is afraid of her--the sour Puritan! What if she should
turn to me a second time--" but he stopped there, for he was cautious
even in his thoughts.

Having obtained the object of his visit, and knowing that it was useless
to hope that Francis could be induced to talk of his wife, Allan
relieved himself of Francis' gloomy and distasteful company, and
returned to his own lodgings where he was giving supper to a number of
friends.

Francis, confused with fever, continued to sit over the fire.

He soon forgot the coin that had briefly distracted him, and his heated
thoughts returned to Giovanna.

The full misery of his situation overwhelmed him, and he groaned aloud.

He recalled how he had returned to her, how she had come to him--their
meeting on the Modena road, the joy and madness of that union--his
prayer to God to let him be good to her--and it had come to this--he
slept lonely in Edinburgh, she slept lonely in Glenillich; he delayed
his return, he submitted willingly, nay, eagerly, to the company of a
man whom he disliked rather than meet her alone; his days were clouded
with shame and remorse because of her--and yet she had not done
anything--she had not changed. She was the same sweet, passionate, loyal
woman he had taken from Italy.

He staggered to his feet and cried aloud.

"O _God_, my _God_, what has happened to it all? What have I done that
my life should be thus a torment to me?"

What had happened that the passion that had been so strong and so
beautiful should become a scourge and a curse?

What was wrong--she--he--the world?--or was all this wretchedness but a
mirage of his own? Were his agonies warnings from God that must be
obeyed, or mere evil fancies that must be rooted out?

He did not know, he could not tell--his mind was a burning confusion; he
felt a kind of madness within him as if he could turn with a snarl and
rend the God who thus tormented him.

Was she of the Devil, of a wanton race, a cursed country--but was she
not also beautiful and loyal, kind and patient, sincere and pure?

"I do blaspheme her with these thoughts of mine," he cried. "She is
better than I--yet--yet--is it not horridly true that I have been as one
_damned_ since I owned her?"

He sank into the chair again, shivering and weak with fever; the supper
his domestic set before him he refused; he would have gone abroad to
distract himself, but heavy snow was falling, and the folly of it was
too obvious.

He curtly sent the man to bed, and remained shuddering over the fire.

What was she doing now, he wondered, alone in that great house. He
imagined her in the bedchamber she had so pathetically tried to make
gay, surrounded by the trinkets and finery she so admired and cared for,
sleeping in the great bed that had known so many deaths--sleeping with
her amber-coloured hair unbound and some orange or violet ribbon, such
as she loved, fastening the bosom of her bedgown.

Perhaps she was sad, certainly she was lonely; he knew that she was
surrounded by dislike and distrust--yet he left her there, delaying his
return.

Was it for this he had brought her from Italy? But he loved her (ah,
loved her!) as much now as when he had first kissed her in that magic
garden, he loved her--

Again he beat his brows--asking his soul--his God--what had happened.

He dwelt with a desperate longing on a wild idea of taking her away, of
abandoning everything to live with her in the sun as she had herself
suggested on their first coming to Scotland; the next second he spurned
the cowardice of such a thought.

One moment he thought of her and of all that belonged to her--her child,
her clothes, her sewing, her rooms, her tame fox--with a passion of
tenderness; in another he thought of all of them with a dread that was
almost loathing.

Maddened and feeble he paced up and down the room; the fire was sinking
out, the candles burning low, the snow deadened all outside sound. He
felt his fever increase, his lips were dry, his eyes burning, his pulses
beating strongly; he began to see shapes in the dark corner before which
he cowered. The shapes of his mother and father who had taught him of
God and the Devil before he could speak, and hatred of the Papist before
he could think--shapes of his ancestors who had died fighting those
things which had produced a Giovanna--all these stern bloodless shapes
of men and women who had denied themselves body and soul, who had gone
without wine, without kisses, without laughter, without passion, to
please their God--who had lived perpetual abnegation, sacrifice,
negation of all soft human qualities under the shadow of eternal
damnation.

There had been no colour in their lives save the glow from hell fire, no
passion in their hearts save their hatred of the flesh and the
Devil--they seemed now to judge Francis from the level of their own
repression--to judge--to condemn--to damn. "_Because of these
things_"--the old text ran in his head--"Because of these things cometh
the wrath of God on the children of men--"

_Because_ of women such as Giovanna, _because_ of all the lures and
enchantments and temptations of the world she came from, came wrath--and
had it not fallen on him? He could not escape his hereditary creed which
had been impressed so mercilessly on a mind naturally given to
melancholy, he could not escape the strength, the power, the horror of
it; it held him as with triple chains of steel--it had taught him that
beauty was wrong, that gaiety was wrong, that love was wrong, that
passion was abomination, that luxury and any worldly or fleshly
gratification was directly of the Devil, that the only way to obtain
God's favour was to deny and repress every natural instinct and kill
every carnal desire--and this teaching he believed.

Even while he writhed and struggled, even while it burnt his very soul,
still he believed.

The warm, passionate, sensuous nature he had been born with protested,
fought, but was always conquered; it had triumphed in his love story,
but his creed had exacted bitter payment for that victory.

It was strong and powerful too, this flesh, this Devil--whatever he
called it--and not easily beaten, but never would it utterly free itself
of the crushing weight of that black conviction, that ineffaceable
belief, that overwhelming credence, in God, the judgment of the
Almighty, and the pains of hell.

To-night the struggle passed from the agonies of the spirit to the
tortures of the body.

Francis flung himself on his bed, stabbed with pain; he tossed to and
fro, muttering, half-crazed by the hideous images his terrors
evoked--now mad with longing for Giovanna, and shivering lest she should
die before he could reach her--now hoping he might never see her again,
now thinking she was a phantasmagoria and he had never known her. A
slight convulsion shook him, his teeth locked, his eyes rolled back in
his head, and he beat his limbs wildly on the bed.

Then with a cry he started up.

He saw Giovanna in a brocade petticoat and satin gown standing in the
doorway, the ruby-like firelight rippled over her beauty; the words of
her last letter occurred to his maddened brain.

"Witch," he sobbed.

He caught his sword from his scabbard and slashed at the figure of his
wife; the point of the weapon caught in the hangings on the wall--there
was nothing there; the quiet little room was empty.

"Magic!" laughed Francis, the sword fell from his weak wrist; at the
clatter his man came running in, a candle in his hand.

"I am not well," said Francis thickly; his mouth was twisted and
bloodied at the corners, he stared insanely--"indeed, I am not well."

He fell to his knees, and as the frightened domestic caught him, he
fainted.



XII


Francis was three days half-delirious, half-unconscious with fever, but
on the fourth day he forced his weakness and was ready, as he had
promised, to accompany Allan to Glenillich.

Mr. Forsythe found him the taciturn and dull travelling companion he had
anticipated, and, as they progressed further into the Lowlands, a
certain depression settled on Allan's calm. He was no lover of nature
nor of wild scenery, and he was dimly aware of a sense of danger; it
seemed to be partly in Francis, partly in the lonely landscape, and
though he was continually assuring himself of the innocency of the whole
expedition, his cautious mind dwelt with some uneasiness on the casket
of jewels hidden among his vails and the letter from the Contessa Emilia
hidden in his pocket-book.

They reached Glenillich House one stormy evening about sunset; the coach
road having proved impossible, they had done the last stage on
horseback, and Allan had a clear view of the mansion with the last red
light flashing in the window-panes and the great snow-clouds rolling up
behind the hills, the pines, the lake.

He thought it a dwelling inexpressibly dreary, too large, too
pretentious, heavy, and cheerless; it possessed a certain air of
grandeur, but Allan could not well imagine a more gloomy place in which
to live.

"And this is where she spends her days!" he thought, and excitement
stirred all his pulses.

As they left the stables the sun suddenly vanished in black clouds, and
it was all but dark as they entered the house.

The servants were in the hall to receive them; Francis saluted them
curtly, and went by, slowly up the stairs; Allan thought he looked ill,
almost as if he might faint.

Certainly there was something strange in the atmosphere of the house, or
so it seemed to Allan--a sense of repression, of wealth without luxury,
of power without pleasure. Allan understood Francis better now that he
had seen his home.

They entered the dining-room--or, rather, hall--and as Francis opened
the door for his guest, Allan beheld a picture he was destined to
remember even in the moment when the Eucharist was being held before his
dying eyes.

The candles were all lit, and there were rosy shades before them, so
that the whole dark chamber, the tawny portraits, the lustreless
hangings, the dull leather furniture, were filled and tinged with warm
soft lights.

The long table was covered with a fine cloth which was like a film of
cobweb joining lilies and roses; glass and porcelain sparkled in a
thousand stars and points of red soft brightness. And by the end of the
table stood Giovanna in a lovely attitude of expectancy, of eager love,
of impatient waiting.

Never was Allan to forget how she looked now, or to blot a single detail
of her attire from his mind. She wore a gown of ivory satin that shone
and gleamed in the delicate shade and tinted light with a thousand hues
of opal, amber, rose, and pearl; from her slender, gleaming waist flowed
the full folds of her overskirt, a brocade where crimson, purple, and
gold intermingled, glow upon glow, to where her black velvet shoes
showed beneath the pearl edging of her hem.

The gown was cut away from her shoulders and bosom, and the faint lace
of her under garment was caught by a cluster brooch of yellow topaz on
her breast; the brocade sleeves were slashed open on fall on fall of
this same lace, and on her right round arm was a bracelet of gold links;
her neck was encircled by a great string of glittering yellow topaz
which seemed to throb with light, and in her ears hung others of the
same stone--tear-shaped drops of inextinguishable fire; her hair,
ungleaming, fold on fold luxuriously wreathed round her small head, was
twisted with a black velvet ribbon on which gleamed little brilliants.

And over all was this glow of light, like the colour of wine, like the
glow of gold, radiating from her and round her; she seemed in that
moment to be beautiful with the beauty of immortality, like some picture
old in the memory and admiration of men.

"She should be in an alabaster room," thought Allan, "with all gorgeous
Italy glimpsed through an open window."

By her side stood Elphin; he was dressed in a dazzling pink silk and a
white shirt of wonderful embroidery, in his hand he held two beautiful
dark crimson roses, and, as Francis entered, he came forward and held
them up.

"They were grown in the glass-house," he said, "and we have been hoping
and praying that they would be ready for your return. So please, father,
take them."

Allan looked at the child with a sudden sharp envy; it was an exquisite
little creature, he thought, nearly as exotic as the blooms he so
gravely offered.

Francis took the roses, silently bent and kissed the boy, then turned to
his wife.

She had now seen Allan though he lingered in the doorway, and all her
spontaneous joy was instantly killed. Francis had not told her that he
was bringing anyone with him, and never for a second had it occurred to
her that he would bring a witness to their first reunion; she rallied to
the shock with all the bravery of her breed, though Allan was the last
man she wanted to see under her roof, no matter the circumstances.

First she went to her husband and held out her hands, he kissed them
both with some murmur in his throat; her welcome was so gracious, so
unconsciously joyous, that he hated himself for bringing Allan, and
still more for the cowardice of not telling her he was not returning
alone.

Allan also was abashed by the royal way she took what must have deeply
wounded, almost insulted, her, and his apologies for his intrusion were
almost shamefaced.

But Giovanna ordered another place to be set, and covered his confusion
and Francis' silence with her eager, pretty talk.

Francis had not been prepared for the unconscious festival made of his
home-coming; she seemed to have transformed the room, the child,
herself--never had he seen her look so beautiful nor his gloomy home so
luxurious.

He made the excuse of showing Allan his room to escape her overwhelming
presence; but there was no avoiding the dinner-hour, though his
self-consciousness increased with every moment, and his almost morbid
sense of the ridiculous made him curse the folly of exposing his wife's
preparation for his welcome to the cynical glance of a stranger.

And those arrangements were more loving, more pitiful, than he knew; the
tablecloth, the cushions, the silk candleshades were all of Giovanna's
own making, as was Elphin's dress--especially designed for this
occasion; her own gown had cost her a day's anxious thought, and the two
roses he had placed so carelessly on the mantelpiece, she had hung over
for a fortnight in anxious care.

She had taken incredible pains that the few dishes she had ever heard
him express a liking for should appear at the dinner, and the choice of
glass and silver had been a long and personal study.

All this tender forethought now went merely to amuse indifferent eyes,
yet her utter disappointment was completely hidden, and it was owing to
her that the long-planned little feast did not become ridiculous.

She managed the two men and the child with the tact with which her
mother had managed a thousand guests, her laughter, her smiles, her wit,
carried off the miserable situation; she almost contrived to conceal
from the child that their festival was spoiled, and almost concealed
from Allan that Francis had committed a heartless and bitter blunder.

She completely succeeded in easing the guest of his embarrassment; as
the great fire warmed the room, rendering it bright and glowing, so the
wine, the luxury, the beauty of the woman, warmed Allan's critical and
fastidious senses.

He thought her perfect; he knew her for what she was--the exquisite
product of noble generations, of ages of luxury, of gentle living, of a
breed thrice refined.

And as he gazed at her across the candlelight, Francis chanced to see
his expression, to understand, and from that moment another devil
entered into the already torn soul of the Laird of Glenillich, to
torture him with a torture compared with which the other fiends that
tormented had been gentle.

In one flash he knew jealousy--in one flash it consumed him, obsessed
him.

This man, whom he had never liked, was looking at his wife with hot
admiration. Francis had known no such pang as he now felt since the day
he had first seen Giovanna--when she had been laughing with an Italian
cavalier.

His jealousy might well have slept, for since she had been his wife she
had been hidden from all; now it was awake, wide-eyed, vigilant; he
suddenly realized the luxury of her gown, the bare shoulders and bosom,
her great beauty, her great desirableness, and, forgetting in his wild
unreasonableness that it was for him and him only she had adorned
herself, he was angry with her for thus displaying herself.

The rest of the dinner was bitterness to him; it was over at last, and
the maid came for Elphin.

Francis was standing by the fireplace when the boy came up to him to say
good-night.

"You will have to lift me up," said Elphin, "but I am going to be taller
soon."

Francis obeyed, almost mechanically, and raised the little figure, all
silk, lace, and perfume; as he kissed the child, he felt his body quiver
as if some one had hit him.

"Oh, sir," he cried, "you should not do those things. There were only
two of them, and we kept them for you."

Francis saw he was pointing to the two roses which lay on the
mantelpiece, shrivelled in the heat.

He hastily set the child down.

"Some others will grow," he said.

"It was _those_ two," replied the boy, shaking his head. "They knew
about your coming, they were waiting for you," and the tears glittered
in his eyes.

Giovanna hastened to him.

"They are not dead," she said, "only faded. See," she rescued the roses
and placed them in a glass of water, "take them upstairs, and to-morrow
they will be lovely again."

"But they were for father," insisted Elphin, and all her passionate
good-night kisses could not banish the sorrow from his face.

"It was not how you thought it would be, any of it, was it, mother?" he
whispered, and Giovanna knew then, with a pang bitter indeed, that not
all her art could deceive him.

"You shall have Rinaldo in you room to-night," she whispered hastily
back.

When Elphin had gone, the situation again became foolishly awkward, and
again Giovanna saved it. The withdrawing-room was shut up, she had not
used it in Francis' absence nor thought they were likely to need it
to-night; there was no fire, and the covers still on the furniture.

Therefore she quickly took her leave and went up to her own apartments,
leaving Francis and Allan over their port, both disliking each other,
fatiguing each other, forcing talk about Ardnamurchan, rye-grass, the
failure of the Lowlands, Roman coins and cameos, and both thinking
solely of what they never mentioned--the woman who had left them.

Francis dragged the conversation on till near midnight, then they
parted, and he went slowly up to Giovanna.

She was still fully dressed, she sat by the fire in her antechamber,
and, when he entered, she rose instantly.

"Not abed yet?" he said, and under pretence of securing the door, he did
not meet her eyes.

"Oh, Frank," she cried, with a pitiful little laugh, "I wanted you to
admire me! I had no chance to speak to you? Do you like the gown?"

"It is too luxurious," he answered, "fit for a palace--and Elphin--why
do you dress him like a doll?"

"What welcome is this?" she asked tremblingly. "What has happened? What
have I done? Why did you bring Mr. Forsythe?"

"He forced his company."

"Ah--but now he is not here; why did you stay so long? I have waited
nearly two hours for you."

He came to the hearth, and she put her fair, timid hands on his coat
sleeve.

"Do you not really like the dress, Frank--and did you notice the dinner?
What is the matter--you do not look well?"

"Nay, I have been ill, but it is nothing."

Her arms crept up and clasped round his neck.

"Francis--are you glad to be back?"

"Yes, dear. God, of course," he answered with a catch in his voice.

Her head sank on his lace cravat.

"Do not go away again--please--it was lonely."

"Nay, I think I have no need to go again," he replied in the same
guarded voice; the perfume of her locks stole into his nostrils, she was
casting round him all her whole sensuous lure, but the Calvinist in him
thought of his soul; this time she should not enmesh him--"BECAUSE of
these things "--"Because of these things."

"Elphin is a strange child," he said steadily. "What do you teach
him?--"

"Nothing, for I know nothing--only fairy tales."

"He must soon go to Edinburgh," replied Francis; she unclasped him and
moved away. "Go to bed, Jean," he added, "it is late; I will tell you
all the news in the morning."

"I was not waiting to hear the news," said Giovanna with a quivering
smile.

He tried to look steadily at her sad beauty; he bent suddenly and kissed
her bare shoulder very passionately, but almost instantly moved away and
dropped into the arm-chair where she had been sitting.

"Go to bed," he repeated. "I want to think awhile."

She hesitated, bewildered, hurt, amazed; he raised his eyes from the
fire and smiled at her, he was very pale.

"Go to bed," he repeated.

She turned and left him in silence.

Francis gazed into the flames, all the old, ugly chaos seething in his
mind, all the old, ghastly hauntings rising up to mock him, all the
whole miserable fears jeering at him and all coloured with the glow of
hell as this room was coloured with the glow of the fire.

A clock struck midnight, but he did not hear it, and he had lost count
of time.

"Francis!"

He started like a guilty man, and turned in his chair to see his wife
standing in the doorway of her room--a golden satin wrap was thrown over
her bedgown and her hair hung, soft and unwaving, to her knees.

"Francis!" she said again; she came towards him, her bare feet showing
above the low rose-velvet slippers. "What is the matter? Ah, Frank, you
break my heart."

He got to his feet but did not answer; he thought how like a child she
looked, yet how like the vision that had haunted him in the inn bedroom
at Bologna.

"What have I done?" asked Giovanna.

"Nothing," he said, "nothing, Jean."

"Then do not hurt me so--my love, my dear--why do you turn from me?"

"I do not," he said hastily. "I do not."

She came nearer, all her charm and grace enhanced by her pleading look,
her trembling wonder and distress.

"Did you bring Mr. Forsythe because you would not see me alone?" she
asked.

As always, the tortuous subtleties of his mind winced before the clear,
direct frankness of hers.

"No, no," he cried, as if defending himself.

"Then do not be so strange with me, Frank," she ventured nearer with a
piteous courage. "What is there for us if we do not love each other?
Love me--kiss me--Frank!"

She crept caressingly close and lifted her flushed and tender face.

She offered her lips, her look besought him to kiss her; he bent and
laid his lips lightly on her forehead.

Giovanna drew back, her flush deepened down her neck and bosom, then she
paled, and flushed again; she seemed one utterly astonished and wounded
to the heart.

At last she spoke--two words only--"Good-night," and she turned back
into her bed-chamber.

Francis, standing rigidly, listening, heard her lock her door.

The sound was as bitter as the sound of earth thudding on a coffin; he
dragged himself to the settee and wept difficult, terrible tears.



XIII


Allan found his visit to Glenillich dull, and feared it would be also
profitless. He had not reckoned on the quick vigilance Francis displayed
which prevented him ever getting private speech with Giovanna, and she
herself was evasive and seemed rather to avoid his company; indeed, she
appeared almost only at meal-times, and retired immediately after.

Allan spent his days visiting the estates--which he disliked, listening
to Francis' talk of his improvements--in which he was utterly
uninterested, and making excursions to Ardnamurchan--which dreary spot
he loathed.

This was not what he had come to Glenillich for and he was thoroughly
irritated and put out; he thought the house uncomfortable, the servants
dour, every day almost it rained and was, besides, bitter cold. Francis
was either sunk in stern gloom or absorbed with a kind of feverish
activity in his agricultural plans; there were no books in Glenillich
save a few volumes on religious topics, and Francis played no games and
was unversed in those topics of general interest which make pleasing
conversation.

To Allan, used to the elegancies and refinements of great cities, this
life was almost barbarous, but he prolonged his visit, even when there
was no more excuse, in the desperate hope of accomplishing his mission.

He tried to get into converse with the child and to delicately sound him
on his memory of their former meeting, but Elphin was elusive too, and
escaped him, in a half frightened manner.

Allan suspected an estrangement between Francis and his wife, but he was
too proudly reserved and she too loyally gay for him to come to any
certainty.

At last, to his intense relief, the architect arrived from Edinburgh; he
brought with him the plans for the new church at Ardnamurchan, and the
very day after his arrival Francis insisted on taking him to see the
site.

It was a bitter day, and Allan pleaded a chill as an excuse for not
accompanying them; for once Francis was too taken up with his new
excitement to insist, and Allan at length found himself in the house
with Giovanna in her husband's absence. She could not escape him now,
for she must entertain him at dinner, since Francis and the architect
could not return till nightfall.

Allan, guessing she was afraid of him, feared she might dine in her
chamber, but it was not Giovanna's way to flinch. When he entered the
dining-room she was there, the child beside her as usual; to-day the fox
was of the company, and Elphin was playing with it with more gaiety than
Allan had yet seen him display.

"It is very cold," said Giovanna, "and this room so large!"

She spoke as if in apology for her shivering, and seated herself without
looking at him.

He looked at her with his glance of a connoisseur and found her, as
always, perfect; since that first evening she had made no display of
fine clothes, but it was not possible for her to dress without taste and
elegance. To-day she wore a long sacque of olive-green tabinet with
over-gown and panniers of black covered with little bright wreaths of
roses; at her bosom and elbows were ruffles of Venetian lace, and a mob
cap of muslin with lapels of this same lace was fastened under her chin;
in her ears and round her neck were pearls. She was like a pearl
herself, Allan thought, in her rarity, her delicacy, her aloofness, from
all coarse and common things.

Her unconscious breeding passed the meal-time with ease; when the nurse
had taken Elphin away, she rose as if to leave Allan to his wine, but he
made a smiling protest.

"Do you judge me so unworthy of a little of your company?" he asked.

"I am dull to-day," she answered.

"Think how dull I am alone!"

"Ah," said Giovanna, looking at him, "this is a dull country and a dull
house, sir. Why are you here? I think it would be better for you to
return to Edinburgh."

He hesitated, then met her delicate honesty with sincerity.

"I came here because I wanted to speak to you, Mrs. Moutray. I have seen
Father Hilton, and he asked about your boy--"

"Sir," replied Giovanna, "the boy is very well and is too young to need
priests. His soul is safe now, and if he is in danger he knows on whom
to call--One who cannot be deaf to the cry of a baptized child. I have
taught him some articles of his faith--when he is old enough he will
speak to his father of it. For the present there is no need to trouble
Father Hilton nor yourself in this affair."

Allan was baffled by her steadfast simplicity and vexed by the manner in
which she still held him outside her confidence.

"I warn you that your husband is a bigot, Madam," he replied, "and that
you will not easily accommodate this matter with him."

Giovanna paled and faintly smiled.

"You also are a bigot, Mr. Forsythe, and think I am damned for marrying
a heretic."

"But you yourself know which is the true faith," he cried--"the one
belief?"

"I am too ignorant," said Giovanna. "I can only hope that God is kinder
than any of your creeds."

"Why, then, did you baptize the child?" asked Allan.

"That he might not suffer for my sin," she replied in a low voice, "if
it is true--yes, I believe it true--at least I did not dare
to--risk--such a thing."

Allan thought that the absolute faith of her childhood had been
undermined by her association with heretics and weakened by long absence
from the authority of the Church. This pained and angered him; his thin
face flushed; he cast about vainly in his mind for what to say.

Meanwhile Giovanna spoke again:

"I am sorry that you are not to marry Stacy Wigram."

"She would not change her religion," he answered, frowning.

"Always that!" cried Giovanna. "Does God interfere in everything?"

"He comes before everything," replied Allan.

"So Francis thinks," she said desperately, then checked herself. "But
how foolish it is to talk of these things."

She turned to the door, but Allan would not so be dismissed.

"I must see you privately," he said. "I have a message for you."

Giovanna looked at him a second, hesitated, then said:

"You will find me in the withdrawing-room," and left the room.

Allan hastened upstairs and fetched the casket. He felt as if he was
bound on a pleasantly perilous adventure; he was not touched by any
passion, he meant to be extremely cautious, yet nevertheless there was
excitement, attraction, in what was before him--and in the background of
his thoughts always that wild vision of Giovanna brought back to the
true faith and blooming again amid the luxury, gaiety, and sunshine that
was hers by right.

His hands trembled a little as he again entered her presence; she was
seated by the fire, making lace from a pattern of pins on a pale blue
satin cushion.

Allan put the casket on the spinet, and came to the hearth. She looked
up at him keenly, his fair pale face, his neatly curled hair, his
elegant steel-blue silks, so typical of towns and courts, the diamonds
in his lace--all composed a picture of some one exact, careful, prudent,
and possessed of a certain power. Giovanna lowered her eyes.

"Lately, in Edinburgh," he said, "I met a Mr. Middleton."

She started.

"Harry Middleton! Ah yes!"

"He had recently come from Rome, where he had seen the Contessa
Odaleschi."

Giovanna gazed at him as if the name was strange to her; it was now over
six years since she had heard it on anyone's lips or ventured to take it
on her own.

"Your mother, Madam," said Allan.

The warm colour overspread her face.

"My mother?" she repeated in a tone of amazement.

"She gave Mr. Middleton certain jewels for you, and your sister, Madam
Orsini, gave him this for you."

He carefully took Emilia's note from his pocket, and laid it on her lace
pillow among the threads and bobbins.

"Oh!" said Giovanna. "Emilia--my Emilia! She writes to me--oh, Mr.
Forsythe, this is hard to bear."

"Mr. Middleton entrusted me with his mission since he was soon leaving
Edinburgh and had no chance to see you," continued Allan, finishing his
precise explanation.

Giovanna was terribly moved; she broke open the letter and, when she had
read the few words of warm and noble affection, she broke into tears.

Allan fetched the casket, placed it on the little worktable at her side,
and opened the clasp.

"Your mother sent you these."

Giovanna rose up, casting her work to the ground.

"She sent me these--her beautiful jewels? I know not what to say or do!
She is in Rome now--with Emilia? The Virgin bless Emilia, she will make
her happy--was she well? Ah, I forgot, you did not see her--forgive me,
my mind does not serve me here--pardon me, these memories--"

She stifled her tears, but continued walking up and down in great
agitation.

"The jewels are very valuable and fine," said Allan, and pulled out the
trays, showering about them the liquid light flickering through the wine
red, the sea blue, the golden yellow of the stones.

"Her emeralds!" cried Giovanna, taking up the necklace of the parure,
formed grape fashion. "I always liked them--she promised them to me--and
now she sends them," added the poor lady wildly, "when I have neither
heart nor right to wear them."

Allan was moved and terrified by her unreserved emotion.

"Your sister invites you to Rome," he said. "Your mother would like to
see you again."

"Alas, alas!" murmured Giovanna.

Allan made his great move with outward calm.

"Why not go?" he said.

Her wet eyes gazed at him uncomprehendingly.

"I think you are not too happy here," said Allan, moved beyond his
caution into more than he had ever meant to say. "This is no life for
you--this loneliness--this barbarity."

"What are you saying?" she stammered. "What do you mean?"

"I could reconcile you with your people," said Allan.

"You mean I should leave Francis?"

"He did you a great wrong," replied Allan; "forgive me, I do not
consider you bound to him."

Giovanna stepped back from him; she was now perfectly composed.

"You take advantage," she said, "of my great foolishness in asking a
service of you--"

"Nay, nay," he protested.

"Why did you come here?" she demanded, "Why did you take Mr. Middleton's
place? I had rather that he had come himself. Yes, indeed, you are
trying to put me under an obligation. Why were these things given to me
secretly?"

She stood before him, flushed and angry, pointing to the jewels.

"Because Francis would never have allowed you to keep them!" he flashed.

"That is not for you to judge. In putting this other confidence between
us you do me a wrong--yes, sir, you wrong me!"

"You wrong yourself. Madam, in this slavish submission to one your equal
in nothing--"

"But my husband," said she, with a great glow; then, as she caught his
flickering glance, "I know what you would say, I am not his wife--his
mistress then--what does it matter? His, at least, and for always."

"Your loyalty is mistaken," cried Allan. "The man does not appreciate
your sacrifice nor value you; he suspects you still, considers you the
Papist, the frivolous foreigner--"

"Do you think," she asked, "that I do not know that, and live with the
thought of it, day by day?"

"And it makes no difference?"

"No difference at all," she said.

Allan was stung into unusual animation.

"This is folly!" he exclaimed.

She closed the lid of her mother's case.

"Sir, why do you take this interest in my poor affairs?"

"Perhaps because once you trusted me."

"Alas," said Giovanna, "I was friendless!"

"And we are of the same faith."

"So men blame God for all their faults and troubles. I beg you leave my
faith; if what you believe, and I was taught, be true, why, then, I am
damned and he is damned. I have faced that and can face it still. If
what he thinks is true, then love and all beauty are deadly sins, and
that way I am damned too, but I have faith in Someone, who made me
passionate, to pity me I For you--I ask you to leave my house, to forget
me--out of charity."

The short winter day was fading, the room full of shadow; a dimness was
over her beautiful figure as if darkness would soon snatch her away from
his sight.

"I cannot so easily ride away and forget," said Allan. Again and again
he had assured himself that his interest in her was cold, a mere
curiosity, a measured admiration; but now, at the thought of her
dismissal, emotion shook him and a vast regret.

"Why?" she asked. I want to see you happy.

"I am happy."

"Not as you were in Italy."

She stopped her agitated pacing to and fro before him, and looked at him
earnestly.

"I am a loyal woman," she said; "I can only love once, and where I love
I must spend myself. I have so few virtues--none, perhaps--but I am made
loyal."

"Giovanna," he stammered, all his defences down, "I want to serve you--I
want to help you--he is not worthy--"

She looked at him with great sweetness.

"I think you mean well by me," she answered, "and would serve me truly.
But it could not be. No Italy, no sun for me--this Northern earth will
be my grave."

"All for him?" cried Allan desperately.

"Yes," she said. "What else?"

"He does not make you happy."

"He loves me," she said softly.

"Other men could love you," he answered eagerly, "love you in a
different fashion--not jealously, reluctantly; there are a hundred men
in your own world would make life bloom for you, Giovanna."

"But I love only him," she answered with a little smile.

A despair such as he had not believed it possible to endure invaded his
heart; he knew now what a fool he had been in his boasted calm and
composure, and what wild, desperate hope he had been cherishing.

"And I must leave you?"

"Aye, you must," she said gently.

He took her hand, she did not resist; he tried to speak and could not;
his keen worldly face was flushed and quivering, utterly changed.

Giovanna spoke, quite steadily and with that frank honesty she could not
avoid employing.

"Dear, I am so sorry," she said; "I think you care for me. I thank
you--it is good to be loved--thank you for your silence too. I did wrong
to ask you for your service--I might have known. Thank you for that
also--your service."

Allan pressed the little hand he held between his palms.

"I could offer you your old life," he said brokenly, "the life of Italy."

She shook her head.

"I am sorry," she repeated, "but you will soon forget; there are so many
other women, and all women are lovable if--if you know how to love
them--I think you do--"

She had revealed all his own heart to him.

"I love you," he said.

"Alas, I must never see you again. You must go to-morrow. I am very
sorry," she looked at him almost piteously, as if asking pardon. Not
till long afterwards did it occur to him to marvel that she had not been
insulted or angered; now her behaviour seemed utterly natural, what he
would have expected of her--or any woman.

He still held her hand; he knew further protest was useless; her
gentleness held a more resolute absolute finality of dismissal than any
outburst of passion.

For a second he was silent with his despair.

"Might I kiss you?" he asked at last; it was almost the first time in
his life that he had spoken on pure impulse.

"I have never been kissed save by him," she answered with a blush of
distress. "I would rather you did not ask that."

"Yet might I? What does it do to him or to you?--such a little thing--to
me so much."

She hesitated, like one overcoming a selfishness, then offered her
cheek; he kissed her very gently, released her hand, and turned away.

"Good-bye," she said, "and happiness to you always."

"Good-bye, Giovanna," he answered.

He left her and went upstairs to pack his vails; he did not know how she
had wrought on him, what she had done, but in some way she had swept
aside his caution, his prudence, his pretence, and brought out all that
was natural and true in him; never before had he been so sincere even
with himself.

Giovanna stood in the darkening room and forgot to ring for candles.

She took up her sister's letter and kissed it again and again, and
finally hid it in her bosom; then, suddenly hearing her husband's voice,
she snatched up the casket and fled upstairs. Francis saw the last
glimpse of her, and his face darkened that she should thus fly at his
approach.

The architect was lodging at the inn. Allan, hearing this, could not
endure to remain the third any more, and, using the excuse of an express
he had really that day received (an unimportant letter of news from a
gossipy friend), declared he must return to Edinburgh on the instant and
would stay at the inn too, this night, to avoid rousing the house so
early.

Francis took this poor excuse drily; his farewells were cold; he seemed
perfectly aware there was some good reason for Allan's abrupt departure.

Giovanna, not knowing of Allan's sudden leaving, sent a message to
Francis that she had a headache and would remain that evening in her
chamber. When they told him this, Francis laughed; he dined alone that
evening and drank heavily; scattered all over the table among the
wine-glasses were the plans and drawings of the expiatory church he was
to build at Ardnamurchan.

Now and then he looked at them fiercely; he wondered if God would
consider this oblation favourably.



XIV


That evening Francis went upstairs early; after the first night
of his home-coming he had found the little room off Giovanna's
antechamber--which had been used by her maid before he had forbidden her
such a luxuey--prepared for him, and there he had slept since, the width
of the antechamber between him and his wife, and her door always locked;
and neither of them made any comment on this arrangement.

To-night he found her door open and ajar; she imagined him still engaged
in some aimless forced talk with Allan, and was not prepared for this
early coming.

Two candles lit the warm red colouring of the anteroom; he took up one
and went softly to her door.

Her chamber was in darkness save for a little feeble lamp burning on the
table beside the great, gloomy, heavily curtained bed; this poor flame
lit the kneeling figure of Giovanna, who was bowed on the bed-step, her
face hidden in her hands; the rest was a confusion of shadow. Francis
advanced, holding up the candle.

"To whom are you praying?" he asked.

She looked up, startled; her green and black dress was lost in the
darkness, the cross-lights threw into relief her pale face, her blonde
hair beneath the heavy lace, the soft lustre of her pearls.

"I pray to God," she answered, trembling. "To whom else?"

"One of your idols, perhaps," he answered.

He set the candle on the black bureau where glittered the gilded crystal
of her toilet trifles, and the long tortoiseshell-framed mirror behind
him reflected his tall figure still in the dark-brown riding suit, his
black disordered hair, his flushed and passionate face.

"Where is Mr. Forsythe?" asked Giovanna.

"Gone--to pass the night at the inn--and ride with the dawn to
Edinburgh."

She was amazed and bewildered.

"And Elphin?--you sent him to bed?"

"Yea," said Francis, "the child is abed."

His fierce gaze dismayed her; her gallant spirit was utterly broken at
this continued estrangement which he deepened with every word and
action. She came towards him, holding out her hands in a gesture of
appeal; before she could speak he caught her arm.

"My girl, my girl," he cried, "what is there between you and Allan
Forsythe?"

Giovanna did not answer, but her eyes were unflinching.

"Why was he eager to come? Not to see Ardnamurchan--he cared nothing for
the place, nothing for me; why did he leave so suddenly and you refuse
to come down to-night? What passed between you?"

Still Giovanna did not answer; she could not lie to him, and was now
resolved to tell him everything, but she was choosing her time and her
words.

"And what is this?" demanded Francis, releasing her and putting his hand
in his pocket, "you have no such jewel. Did Allan Forsythe give it you?"

He held out the magnificent emerald necklace from the Odaleschi casket;
it fell over his hand like a cluster of green flames, every facet giving
back the candlelight and the lamplight in streams of radiance.

"I found it in the withdrawing-room--where you had been with him, I
think."

She realized that she must have left it there in her haste and the
half-dark; she had been too agitated to glance again at the jewels since
she had brought them to her chamber, and so had not missed the necklace.

"I will tell you about that," she said. "I meant to tell you--but not
now--when you are calmer. Oh, Francis, you frighten me--how can I tell
you when you look at me like that?"

She leant against the bed-post, shuddering with terror and distaste at
the scene to be faced.

"Tell me, tell me now while he is yet within my reach," demanded
Francis. "That it should come to this! You have tricks, oh, you deceive
me and cajole me--you knew he was coming, perhaps? It was for him you
were dressed that night--you met in Edinburgh, I doubt not--you are bad
and false! I knew it always in my heart," he added in a kind of
triumphant agony--"in my heart I always knew it!"

At this she flashed from her gentle terrors into a spirit, a pride, and
a force equal to his own. She was no coward, and he had neither cowed
nor tamed the noble blood in her.

"You speak grossly," she said, "and shame me for your sake! You speak as
one who thinks vile things easily--you say what you should spurn the
thought of. By heavens, you should not suspect me on sworn proof, for I
have been yours so utterly I have given up all the world beside!"

The nobility in him rose to answer this, but his jealousy still was
unappeased.

"What are these?" he asked, and tossed the string of jewels on the bed.

"They, with others, are my mother's jewels."

"Your mother's?"

"Aye," she said, holding herself straightly. "She sent them to me with
others by Mr. Middleton, who gave them to Mr. Forsythe to deliver."

"Prove that!" he cried, livid to the lips.

"Nay," said Giovanna. "I am not used to prove my word. If you doubt me,
my proof will not convince you."

Despite himself he believed her.

"Show me the other jewels," he said fiercely.

She brought the casket, placed it on the bed, and gave him the key.

He saw the Odaleschi arms and coronet stamped on the leather, but she
had forgotten how that confirmed what she said.

Francis unlocked the box and scattered the contents out over the
coverlet.

All the beautiful shapes and colours, mingled with the links and
settings of gold and silver, sparkled and glittered wonderfully on the
red damask in the cross-lights of lamp and candle; to Francis they were
typical of that past of Giovanna which he had always feared and dreaded
would one day rise--as it had risen now.

"These are valuable," he said hoarsely.

"I have not examined them," she answered.

"Your mother's jewels?" he repeated. "Was there no letter?"

She took from her bosom Emilia's note, and gave it to him in silence. He
read it swiftly, his face was ghastly, his limbs trembling; he tore the
letter across and flung it on the top of the jewels.

Giovanna gave a cry of distress.

"Oh, Francis, there was love there, love and kindness--things not to be
so treated. May I not have her letter?"

"You shall have," he answered, "none of it."

"You will let me keep my mother's jewels?" she asked very low.

"Not one," he cried, "not one!"

Giovanna put her hand over her eyes.

"Remember I have nothing of the past," she said, "nothing at all. Not
since I married you have I mentioned them or even Italy--she sent me
these as a remembrance. May I not have one of them--to sometimes
wear--to sometimes look at?"

"You shall neither wear nor keep," answered Francis; "these things
contaminate."

Giovanna looked at him.

"Contaminate?" she repeated in an amazed tone; "they are my _mother's_
jewels."

Francis returned her gaze sternly.

"You know what your mother was?"

"A lady of great breeding," said Giovanna; "do you speak of her like
that because she is a Papist?"

"Ah, you know, you must know!" he exclaimed. "If you knew nothing then,
now you must, when you look back, see plainly."

"I see that you have different rules here--especially for women," she
replied. "Yes, I see how different all is here--yet I do not know what
you mean nor how you can scorn my people, save only for their faith."

"Is it possible you do not understand what I took you from--what that
life was? It was sin?"

"Was it?" said Giovanna; "BECAUSE it was gay and kind and easy, was it
sin?"

"Do you not see that yet? Do you not realize the godlessness, the
dishonour, the lusts you escaped from?--what kind of woman your mother
was? All sin--_damned_ sin."

"Was it?" repeated Giovanna, very pale; "it was pleasant though."

"You say that to me? After all these years?"

She was silent, leaning against the bed-post and looking down on the
mingled fires of the jewels she had seen flash in the Odaleschi Palace
at Bologna.

"Perhaps you regret that pleasant life?" asked Francis with trembling
lips.

Again she was silent, but her sad face was a rebuke to his injustice.

"Perhaps," he added, "you would like to live as your mother lived?"

Giovanna lifted her head.

"If it had happened so," she answered, "why not? Yes, I should have
lived as other ladies of my country--but because of you I have lived as
you have bidden me, and not regretted it, Frank, for an instant."

This maddened him.

"Then, if I had bidden you," he said, "you would have come with me
anywhere, under any conditions, at my heels through Europe, outcast,
dishonoured?"

"I would," she said, shuddering, "because I loved you. I think you always
knew it."

He had always known it, but it did not make this moment any the less
terrible.

"I did not come with you because I wanted your creed, your country, or
your name," she added, in rising agitation, her hand holding her gown
pressed against her heart, "but because I wanted you--did you not want
me? Oh, I believed that--you wanted me as I was. If you hated me, why
did you take me? Why not one of your own women who know your ways?
Frank, I thought you loved me so much that you could forget the
difference in us. I gave all my life to help you--but I have not made
you happy, and now you are estranged and almost hate me, I think. This
is cruel, Frank--better have rejected me from the first."

She stopped abruptly. Her breath was coming quickly, the colour flushing
and fading in her face. She looked at him with an infinite pleading
touched with terror.

He knew all she said was true; he knew that he had taken her because of
an immense passion that he could not resist, that he had tried to
justify this by forcing her into the appearance of the good woman and
dutiful wife of his tradition; and he knew that his punishment lay in
his failure. After six years and more of discipline, of her obedience,
of utter silence as to her past, a few jewels had pulled the whole
elaborate structure of his pretence about his feet: she stood before
him, as alien, as different, as much a Papist and a foreigner as when he
had first seen her in the Odaleschi Palace; for all her deference, her
sweet submission, he knew he had not in the least changed her. As she
had said, she submitted because she loved him, submitted gladly, but it
had been out of her power to become a Calvinistic Scotchwoman, a thrifty
housekeeper, a woman of austere morality and deep piety; nay, as he
looked at her now, the last of his frantic disguises of the truth was
torn from him; she was the Contessa Odaleschi, an Italian, a Papist,
daughter of a notorious woman, with luxury, idolatry, maybe wantonness
in her blood--and neither he nor his God could ever change her.

He groaned and turned away, pacing about the shadowed room in the
restlessness of mental agony.

"Take the jewels," said Giovanna gently; "it is not much for me to give
up--"

"Nay," he cried, "because you have the memories in your heart and need
not these toys!"

"Do you grudge me even memories?" she asked piteously.

He stopped before her.

"Yes, memories of the Palazzo Odaleschi!" he flung out, "a place wherein
I would not have my wife even step!"

Giovanna shrank back.

"You ask me to judge my mother," she whispered. Her eyes were very
bright, her hand crept from her bosom to her throat. "I do not think you
ever understood us--the life we had--what we were; we had ideas
different from yours. I see that now!"

She was absolutely unconscious of it, but she was speaking as the
aristocrat to the bourgeoisie. With every word she was increasing the
distance between them, showing him more and more clearly what a stranger
she really was--in everything; yet something that was hard and cruel in
him, and was now roused to fury, urged him to test her, try her, put the
matter of her unworthiness beyond a doubt.

"Tell me," he said, "would you have come with me if I had not married
you?"

She answered with the truthfulness he had learnt to expect and dread.

"How did I know what you meant to do when I left Bologna to come to you?
I never thought. I loved you."

"Then--our marriage," he stammered.

"Oh, that marriage," she said softly. "You know how little that meant to
one of my faith--it was to please you--and now I am glad of it because
of Elphin. But it was an incident--it did not make me love you more."

"I might have known," he said with intense bitterness.

He had known; only now, instead of being a vague, stifled horror in his
own heart, it was dragged out into the light. She had avowed it, yea, she
had avowed that she was light, wanton, unsafe--a woman like her mother,
God help him!

He leant his elbow on the low black bureau and took his cheek in his
hand; he had almost lost control of himself; he hardly knew what he said
or did.

"Perhaps you would leave me as easily as you came," he asked, "since you
do not recognize any tie between us?"

She looked at him very gravely.

"I always meant to leave you as soon as you ceased to love me--I vowed
that--"

"Ah! then there is neither honour nor duty would hold you in your
place?"

"No," she said. "None where there is no love. But when I vowed that I--I
had never thought of the child--_he_ holds me."

"Aye, he holds you!" cried Francis. "Do not talk to me of him! You have
made him like yourself--he seems to me an alien. I shall take him from
you."

Her whole body sank, half sitting, half leaning against the bed.

"You try to hurt me," she said. "You speak cruelly and unjustly. What
can I say? I trusted you never to let it come to this. I thought we were
so sure of each other. When we were strangers we loved; now--when we
have a child--we quarrel. I wish you could be gentle with me."

She paused and glanced at him, but he did not answer; she moistened her
lips and continued.

"We cannot go on like this. I cannot live estranged with you," she began
to sob. "O God, what has happened? Will you not love me and forgive me?"

She slipped from the bed-post to the floor and knelt, catching at the
skirts of his coat and looking up at him with reddened eyes. The lace
fell back off her head, showing her blonde hair in the red candlelight,
and the lapels clasped with the twinkling paste ornament under her chin.

Francis looked wildly down at her.

"Forgive you, girl?" he cried; "we were doomed to be the ruin of each
other ere the world began."

He turned away gloomily, without offering to raise her, and she bent
forward and rested her brow on the edge of the red damask chair by the
bureau. Francis swept together the jewels and heaped them (among them
the letter written in Rome with such a noble tenderness) in disorder
into the casket, which he locked.

As he did so, the thought of Allan Forsythe forced itself on his
tortured mind; he suddenly realized that there was some conspiracy
against him, some gross insult intended. Harry Middleton had secretly
offered his commission to Allan, who had found his way under false
pretences to Glenillich to deliver these to his wife--Allan's broken
betrothal flashed through Frank's mind--his sudden leaving
to-night--surely there was some plot afoot.

Both Mr. Middleton and Allan were men whom he had always disliked; both
had, he was sure, laughed at him, he knew they had discussed him--and
Giovanna.

At that moment his feeling of hate against both almost choked him; he
took up the casket and left the room without giving Giovanna another
look.

He went to his own chamber, locked away the jewels, and drew his sword.
His glance ran along the blade; he took out his handkerchief and wiped
off several little specks of rust. Mr. Middleton was not within his
reach, but Allan--the pale, smiling hypocrite who had tricked him with
the golden Aurelian and his pretended interest in Ardnamurchan--would be
still in Glenillich.

He ordered his horse and rode round the curve of the dark lake to the
village which lay grey beneath the white light of a bitter winter moon.

The architect was in the yellow-lit inn parlour, talking with the
schoolmaster; the laird's entrance threw them both into confusion. His
quick question brought hurried answers stammering to their lips.

Mr. Forsythe had gone, it must be two hours since he had taken his
domestic and a guide; seeing the fine night and the bright moon, and,
being in a mortal hurry to return to Edinburgh, he had decided not to
wait till the dawn.

Francis leant against the homely sideboard filled with tobacco jars,
pipes, and bottles, and stared down on to the sandy floor. The sight of
these other men had restored him to some sanity; he realized now the
impossible scandal it would have been to have forced a quarrel on Allan
here, also the absurdity of attempting to pursue a man who had a two
hours' start on a good horse.

He made some cold excuse about Mr. Forsythe having forgotten something.
"But I will forward it to his lodgings in Edinburgh," he said, and left
them abruptly.

"The laird is uncanny to-night," said the schoolmaster. "He is often so.
He has a melancholy for no occasion--a dangerous humour."

"He lives too much retired," answered the architect. "He has a wife,
sir, who would lighten any man's gloom. I thought her a lovely piece
both in face and spirit."

"She was never the wife for him," returned the schoolmaster. "A
frivolous creature, always in pearlin' and smiling. She has brought no
luck to Glenillich, and never will. A Papist born and bred, sir, and one
now, to all who have eyes to notice. I doubt not she has her images
secretly hidden at Glenillich for all she comes demure to the church."

The architect did not answer for a moment; he did not wish to discuss
his patron thus openly, but a remembrance of Giovanna's eager courtesy
stirred him. If she had been the master he was sure he would not have
been sent to the inn to sleep; she was too highly born, he thought, to
insist on distinction of rank.

"I liked the lady," he said, "and I am sorry for her. A painter named
Delia Francesca once drew women such as she is. I have seen them in
Italy. Think of one of them--in Scotland--going to the kirk, a
_madonina_ as they call them, like a crowned lily--" He laughed, seeing
the other did not follow him. "Well, I am sorry," he repeated.



XV


Giovanna stayed well up into the night in the desperate hope that
Francis would return and arrest, by some word or look or action, the
final tragedy of their complete estrangement.

But he did not come; the reluctant winter dawn found his bed still
unslept in, and her walking up and down the three rooms in a speechless
misery.

She guessed that he had gone to find Allan, and believed that he had
probably followed him to Edinburgh. But she had a strange kind of trust
in Allan; she thought that he would avoid any encounter with Francis,
that he would clearly explain how Mr. Middleton had given him the
jewels, and so quiet and pacify her husband.

Therefore she looked for his return later in the day--even supposing he
had met Allan either in Glenillich or on the high road.

As for herself, she did not know what to do. Seated at her window
staring with sleepless eyes at the lake, the hills, the pines being
slowly revealed by the trembling frozen light of the dawn, she tried to
think what to do.

Her instinct was to leave him.

As she had been impelled to come to him by a passion that overmastered
all considerations, so now she felt as strongly impelled to leave him
since she no longer pleased him, since he avoided her and used to her
the language of hate, not love. To stay seemed to her degradation, for
she had always known that love, not that heretical ceremony in Paris,
justified their union; she could not, in her heart, regard herself as
his wife before God, and if she stayed with him now, what would she be
but his kept woman living on the charity he allowed her in memory of
past passion?

"I may be damned for love," she thought. "I will not be damned for
less--"

The fact that in order to leave him she must embark on almost impossible
difficulties and hardships did not daunt her, but there were two
considerations that held her back.

First, her loyalty; she had learnt that this country was different from
her own and Francis different from her own men; she knew now that to
leave him would be to cruelly wound his pride, and expose him raw to the
scorn of his own dependents.

And the other reason, the more powerful reason by far, was Elphin.

To take him with her would be to deprive him of his inheritance and
expose him to adventure and misfortune; yet to leave him was
unthinkable. Francis was cold towards the child, he might in time hate
him because of his mother, and the boy alone in Glenillich, without her,
would very surely die.

If she went she would take him--he would love Italy and the sun--her
powerful relations there could make up to him three times over what he
would lose from Francis. But these thoughts were wild, she had no means
of getting to Edinburgh, much less to Italy; even had she the money, she
could not leave the country undetected, and he might have the power to
cast her into jail, for all she knew.

Yet to remain, to live with him over the corpse of a dead love--her own
great, passionate, and now heartbroken affection for him--was a
torturing reflection.

She thought of death--but here, as always, Elphin complicated the issues
for her; she must think out some way that did not hurt him.

She faced her awful problem fearlessly and with a noble courage; all the
fine blood in her, the blood of her mother's family, the great dukes of
her father's family--who had been Italian princes, who had been almost
kings--rose to meet her need. She was quite calm; a little bewildered at
the extent of her own misfortune, incredibly lonely, but neither
frightened nor rebellious. She blamed no one, least of all him, and she
had no regrets as to the extent of her recklessness; she did not repent
of anything done for the sake of her love.

Presently she slept in her chair, but for a very little while; on
waking, she disarranged the bed as if she had been in it, changed her
gown, and redressed her hair.

At her usual hour she went downstairs; Francis had not returned.

She skilfully made light of it--she had her story ready: He had gone
after Mr. Forsythe with some important documents that gentleman had left
behind--this, though she did not know it, being the same excuse Francis
had offered in the village.

Whether his self-contained servants believed her, she could not tell.
She felt more than ever utterly an alien among them; yet the sight of
the familiar faces, the sense of the household working as usual about
her, restored her confidence in a life she had thought shattered. It now
seemed as if he must come back, as if their quarrel _must_ heal and fade
into the past.

Elphin came to her room as usual that morning, followed by the red fox;
whoever she deceived, she did not deceive him.

"You have been crying," he said; "and where is father?"

Giovanna laughed and caught him to her heart, but when she felt his warm
face she bent hers and sobbed terribly.

"We must pray," she said through her tears, "yes, we must pray--things
are sad now, my Giovannino, but only for a time."

She put him from her very tenderly, rose and unlocked the box where she
kept the articles Father Hilton had given the boy, and brought out the
crucifix and the rosary.

With locked doors and in hushed whispers, woman and child repeated the
Latin prayers that she only partly--and he not at all--understood.

"Is it because of God you are sad?" asked Elphin, when they rose from
their knees.

Giovanna was silent; she went to her favourite seat in the window
embrasure and took the child on her knee.

"Father is sad too," he insisted. "When will he come back?"

"Soon," said Giovanna, "and we must tell him about these--" she took up
the rosary and the Latin prayer book--"we must tell him now."

The child's face clouded.

"I thought it was a secret--for us?"

"No, Giovanna, there must be no more secrets," she answered; she had
indeed resolved, at all costs, to tell Francis what she had done.

"Then we need not hide these things?" asked Elphin.

"Nay," she said; "he may take them away--he has the right. But you must
always pray in your heart to God and the Madonna, even if you have no
beads."

Elphin reflected, stroking the fox which lay in the window-seat.

"What will God do?" he asked at length.

"God, my love, my dear?"

"Yes, if father takes these away and we are all unhappy--will God do
something?"

She silenced him with kisses, told him a fairy tale that made him laugh,
then set him to tie purple ribbons round the neck of the fox, who rolled
over on the cushions like a dog, opening his mouth and showing his sharp
white teeth and long, fine, red tongue.

The morning had now nearly passed and still Francis did not come, nor
any message from him. It occurred to Giovanna that perhaps he had gone
to Ardnamurchan to ride off his anger and gloom, and she resolved to go
and see if she could find him on the heaths and moors. The situation was
becoming intolerable; twice the architect had sent up to ask if Mr.
Moutray had returned, and the curiosity of the steward was becoming
open, especially as the whole household now knew that Francis had not
gone to Edinburgh, but that, on learning that Allan Forsythe had had two
hours' start, had ridden away round the lake.

Giovanna put on her buff riding-habit with the black satin waistcoat and
her great black hat and feathers; she put Elphin comfortably among the
window-seat cushions for his midday sleep. "And if father comes before I
return," she said, trying to keep her voice steady, "say that I have
gone to Ardnamvirchan to look for him." She kissed the sleeping child
and the sleeping fox and went downstairs.

While she was waiting for her horse she told Elphin's nurse to go to
him, then mounted and rode away round the lake, the way her husband had
taken last night.

When Elphin woke, an hour later, he was alone, the winter sunlight
falling over his face; the nurse had visited him and slipped away again
to gossip with the other servants over these unusual happenings in the
monotonous household. Elphin, feeling hungry, imperiously called for
her, but received no answer.

The fox woke and yawned, the child laughed and played with him awhile,
then felt suddenly lonely, and cried; he wanted his dinner, the fire was
almost out and the room desolate. He rose and ran to his mother's
bedroom: not finding her, he was beginning again to cry when he saw, on
the little shelf of her desk where she always kept it, the little box
containing the rosary, the prayer book, and the reliquary.

To-day it was not locked.

"It is no longer a secret," said Elphin. He took down the box and
carried it to his bed in the window-seat. He knew that one prayed when
in trouble; he took out the rosary and began stammering the prayers.

Then he grew tired of that, and fell to playing with the string of beads
and twisting them round the neck of the fox, who snapped and bit at
them, and so child and animal were rolling and laughing together on the
cushions when the door opened sharply and Francis entered.

"Oh, I am _glad_ you have come!" cried Elphin, scrambling up. "Mother
has gone to Ardnamurchan to meet you--and where is my dinner, sir?--it
is late."

"Gone to Ardnamurchan?" repeated Francis. He had been riding since he
left Glenillich the night before--riding aimlessly and wildly in the
endeavour to shake off the devils who pursued him; he too had been to
Ardnamurchan and prayed in the ruined church; he was haggard,
dishevelled, and still wore his riding clothes.

"Oh yes, she went a _long_ time ago; I think she will be back soon!"
cried Elphin eagerly. He sprang from the window-seat, upset the box, and
sent the Papist prayer book and the crucifix flying to his father's
feet.

Francis stood motionless, looking down at them.

"Are you ill, sir?" asked Elphin, beginning to tremble into tears.

Francis picked up the book and the crucifix.

"Nay," he said in a low voice; "whose are these?"

"Mine," answered the boy. "I was not to tell you, but now it does not
matter. I have this too," he held out the rosary. "I may keep them, may
I not?"

Francis swayed on his feet. "O God," he kept saying to himself--"O God."

"Mother said you might know now," insisted Elphin, still
half-frightened.

Francis went to the window-seat and drew the boy to his knee; he looked
stunned.

"Tell me," he said, "how it happened? Who gave you these things?"

"The priest," said Elphin.

"Ah--where did you see him?"

"In Edinburgh--Mr. Forsythe found him."

"Allan Forsythe?" Francis could not repress the wretched cry of agony.

"You do not like him, sir, do you?" asked Elphin anxiously; "but mother
does. And he is good, he had the priest in his room--but it all had to
be a secret; the priest was disguised, sir," continued the child with
growing excitement, as he recounted the greatest adventure of his life.
"He knew all about God, and so did Mr. Forsythe, but they both had to
appear as heretics; they said mother was not a heretic, and they made me
so that I was not a heretic either--"

"Stop," muttered Francis, but the word would not form in his dry throat,
and Elphin continued, unheeding the interruption. His voice sounded to
his father like a little bell tinkling in his ears, his words were a
senseless jangle, for Francis was as a man who feels the solid earth
giving way beneath his feet and the black walls of hell closing on him
and the bitter flames rising to his lips; he thought that he must faint,
but he fought against his weakness as a drowning man will fight off the
waves, and his mind fixed on one thing: to find out from Elphin all he
knew. He began questioning the child with a clearness and quietness that
startled himself, with a desperate skill he drew from the baby lips
confirmation of his most horrible surmises. Allan was a secret Papist,
Giovanna secretly retained her own faith, they had had the child
baptized, and she had been privately bringing him up a Papist; between
her and Allan was an understanding; they were plotting against him...he
believed they were lovers.

He gathered from the boy's reiteration that she had been several times
to Allan's lodgings in Edinburgh, though in truth she had only taken him
the once.

The disaster, the tragedy, was complete; this woman whom he had taken as
his wife was worse even than his most horrified imaginings had depicted.
Remembering her smiles, her loveliness, in the light of what he now knew
of her, he saw her as a born wanton, soulless, treacherous, true to the
bad blood in her and to her foul idols--a woman who had come into his
life for his ruin--his damnation. He, poor fool, had thought to build a
church to appease God, who was preparing the while this incomparable
punishment for him!

He turned to the boy and put him from him.

"You too," he said,' "you little, little child!"

"May I keep these?" asked the boy with his hand on his treasures.

Francis took them from his baby fingers; they looked the same as those
he had cast down the ravine among the wild cherry trees--the symbols she
had surrendered to him when she first came to him.

"I will speak to you presently," he said; he rose and staggered, but
steadied himself against the wall. "Now I must find your mother."

He left the room; Elphin's nurse, hastening back to her post, passed him
on the stairs.

"See to the child," he said; "keep him close."

He turned into the dining-room where the dinner waited on the long black
table; he drank of the wine, but did not look at the food, though he had
not eaten since yesterday evening, and it was now well into the
afternoon.

"She will soon return," he said aloud--"she will soon return."

He began walking up and down the large gloomy room; he found himself
counting the boards on the floor, the diamond panes in the window, the
beams on the ceiling.

Presently he saw her handkerchief lying on the leathern seat of one of
the chairs; he picked it up and began tearing it into shreds with his
fingers, then set his teeth in the lace and tore it to a mass of threads
which he cast down and set his heel on.

"_God_ will judge her," he said with sudden triumph, "_God_ will punish
her."

The sun began to sink in the pale winter heavens, and the clear light of
it lay in the lake and slipped through the straight stems of the pines.

Francis went into the hall, his riding-gloves and his riding-whip were
where he had left them; he picked them up; the whip, a massive thing,
ringed and ringed with silver, was almost too heavy for his nerveless
hand.

"Bring me a fresh horse and a lighter whip," said Francis.

In a few moments the horse was ready, but the whip that was brought him
he looked at with horror--it was one that he had once given to Giovanna.

"This is a lady's switch," he said, and threw it down; then he mounted
and rode away again round the lake.

It was two hours later, in the dusk, when he returned.

The steward was waiting in the hall.

"I have not found Mrs. Moutray," said Francis; "as it grows dark, I
think there should be some search--take two of the men with lanterns--I
will go in another direction."

"She went towards Ardnamurchan, sir."

"I have not been so far," replied Francis; it was obvious he had not,
since it was a five hours' ride.

"Would Mrs. Moutray have gone so far alone?" asked the steward in an
uneasy tone.

"Who can tell?" replied Francis. He went with a swaying step into the
dining-room, took out his watch and set it by the tall clock in the
corner; then, after glancing towards the door to see that no one was
peering in at him, he took something quickly from his pocket and cast it
on the fire.

He watched the flames devour this object, then left the room again.

The moon was brightening in a darkening sky when the lanterns were seen
gleaming from the stables; the air was crisp and cold as if snow was not
far off, the lake rippled in an icy breeze as the four started silently
on their search.



XVI


About the same time that Francis returned Glenillich for the second
time, Alys the old poultry wife left her lonely cottage and walked to
the waste lands of Ardnamurchan.

It was largely these lonely excursions which had gained for her her evil
reputation. She was supposed to gather herbs and recite incantations
under the ghostly light of a malignant moon, but in truth her errand was
as humble and harmless as herself. She went to gather bracken for her
couch, to cut turf or gather wood for her fire, to search for whortle or
elder-berries, and to collect acorns for her neighbours' pigs, and she
chose lonely spots and late hours that she might be free from the
observation which always meant unkindness if not persecution.

This afternoon she passed no one save the shepherd of the farmer, on the
corner of whose land she dwelt, and he hastily turned his flocks aside
at sight of her and passed silently away over the heath.

The poultry-wife gathered her bracken and tied it in bundles on her
back, then hastened on towards the ruined church near which grew the
elder trees.

It was a place few would have visited at that hour, but the poultry-wife
had always been fearless.

The pale cold day was fading into a fair evening; stars like chips of
crystal began to appear in the vast sweep of sky which was pellucid and
light as water in a glass, heath and hill lay sharply outlined and
flushed with red of bracken, of bramble, with purple of berry, with gold
and brown of bare-limbed tree.

The yews about the church looked almost black, the building itself
seemed to have lately sunk, to be more than usually grotesquely leaning
into the earth as if seeking its own grave, and beyond; the four ruined
walls of the mansion rose among the larches that were shaken in the
night breeze and seemed symbolic of bitter desolation.

The solitude was complete; one wandering alone on the remote moor could
hardly have felt more desolate than here in this loneliness haunted by
miserable memories and marked by these forlorn ruins.

The old woman passed round the little incline on which the mansion was
built to gain the greater hill where stood the church; she walked
cautiously, for the tufts of deer grass were treacherous, and
immediately beneath her was the black pool reputed to be unfathomable.

As she glanced down at this, remarking how it had spread with the late
rains, she saw what seemed a heap of light-coloured clothes lying at the
edge of the water.

The poultry-woman paused, amazed and a little frightened; then she
carefully climbed down the bank, and skirted the pond which was still
and black as a piece of ebony, for it was stagnant and reflected no
light.

Old Alys came cautiously through the soft mud, the duckweed, the sorrel,
the reeds, that edged the water; her bare feet sank into the ground to
the ankles, and the thorny brambles tore at her short skirts.

She saw now that the heap of garments were the huddled coats of a woman
who lay face downwards in the mud, her brow touching the water, and her
left arm outstretched, the one nearer to Alys was turned in under her
breast.

The poultry-woman recognized the buff riding-habit embroidered with
silver, the long slender figure.

"Eh, eh, it is the laird's wife," she said--"it is Jean Moutray!"

She crept close and bent over the figure which lay sunk into the ooze
and filth of the dead water; the face was turned sideways, the long
blonde hair was clogged and soiled with dirt. Alys thought she looked on
death, but when she timidly touched the sunk shoulder, the prone woman
spoke:

"Please lift me up. I cannot see--I am hurt--please help me."

The poultry-wife dragged at the inert figure; she raised the light
weight easily and set the woman with her back against the old stump of
willow.

It was the laird's wife, but so changed, so disfigured, so terrible,
that even the hardy peasant began to tremble with a terror which urged
her to flee.

Giovanna's gown, her waistcoat, her laces, were stained and defaced with
clay and duckweed and the foul water of the pond, while her neckcloth,
her ruffles, and her hair were caked and defiled with blood; her eyes
were closed; blood weighed the lids and trickled down her face which was
distorted, swollen, bruised--not a vestige of her former loveliness
remained; she was as marred as a trampled lily, even her fair throat was
swollen and marked with purple stains.

Yet as she sat there, blind, helpless, wounded to the death, the spirit
within her seemed to dominate her body more strongly than it had ever
done; her voice, though hoarse and feeble, was steady and controlled.

"Who are you, please?" she asked. "Can you take me to Glenillich--or
take some message?"

"Alas, I am nothing but old Alys, the poultry-wife, and we are miles and
miles from Glenillich, and I have no one to send--oh, what has chanced
to your honour?"

Giovanna's left hand felt for and caught Alys's arm.

"I was thrown," she answered; she spoke like one whose mind works very
clearly. "I broke my arm. My head is hurt and my eyes."

"You were thrown from your horse, my lady?"

"Yes, I was never a good rider. I fell here--from the ruins--"

"But there are no stones here to give your honour these terrible hurts."

"I dragged myself to the water--I wanted to drink; could you get me a
drink?"

"There is a clear stream nearer the church--"

"Help me up--take the linen from my wrists and tie up my head. I must
not die till I have seen some one from Glenillich."

The poultry-woman tore away the linen ruffles from Giovanna's shirt and
bound them as well as she was able round the hideous wound among the
clotted locks; she shuddered at her task; it seemed to her that the
delicate head had been beaten in almost to the brain.

She then helped Giovanna to her feet and guided her up the slope towards
the church. She knew something of pain, and she marvelled how this
fragile woman could endure that wound, that broken arm, that bruised
face; but the frivolous laird's lady bore herself valiantly, beads of
agony stood out on her blood-stained forehead, but she uttered not a
word of complaint.

"I must see some one from Glenillich," she said with that unnaturally
steady voice. "I have lived for that...all these hours...Please go. I
shall live till your return--I _will_ live."

The poultry-woman put the bundle of bracken under her head, then tore
off a strip of her petticoat and dipped it in the stream that ran at the
bottom of the hill.

She could only squeeze drops from this on to Giovanna's lips for she had
no cup; but she bathed some of the blood and dirt from the lady's face,
so revealing that her cheek was cut open, almost to the bone. For the
first time in her hard life the poultry-woman began to cry, rocking
herself to and fro and pressing together her rough hands.

With difficulty Giovanna raised her swollen lids.

"You must not let me grieve you," her livid lips smiled with their old
graciousness. "Why, I did not mind at all--an accident," the warm blood
began to flow again from the gash in her cheek and dripped on to her
lap. "This is ugly," smiled Giovanna, "but it is no matter. Go to
Glenillich and fetch some one--"

"Why, 'twill be dawn before I return," sobbed Alys, "and you alone here
with the foxes and the eagles and the dead--and in torture--"

"I shall not die till some one comes," returned Giovanna, closing her
eyes, from which the pain she suffered forced the slow tears. "I have
lived so long--ah, go for charity."

"_God_ keep you," said the poultry-woman fervently, "and hold up your
heart. I'll go and return as quick as maybe."

She turned away, hurrying through the bracken that now caught the flames
of the sun that just peered over the edge of the earth.

"God keep me," muttered Giovanna. "He damned me, did He not? Shall I go
to hell to-night?" She raised herself on her right elbow, and her
tortured eyes peered at the wide prospect of rolling country that spread
beneath the church.

Her disfigured lips muttered some sentences in her own tongue: "Ti
prego--aspetta--sono onesta io! T'amo--per sempre, caro mio bene, per
sempre--"

She fell over again on the bundle of bracken and lay quite still,
waiting, as she had lain still, waiting, beside the black water.

So--as some wretched criminal tortured on the rack or the wheel, exposed
with broken limbs to die in the cold night air, suffers all alone his
agony, babbling to the stars--so suffered she.

She watched the sunlight fade and the moon brighten, she felt the wind
on her face and heard it in the yew boughs behind her--twice she
swooned, twice she fell into a delirium almost as merciful--each time
the waiting soul within her forced her back to consciousness. Ancestors
of hers had died in many ways and always bravely; none had faced more
torture than she now endured with greater fortitude; none had shown more
courage than she showed in this lonely vigil, facing an ignoble death
and hell--yes, hell; had she not forsaken her God, and why should He
pity her?

And there was no priest to shrive her, to confess her, to give her the
sacraments--she would go with her sins on her, unrepentant--she thought
of that.

But she had neither fears nor regrets; what she had done she would do
again, even now, when she had learned the price.

At last, the lanterns came swinging up the hill--she thought them fallen
stars at first; she had not waited very long, not more than two hours,
for the poultry-woman had met a search-party close and they had ridden
fiercely, but to her it had been two cycles of recurring pain and
agony--the anguish of her shattered body and the anguish of her waiting
soul.

The poultry-woman was behind one of the riders. As she pointed out the
spot, they all dismounted; as the lantern beams fell on Giovanna, they
all uncovered. At first she could not speak; her eyes moved restlessly,
looking for Francis.

"I knew I should live," she said at last. The foremost man was the
architect; he turned faint and sick when he saw her, and the steward
pushed him aside.

"Mr. Doughty," she called the steward. He went on his knees and bent
over her; she could say no more. He had his brandy flask ready, and
forced the spirit down her throat and dashed it over her brows. She
gasped and choked, then struggled up.

The light had not yet entirely gone; a dull line of red still ringed
the horizon, the sunken church and the black j trees still showed
clearly. Giovanna looked round the vast sweep of this alien world, then
pressed her cold hand on to the damp ground, and spoke.

"I came too far. I was thrown. I was always a poor rider--you remember?
It was an accident--the horse ran away with me. Where is Francis?"

"He is not here," said the steward, holding her up, "but we will take
you to Glenillich, my lady."

"Do not move me," she whispered. "I cannot bear it--I am hurt."

The steward turned fiercely to one of the men.

"Mount and ride for your life to find the laird!"

"The child," muttered Giovanna. "Mr. Doughty--have an eye--to the
child--oh!"

She was quiet awhile; the architect came and knelt the other side of
her; with a tremendous effort she spoke again:

"I can't--live--till he comes--I waited--tell him I waited--as long as I
could--say--an accident--you know--"

Mr. Doughty bent low over her.

"Is there anything you wanted to say?"

She feebly shook her head.

"No--only--it was an accident." Even at this moment her unconquerable
gallant gaiety of spirit asserted itself. "This is a poor way to die--is
it not? Forgive me--the trouble--do not let Elphin see me--I am hideous.
Hold me up. Give him my duty."

Again she was silent, fighting the encroaching pain; then she said, in a
little whisper between her lips:

"Reward the poultry-woman--please. He--should marry again--for the
child's sake--too. Do not let him be--melancholy. I do not mind dying."

They held her up between them; her eyes closed and her mind seemed to
break.

"Sono onesta--sono tua donna. Dio ti manda perdono--per me fa niente, la
morta,--ma per te,--T'amo."

Again she struggled back to her senses.

"What did I say? The accident--" she looked from one man to another.
"Please take my hand--I am going now." The architect's fingers grasped
her poor left hand. "Do you think God is merciful, Mr. Doughty? Thank
you--for your are. Thank you all. Is he coming? Do you see him? Too
late. Hold my hand tight. A good-night--"

She gave a short sigh and turned over in their arms.

"She has fainted," whispered the architect.

"She is dead," said Mr. Doughty.

They laid her out on the grass and, as the lantern light revealed her
fully, the architect broke into a kind of passion-like anger.

"Look how she is hurt--broken--her arm--her face--her sweet face--"

They raised her head on to the bracken pillow, the bandage slipped from
her hair. At the sight of her wound the men stared at each other with
the great tears in their eyes.

"She suffered--Christ--she suffered!" sobbed the architect.

"By what miracle did she live?" whispered the other.

The poultry-wife came stumbling out of the gloom.

"Eh, sirs, she wanted to live, she had something to say, she would live
until she had said it--"

"What did she say?" asked the steward.

"Nothing," answered the others--"nothing."

They all stood awkwardly, averting their gaze from what lay before them.
They spoke to each other in broken sentences, aimlessly, as if to
distract or deceive themselves.

"There is no surgeon--how to fetch a surgeon?"

"The horse--did anyone find the horse?"

"They got him on the moors--still half-mad with fright."

"He has never bolted before--she was a poor rider."

"Where did she fail? Oh, this is a dreadful, dreadful thing."

"Those hideous stones--the ruins."

So they spoke in a hushed way among themselves, pacing about the cold
slope of the hill, as if they expected to see Giovanna come towards them
with her buoyant step and dispel the thick horror that had settled on
them.

They could not yet realize that the disfigured corpse that lay beneath
the churchyard wall was the gay, the brilliant, the lovely Giovanna.

All of them recalled her kindnesses, her gentlenesses, her smiles--the
very stable-boys with the lanterns had memories of her graciousness; all
of them were sorry now that they had so exactly obeyed their feared
master as to have but little time or chance to please their mistress.

The last red ring of light had completely gone and the remote hills and
heaths were merged into the deep blue darkness of the sky when, into the
distracted group, came two horsemen--Francis and the man who had gone to
search for him.

The architect hung back weakly against the wall.

"Who is to tell him?" he whispered.

The steward came forward and caught his master's bridle.

"Wait, sir--there is something here--you must not see for a moment."

Francis dismounted, and took the lantern from the trembling boy who
stood near him.

"It is she?" he said. "You have found her?"

The architect stumbled in front of him, fearing for his reason if he
suddenly turned the lantern rays upon her.

"Put down the light, for God's sake, sir."

The poultry-wife rose, whimpering, from her knees, and Francis paused
and looked at her.

"The witch woman here!" he said with great bitterness; "it is a fitting
place for her."

He put them all aside and went straight to where she lay, and, holding
the light steadily, looked down on what had been so lovely and now was
so terrible.

Defiled, disfigured, broken, her torn garments stained with filth and
blood, her face wounded and bruised beyond recognition, she lay at his
feet with a curious look of patience in the straight lines of her figure
and the way her head was turned on to her arm.

At his feet. It was not many years since he had been at her feet under
an Italian moon--she alive, warm, lovely; he on fire with love--and this
was the end of her laughter and her pleasant ways, her tenderness and
her courage; she, who had so loved ease and beauty, had died like
this--hideously.

What memories stirred Francis, what emotions he knew, none of those
fearfully watching him could guess; his sombre face had a locked look;
the hand that held the lantern was so steady that even the lace at his
wrist did not shake.

At last he turned away.

"Take her up--take her home," he said. He added with an awful smile, "I
said God would judge her. He has done so."



XVII


The next day the snow came, shutting Glenillich off from the outer world.
It seemed a fitting accompaniment to the tragedy of Ardnamurchan this
freezing cold that swept the land--this steady snow that enfolded all
the horror, the wonder, the talk, the whispered gossip, the hinted
scandal--that beat on the great dull house where Giovanna lay in her
coffin, and rested inches deep in Glenillich churchyard where the
Moutray vault was being opened to receive the alien who would never
leave her exile now.

The snow fell for three days; on that before the funeral the storm still
continued. Francis remained closed in his library; the steward managed
everything. Only in two matters had his master interfered: he had
forbidden the horse who had killed his wife to be shot, and he had
ordered all Giovanna's belongings to be packed away at once and sent to
the cellars, so that not one vestige of her presence remained in the
house.

It was easily done. The dead lady had left no great traces in her
husband's house; she had altered very little. Like a flower without a
root, broken and flung away, seemed Giovanna; the household that had
never known her ordering ran the same now she was gone. It was but a
day's work to pack away her clothes (not so many, after all), her few
trinkets, her embroidery frames, to take down the hangings, remove the
furniture, covers, and carpets from two rooms, and put back those used
by Francis' mother, and all that remained were a few corded hair-trunks,
thrust into the darkest part of a disused cellar.

Glenillich was as it had been when Francis brought her there, save for
her body lying on the great bed where many had lain in death (but none
so fair or so unfortunate), and for one thing of hers not so easily cast
away--the frightened child who scented tragedy, and sobbed day and night
for his mother and for the fox who had fled from the gloomy house and
disappeared in the snow.

The servants did their master's bidding without comment; they were all
tinged with his humour and wholly under his influence. Something sweet
and pleasant had left Glenillich with Giovanna, and every one was the
worse for this, harder and more sour.

The nurse cried a little for Giovanna, and tried to deceive Elphin with
tales of his mother having gone to Edinburgh; but the others shed no
tears. Some were sorry in their hearts, remembering her gentleness,
while others thought her violent death but a true judgment on the
foreigner, the intruder, who had clearly bewitched the laird with her
wanton, frivolous ways. After the first shock of genuine horror the
village, led by the pastor, took the same view; she who had met so
little tolerance in life was not dealt gently with after her death.

It was matter of common gossip that the laird had been lately displeased
with her; some even whispered that she was a bad woman, and that he had
known it, and this was a release for him.

"Who was she?" they asked--"a foreigner, near a heathen, who could not
look after her own house--a light creature with a heart full of vanity."

Such was the verdict of Glenillich on the Contessa Giovanna Maria
Odaleschi, one of the loveliest and most brilliant of the princely race
who had given all with a smile for love, and been thus rewarded.

There was one man in the village who took this view of the tragedy, and
that was Mr. Maitland, the architect.

He had lived through these few days as through a terrible nightmare. The
memory of the dying woman on the hillside, bearing her great agony with
a smile, tortured him; the way her husband had looked at her, the words
he had said, the dull, cold comments of the village, the sight of the
huge, gloomy house, and the thought of the child within became
unbearable to him.

Twice he had been turned from Francis' door, and he would have returned
to Edinburgh if the weather had been possible, but travelling was out of
the question, and he must remain where he was--oppressed, horrified,
sickened, by this dismal event which terribly stirred his imagination.
Before the snow set in he had sent an express to Allan Forsythe with the
news, and he half-hoped Allan would have come, but that was now as
impossible as his own departure; it was doubtful even if the express had
got through to Edinburgh.

It was the day before the funeral that he met the steward in the village
street.

Mr. Maitland asked if Francis still kept his room.

"He sleeps in the library, sir, and sees no one," replied the man; his
manner was dry enough, he had soon recovered from the emotion he had
shown when Giovanna died in his arms.

The architect drew him into a doorway out of the whirl of snow; the wind
blew the skirts of their greatcoats about them and cast the flakes in
their faces.

"The child?" asked Mr. Maitland.

"The laird has not seen him yet--but he ordered him to be shown his
mother to-morrow before they take her away."

"Has no one given--her message?" stammered the other, shocked.

Mr. Doughty looked sullen.

"Who is to face the laird? He will not hear her name. It would cost a
man his place to mention--any message Besides, she said nothing--nothing
at all."

"What she did say he should hear," replied Mr. Maitland sternly. "Is
there never a coward among you will tell him?"

"There is no one would mention my lady to the laird. Why, he has had
every rag she wore, every gawd she used, taken away, and that while she
still lies in the house. I jalouse she was no good woman, and that it
was the judgment of God came on her--as Mr. Moutray said himself, sir."

"The more eternal shame to him," replied the architect. "You should have
the surgeon to your master," he added.

"There is none here save the barber--"

"And he, like the rest of you, under my lord's thumb!"

"There is no occasion to distress yourself on my lady's account,"
returned the steward sharply; "she brought no luck to Glenillich with
her new-fangled ways and her vanities. She was but a foreign body, and
many will tell you that she was not the laird's wife at all, but just
his wench, and that was why the matter lay so on his conscience. The
Almighty pity her, and let it go at that, sir."

He turned off into the storm, a cross-grained man with a frowning face.

"You will see me at Glenillich!" the architect called after him, and
then hastened to the inn where he gathered up all his drawings, plans,
notes, and maps relating to Fort Mary, and, placing them securely inside
his greatcoat, had out his horse and rode up to the mansion.

As before he was instantly refused admission, but this time he was not
to be so easily repulsed.

"I must see your master," he said, peering past the servant into the
great gloomy hall; "tell him so. Say I have a message."

"That will not cause him to alter his mind, sir," replied the servant.

"Tell him, then," said Mr. Maitland, "that I have a message from the
dead."

The man looked at him queerly and then turned away; the architect
entered and stood waiting by the fireside amid the deep shadows.

He had spoken on impulse when he had said to the steward. "You should
fetch a surgeon to your master," but the idea that Mr. Moutray's mind
had failed him or become clouded now became stronger; it was a horrible
supposition, but less horrible than the remembrance of a sane man
uttering the words Francis had uttered and the spectacle of a sane man
behaving as he was behaving.

"Always gloomy, given to religious melancholy, down with the fever in
Italy," thought Mr. Maitland; "yes, it is likely enough the shock turned
his brain."

Complete silence filled the house. Mr. Maitland could not keep himself
from wondering in which room Giovanna lay--and then his mind reverted
unpleasantly to that hasty folding away of the bright clothes she had
loved and the few trinkets she had cared for, and that hurried
consignment of the corded hair-trunks to the cellars.

The minutes passed and the servant did not return; Mr. Maitland
hesitated, but only for a while. "I am the one stranger in Glenillich,"
he said to himself, "all the rest are his creatures--she was a foreigner
and there is none to speak for her--and there is the child."

He went up and knocked at the door of the library where he had had his
stately interviews with Francis; at the sound of this knock, which
echoed in the silence of the stairway, the servant came running along
the corridor.

"Sir, you must not go in," he said anxiously. "Mr. Moutray will see no
one, as I was coming to tell you."

Mr. Maitland was always considered a man of an insignificant appearance
and placid disposition, he turned now, however, to the servant with a
force and dignity that silenced him.

"It is needful that I should see your master," he said, and entered the
library.

He was prepared to see Francis in some wild attitude of despair,
violently pacing the room or prone upon a couch; what he did see
startled and horrified him far more utterly.

Francis was seated in a low chair drawn up by the hearth on which a huge
wood fire blazed; before him, on a small table, stood a chessboard set
with pieces, and he was playing a game with himself, moving black
against white with exact and cautious fingers.

He was neatly dressed in grey, gallooned with gold--about no part of his
attire was there any indication of mourning--he wore large spectacles
with silver rims which flashed back the firelight and gave him the
appearance of blankly staring with gleaming glass eyes.

The architect, a short, commonplace figure, plainly dressed, but
ennobled by the expression of a resolute purpose in his homely face,
closed the door and advanced into the lofty room, where the heavy
furniture was half-concealed by the advancing shadows of the winter
afternoon, and only the solitary chess-player showed clearly in the red
glow of the flames.

"He is out of his mind," thought Mr. Maitland.

Francis had looked up and fixed him with the glittering spectacles, then
turned again to his play, but he said, in a perfectly controlled and
normal voice:

"Good-evening, Mr. Maitland. I thought I had said I could see no one."

"You must forgive me," said the architect, "it was necessary for me to
see you."

Francis played the black king, then moved the table and board aside,
pointed to a chair, and, leaning back, waited.

Mr. Maitland found this reception more intolerable than any show of
violence; his errand became suddenly almost impossible. He did not know
how to begin, what to say, nor how to act; but the memory of the woman
lying upstairs, the child hidden in some part of this gloomy house, kept
him to his task.

"I have a message for you, Mr. Moutray," he began. "I believe that your
steward did not give it to you, therefore I must."

"A message?" repeated Francis softly. He had leant back into the
shadows, his handsome face was pale but composed, and the spectacles, no
longer caught by the light and of some slightly opaque material, gave
him a sightless look.

"Yes," said the architect with less humility and respect than he had yet
used to his patron; he waited a moment and then added, "I was with Mrs.
Moutray at the last."

"I know," said Francis, never moving.

"And what she said--with her last strength, sir--I believe you have
never heard."

"No," replied the Laird of Glenillich, "and I do not wish to--nor to hear
her name mentioned."

Mr. Maitland flushed deeply.

"Yom' conduct is inhuman, abominable," he exclaimed. "I can only hope,
sir, that this tragedy has turned your brain."

"What right have you," said Francis, "to interfere in my affairs?"

"The right of the only man here who is not your servant or your tenant,
Mr. Moutray--the right of a man who has a wife and children himself and
who owns some common humanity."

Francis turned his head sharply, and seemed to be gazing at the man whom
he had hitherto regarded as completely his inferior.

Mr. Maitland looked at him straightly.

"Your wife," he said, standing by the chair which Francis had mutely
offered him, "suffered great pains and agonies while she lay on that
hillside, sir, and only the great quality of her spirit kept her alive
until we found her--she had something to say."

"What?" demanded Francis. "The men told me that she said nothing save to
speak of the accident."

"She spoke of her love and duty to you, her affection for her child. She
asked that the old poultry-woman might be rewarded. She asked that the
child might not see her. These requests, sir, are very sacred. She had,
all through her torment, words of courage and kindness and gaiety."

Francis did not speak.

"She spoke also some words in her own language which I did not rightly
understand, but I took them to mean she protested she had never harmed
you."

"If so," said Francis, rising, "she lied."

Mr. Middleton, still doubtful if he had to deal with a man wholly sane,
could not command an answer. The two stood regarding each other, and in
the silence the sound of the rush of the flames up the chimney seemed a
great thing.

After a second or two the architect took the roll of drawings and papers
from the breast of his snowy greatcoat and laid them on the chair beside
him.

"These are useless to me," he said. "You may give them to the man who
builds Fort Mary church. I'll do no more work there."

"There is no need," replied Francis. "God has been appeased in other
ways. He has accepted another sacrifice; I am under His wrath no longer.
Once I was bound, now I am free; once I was mad, now I am sane. Nay,
there is no need for a church at Ardnamurchan. But I will repair the old
one--you will do that, Mr. Maitland?"

The architect was not rich and this promised work had been a great thing
to him, but he did not hesitate in the least in his answer.

"I'll do nothing more for you at all, sir. I return to Edinburgh as soon
as the roads are possible."

"What is this?" asked Francis angrily. "What notion have you got in your
head?"

"I've the notion that you are crazed or cruel, Mr. Moutray."

"I tell you, man, I am sane for the first time for nearly seven years!"
cried Francis. "Sane and in grace."

"Because she is dead?" asked the other bluntly.

"Yes," replied Francis with great force and clearness. "I will not spare
myself. I will take the shame that is my punishment for my long and
wicked folly--hear this and tell it to all men--my wife was a wicked
woman."

"I believe you are mistaken, sir!" cried Mr. Maitland impulsively.

Francis smiled terribly.

"Nay," he replied. "She was a secret Papist and she had a lover. They
baptized my child with Popish ritual, and turned him from me." He took a
sharp turn about the hearth and added in an exalted tone, "She was
wanton, false, treacherous--she blinded me, deceived me, and lured me on
to damnation, but God set me free. He struck her down and cast her to
that place where she can do no harm!"

Mr. Maitland was bitterly distressed. He had no means of casting doubt
on any of Mr. Moutray's statements, nor could he any longer reasonably
suspect the sanity of one who expressed himself so quietly and
forcefully; yet the memory of Giovanna's gentleness and loveliness still
moved the architect to be her advocate.

"I pray you may be mistaken," he answered; "but if she were a Papist,
remember it was her childhood's faith, and though I believe it a false
belief, still there is such a thing as bigotry, and you should judge the
dead lightly."

"Dead?" repeated Francis, "dead and damned. And _he_ will follow. She
will not be long without her lover."

By a horrid intuition Mr. Maitland knew that he referred to Allan
Forsythe; he wanted to hear no more of that matter.

"You have the child to think of," he said. "You will need all your
charity and tenderness there."

"Sir," replied Francis with sudden fierceness, "I have strained my
courtesy far already. On this matter I will have no interference."

"You have neither relations nor friends here," replied the architect
stoutly, "and it is needful that you, enduring so grievous a blow,
should have one to argue with you, sir, lest you do some ill-considered
thing. You have given me poor satisfaction that my message will be
respected. Show a little softness, sir, for the sake of the child," he
added eagerly.

"She was an adulteress," said Francis, and Mr. Maitland winced before
the word.

"Before God I do not think so!" he cried impulsively, "and if she were,
it is an awful thing to foul your own dead."

"Not mine--never mine," replied Mr. Moutray. "An alien, a Papist, a born
wanton--she deceived me--but now I am free."

He stopped short before Mr. Maitland who could now clearly discern every
detail of his person. He bore no signs of disorder nor neglect; he was
shaved to the blood, his hair carefully rolled and tied, his linen and
his ruffles spotless, but to his whole appearance a grotesque look was
given by the monstrous spectacles of misty glass with their shining
silver rims.

"Why do you wear those spectacles?" asked Mr. Maitland, stepping back a
little.

"My eyes are weak lately," replied Francis quietly; "I went out in the
snow this morning and the dazzle hurt them. These glasses were my
father's--I found them in my desk."

This exact explanation did not relieve Mr. Maitland of the sense of
horror with which the other man inspired him.

"Take them off, sir," he said hastily, "they are unnatural--at such a
moment."

Francis removed the horn supports from his ears, took off the
spectacles, and looked at the architect.

Mr. Maitland moved hastily away and could not repress an exclamation.

Francis' eyes had changed and this change had altered his whole face:
the whole of the orb was flushed with blood, turning the brown irises to
deep red, but more than this the expression had altered to a wildness,
an unnatural fire, an intensity and fierceness of gaze that was utterly
at variance with his composed demeanour and utterly unlike any look Mr.
Maitland had ever seen in a human face.

"I had better keep them on, had I not?" he said with a smile, and
replaced the spectacles.

"Oh, sir," cried the architect in confusion, "can I not stay at
Glenillich--I might be of service to you?"

And all the while he was thinking to himself, "I was right--I was right,
those are not the eyes of a sane man--I wish there was some one here
with him." Aloud he added, "Have you no friend or relation who should be
here, sir?"

"None," replied Francis with the same exactitude that he had used about
the spectacles. "My mother's people are in Dumfriesshire, and none of my
father's remain, save Mrs. Wigram and her daughter--and this weather, as
you said, shuts one in; who could reach us now?"

"Perhaps I might stay here the night," said Mr. Maitland, who had a
dread of leaving this man alone, "it is an evil evening to travel even
as far as the village."

"I will send one of my men with you," said Francis; "here there is no
accommodation, sir."

Mr. Maitland suddenly fired.

"You think I am afraid of you perhaps," he said, "because you were my
patron--aye, I know you thought me not good enough to sit at your table,
but in moments like this it is one man to another, and I tell you to
your face I know you are a fanatic and I think you are a villain. I
wonder how you treated that woman you are now defaming?--aye, defaming,
for I'll swear she was honest as she was sweet and gay; and either you
are mad, as I think you may be, or you are a villain, and in neither
case are you fit to be left here. Aye," added Mr. Maitland, red in the
face, "I never liked you, and now I know why."

"What are you afraid of?" asked Francis calmly.

"Of what you may do--with the child," replied the other boldly.

"Come with me," said Francis.

He left the room, and Mr. Maitland followed him.



XVIII


Francis conducted Mr. Maitland to an upper chamber--a sombre apartment
furnished in ancient style and with a cold taste. It looked as if it had
never been lived in, so orderly was it in arrangement, so devoid of any
article of personal use or any adornment or evidence of intimate
interest; yet only a week ago this dreary room had been the gayest in
the house, and Giovanna had sat in the window-seat reading Ariosto, with
the pet fox asleep on the hem of her skirt.

Francis rang the bell and called for candles, and ordered Elphin to be
brought to him.

"What are you going to do?" demanded Mr. Maitland.

"I will show you that I am not neglectful of the boy's soul," answered
Francis--"yea, even if they set his feet on the road to destruction, I
will save him."

The candles were brought, and soon after came the child walking, white
and tearless, by his nurse. At sight of his father he hung back; he had
not seen him since Giovanna rode away for the last time.

Francis called the boy to him.

"Come here, Elphin," he said; "I am all you have now, and you must obey
me."

"Where is mother?" asked the child breathlessly; "why have I been shut
up? Where is Rinaldo? What is the matter with your eyes?"

Francis took the glasses off and put them in his pocket.

"I do not like the light," he said. "Come nearer. They made you a
Papist, did they not? That is damnation. But I will save you. You shall
not sin as I sinned, nor pay as I paid. You little, little child, I have
been very near the edge of the Pit and so have you, but I will drag you
back."

"You have different eyes," said Elphin. "Where is mother? Everything is
changed."

Mr. Maitland and the whimpering nurse moved instinctively towards him,
but Francis caught him up and hastened to an inner door which stood
ajar.

They followed; with a shock that sent the blood back on his heart, the
architect saw that it was the death-chamber.

The dark-red curtains were looped back from the bed, and there lay
Giovanna already in her coffin; the blinds were drawn and the mirrors
covered, and the thick wax candles stood either side the bed and lit the
room and cast the shadow of the coffin over the coverlet on which it
stood. She who lay within no candles' light could brighten, from head to
foot her white linen was covered with more jewels than she had ever worn
in her brief life, for beside her personal belongings there flashed and
glittered the Odaleschi gems.

And on top of all lay Emilia's letter, and the crucifix, prayer book,
and rosary Father Hilton had given Elphin.

Before Mr. Maitland could realize what he was doing, Francis was holding
the child up over his mother's coffin.

"Look now and then forget!" he cried. "There she lies, and all her
snares and vanities with her--'Because of these things fall the wrath of
God on the children of men!' '_Because of these things_'--there they
lie, a fair woman, jewels, idols; as I have cast them from me, cast them
from you in the years to come!"

The architect turned sick and hid his eyes, the nurse dropped on to her
knees, and still the tall, fierce gentleman stood erect, holding the
blenching child over the open coffin.

"There lies your mother, and from this day you will not mention her nor
anything belonging to her; her soul is in hell and her body gone to
corruption; pray God day and night to forget her and her works!"

The boy began to shriek with terror; Francis set him down but still held
him firmly.

Mr. Maitland stumbled forward.

"Nay," said Francis, flashing him a glance from his altered eyes, "I do
what I will with mine own. I have been a fool, I am not one now. My son
shall not be the man I have been and endure the torture I have endured."

He stood there dominating them all. There was a force about him few
would have dared to oppose; there was a strangeness and a terror in the
scene few could have looked on unmoved--the dark death-chamber, the
coffin full of flashing gems, the yellow light of the candles over the
terrible figure of the man denouncing the dead to the child.

"For God's sake, sir," muttered Mr. Maitland.

"Mother!" shrieked the child.

"Forget that word," said Francis, "and remember what I have said to you
if you would escape damnation."

"Where is mother?" repeated the child, shuddering.

"In hell!" cried Francis furiously.

Mr. Maitland caught up Elphin whose eyes were turning in his head and on
whose lips a light foam gathered.

"Do you want to kill the child?" he asked fiercely, and thrust him into
the arms of his nurse, who snatched at him and ran away weeping
hysterically.

"Better he should die than live to be as she was," replied
Francis.--"What I have done I have done, and you have seen it."

"God forgive you," said the architect.

Francis turned his changed eyes with a look of bitter hate and contempt
and triumph on the coffin where his wife lay hidden by her mother's
jewels.

"When the snow has ceased and she is buried," he said, "I shall go to
Edinburgh."

He then replaced his spectacles and left the darkened room.




BOOK III



THE ADJUSTMENT


I


When Francis Moutray came to Edinburgh he went, on the day after his
arrival, to the house of Stacy Wigram.

His cousin saw him at once; she was in the sombre withdrawing-room he
had always associated with her. As she rose from her work-table to greet
him, he noticed with a start that she was in mourning; she, with equal
surprise, that he wore a brown riding-suit.

"Why, Frank--" she stammered, half-withdrawing her outstretched hand.
"Are you--your wife?"

"You wear black for her?" asked Francis.

"What else? She was my cousin by marriage," replied Miss Wigram.

"Take it off, take it off," said Frank Moutray. "There is no cause for
sorrow."

"Oh, I am grieved, I am grieved," whispered Stacy; she turned to the
fire and her eyes were full of tears. She had heard something, but not
much, of the strange way Giovanna had met her death, and of the strange
manner in which Francis had taken his bereavement; none the less his
words and his manner were a shock.

Francis turned also to the fire; it was early afternoon, but the bleak
winter day had already filled the room with dreary shadows. It was with
a start that Francis noticed the stiff figure of Mrs. Stacy seated in
the corner, behind a silk screen that protected her from the direct
blaze of the fire.

The elderly gentlewoman sat erect, propped with cushions, her hands
folded on her lap, her eyes staring before her; she wore a large white
mob cap which cast a leaping shadow on the firelit wall behind her
chair.

"I never leave her now," said Stacy, following his glance. "She seldom
moves or speaks--she is becoming quite paralysed, Frank."

Francis went up and greeted his aunt formally, but she took no notice
whatever, and he moved away, frowning; he was unpleasantly affected by
this figure of death in life.

"I wish to speak to you privately," he said.

Stacy shook her head.

"I cannot leave her, Frank. I am the only person she knows now, she
might want me; and you can speak freely, she never notices--her mind is
lost."

She seated herself, but he remained standing.

"What have you come to say?'" she asked, and she looked up at his
changed face with a touch of terror. She longed to ask him why he wore
the silver-rimmed glasses, but something held her back; even while she
wondered he took them off and placed them in his pocket. He stood out of
the flush of the firelight, but even in the grey room so shadowed and
obscured she could see his strained, marred eyes.

"Wear no more mourning for my wife," he said abruptly. "There is no
need for grief."

"Why?" asked Stacy.

"_Because it was God's will_ that she died," he replied sternly, "as a
punishment for her great sins."

"She was always sweet and pleasant to me," said Stacy. "And I never
thought her a woman likely to be wicked."

"You did not know her," returned Francis quickly, "but every one in
Glenillich hated her--the pastor told me he had taken her for a witch
from the first. By Heaven, she bewitched me, but to all others she smelt
of the contamination she came from."

"Oh, Frank," cried Stacy hotly, "I cannot listen to such talk of the
dead. I'll stake my honour she was a good woman--wicked women don't
throw all to the winds for one man, as she did for you. And if your
marriage was a failure, you must blame yourself--she had no help, no
friends, she was strange to everything. I'm thinking her life in
Glenillich was not so pleasant--"

"You do not understand," interrupted Francis. "She had no soul--she was
rotten to the inmost heart."

"Why did you choose her?" demanded Stacy. "She a gay creature with
ribbons even for the kirk, and looking happy even on the blessed Sabbath
Day, and you as hard and gloomy as God ever made a man--why did you take
her?"

A sound like a sob burst from Frank.

"The Devil tempted me and caught me," he answered passionately. "I was
snared through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of
the world--and to me she then had a goodly semblance. I thought she
might be plucked from the idolatry and harlotry in which her people
wallowed--but it was useless. Now it is expiated."

"Not yet," answered Stacy. "There is the child."

Francis looked at her quickly.

"I will teach him to forget his mother," he said fiercely.

Stacy was silent; ever since her betrothal had been broken she had felt
secretly and passionately allied with all women against all men. This
feeling arose strongly in her now and made her dislike Francis; she was
poignantly sorry that she had not offered more friendship to Giovanna
during her lifetime.

Francis came and stood near, and slightly behind her chair; she was
looking into the fire so that she did not see him, but she felt the
sense of his presence very acutely.

"Stacy," he said, "I came to Edinburgh on a definite errand."

He did not wait for her to speak.

"I wanted to see Allan Forsythe," he added instantly.

"But he was recently at Glenillich," said Stacy.

"He left without farewells," answered Francis. "And as soon--as soon as
the snow gave, I came to find him--but he has gone--gone to Italy."

Stacy was amazed.

"Gone to Italy? He never went before without coming first to take his
leave of us!"

"He has gone--his rooms are shut up, one servant in charge; his letters
may be sent under cover of the Palazzo Muti, Rome."

"I do not understand," said Stacy, turning to look up into her cousin's
face which showed darkly pale in the shadow.

"I am following him," said Francis.

"You? You are going to Italy again?" she rose in her astonishment and
agitation and stood facing him, the chair between them.

"I would follow him into hell's mouth," answered Francis Moutray with a
wild emphasis.

"What is he to you?" asked Stacy.

His counter-question came sharp and insistent:

"Why did you break your betrothal--after seven years--seven years,
Stacy?"

"Because of those seven years, perhaps," she answered quietly.

"Because of nothing else?"

"What does it matter now?" she asked, still composed, but as if
defending herself.

"Was it not because he was a concealed Papist--a concealed Jacobist?"

"Ah!" exclaimed Stacy, recoiling; bewilderment and a certain terror
filled her at Francis' possession of this knowledge.

"A Papist and a rebel," repeated Francis. "If I had not--if I had
not--if it had not been decided otherwise--he should not return here
save to mount the block, and all his property should be confiscated and
his name shamed among honest men."

"You would denounce him?" she cried.

"No, I shall not denounce him--I do not put my revenge in the hands of
the law."

"Your revenge?"

He was ghastly looking now in his pallor and his trembling; the cold
sweat stood in drops on his forehead.

"Did you break your faith with Allan Forsythe because he loved another
woman?" he asked sharply.

"No."

She too was pale and shivering as her quick wits began to piece together
the tragedy Francis was unfolding in his wild words.

"It was because we had ceased to care," she added.

"I think that you lie," said Francis sullenly. "I think you knew."

"That he was a Papist--yes."

"Ah!"

"But I would never have told. It was his secret. I promised him that it
was safe with me," she replied eagerly.

"You knew and you never warned me!"

"Warned you? What was it to you? You are the last person in whom I
should have confided--you, always so intolerant, so hard, in these
things, Frank."

"A damned Papist!" he repeated with a kind of desperate triumph. "They
will be together--to all eternity!"

"How did you find out?" asked Stacy, still fumbling for the truth,
endeavouring to still her heart and keep her mind clear through all this
tumult of pain and amazement.

"From the little child," he answered with a horrible smile which
wrinkled his face into a look of distortion.

"From your child?"

"Yes."

"Please tell me clearly, Frank--tell me all," she demanded.

His fury broke forth again.

"My girl, we have been both betrayed from the first! Do you not
understand? She was his woman--his wanton, his love!"

"Oh," said Stacy softly. She drew back, and it seemed that she shrank
not so much from what he said as from the man himself.

"They baptized the child," continued Francis, "between them they did
that--she used to go and see him--here in Edinburgh--then he fooled me
and came to Glenillich--oh, I was properly fooled! And then I found the
child playing with the emblems of damnation 'Ah, child,' I said, 'show
me these and tell me their story,'--and he told me and I went out
and--and--found her--dead--as God willed she should die in her sin! Do
you ask me now why I wear no mourning?" She thought that he spoke idly,
incoherently, almost insanely, but she admitted that there must be some
great cause for the emotion that could drive him into such speech.

Yet as to the substance of what he said she remained incredulous.

"Jeannie loved you," she said, reasoning as much with herself as with
him. "And he--he--I think him honourable. Why did he urge me to marry
him--if--if this is true? That makes it all too horrible. I cannot
believe it, nay, I cannot. You judge too quickly. Jeannie can speak no
more, but he is there--he will clear himself, Francis."

"Why does he fly from me?" demanded Francis. "That night before I
returned he had gone suddenly--left for the village; when I went to seek
him he had gone to Edinburgh; now I come to Edinburgh he has gone to
Italy."

"He does not guess that you suspect--his mind is at ease."

"No," said Francis, "he is afraid. He brought her her mother's
jewels--the spoils of an adventuress--the wages of the mother returned
to buy the daughter. I buried them with her; they will lie heavy on her
bad heart till the Judgment Day, when we three shall rise to face each
other!"

"Frank--Frank!" cried Stacy. "Are you sure of this? Before your God are
you sure?"

"Before Him I am sure," answered Francis sternly.

"It may be true about the child and not the rest," urged Stacy. "It is
possible she was fearful for his soul, and took him to Allan as the only
Papist she knew--"

"How did she know he was a Papist?" demanded Francis. "There must have
been confidence between them from the beginning."

Stacy sickened at this. She seated herself, for she had no longer the
strength to hold herself upright; her incredulity was beginning to
weaken before his intense conviction; after all, what did she know of
Frank's wife?

She had only her instinct to go upon, and that might have deceived her;
she had always been taught that foreign blood was deceitful and lustful,
and she had heard Giovanna came from disreputable people--then--Allan?

Was it not true that he had become cold--so cold that she had released
him? and why had he gone to Glenillich? and why was he fleeing before
Frank instead of facing him?

Yet she fought against these arguments with all the force of her
generous nature, all the force of her instinctive trust in Giovanna.

"I cannot discuss this with you," she said. "I do not know quite why you
came to tell me of it, but now you have told me I have a right to one
explanation--why are you following Allan Forsythe?"

"Do you still care for him?" asked Francis with sudden amazing calm.

"Never mind whether I still care or no--please answer me."

"I wish for his explanation, his defence," replied Francis. "I wish for
his confirmation or his denial."

His voice and manner were still composed; he seemed more like the former
Francis Moutray of the old days; indeed, so striking was this change
from his fury and incoherency, his gloom and passion, that it was as if
he had been suddenly restored from delirium to sanity.

Stacy felt intensely relieved at this; she strove also to speak calmly
and to dismiss the nightmare thoughts that his previous manner had
roused.

"But you said you were sure, Frank, and it frightened me. I thought it
meant a duel."

"There is the scandal to be considered," said Francis. "Why should I
blow abroad my own dishonour? I am sure--but I am not sure how much the
blame was his; I think it was the woman."

At this Stacy flushed as if she herself had been insulted.

"I cannot bear to hear that," she answered. "And Jeannie helpless in the
cold grave."

"We will speak of it no more," said Francis with the same rational calm.
"It is over, all of it. I begin a new life--only first I must see Allan
Forsythe."

Stacy, half-reassured, half-dubious, looked at him keenly.

"Will you promise me that there will be no duel?" she asked.

He replied with great readiness.

"I promise you,"

She was surprised at this; it seemed so inconsistent with his former
violence.

"And you will not denounce him?"

"That also I can promise you."

Yet Stacy still felt uneasy.

"Best stay at home, Frank," she urged, trying to speak in an ordinary
commonplace manner, "and wait till the summer, when Allan will return.
Have you not plenty to do at Fort Mary and on your new land?"

"I shall not build the church," replied Francis; "I have expiated in
other ways. And I think that spot is cursed. If I can, I will sell the
property, and for the rest my steward has in hand the draining scheme
and the sowing of rye this year and the building of the new cottages. I
can be spared for a few months."

He spoke so sensibly that Stacy felt her uneasiness subside.

"I am better away for awhile," he added.

"Ah yes," agreed his cousin; "but why go to Italy?"

"To find Allan Forsythe," he answered, and his tone was almost gentle.

Stacy took her face in her hands and set her elbows on her knees; the
firelight gave a tender flush of rosiness to a face that no longer had
much natural bloom, and softened features which were too fine and the
lines of repression and suffering round lips and brow. In that moment
she looked as fair as she had looked when she had waited for Allan in
this room in the days when she was gay with hope and grateful love.

"Will you give me the child, Frank?" she asked thoughtfully.

If she had been looking at him she would have seen his face cloud with
instant suspicion.

"The child?" he repeated slowly.

"Elphin--the poor little boy. You cannot leave him alone in Glenillich,
it is purely impossible."

"He has his nurse and his servants," answered Francis quickly. "And I
have strictly charged the minister to watch over him."

"Oh, Frank," cried Stacy earnestly and sorrowfully, "it will not do! He
alone in that great house, thinking of his mother, and passing her grave
every time he goes to kirk--and he so little! Take him to Italy with
you," she added. "He is all you have now--cherish him."

"He does not love me," said Francis sternly.

"Then give him to me," said his cousin, rising. "This may be a sad house
with a sick woman as mistress, but it would be better for the bairn than
Glenillich, and if you would let him and his nurse come here I would do
my all to make him happy. But it is even better that he should be with
you, Frank, and that you should learn to love each other."

She made this suggestion with a double meaning, for she thought that the
child's presence would have a softening influence on his father, and be
a check on any violence or bitterness that might arise from his meeting
with Allan Forsythe.

Francis answered drily:

"Do you think I can travel with a woman and child at my heels? And can
you imagine that I would take him into that corruption, from the taint
of which I am trying to purify him?"

"Then let him come here till you return," repeated Stacy.

"It is a thoughtful offer," he answered, "and I take it kindly from you,
but Elphin is better where he is. When I return I will get him a tutor."

Stacy was both hurt and vexed. So little did she care to think of
Giovanna's strange little son alone in Glenillich, that she even
resolved to contrive to leave her mother as soon as Francis had gone
abroad, and to rush down to Glenillich herself and see what the child's
condition really was.

"You must do as you will with your own, Frank," she said after a little
pause--"man gives you that power, but remember, God will one day call
you to account for how you have used your authority."

"I can justify myself to God," replied Francis.

She was silent and remained standing, as if waiting for him to go.

"You have had enough of my company?" asked Frank.

"I think it is no use for us to talk together any more, Frank," she
returned quietly.

"Yet I have not discovered what I came for," he frowned. "You will not
be candid with me."

"You mistake," said Stacy. "I have told you the truth--I knew Allan's
secret, and we parted because our affection was dead between us. That is
all I can say. I do not believe he loved another woman when we parted,
and I do not believe the monstrous thing you have told me."

"Keep it secret then," replied Francis quickly. "On my return I will let
you know if I credit it still or not."

"And you will neither challenge him nor denounce him?"

"Neither one nor the other--on my name I swear it."

He was still serene and easy, and Stacy again was reassured, more
because of his manner than his words. Yet she parted from him coldly
because she was thinking of the child.

When he had gone she rang for candles, and made up the fire, and drew
the curtains over the dark prospect of the town.

Her movements were, as always, precise and careful, but in her heart was
a tumult of emotion.

She had told Francis that she did not credit his statements, but her
heart was neither so brave nor so confident as her words had been.

To herself she had to admit the possibility that the horrible thing
might be true; it seemed at least beyond dispute that Giovanna and Allan
had conspired together to secretly baptize the child, and that was a
treacherous action according to Stacy Wigram's straightforward, exact
code of honour.

Then she had to admit that she had never known much of Giovanna, and
that of late she had seen very little of Francis; she could not answer
for the actions or movements of either.

Perhaps it was true.

And if it was true, did she care?

Apart from the shock and disgust of a thing in itself hateful to her,
did she personally care?

She asked herself this question, and strove to answer it with her usual
painstaking honesty.

She admitted she had no right to care; she had set him free; she had
told him never to think of her more except as an acquaintance; there was
not a single tie between them, yet--

Yet for seven years she had looked on him as her lover and her future
husband; she had given him all the sweetness, freshness, and hope of her
youth and all the love of her life.

Old dreams that she had hoped were dead revived and mocked her; old
tendernesses that had been treasured memories suddenly stung and shamed
in the recollection.

Tears lay hot and heavy under her lids as she moved the fire-screen and
adjusted her mother's cushions.

The paralytic made a convulsive movement of her hands and spoke in a
thick, mumbling, and harsh voice.

"What do you say, mother?" asked Stacy; it was long since Mrs. Wigram
had opened her lips or given any sign of noticing her surroundings.

"That was my nephew Glenillich?" the words came clearly now.

Stacy was surprised, almost startled.

"Yes, it was Frank," she answered.

The invalid muttered something her daughter could not understand at
first; presently she made it out to be, "Do not let him come here
again."

"Why?" exclaimed Stacy.

Mrs. Wigram turned her eyes on her daughter--terrible eyes in which the
broken and ruined intellect gleamed for a second with a flash of the old
strength.

"He murdered--his wife," she said, "and--now he will murder--Allan
Forsythe."

Having pronounced these words with an awful effort, she relapsed into
the expression and pose of idiocy.



II


A week after his visit to his cousin, Francis was still in Edinburgh.
Slowly and with infinite care he made his preparations for his journey.

He cast up the total of the probable expenses; he interviewed his
bankers; he engaged a new servant; he wrote two minute letters of
instruction to his steward and one to the minister of Glenillich; he
consulted his lawyers on the sale of the Fort Mary property; he made an
elaborate will, leaving the estates to his son, a pension to Stacy, and
the rest to the Kirk of Scotland.

And all this he did because he wished to assure himself that his mind
was quite clear, his spirit quite composed, and his whole being not in
the least affected by what he had been through. He intended to persuade
himself that his old life was gone from him like a cast-off garment,
that he had finally and completely made his peace with God, and that the
rest of his years would flow smooth and clear as undisturbed water.

He meant to marry again; Stacy Wigram was his choice if she would, in
time, consent. He meant to settle in Glenillich, and lead there the
sober, righteous, pious life his father had led before him.

First there was this journey to Italy and the meeting with Allan
Forsythe, but even that he was determined to undertake in a practical
and quiet fashion.

And certainly he had succeeded in maintaining a serene composure; such
of his acquaintances who saw him at this period were all impressed by
his calm.

The very lawyers to whom he went about the sale of the Fort Mary
property were amazed at the unmoved way he discussed the situation and
value of the land where his wife had met her death.

He even described, with a needless minuteness, the old church on the
hill where Giovanna had breathed her last, and drew a ghastly parallel
between the old crime which had kept Ardnamurchan deserted so long and
the tragic end of his own wife.

There was, he said, something similar between the death of Jane Moidart,
beaten out of life with a riding-whip, and the death of Jeannie Moutray,
dashed to pieces by a fall from a bolting horse.

At least the resemblance, he concluded, was sufficient to make the
ground doubly hateful--haunted, as the villagers called it in their
fear.

The lawyers agreed, and thought it would be difficult to find a
purchaser. A property that had changed hands so often and been neglected
for nearly three centuries, that had two such tragedies associated with
it, was not easy to get rid of, even at a poor price.

When Francis had left the lawyers' chambers the two looked at each other
rather curiously.

Mr. Moutray's unreserved calm had made a strange impression on both.

"She has only been dead a month," remarked one, biting his quill. "He
must be a man of no passions whatever."

"Do you take it so?" returned the other. "I think he is a man who will
not die sane."

There were other people too who noticed, with distaste, his composure;
but Francis took no heed of any of them.

Unmoved, he went about his business, and his leisure he spent in his
rooms, arranging his private affairs and writing his laborious letters.

He was, besides, drawing up a complete itinerary of his proposed
journey, marking on the map all his stopping-places, the post-houses,
the dangerous roads, and the good inns.

By the end of the month he intended to start; the goal of his travel was
Rome, since the address of the Pretender's residence in that city was
the only clue to the whereabouts of Allan Forsythe; he knew also that it
was to Rome the Jacobite usually went.

Francis had returned to the chambers he had occupied when last in
Edinburgh; he did this in deliberate defiance of the evil and painful
memories with which they were associated. He was no longer, he told
himself, liable to be affected by fanciful terrors and the miseries of
poignant recollections.

For the same reason he took his meals at "The Arms of Orange," where he
had met Allan Forsythe and Harry Middleton, and dined at the very same
table, defying the bitter memories of the place.

When he was alone he remained as calm as when he was in company; only
sometimes he would pause in his exact writing or his learned reading,
and take from his pocket the golden Aurelian coin Allan had given him,
and stare at it, and his face would change to a ghastly expression of
sickness and his body shake as with an ague.

But he always silently subdued these convulsions of some inner terror,
and carefully replaced the coin in the velvet case and returned quietly
to his work.

He was very careful of his health--a thing of which he had never
thought; now he recollected having read that the mind was largely
dependent on the body for balance and sanity, and that a fever or some
sudden sickness might overthrow the mind, and of that he had a great
horror. Above all things he dreaded delirium, losing command of his
senses and his tongue, descending to horrible visions and distorted
imaginings.

He consulted a doctor as to the likelihood of the marsh fever or malaria
attacking him in Italy, and was assured that the country was safe till
May.

Francis meant to accomplish his object long before then. He remembered
the heat of Italy as a nightmare, and his attacks of fever there as
descents into hell; even to meet Allan Forsythe he would not risk a
repetition of that misery.

But it was winter and he felt safe; to go to Italy at all was a torture,
but he defied that torture as he had defied the recollections roused by
certain spots in Edinburgh.

Yet the fear of his health giving way slightly troubled him. He shivered
if he overheard anyone speak of the plague or the fever, and he had been
terrified when the doctor told him that the malaria, once in the blood,
never left it; and yet he had known this to be true; ever since his
fatal visit to the South he had been liable to these recurrent attacks
of fever.

He dosed himself with quinine and tried to keep his mind from the
subject, and to an extent he succeeded.

But he noticed one peculiarity of his present condition that
half-troubled, half-relieved him: All his former fancies and imaginings
had indeed left him, he was no longer troubled with visionary terrors
and black abysses of mental distress; he could, however, no longer
exercise his mind in pleasant ways either.

No longer could he conjure up before him a face, a form, a scene--no
longer could he visualize some fair fancy nor recall some sound, some
perfume, once enjoyed; he could see and hear nothing save what was
around him, he could not even bring up before his mind's eye Glenillich
or the face of Allan Forsythe.

All was a blank; what his bodily eyes did not behold did not exist for
him.

And with this, material things greatly increased their power for him, he
noticed them, they crowded round him and overwhelmed him; now the
torture of his fancies, his dreams, had gone, there came this torture of
actuality--When he was abroad he was acutely conscious of the
buildings, of their massiveness, height, and shape, of the hardness of
the cobbles, of the glittering things in the shop windows, of the faces
and costumes of the passers-by.

When he returned to his room he was acutely conscious of the furniture,
the wood of which it was made, the thick material of the curtains, the
cold marble of the clock, of the shining panels of the walls, of the
shape and feel and weight of every common object there; they seemed to
crowd him, to jostle him, to obtrude themselves on his vision.

In the midst of all his composure he could not escape this obsession; it
was locked in his heart and mentioned to no one, but it was there, never
to be forgotten nor subdued.

He would rise, almost mechanically, from his occupation, to finger a
piece of furniture, an article of clothing, to feel the different
surfaces and weights of various objects.

Often this desire came over him with the strength of a fierce appetite;
as a thirsty man craves for water, so Francis would crave to handle
silk, to put his palm over carved wood, to gaze on some vivid colour, to
hold a crystal glass next his cheek, or to close his hands over the cold
hardness of a pebble.

Sometimes there was a lust of destruction with it; he longed to rend the
silk, to crush the glass, to break the wood, and smash the stone, but
this impulse he sternly resisted.

This strange mental state, so different from anything he had known
before, disturbed him, for he associated it with some sickness of the
body; but the blankness of his imagination greatly relieved him. He took
that as a sign that God had at last forgiven and absolved him and was no
longer pursuing him with scorpion-tailed lashes for his sin.

Two days before he was to start for Italy he received a letter from his
steward.

He knew that it must have been written very shortly after his departure,
and therefore supposed that it could contain no news of a great
importance.

He left it on his desk and went out to his bankers, there to deposit his
will and various deeds and documents; there were other copies with the
lawyers, but he wished in all things to be methodical and prudent.

His supper he took as usual at "The Arms of Orange," and did not return
to his rooms till about ten o'clock.

The candles were lit, the fire burning, the curtain drawn, his chair,
his books, all arranged to his hand, his bed warmed his dressing-gown
and slippers ready.

He dismissed his body-servant--who slept in the next room--and stretched
himself out in the armed chair by the fire.

Now his mind was clear of fancies he did not dread a lonely evening.

The rooms no longer held memories; the past seemed neither sweet nor
bitter--a mere blank.

He reflected with some satisfaction that even this visit to Italy held
no dread.

No, neither Italy, nor Bologna, nor the Odaleschi Palace itself would be
terrible to him now; he would be no more afraid of revisiting them than
a conqueror of gazing at the dead bodies of his enemies.

He filled a long clay pipe with Virginian tobacco and, leaning back,
began to smoke and consider the future.

First, he must find Allan Forsythe.

Once he had found him he meant to kill him; as he had promised Stacy, he
would neither challenge nor denounce his enemy--he would kill him; the
wrong, the outrage, the insult, could be removed by nothing save blood.

From the first he had deliberately resolved to kill Allan.

If he had found him in Glenillich village he would have killed him, if
he had met him in his rooms in Edinburgh he would have killed him. Long
had he reasoned with himself that this was no passionate impulse, no mad
desire, but a sane resolve, coolly conceived, by which his peace with
Heaven would be consolidated and his future life entirely freed from the
past.

Now he was glad that he had not met Allan in Scotland, because this way
he avoided a scandal and had a surer chance of escape. If it had
happened in his own country he would have called it a duel; in Italy
there would be no need for that pretence.

Allan would disappear and be forgotten, and Francis would return home at
peace.

How he would kill Allan he did not know; his impulse was to shoot him on
sight, but there might be better ways; already he had formed and
rejected many plans.

For awhile he watched the smoke rings ascending from the white bowl of
his pipe, then he chanced to turn in his chair, and his glance fell on
the large square envelope of the steward's letter standing propped
against the ink-dish on his desk.

Francis stared at it a moment; the thick paper, the red seal, the black
lines of the address--the material of the thing oppressed him. It seemed
massive, heavy, to fill the room and threaten him.

He rose, seized it, and tore it open--the feel of the paper, the faint
odour of the sealing wax affected him unpleasantly; he crushed the
contents together nervously, almost angrily, and returned to the chair
he had just left.

For a little longer he smoked to steady himself, then the pipe loomed
large and insistent, he could think of nothing but the shape, the clay,
of which it was made.

With an angry movement he cast the pipe into the fire and opened the
letter.

Mr. Doughty began with a preamble of much humility and apology; on the
second page was the real matter of the letter.

"This is the grievous news that I have to afflict your honour with; may
you deal mercifully with your servant who is the conveyer of such
tidings.

"The day your honour left, the little master fell into convulsions and
seemed in great distress of mind.

"All care was taken, there were the nurse, the doctor, and the minister
in attendance, and none of us sleeping for the anxiety.

"And the minister had a contention or wrestle with the Devil, for your
honour's son lay in a fever and called constantly for a priest and
confession and the viaticum, which things he said he had learnt of in a
book your honour took from him together with a crucifix. He also called
much on your honour's late lady, and babbled many curious tales and
foreign histories which seemed to our poor understanding no better than
heathen. But the minister strove in prayer with these evil spirits until
desired to desist by the doctor, who said he disturbed the child.

"Yet what matter of that if he wrestled for the bairn's soul?

"Still, he went, and the young master was more quiet, only asking for my
late lady and a little wild fox she tamed for him--which last had
strangely returned to the house since your honour's departure, and was
brought to the child and lay on the bed beside him like a dog.

"At this the child seemed pleased, and began to talk with great
clearness for one of his years, but saying ungodly things, as that his
mother had told him he must be shriven, and insisting on a priest.

"The next day, as he was very weak and plainly dying, we sent for the
minister again, but the child would not listen to the godly man but
turned his face to the wall.

"He now had the fox in his arms, which we tried to remove, thinking it
perhaps an evil spirit, but the beast was so fierce there was no one who
could touch it for fear.

"And, without speaking again, the little master died, at four hours and
forty minutes by the great clock in the hall.

"This was the third day after your honour left, the fourth day of
February, as your honour will recall. And there following another
snowstorm, the express we had sent with the news returned, being unable
to cross the river, and so, being unable to obtain the wishes of your
honour, we buried the child on the third day after his death in the
afternoon at three o'clock, with all the respect due, the villagers in a
mourning procession and the great bell tolling all day. On the evening
of this day, the weather holding, the express is able to join the
mail-coach, and I send this letter, awaiting your honour's further
instructions for the tomb or memorial; at present there is nothing save
the name to be added on the family vault.

"The fox beast has escaped again; we would very willingly have put it to
death, thinking it a diabolic person."

Francis folded the letter across and laid it on the table beside him,
where the candles stood; out of a confusion he heard himself talking:

"Better for both of us--for him and for me. So there is no link--so I
begin again. He could never have been happy, we should never have loved
each other."

He rose and held on to the back of the chair, his world that had lately
been so hard and concrete had altered: the curtains looked like veils of
mist, the furniture seemed made of cloud, the whole room looked vague
and unreal.

He found his way to the bell and rang, the servant came after a moment;
he was half-dressed and startled--the hour was past midnight.

"Make me some coffee," said Francis.

"Sir?"

"Make me some coffee."

"Your honour is not well?" exclaimed the man, frightened by his master's
look.

Francis seated himself in his own place; a late reveller returning
through the street was whistling the "Monimusk" strathspey; he listened.

"No, indeed I am not well," he said at length, in a trembling
voice,--"bring me some spirit. I feel my head reel--"

The servant hastened for the brandy, and when he returned Francis was
unconscious, with his head fallen back on the chair in the attitude of a
dead man.



III


It was Stacy who nursed Francis. She did not take him to her own home
because of the dreadful sentence formed by the broken brain and uttered
by the palsied lips of her mother.

Twice since, Mrs. Wigram had broken her long silences by the words "My
nephew Glenillich," and once her almost useless hand seized one of her
daughter's knitting needles and feebly traced "Glenillich" on the top of
the worktable, as if it was the beginning of a message.

A message never completed, for the invalid's fingers had trailed away
purposelessly and fallen stiffly in her lap.

Stacy did not dare bring Frank into her mother's house, but she came to
and fro his chambers in what time she could spare, assisted by her old
capable servant and a doctor she had known all her life.

She was strangely softened and almost remorseful towards Francis, for
she felt that she had judged him harshly in the matter of the child.

For, she argued, if he had not loved Elphin he would not have been so
terribly and suddenly stricken by the news of his death.

The tragedy, or rather the completion of the tragedy, had greatly
shocked and moved Stacy, but it seemed to her quite natural and perhaps
merciful that the child should die.

Yet it was a grief that admitted of no consolation, it was blank sorrow
without relief, and Stacy did not know how to offer even a shallow
comfort to Francis.

She believed that remorse deepened his sufferings; surely he could not
but think of the little child left to the care of servants in a great
house echoing still with whispered comments on the tragedy that had left
him motherless. Surely he must recall the gloom and chill of Glenillich
and what the boy must have suffered, lonely there and frightened by a
horror that must have been namelessly awful to his child's mind. But
Stacy, in her strict justice, did not blame Francis for having left
Elphin in Glenillich; it could not be supposed that a man overwhelmed as
he was, and believing what he believed, would, in the first desperate
agony of loss and discovery, give much thought to a child.

Had Stacy known of the scene the architect had witnessed in the
death-chamber she might have been less tender with her cousin; but she
knew nothing of what had happened in Glenillich save what she had heard
from his own lips. For a week Francis lay helpless in an illness that
puzzled the doctor; indeed, it was not within his science, for it was a
sickness of the soul.

The physician could only say, "Fever, an old recurrent fever brought on
by grief and anxiety of mind."

He seemed rather afraid of the case, and doubtful of the patient's
ultimate sanity.

Stacy went her way, acting on her own common sense and her knowledge of
her cousin.

For one thing she was glad of this illness, she hoped that it would
prevent Francis from going to Italy to search for Allan Forsythe. She
trusted that by the time Francis was able to travel, Allan would have
returned to Scotland, or, at least, have written.

He had his explanation, his justification, she believed, and she wanted
these given to her, not to Francis.

She had a womanly desire to be the mediator between the two men, to be
the advocate for Giovanna, to bring Allan to clear her name and Francis
to believe him; she did not want them to meet alone, in a foreign land,
for all the promise her cousin had given her so readily and calmly.

And if the whole horror was true, even then she would sooner face it
here; even then she wished to stand between them, urging mercy and
charity.

So she asked the doctor to tell Francis he must not travel to Italy this
season, but wait till the cool of the autumn rains, and she wrote to
Allan, under cover of the Palazzo Muti, asking him, in one brief
sentence, to hasten his return to Edinburgh; usually he was back by May
or June at latest, and March was almost over before Francis was past the
crisis of his illness.

The doctor had readily acceded to Miss Wigram's request. It was his own
opinion that a journey to Italy, where the heat would be beginning,
might easily prostrate Mr. Moutray with perhaps a fatal attack of the
old malaria, and he promised to speak to the patient as soon as he would
be able to listen.

Francis Moutray lay, day and night, in a half-swoon, half-sleep, broken
by fits of burning fever, during which he was completely unconscious.
But--and this the doctor could not understand, as it was against all his
experience--Francis, though delirious, never railed nor babbled. He
sighed and moaned, and bit the sheets and pillows in what seemed an
access of uncontrollable grief, but no word escaped him.

It was as if, even in his unconsciousness, he exercised some strong
control that kept his heart locked, as if, even through all the agony
that overwhelmed his senses, he yet retained sufficient command of
himself to maintain a perfect silence.

Sometimes he would weep like a woman, drenching his pillow with
unchecked tears and muttering to himself the while words too low and
incoherent for any to be heard; but if anyone spoke to him, he took no
notice and seemed not to hear.

Nor would he lift his head or his eyes, but continued his muttering and
his weeping as if alone.

More than once Stacy feared for his reason; it seemed to her almost
impossible that control and poise once so shattered could ever be
restored, that passions so strong as to prostrate the body thus could
ever be subdued again. She could not see to the bottom of his sorrow nor
guess the exact root of his endless grief, for never by one word did he
give her a clue as to what was agonizing his mind. Whether it was the
death of the child, or the death of Giovanna, or the thought of the
betrayal he believed he had been the object of, or fear of God who had
already punished him so dreadfully, Stacy could not tell.

Remembering his calm when she had last spoken to him in her house, the
almost exultation with which he had talked of Giovanna's end, she could
not believe that it was made for his wife he wept.

It must, she thought, be for the child, and that belief made her pitiful
towards Francis.

Mr. Doughty, the Scotch factor, came to Edinburgh to consult with his
master; but it was useless for him to see Francis, who was incapable of
speech.

The sight of the steward set Stacy wondering what would become of the
estates now the child was gone; she and Francis stood singularly alone,
as far as she knew they had no relation in the world save each other.

She shuddered as she pictured Glenillich falling to the Crown, and
becoming neglected, waste, and desolate like the fatal lands of
Ardnamurchan.

Then the thought suddenly came to her, "I suppose if he recovers he will
marry again--he is almost certain to marry."

Somehow the thought was both strange and unpleasant, yet she had to
admit that it was the most sensible thing for Francis to do--the thing
every one would advise him to do, especially now he had lost the child.

"If he does not, we two are the last of the Moutrays," she reflected,--"and
I am the only one on my mother's side." She thought it a pitiful end
to an old family; and all the world, as it affected her, seemed cruel
and sad.

Towards April and the first faint warmth of spring, Francis began to
mend.

His passions dropped like a great wind that has exhausted itself, and
allowed his torn body some repose.

He began to sleep naturally, to eat, the convulsions and fits of fever
ceased; his speech, though slow and sad, was reasonable.

Stacy stopped her visits, leaving him to the care of the doctor and his
servant; her mother was sinking into complete decay, and Stacy felt she
should be near her, for the poor lady seemed to know her daughter, or
Stacy persuaded herself she did, by the faint light that seemed to wake
in her eyes when Stacy approached.

Miss Wigram's days had for so long been nothing but service that she
scarcely noticed the strain of a long double attendance on the sick.

But she did often wonder what her life would be when this service was
over.

Francis would recover, her mother would not need her much longer, then
she would be quite alone and free.

And what to do with this loneliness and freedom? She was not yet thirty;
there were many blank years to fill in before the end.

Her fortune would be sufficient, if not splendid; she had her old
home--her old friends--but these were not enough. Her cheated woman's
nature revolted bitterly against this blank future. How differently she
had dreamed it!

She had moods when she almost hated Allan Forsythe for having kept her
pledged to him when he had ceased to love her--when she thought almost
with rage of the beautiful Giovanna who had perhaps stolen all her
life's happiness; if Giovanna had not come in his way with her claim of
their mutual faith, might not she, Stacy, have held him?

And in these moments she felt almost affectionate towards Francis as if
they had been both equally wronged by the same hand, had equally
suffered, and were now allies in pain and disappointment.

Stacy fought through these humours with all the force of her just,
honest nature. She refused to judge on suspicion, she reserved all anger
till she had heard Allan speak for himself, and she clung to her resolve
to be the defender and advocate of the dead.

But the bitter moments of doubt and despair, wrath and jealousy, were
there, and though she conquered them, they left a mark on her soul.

One day, in the middle of April, when she had not for a week had news of
Francis, she went round to his chambers accompanied by the old domestic
who had helped her nurse him. He was much recovered, the servant told
her, and had indeed lately been talking of a visit to his cousin.

Stacy found him in the sitting-room by the window that was wide open on
the view of the houses and the castle hazy in the fitful morning sun.

He was reclining in a deep-bottomed leather chair, his hands placed on
the arms; his limbs, that looked very long and gaunt, wrapped in a dark
crimson dressing-gown.

A while linen cravat above a plain shirt enfolded his chin, and in
contrast with this whiteness his thin dark face looked a strange colour,
a bloodless pallor.

His hair had been cut short in his illness, the waving ends fell heavily
on his brow; above the temples it was noticeably marked with grey.

His expression was the expression of the old Francis, reserved, grave,
and proud.

Only his eyes were shadowed beneath, and he kept them continually
downcast, or shifting restlessly, as if he was afraid to keep his gaze
steadily raised or in one place.

He rose as Stacy entered, and kissed her hand in silence.

"I am glad that you are so much better, Francis," she said simply.

She took a chair near his, and the sunlight fell over her trim figure
and her black gown, over the grave and rather wasted face in the frame
of her hood.

Francis had reseated himself, and looked at her in silence still, as if
too overcome to speak.

Stacy hurried on on ordinary topics till her voice seemed to lighten the
dreary solitude of the chamber; she called in her maid and showed
Francis the basket of home-made wines and cordials she had brought him,
and when she had dismissed the woman to wait for her without, she placed
on the table by Francis a little bunch of the first flowers of the
year--violets, cowslips, and daisies.

As she did this she saw that the table held two books and a map--all of
Italy.

"My dear, my dear," said Francis suddenly, "you should not have done all
this for me. I never deserved it."

"Ah, tut," said Stacy.

"And you had better have left me--even out of kindness."

"Why, Frank?"

"Because it would have been so much better for me to have died."

"You would not have died, even if I had not come," replied Stacy in her
practical way. "Do you think I saved you?"

"I think you did. But as you say, perhaps I could not have died, perhaps
it was not meant; perhaps it is better that I go on."

He took his face in his hands and turned his eyes towards the window,
but they remained downcast.

"It is certainly better," answered his cousin, feeling herself
strengthen as she endeavoured to strengthen him. "It is the only right
thing."

"At least," said Francis, speaking with difficulty, "I am greatly
beholden to your charity. You had no cause to care for me."

"Why no cause?" she smiled. "You and mother are the last two
Moutrays--and I have no other kin."

"There is very little I can do for any," he answered. "What I can I have
done. As soon as I could hold a pen I altered my will. I have left
Glenillich--all--to you."

Stacy was shocked.

"Ah, you should not," she cried in a distressed tone. "What shall I do
with Glenillich?"

"Would you rather it went to a stranger or the Crown?" he asked.

"No," she said honestly, remembering how she had thought of and dreaded
such a possibility.

"Well, then, I have no other kin but you, Stacy."

"But you will--marry."

His answer was calm:

"I have thought of it--it is provided for in the will."

Stacy felt relieved. She would have been startled could she have
remotely guessed that it was she he meant to marry if he ever took
another wife, and that he intended, either way, Glenillich for her and
her children.

Her relief was followed by a quick reaction; though she herself had
mentioned his remarriage the idea was full of a great distaste, and
there was something horrible to Stacy in the quiet way he had answered,
showing that the idea was already familiar to him.

Nothing could make it familiar to Stacy; try as she would she could not
regard any future match of her cousin as other than a cold and
deliberate unfaithlessness, so intense still seemed the bond between
Giovanna and Francis, so vivid still was the personality of the dead
woman, so tremendous still the power of the passion that had enchained
this strange pair--at least Stacy vaguely still felt it tremendous, even
if the woman was dead and the man had forgotten--or thought he had
forgotten.

"Well, we need not talk of these things," she said at length. "It is
kind of you to think of me for the estates, Frank, but we are much of an
age, and I hope not to come to an inheritance."

"You wish me a long life then?" said Francis in a peculiar voice.

"Yes--why, yes," she answered.

"I wonder," he mused, "if earth can hold torture as hideous as that of
hell? I think so. Certainly it would be dreadful to die and not be sure
that one would escape hell."

"If one has done no great sin why should not one trust God?" asked Stacy
simply.

Francis very slightly shivered, and put out his hand for the map of
Italy.

"Shall I close the window, Frank? The room is very chilly."

"No, no," he answered with sudden vehemence; "I cannot bear to see the
windows closed."

She glanced at the paper fluttering in his hand.

"You have given up those thoughts of going abroad?" she asked in a low
voice.

"No, Stacy, I am going."

"But the doctor spoke to you?"

"Yes, he spoke."

"Are you not afraid of the heat--the malaria?"

"More afraid of--of--other things if I stay here."

Stacy was utterly daunted at this persistence of his resolve through the
complete overthrow of his body and mind. How could she struggle with
what had survived so fierce an illness, so much mental turmoil and
anguish?

"I do nothing now because I save my strength," continued Francis. "I
save my strength."

"He--he will soon, I think, return to Edinburgh," said Stacy.

"I would rather meet him in Italy."

"By May he should be here."

"By May I shall be in Italy."



IV


Francis was, as he had resolved and declared he would be, in Italy by
the middle of the month of May. As far as Tuscany he travelled direct,
only stopping the one night necessary at each stage, but, when he found
himself within a few hours of Florence, his vigour and energy suddenly
failed him. He put up at the inn of a little village not far from the
coast, and waited, in a kind of lethargy of mind and body, for his
purpose to become clear to him and his strength to return.

He was fatigued, he told himself, and must have time to recover and
arrange his plans.

It was one thing to make stern resolutions in Edinburgh, another to make
them in Italy. The long journey, the strange countries through which he
had passed, the peculiar atmosphere of the place where he was now, all
tended to confuse him.

He could not think clearly because he was distracted by a thousand
hateful memories evoked by this country, because he could not forget or
ignore the strange differences between this land and his own.

This impression was as sharp as when years before he had first travelled
here with Harry Middleton.

The sheer physical differences oppressed and overwhelmed him; he hated
them all, but he could not avoid them.

The great sense of light and brightness, the coloured houses, the dazzle
in the air, the hardiness of the people with their strongly curling
black hair, their intelligent black eyes, their perfect white teeth like
the teeth of animals, the pomp and show of their majestic and worldly
religion, their monotonous, melodious music--martial, amorous, and
gay--the whole atmosphere that seemed to radiate from individuals and
crowds alike, of fierceness and good-nature, of violence and courtesy,
of practical common sense and strong, common passions, and a laugh above
all. These things forced themselves on Francis; he could not escape
them, and he hated them. For they, these common people of the streets,
roads, and inns, seemed to him to differ only in dress and speech from
the nobles he had met in Bologna; and he saw more than one woman with
the ardent beauty of Giovanna, and more than one child with the strange
gravity of Elphin.

He had meant to push on to Rome, but so overwhelmed was he by this alien
atmosphere that was yet so full of bitter memories that he remained
inert, his plans shattered, struggling for control and mastery of
himself.

The inn would have been a pleasant place in any eyes save his, the
country would have been a source of great delight to any less cruelly
occupied with miserable thoughts, for the Tuscan spring was at the
height, and day and night magnificent beauty of hill and field, sea and
wood, tree and flower, lay triumphantly noble beneath the vast arch of
the sky.

Even the bruised heart and unsettled brain of Francis were not
altogether insensible to this beauty; against his will, almost against
his knowledge, the rich loneliness soothed him like a narcotic.

That part of his nature against which he had always struggled, which had
overthrown him once so utterly and which he had crushed with a terrible
revenge, now asserted itself to torture him again.

He told himself that he was waiting there in this village to mature his
plans, but he had no plans, had never had from the first, save the
intention of going to Rome and finding Allan Forsythe through that vague
indication of his address at the Palazzo Muti; nor was he forming any
fresh plans in this interval of inaction.

Day by day he sat at the window of his room, or walked in the hills or
rode by the sea, his mind as slack as his tired body, and his soul as
dumb as his closed lips.

From his window he looked down on a vineyard; the vines were already
three feet and more above the ground and coloured as clear a green as an
emerald. Beyond them was a row of peach and apple trees shedding their
last blossoms, and beyond that an orchard of olives--grey-silver, with
fantastic trunks--grew up the hill slopes.

In the thick grass beneath them spread a profusion of wild flowers--the
yellow iris, purple wind flowers, orchids of a dark violet, poppies like
the English poppies of August, and the pale-yellow single hollyhock.

The vineyard was divided by a trellis over which grew climbing
roses--pink and deep crimson--and this walk was bordered by a bed of
white and striped red-and-white pinks which grew in a lavish profusion,
and beyond the vineyard was a square herb-garden in which grew basil,
citronella, lavender, majorum, rue, sassafras, and a laurel with
sharp-pointed leaves.

At the end of the walk, under the trellis where the vines ended, was a
paved square with a circular seat surrounding an old olive tree; the
edges of this square were marked by a row of lemon trees in red
earthenware pots; the background was the hillside and the olive grove.

Francis often went to this spot and rested himself on the seat beneath
the ancient tree.

The sunny air was always full of the sweet acute odour of the herbs,
great bees and butterflies flew in and out of the hearts of the heavy
roses, lizards darted across the hot stones of the path, and there was
ever some bird singing, clear and shrill, in the shadows of the olive
wood.

Hour after hour Francis would sit there, staring at the pinks, the
vines, the pattern of the olive leaves cast by the sunshine at his feet,
the half-green lemons hanging amid the dark curling leaves.

Then he would go up to his room--the best chamber in the inn--and pace
up and down the brown brick floor until he was tired.

The room was very like that in Bologna where his first visions had come
to him; The plain white walls, the ceiling painted with birds and
flowers, the heavy four-post bed with the canopy and curtains of an old,
rich, blue velvet, the massive dark wood wardrobe and desk, the bureau
with brass handles furnished with candlesticks of coarse majolica, the
deep, low, wand-bottomed chair, the strip of rough wool carpet near the
bed, the window with the green shutters--all was the same.

Francis defied these associations as he had defied those in Edinburgh.

And for the present at least his sleep was not haunted.

Every morning he said to himself, "I must get on to Rome," every morning
he postponed his departure.

He had with him one attendant, chosen especially for this journey--an
Englishman who could speak French and Italian: Francis knew little of
either language.

It was in the second week of his stay that there was a great
thunderstorm.

Purple clouds swept up from behind the mountains, making the rifts of
the marble quarries on the summits look ghastly white, all the rich
verdure of olive, pine, and chestnut bent and shivered; the white and
coloured houses of the little hill towns were clearly visible in the
glaring light of the sun rays forcing beneath the clouds, the stained
marble campanile of the village, crowned by the turret with the great
bronze bells and the weathercock, like a falling globe pierced with an
arrow, stood out vividly against the darkening heavens.

Francis stood at the window of the upper parlour, and looked at this
view of the piazza and the church against the rich light and shade of
the mountains whose tops were beginning to be blotted out by the
oncoming rain vapours.

It was the hour of his dinner, which was served in the little parlour
overlooking the garden. He went down as usual.

Merton, the servant, was ready to wait on him; the girl of the inn,
ruddy and talkative, was setting the dishes.

Every detail of the meal was clearly fixed now in the mind of Francis;
it was always the same--the same as the meals he had eaten in Italy on
his former visit.

The coarse, lip white cloth, the _fiasco_ of red wine in the metal
stand, the earthenware bowl of green leaves, the bottle of golden oil,
the plate of thick tasty soup, the heavy, hard-crusted bread, the two
dishes of fruit--one-half acid cherries and the last oranges, wrinkled
and hard, the other dried grapes and plums and wafer-like biscuits--all
these things he remembered, trivialities that yet had power.

He was seated directly opposite open windows, and the storm-wind blew in
and shook the curtains and the ends of the tablecloth.

Merton went to close them.

"No, leave them open," said Francis.

He ate his dinner in silence, keeping his eyes fixed on the rose
trellis, on the vineyard, on the distant hills without.

The first thunder-clap rolled round the mountains, the vivid sunlight
was hidden by the unrolling clouds.

The tireless birds in the olive wood stopped singing.

The girl brought in a dish of fried meat and vegetables from the
kitchen.

Seeing the open windows she darted at them with a little cry of apology.

"Let them be--it is yet light," said Francis; "when they are closed my
heart closes too."

"The Signore wishes them open," said Merton in Italian; with polite
acquiescence in this folly the woman changed the plates in silence.

A flash of lightning like a bared sword sprang from the bosom of the
thundercloud and darted into the chamber, the volley of the thunder
shook the building.

Francis, pouring out wine, overtipped the fiasco, and the bright red
stained the cloth.

"That means happiness," smiled the girl, and skilfully put a napkin over
the mark.

The room was almost completely dark, full of wind and chill air, the
curtains and the ends of the tablecloth continued to blow to and fro;
the rain came now, suddenly, and dashed in, wetting the brick floor.

The whole hillside appeared misted, obscured, horrible, haunted, only
lit now and then by the livid fire of the lightning which seemed to rend
the sky and the very earth.

Francis remembered another Southern thunderstorm, also seen from an inn.

And a woman who had come to him out of the storm with her pitiful bundle
in her hands, and her hired coach at the door, and all else left behind
and abandoned for him. He took out his handkerchief and wiped his lips.

"Close the windows now," he said, for a mortal cold had seized his
limbs.

Merton obeyed, and the rain slashed fiercely at the glass as if angry at
being shut out from the room.

Francis drank more wine, and a false heat diffused itself over his body.

He sat motionless, fingering the bunches of hard white cherries with the
pink stain flushing them; he recalled the wild cherry trees overgrowing
the gorge down which he had flung her prayer book, her crucifix, her
rosary.

Suddenly he began thinking of her in her coffin--as she lay now, this
moment, while he listened to the storm.

She was shrivelling away to dust beneath the weight of the Odaleschi
jewels--like a mummy she would be sealed from the air--hideous--but her
hair would be the same.

That amber blonde hair that she had worn in curling plaits crowning her
small head--he recalled how it had hung to her waist the night she had
come to him in her antechamber--the night he had returned from Edinburgh
bringing with him, in his madness, Allan Forsythe.

That night she had locked her door on him, nor had it ever been opened
again to him; from that night he had never seen her hair falling about
her shoulders--save once only when she had lain at his feet on the bleak
hillside under Ardnamurchan church.

And then it had been spoilt with blood. He wondered fiercely what had
reminded him of her hair--perhaps the storm which had recalled that
other storm when she had stood before him, radiant with passion, and
unwound the scarf that showed her amber locks in disorder and the
gold ornaments of ships in her ears.

He rose and went to the window, looking at that mysteriously dark
hillside with the shivering olive trees, the vine tendrils, and the
roses blowing and bending beneath the rain.

The storm was short as it was fierce, the thunder rolled away, the
lightning ceased.

But the deep purple clouds continued to overhang the mountains, and the
water poured down steadily, shaken by gusts of wind.

Behind those clouds the sun was now setting, and the darkness remained.

Francis walked up and down the parlour, his hands clasped behind under
the skirts of his coat.

Presently the diligence, a little delayed by the storm, drove up with
the letters.

There were two for him, one from Mr. Doughty the factor--the usual cold
report, correct and respectful, of the doings at Glenillich; the other
from Stacy Wigram, quietly announcing the merciful death of her mother.

It seemed as if he could get no news that was not of death or disaster.

He had never loved his father's sister nor seen much of her, but she was
the nearest kin he had, and, save for Stacy, the only one.

Gloomily he crushed up the letter in his hand and continued his pacing
of the room, listening to the rain and watching it obscure the dark
hillside.

Presently he became aware of some tumult of gossip without the door,
among which he could distinguish his servant's voice.

The varied excited tones annoyed him, yet he dreaded to go up to his own
room.

He was almost resolving to go out into the rain and the quiet of the
garden, when Merton entered the parlour.

"What is all this discussion?" asked Francis. "Cannot you bid these
people check their tongues?"

"They wanted me to tell you, sir," answered the servant. "The girl went
up to your chamber to shut the windows from the rain, and she found a
little child there, sitting on the bed, she says.

"So she ran down to ask me who it was, and I told her that it must be of
the house, so we went up together and the child was not there, though
she had shut the door on it and believed it too small to reach the
handle. Nor can it be found anywhere in the house, and no one knows of
such a child. Your honour knows nothing?"

"How should I know?" returned Francis. "I have seen no child in this
house since I entered it--the girl was dreaming or stupid."

"So I thought, sir, but the girl was very exact in her relation. She
said the child sat on the bed between the cushions, and was reading from
a book with a cross on the cover, as it might be a book of prayers."

"Tell me no more of this foolishness," said Francis violently. "The rain
has stopped. I will go forth a little."

The man hesitated.

"Your forgiveness, sir, but the strange thing is that others saw the
child. Several of us went up, and one chanced to look through the
keyhole and swore he saw--it--plain enough--but when the door was opened
there was nothing. And afterwards I looked through the keyhole, and
there was plainly a little child on the bed, and when we entered--no
one."

Francis turned his head from the window towards the servant.

His face was quite livid.

"You are all making fools of each other," he said. "Do not let me hear
any more of this."

Merton bowed, flushed, and stood respectfully silent.

"To-morrow morning," continued Francis, "I take the first stage to Pisa.
See that everything is ready."

He stepped out into the close corridor and then into the little street,
and walked out of the village briskly, and uncovered beneath the
threatening sky from which fell still a fine rain.



V


The next day it poured heavily; the rain descended with steady violence
from loose grey clouds, and neither towards the mountains nor towards
the sea was there any sign of a break or change in the heavens.

The impression Francis had made on the people of the inn was
strengthened by his resolve to take his departure on a day when even the
field labourers were at home and the animals had been taken into
shelter; they frankly thought him insane.

But Francis did not care; he knew that it was impossible for him to
spend another night in that bedchamber.

The coach went at five, and Francis contrived to be up all night
arranging his things, and writing to Mr. Doughty and to Stacy letters
that could well have waited.

He stayed in the parlour to do this, and utterly avoided the
bed-chamber.

By half-past four the inn was awake; the girl who brought Francis in his
coffee assumed that the gentleman would not start to-day, and could
hardly conceal her astonishment when Merton assured her he would.

There was more gossiping in the kitchens: the unslept-in bed, the
stranger up all night writing letters--the hurried departure!

All of it increased Francis' anxiety to be gone; the inn, the little
village where he had stayed willingly, even peacefully, had now become
suddenly entirely hateful to him.

The "coach" was only an open diligence with stout canvas curtains tied
down behind the seats at either side, gay blue wheels, drawn by tall
mules; on the top were large casks of wine and oil and several packets;
the inside was already half-filled with men and women bound for the
neighbouring villages.

Francis had never meant to take this humble conveyance but to hire his
own coach; to do this would, however, have meant a delay of several
hours, and that he could not bear to consider. There was some difficulty
with his luggage, which was far too bulky for the diligence; some
valises were strapped under the driver's seat, and the rest had to
follow on a baggage mule.

At length, after what seemed to Francis endless delays, they started, he
inside and Merton beside the driver.

The interior was blocked with bundles of lettuces and peas, new potatoes
and onions, tied with coloured handkerchiefs; the two women in charge of
these filled the air with exclamations of annoyance and amazement about
the weather.

The three other occupants were a gentleman farmer, a prosperous
shopkeeper, and a priest. Francis, well-wrapped in his dark-blue
broadcloth mantle that was the envy of the others, sat near the doorway,
and received the rain on his face and shoulders.

He preferred the rain to the close interior with the smell of damp and
vegetables and the chatter of the women.

He looked out on to the road to escape the bright eager eyes of the men
which fixed him with a pleasant but insatiable and merciless curiosity.

At first his spirits rose a little, the headache brought on by his
sleepless night disappeared before the fresh air; the beauty of the
scenery through which the road passed, the great hills wooded with olive
and chestnut and dotted with little towns and churches on one hand, the
fields of grain, of rice, of pasture-land, the white farmhouses covered
with climbing lemons, the vineyards and pine-woods on the other, sloping
down to the sea, pleased and distracted him. But at one hamlet where the
diligence stopped for the priest to alight, his attention was hideously
attracted by a huge iron cross that sprang from the ground at the edge
of the wood of olives. Nailed across the arms were the symbols of the
Passion--the cock, the hour-glass, the sponge, the nails, the spear, the
crown of thorns, the hand, the scourge, all brightly painted in red and
yellow.

Opposite, the other side of the little lane, was an alabaster shrine
where the Madonna and Child were enclosed behind a gilt railing; before
it lay fading bunches of wild flowers, and above hung a little lamp.

Francis remembered the grating of the chapel in the Odaleschi Palace,
and his heart contracted with agony.

He looked no more from the door, and presently, despite the discomfort
of his position, half fell asleep. He was aroused by the crying of a
child.

Sitting up he looked round him sharply, he had not noticed that either
of the women had a child. Nor could he see one now.

But the crying continued--low, desolate, half-suppressed sobs, yet so
persistent and distinct it seemed as if no one could fail to hear them.

"It is some one on the road," thought Francis; but the sound travelled
with them--it was in the diligence. The other travellers looked at each
other, and the women began to talk loudly and glance at Francis. A great
terror seized him; he thought he was going to faint.

The diligence stopped and the two women got out; Francis too descended;
it was still raining heavily, but he bid Merton change places with him.

"I cannot endure the closeness of the interior," he said. "I must have
fresh air."

The servant obeyed, and Francis mounted beside the driver, who was all
good-natured sympathy and gave him a goat-skin rug to protect him from
the wet.

They reached Pisa about two of the clock; the noble city, with the line
of fine palaces sweeping in an admirable curve either side the turbid
yellow waters of the Arno, had no charm for Francis; he found it gloomy
and sombre under the rain.

The inn where the diligence stopped, provided the usual meal. Francis
forced himself to take some food.

He did not wish to stay in Pisa. There was a coach running to Empoli
about four o'clock; he engaged seats in it, and, still under the rain,
left the city, jolting in the heavy vehicle; it was the mail, and more
important than the diligence of the morning, being equipped with four
horses, guard, and postilion. Francis rode outside.

It was after dark when they reached Empoli, and even if Francis had so
wished, there were no means of reaching Florence that night.

It was a large hostel or posting-house outside which the coach stopped,
and in the great painted room where Francis was drying his mantle before
the wood fire he spoke to his servant, and in gentler tones than he
usually took to those in his service.

"Listen to me, Merton," he said. "I am a sick man. I should not have
come abroad at all, but I have something very important to do in Italy,
something very important. I am not here for amusement or fancy. I must
get to Rome as quickly as possible. There is no coach to Florence till
the morning, and I cannot hire one, even if one would take me on a
moonless night. You see our journey is not going to be comfortable,
Merton, but if you will put up with me, I will recompense you well." He
paused a second, then added abruptly, "I cannot sleep in their
bedrooms--they are all the same--"

"I do not blame your honour," replied the servant. "It is a very
uncomfortable country, and in part not civilized--and for the inns--!
They show gentlemen into rooms we should give to the grooms. And half of
them are not clean."

"That is it," cried Francis eagerly, "they are uncomfortable. So
to-night I shall sleep here, on this sofa--the coach goes early--of
course I will hire a room for you."

"There is no need at all, sir. I can sleep here too if you do not
mind--I will sleep here too; perhaps, in these places, it is as well
that we should be together. But I am afraid you will have to pay the
price of a bedroom."

Francis seemed pleased and relieved.

"Pay what you like," he said, "as long as we are left alone."

The Englishman gave his master a quick furtive look, and was leaving the
room when Francis said, gazing the while into the fire:

"Merton, did you hear a--a child--crying--on the Pisa diligence to-day?"

"Yes, sir--some child on the road--every one was speaking about it."

"How could it have been on the road? The sound was in the carriage."

"That is impossible, sir, for there was no child among the passengers."

Francis said no more, and the man left the room. After a supper which he
made only a pretence of eating, Francis went out for an aimless walk
through the wet streets of Empoli.

When he returned he arranged his mantle as a pillow, and stretched
himself along the wide, long, red damask-covered couch.

The servant had drawn out another faded settee for himself; before he
put out the candles Francis spoke:

"The child--yesterday in the inn--did anyone find out who it was?"

"No, sir, but there were children next door, and 'twas concluded that
one of them had got in and hidden in the house and then escaped--it
would have been easy, sir."

"Ah yes," said Francis.

The lights were put out, and he lay motionless on his hard couch and
presently slept.

That night he dreamt for the first time since his illness.

He thought that he was back again in Glenillich and walking from one
room to another, and finding all empty until he came to a garret, and
there was Allan Forsythe kneeling before an iron crucifix.

And Francis, in his dream, rushed at him, drawing his sword, and Allan
sprang up and showed him a denarius of the Empress Faustina in his hand,
and seemed to offer it to him as a bribe, and instead of taking it
Francis cast at his feet the golden Aurelian.

And the ringing sound the coin made woke him; he opened his eyes with a
deep sigh and groan.

He found himself standing in the middle of the room, his hand on the
sword which lay on the table, about him complete darkness and complete
silence.

Trembling violently he fumbled his way across the room with the object
of undoing the shutters; a little sudden sound arrested him.

The crying of a child.

Francis shrieked for Merton; the servant was up and had struck the flint
and tinder in an instant.

As he lit the candles he glanced curiously at his master, and asked him,
in a respectful tone, what had disturbed him.

"I thought I heard some one without, or even in the room," answered Mr.
Moutray. "You should not have closed the shutters so, the place is
oppressive."

The man looked round the large room then out into the corridor.

"There is no one," he said. "But, sir, the house is old and likely full
of rats--perhaps your honour heard a rat."

"It is very possible," answered Francis. "Undo the shutters. I think it
is nearly day."

Merton unlatched and folded back the shutters; a flood of rich light
entered.

It was nearly half-past five of the clock and broad daylight.

Francis gave a sigh of relief.

"Let us go out into the fresh air," he said.

The inn was already open, but few people seemed about; the traveller and
his servant passed unnoticed into the garden.

The day had dawned fair and beautiful, the sun was shining with an
exquisite bright softness through the ilex and acacia trees in the
garden.

These last, that when Francis had entered Italy he had seen bare and dry
covered with sharp thorns worthy to be twisted into a martyr's crown,
had now their polished branches veiled with delicate pale leaves and
clusters of milky white flowers which hid the thorns.

The ilex were fresh with their greenish blossoms, and the garden was
divided from the road by a high hedge of tamarisk, the light
plumage-like foliage and faint red stems laden with clouds of ashy-pink
flowers which stirred to and fro in the wind, slight as it was.

Francis came down to a gate in this hedge and looked on to the white
road.

A marble-fronted church with a semicircle of mosaic saints praying above
the door stood opposite.

The bronze green-stained bell in the tower began to ring, and the people
to enter the low door in twos and threes.

Last of all came two women, and behind them a little child more
splendidly dressed than anyone else who had entered the church. Merton
uttered an ejaculation, and Francis seized his arm.

"Do you see him? He is going into the Papist church--that must not be; I
thought that I had taken all the evil out of him--but his mother remains
strong in him!"

"What does your honour mean?" asked the man bewildered.

"Did you not see the child?" demanded Francis with a ghastly look.

"Why, I did--I thought it was the same I saw in your honour's
bed-chamber, but how could it be?"

"Where is he now?" asked Mr. Moutray, looking up and down the sunny
street.

"He went into the church, I suppose, sir--at least, he disappeared in
the doorway."

"Go into the inn and get together the vails and pay the reckoning," said
Francis, "and take two places on the Florence coach. As for what I said,
take no heed of it; I am a sick man and one greatly troubled in mind."

As soon as he was alone Francis crossed the road and seated himself on
the top of the church steps.

The church was too poor to support the usual beggar, and Francis was
quite alone.

The sun became strong and beat down full on him, but he took no heed,
nor did he once remove his gaze from the church door. When at length the
people began to come out (it seemed a long time to him but in reality
the service was short), he rose and withdrew himself to a less
noticeable position.

The little congregation issued forth and disappeared, there were no
children amongst them.

Francis waited still, then, drawn by a fearful curiosity, crept to the
church door and peered in, slightly raising the heavy mat that served to
keep out noise and heat.

The little church with domed roof and double line of stained marble
columns was empty save for one person.

Walking up the bare aisles and wringing his hands with a gesture of
despair was the child in the rich garments.

Francis lifted the mat and, for the first time in his life, entered a
Papist church.

The scent of incense, the dull light sickened and confused him. He
closed his eyes and felt his limbs shake beneath him; fearful of
fainting, he crept to the first pillar and sat down on the base of the
plinth.

After a second he had courage to look about him.

No one was in sight, the church seemed utterly empty save for himself.

He wanted to leave but had not the strength, so remained seated on the
pedestal and leaning against the pillar.

Presently the priest came from the sacristy and, seeing this finely
dressed stranger with the look of a dying man, approached him and asked
him what was his trouble?

Francis, stammering, in his bad Italian, asked if a child had attended
the late service.

"I too thought I saw a child," replied the priest gravely, "but he was
not of us; does the Signore know him?"

Francis shook his head.

The priest looked at him intently.

"Yet the child had a look of the Signore."

Francis sprang up and hurried to the door.

"Of course the Signore knows it was not really a child at all?" asked
the priest, pattering after him.

Francis turned a livid face.

"What then?"

"Why, Signore, a _fantasma_, a spirit--one who walks because he is not
quiet in his grave."

"Why should he not be quiet?" demanded Francis fiercely.

"Who knows? Perhaps he was not baptized--or confessed--belike he died
unshriven. Perhaps he is in hell for lack of masses for his soul, who
knows?"

The old priest gave a little shrug and took a pinch of snuff.

Francis cried out at him in English, and left the church.



VI


When they reached Florence the sun was in full strength; after the
unusual rains and storms the usual heat poured down over Italy. The
mighty palaces and narrow streets, the turbid river and scorched gardens
seemed to give out heat as much as the blazing heavens; the city was
beginning to empty, the great nobles and wealthy citizens withdrawing
to their country villas.

Francis lodged at an inn of some repute near the church of Santa Maria
Nipotecosa and the old church of San Cristoforo, which was now occupied
by the great confraternity of Santa Maria della Misericordia.

The hostel was the most luxurious and pleasant Francis had yet lodged
in; his room looked on to a garden filled with palms, laurels, and ilex
covered with their pale greenish blossoms, in the centre was a fountain
cooling the air pleasantly with the uprising streams of clear water.

The very day of his arrival Francis sent Merton to the agents of the
bankers, both to change notes into Italian money and to obtain news, if
possible, of Allan Forsythe, who was most likely known to all in
Florence who dealt in any way with Scotch business.

Indeed it happened, as Francis had thought, that these same agents acted
for Allan. The clerk told Merton that he had seen Mr. Forsythe only a
few days before driving down the Via Calzaioli with the Count of Albany.

"He whom we call the Pretender," commented Merton, "and the Jacks,
Charles the Third--is it not?"

"Yes," returned the young English clerk, glad to have a countryman to
talk to. "Here he is the Count of Albany; he is much changed since the
'45 and his father's death--a man without hope, I think."

"Is this Mr. Forsythe an open Jack that he rides publicly with the
Pretender?" asked Merton.

"At least he did not use to be; there was a secrecy about his coming and
going--he always said he was collecting cameos. But do you not know
him?"

"I do not even know my master," replied Merton with a little
smile,--"nor what his business with this Mr. Forsythe is. We have had a
strange journey through Italy. For myself I wish it was well over and
that we were back in Britain. I have never been in Italy so late."

"The heat begins now," said the other with a little sigh. "Every one
goes up to the hills--in June and July one suffocates here; but if your
master wants to find Mr. Forsythe he will have to go to Rome."

"To Rome?" echoed Merton, dismayed; he had had hopes that the journey
would end at Florence.

"Well, the Count of Albany has gone there--probably to Frascati to the
palace of the Cardinal York, and Mr. Forsythe is certainly in attendance
on him--"

"When is he likely to be returning to Scotland, then?" asked Merton.

The other lowered his voice confidentially:

"Between ourselves I do not think he is returning to Scotland at all. He
came here the other day to make arrangements to sell all his property
there and transfer it into Italian securities. I heard him say he was
buying a villa outside Rome--and, another thing, he has turned
Romanist."

"A Papist?" exclaimed Merton.

"Indeed, he attended the Count of Albany and his gentlemen to a full
service at the Duomo."

Merton looked thoughtful.

"There is something strange in this business," he remarked. "Mr. Moutray
is one of your Calvin Scots, as stiff as a ramrod, hating the sight of a
bit of tinsel or the sound of the Pope's name. He is keen for the
Government too--now what is he doing chasing a Jack and a Papist over
Italy at this time of the year? And he is sick too."

"Do you know nothing of him at all?" asked the clerk with his curiosity
whetted.

"Nothing at all; he engaged me in London, and the same day sent his
Scotch valet back--a dour fellow with whom I had only a few words. He
told me his master was a rich Scots squire who had just lost his
wife--no more."

"Well," returned the other, "you will see in time what he is about."

"Yes," said Merton doubtfully, "but if he is on some spying Jack treason
I would rather be out of it--'tis a dangerous, silly game."

"But your master is a Scots Calvinist, you say."

"So he seems, but it may be a blind. He is queer at least--confounded
queer. Well, I must be returning; doubtless I shall be coming again
before we leave."

The two parted, and Merton turned from the dark office into the airless
street where the thin rays of sun penetrated into the narrow ways
between the huge blocks of buildings like swords striking into a well.

The Englishman returned slowly to his master's lodging; he was an
honest, quiet, well-trained fellow, who had travelled a great deal with
various gentlemen, and was by no means lacking in shrewdness or
knowledge of the world.

They had hardly left England for France before he had discerned
something strange about his master, and now that feeling had increased
most uncomfortably. He did not like Francis, he did not like his errand;
many queer things had unnerved him that he had not told the clerk.

His real wish and instinct was to refuse to go to Rome, to demand his
wage, and return by himself.

But long habits of obedience restrained him and the pride of a loyal
servant; there was too a certain trustworthy goodness in the man. In a
manner he felt sorry for Francis, and could not, with an easy
conscience, have abandoned him in Italy.

When he returned to the hotel he did not find Francis in the parlour or
the garden. Anxious to be rid of the packet of money he carried, he went
into the kitchens and asked where his master was.

A tall boy who waited at table answered:

"The Signore is in his room--surely he is a sick man?"

"How so?" asked Merton, feeling his heart sink unpleasantly.

The Italians looked at each other, half-laughing, half-disturbed; the boy
continued his relation, aiding his speech with many gestures and the
quick tones and accents of Tuscan vivacity:

"For the first part of the morning the Signore was in the parlour, then
he rang the bell, and when I went, asked me who was crying? And I
listened and heard a child crying, and we went all over the house
together and looked, for I thought some child had got into the house
unbeknown, which proved to be the case, for when we reached the second
corridor we saw a little boy running towards the chamber of the Signore;
he was finely dressed and weeping bitterly, and when I put out my arms
to catch him he ran sideways and down the staircase, and so must have
got out. At least he disappeared, and I was turning to tell the Signore
that the little runaway had disappeared and there was an end of the
annoyance of the crying, when I saw him leaning against the wall in a
kind of fit or seizure, moaning to himself in his own language, and I
helped him to his chamber, where he dropped on the bed and exclaimed
that he was sick--sick indeed, and yet would not that I sent for a
doctor."

A sense of horror, like a faint wave of nausea, overcame Francis'
servant.

"My master has these attacks," he answered quickly, "an old malaria
returning; it is too late for him to be in Italy."

"There is much fever here, coming from the Maremma," said the bright
chambermaid. "Your master should leave Florence."

"I hope he will," returned Merton sincerely, "and with his face set the
homeward way. Is there a doctor near--a good doctor?"

"There is the Doctor Pallavincini, one of the best in the city, in the
Piazzetta degh Adimari--but the Signore said he would have no doctor."

"Yet I cannot take this responsibility alone," said the servant. "He must
have a doctor. I was tempted to call one in Pisa. I pray you go to this
gentleman and beg him to come as soon as may be."

The people of the inn, who were always afraid of the plague or the
smallpox, were glad enough for a doctor to be called in to their sick
guest, and the boy who had first spoken snatched up a straw hat and ran
out into the heat.

Merton, feeling more uneasy than he would have cared to admit to anyone,
went up to his master's room with an unconquerable reluctance. He
knocked three times--at the last summons Francis said, "Come in."

The servant entered.

The room was large and handsome; curtains of a dark claret-coloured
velvet were drawn across the windows, excluding all light save a faint
glimmer like that of dawn.

On the large bed, which was hung with deep red draperies, lay Francis,
the pillows doubled up under his head, the coverlet disordered by the
tossing of his limbs.

His cravat was undone, his shirt loosened, the hair pushed back from his
forehead was damp at the roots with sweat, his whole face had that
ghastly pallor, peculiar to those whose proper complexions are dark,
when all the blood has receded and only the natural brown of the skin
remains, drained and livid.

As Merton entered he started up and held out his hand, as it were with a
gesture of supplication, then seemed to recollect himself, and, taking
his handkerchief from his pocket, passed it over his lips.

"Any news of Mr. Forsythe?" he asked in a dry voice.

Merton delivered the money and said that Mr. Forsythe had lately been in
Florence and was now probably in Rome.

"Then we must go to Rome," said Francis, sinking back on his hot
pillows.

Merton eyed him keenly.

"I do not think your honour is fit to travel," he remarked
carefully,--"especially to Rome in this heat."

"I told you I was ill," answered Francis. "I am ill; I have this cursed
fever in my bones sapping my very life. But I must find Allan Forsythe.
I told you that before. But if you care to come no farther I can very
well go on alone."

This came so near Merton's secret thought that he was shamed.

"I shouldn't think of that, sir," he declared. "I spoke for your own
sake. This climate is dangerous for the fever."

"I know," replied Francis Moutray, "but I must go on if it kills me. We
will start to-morrow; there is no sense in staying in this hateful
city--you hear their bells--all day!"

Merton restrained himself from saying that Rome would be the same, and
remarked quietly:

"I hope you will forgive me, sir, but hearing you were ill again, I have
sent for a doctor."

"You should not have done that!" cried his master angrily--"you should
not have done that!"

"Forgive me, sir, but these people are very afraid of the plague or
infectious illness, and unless a doctor reassures them, are apt to be
unmanageable. They might even have turned your honour out of the inn.
And a doctor can give you, sir, some strengthening medicine to help you
on your way to Rome."

Before this tactful explanation Francis was silent; Merton took it he
was dismissed, and left the chamber.

Francis refused the midday meal; Merton ate his in sober silence,
thinking and considering on painful matters.

When the great heat of the day had declined and the city began to stir
again to business and pleasure, the doctor came--an elegant gentleman in
a silk-lined coach.

He could make little of Francis Moutray's case; declared the illness to
be malaria, and advised his instant return to his own country or a
colder climate, or at least to the hills or the sea; if the patient was
obstinate in going on to Rome, he could only say that it was very
dangerous. As he was leaving, Merton stopped him in the hall.

"Sir," said the servant, "I can tell you something about my master's
case that you would not learn from him. I hope your honour will excuse
me, but I am alone here with this gentleman, and would like the support
of your advice and wisdom."

The doctor was both interested and courteous. The two went into the
parlour overlooking the street; Doctor Pallavincini seated himself,
clasping the knob of his malacca cane, and Merton stood respectfully
before him.

"Speak in Italian," said the doctor pleasantly. "You use my language
better than I do yours."

"First, sir," replied Merton, "will you tell me quite frankly what is
the matter with my master? I neither love him nor know him, but in a way
he is my countryman, and in a way he is in my charge--for every sane man
feels responsible for those whose wits are unsettled." Pallavincini gave
him a quick look.

"This is what is the matter with your master," he replied: "An attack of
malaria taken long since and recurrent--a kind of feverish ague, also a
great sickness of the whole body, brought on, I should hazard, by great
sickness of the mind. He is probably a man of hot passions who, for all
his life, has repressed them, as you Northerners do. I think too, but
here I am only guessing, that he has lately had some great shock which
has almost destroyed his mental balance--the sort of shock that might
lead to melancholia--to madness--to anything."

"Thank you, sir," said Merton. "I know nothing of Mr. Moutray's history
save that he lately lost his wife."

"Why is he here now in Italy?"

"That I do not know either, sir, save that he is in search of a
countryman of his, and resolute not to go back until he finds him."

"Ah," said the doctor thoughtfully.

"But what I wished to tell you, sir, what I wished to consult you about,
was this--Mr. Moutray is a haunted man."

"Ah," repeated the doctor again; then he added slowly, "A haunted man?"

"Perhaps your honour does not believe that is possible."

"Tell me about this haunting," answered Pallavincini quietly.

"'Tis a child, sir, a little child, finely dressed and always weeping."

"That is very likely," returned the Italian. "Your master is in that
state of mind when he would be sure to suffer from hallucinations."

"But other people have heard and seen--it."

"Who?"

"The first time was in a village inn; the maid saw a child on Mr.
Moutray's bed with a prayer book in his hand--so did I, and several
others, but the thing disappeared. When my master was told he refused
to sleep there another night, and went on to Pisa by the next diligence,
and on the journey was the child crying--every one heard it. At Empoli
we saw him pass into a church, and this illness of to-day, sir, follows
the appearance of the child this morning, in this very inn, as you can
confirm by questioning the people here."

The doctor sat thoughtful a moment, then answered slowly:

"This is all very possible--but it--the child, the crying, remains a
delusion of Mr. Moutray's brain."

Merton looked puzzled.

"When others have seen it, sir?"

"Yes--that is simply that his thought is so intense that he is able to
project the form of it in visible shape. It is an abstruse subject.
People under a delusion will sometimes project a perfume--what he sees
and hears no one can tell, but his agony, his mental suffering, his
almost insanity, is sent out in this vision of the child, which he is
quite unable to control. The worse he becomes, the more the mind
masters the body, the stronger will become the haunting--which may
change in form; if he completely recovers, the hallucination will
disappear. Probably there has been some child in his life, certainly
there has been some great grief, or wrong, or crime."

"Thank you, sir," replied Merton. "After all, your explanation comes to
the same thing."

"As what?

"As what we ignorant people would say, sir, that it was a spirit or
ghost haunting a man to madness or the grave."

"As you, say, it comes to much the same thing," admitted the doctor,
rising. "Science and superstition join hands in these things--we none of
us know really any of the truth of it. Your master should have some
distraction, a strong passion--a great interest--if not--" he slightly
shrugged his shoulders over the incomplete sentence. "If Mr. Moutray
insists on going to Rome there is nothing I can do--I will send some
cordials--but that...!"

"One thing more, sir--did you like Mr. Moutray--did he seem to you
_honest_?"

"How could I tell?" answered Pallavincini, "a man sick and discordant in
his mind. He was not very courteous. Why do you ask such a question?--"

"Because, sir," answered Merton seriously, "we do not believe an
innocent man is ever haunted, and if Mr. Moutray is some villain--"

"Put that out of your mind," interrupted the doctor. "Whatever he has
done, he is suffering now in a way you or I can hardly imagine. Get him
back to England as soon as possible. And one last word of advice--if you
meet this man your master is looking for, contrive to give him some
warning of Mr. Moutray's state."



VII


The journey from Florence to Rome was to Francis one long darkness along
which he fumbled painfully, accompanied only by the footsteps and the
crying of a child.

The hot Italian spring, the gorgeous Italian scenery, the gay towns, the
pleasant people--all these were to him the phantom world, bodiless and
unsubstantial, and the real world about him was filled with his horrible
memories, the crowding figures of his hideous dreams, whose feet kept
pace with his, who slept in his bed at night, and sat at his table and
rode beside the coach, and foremost and most substantial of them was the
crying child, sometimes heard, sometimes seen, never altogether absent
or silent.

Francis did not easily resign himself into the keeping of these horrors;
his strong reason, his stern faith, struggled hard before they were
completely overthrown. Disabled as he was with sickness he yet fought
desperately against the utter despair that threatened him.

"When I have met Allan Forsythe," he said continually to himself, "all
will be well. God is urging me to the last act of justice, the last
expiation."

But though he still used the name of God he was no longer sure that he
had not fallen to the mastership of the Devil; all issues were confused
to him, heaven seemed most unreal, most distant, though he was very sure
of hell. He would have willingly slain himself had he been sure of
gaining peace that way; fear kept him alive--the fear that what he was
enduring now was nothing compared to what he would have to endure
through all eternity if he took his own life now.

His one hope lay in Allan Forsythe--first, to obtain from him _the
truth_, to have her sin, her foulness confirmed; secondly, to kill him
and redeem himself by this act of justice on one hideous in the sight
of Heaven.

And behind, or mingled with this wild mystical feeling was the sheer
animal lust of hatred, the man's desire to kill the person who had
wronged him; as ever with Francis Moutray, "the spirit lusted after the
things of the body," and in the conflict his wretched soul was rent. Yet
here the two joined issue--by the death of Allan Forsythe the fanatic
would please God, the brute would please himself.

He had begun to be reckless of consequences, to look no further than
this deed as the very end and proper culmination of his life.

The old visions of a new existence at Glenillich with Stacy Wigram, of
living there as his father had lived, of blotting out the past and
purifying himself with good works--with which he had comforted himself
in Edinburgh--were now lost, burnt away by the sun of Italy.

Now he thought only of killing Allan Forsythe--beyond, all was chaos.

When he reached Rome, where he knew his enemy to be, the splendid city
gleamed before him with a poisonous beauty: the thousand idolatrous
churches rose amid heathen temples and wanton palaces; the singing of
sweet and ribald songs mingled with the chanting of processions of
priests; flaunting women, painted and masked, jostled nuns folded in the
hypocrisy of their vocation; the lights from a thousand resorts of vice
and disorder, pleasure and license, mingled with the rays of lamps
hanging before shrines containing fair female saints with languishing
eyes; from the narrow streets rose a smell of flowers, of incense, of
foulness, the song of prayers, the shout of a fight, the flash of a
knife, and the gleam from a church window.

Thus Francis saw Rome; it was to him like the forecourts of hell.

He lodged in the "Albergo del Sole" in a close lane or alley off the
Corso. Day and night the air was stifling, heavy with the smell of
greasy cooking and the close emanations of the heat; day and night the
noise from the adjacent cafes, the shouts of street vendors, the
rattling of chariots and horses over the cobbles was incessant.

Merton suggested that his master should move to a quieter, cooler place,
even if it was without the walls, but Francis preferred to remain; it
would only be for a few days at most, he said, and then they would
return.

Merton brightened with relief at this, and became as eager as his master
to find this Mr. Forsythe, whose appearance would put an end to their
quest.

They were, as it chanced, quite near the Palazzo Muti, which stood in a
little piazzetta the other side of the Corso, and near the beautiful
Colonna Palazzo with the delicate bridges connecting the palace with the
wonderful gardens on the other side of the road. Near too the church of
the Holy Apostles, where the last unfortunate Stuart and his saintly
wife had lain in state to hold their last court before the vaults of San
Pictro closed over their failure.

The morning after his arrival, Francis sent Merton to make careful
inquiries as to the whereabouts of Mr. Forsythe.

The servant found the Palazzo Muti changed from what it had been a few
years ago when he had last known Rome.

Since then James Stuart had died, Charles Stuart had come home from
nearly twenty years of miserable wanderings, and the Stuart cause, that
once seemed so fair and hopeful, was dimmed and fallen.

No longer was the exile's palace the centre of all fashion and wealth.
The Count of Albany, reduced in means, in fame, in reputation, was no
longer regarded in the city of his brother as he had been during his
brilliant youth; his residence was neglected. As often as not he was in
Florence, or at Frascati with his brother the Cardinal of York, whose
wealth, character, and position alone maintained the dignity of the
family. But now the Count was in Rome, and Merton learnt from the
doorkeeper of the Palazzo Muti that Mr. Forsythe was there too, and
lodging in the palace.

At first the servant was giving his message--which was simply to ask for
an appointment for Mr. Moutray--and leaving; then, in obedience to his
own instincts of fear and curiosity and the warnings of the doctor at
Florence, he asked if he might see Mr. Forsythe.

The doorkeeper spoke to an untidy footman, who seemed to hesitate about
taking the message.

"Tell the gentleman," said Merton firmly, "that I have a message from
Mr. Moutray of Glenillich--an important message."

At that the fellow, used to an atmosphere of intrigue and restless
mystery, turned away on the errand; after a few minutes he returned and
told Merton to follow.

They proceeded through the palace, once splendidly decorated and
equipped, and now showing sad signs of neglect and decay, the result of
poverty and an indifferent owner.

Merton was shown into a little chamber at the back overlooking the
garden, in which grew several cypress trees.

This little room was well kept and luxuriously furnished with silk
tapestries, painted walls, and gilt and satin chairs, and adorned by
several rich pictures of the later Italian school and several pieces of
antique sculpture. A crystal vase of tuberoses stood on a small
tulip-wood bookcase filled with fine volumes; the pungent, exotic scent
of the flowers filled the small chamber almost overpoweringly.

Merton looked at once and with intense curiosity at the gentleman who
was seated before a light desk lustred with gold, and who had turned in
his cushioned seat to face the door.

The servant beheld a man very elegant, very exact in his apparel, which
was of fine, pale-grey cloth--a handsome man, but with features a little
too fine, a little worn, a little blanched, whose blonde hair was
carefully dressed and slightly powdered, whose delicate contours were
emphasized by the black velvet round his throat above his exquisite lace
cravat.

"If I could understand the servant's pronunciation, you are from
Glenillich?" he asked.

"From Mr. Moutray of Glenillich, sir," replied Merton. He was a little
confused, because Allan Forsythe was not what he had expected him to
be--in any way.

"We call him Glenillich in Scotland," returned Allan quietly. "You are
English, I think?"

"Yes, sir. Mr. Moutray's English servant."

"And he is in Rome?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

"At the 'Albergo del Sole,' sir."

There was a silence of a few minutes, during which Allan kept his eyes,
clear and cold as water, on Merton.

"What is your message?" he asked at length.

"My message was simply this, sir, that you would be pleased to name a
time to see Mr. Moutray; and I could have easily left it with the
doorkeeper--but I made bold to see you myself, sir."

"For what reason?"

"It is hard for me to explain myself, sir. I am in a difficult
position--if you are a friend of my master--"

"Let us understand one another," interposed Allan. "You are new in
Glenillich's service, I think--I do not remember seeing you before?"

"He engaged me in London, sir, for this journey. I know nothing of him
at all."

Merton slightly emphasized this last statement, and the sharpness of
Allan's look became intensified. The servant, gathering courage with the
force of his own statements, continued:

"Mr. Moutray is a sick man, sir--he should not be in this country at
ail; even in Florence he was advised that he went on to Rome at the
peril of his life. He would come, however, he was so desirous of seeing
you."

Allan showed neither surprise nor confusion.

"What is his sickness?"

Merton seized the chance.

"Largely of the mind, sir--indeed he is very strange--hardly sane, one
might say; the doctor in Florence admitted so much."

He hesitated, longing to add about the apparition of the child, but not
daring to.

"And do you know in the least what is his business with me?" asked
Allan.

Merton was quick enough to interpret the remark as an admission of
interest and attention, and a consent to listen further.

"Not at all, sir. But to meet you seems the passionate object of his
life."

"And you do not know," pursued Mr. Forsythe, still cautiously feeling
his way through the labyrinth of a mystery, "of anything that may have
happened to--agitate or unsettle Mr. Moutray?"

"His Scotch valet told me that he had recently lost his wife, sir."

"That," said Allan carefully, "I knew before I left Edinburgh. He has
not come to Italy to see any of her family?"

"Her family? Was she an Italian, sir?" cried Merton, opening his eyes.

"Yes; of a noble family. Did you not know?--does it surprise you?"

"It does surprise me, sir, very much, because my master seems to hate
this country and all in it. He certainly is here for no purpose but to
find you."

"That is surely strange. I should not have thought he would have left
Scotland now--so soon. Do you know with whom he left the child?"

"The child, sir?" asked Merton eagerly. "His son--I suppose you would not
know."

The servant paled and lowered his voice.

"Would you tell me what the child was like, sir?" he said. "How old?"

"Why," said Allan, surprised at the man's peculiar look, "he was six, I
think, or seven--unusually quaint--fair--"

"Richly dressed?"

"When his mother was alive at least," answered Allan sadly.

"Did you, sir, ever see him in a suit of dark puce colour with gold
enrichments, and a cravat of fine lace, very long in the ends?"

"Yes, I have," replied Allan, startled, for in such a dress he had last
seen Elphin Moutray, a solitary little figure, passing through the
corridors of Glenillich House.

"Then," declared Merton solemnly, "it is he--by Heaven it is he! Did you
know he was dead, sir?"

"Dead?" cried Allan, "dead? The child dead?"

"He is dead, sir, but not at peace. He is walking--I have seen him--here
in Italy."

"Your master's sick fancies have affected you," said Allan.

Merton shook his head.

"Others have seen him too, sir. Mostly he is crying quietly and has a
Papist prayer book in his hand."

At this last particular Allan's composure suddenly forsook him,
shattered by utter horror and amazement. How, unless indeed instructed
by some supernatural truth, did this fellow know that Elphin had ever
held a Papist prayer book--a fact unknown even to Francis--unknown to
all now save the child, the priest, and Allan himself?

He could but conclude that the servant knew more than he disclosed, and
that his tale was some shield or trap.

"I do not think the child is dead," he said with a great effort,
controlling himself.

Merton saw he was suspected.

"Sir," he replied, "if you ask Mr. Moutray he will tell you that I know
nothing of his affairs at all. I did not know of the existence of his
son. But such a child as I describe, I and others have seen about my
master. And Mr. Moutray is strange, sir--the doctor in Florence told me
I should warn you before he met you that he was strange; if I have been
too bold, forgive it, sir."

Despite all the protest of his incredulity, Allan was dreadfully
convinced.

A sensation of helplessness overtook him; he felt himself face to face
with a mystery of horrid darkness which would presently reveal some
unspeakable tragedy.

And he had believed himself secure from that piteous past; he had not
thought ever to see Francis Moutray again--hardly to ever hear his name.
He was busy creating for himself new interests, a new mode of life,
principally with the object of forgetting what had been so sad, so
strange, and so unfortunate.

And now he was suddenly faced by the past, revived and made more
horrible by mystery; what had sent Francis hotly on his track?

Allan knew it could be no pleasant business.

"I must see your master," he said to Merton. "Without seeing him I can
understand nothing--thank you for what you have told me--I think you did
well."

He was slightly paler, his very straight brows slightly knitted,
otherwise he retained the ease and quiet of his usual manner. Merton
admired him. He saw he was moved and controlling himself and doing it
well; he was the kind of man Merton would have liked to have as master.
The servant contrasted him very favourably with Francis; he had a
finer air of quality, more of the elegance of breed, apart from his
greater calm and serenity; serving him, Merton thought, would have been
to serve one on whom it would have been easy to rely--Merton had never
felt that of Francis Moutray.

"I hope you do not think that I have been forward, sir?" he asked, with
the anxious desire of the inferior to stand well with some one he
respects.

"I am glad that you have spoken," responded Allan. "I understand your
anxiety. Glenillich was always--difficult. He should have brought one of
his own servants with him as well."

"I wish he had, sir," replied Merton heartily.

"I will speak to you after I have seen your master," said Allan, "after
I have judged for myself what state he is in; in all events be assured
that I shall urge him to return to Scotland."

"I thank your honour," said the servant earnestly. "And I beg you to
remember that Mr. Moutray is--in a strange state."

This was plainly said as a warning; Allan's light lashes fluttered.

"I will remember," he replied. "Does your master expect me at his inn?"

"He spoke of coming here, sir."

"Then tell him I am at his service this afternoon."



VIII


Allan Forsythe, sitting alone in the silence of his room in the Muti
Palace, awaited the coming of Francis; strange thoughts occupied his
mind, dim but sure apprehensions filled his heart.

The new life that he had been so resolutely creating had been broken
down and lay in shreds about him, Scotland that he had tried to forget
was vividly before him, the old days he had consigned to oblivion had
revived; he was once more drawn into connexion with Francis Moutray,
which meant connexion with Stacy Wigram, with the boy, with
Glenillich--with the dead--with her--with Giovanna.

After leaving Glenillich he had gone straight to Edinburgh, just
escaping the great snowstorm, and there he had shut himself in his room,
struggling with the new tumult in his soul; when he had brought himself
to calmness he had decided to go to Italy earlier this year and lose
remembrance of Giovanna in the intrigues that formed his lifework.

The day on which he had taken this resolution he had gone to Stacy
Wigram, naturally, with the same instinct that had sent Francis there,
because she seemed an element of peace, almost a beatitude in the
turmoil and passion of daily life.

And she had met him with the news she had that day received from
Francis, a brief letter that the delayed express had brought through the
snow.

Giovanna was dead, Francis wrote, killed by a fall from an unmanageable
horse; he added nothing.

Allan had taken the news with the just horror, the surprise and grief
that Stacy expected of him--no more.

But all his plans instantly changed; by the time he had reached his
rooms--through a town that was black and unreal--he had resolved to
leave the country for ever.

He suddenly sickened of the long deception in which he lived; he would
declare his religious and political faith and reside in a country where
both were tolerated; he would sell all he possessed in Scotland and make
his home for ever in Italy.

Some remorse touched him at leaving Elphin; he wondered how the little
child would bear his secret, lonely lamp of faith in the dark life of
Glenillich; he resolved to speak to Father Hilton when he should next
see him; he dreamt of telling Francis of the boy's baptism and adopting
him himself when his father cast him out, as he most certainly would;
that, however, would seem a wrong to the memory of Giovanna, to the
secret he shared with her, and from which she had never absolved him.

Yet he would dearly have liked to have had the child--all that was left
of her now on the earth she had so beautified.

He had not stopped to arrange anything--his one imperative need had been
to get away from the grey skies that had looked on her death, and the
cold earth that had entombed her loveliness and sadness.

He had left on the instant for Italy, and only when at Florence had he
begun to put his project of voluntary exile into practice by making
arrangements to sell all his property in Scotland and purchase a villa
and lands outside Rome; he had openly declared his religion, not caring
now who reported him in Scotland, and he had openly attached himself to
the person of his king, as he considered the Count of Albany.

He had no longer any delusions as to the Stuart cause: he saw that it
was hopeless, abandoned, despised; he saw that Charles Stuart, the once
gallant young Prince whose name was a glory and a romance still in
Scotland, who had been the radiant hero of the elder Forsythe and of his
own early youth, had become an embittered, disappointed, violent man,
drink-sodden and broken in mind and body.

But it was his cause and his king, it was the devotion and toil of his
life, and he intended to resign the rest of his days to the same useless
labour of love.

For one thing there was nothing else for him to do.

With his native dispatch, care, and caution he had engaged himself at
once with the party who were endeavouring to secure a German Princess
for the hand of Charles Stuart, a match which the adherents of the
fallen royalty desperately hoped might grace and mend their cause.

It was in this work that Allan was engaged when the coming of Merton had
broken all his peace.

Never for a breath had he thought that he would see or hear from Francis
again; he sincerely believed that he was utterly indifferent to the
cousin of his one-time betrothed, and that Francis had probably
completely forgotten him already.

Now he had to come to a different conclusion. What did Francis know?
what did he hope to know?

Why this passionate following through a dangerous heat? (for Francis
could not be aware that it was Allan's intention never to return to
Scotland) what was this mysterious illness, this talk of the phantom of
a child?

Could Elphin be dead--was he walking because he had died without
confession and the viaticum? All the awful stories he had heard of such
things flashed through his troubled mind.

He was both startled and dismayed--more so than he had ever known
himself.

Yet his conscience was clear; there was no wrong with which Francis
could reproach him--or Giovanna.

His attitude towards his faith justified him in his action with regard
to the child.

He had obeyed God and therefore had no need to answer to man.

Nor could he think he had wronged Francis in that last interview with
Giovanna.

Soul to soul they had spoken, or so it seemed to him now, and that was
no matter of Francis--in Allan's eyes Francis and been wrong from the
first.

Allan saw the sad story very simply; he could not perhaps understand the
passion which had swept Francis into his fatal marriage, but he had
observed it and knew it was there, and he could understand how Francis,
having fallen in his own eyes, by a surrender to an overwhelming desire
for one who embodied all his creed and training had taught him to hate,
should seek to redeem himself by persuading his own soul that he had
acted from spiritual reasons--that he had taken the woman not because
she was fair, but because he wished to snatch her from eternal perdition
and, this, by an austerity of conduct which strove to crush, in the
creature whom he had taken to himself, all those qualities which had
first aroused his love.

This Allan had seen clearly from the first and hated Francis for it; he
was a bigot himself, and necessity (since there was in him none of the
stuff of which martyrs are made) had led him into subterfuge and deceit;
but he was no hypocrite, he had that advantage of his easy, lax faith,
and he detested the hypocrisy of the heretic in Francis, a hypocrisy, to
him, always associated with the inhumanly serene and impossibly austere
doctrines of the extreme forms of Protestantism.

"The man will not even allow his own humanity," thought Allan, "and he
is more human than many."

If Giovanna had ceased to love Francis the bond between them would have
been broken in Allan's eyes (and in her own) and he would have had no
shame in taking her away.

He did not consider her as married--a little further in love, and he
might have married her himself--in any case he would have regarded
Francis as the one who had wronged her, not himself.

There he felt no shame nor hesitation in facing Francis--confusion and
dread at facing some unknown horror did grip him, but he was not afraid
of Francis.

Yet he had no wish to be disturbed by this intrusion on his new-found
peace, his serene occupation; he did not want the turmoil of emotion,
the sickness of hate, the bitterness of memory introduced into his life.

He almost wished he had refused to see the man; yet even as he wished it
his enemy was shown into his presence.

For a second Allan kept his eyes down; he was resolving that he would
not be tempted or surprised into anything that would disturb his even
life; he had avoided suffering always--had fled from it twice, from
Glenillich when he had spoken to Giovanna, from Edinburgh when he had
heard of her death, and it should not overtake him now.

There were possibilities of pain, of agony, of tragedy behind the
present situation; Allan was resolute to ignore and avoid them.

Francis came slowly into the room, walking heavily. Allan did not think
him much changed though he was of an unhealthy pallor and wore
silver-rimmed spectacles of smoked glass.

His brown cloth and black satin vesture was too rich and cumbrous for
such heat; he seemed now, as always, dressed for the cold and rain.

Allan rose and held out his hand.

"I did not expect to see you in Italy, Glenillich," he said.

Francis did not take his hand or answer; he came straight to the desk
beside Allan and laid on it his closed fist.

When he lifted his hand he showed a golden coin of the Emperor Aurelian.

"Have you come all this way to return me this?" asked Allan quietly.

"No," said Francis evenly, "but I found that I already had one in my
collection. I would not deprive you."

Allan was amazed; he had prepared himself for rough violence; now he
divined that Francis, like himself, was meaning to keep all tragedy in
the background, that he too, for some purpose of his own, would be quite
cool and reasonable.

Mr. Forsythe seated himself and waited, ignoring the insult of the
other's greeting; he meant if possible to ignore everything sooner than
be betrayed into pain.

Francis too meant to endure anything--until he had got to know--_the
truth_.

So the two faced each other, cold, guarded, curious, hostile.

Francis seated himself and pulled off his gloves, loosening a finger at
a time.

"You came here especially to see me?" asked Allan.

"Especially to see you."

"Will you not take off those glasses? There is no glare here."

With his now bare hands Francis removed the spectacles and slipped them
into his pocket. Allan marked at once his changed eyes, wild,
uncontrolled, and staring, and he thought of what the man Merton had
said.

"I hear you are a Papist and a Jack," remarked Francis.

"As I have always been."

"Secretly."

"Secretly--whom was I bound to tell? The only one who had any right to
know--your cousin--I told. Miss Wigram knew."

"Why," asked Francis in a voice that sounded dead, "did you not marry
Stacy?"

"I think I told you," replied Allan, with himself well in hand.

"Was it because you were in love with another woman and she knew it?"

Allan kept his eyes fixed on the golden Aurelian.

"Have you come from Scotland to ask me that?" he said quietly.

"Will you answer me?" demanded Francis.

"Perhaps, when you have shown your right to question me."

"I will ask you another question which you cannot deny my right to
put--did you and Giovanna Odaleschi baptize my son with Papist rites?"

Allan calmly returned his look.

"Why do you approach me like this?" he asked. "Why put these useless
questions?"

"Why?" echoed Francis. "It is certainly folly, for you will lie to me as
you have lied all your life long." Allan did not stir.

"I know the story," continued Francis, "but not all of it. Now I must
have the _whole_ truth."

Allan smiled.

"To whom is that known?" he said. "Certainly not to me. And seeing she
is dead will you not let it all alone? It is so useless."

"No," said Francis, "this is the adjustment."

Scorn shadowed Allan's pale face.

"Do you think you can adjust anything?"

"It is God's adjustment and I am His instrument," replied Francis. "His
instrument for many things."

"God's adjustment will not be in this world," said Allan.

Francis started and shuddered as if he had been stung with a whip.

"I have redeemed myself," he cried. "I am not afraid to die--but _she_
has gone to everlasting torment."

"Have you no pity for her seeing she is dead?--have you no shame?--are
you not fearful to speak so, when, if she is damned, she is damned for
you?"

"In despite of me," said Francis with a ghastly look. "But you would be
her advocate, you who were her lover."

Without passion Allan confronted him.

"You think that, do you?" he answered. "Did she so waste herself on such
as you! Did you not even know her or the quality of her affection and
her loyalty?"

"You were her lover," repeated Francis.

"In that I loved her--yes. I think I did love her--she was like a
benediction in a dusty life. There was never any man in her world but
you--if you do not know that, you are a fool, Glenillich."

"I knew you would lie to me," said Francis with a certain fierce
satisfaction, "but despite you I will find out the truth."

"The truth!" exclaimed Allan. "Why do you harp on that? You know all you
will know this side the grave. If you slander her through spite and
malice--you know in your heart you are wrong--if in your soul you
believe what you say, who can enlighten you? Go and leave me in peace,
Glenillich."

Francis did not move.

"Did you suffer when you heard she was dead?" he asked.

Allan slowly flushed.

"I suffered," he said. "I would wrong her memory to deny it."

"She was disfigured," said Francis--"horribly--I supposed you loved her
for her beauty--as I did? She was not beautiful when she died. She is
not beautiful now. Do you ever think of her as she is now?
Corruption--decay--there is little left for us to dispute
over--corruption--decay. She is buried with those cursed trinkets you
brought her lying heavy on her face. Would you like to go into
Glenillich vaults and steal her from me now?"

Allan recoiled from him.

"Leave me in peace," he repeated hoarsely. "You shall not provoke me."

"I want the truth," insisted Francis, leaning forward. "Your
confession--she never confessed. I want to know how it happened--how
long you fooled me, when the boy was baptized, why you left that
night--I want to see her letters. I want to know how often you met--"

"Stop," said Allan. "Sanity would not put such questions, nor honestly
listen. Her one sin was loving you--her great madness too. She was good
and true--were you the same you would know it."

"The child is dead," said Francis.

Allan heard Merton's words ringing in his ears; his lips trembled.

"Dead," repeated Francis Moutray; "therefore I have no object in the
world but to get the truth from you--judge then if I shall not obtain my
wish."

Allan looked at him levelly.

"You have had the truth--you get no more from me," he replied.

"The day--she died--I had some of the truth from the child; before that
I had guessed at it. I was not so foolish but I had guessed about you
and her--then I found the child with his Papist book and learned some
more from him. Now I will have the rest from you."

"Why did you not ask her?" demanded Allan.

"I have told you--that same day she was killed--mauled--maimed--struck
into the silence of damnation by the judgment of God."

Allan, staring at Francis, paled as if he was going to faint.

"Killed?" he cried, as if the words were struck out of him. "O Christ, I
believe that you murdered her!"

Francis rose; he smiled, and the blood rushed into his face and stained
his eyes.

"Do you think so?" he said. "I tell you it was God."

Allan leant across the desk in the attitude of a sick man, and did not
answer.

"How much you cared! How you must suffer!" said Francis softly. "I wish
you had seen her at the last. I have found out enough for to-day, but
you will see me again before long."

Without another word he left the room.

Allan put his hand before his eyes and sat motionless.



IX


Francis returned to his inn with a sensation of pleasure and
satisfaction supporting his weakness. His goal was achieved now, he had
his enemy in his sight, in his power too, he felt.

He rejoiced and gloated over that; it was in his power to torture Allan,
torture the truth from him, and then slay him.

He had tortured him to-day, he had seen the pale face grow ashy, the
fine features quiver; he knew that Allan had suffered for all his
composure. He amused himself too by thinking how easy it would have been
to have killed his enemy to-day in the rich little cabinet of the Muti
Palace--he might have shot him, as they had wanted him to shoot the
horse who had thrown Giovanna; he might have stabbed him as he leant
mute across the gold lustred desk; he might have fallen on him and
strangled him with his bare hands--the fever had not so far enfeebled
him that he had not strength enough for that.

But he had saved and cherished his revenge--not now, nor to-morrow, but
soon would he kill Allan Forsythe.

In the meanwhile he was vague as to his plans, as to his next move; a
mental lassitude was over him. He was not in anguish as he had recently
been, for his hauntings had ceased, but he seemed incapable of action.

Returning to his unspeakably hot chamber in the "Del Sole," he threw
himself on the bed behind the mosquito nets, and lay there, half
insensible of his surroundings, staring at the bars of gold like molten
metal which the sun sent through the slats of the shutters.

Meanwhile the other man remained as Francis had left him--like a
creature stunned.

Presently he stirred, and took from a back drawer of the desk a letter
he had received in Florence from Stacy Wigram.

In this letter she told him, as a matter that could not fail to have an
intense if painful interest for both of them, the manner of Giovanna's
death. She had not learnt it from Francis, whom she had not seen before
she wrote, but from the architect who should have designed the new
church at Glenillich.

His acquaintance Stacy had made the previous summer through Francis, and
meeting him in the Lawnmarket the very day of his arrival in Edinburgh
(and a few days before the coming of Francis), she had stopped to talk
to him of the tragedy of Glenillich--of which he was very full--and had
taken him home in her coach, and in the dark withdrawing-room Allan
remembered so well he had told her the whole sad recital.

Allan compared this with what Francis had just told him, and found the
whole slipped together to form one ghastly truth.

The truth!

Francis had come to Italy to find the truth, but it was Allan to whom
the truth had come, ho thought.

He put it together thus: Francis, half-mad with jealousy and suspicion
already, had returned home to find his guest gone and his wife
abroad--somehow he had surprised the secret of the baptism out of the
child--he had set out to find Giovanna, he had returned, saying he had
not overtaken her.

Presently a search-party had gone forth and found Giovanna dying near
Ardnamurchan. She had said she had been thrown from her horse, she had
shown a piteous anxiety to say something before she died--had said
nothing, only--it was an accident.

Allan wondered if she had lied, as Desdemona had lied, to save her
lord--had she even with her last breath striven to do, him service?

Doubtless her horse had bolted with her, doubtless she had been thrown,
but supposing Francis had met her first?

He had not been from the house long enough to go to Ardnamurchan--but he
might have met her far away, the maddened horse might have galloped
miles before she was thrown.

But how had he slain her?

Allan recalled the story of Ardnamurchan--the way the last man who had
lived there had slain his wife--struck her down in the stables and
murdered her with her riding-whip.

Francis had said she was disfigured, hideous--O God, if he had slain her
thus--beaten the beauty and life out of her thus!

Allan was shaken with dread and horror unspeakable; violence had always
been as foreign to him as passion, and his cold fastidiousness had
always shrunk from even the mention of tales of blood and crime.

And of all violence he had always most abhorred that which caused a man
to murder a woman; much as he had lived in Italy where it was considered
natural and even honourable for a man to destroy a woman who had given
him just cause of offence, he still retained an unspeakable horror of
such actions, and now, at the thought that Giovanna had been the victim
of brutal fury and mistaken wrath, his whole soul sickened. Bitterly he
blamed himself for having left Glenillich in such haste--he should have
stayed to face Francis.

It had been his old weakness, the love of the easy way, the dread of
suffering--the desire to avoid the climax--and now into what unspeakable
difficulties and sufferings had that action not led him. He saw himself
in his own eyes as a wretched coward to have forsaken her--but how could
he have known?

Known that the child would betray them--known what Francis really was?

He tried to persuade himself that he was mistaken, that she had really
died by accident, but deep in his soul the dreadful conviction remained
unshaken.

He could scarcely recall what Francis had said to his involuntary
accusation forced from him by that sudden awful flash of perception, but
he knew that Francis had left the room calmly; could he be a murderer?

Then the child--dead--doubtless of grief and shock; Merton's tale of the
strangeness of his master and the phantom.

What could it all mean save that one thing Allan strove so hard not to
believe?

Francis hated him, had followed him to Rome to say how much he hated
him--must he not then have hated her, even more?

Another detail from Stacy's letter suddenly sprang into his anguished
mind.

_Francis had refused to have her horse shot_.

Allan's thoughts became unbearable; he had vowed that nothing should
disturb his peace, that Francis should not break in upon the quiet of
his new life--but the resolve had been useless, destiny had wrenched
from his hands his control of his own life--he was face to face with an
unconquerable credence in a fact that shook the very foundations of his
soul.

He did not know what to do; he would have gone to Emilia, Giovanna's
sister, and her husband, the Orsini Prince, but they were in France, on
a political errand of the Papal Court, and there was no other to whom he
could go.

He hesitated between the predominant instincts of his nature, which were
all for quiet, serenity, and ease, and other instincts of his nature but
lately aroused, hate, remorse, love, and desire for revenge.

At one moment he wished to flee, yet a third time, to once again escape
consequences, to shut the whole thing out of his life: the next he
wished to track down the crime, to bring Francis to justice, to know him
lodged in the Tolbooth, to know him hanged and his memory execrated.

And in the suffering of the conflict he cursed Francis Moutray for the
pain he endured.

He longed for Stacy Wigram--longed to seek her advice, to make her his
confidante in this monstrous horror that had been forced into his
orderly peace.

And then suddenly he thought of another woman--the Contessa
Odalesehi--Giovanna's mother.

Allan only knew her very slightly; she had come to Rome from Bologna a
few days before, and he had seen her once, by chance, driving in the
Corso.

He had never sought her out to tell her of her daughter's death or the
part he had played in executing Mr. Middleton's commission; he had
rather avoided renewing his slender acquaintance with her, through his
great dread of reviving the past--and even he, though he was lax where
Francis was severe, did not care overmuch to think of Vittoria Odalesehi
as the mother of Giovanna.

Now she occurred to him with a sort of relief; he knew that she was
capable, resolute, brave, unscrupulous; he believed that she had loved
Giovanna.

He thought that if he could persuade her that Francis had murdered her
daughter he need trouble himself no more about the matter; she would
revenge herself and swiftly; all scandal apart, there were already
several deaths at her door.

To deliver Francis to the justice of the Contessa Vittoria would be the
same as to deliver him to the justice of the Scotch law.

Yet because Allan was so sure of this he could not go to Giovanna's
mother, he could not connive at an Italian vendetta--a second murder.

Nor did he know how to approach the Contessa; a plain statement of what
he thought he dare not give--he trembled to take such words upon his
tongue.

And then he was not sure.

No, he could not go to Vittoria Odalesehi.

And so he sat, communing with himself in his misery while the golden day
changed into the purple twilight, and the fireflies came out to float in
and out the tall cypresses in the garden of the Palazzo Muti.

Before supper there was some business relating to the German marriage to
discuss with the Count of Albany; that distracted his mind a little; in
the evening he was engaged for a reception at the Colonna Palazzo, the
last the family were giving before retiring to their country villa for
the summer.

And when he entered the noble saloon, gilt painted, sumptuous, one of
the most gorgeous in Rome, the first person whom he saw was she who had
been so much in his thoughts that day, Vittoria Odaleschi.

It was not extraordinary that he should meet her there. He might, if he
had reflected, have expected it, yet he took it as strange--an omen.

While he spoke to some of his acquaintances there, he was observing her,
trying, almost wistfully, to trace in her some likeness to her dead
daughter. She was seated at a little card table and talking to two young
cadets of the house of Colonna. She still retained her perfect figure
and her attitude was extremely graceful; her gown was of blue and
yellow, both colours so soft as to blend into one another; her hair was
powdered an ashy white and veiled with a fine gauze which passed under
her chin and folded over her bosom; she wore long ear-rings formed of
clusters of seed pearls, and a braid of pearls hung round her neck and
reached almost to her knees. Her face showed neither youth nor age, it
was bleached or powdered to an unnatural fairness, in which her eyes
showed very dark; her straight brows were painted with two fine lines,
her lips with two delicate lines of pale scarlet.

She had not much look of Giovanna save only in her grace and finish and
completeness.

Allan hoped that she would not see him, or would not know him, but no
sooner had she glanced in his direction than she dismissed her cavaliers
and unmistakably beckoned him with her chicken-skin fan.

There was nothing for Allan but to approach her; she received him quite
pleasantly, referring to their acquaintance years ago in Rome and
Bologna.

Then she said, quite directly:

"What is Francis Moutray doing in Rome?"

Allan was utterly at a loss; he was conscious of stammering as he made
his feeble reply:

"Mr. Moutray is no friend of mine, Contessa,"

"But you know him," she announced quietly. "You are both Scotch."

"But we are different in faith, in politics--in everything," said Allan
as if he protested.

"The Count of Albany," insisted the lady, "told me you had mentioned to
him the name of Francis Moutray, and that he was a relation of a lady
you were to marry."

Allan remembered that he had told the Count that much on his last visit
to Italy, doubtless in some idle gossip over the Odaleschi romance, when
he had said he knew lover and lady in Scotland.

"I asked the Count," continued the Contessa, "because I thought he would
know all the Scotchmen in Rome--he said this--gentleman was no adherent
of his, but that you knew him."

Allan had now recovered his poise and inwardly resolved that he would
tell her nothing.

"What is the object of these questions, Contessa?" he asked gently.

"I saw Francis Moutray in the Piazza Santa Lucinda, off the Corso,
yesterday. I want to know why he is in Rome and alone."

"He himself can only tell you that, Contessa."

She looked at him steadily out of those still beautiful eyes that had
seen so much and known so many tears.

"You know the story," she said, "all Italy knows it. Where is my
daughter, Mr. Forsythe?--the Contessina Giovanna. Has he left her?--has
she left him?--is she in Scotland?"

Some of the truth he felt he must tell her; he nerved himself by the
sight of the splendid crowd passing to and fro; the sense of company
gave him courage.

"Contessa, forgive me for sad news. I would another had been the first
to tell you," he said sincerely.

"She is dead?" asked Vittoria quickly.

Allan bent his head.

"She was thrown from her horse and killed, early this year."

For a moment the Contessa did not speak, then she said, her voice still
low and quiet:

"She had no children?"

"One little boy--he died soon after his mother."

Vittoria Odaleschi drew a deep sigh.

"So there is an end of that," she said, and stared absently across the
room.

Allan was mute, oppressed by many thoughts. Vittoria Odaleschi spoke
again.

"Some time ago I sent my daughter a few jewels--do you know if she
received them?"

"Yes," said Allan. "I know she received them."

He felt it cruel not to tell her all he knew, but he also felt it wise.

"I am glad," replied the Contessa; then she added in the same even tone,
"Do you know if he was kind to her?"

"They had a great affection for one another," evaded Allan.

"And she, did she never regret her God--her country--the old days?"

"I think so," hesitated Allan.

"And now--why is he in Rome?"

"I can only believe that he travels as a distraction, Contessa."

She slowly waved to and fro her fan; he noticed that her strange pale
face looked much older and more fallen than he had observed at first.

"I should like to see Francis Moutray," she said; "if he made her happy
I have no malice against him--that is finished--over. And he must have
suffered--losing her--and the child."

"I think he has suffered, Contessa, He is very changed."

"You have seen him, then--spoken to him?"

Allan endeavoured to cover his slip.

"He came to see me at the Palazzo Muti--he knew I was there, and I think
he had no other acquaintance in Rome."

"Where is he staying?"

Allan knew she could easily find this out from others if not from
himself.

"At the Albergo del Sole--but--"

She interrupted him.

"I know what you would say--he hates me, and I had better leave him
alone--but that is all of the past."

She rose, looking very tall and slender, and caught together the long
ends of the fine gauze on her bosom.

"I am staying at the Palazzo Orsini," she added. "Will you please come
and see me there to-morrow after midday?" She smiled for the first time
since she had spoken to him. "I am too old to receive cavaliers in the
morning. I pray you to come--it is of some importance."

Complaisance and curiosity made him agree; he was, besides, no longer
afraid of the Contessa, who had shown no desire to probe, nay, who had
rather seemed indifferent.

She gave him her hand and then turned away through the crowd.

Looking at her tall lovely figure as it disappeared, he could almost
persuade himself that he looked on Giovanna, and the useless tears stung
his lids.



X


Allan found the Contessa in her apartments in the Orsini Palace; he was
punctual to his appointment and found her alone and waiting for him.

The atmosphere of the place pleased Allan and soothed the uneasiness
with which he had come to this interview; the room was noble and
beautiful, with a certain air of loftiness and fineness that took all
grossness from the worldly and material gorgeousness.

Three pillars of Numidian marble, yellow with age, supported hangings of
a dead-coloured silk which were looped back from a loggia shaded with a
vine which opened on to a view of the Palatine hill, dark and rich with
heavy trees against the heavy sky.

The windows which faced where the sun struck were veiled by curtains of
this same hued silk, so the room was filled with subdued and shaded
light, half rosy, half pearl, which yet gave the impression of great
heat without.

The walls and ceiling were painted with the delicate and vivid
arabesques of the Renaissance, the furniture was after the antique
model, fine and slender and piled with tasselled cushions.

In one corner stood a case of religious books, and above them hung the
smiling mask of a Greek Nike with wings bound to the smiling head.

In the centre of the scarlet white-and-black tessellated floor was sunk
a small basin in which grew several strange irises and lilies with roots
tangled in clear water, while from the centre rose a little fountain
cooling the air.

And such should have been Giovanna's home, was Allan's instant thought,
and he pictured her in snow-swept Glenillich.

Vittoria Odaleschi stood in the entrance to the loggia, her modern
dress, with the hooped skirts and ruffled sleeves, seemed out of place
in the classic room; her gown was all of the finest white muslin, but
over her shoulders she had a scarf of the striped many-coloured Roman
silk.

Her blanched hair was covered with a lace cap which fastened with lapels
and a diamond stud under her chin.

She looked at Allan without saying a word. For all her careful paint he
saw that she had been weeping terribly; she was haggard and near as
colourless as her hair or her gown; remembering what she had been, for
the first time, he associated her with age.

"She is an old woman," he thought, and he felt a chili of grief and
uneasiness; his epicurean nature did not like to contemplate the fading
of beauty.

She moved to a seat and continued to gaze at him almost wistfully.

"Please tell me the truth now," she said; her manner was what it had
always been, quiet, pleasant, almost practical--a strange manner for the
woman she had been.

The truth! Allan was startled at hearing from her the same demand that
he had heard from Francis--did he indeed hold the truth?

"I told you all I knew yesterday, Contessa," he answered.

"No--you told me what you chose I should know, and then I could not
press you; now I want the truth, there is no need why you should not
give it to me."

He was almost frightened that she should have so clearly read him; he
felt foolish that he had tried to deceive her quick perception.

"Why do you conceal anything from me?" she insisted. "What is there to
conceal? I have a right to know; I am her mother."

"What would you know?" he evaded.

"Everything."

"Indeed I am more ignorant than you imagine me."

He still strove to defend himself, but she brushed aside as nothing his
excuses.

"You know enough; I saw that yesterday. You knew _her_ at least; I think
you loved her--did you not love her, Mr. Forsythe?"

She spoke very gently, and he felt his whole being weaken; he could not
answer, and he paced about in agitation, contrary to his habit.

"You must have loved her," continued Vittoria Odaleschi. "Well, I loved
her too. Will you not be my friend since we both loved her? You are not
happy--tell me all."

The words, and, even more, her manner and her look, softened and melted
him almost to sudden uncontrollable tears; while she spoke he realized
how he had loved Giovanna, how he had suffered since her loss, how blank
all his life was and would be without her.

"Do not harden yourself to me," continued the Contessa. "You and I are
perhaps the only two left who truly loved her."

Again she used the beautiful word "loved," and Allan was moved almost
beyond bearing. He wanted to kneel beside this woman and tell her all
his secret story and receive her comfort.

"It is true that I loved her," he answered, "and I would have taken her
from him--I could have given her to her faith, her country, to you
again, but she would not."

"She loved him to the end, then?" asked Vittoria quickly.

"Yes, to the end."

The Contessa drew a sharp breath.

"There is a thing I cannot understand--she cared--all those years--she
refused love, all the world--for _him_!"

"She was loyal and loving with him--always," said Allan.

"What was her life like?" asked the Contessa.

Allan's powers failed before the attempt to give this woman any idea of
how her daughter had lived.

"You would not understand," he said.

"It was dull--dreary? She had no friends, no diversion?"

"Neither--and I think her life was both dull and lonely."

The Contessa sat looking out through the loggia at the majestic view of
the Palatine, her pale profile, like a worn cameo, was towards Allan.

He felt, as he had felt during his one intimate interview with Giovanna,
as if all his usual prudence and reserve was swept away and the best of
him was roused and endowed with power to speak and act; he could not
tell why he should feel thus nor what the power was that these women had
over him, unless it was the power of their great frankness.

"What are you keeping back from me?" asked Vittoria. "What are you
afraid I shall do?"

"I know very little," he replied, still trying to cling to his self-vow
of silence.

"You know why Francis is in Rome," she retorted.

"I think he has followed me," said Allan; "so he declares, but he is
like one half-mad--his word is not to be taken."

"So--what does he know or think?"

"He tells me," answered Allan slowly, "that he thinks I was her lover.
To say that he must be unbalanced in his mind."

Another aspect struck the Contessa.

"He said that--and left you?"

"And left me--but to seek me out again."

"He hates you?"

"I think so--most unjustly. Yet I never liked him."

"Then he hated her?"

Allan was silent.

"And she died suddenly--an accident, you say?"

Their glances met, and Allan paled.

He saw that she was fast coming to the same dreadful conclusion as had
suddenly flashed on him, he realized that she was drawing the truth out
of him slowly, gently, accurately.

And he revolted against his own secrecy and prudence as a wrong to both
of them; he no longer was desirous of shielding Francis, of avoiding a
climax to this bitter tale.

The calm, the sympathy of Vittoria nerved him and fired him; with every
word she said he felt more keenly the I monstrous behaviour of Francis,
the piteous fate of Giovanna.

He was encouraged by her as a child is encouraged by the caresses of his
mother.

"Here, Contessa, is the truth," he said.

He told her everything--all the story as he had known it, heard it,
guessed it, saw it--all of Giovanna's first coming to him and the
baptism of the child--all his knowledge of her and Francis, his
affection and pity and grief for her, his fatal visit to Glenillich with
the jewels, and his flight, with the tragic following events which he
had but so lately learnt.

Of these he told her what he had learnt before he left Edinburgh, what
he had gathered from Stacy Wigram's letter, and what he had heard from
Francis yesterday.

But he added nothing of his own horrible suspicion, of the instinctive
accusation he had flung at Francis and the manner in which it had been
received.

The Contessa listened with every nerve at attention, her eyes the whole
while turned towards the softened light of the loggia--a luminous
golden-green light trembling through the veil of the vine leaves--her
long, fair hands folded in her lap, and her shoulders stooping a little.

She made no comment whatever, and her face expressed neither surprise
nor terror nor dismay. Allan wondered if she could quite understand all
he had said.

He was conscious of having spoken baldly, badly--it was difficult to
convey to this Italian patrician the atmosphere of the home of a
Scottish laird.

As he found himself trying to convey to Vittoria what her daughter's
life had been, he realized from his own lame words, as he had never
realized before, what Giovanna had done when she fled with Francis, and
how heroically she had endured the consequences of that moment of
passion.

When at length he finished, the Contessa sighed, once or twice heavily.

Allan believed she was much moved, though he had dwelt lightly, for his
own sake, on Giovanna's death and said little of the details of it; yet
nothing could soften the sheer tragedy of the story.

He felt the silence painful as he waited for her to speak; he stared at
the strange coloured lilies and the little fountain whose faint splash
had been the accompaniment of his tale, and waited.

Vittoria pulled a silk bell-rope behind her; a black page answered.

She asked him, in a low voice, to serve some fruit, and when he had left
she lapsed into silence again.

Allan felt no desire to speak. The chamber was very lovely and peaceful
now the evening airs were blowing in across the loggia; his mind was
eased by having spoken, he felt a lassitude over mind and body.

The page returned with a silver gilt tray which he placed on a low table
before the Contessa. It held several fine salvers of china and enamel
piled with strawberries and cherries on ice, and several dishes of
sweetmeats and cakes, amber-coloured Sicilian wine in long-necked
bottles with silver corks, and red Roman wine stoppered with gold; there
were two glasses, flushed with colour like an opal.

Vittoria dropped a fragment of crystal ice in each, and poured out the
strong pale wine; she handed one glass to Allan and drank her own almost
eagerly, as if she thought that it would give her strength.

"It is very pleasant here, is it not?" she said at last. "A gracious
life, you would say--a noble life?"

"Indeed both."

She turned to him with a look of passion.

"Is it just that she should be lying in that barbaric grave?"

Allan bowed his head.

"She should be here," continued the Contessa with a certain fierceness;
"this is her place; she might have been a princess, as her sister is.
She was very beautiful and lovable. I think of her often as she was
when a little child. Every one loved her, Mr. Forsythe--every one."

Allan saw she still looked at the material side. It did not occur to her
that Giovanna might after all have gained by her great love; Vittoria
considered her as stolen away, entrapped, sacrificed. This was, perhaps,
also Allan's view, since he was not much more inclined to consider
spiritual things than was the Contessa.

"I remember," continued Vittoria, "he spoke to me of God, his God--how I
hate the God of the heretics, how I loathe these Northern hypocrites."

"Francis is a bigot," said Allan, "a fanatic with all his blood turned
sour in his veins and all his passions repressed to madness."

"Do you know why he has followed you here?" demanded Vittoria.

"Indeed I can see no reason in it, beyond the reason of a mad impulse."

The Contessa looked at him straightly.

"He means to murder you as he murdered her."

"Ah!" cried Allan, springing softly to his feet; he had noticed no words
of this sentence save the three last, and they transfixed him.

"You too have guessed he did it," added Vittoria steadily.

"I did not dare to breathe it--I was not sure--"

"I do dare--I am very sure."

Allan took a step about the room.

"He shall answer it--he has answered it!"

Vittoria surveyed him keenly.

"What will you do?" she asked.

"I will challenge him," said Allan. "Would you not rather that than
denounce him to the law?"

"We have no proof for the law," answered Vittoria, who had always seen
the law laughed at and defied and evaded.

"We have no proof for ourselves," returned Allan.

"I need none," she returned.

Almost unconsciously he put himself in her hands; her calm, her swift
perception, her air of power, had achieved a complete mastery over him;
he was ready to do her bidding.

"Francis is coming to my villa to-morrow," he said; "I cannot see him at
the Palazzo Muti. I will get the truth this time and deal with him
accordingly."

"What does he say he wants to see you for?"

"He says--one last word before he leaves Rome."

"He will try to kill you," said Vittoria.

"I am on my guard."

The Contessa rose.

"I will come too. What is the hour? Where is your villa?"

"You?"

They faced each other.

"Have I no right to come?" she asked.

"Yes--if you wish to see him. But--Contessa--you will come alone?"

"Ah yes, alone," she replied, and her lids faintly flickered. "My dear,"
she added, "do not be frightened of me."

"I would settle this a man's way," he answered. "But I will write to
you; it is the Villa Rosina--you know it? I have recently bought it."

"I know the place."

"As for the hour, I have not yet heard from Francis."

"You will let me know? I wish to speak to him, and he would not see me
if I asked."

"I will let you know."

He took her hand; there was suddenly nothing more to be said between
them.

In a little while he left.

As soon as she was alone, Vittoria ran into her bedroom and unlocked a
drawer full of tiny embroidered clothes and old toys--Giovanna's things.

She clutched them to her breast and wept over them with the passion of a
young woman, with the agony of a mother over the death of a little
child.



XI


Allan, almost from the first, had not intended the Contessa to be
present at his interview with Francis. Her instant perception of what he
had perceived had strengthened his opinion; he was now almost certain
that Giovanna had met her death by foul means, and he was prepared and
even eager to wring a confession from Francis.

At their meeting in the Palazzo Muti, Allan had been at a disadvantage,
feeling his way in the dark, uncertain of his antagonist and even of
himself, and when the revelation had come it had left him too stunned to
act.

Now it was different; he was prepared, armed at all points. He now would
demand _the truth_, and Francis would have to answer.

And afterwards Allan would challenge him; he was a good swordsman,
something even of an expert, and Francis must be very bad, stiff, out of
practice.

Allan thought he would kill him, and it caused him no alarm. He knew the
Contessa thought he would defile his sword, but to him it was the most
natural means of vengeance; he sickened at the long-drawn horrors of a
Scottish trial, or the hired bravo that would doubtless be Vittoria
Odaleschi's choice.

And he did not wish her present at this interview. He felt warmly, even
gratefully, towards her, and to her he would go afterwards and lay his
action at her feet; but every instinct he possessed revolted against her
presence at this scene.

He wrote, therefore, and told her so frankly; he had already seen that
it was useless to use subterfuge with her, and he did not give her the
hour of his appointment.

Vittoria was not surprised. She knew the type of man with whom she
dealt, how far he would be useful to her and where he would fail her;
neither was she nonplussed or even ruffled. She rather smiled at Allan's
simplicity, for she had outwitted princes and the Pope himself, and done
exactly what she wished, without fear of anything.

She had the Muti Palazzo watched, and when Mr. Forsythe left that
mansion about two of the clock his going was instantly reported to her,
and she had her horse made ready.

That morning Francis had told Merton to prepare for their departure the
following day; he also WTote to Edinburgh, telling Stacy Wigram of his
immediate return, and himself put all his personal articles away; what
need could there be to linger in this hateful land when he had killed
Allan Forsythe?

His purpose with Allan was exactly Allan's purpose with him--to get
from him the truth and then to kill him.

He felt no remorse nor any kind of hesitation, rather he looked forward
with a feverish eagerness to the death of Allan as something that would
set him at ease, restore his life to normal lines and redeem him before
God.

The day was intensely hot--with that heat which is almost incredible to
a Northerner--not a breath of wind stirred, and the city was full of
white dust, of glaring light, of foul smells. Francis felt his illness
increasing on him, his limbs were weak, his head burning and giddy, but
this did not hinder his resolution.

Carefully he cleaned and polished, loaded and primed, his small and
elegant wheel-lock pistol, put on the lightest suit he had, and told
Merton to have his horse brought out.

It was not two o'clock, and Allan had told him that he would be at the
villa between four and five--Francis had learnt that it was an hour and
more's ride, and was starting now, regardless of the heat, when a
messenger arrived.

Merton rapidly translated his message: he came from Mr. Forsythe, he
said; that gentleman was detained by the Count of Albany, and could not
be up at the villa till nearly seven.

Francis shivered with angry disappointment.

"Where is your master?" he demanded. "I will meet him in Rome."

For he thought Allan was suddenly afraid and trying to escape him.

"Unfortunately that is impossible, sir, since Mr. Forsythe is abroad
with the Count--he had to go with him to Frascati this morning to
consult His Eminence of York, and he can be at the villa, but not in
Rome, to-day."

"How will he return?" asked Francis.

"Oh, he will sleep there, sir; though the house is not ready yet, there
is the _fattore's_ cottage. Mr. Forsythe often sleeps there. But you
will be able to return if you wish, it is light till nearly nine, and a
safe road."

"Have you come from Frascati?"

"This moment, sir, riding post-haste to prevent your honour starting."

Francis turned back into the inn without a word; he was now convinced
that Allan did truly mean to see him, but the hours of waiting were none
the less hateful.

"Your honour could hardly have started in this heat," said Merton,
following him into the house; "in a couple of hours it will be cooler,
now it is hardly safe."

But Francis would have defied the weather, as he would have defied
anything to gain his object; it was the delay only that he dreaded.

Sullenly he went to his room and flung himself on his bed.

As soon as he was relaxed into an attitude of repose all the life seemed
to run out of him, and he wondered if indeed he could have undertaken
that long ride in the heat.

He cursed his weakness and lay still, his blood running at fever heat,
the air fiercely hot about him.

Through the slats of the shutters poured the merciless sun; even the
marble floor was hot, even the bed, coverlet, and pillows, burned.

Francis slipped into a horrid sleep, tortured with confusedly figured
dreams which he forgot on the instant he awoke.

He had been disturbed by some noise; with a start he sat up, staring
round the room, which was filled with hot, dusty shadow.

The child's crying again--low, persistent, pitiful crying.

Francis sprang from the bed in a fury.

"What do you want?" he cried. "Are you damned because you had no priest?
Be silent--blame her, not me!"

He was startled at the sound of his own voice, and a flash of reason
checked him.

He felt his pulse, which was beating with a hideous rapidity.

"I have a high fever," he muttered, "naturally these delusions haunt
me."

With a shudder he went to the basin and poured the tepid water over his
face and neck.

This slightly revived him, but while he had his face hidden in the towel
a great terror seized him, and he looked over his shoulder with
unutterable anticipation.

The child was in the middle of the room, looking at him imploringly, and
holding a prayer book with the Papist cross.

Francis tried to shriek, but the sound was caught and stifled in his
throat.

He rushed at the child and tried to catch hold of it, and found himself
standing with the torn mosquito-net of the bed in his hand.

"These dreams," he said, "these dreams."

With shaking fingers he pulled out his watch; it was past four.

He adjusted his attire hastily and descended to the little close
courtyard. Merton who from the first had not liked this long expedition
to see a gentleman who might be visited in Rome--an expedition too much
of a piece with his master's strangeness--strove to dissuade him from
going.

"Or at least take me with you, sir; you do not know the country or even
the way."

Francis paid not the slightest attention.

"Come and meet me to-night about eight o'clock beyond the St. Giovanni
Laterano Gate," he answered, and with this the servant had to be
content.

The city was not yet aroused from noonday repose and stillness, very few
people were abroad in the hot, dry streets. Francis made his way quickly
to the gates, passed through the cluster of huts and cottages beyond the
walls, and turned across the beautiful Roman campagna in the direction
of the Sabine hills.

The rich and prosperous plain which swept to the gates of Rome was now
in full beauty; there were not many dwelling-houses, for the malaria was
rife even in these comparatively healthy districts, but the fertile
ground had been trained to the utmost advantage. The vines were already
as high as a man, or hung in thick festoons from the little hawthorn
trees; fields of rice, of grain, of maize, waved like a green sea, and
orchards of peach and almond, apple and plum, grew about the lofty ruins
of the Claudian Aqueduct.

The road was narrow and thick with white dust, yet pleasantly shaded
with fig and acacia, and tall hedges of nut twined with honeysuckle and
wild roses.

Lizards darted constantly across the way, and the lower air was full of
bright and beautiful insects. Francis rode slowly, hating this opulent
loveliness, looking constantly and fearfully behind.

He passed few people--one or two shepherds with flocks of black sheep,
who put him on his way courteously; a few children who ran out from the
scarce farmhouses and stood staring in the hedge to see him pass.

And when he had been riding nearly an hour he had left behind all the
farmhouses, and entered a plantation of vines and figs.

In the distance, on the first spur of the hill, he saw a villa backed by
a great grove of cypress trees that was black from the silver foliage of
the olive that covered the mountainside.

An old man was leaning over work in the vineyard, he came slowly towards
the road, pulling off suckers and throwing them down.

"Is that the Villa Rosina?" called Francis, reining up.

The peasant hastened his steps.

"That house," added Francis impatiently, "is it the Villa Rosina?"

He pointed with his whip.

"This is all the villa," returned the old man, "and that is the master's
house."

Francis rode on.

He passed no one else; he endeavoured to distract his thoughts by
considering what a fine property Allan had--his own Scottish lands
seemed bare and miserable by contrast. A faint flicker of his one time
intense interest in agriculture arrived as the cooler airs of
approaching evening revived him, and the peaceful beauty of the region
through which he rode soothed him, loathe it as he would.

He soon came to the bottom of the eminence on which the house stood,
with the hills behind and Rome directly in front.

It was approached by two olive-bordered roads which ran curving upwards
either side, embracing a sloping garden.

The house was bare, square, a faded rose colour, the straight line of
the roof broken only by a large stone shield bearing a coat of arms; the
bottom windows opened on to a noble terrace with a low marble balustrade
which overlooked the campagna and the distant city.

Although there were trees behind and at each side, the house stood full
in the sun and seemed as if never touched by shade.

All the shutters were closed, the place had an air of absolute desertion
and silence.

Francis took the further road, and proceeded slowly by the left side of
the garden wall. When he reached the top of the incline he found to his
right a large iron gate which led directly to the front of the house and
the terrace.

He looked in vain for any bell or knocker, and there was no dwelling
visible save the mansion, no hut or cottage, nor peasant working.

But the gate was ajar; he dismounted and entered, leading his horse.

Before him the wide gravel path led straight to a short flight of steps
ascending to the terrace; either side of the wall were ilex and laurel
trees with clusters of amber-coloured foliage and long, tasselled
blossoms among the old dark leaves; at the foot of them grew a tangle of
neglected roses--huge roses, twenty or more on one stem--their bright
pink colour showed marvellous in the cool depths of shade.

Francis paused; he had a sudden dreadful sense of being absolutely alone
in the villa, a sudden conviction that Allan was not there.

He fastened his horse by the reins to one of the low boughs of the ilex,
and went on alone; continually he looked behind, fearful of that piteous
little figure. He was quite sure that the child was following him, but
hoped he would not see him; if he should behold or hear him in this
solitude he thought he should go mad.

He mounted the terrace in the hopes of finding an entrance to the house,
but all was shut and barred.

Before him the rich campagna swept to a dazzling mist in the distance
where the white dome of St, Peter gleamed, either side the yew and
cypress rose up against the purple blue of the cloudless sky, behind was
the vine and olive-covered slope of the hill, on all sides the luxurious
country, gorgeous with the ripening harvest of grain and fruit and
shimmering in the golden heat-rays.

Truly the place was fair as a dream; it was strange Allan should own
this splendour. Francis wondered who the former family had been and why
they had sold their property...

So Allan was going to live here a Papist and a foreigner...Well, the
place was beautiful, but poisonous--"Because of these things,"--yes,
because of these things had Allan sold his soul, and because of them
would the wrath of God descend on him.

Francis put his hand to his pistol, crossed the terrace, and passed
round the avenue of cypress on the other side of the house.

The back was also laid out in a broad terrace or walk surrounded by a
balustrade, either side of this stretched lovely but neglected
flower-gardens, and behind, on the slope of the hill, were two other
narrow stone terraces rising one above the other and connected by a
winged staircase in the centre; in the curve formed by these two flights
of steps was an elaborate fountain with sea-horses springing from the
basin edge and in the centre a group of tritons blowing horns; all was
of marble, stained now yellow and green with moss, and the water in the
basin was choked with luscious water plants.

Beyond and above the fountain the two staircases joined in a single
flight that led to another and higher terrace grown with roses,
jasmine, and honeysuckle, and set with antique statues, and this opened
on to an alley of old olive trees which went straight to the summit of
the hill--the clear line of the horizon against the sky showed at the
end between the opening of the lacing boughs.

Iron gates shut off the flower-gardens from the lowest terrace. Francis
tried both and found them locked; here too was a large door into the
house, but that also was locked, and all the windows this side were
shuttered as firmly as they were on the other.

Francis felt as if he was closed into a prison; the place held both
dread and terror for him, as if a deadly enemy, waiting to spring,
lurked behind the loveliness.

He wondered if Allan meant to come, if it was all some trick, or if he
had really been delayed at Frascati.

"It does not matter," he thought fiercely; "if he does not come, I will
shoot him in Rome, the first moment I see him, even if it be in the
public street." He looked at his watch and saw that it was not yet much
past six; he reckoned if he left for Rome at seven he could be through
the gates before dark, and therefore he decided to wait awhile in case
Allan came.

Yet waiting was a torture; he was afraid any moment that the child might
reveal himself, and that was the one thing he could not bear.

It occurred to him that if he mounted to the upper terrace he could
command a view of the whole villa; this would give him a sense of
security.

Cautiously he ascended beside and behind the fountain until he gained
the topmost terrace where the sweetness of the tumult of untended
flowers was almost overpowering.

From there he could see over the flat roof of the house, down the slopes
of corn and olive, fruit tree, and vine, across the rich plain to the
white dome of St. Peter's, the resplendent and gorgeous prospect only
cut by the dark austere lines of the noble cypress trees which grew
either side of the house.

The place was unutterably lonely; the steady sunshine, still burning
gold, seemed to emphasize this loneliness. Francis felt such an intense
desire to escape that he left the flower-crowded terrace and passed into
the avenue beyond which led directly to the summit of the hill.

This was covered with thick soft grass, the gnarled olives that twisted
their boughs together overhead gave a complete shade; to right and left
beyond them stretched other olive trees; in the silence of the heat it
seemed some sacred grove, full of awe and mystery and haunted by spirits
beautiful but baleful.

There were no flowers save the close humble blossoms of the wild thyme
whose pungent scent was strong on the still air.

Francis climbed slowly up, up, instinctively attracted to the summit of
the hill showing at the end of the avenue.

He thought that if he could reach that height and gaze on the view
beneath he might leave behind the horrors that were so thickly gathering
about him; he thought, somehow, if he reached the top the child would
not be able to follow.

He was within a few paces of his goal when he heard a footstep.

He would not look back.

"No," he said aloud, "leave me--do not pursue me here. I know you are
there whether I see you or not--keep away."

The footsteps came closer, and now he heard the rustling of a skirt.

He had gained the summit now, but he did not notice the view spread
beneath him.

"Have you brought her too?" he cried. "I wondered how long she would
remain in the vault at Glenillich!"

He turned about fiercely and found himself face to face with Vittoria
Odaleschi.



XII


At first he thought it was Giovanna, withered, blanched, and ghastly,
and he put his hands before his eyes and cowered back.

The Contessa stood in the shade of the olives looking at him; her riding
habit and her hat were of a dark gold colour, so that her figure blended
with the deep shade.

"You know me?" she asked.

He recovered himself a little, but he was quivering like a dog under an
upraised whip.

"I came here to see Allan Forsythe," he muttered.

"You will not see him. He was here two hours ago and returned to seek
you in Rome. I sent the messenger that delayed you. I wished to see you
here alone."

Hate and fury gave him strength.

"You! You! You dare to trick me and follow me! I have nothing to say to
you."

He stared at her fiercely and his face had a merciless and hostile look.

"I am in no humour to meet you," he added.

"You came to kill Allan Forsythe, I think."

"And if I did? I shall kill him yet."

"As you killed her."

A convulsion shook him, he moved away from the summit of the hill into
the shaded avenue where Vittoria stood.

"Who says I killed her?" he asked vaguely.

"I do. Two days ago I saw you in Rome. The moment I saw your face I knew
you had done some wrong to her, and I got the truth from Allan
Forsythe."

"You are a witch," said Francis with another shudder. "I say God slew
her. She wrought my damnation. Allan Forsythe was her lover."

"I wish," returned the Contessa, "I could think that true. I wish she
had had, in the hideous life that you inflicted on her, the refuge of
the love even of such as Allan Forsythe. I wish he could have been
another kind of man and taken her away by force and brought her back to
me. I wish you could have had that open affront; but I am glad at least
that you _believe_ you did not hold her. I think she was foolish enough
to love you always, but I am glad you think it was not so."

Francis moved away.

"Your words blast my ears," he said.

The Contessa did not heed him; resolved, quite fearless, she proceeded
in her denunciation.

"She was mine, and you took her from me to a bitter exile--you took from
her all she had and you gave her nothing in return. She was of a race so
much higher than yours that your forbears might have been her forbears'
servants, and yet you treated her as our men do not treat their fancies
of a day, their bought dancing girls! After you had had her for seven
years you murdered her to expiate the crime of loving her. What have you
to answer me?"

"Nothing," replied Francis; "not to you do I justify myself--not to you
am I answerable."

"Yes, to me," said Vittoria. "I am an Odaleschi and I call you to
account for the Odaleschi! This issue is not between you and Allan
Forsythe now, but between you and me."

Francis moved away and slowly descended the alley; his black-clad figure
was merged in the shade, like hers; the light that penetrated the olive
branches began to be tinged with a red colour, for the sun was fast
sloping into the west.

Vittoria followed him; a long scarf of green silk hung round her neck
and was wrapped round her right hand.

Francis looked at her over his shoulder.

"It is useless to speak to me, there can be no words between us," he
said; "it was useless to force this meeting. I do not even hate you now.
All that is over. I shall settle with Allan Forsythe, and then I shall
return to Scotland, leaving your world for ever. I shall begin another
life in which all this will be utterly forgotten."

He felt a certain satisfaction as he said this, a certain exaltation as
he said this, a certain lift and relief as if his spirit had suddenly
risen clear of horror and God had really smiled on him.

"You had your will and desire," said Vittoria, "and she paid--do you
think it will end there, then? Are you not afraid of the final
adjustment?"

She spoke slowly and quietly, walking a pace or so behind him; they had
come almost to the first rose-grown terrace.

"I too have paid," answered Francis with a certain wildness. "My debt
was with God and I have settled it. You cannot trouble me."

"Your account with me is not settled," replied the Contessa.

"Do not meddle with me--we are the world apart," he said.

"You meddled with us, and to us you must answer."

He had his feet on the top step of the terrace now; he turned and looked
at her; his face was distorted as if he had been violently struck.

"Us?" he replied; "us?"

"She and I and the child."

Francis shivered.

"I never touched the child," he muttered.

He moved away, supporting himself by the balustrade and crushing the
rose and the jasmine.

And as he spoke he saw the child, with his Popish prayer book, running
up the wide, bare steps which the sun stained faintly red, running up
and beckoning, running up with a look of malice.

Francis threw up his hands with a shriek.

"You cry out too soon," said Vittoria, and she cast away the green scarf
that had wrapped her right hand.

As she spoke he turned towards her to shut out the sight of the
approaching child, and she struck straight at his heart with the long
poniard the scarf had concealed.

Francis fell to his knees, and she, with a gesture intense with horror,
loathing, and contempt, pushed him over with all her force, so that he
fell down the first steps of the flight leading to the fountain.

He raised himself on one elbow and nodded at her.

"My heart is broken for my little son," he said, and dropped down on his
face.

She sped past him and stood as if on guard, with her face towards the
closed house and the cypress trees, until his last laments had died
away.

Then she looked back; he had flung himself round so that his face was
upturned, and she knew at once that he was dead.

The shadows were suddenly deepening; in the olive grove was already a
sunless darkness; the poisonous emanations of the malarious damp were
already beginning to taint the air, the dangerous coolness of the
Italian sunset hour crept, like a cold breath, abroad.

Vittoria hastened down the steps, cast the dimmed poniard she still held
into the silence of the fountain, hastened to where she had concealed
her horse near the ilex trees by the entrance, mounted, and swiftly rode
back to Rome.

Francis Moutray's animal, left in the great loneliness, moved restlessly
and whinnied mournfully.



THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia