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Title: No Way Home
Author: Marjorie Bowen (writing as George R. Preedy)
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1402391h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  July 2014
Most recent update: July 2014

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No Way Home

by

Marjorie Bowen
Writing as George R. Preedy

Cover Image

First published by Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1947
This e-book edition: Project Gutenberg Australia, 2014
Produced by Colin Choat



AUTHOR'S NOTE

The crime was commonplace, save in the person murdered, but it was supposed that there might be some tale behind it, but those who might have spoken kept silence. "All life," the old play has it, "is but a wandering to find home, and when we're gone we're there." This was quoted by the philosophers who noted this affair for (said they) "there was no way home but this for the victim of this midnight violence."

Memoirs of the Parish of St. James's, London.
—Corbie Pettigrew, London, 1830.

George R. Preedy.


E-BOOK PRODUCER'S NOTE

There are no chapters in the paper book. The end of each section is indicated by five asterisks. These have been converted into numbered sections to aid in navigating through the ebook.




Cover Image

No Way Home, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1947



TABLE OF CONTENTS

PART 1

§ 1
§ 2
§ 3
§ 4
§ 5
§ 6
§ 7
§ 8
§ 9
§ 10
§ 11
§ 12
§ 13
§ 14
§ 15
§ 16
§ 17
§ 18
§ 19
§ 20
§ 21

PART 2

§ 22
§ 23
§ 24
§ 25
§ 26
§ 27
§ 28
§ 29
§ 30
§ 31
§ 32
§ 33
§ 34
§ 35
§ 36
§ 37
§ 38
§ 39
§ 40
§ 41
§ 42
§ 43
§ 44
§ 45
§ 46
§ 47
§ 48
§ 49
§ 50
§ 51
§ 52
§ 53
§ 53

PART I

§ 1

THE TRAVELLER readily obtained lodgings for the night. The landlord asked to see his passport, which was British, in order, made out to Henry Campion, and stamped with the visas of the Duchies of Bavaria and Wurtemberg. He was a heavy, middle-aged man, wearing a light coat with capes, and he had come without a servant, in a small open carriage.

The Drei Mohren was the post house, and Mr. Campion paid his dues for hire and toll and ordered the carriage for the morning.

"It would be prudent, sir," suggested the host, civilly, "to engage a courier. The roads are well enough kept in Bavaria, and even through the Forest, but the confusions left by the late wars—" The Englishman put this advice aside with a quick movement of his gloved hand, as if it were matter he had heard often enough before, but Herr Kugler persisted in what he considered an essential warning.

"There have been accidents, disappearances; you must understand, sir, that whole tracts of the country are ruined."

"And you, that I am pressed for time; that I have an object, one object only, and that I conduct my affairs in my own way."

Herr Kugler bowed respectfully. No one travelling without a servant, and not speaking German, had stayed at his post house before. He continued, speaking English, he spoke a little of several languages, to impress on the traveller the dangers of a solitary journey, especially across the frontier, in Wurtemberg.

"Where are you going, sir?" he asked.

"I do not know," replied Mr. Campion abruptly. "You see, I am trying to find some one. I shall stay in Stuttgart, I suppose."

This remark caused the host some dismay.

"Ah, sir, you must realize! To be lost in Europe now is so easy—"

"Yes, so I have understood. But perhaps you can help me."

They stood in the empty, public parlour that was of the superior sort. The ancient house had been a nobleman's residence when the ancient city had been a free member of the Empire. Candles had been lit on the oak table; the windows stood open on the hot summer night and the lime trees in the square.

"Of course, sir." The landlord had seen letters from His Britannic Majesty's residents at Stuttgart and Munich with the passport Mr. Campion had shown. "But how strange if I could assist you! If you will, however, tell me the story—"

Mr. Campion's face became cruel. Herr Kugler swiftly felt that cruelty in the handsome, dark countenance, and the suffering of self inflicted torment. The traveller sat down carefully and drew off his gloves slowly, finger by finger.

"A rash and foolish person," he said, "decided to travel to Italy—"

"Italy!" exclaimed the landlord with relief. "Then you have a long way to go—Vienna to Venice—perhaps."

"You interrupt. Yes, I have a long way to go. This person, I have reason to believe, left Italy and Austria and came to Germany. It is true," he added with fierce weariness, "that I have followed many false clues."

"It is impossible that I should help you," said Herr Kugler firmly. "No one is here—has been here—save they who are accounted for."

"Naturally. Who is here now?"

This accent of authority frightened the landlord. His own secret and that of the stranger alike alarmed him. He wished now that he had said that the Drei Mohren was full, but he had thought it wiser to keep this formidable stranger under his close scrutiny.

"A lady occupies the first floor, sir. She has been resting here some days."

"A lady alone?"

"With a chamber woman, it is understood."

"Who is she, travelling now, unescorted, when, as you warn me, even the highways are dangerous? Dinkelsbuhl is an out of the way place for a lady to repose."

"It is Madame Daun, a most respectable widow. She travels from Stuttgart to Nuremberg on family matters—the selling of some property belonging to her late husband. She was indisposed on the way and rested here."

"A lady alone—she had no male companion?"

"No, indeed, sir."

"Well, I shall see her, I suppose."

"She keeps her chamber, sir, having a slight swelling of the throat."

"The maid, then?"

"Sir, are you of the Duke's police, or some courier of some foreign power that you make so many demands?" asked the host with dignity.

"I have power behind me. My errand is lawful. The Courts of Wurtemberg and Bavaria would support me."

"Then, sir, please be plain with me. Have you any business with Madame Daun, who is a most insignificant person whose papers are correct, above suspicion?"

"I do not think so," replied the Englishman. His fatigue seemed to increase suddenly and lie over him like a leaden cloak.

"Tell me one detail. What colour is this lady's hair?"

The landlord was astonished out of his carefully maintained composure.

"Madame Daun's hair, sir! It is the colour of that of most women in this country—pale brown—and over the temples, a little greyness."

"Send up my supper," ordered Mr. Campion abruptly, "to my chamber. I shall be gone early in the morning."

"Your luggage has been taken up. The room is spacious—on the second floor. Shall I conduct you there?" Relieved, but anxious not to show this, the landlord spoke with deference, as if wholly absorbed in his guest's comfort.

"No. I shall stay here awhile." The Englishman rose and went to the open window. The landlord withdrew, closing the door carefully on the unwelcome stranger who took no further notice of his surroundings.

The limes were in full bloom. The clusters of greenish-yellow flowers were visible in the light from the lamp in the square that fell faintly among the thick leaves.

The traveller suffered an intolerable loneliness, a bitter distaste for life. He was strong willed, determined, obstinate and inspired by a remorseless passion, but he was also fatigued by many disappointments, by a sense of futility and frustration.

The old city was like a prison. He had felt that as soon as he had driven into the gates that morning. He had disliked the Gothic pinnacles and towers of the churches, the medieval gables of the houses, the cobbled streets, even the stocking weavers going home from the work shops. It was all alien. He knew Europe only as battle fields. He had studied it only from military maps. He was now weary, with a deadly weariness, of road charts, bills of exchange, visas, frontier delays and questioning, arrivals and departures at inns and post houses, always alone, always among foreigners. If he heard of the whereabouts of any fellow countrymen he had to avoid them, for he travelled under a false name and on an errand that he could not reveal.

Herr Kugler was not the first to warn him of the perils of travelling without a servant. But his work was not to be shared, but something to be hidden from casual curiosity. Though wealthy and, therefore, used to excellent service, he made his solitary journeys with a fortitude not shaken, even now in the moment of gloom.

"It is only weariness," he whispered, for lately he had begun to talk to himself, though in the lowest of tones and when solitary. He was studious to keep a grave, aloof and taciturn manner when there was the slightest chance of his being observed. "Yes, and not yet—not even yet—being able to realize my misfortunes. My actions sometimes seem to me automatic. Still, it is not hopeless. Several times I have been nearly successful."

He glanced over his shoulder at the candle-lit parlour. "How many such rooms have I not stayed in for a day, a night, an hour—and how I detest all of them."

His dark features were pinched by suffering as he struggled to keep from his inner vision the images of the places where he had been happy. The boughs of the lime trees, gently stirred by the warm breeze before the window, appeared to him like walls. He picked up his beaver and gloves, still, amid his torment, a man of precise habits, and left the Drei Mohren. Once clear of the lime trees he turned to look at his last halting place.

It was a dignified mansion that had been refronted in a style of a hundred years ago. A façade of classic simplicity concealed the old irregular rooms, crooked passages and twisting stairs. A portico had been built over the large doorway, and the windows were set straightly. The shutters were not yet closed, and the traveller saw the gleam of the candles in the parlour he had just left. The windows of the first floor, the apartments of Madame Daun, were all lit. Their muslin curtains stirred to show the sparkles of a cut-glass chandelier, plain white walls and some pieces of austere furniture of Roman design. This glimpse into the pale chamber, so different from the dark, closed and miserable gabled buildings either side the inn, was like a glance into a theatre where the actors have not yet entered.

"Where did I make the mistake—or mistakes?" the Englishman whispered, staring up into the bright empty room. "Where did I take the wrong road, to the wrong city?"

He turned slowly across the public place. Songs were coming from the beer cellars as the flap doors opened and fell. The stranger was shut out of everything save his own narrow and terrible purpose.

He eased his stiff collar and passed his handkerchief over his face. There was no moon and the stars throbbed through a golden haze. The perfume of the lime blossoms was over sweet. He thought of water meadows, willow trees and smooth plots of grass sloping to the quiet river's edge, and knew they were nevermore to be his to enjoy. Slowly, several times losing his way in the twisting streets, he came out on the old fortifications and paced there, like a sentinel.


§ 2

Herr Kugler went slowly upstairs and knocked on the door of Madame Daun's apartment. The elderly maid opened it and he asked if he might see the lady.

"You know—" the woman began a formal, a reproachful sentence, but the host silenced her by raising a heavy hand. "This is important and unexpected."

"About the police, the visas, the passports?" came the sharp query.

"Official business, yes."

The woman admitted him. The room was altered since he had let this suite, some weeks before, to Madame Daun. Shawls of pale yellow and white silk were draped over the chairs; a chased silver coffee service was set on a side table, some fine Persian mats were laid on the shining floor, a Venetian mirror surrounded by glass flowers scattered with gold flecks had been hung on the white wall. Majolica bowls of early flowers, pinks, roses, hyacinths, were set by the long horse hair couch of classic shape that Madame Daun had softened by cushions of blue, purple and pink embroideries.

She came from the inner door as the host entered, and seated herself on this couch. She wore a pale grey pelisse, and her head was swathed in white muslin, too thick for a veil and through which she could scarcely see.

"What did you say, what is it?" she asked in English. In that tongue the man replied, after the maid had withdrawn to the inner room.

"The most unexpected, the most vexatious incident," murmured the host, looking awkwardly on the ground, as if overwhelmed, not only by the lady's presence, but by the air of elegance she had given his severe room. "A traveller has arrived."

She interrupted nervously: "Is not that usual? There have been several travellers staying here since I came."

"But this gentleman, I regret he has made inquiries about you, Madame."

"Surely you misunderstood!" She sat upright, alert and speaking keenly.

"I express myself with difficulty. Directly, not about your ladyship, no, Madame, but he inquired if there was a lady staying here. He is searching for someone."

"He is French?"

"English—but it is understood that all manner of spies might be employed?"

"You know that I am French, though I speak English with you since you understand that better than my own language," murmured Madame Daun. "Yet, an English spy—it is possible. What did he ask?"

"The colour of your hair, Madame."

She was silent and put up a trembling hand to draw the muslin closer round her head.

"I replied, 'light brown, with a greyness on the temples,' pardon me, that was to give the impression of a middle-aged lady, instead of one so young. For the rest, I told the tale as you bade me."

"Thank you. I do not think that this stranger can concern me, but I shall remain close until he leaves. When is that?"

"To-morrow morning, early."

"Why then, it was hardly needful to tell me this!"

Herr Kugler hesitated painfully.

"My poor house—hardly suitable—the wiser action would be to ask our Duke for advice—I hardly expected the honour for so long."

"The Duke of Bavaria, as I told you, knows my circumstances—he considered that my privacy was assured here, while I negotiated the purchase of a secluded residence."

"I have been honoured by your confidence."

"The Duke will not forget your kindness," said the lady, softly. "As for the stranger, you are over anxious, for which I commend you. In a few hours he will have departed."

The words were spoken in a tone of gentle dismissal, yet the host stood his ground, though awkwardly.

"Perhaps you are tired of my presence?" she added, loosening the muslin from her face.

"It is a responsibility, Madame," he admitted reluctantly.

"I trusted you," she reminded him. "I await important letters. You alone know my secret. Even my chamber woman, Adriana, does not guess as much as I have told you. Soon I shall dismiss her and engage another stranger. You realize the life I lead, so lonely, so perilous." She untwisted the muslin from her head. He shifted his position uneasily, but he was obliged, by the fascination she had for him, to look at the face she had revealed. This was a countenance of dignity and delicacy, with an exquisitely arched nose, a full under lip and pale eyes under sweeping brows. Her loosely curled hair was hazel coloured and whitened by powder on the temples. Herr Kugler knew that he could not resist that sparkling, prominent glance. He murmured: "Your ladyship must stay as long as you desire."

"I shall not be here for many days more." She offered him her entrancing smile where pride was mingled with gratitude. "My valet de place, Martin, has paid you all I owe?"

"Most scrupulously, Madame." Overcoming his nervousness by an effort of will, Herr Kugler added: "This Herr Martin, he is other than he seems?"

"He is my faithful servant."

"I understand—but his quality? If I might be trusted even further?"

"Martin is no more than my faithful servant. His devotion, as you must have observed, makes my existence possible. He, and his family, have always been in the service of my family."

The lady's tone was cold. Herr Kugler bowed and withdrew. He was not satisfied. As he descended the stairs slowly, with heavy head, he regretted the bias, the romantic temperament, the love of flattery, the awe of the reigning Duke, that had led him into the present situation. He did not doubt at least the main part of the sweet lady's tale; there had been the letter from His Highness, the prayer book with the illustrious signature, the marker, the pencil sketch; a hundred little incidents, all confirming the high flown, the impossible story. Above all there had been the lady's face. He had recognized the likeness at once. Yet some of the details of her case were vexatious. Martin, though he slept over the stables, seemed no ordinary servant and was very much in the confidence of his mistress, even to the handling of her money affairs. Certainly he was most respectful, most discreet, never over-stepping his place, but Herr Kugler, son of an innkeeper and himself in that business all his life, thought that he knew human beings pretty well, and he was dubious about Martin. Yet he could not offer himself any theory that might explain the servant.

As for the lady, if she was not who she hinted she was, who was she? Herr Kugler's instinct refused to connect her with anything discreditable; besides, she was gaining nothing by her life of a recluse at the Drei Mohren, and every week Martin paid her expenses, without questioning the accounts, in golden carolin. It had occurred to the innkeeper that the lady might be afflicted by a derangement in her wits, but against that was her command of money, her sober behaviour, and the facts that the letter from the Duke had demanded special service and protection for her, and that there had been no hue and cry after her, unless indeed, the Englishman?

But no, that was clearly a coincidence. There were so many missing people, of all nationalities, in Europe now, and so many, doubtless, searching for them. And the Englishman, this Mr. Campion, had obviously not been pursuing a woman with light brown hair, even though the landlord had misled him about the lady's age, there he had not been deceived. "Yet I shall be relieved," reflected Herr Kugler, "when all of them have left Dinkelsbuhl."

A widower, he had no anxious woman in whom to confide his doubts and he regretted his faithful Louise. The servants had all accepted the "Madame Daun" story, but he believed he had caught them whispering and staring—furtively, of course—and he did not want them to suspect anything.


§ 3

Mr. Campion came back to the inn late that evening. He was surprised to see the small glow of a pipe under the linden trees; a man must be standing there, at ease.

"Are you staying at the Drei Mohren?" he asked sharply.

The other, a dark figure with his hat pulled over his eyes, barely discernible in the shadows, muttered an apology in French, and disappeared in the darkness beyond the faint light of the public lamp.

The Englishman entered the hotel. Herr Kugler, as if waiting for him, was in the doorway of the public parlour.

"Who was that man under the trees outside?"

"I don't know, sir, indeed."

"A tall fellow, he spoke in French."

"Ah, that is Madame Daun's servant, he uses French as a polite language, as having been much in Paris, but he is, like Madame herself, an Austrian."

"You permit lackeys to lounge in front of the hotel, smoking?"

"It is understood," replied Herr Kugler uncomfortably, "that a certain liberty—a trusted valet de place—"

"It is little concern of mine," interrupted Mr. Campion, brusquely, "but I should not long reside in an establishment where such poor manners are permitted."

Herr Kugler suffered the rebuke in silence. His desire that the secretive lady should depart became stronger; romantic, even enthusiastic as he might be, his livelihood was with sober, every-day folk.

"I brushed against the fellow," said Mr. Campion haughtily, as he went upstairs. Outside the tall, classical door that led to Madame Daun's apartments he paused, then shrugged his shoulders, as if despising himself, and proceeded to the chamber allotted to him on the second floor.

Here, after Mr. Campion had finished his excellent supper, Herr Kugler presented himself, to the Englishman's annoyance.

"You want your account settled?" he asked, stiffly.

"No, your lordship mistakes the character of my house," replied Herr Kugler reproachfully. "I intrude on the affair of Madame Daun. I am a little troubled there. I thought it wiser to confide in your honour as a gentleman, than to make any secrecy."

"Indeed, and what affair is this of mine?"

"I understand the rebuke, sir. Please understand my difficulty. I have been made the recipient of a secret—a sad secret."

Mr. Campion seemed still to find this talk pompous, even impertinent.

"Then what right have you to chatter to me?" he demanded.

"Because I feel sure you are suspicious—perhaps in trouble yourself, sir," replied the innkeeper with desperate boldness, "and because I know this lady is not the person you look for. She has royal connections, need I say more?"

"I don't understand at all."

"An exile, sir, a fugitive from scenes of the utmost horror—bereaved, shocked, ill, in disguise and seclusion."

Mr. Campion eyed the talkative foreigner with indifference.

"This is no affair of mine, and you waste your trouble. I am searching for two people. A lady travelling alone is of no interest to me."

Herr Kugler bowed.

"I have my good name to think of. It could not be my wish for you to have any doubts as to guests of mine. I saw a letter from the Duke offering them protection—"

"Then, indeed she is no one whom I seek," interrupted Mr. Campion, contemptuously. "What have I to do with such?" His grey eyes shot a glance so cold and sulky at Herr Kugler that the innkeeper became precise and civilly remarked that the light carriage would be ready soon after breakfast on the following morning.

Left to himself, the Englishman paced the waxed boards, up and down before the handsome tester bed with the white, rose sprigged curtains, before the side table on which he had set out his travelling toilet case, on which stood the candles in brass sticks, before the window that gave on the topmost leaves of the linden trees, outlined, amber yellow, against the glow of the street lamp.

Without his cumbersome coat he showed as a fine man, tall and heavily built, with a broad chest, thick neck, and blunt features. His curly, dark brown hair was cut short and close whiskers accentuated his prominent cheek bones. His bearing was stiff and aristocratic; he had no gestures and few intonations in his speech. When he sighed, which was not infrequently, gusts of passion seemed to tear his breast.

At length his restlessness expended itself in the action that had become a nightly ritual with him. He paused by the candle light, seated himself, indifferently, on the dressing stool and drew from the inner pocket of his coat a crimson velvet case, worn by continual fingering and rubbing. He touched the spring and gazed, with a grim intensity of emotion, at a miniature that showed a young woman with two small children gathered affectionately in her arms. She wore a wide-brimmed Leghorn hat, with black ribbons, that shadowed her face, and a white muslin morning gown. The boy's blue coat contrasted prettily with the rose-coloured sash of his younger sister. It was a delicate and attractive, if slightly insipid, portrayal of a charming young mother, only a girl herself, with infants as dainty as wax dolls. Round the miniature, fitted neatly into the case, was a plait of shining hair, of a dark, yet brilliant, red colour.

Mr. Campion continued to stare at this simple miniature that was not skilful enough in the execution to be more than a pallid suggestion of the original, with eyes heavy with a concentration of passion. His mouth, usually stern, twitched into a grimace and his body became set in a sombre, hunched attitude, expressive of his desperate absorption in the thoughts stimulated by the trivial painting. These thoughts never left him during his waking hours and, transformed into fearful shapes, haunted his hideous dreams. But never did they reach such a pitch of agony as when he, unable to resist the nightly torment, gazed at the presentment of these three fair faces.

The unsnuffed candles flared, then guttered into what the gossips name winding sheets, but Mr. Campion took no heed of this uncertain light that cast his ragged shadow jumping on the wall behind him, and across the trim and empty bed.


§ 4

Martin entered the hotel quietly and softly went upstairs to Madame Daun's apartment. He was a tall, well-made man whose face was covered by a taffeta mask. Herr Kugler and his staff had at first found this disguise unpleasant, but they had accepted the explanation that Martin was so frightfully disfigured by smallpox as to be intolerable to the eyes of his fastidious mistress. Though the romantic innkeeper had sometimes wondered if the silken plaster (as it seemed to be) did not conceal some famous countenance, yet he knew this speculation to be fantastic, and after some weeks in Dinkelsbuhl Martin's misfortune had been accepted. The eyes that looked through the holes were clear but it was impossible to trace the outline of the features beneath the rude modelling of the mask. Martin wore a plain brown livery, with a narrow black braid at the seams. His linen was expensive and he had silver buckles on his well-made shoes. His hair was black and hung lankly on to his broad shoulders.

Madame Daun herself answered his careful knock.

"How late you are!" she whispered nervously.

"I could not venture it before."

He entered the room cautiously. The curtains were drawn and also the candles extinguished save those four wax lights in a girandole on the marble and gilt console beneath the Venetian mirror. In this faint light Martin's mask seemed to be made of dirty plaster. His voice was slightly distorted by the rigid slit that served as mouthpiece.

"Tell me at once," she whispered, pulling her yellow silk shawl about her as she shivered on to the sofa. Her face was free of the muslin, and the extreme delicacy of her features was startling to the man who looked at her so shrewdly.

"You are ill." His voice was sunk but powerful, even in a whisper. "That would be the last misfortune—if you were to be ill."

"I shall not be ill."

"The woman—?" he interrupted, glancing at the inner door.

"You know she does not understand English. The Madame Daun story quiets her, with just a hint of the other. But she should not find you here so late."

"It is he," said Martin.

"O! Here—in this house!"

"Yes. I brushed against him, just now, under the linden trees. I was waiting for him to return. I saw him, clear enough, in the light of the public lamp. I had my hat pulled down. I moved away, then waited outside the window of the common parlour. He was talking to Kugler. Complaining of a lackey's insolence, I believe."

"Then he has no suspicion?" The lady spoke in extreme terror, and leaned forward on her knees as if without strength.

"None. I heard the talk among the servants. He has taken no trouble not to appear odd. He admitted he was searching for someone. Kugler was uneasy. He is a coward as well as a fool."

"Here! In this house! Sleeping beneath the same roof!"

"Not sleeping, I think. He looks desperate—yet strong, too."

"What can we do?"

"Nothing. I repeat, he has no doubts. Remember he is looking for both of us. You are travelling alone. He is not subtle enough to suspect a lackey. A very literal minded man. And he leaves early to-morrow morning."

"I do not feel as I could endure this night—indeed I do not. I shall declare I have a fever and make Adriana sit up with me."

"No. The woman probably knows too much already. You will do nothing unusual."

"You are right, as always. I shall be quiet, but how slowly the hours will pass!" She clasped her hands in an excess of fear, and her body trembled under the thin gown and shawl.

"Tell this woman the other story, or hint at it—show the ducal letter. You are quite a good actress, yet you cannot control yourself."

"My terror is too acute," she murmured. "To know that he is here!"

"It has taken him two years to find us, and now he does not know that he has done so." Martin, as if expecting to be surprised, had maintained a careful distance from the lady and stood, respectfully, well away from the sofa where she crouched.

"I wish I knew what clues he had. How he came here at all."

"May we never be as near again!"

"He must have leave of absence. Some special concession. But it would not be more than six months. He will have, soon, to return home."

The lady muffled the fine texture of the shawl into her face, as if to check cries or sobs.

Martin, alarmed at this emotion, left her, saying sternly: "I trust to your wits. We cannot stay here much longer. I shall tell you our plans to-morrow."

As soon as he had left the room, Madame Daun struck a bell on the console table. Adriana Beheim entered at once. Certain that she had been eavesdropping, the lady said that the devoted Martin had just warned her of danger.

"I may have been recognized and followed. This good fellow saw—someone—in Dinkelsbuhl—" her voice fell to silence.

They spoke in French, Adriana's tongue lagged in that speech. She strained her attention to understand what her mistress said. She appeared eager, yet troubled.

"If you would confide in me," she whispered. "Please, Madame, have faith in me."

"It is impossible. Know me only as Madame Daun. And above all be prudent."

"Never have I failed in the utmost discretion!"

"Yet recall that I engaged you merely from an agency in Vienna."

"But first, Madame, you asked if I was loyal to...to..."

"Do not mention the name!"

"But I must think of it—and of her—every time I see your face, Madame," replied the servant in great agitation. "Yet there is so much I do not understand."

"I intend," said the lady slowly, "to spend the rest of my life in seclusion. I shall take a remote mansion in some remote part of the Duchy or in Wurtemberg—the Duke protects me. I shall hire servants. Money I have in plenty. Martin will conduct my affairs for me. And so, withdrawn from the world, I shall hope not to live long."

"I did not engage for an existence like that," murmured the maid, half in caution, half in fear. "And, Madame, it has, this proposal, a tinge of madness."

"Many will say that I am mad. Perhaps I lost my wits when I was a prisoner. When—all my family—was—murdered."

Adriana crossed herself.

"Do not speak of it, pray, Madame."

"But I think of it, always. Consider my offer. You will be well paid. And I shall not live long."

Adriana inclined her head silently. She was getting old and her life had been without incident. She had no relations and no interests. She found this strange lady, who had partly confided in her so wild and improbable a tale, fascinating. Moreover, her mistress gave little trouble and paid well. It was easier to continue in this service than to seek another place. Yet she remained suspicious, reluctant to involve herself in possible mischief. Nor did the prospect of this lonely house, this sacrificed life, please her mind, romantic and curious, yet shrewd and superstitious.

"See me to bed now," said the lady with a sigh; she rose and the maid followed her into the bedroom. On the bed, covered with a silken shawl, was a fine chemise, embroidered on the sleeve with the letters "M.A." On the table by the bed was a prayer book bound in blue velvet powdered with fleur-de-lys. Madame Daun opened it and glanced at the pencil sketch, on the title page, of a woman whose uncommon face showed a definite likeness to her own fair countenance, and the flowing signature of a murdered Queen. Adriana glanced at it also, with awe and a little wonder.

"If you are devoted to the Imperial Family, Adriana, you could not choose but stay with me."

"Madame, I must consider—"

"Say no more, Adriana."

The lady went to her solitary repose, the maid to her modest closet. Herr Kugler put out the lamps and candles in the public rooms, after bolting the massive front door. Upstairs, Mr. Campion lay drowsed on his bed, in the dark, for the street lamp was out; the miniature, at which he had gazed so intensely, in his hand. In his room above the stable Martin took off his taffeta mask, with a mutter of relief, and lay down to sleep; he also was in the dark.


§ 5

"The Englishman has gone early?" asked Martin. Herr Kugler replied that this was so, adding: "He would not take a servant. It is dangerous to travel alone."

"Where was he going?"

"To Stuttgart. He seemed sure that the person, or persons, he was looking for are in Wurtemberg. He has the help of the police, he declares."

"Ah, there are many strange guests in Europe now," remarked the valet-de-place. "Perhaps that of my mistress, seeking sanctuary, the strangest of all. I have had letters to-day," he showed a packet in his hand, "I believe we have found the house." And he mentioned a small schloss, or hunting box, situated in one of the loneliest parts of the Forest, known as Wilhelmsruhe and long abandoned.

"What a dismal habitation for a high-born lady!" exclaimed Herr Kugler.

"It is what she seeks, and what the Dukes suggest."

The innkeeper was silent before these august names. Martin proceeded upstairs with the letters that the post had brought that morning addressed to Madame Daun, at the Drei Mohren. Adriana passed him and came down, carrying on a gilt tray the Dresden china service used for her mistress's morning chocolate. As she gave this to a maid passing along the passage, she spoke to the innkeeper in their native tongue.

"I want you to help me about this Madame Daun—in bed as usual."

Herr Kugler raised a silencing hand and motioned her to the little room at the back of the public parlour that he used as an office.

"I was about to ask your help," he said, in some dismay. "I do not wish this interesting traveller to remain here."

"She does not wish to do so. Martin has told me—and so has she—that they intend to establish themselves in a lonely hunting lodge where she will live in utter seclusion. I am asked to share this retreat."

He glanced at her quickly. She shrugged and replied to the look: "Ah, you think that I am one to whom the world offers little! All the same, to shut oneself up like that—"

"The question is," put in Herr Kugler, "who is she?"

"You do not know?"

"Not precisely. I have heard the same stories as you have. There is really no reason to doubt them, save common-sense," sighed the innkeeper. "I confess that at first I was fascinated, baffled, overborne. Then the letter from the Duke—"

"Neither you nor I, my dear sir, is in a position to question His Highness about that letter. Are we simple folk being deceived?"

"For what end? Madame Daun is not a criminal. She has money, jewels, an excellent servant. She receives no one—she makes no attempt to turn her attractions to advantage."

"She is a well-bred lady, of course," agreed Adriana. "And the likeness is remarkable. Then there are also the souvenirs. Yet—" she paused and shrugged her shoulders.

"What are your suspicions?"

"I could hardly say—they are foreigners."

"They—but Martin is a servant."

"More a steward, at least. He knows all her affairs."

"Yes, yes, that is explained by his family's loyalty to her family. Besides, she speaks to me of friends who help her secretly, but who respect her wish for secrecy. After all," added Herr Kugler, as if endeavouring to convince himself, "considering her most horrible experiences, her dread of a loveless marriage to a man she dislikes—it is possible—"

"You do know more than I do," interrupted Adriana sharply. "She has never even hinted more than that she is a survivor of the terror in Paris where her family was murdered, and has some connection with royalty."

"She has told you more. I know it. Why did you refer to souvenirs and the likeness?" Herr Kugler spoke firmly, but kept his voice very low. "Let us be plain," he added. "This lady leads us to believe—without saying so in as many words—that she is that Princess known as 'The Orphan of the Temple,' daughter of your Austrian Queen, whose forthcoming marriage to her cousin was recently in the Gazette."

"Well, yes, she allowed me to think that, now you insist on putting it so plainly."

"Not so plainly—yet it is obvious that she claims royal blood—"

"—And a desire to die in hiding," interrupted Adriana. "I don't know what to do. I feel a devotion, a loyalty. She is easy to please, there is plenty of money."

"Who would supply that? The Bourbons are bankrupt, exiled in Switzerland."

"Some rich friends are helping her—perhaps English, she speaks English, she and Martin. I do not like his mask."

"You are fanciful. I've often known those marred by the small-pox wear them, like blind people wear a bandage over the eyes. I'm used to that. Yet I do feel there is a mystery, and I shall be pleased when they have left my house."

"She admits they search for her, her family that would be, they want this marriage."

"Who is left of her family?" asked Herr Kugler courteously. "I never concerned myself about these exiles, though I pity them. Yes, pity! It is impossible not to feel pity for this young lady."

The man and woman looked at one another doubtfully.

"A royal princess would be missed. I put that to her, she said that a friend had taken her place in the Swiss convent from which she escaped."

"It is fantastic!"

"Yes, there is certainly something fantastic about this lady. Whatever it may be, the Duke protects her, yet she is afraid of spies, of the police. Are you sure that Englishman was not looking for her?"

"I don't know, he has only gone as far as Stuttgart. From there he could watch her or have her watched."


§ 6

These same words were being spoken by Martin to his mistress as they rode together under the avenues of limes planted on the ancient fortifications: "He has gone to Stuttgart, from there he could watch us." They sat their hired horses well, and Madame Daun, in a fashionable riding suit, showed nothing of the languor that had kept her confined to her elegant apartments in the Drei Mohren.

"Why should he do so?" she asked, wearily. "He certainly had no suspicions or he would not have left the posting house early this morning without even trying to see us."

"Yet I am not satisfied," replied Martin. "He has much help, the police, the two ducal courts—we have but our wits—the English residents, probably, wherever he goes."

"His errand is hardly one that he could confide to the police."

"He will have every assistance," answered Martin, impatiently. "The Regent himself must have granted him leave of absence for this special purpose."

"Do not speak of it, pray!"

"I must, at least, think of it. We cannot stay in the Drei Mohren. I shall take that Wilhelmsruhe house, a hunting lodge, not for some time used. It will suit us very well."

"For how long?" she asked, fearfully.

"I do not know. We must play these parts until we can shake him off. Remember what is on that."

"Cannot we fly, at once? To Austria—to Italy?"

"That would be to attract attention. We must go to earth."

She glanced in terror at his rude taffeta mask, it was only by his voice she could guess at his mood. The lovely day lay heavily upon her as, with the tone of a master, he bade her ride ahead, while he fell into a servant's place behind her as they returned to the town of Dinkelsbuhl.


§ 7

Without provoking any comment, Mr. Henry Campion lodged at the modest post house, Blaue Engel, in Stuttgart, having crossed the frontier from Bavaria without any difficulty, owing to his papers being of a kind acceptable to both the Duke of Bavaria and the Duke of Wurtemberg. He soon forgot the lady staying at the inn under the name of Madame Daun. He had stayed at so many inns during his recent rapid journeying, and inquired into the identities of so many fellow travellers. He did not expect to find her alone, and for that reason had taken but little interest in the lady living on the first floor of the Drei Mohren. Therefore, he, who had left such alarm and speculation behind him, was obsessed by his own sorrows and furies and gave no thought to the tall man who had brushed against him under the linden trees, nor to that pale room he had seen bright in the summer darkness, behind the open shutters of the lady's chamber.

He had come to an end of his clues. Such reports as had been secretly and lavishly furnished to him he had exhausted. All had proved false and had led him astray from main roads. In six months of hard riding and driving he had zigzagged across Europe, often retracing his steps. It had been like wandering in a maze. War, too, had overturned the usual conveniences and made everything tedious. Many villages were deserted, many chateaux closed, hunting boxes and summer residences abandoned, parks overgrown, the posts were disorganized, the countryside often had a ruined look. It was common to see maimed and diseased people. Herr Kugler had been wise to warn him of the dangers of travelling alone through the dense forests where the rambling walls and stern towers of ancient castles certainly harboured thieves and vagabonds. But he had not been molested. He went well armed and was prudent, he had, also, the fanatic's faith in his destiny that kept him from any concern as to his own safety.

Now, in Stuttgart, he felt himself lost in the maze, as if the entire design enclosed him, twist on twist, and to move would be only to wander senselessly until he died of an agony of fatigue.

He walked along the Grabenstrasse, past the new palace still being built, to the old palace, approached by an avenue of plane trees. The heavy, formidable royal residence, appearing like a fortress of some distant period, partly deserted, partly used as offices, attracted as much of his attention as he had to give to anything. He turned into the courtyard, then into that beyond, and noticed that the ancient chapel was being used as an apothecary's shop.

In his loneliness, his idleness, the intense concentration of his purpose, he moved like a man mechanically propelled, up to the counter on which were wooden bowls of poppy heads, a pair of shining scales and bottles of Bohemian glass, deep blue and a clear crimson, cut on white.

The place smelt pleasantly of herbs and essences; shelves at the back held Delft jars of drugs. The apothecary's assistant was weighing out cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves, and looked up sharply as the foreigner entered. The apothecary was attached to the court and visited only by the better sort. Mr. Campion's self absorption gave him an air of confidence, so that he passed as one well answered for by the great.

"I want," he said, "an anodyne. I do not sleep very well."

The young man shook his head. He did not understand English. Mr. Campion roused himself and repeated his demand in German.

"The name of your physician, sir?" asked the other.

"I have none."

"Then I cannot supply you with anything save a very simple powder—to ease the head or the heart."

The Englishman tapped his fingers on the counter.

"It was an impulse on which I spoke. Naturally, travelling incessantly one becomes fatigued."

"You are credited to the English Ministry?" asked the apothecary's assistant.

"No. But my papers are in good order and I have protection in high places."

"I do not doubt it, sir," replied the chemist sincerely, for the stranger had a figure and air of authority and distinction. "You were recommended here? We have essences, perfumes, soaps, ointments—"

"I shall make some purchases. Let them be what you will." Mr. Campion seated himself on the high-polished stool by the counter. "I am tired. Pray give me the name of some doctor of medicine."

"Dr. Raab of the Postplatz attends most of the foreigners; he speaks several languages. But, sir, you should learn this at the English Residency—"

"I came here by chance," interrupted Mr. Campion. "A curious place in which to find a chemist's shop."

"A magnificent new palace is being built," replied the Wurtemberger with pride, "and this, the ancient Hofburg, is now used as offices. This was the chapel."

"A blasphemy, as I think."

"Sir, you will find, all over South Germany, old chapels, churches and convents now used as shops, barracks and lunatic asylums."

The youth had turned to the back of the long room where trestles, board tables and chairs stood in front of shelves and cupboards.

Mr. Campion rested his arms on the counter and took his face in his hands. He felt giddy and grateful for this respite from fatigue in this shadowed, pungently scented place. His quest was so near hopeless that he might, he thought, as well begin it here as in any other place.

The apprentice returned with a goblet of pale green foaming liquid that he promised would remove the pains of exhaustion, and, after drinking it, Mr. Campion did feel soothed.

The young man continued with his task of weighing and crushing in a mortar aromatic herbs, that he then poured, by a silver funnel, into jars of opaque jasper.

"There is a good deal to see in Stuttgart," he gossiped. "Though it is termed an idle city, having no trade, nothing but the court, the residences and the barracks. But the Stifskirche, just round the corner, has majestic royal monuments in the choir and an organ you can boast of. In the Hofkellerei you can purchase very fine wine, and in the Muns and Medaillen Cabinet are some remarkable coins and gems. In the palace gardens are orange trees three hundred years old—" he held up a small phial of thick milky blue glass, "here is some essence or attar extracted from them. I perceive you are not listening, sir."

"No. I am not sure why I came here. Yours is a pleasant city, and the country about like a park or garden. But I am lost. I am searching for someone—for two people."

"Ah, with the war just over, and another threatened, there are so many lost."

"Pray do not repeat that. I hear it from everyone. I must do my utmost in the time allotted to me. I have help. But I must rely on myself. Do they say in Stuttgart," he added abruptly, "that there will be another war soon?"

"Indeed, yes, sir, that is all the talk, of ill omen and foreboding, and we scarcely able to scrape a living yet from the ruins of the last confusion."

"I hear that also, everywhere. If war comes again my time in Europe is shorter still. I do not know where to begin. As well here as anywhere!" he gave a disagreeable laugh. "I suppose you or your master know all the strangers who come to Stuttgart? I thought I had traced them, after so many tedious miles, to Heilbronn but they, she, had left that valley. Where had she gone? Into Swabia, Franconia—I had many reports. I went here, there, turning back more than once." He checked himself. "Why do I tell you all this? I fall into the weak habit of talking to myself."

"You search, sir, for a lady, travelling alone?" asked the young man, doubtfully.

"No, no, she would be well attended. She is English, eccentric, and using an assumed name. She wintered in Italy for her health, two winters, or in Switzerland—her lungs, as I understand. In brief she has inherited a swinging fortune, an estate in Hampshire, you understand, with responsibilities. I represent her lawyer."

The apothecary's assistant thought this story, told in halting German, incorrectly used, odd and not in accordance with the foreigner's appearance that was in nothing that of a legal or business man, nor was his manner, of hardly suffered passion, that of one engaged in merely mercenary or routine work.

"It must be a troublesome journey, sir. Has the lady left no post or agent's or banker's address?"

"None—eccentric, I told you, and wishful to lose herself."

"She must be well supplied with money. Everything is costly now."

"Yes, she must," replied Mr. Campion, grimly. "I don't understand that—I mean I suppose she is using all her resources."

"But who sends her money?" asked the apothecary's assistant, putting the heavy gilded stoppers into the jars of crushed herbs. "You could, sir, surely, being a lawyer, have found that out in England."

"I did," interrupted Mr. Campion in a hard, angry tone. "She had left the address given me, before I reached it—communication with England is much delayed. I have, therefore, been travelling for several months."

"It must," remarked the young Wurtemberger, "be a considerable estate to warrant such expenses."

"More than an estate hangs on this quest. Tell me if you recall any talk or gossip. I warrant that little takes place here you do not know of."

"I have not heard of an Englishwoman recently in Stuttgart or near abouts, sir."

Mr. Campion sighed. "She is not able to speak any language but her own, save a little French. She could not pass for anyone save an Englishwoman." He paused, fingering the round goblet. The sunlight lay on the stone floor and Mr. Campion gazed at it, as if through it, at long vanished scenes that haunted him and would not be forgotten. "An Englishwoman," he repeated.

"And delicate?" the apothecary's assistant suggested. "Then, sir, this doctor Raab might assist you; as I said, all foreigners go to him."

Mr. Campion rose. As he had lied when he had said the lady was ill this suggestion did not interest him. He wished that he had not entered this strange place, with the vaulted roof above and cold flags beneath, and pungent perfumes. He put a coin on the table for his draught and asked for a parcel of pomades and soaps to be made up and sent to him, Mr. Henry Campion, at the Blaue Engel. He hesitated, looked round as if expecting one to enter the tall door and blot out the shaft of sunshine.

There was something so forlorn, yet so forceful, in his attitude, something that so strongly conveyed both courage and despair, that the young Wurtemberger, who was sympathetic towards this fine handsome man, and who had believed nothing of his story, said: "Perhaps, sir, I might help you. The clue is very slight but—"

Mr. Campion had turned instantly to face him.

"I am used to slight clues. I shall pay well, even for useless information."

"Well, sir, there was a gentleman, a foreigner, sent here by Dr. Raab—he had a touch of quinsy, such has been common, and the malaise from the grapes—too many vineyards round Stuttgart—"

—"and he was travelling with a lady?" Mr. Campion corrected himself. "As a courier, I mean."

"No. He was searching for a lady. I wondered if it might be the same lady. An Englishwoman, he said. He had traced her, or so he supposed, to the Bavarian frontiers."

The young man paused to consider the effect of his words on his sombre and interesting stranger. A flash that was almost like the light of hope spread over the heavy face as Mr. Campion wildly thought, "Has he left her? Is it possible? Has she left him?" The light faded and he said: "Where is this man? Is it possible to speak with him?"

"Why, I do not know, sir, or even if he is still in Stuttgart."

"Did you see him? What is he like in his person?"

"Very well, sir. He came here, when he was cured, and bought a quantity of perfumes. A foreigner, he might be English, his German had an accent."

"Like mine. I never spoke the language until recently. Yes, this man," Mr. Campion laboured out his clumsy lies, "might be the courier of this English lady."

"I do not know where he stayed. But Dr. Raab might tell you."

"Thank you. Send your account to my inn, I shall be there for some days, I suppose."

He left the shop, blinking in the sunlight, then returned asking for the physician's exact address. The young man gave this, then turned, checking over the items the stranger had ordered at random. "Whatever the truth is, he did not tell it to me."

Mr. Campion felt giddy in the sunlight; he made his way heavily to the physician's house in the Postplatz. Dr. Raab was at home and received him civilly. He was an elderly man with a smooth experienced manner. He might, from the appearance both of himself and his neat home, have had many activities besides that of medicine, but Mr. Campion took him on his face value, as a physician and nothing else. Moreover, the Englishman came straight to the point and, dropping all pretence at concern for his own health, related the story the apothecary's assistant had told him.

"Certainly I recall the young man; in this quiet old city every new face is noticed. He was staying at Bode's and may be there now. He inquired about a lady. Rather remarkable that there should be such a lost lady, a foreign lady, travelling in Europe in these tedious times."

Mr. Campion longed to put the queries he had posed to Herr Kugler, but could not bring himself to do so. What had been possible with an innkeeper was not possible with a man of education. He repeated his tale about the estate in Hampshire and stiffly took his leave, awkwardly placing a fee on the physician's bureau. He had the address, Bode's Hotel, of the other foreigner, who seemed to be on the same quest as himself and whose description he had not dared to ask. Before the lackey had opened the front door to him, Dr. Raab had appeared at the head of the stairs, his face smiling. "I do not know if I am betraying a confidence in telling you that this patient of mine, the last time I visited him at Bode's, told me that he had found the lady."

Mr. Campion could not answer. He bowed and went out heavily into the sunshine that lay with a warmth that seemed tangible on the Postplatz. The unacknowledged hope had vanished. She had not left him, not escaped, or if she had she had been recaptured soon and easily. Even, Mr. Campion asked himself fiercely, if they had parted, what difference would that have made, after two years? None, was the answer. Yet there had been that sparkle of hope. He sighed and walked slowly, often losing his way in the unfamiliar streets. When he found Bode's Hotel in the Schlossstrasse, he discovered it to be a superior inn, with a fine frontage, and well kept. There were handsome carriages before the door and liveried valets in the passage.

He asked for Signor Petronio Miola, the name that Dr. Raab had given him as the nom de voyage of the foreigner who might have been English. Mr. Campion, who, because of his limited knowledge of languages, had not ventured to change his nationality, thought that the man whom he sought might very well have done so. "One of his sly, crafty tricks. Yes, he would be clever at any kind of mummery; he knows Europe well, too."

Then Mr. Campion reflected that he had come to Bode's on an impulse, almost stupidly, searching out his enemy face to face, in public, without having thought out what his action would be. He had not intended this, but rather to take them unaware, to spy on them unperceived, to make himself and his purpose known carefully, and by degrees.

Now a moment was possibly on him that he had long and passionately waited for, and he felt unprepared, even sick and nervous.

The valet returned to inform him the Signor Miola was about to leave Stuttgart, it was for him that one of the carriages waited, but that he could offer a few moments to the traveller who wished to speak to him on matters of importance.

Mr. Campion was too absorbed in his purpose to feel the sting to his pride that he would never, save for this one object, have endured. He had never asked favours or waited on others. His spirit was as unbending as his manners.

He was shown into a parlour on the first floor; amid the formal furniture lay strapped valises, and Mr. Campion felt a heightening of his continuous nausea at this constant travelling. The road—the inn—the passport—the visa. The fruitless correspondence, stale and dull, waiting at the posthouses. And again came the forbidden, but not to be denied, thought of lost days of peace and security, of a home with lawns sloping to the edge of the placid river, of the company of those whom he had cherished with a love and pride seldom expressed.

How well he knew these inn rooms! In how many of them had he passed restless nights! They hardly changed from one country to another. If one paid enough, one got good service and accommodation of an unvarying kind, and these continental hostelries provided both an exasperating sense of a vagabond continually changing existence, and a dull monotony. As usual, there was an inner door to the private room occupied by the luxurious traveller. Mr. Campion glanced jealously through this door that stood partly open, and saw, with a sick glance, the back of a man in a summer cloak, standing before a dressing table. The light was so cast that this figure was a mere outline of brownish grey, the hues in the shadow of both the travelling dress and the long, fastened back hair. It might have been the man for whom Mr. Campion searched. The woman also, might have been concealed in the second chamber. Mr. Campion paused to hear their voices. For himself, he could neither speak nor move, but stood rigid, his hat in his hand, his heavy face slightly distorted in a grimace of fatigue and emotion.

His suspense lasted no more than a second, and the man by the dressing table had heard him enter and turned. Even in the obscurity of cross lights and shadows Mr. Campion perceived he gazed at a stranger.

Relief at being spared the hideous climax that he so desperately sought, was instantly followed in Mr. Campion's mind by an intensifying of the dreadful frustration that accompanied him weary day, dreary night.

"I have disturbed you needlessly, sir," he said in English, his sad passion making him awkward, even discourteous in bearing.

The other man came into the parlour. He was young, comely and expensively dressed. His air was cheerful, gentle and aristocratic. He seemed entirely at his visitor's service, anxious to please and of a most sympathetic manner. But Mr. Campion regarded him with dislike as the cause of disappointment, humiliation and a surge of almost intolerable emotion.

"You are not English?" he asked abruptly.

"No. I am a native of Bologna. I speak your language however. I had an English tutor. Pray be seated."

"It is not worth while. You are not the man I seek. Dr. Raab was under a misapprehension, he thought you a fellow countryman of mine."

"If I had been, what would you have asked me?" Signor Miola spoke with a sweet courtesy that Mr. Campion unreasonably resented. Feeling, however, that he must make some excuse for his intrusion, he said: "I am searching for a lady—" Then the words died on his tongue, for he realized how often and to how many people he had repeated them.

"And Dr. Raab told you that I, also, made this search for a gentlewoman?"

"Yes, but now I see that your business can be none of mine."

"Pray be seated, sir. Do not let us part so suddenly. Share with me a bottle of sparkling Necker wine. I have found the gentlewoman I sought."

Partly out of curiosity, not wholly to be denied, partly out of a desire not to appear churlish, Mr. Campion took the red damask chair by the window that looked on to the busy Schlossstraat.

"She was an elderly Spaniard, a connection of mine by marriage, travelling with a chaplain, maids, a courier, a dwarf and spaniels. Her destination was Bad Willsbad, but apparently she changed her mind and went to one of the Brunnen in the Black Forest."

"Sir, this does not concern me."

"But one traveller may tell his tale to another?" The Bolognese pulled the bell. "My quest is rather amusing. My relative's son is in sudden need of money—a pressing bill, you understand—and I, having nothing better to do, undertook to be his ambassador. To-day I travel to Rippoldsau, in the valley of Schappau, where I learn she is."

In return for this frankly given explanation, Mr. Campion offered his dry and badly told tale of the missing heiress to the Hampshire estate.

Signor Miola was all gracious attention to this halting narrative.

"Naturally, everyone travels under a nom de voyage now, but a wealthy Englishwoman travelling alone—"

"Not alone. She would have an English courier with her." He could not save himself from adding: "Have you seen any such lady?"

"Very possibly." Signor Miola poured out the sparkling wine the valet had brought, into the green glasses. "As I was about to say, an Englishwoman, travelling alone, wealthy, keeping to the main roads, should be easily traced. I have been lately on the way between Nuremberg and Stuttgart and searching out of the way places. There are many foreigners at the Brunnen, even now; could you offer me a description?"

Signor Miola spoke fluently, his address was manly and ingratiating. Mr. Campion, whose large hand shook slightly on his glass, felt soothed and more inclined to give his confidence than he had felt since he had left London in the first rigours of his cold, almost despairing resolve.

Yet still he expressed himself with difficulty.

"She is young; of no great, or surprising beauty, you understand. A—well bred—Englishwoman. There is nothing uncommon in her person, save her hair. Red hair. And that hue is uncommon only in England. In the Scotch Lowlands it is not rare."

"I have seen such a lady," replied the other, readily. "But she was with her husband."

Mr. Campion set down his glass with meticulous care, but his strength rose to meet his need.

"Yes, she might be with her husband. She would be, I suppose. As representing her man of business, I know little of her affairs. I suppose she was ill and left in some medical care while her husband, who is a merchant, travelled alone. There would be a courier also—a modest equipage."

The Bolognese had been looking from the window while Mr. Campion forced out these words. Then he spoke indifferently. "A couple answering to that description was here a day or so ago. They lived quietly, but I got into conversation with them, as I like to speak English. The lady did not appear to be delicate."

"What manner of man was her companion?" Mr. Campion obliged himself to ask this odious question.

"About my own age and figure. A soldierly bearing, dark—for your country, at least. Conspicuous good looks. Yes, I think so." Signor Miola smiled as if sympathetically interested.

Mr. Campion tried to rise, but could not.

"The heat," he muttered, "and this incessant jolting over broken roads. I have attacks of giddiness."

"Dr. Raab is an excellent physician."

"I forgot," sighed the Englishman, "to tell him my case. I was so engrossed in finding you. I supposed," he added, more firmly, "that you were either the husband—or the courier of this lady."

He forced himself to rise, and stood holding on to the back of the red damask chair. He obliged himself to look into the pleasant light grey eyes of the Bolognese, who was smiling at him in a most agreeable manner. No one could have been more unlike the man he sought; strange that he had made that first mistake of thinking that there was a resemblance, strange, even allowing for the uncertain light of the shadowed inner room.

"Can you inform me," he asked carefully, "where this—these people, went?"

"Yes, to Donauschingen on the way to Schaffhausen—"

"In Switzerland?"

"Yes."

Mr. Campion restrained his impulse to follow at once the fugitives. Slow and easily deceived, he was yet well trained and constantly goading himself to be on the alert. He reminded himself that he must be cautious. Used to direct methods, he was exasperated by anything in the nature of a subterfuge. Even the fact that he bore what the Bolognese so casually termed a nom de voyage, irritated him, though he was aware that few people travelling in Europe now used their own names, for good or bad reasons. "Careful," he warned himself, "this Italian fellow is certainly a gentleman, but he may be a scoundrel or a practical jester, and it is possible he even desires to throw me off the scent." Aloud, he asked painfully, loathing the part he was playing, if his agreeable host could be certain of the destination of the English couple.

"They said it was Schaffhausen—I heard them instruct the German courier," smiled Signor Miola. "They seemed weary of Germany. Their name is Latymer."

"Oh, these false names! Their appearance? Excuse me that I trouble you, but I have already wasted so much time, and I have to return to England shortly."

"You expect a renewal of the war?"

"Maybe—why do you ask?" Mr. Campion was glad of a respite from the poignant purpose of this odious interview.

"I thought you might be a soldier—you have that air."

A slow colour spread over Mr. Campion's heavy face.

"I am a lawyer, sir, as I told you."

"Why yes, but, as you remarked, sir, these false names! Now how can I help you to identify the Latymers? The gentleman's handsome face was the most notable of their characteristics."

Mr. Campion turned from the window, then turned again like one blind with torment.

"No fop," added Signor Miola, "but a head of classic beauty. The lady? A high nose, prominent eyes, red hair, pale, she wore some Eastern shawls, very fine silk, yellow, white, she had a dressing case of green morocco, for she entrusted it to me to have repaired for her. They knew very little German."

Mr. Campion bowed his head in silence.

"And, if it helps you, the initials on the case, that she said she had possessed before her marriage, were L.W."

"Yes, these are the people," muttered Mr. Campion, with a ghastly look. "You heard her name, her Christian name, used perchance?"

"Yes. I noticed it, for it was odd to me at first. Letty—Lettice—our Letitia, I presume. She told me that the other letter stood for Winslow. So, my dear sir, if you are searching for Mrs. Letty Winslow she is certainly by now at Schaffhausen."

"That is her real name she toys with so. To hear it in this place! From a stranger's lips!" Mr. Campion grinned, sighed and stumbled on. "Truly I am confused with fatigue, this has been a long, a tedious business."

"One understands, perfectly. Perhaps I can help you further. I travel with my servant, who is a very intelligent fellow." Signor Miola stepped to the inner door and called: "Bonino!"

A lean, soft-footed man with quick eyes appeared, a small valise in his hand. His air of perfect detachment soothed even Mr. Campion's terrible agitation.

"Bonino," explained his master, smiling. "This gentleman is looking for the English people who were staying in Stuttgart, will you tell him their names and particulars of their appearance, and their destination."

The body servant, in rapidly spoken Italian and broken English, at once confirmed Signor Miola's story.

Mr. Campion had believed this from the first. Now he heard this second witness he felt he had satisfied all possible prudence and caution. He thanked the Bolognese in a formal and abstracted manner, hardly noticing to whom he spoke, picked up his hat and cane and went downstairs.

Signor Miola watched him from the window.

"Bonino, there is a man most easily gulled. I see him below making inquiries from the porters, he will certainly go at once to Schaffhausen."

"Sir, he appeared incapable of further travel—a man exhausted, consumed by emotion."

"But a very strong man, Bonino. Much what I expected to see. One might feel inclined to pity him."

"Certainly, sir, one pities him a great deal."

"Yet his intention is murder, Bonino."

The valet permitted himself the slightest shrug. "May I ask, sir, where we are going?"

"Into the Forest. See the arms are ready and primed. We must go alone."

"You have found them, sir?" Bonino's tone was regretful.

"Certainly I have. It was not so difficult. We must be off at once."

The servant ventured to step closer to his master; the fading sunlight, now full on him, showed him to be nearly a generation older than Signor Miola.

"If I could once more entreat, even on my knees, that you, my dear lord, abandon this—infatuation, that you return to the splendid life you had at the Villa Aria, at the Palazzo San Quirico. You are so missed—the ornament, the support of your family."

The Bolognese received these words, spoken with all the formality and grace of the Italian language, without the least offence. Indeed, he returned the servant's obvious affection with a loving glance.

"Indeed, I know your worth, Bonino. You have reason on your side."

"Reason, indeed I have, sir. This adventure is beneath you—you who have so much. Besides, I foresee disaster for you among the three of them. Indeed, sir," continued the valet desperately, "what worth or merit have they so to engross your attention?"

"Very little indeed, as I think, Bonino," agreed Signor Miola. "A most ordinary affair, save in a few details. The truth is that I was not so satisfied as you—as anyone supposed—in that splendid life of mine in Bologna. It was dry and hollow. One wearied of the pedantry, the intrigues, even of the artificial merriments."

"So one understands, signore, but this! What substitute is this—for anything?"

"You must return to Italy if you are wearied, Bonino. I shall go on alone until, one way or another, the little drama ends."

"You know that I cannot leave you, signore. You know that my letters, reports home keep your family satisfied."

"Yes, yes. You are very useful," smiled the young man. "You manage everything extremely well. I should find it difficult to travel incognito without you. There is no more to be said than that, Bonino. Take the valise down to the carriage and tell the postillion my destination is Wilhelmsruhe in the Forest, a former hunting box of some small pretensions near Rippoldsau—"

"Where your aunt is staying, sir?" asked the servant, wisely accepting defeat with a jest.

"So your English is better than I thought, you rascal. You not only overheard, but understood all my conversation!"

"How else could I have confirmed your story?"

"I gave you hints enough for that, Bonino. The Englishman is so dense, and so bewildered with passion that he never grasped the significance of your presence in the other room."

"Yet he was shrewd enough, signore, to probe you as to their appearance."

"A desperate kind of shrewdness, Bonino. He was forcing himself to be suspicious, against his native credulity. He has never done anything of this kind before—is rash enough to travel alone and to rely on court introductions and the police. Of course no one takes any interest in his case. He is put off everywhere with lies."

"It is certainly amazing, signore, that he accepted the tale you told him of your eccentric relation."

"Yes, but I am not inclined to laugh at him, Bonino. Now, be on your way. I shall follow."

Left alone, the young man stood thoughtfully, looking down into the street where other travellers arrived and departed as the post-coach put in to change horses. Mr. Campion had left the active scene, and was certainly by now on his way to Donauschingen, a twenty-six hour journey from Stuttgart, and the wretched man already broken by fatigue—

"For his part," mused Signor Miola, "a renewal of the war would be a lucky fortune for him, a chance of an honourable death."


§ 8

Florio San Quirico, travelling under the name of Signor Miola, ascended the beautiful heights of the Kniebis in his own light carriage that he had brought with him from Italy. Bonino drove the hired horse, the best the post could offer, that took the steep incline without difficulty, while the heavier vehicles were obliged to have extra horses or oxen for the three hours climb. The traveller enjoyed the fair country, rich and lavish in the evening light, the wild hollows overhung by gigantic rocks, the stern round capped towers of feudal castles overhanging deep defiles. The windings of the valleys, the lovely forests in full foliage, showed in an extensive vista as the road rose to the summit of the Kniebis. The glowing lustre of the scene gave a purple bloom to the mountains, the vineyards in the valleys, the fading azure of the heaven.

The Bolognese was not, as was the English traveller, obsessed by an overmastering desire or emotion, though he also was on a quest it was one in which his mind, as well as his heart was concerned. For, more intelligent than Mr. Campion, his passions were more refined, more under control, and a considerable melancholy pervaded his nature. What he was doing was deliberate, well planned and carefully executed. It was, he knew, something in the nature of an indulged whim, an allowed fantasy. It had begun, possibly in boredom; it had more to do with sentiment than passion. He had no sleepless nights, no tormenting dreams, and he was sufficiently detached to be able to relish the incidents of his luxurious travelling.

The clumsy devices of the fugitives had never for long delayed him. Without the assistance that Mr. Campion employed, he, with the expert aid of his servant, had followed, a stage or so behind, easily, the couple whom he pursued. It had not taken him long to discover that a strange lady, supposed, in Stuttgart gossip, to be a member of the French Royal House, had taken the long deserted hunting box near Rippoldsau, once the property of the Grand Duke of Baden, and situated in a garden termed Solitude.

Bonino had been to Dinkelsbuhl and brought back reports; his master had acted on them, but at leisure, with none of the ruthless haste with which the Englishman hastened upon pursuit.

Signor Miola wondered now, searching his own heart, how much there was of caprice in this absenting of himself from his home, the duties of his station, the elaborate structure of his life, so well filled with intelligent activities. A shade of sadness came over his long, smooth comely face, as he watched the light withdraw from the landscape and the sky. He felt pity for the Englishman, respected him and wished him well out of his dreadful trouble—yet death alone would end that tragedy.

The well kept road turned sharply to the south and Bonino, skilful at all he undertook, drove cleverly down the steep descent that led to the lonely, little-known valley of the Schappach, deep in the wildness of the forest. As the little carriage proceeded along the level road the thickly set trees shut out all sun, almost all light, from Florio San Quirico. He felt as enclosed as if he drove between high green walls.

The carriage drove past a Gothic church at which Florio San Quirico glanced with pleasure. His taste was gratified by these South German churches with the windows painted in yellow and blue, the stone pulpits with lime-wood canopies, the shrines with the black figure in the tinselled robes, sparkling with sequins and tinsel, with gems and gold, the offerings of rich pilgrims, glittering in starry crowns, and the votive tablets depicting frightful disasters by land and sea. Such churches had, to the polished Italian, a childlike candour, even a crudity, that was agreeable after the elegance of his native edifices, cunning designs in light and space.

He had seen the pilgrim churches on mountains with the winding avenues of chapels approaching them, and been moved by a faint, surprised reverence for what he had been led to believe were merely a dull superstition. He had watched the pilgrims, headed by priests, setting out from a humble village and had heard their rude, earnest hymns with more respect than he had listened to the brilliant music performed so beautifully in San Petronio.

Not himself romantic, Florio San Quirico liked to encourage the romantic mood to which he was as sensitive as he was to every gracious aspect of human nature, and he indulged this now as the carriage drew up before the most modest and obscure of the Brunnen of the Forest, Rippoldsau.

The establishment, the former hunting lodge of the Grand Duke of Baden, was a severe building, surrounded by a number of what appeared to be summer houses, but which in fact sheltered the fine cold mineral springs that the Badhaus offered to those in search of cures for skin diseases. The place appeared deserted, though the windows were open; in their shining panes the last light of the sun glinted red. At the sound of the carriage a dog barked and a man in a plain livery came round the side of the house, followed by an ostler.

Florio San Quirico savoured the prospect. He was skilful with the pencil, as he was skilful with the lute, and the scene pleased him in its lonely and melancholy beauty. The silent grey house, the gleaming windows, the background of huge oaks and massive pines dark against a paling sky, the two men advancing, almost doubtfully, as if they were surprised to see strangers, composed a picture that the young Bolognese could rapidly have touched into his sketch book.

He was amused to realize that he could be thus easily distracted from what he had tried to believe was an imperious purpose. Tried? Was that the key note of the episode? Was he forcing himself to a quest that had no true zest in it?

He sighed lightly and descended from the carriage.

"Are there rooms to be had for myself and my servants?" he asked with that agreeable courtesy that made him acceptable everywhere, yet left no doubt of his quality. The attendant of the Badhaus answered, yes, indeed; this place was little known, though the proprietor had made great improvements in it and the cold springs were excellent, but the season was nearly over.

"I do not suffer from any ill that you can cure," smiled Florio San Quirico. "I would like to repose here for a short while."

Bonino unstrapped the valise, and the ostler took the reins. The landlord appeared in the doorway to welcome this unexpected visitor to his establishment.


§ 9

Florio San Quirico was given the best chamber in the house. It looked, by a tall window, on the Forest. The floor was tiled in dark red, the sparse furniture was of lime-wood; from the tester of the bed hung white linen curtains; the room had an ascetic air, as if it belonged to a recluse who meditated in loneliness. There was a shelf of books in gold tooled leather, with ties of pink floss silk hanging beneath the spines.

"Perhaps," thought the Bolognese, "some lonely student left them here."

His own appointments, few but beautiful and costly, looked conspicuous in the clean, gaunt room, sweet from the pine odours of the Forest, as did his tall elegant figure in the plain yet rich travelling attire, his auburn hair fastened by a silver gilt buckle of intricate design, reflected (as if a creature of another world) in the long, tarnished mirror.

He leaned in the window place and gazed into the fragrant darkness of the dense trees that were immobile in the stillness of the night. Above sparkled the stars in a remote pallor of pale light.

"Why not," he thought, playing with his mood, "leave them to their destiny? They are all passionate—one is foolish—caught in a web. Why not let them be?"

"Leave them to their destiny." What did he mean by that easy phrase, he asked himself. What was their destiny, and how could he influence it? The answer was easy. He had already influenced it when he had sent Mr. Campion to Schaffhausen; he would further influence it when he presented himself at Wilhelmsruhe. He was sufficiently detached from their fortunes to be able to direct them. He felt the power of the puppet master who pulls the strings. There had been no satisfaction in sending the blundering Englishman to Switzerland; there would be some satisfaction in breaking up the artful extravaganza the fugitives had invented. And more in having them at his mercy. He had penetrated their disguises as soon as he had had Bonino's report from Dinkelsbuhl. He was amused by the obtuseness of the pursuer who had been under the same roof with the pursued and not known it, completely deceived by a wig, and a mask, by the change of master into man.

It was a clever trick, no doubt, and one that might have baffled any one not closely interested in the fugitives, but that it would not even have aroused the suspicions of Mr. Campion, was to Florio San Quirico, not only astonishing, it was ridiculous. Yet that word was not to be associated with the heavy, manly and dignified personage who had, in such desperate emotion so haughtily controlled, spoken with him at Bode's in Stuttgart.

He was relieved by the pine air of the Forest, flowing over him as he pushed the casement wider. The weather had been hot, redolent of the hot perfumes of the vintage that the citizens of Stuttgart declared caused a nervous malaise in the city surrounded by terrace on terrace of vines, now come to full fruitage.

There was some caution in his nature and he had been precisely taught to consider well before he took any action; some philosophy, too, he possessed and he knew that Bonino's entreaties were justified. Florio San Quirico had many noble obligations and agreeable duties awaiting him in Bologna. He had never irked at his life, though perhaps a certain weariness likely to the affliction of a man who kept himself apart from the tumults of a restless age, full of wars, revolutions and conflicts. He partly despised himself that he did not go abroad to some theatre of turmoil and there receive his quietus. For him there was yet no final riddance of malaise, even though his escape from Bologna had so utterly changed his life.

A dreamy lassitude overcame him. He had sent Bonino to bed in the closet. The house seemed deserted, the chamber even emptier than the usual impersonal room of an inn. Was this Helen worth this siege of this Troy? He had almost persuaded himself that for him she was the very quiddity of life, but almost only.

The two candles on the dressing table burnt straightly in the unmoving air; their reflections in the oval mirror made four points of light in the high ceilinged, bare room. Here was but one of the toys with which he had been wont to beguile himself. In his valise was a packet of sealed letters that had been forwarded to him through Papal nuncios on the first stages of his flight. Bonino had collected these without any hint as to the whereabouts of his master, who had never opened them. He knew from whom they came, members of his family, from friends at the University, at the Academies of Arts and Learning. Now, for some while, there had been no letters following; all trace of him had been lost in his native town.

He thought now of his brick arcaded palace in Bologna and of the Villa Aria where, from the flat roof, the gaze could range from the Apennines to the Adriatic, with some nostalgia. As he blew out the candles, he seemed to extinguish hopes. He felt chilled from the night air that had been so refreshing after the close mustiness of the vintage heat at Stuttgart, took off his coat and lay on the strange bed with a sigh, his head aching, and his heart empty.


§ 10

Bonino discovered that his master had a fever, an inflamed throat, a slight return of the quinsy that had afflicted him at Stuttgart.

Josef Gutke, the nervous young physician attached to the Badhaus, declared that Florio San Quirico, whom he knew as Signor Miola, was too ill to travel. The young Bolognese knew this to be the case, and resigned himself to a short sojourn at Rippoldsau. The enforced delay did not altogether displease him. His quarry was in the net that could be drawn close whenever he chose.

They must remain at Wilhelmsruhe for some time or attract attention. They would live, for some while, in dread of the return of Mr. Campion, for they could not know that he had never had any suspicions of them now that he was across the frontier. To support the fantastic tale they had told, they must remain in the Forest, playing the difficult parts they had assigned themselves.

"He is a clever scoundrel," thought Florio San Quirico, who himself enjoyed bizarre intentions, "and has succeeded in deceiving others sharper than the Englishman. But it will go ill with his nature to play the hermit."

Bonino travelled the scattered farms in the Forest and brought back gossip for his master. Casimir Weissnix, landlord of the Badhaus, also had a tale to tell. In this deep secluded valley, in the loneliest part of the Forest, it had been matter for much comment among the few inhabitants that Wilhelmsruhe had been let. This small hunting box was on the property of the Grand Duke of Baden and had been bought by Herr Weissnix with the larger lodge he now used as the Badhaus. It was he, therefore, who had let Wilhelmsruhe to Madame Daun by means of an attorney in Dinkelsbuhl.

The long deserted place had been in need of repair and Martin, Madame Daun's confidential steward, had interviewed Herr Weissnix who had visited Willemsruhe for this purpose.

His last guest had now departed, and he kept his establishment open merely to please the Bolognese, who paid lavishly. He, too, had his story to add to the fables that people the Forest. Not denying his native town, he related that he had been sent by the University of Bologna to Germany and Austria to search for rare coins for their cabinet of curiosities owned by that venerable seat of learning. He was crossing the Forest in order to visit a schloss whose owner had promised him the first choice of some coins of the Wurtemberg minted, of Ulm and a few of the Palatinate at Tubingen, some of these rarities being nearly a thousand years old.

Herr Weissnix accepted this story without quibble; he was pleased with the visit of the young nobleman (so he thought of Signor Miola) to his not very successful establishment and willing, when the first exasperations and languors of his guest's illness had passed, to talk to him about the new tenants of Wilhelmsruhe. He was himself a native of Stuttgart, and his enterprise in purchasing this, the most isolated and neglected of the Brunnen of South Germany, had meant exile to him. He was a widower with a boy, his sole hope, at the University of Wurtemberg, for whom he had made, with his savings and a lottery prize, this speculation. He had been employed for most of his life at the Marstall in Stuttgart, and in the breeding of the pure Arabian horses that were celebrated throughout Europe. A riding accident had lamed him and decided him, with his luck at the lottery, on the purchase of Bad Rippoldsau.

This modest and truthful tale amused Florio San Quirico, as it was in such keen contrast to the fanciful fictions with which he was surrounded, and with the dark, beautiful and melancholy scenery of the vale of the Schappach, inhabited by a few peasants and farmers living in fantastic rustic dwellings, and wearing costumes that to the taste of the Bolognese were grotesque.

Herr Weissnix, however, was not averse from the romantic aspect of life though this had never come his own way. He had been greatly excited by the hiring of Wilhelmsruhe and was delighted to recount this adventure to Signor Miola.

The Bolognese sat in the hot sunshine, in a cushioned chair, outside the plain façade of the Badhaus, his throat still bandaged, his face pallid, his attitude languid, and listened with an interest he was well able to conceal, to the landlord's gossip. At his guest's invitation, Herr Weissnix had a tankard of clear Bavarian beer before him that he drank as he detailed his narrative.

"The story was all over Dinkelsbuhl—just over the Bavarian frontier, you know, sir—and whispered only, that this Madame Daun is a French princess in hiding; the people in the Forest think the same."

"What have they to go upon, in crediting the incredible?" asked Florio San Quirico, who very well knew the answer. He still spoke with difficulty, in a hoarse voice, and Herr Weissnix glanced at him kindly and continued, hoping to dispel the other's boredom.

"Ah, there is so much to spread the story. The lady, who gives the name of Madame Daun, has confided in her maid, an Austrian, one Adriana Beheim, and a sober, strait-laced woman—"

"And she has confided it to everyone with whom she speaks?"

"No, she is discreet. But such a situation cannot be long concealed," replied Herr Weissnix, with a knowing look. "Imagine, a princess! And after such a life of torment!"

"She must have had some excellent friends to connive at this elaborate deception."

"Undoubtedly," agreed the Badhaus keeper, ingenuously. "One does not know all the tale. She was in exile, in a Swiss convent, one understands she was sunk in melancholy, somewhat unsettled in her wits; when she heard of her proposed marriage to her cousin, a disagreeable man, son of her mother's mortal enemy, she fled."

"With whom, and by what means?"

"O, one does not know everything, of course. She might have had English help—certainly the Duchess of Wurtemberg is English, and this lady has the Duke's letter of protection."

"We reach high politics," smiled the Bolognese. "I find this a fable well suited, my dear Herr Wiessnix, to your superb Forest."

"No, no," returned the other quickly, though with deference. "This has nothing to do with tales of lorelei, elves and goblins, robber barons or exile kings, but with real people. Incredible? I do not know about that, seeing what has happened in the last few years, since '89—what one has seen in one's own life time."

"However, I do not believe that the daughter of the late King of France is in hiding at Wilhelmsruhe."

"The resemblance is unmistakable," replied Herr Weissnix. "I spoke apart with the chamber woman—she was only engaged in Vienna, but she is convinced of the truth of the claim. She told me she had seen a signature in a prayer book, a sketch of the late Queen of France, fleur-de-lys on a chemise, a book marker with the same emblem."

"If the lady is this princess, who, then, is Martin? This confidential servant? And is one to suppose that she travelled alone with this servant, from Switzerland?"

"We are not far from the frontier."

"You think, then, they came direct to Dinkelsbuhl?"

"That would not be the direct route, sir; no doubt they turned and twisted on their way, but I think that a few weeks ago they were in Switzerland."

"I see," smiled the Bolognese. "It is certainly a pretty mystery. They have money?"

"Anything is paid for lavishly."

"And how is it that this illustrious female is not missed?"

"She is—but to escape scandal, the whole affair is kept quiet, and her family try to induce her to return by secret means, or even to have her abducted, while a friend takes her place in the seclusion of the convent."

"Have they not been followed?"

"Yes, I believe so. A man came to the Drei Mohren, where they were staying, but the host described them falsely, and he left within a few hours. It may be he is at Stuttgart watching them—they live so very secluded."

"Have you seen this lady?"

"No—she is never present when I visit Wilhelmsruhe, and that is seldom."

"But you remarked on the likeness?"

"I have the word of the maid for that." Herr Weissnix was confident of the truth of his gossip. When pressed by Florio for details of this remarkable story he glossed over all difficulties by asserting that certainly there were mysteries, certainly there was much left unexplained, but one was dealing with a piteous feminine caprice, with the actions of a very young woman whose wits had been disturbed, perhaps fatally, by suffering, who had loyal friends eager to respect and shelter her desire for a retreat from the world, a loss of identity and an unknown death.

The landlord of the Badhaus capped his argument by declaring that the Duke of Bavaria and the Duke of Wurtemberg were cognisant of the lady's secret and were helping her to protect it; obviously, everything had been made easy for her eccentric retirement.

"Do you think that she appealed to these two courts?"

"I do not suppose her capable of any such effort, sir. Martin would do everything."

"Ah, this Martin! Who is he?"

Herr Weissnix did not know. He liked to think that the steward, courier or servant was some great personage, perhaps some royal prince in disguise. "He wears a mask."

Florio knew this but affected surprise.

"It is common enough since the war—wounds or disease have disfigured him, sir. It is no vizard he wears, but a false face of silk taffeta, lined, he told me, with ointment. He takes it off at night."

"What age would you take him to be?" asked Florio.

"Forty years or so, maybe older. I suppose the lady would be no more than twenty years."

"So," mused the Bolognese, "legends grow into monstrous blooms from tiny seeds. Perhaps in a hundred years time this tale will be repeated—of the mysterious French princess fleeing here to die in solitude, attended by her faithful servant."

Indeed, so strong was the atmosphere of the Forest that Florio himself, solitary, weakened by illness, cut off from all the normal influences of life, was tempted to toy with belief in this fiction that had a melancholy charm, not in keeping with the character of the inventor.

The Forest was so large; the castles on the height that rose above it, the farms and cottages in the valleys that divided it, so remote from one another; the lordly hunting boxes so secluded, stretches of the woodland so dense and dark, that even the sceptical intelligence of the highly educated Bolognese was in abeyance, and the romantic side of his nature, which he delighted, now and then, to arouse, was indulged.

He had often read with satiric amusement, the horrible German novels of spectres and warlocks, so fashionable in a society that ignored the commonplace terrors of every day, but here they seemed neither diverting nor impossible.

Herr Weissnix, drawn out on the subject, did not disguise his belief in the reputation of the Forest, so ancient, so little touched by man, so gloomy in the pathless depths of the trees where a traveller could be lost for days, so full of radiance in the open valleys. Almost Florio began to credit the incredible story of the fugitives at Wilhelmsruhe, almost to suppose that he was mistaken as to their identity.

When Herr Weissnix ceased talking, a hush that seemed more than silence was over this solitary place. The sunshine lay undisturbed on the space of grass before the tall grey house, on the quiet mansion itself, so changed from its purpose and emptied of its splendour, in the tops of the elms and pines of the encroaching Forest that rose against a blue-gold sky, where dense white clouds were driven slowly across the valley by an upper wind.

Florio felt half stifled, even feverish; he turned his gaze from the trees on his right hand, to the opening spread of the valley before him, shut in by the steep peaks of the Kniebis, a hollow filled by a burning light, through which showed the radiant shapes of distant foliage shining in the sun. This landscape, unfamiliar, yet of a character common to dreams, seemed to Florio to convey to him more vividly than any words could, his own mood. The very brilliancy of that opening vista emphasized the pause he had come to in his own life and his sense of severance from his former splendid and carefree existence.

There stole over him, seated there in the sunshine, the quietude of the lonely night watch, the desolation of the sleepless night. The masks that had haunted him in his fevered dreams at Stuttgart, the hallucinations arising from half memories of childhood's toys and puppets, faintly troubled him now. As he closed his hot lids, he saw the heavy, passionate visage of Mr. Campion, the fine features of Letty, a turquoise ribbon through her red hair, the clumsy plaster mask of the servant Martin, and his own face, a dim reflection in a blotched mirror. He was startled, almost stupefied by the sight of himself in his thick day-dream and roused as Herr Weissnix exclaimed: "Sir, you are ill! I shall summon your servant!"

"No," replied Florio, quickly. "I have been idle too long—this quinsy has weakened me, but I desire no aid. Who," he added with a thrill of unpleasant conjecture, "is that approaching along the Forest path?"

The landlord of the Badhaus, who had already risen, looked at the horseman coming towards them and recognized the plaster white face beneath the wide-brimmed hat.

Florio, who had, from his quick agitation, regained his regal self possession, rose and turned towards the house.

"Do not mention my presence here, I beg you. I am not well enough to be disturbed by anyone's misfortunes."

"Certainly, sir, I shall not divulge I have a guest—the establishment is supposed to be closed for the season."

Florio gained his room before the horseman had reined up at the door, and stood at the tall window, concealed by the long curtain, gazing down on the messenger from Wilhelmsruhe as he had gazed down on Mr. Campion in the Schlossstrasse hastily making preparations to depart for Schaffhausen. His sense of oppression had lifted, he forgot his weakness and the menace there had seemed to be in the dark woods and the shining valley. His feeling of power returned. It was one of his puppets below, leaning from his horse, speaking to Herr Weissnix, his body in the trim livery, light against the sombre wood, the taffeta silk plaster hiding his face. Yet that blank mask, with slit for mouth and holes for eyes, had an expression, it seemed to the careful watcher, one of both fury and misery.

After brief speech with the landlord of the Badhaus, the rider turned and took his way slowly along the narrow bridle path that penetrated the Forest. Not disguising his curiosity that passed, he hoped, as the whim of a sick man enduring a tedious interlude, Florio descended the stairs and spoke to Herr Weissnix in the passage.

"So that is this strange lackey who behaves like a knight errant—a noble figure, I should have thought his age less than forty years."

"O, he is that, at least. He remembers the lady in her infancy. She is ill, and he entreated me to send Dr. Gutke to attend her."

"Sick of a melancholy—it would be charity to rescue her from this unnatural life and restore her to her family, or, if she has none, at least to society."

"Did she not come here to die?" asked the landlord of the Badhaus, simply.

"Young ladies have made such sentimental resolves before now, and outgrown them. Are you sending the physician?"

"To-day, sir. This afternoon he was to have returned to Stuttgart, you no longer requiring his attention, but first he will undertake this duty."

Florio watched the awkward young doctor of medicine depart on his quiet nag through the Forest, for Wilhelmsruhe, and felt a return of mounting excitement in the game he played with these other people, a game that involved their lives.

Mr. Campion had spoken of her illness, probably not believing in it himself, now there was this further deception. She was unlikely to be ill—at Bologna she had bloomed with strength and grace—why this pretence, this bringing in of the shy young physician, poor and timid, earning his first fees in this post at the most neglected of the Brunnen?

Over Florio's musing face came the shadow of a disturbing doubt. If this report were true and not some ruse?

Possibly she might be suffering, as he was, from some trifling malaise brought on by the heavy fermented sweetness of the grape harvest.' Yet she might be assailed, as others as young and strong had been, by a deadly ill.

This doubt shook him and he felt, what he had always warned to himself, the foolish, shrinking dread mortals have of death.

If she should die? What then?

Did those two questions form the touchstone of what was the quality of his feeling for her?

Florio could not answer them. He put them aside, assuring himself that this pretended illness was a trick, for what end he could not discover.


§ 11

When Dr. Gutke returned, late that afternoon, to the Badhaus, Florio did not disdain to be present in the large public parlour and to listen to the landlord discreetly question him. The lady, this Madame Daun, as she termed herself, was his tenant, her position was peculiar, could he be of any service to her? Did she intend to stay long at Wilhelmsruhe? The nervous young physician was unsure of his ground. He had not discovered any symptoms of any illness known to him in the languid lady; her pulse, her heart, her lungs offered no hint of danger, but her spirits were very sunk and the chamber woman said that she fainted continually.

Dr. Gutke had left advice and medicine at Wilhelmsruhe. He could not, he declared, again visit the isolated hunting box, he was obliged to return to Stuttgart, though the fee offered to him by Madame Daun had been so high that he had refused to take more than half of it. "I have no desire," he admitted, "to be involved in this mystery."

Florio endeavoured to learn from him the details of this strange establishment, but he seemed afraid of speaking, and soon made an awkward withdrawal.

"You observe," remarked the landlord of the Badhaus with a certain triumph, "how he has been impressed. Ah, how regrettable that he must depart—who, then, will succour this poor creature? I do not care for my responsibility in this perplexing affair."

"If this stranger is under the protection of your reigning prince he will see to her needs," replied Florio, with an indifference not altogether assumed.

He was vexed at his own lassitude that prevented him from at once visiting Wilhelmsruhe, but he had not the strength or the spirit for that enterprise that would have to be so delicately conducted. He felt weary and depressed, unwilling to ascend to the austere alien chamber; he, as all others in this comedy of travellers, was beginning to feel an acute distaste at this moving from place to place in foreign countries, with no contact with the normal life that flowed past them without more than a stare or a prying question. He could not sleep in the austere bed, yet dreams passed rapidly before his wakeful eyes.


§ 12

Four days after the visit of Martin to the Badhaus Florio San Quirico walked to Wilhelmsruhe.

He found this modest house in a small clearing from which the trees receded in a semi-circle in front. A stone dog crouched either side of the narrow door; the windows were open and the thin muslin curtains hung straightly in the still air. Behind, the Forest was thick and silent, even overhead only flecks of sky were visible and these seemed remote behind the interlaced branches of high oaks and elms.

At one window was a cluster of flowers, late roses, dahlias and carnations, red and yellow in a porcelain jar.

Florio San Quirico guessed that this was her chamber. He hoped that she might appear, he wished to see her thus naturally, not in a situation of constraint and deception. Therefore he waited, silent, noiseless, in the motionless shadows of the trees. As he watched he saw a horse, a bright bay, and not that ridden by Martin on his visit to the Badhaus, fastened to a bough of a pine tree growing at the farther side of the house, and as he speculated on this, the narrow door opened and a figure appeared whom he recognized instantly. It was Mr. Campion.

At this sight, so utterly unexpected, Florio felt the keenest humiliation of his life; he stood at a loss, then, without consideration, was retreating between the trees when the Englishman saw him and hailed him in a subdued voice, and with a slowly raised hand.

Florio remained silent, responding only by a bow, for he had not decided what he should do. Mr. Campion approached him and, instead of speaking to him with the indignant hostility he expected, said, in a low tone, speaking English: "I did you a wrong, sir, when I reached Schaffhausen and they were not there, nor had been. I believed you were in league with them to deceive me."

"Never, I do assure you."

"So I now perceive—but why are you here?"

"As I did not recover quickly from my illness, I came to Rippoldsau to rest," replied Florio, regaining his usual readiness. "To-day I walk in the Forest, urged here, I confess, by some curiosity—an idler hears gossip."

"I understand, indeed, I must ask your pardon for my suspicion."

They were walking from the silent house, Florio stepping the pace and the direction. Completely baffled, he felt his way with a nervous caution that made him tremble. He was not yet strong and this meeting with Mr. Campion had profoundly shocked him. The Englishman spoke rapidly, incoherently, too absorbed in his story to notice his companion. Florio understood that, not finding the fugitives at Schaffhausen and hearing no news of them, his suspicions had returned to the man who had set him, as it seemed, deliberately on the wrong scent, and he had returned to Stuttgart to face Signor Miola. But the Bolognese had departed from Bode's without leaving an address, and Mr. Campion's attention had been diverted by hearing from others that a couple named Latymer had recently left Stuttgart—thus exonerating from complete falsehood Signor Miola. Dates and times of arrival and departure Mr. Campion could not discover, but his inquiries at the English Residency had set him again towards Dinkelsbuhl. For the first time he realized that Madame Daun might indeed be the woman whom he was seeking. It was not difficult to trace the mysterious couple to their retreat in Wilhelmsruhe.

"So I came here, sir, and it is not they."

Florio found this as astonishing as the appearance of Mr. Campion himself.

"Who, then, are they?" he asked carefully. "I have heard some odd tales at Rippoldsau."

"The odd tale is true. This unhappy lady was a French fugitive—of royal birth."

Mr. Campion paused in the shade where Florio had drawn him. The silence of the woods was heavy, Florio felt oppressed, he almost wondered if he had to deal with one unsettled in his wits.

"You are satisfied that these people are not those you sought?" he asked, precisely.

"Absolutely satisfied," replied the other with solemn fervour. "These are not those who were passing under the name of Latymer."

"I am relieved that you are convinced of this, that you do not accuse me of deliberately misleading you, my dear sir. What object could I have in assisting this eccentric lady who has inherited an estate in Hampshire?" Florio spoke with a touch of mockery that helped the Englishman to recover his composure and to remember the fictions he had invented to conceal his real purpose.

"The travellers you saw must be those I seek," he declared. "Why, you gave the description, the name—there was the dressing case—but they did not go to Schaffhausen."

"They may have turned off the road at Donauschingen," replied Florio. "And you have wasted time in returning to Stuttgart, and to the Forest."

"That is true," admitted Mr. Campion, bitterly. "I am not suited nor used to this kind of work," he added, forgetting that he had claimed to be a lawyer, "but a plain man. It was clear to me that you must have seen them, from your description, and I confess I suspected an ally. I recalled, I know not why, the couple at Dinkelsbuhl. I said to myself, 'After all, I never saw that woman, her hair might have been false; the landlord might have lied! Then this servant, masked.'"

Florio was astonished at the slow wits that had taken so long to come to a conclusion he would himself instantly have reached. He felt drawn into the labyrinth of the other's stupidity.

"Why should this lady disguise the colour of her hair, and her lackey—or is it husband—wear a mask?" he asked mischievously.

"She is—eccentric," replied Mr. Campion, hastily and clumsily. "I regret that I cannot explain. And I was wrong, they were not the—those I sought."

"Have you seen them?"

"Yes. I was received with simple dignity."

"You saw them?"

"I saw the courier who goes by the name of Martin."

"But not without the taffeta mask?"

"Yes, poor fellow, he no longer has any reason to wear it. He is disfigured, pitted, but I have seen more horrible scars."

"What do you mean?" demanded Florio, looking sternly with his topaz coloured glance at the heavy, congested face of the Englishman. "You said the lady was French—you add that her servant has no reason now to wear a mask?"

"I mean that the lady is dead," said Mr. Campion. "I have looked on her grave. Come, I shall show it to you. I admit that, even in my own absorption, I am moved by so much sorrow falling on one so blameless."

"Who showed you this grave?"

The tone of this question was so sharp that the Englishman replied cautiously:

"Upon my word, I never thought you would be interested—and it is strange to find you here, to meet you twice at crucial moments."

"Travellers who wander in South Germany—a small compass—are likely to meet one another again and again. I was ill and idle, and came to Rippoldsau to repose. The landlord of the Badhaus owns this deserted hunting box and told me the gossip about the tenants."

"That sounds reasonable," admitted Mr. Campion, and for the first time looked closely at Florio San Quirico, who so far had been a vague figure indeed to his preoccupied mind. He saw a quiet young man of undoubtedly good breeding, who gave no offence, either in manner or clothes, to the Englishman's conservatism, and he added: "You do not appear like a spy or an agent. Her family tried to have her abducted, you know. Well, never mind. Whoever you are does not concern me, and you are too late, if you meant her mischief."

"I certainly mean no evil to anyone," said Florio. "Your story startles me. Truly it is no concern of mine, but here, in the solitude—yes, I recall that the park about Wilhelmsruhe is named Solitude—such a piteous tale sounds ghastly. Of what did this unhappy creature die? I heard she was but twenty years of age."

Mr. Campion turned abruptly to the right, between the trees, drawing Florio after him by a hand on his cloak.

This part of the Forest had been cleared to make a pleasure park for the moody whim of a former Grand Duke of Baden, who had wished to indulge his melancholy humour by a complete seclusion. Lawns had been laid out, walks cut, and between the closely-growing oaks a haupt allée had been made, straight from the front of Wilhelmsruhe into the depth of the Forest.

Into this the two men, so strangely met and so dissimilar in everything, entered from the short path chosen by Mr. Campion.

Florio now perceived that his first sight of the house had been from the back. He now looked on the front that faced the haupt allée. The windows were shuttered; the place appeared gloomy, as if all life had long left it. The whole estate, once cultivated with much expense, was neglected; the lawns overgrown with weeds, the trees choked with undergrowth, the avenue damp and soft with moss. The whole scene had an air of unreality to Florio: green and grey, even in the sunny afternoon, the house and its surroundings seemed a reflection in stagnant water or a blurred mirror.

"Have they gone?" he asked quickly.

"Yes. The maid, one Adriana Beheim, returned to Vienna yesterday."

"By what stages?"

"I do not know, nor does it matter. When I arrived here expecting to confront them, those whom I sought, I mean to find them here, there was but this servant, Martin, shutting up the place. He will take the keys to Rippoldsau to-day, he says."

"Why have you brought me here?"

"Come with me, along this track, now it is no more than that, once it was a path—see."

Mr. Campion pointed to a baroque summer house at the end of the overgrown path that ran between the high trees. This little temple-like building was painted in blue and yellow; large gilt shells surrounded the cupola, and gilt pilasters divided the alcoves in which stood images of plaster amorini. Once the charming little pleasure house had been gay, now the paint was faded and peeling, the glass in the windows cracked, a tangle of bramble showed dark green leaves, fox red stems and purple fruit round the porch of the open door. The whole edifice was densely shadowed by the foliage of foreign shrubs, once carefully planted here to give an air of elegance to this remote bower, now overgrown and rising in unpruned masses to shut out the light.

The ground before the summer house was newly trodden, the moss bore the imprint of feet, the weeds were trampled.

"Why do you bring me here?" asked Florio, furtively watching the other man, who pushed the half-open door of the summer house wider.

"Look for yourself."

Florio approached and glanced over the Englishman's shoulder. The interior of the summer house was musty and close; the woodwork of the interior had rotted in places, the seat that ran round the wall had fallen away, the light was very dim, as the boughs of the shrubs blocked and thrust through the broken windows. Florio saw at once that a grave occupied the full length of the floor, and that above it was placed a roughly-cut wooden cross.

"This is what was shown me by the faithful fellow, Martin. Upon my word, it is a sad story."

A paper was nailed to the cross; bending forward Florio read: "Here lies a Princess of France and a broken heart. Leave in peace this demoiselle who had not reached the age of twenty years and known nothing but sorrow."

Florio drew back—like Mr. Campion, he had pulled off his hat. He left the summer house quickly.

"There are many questions to be asked," he remarked softly. "Had she a physician, a chaplain? Who buried her in this unlikely place, the ground not consecrated?"

"I do not know," replied Mr. Campion. "Martin told me all was done by the protection of the Duke. A doctor of medicine came from Rippoldsau, where you stay; a pastor from the next village, I believe, came but she would be a Roman Catholic? Two woodmen helped to make the grave."

"Will the good man from Bad Rippoldsau care to have it on his property?"

"If the Duke bids him," answered Mr. Campion, with some impatience. "You hardly, sir, seem as moved as I am by this tragedy. Conceive that this poor exile fled, dying already, I suppose—I remember that she was ill at Dinkelsbuhl, her hair grey, so she was taken to be of middle age—and did die here, alone, save for this one servant and a hired woman."

"What will this very faithful servant do?"

"I asked him that," replied Mr. Campion simply, "and if he had means. He answered me that he had friends, and in high places, and funds."

"Then he is well provided and all has been neatly contrived." To himself Florio added, "Do you as well, my friend."

They had cleared the shadowed recess where the summer house stood, the undergrowth, the trees, and stood again in the haupt allée, moss grown, silent, leading to the silent grey house with the closed door and shutters.

"No sun could lighten this scene," murmured Mr. Campion, thus utterly betraying himself to the acute observer, who now knew him to be, like so many of his fellow countrymen, not altogether dense, by no means insensitive, though capable of stupidity and obstinacy, yet also sentimental. Much moved by this piteous episode in the annals of a ruined royal house that he had chanced on in his headlong quest across a ruined Europe, even his obsession had lifted for a while and the strong, heavy, sullen man showed gentleness in his voice and demeanour. "Now," thought Florio, "is the moment to save them all, this man in particular from his private hell."

"I must return to Rippoldsau," said the Bolognese aloud. "And you, sir, you are mounted, I perceive."

Mr. Campion, startled and moved sharply, was alarmed from his abstraction.

"I? I must return to Switzerland, since I have your word for it that they went that way."

Florio San Quirico felt uneasy. It was not fair that this fellow should trust him in a game, the very essence of which was intrigue, deception, an entire play of masks.

"This incident has perturbed you," he remarked.

"Yes. To arrive at this empty house, to be told this story, to be taken by the solitary servant to this solitary grave, I confess it made me consider that there are other sorrows in the world besides my own."

"You have, then, sorrows?" asked Florio softly.

"Yes, that also I must confess."

"You need not to me. I am aware that you are no lawyer or man of business. You travel on some affair of honour."

At this the Englishman stiffened.

"If it were so, I could not speak of it. I have taken your word—"

"I made no oath."

"You told me that you had seen them, in Stuttgart."

"That is true. But I might easily have been mistaken in supposing they went to Switzerland. I did not take the matter seriously enough to be positive about it."

So saying, Florio moved towards the house, the Englishman beside him. Beams of sunshine, falling between the boughs of the high dark trees, waved across the two men in their plain travelling clothes, walking slowly, their hats in their hands. Time seemed at a standstill in this remote place, neither past nor future existed, and the present was dim.

"Why did you return to the house," asked Florio, "once you had seen her grave?"

"I was overborne, I desired to rest awhile. Martin, this lackey, was civil."

"What he has done is illegal, perhaps wrong."

"I know nothing of that," replied the Englishman with a touch of impatience. "The Duke answers for him, as I suppose. And where are the laws in Europe now?"

"You have found that? Yet you obey a law, I think."

"In my country we have had no war," replied the Englishman with unconscious arrogance. "Though so many of us went to fight on the continent. My business is my own and I must be upon it."

Florio paused. He desired to save this stranger, whom he liked, from himself.

"One cannot win victories in life as one can on a battle field," he said pleasantly. "One can hardly avert defeat—if one's heart, one's soul is engaged."

"You speak as if you knew my affairs, and freely, yet you are by much the younger man."

"But more the philosopher. Detached, resolved not to be involved in any blistering emotion, I am a little bored, too rich and not made for action. I shall not be brought down by the passions of others."

"Do you think that I might be?" asked Mr. Campion, hotly.

"Yes, I do. I would have you give up your quest. Make a break with everything sad and disagreeable, return to your proud and triumphant country and face the honours that await you."

"Who are you?" asked Mr. Campion abruptly.

"A philosopher, I repeat. Petronio Miola, sent ahead by the University of Bologna to purchase medals." Florio's smile was re-assuring. "Do not dislike me because I happened to meet this lady who has inherited an estate in Hampshire."

"You did not believe that," replied the Englishman, defiantly. "Well, I may be defeated, but I shall never betray myself. And I shall never be diverted from my purpose."

"In another man that might sound like bravado," smiled Florio.

"But you know that in me it does not."

"Nevertheless I advise you, I even beseech you to give up this quest. You are at a disadvantage in Europe, you speak very little of any foreign language—you may be misled, betrayed, if not by yourself, by others."

"I travel alone. I give no one my confidence. Here, we have reached the house."

"Is this faithful creature, Martin, a Frenchman?" asked Florio.

"I suppose so. Assuredly, as you remarked," replied Mr. Campion stiffly, "I am a mean linguist. I have not, save at the Residences, conversed with anyone as fluently as with yourself, since I left England. This Martin speaks German fairly, as I should judge. French must be his native tongue; I could not say. He has weak, red eyes and is much pitted with the smallpox, caught, he says, when the Terrorists held him prisoner under the vilest possible conditions."

"It would interest me to speak to him."

"I suppose he is still in the house, but why should you concern yourself?" Mr. Campion spoke with a return of that forced suspicion with which he usually protected his native credulity.

"Because I am idle, is not that already explained?"

They had passed round the side of the house where Mr. Campion's bay horse was waiting.

"Truly," remarked Florio, "this is the very heart of the Forest."

"A quiet place," agreed Mr. Campion brusquely, he seemed about to hold out his hand, but to change his mind.

"Listen to your generous impulses," murmured Florio, "I am sure you have them, you are a man to despise all that is mean and base, and vengeful."

"I have not spoken that word."

"You have distinction, lofty ideas, if anyone wronged you, I am sure you would disdain to punish them," persisted Florio in gentle tones. "It is impossible to disguise from one like myself, used to the elegancies of Bologna, that you are a man of high breeding, though you may not be discovered by these thick Germans."

Mr. Campion had mounted the bay horse, that reared, restive from inactivity, as he grasped the reins. His heavy face bore an expression of poignant suffering, but he replied coldly.

"The legal profession is, at least with us, one for gentlemen. May I return your candour? You are young, frivolous, brilliant; no doubt the ladies consider you charming. If I am not a man of business neither are you a poor scholar."

A slight grimace distorted his noble features. Florio San Quirico lost his usual and graceful art of conversation at hearing himself described so clearly by one whom he had considered stupid. The word "frivolous" wounded him, but he could not doubt that it was justly applied nor that he deserved this sombre rebuke. But Mr. Campion's mood became sullen, indifferent; he appeared to have already forgotten the grave in the summer house that had for a while distracted him from his obstinate purpose.

Florio San Quirico could do nothing more to stay him from his resolve. It would be a relief to see him ride away. This time their parting was likely to be for some long time, perhaps for ever. The Englishman had now been definitely checked, he was riding away into a wilderness of doubt and suspicion, into a labyrinth where he would have no clue and where he would be blinded by pride and agony.

With a formal salute, he asked Florio exact directions to Stuttgart. "I could easily lose my way in the Forest," he admitted reluctantly.

"Or anywhere," smiled Florio, who had recovered his own bearing. And he indicated the overgrown bridle path through the Forest that led to Rippoldsau and then to Stuttgart.

With no more than that, Mr. Campion rode away, and when he had watched the horseman disappear in the dark gloom of the Forest, Florio San Quirico came out quietly on to the back of the quiet house Wilhelmsruhe.

The late summer flowers still stood in the vase on the sill of the open window. Nothing had altered during his conversation with Mr. Campion.

Florio found the door unlatched and entered. The passage was narrow, and opened right and left to plain rooms with furniture cut from horn and stags' antlers on the walls painted a dull grey. There was no sign of any occupation. The Bolognese returned to the hall and ascended the stairs to the first landing. From there he entered the room with the open window and the vase of flowers.

Here he found the person he was looking for, a man in a livery without facings, drawn up in a corner of the room, his expression alert and alarmed, his fingers plucking at a slouch hat that he pulled over his brows.

"Who are you," asked Florio in German, and with considerable authority, "and who engaged you? Come forward and take off your hat."

The man obeyed at once, revealing a face scarred by disease and inflamed eyes.

"I was hired in Nuremberg, a few weeks ago, sir," he replied with an accent and look of terror. "I have done nothing wrong. My service is ended—I was about to lock up the house, when this stranger came."

"And you told him a fable you had been instructed to tell?"

"No, no, sir, it is the truth."

"Waste no words," commanded Florio, motioning the man into the centre of the room. "Are you alone in the house?"

"Yes, sir, and eager to depart. But I waited, seeing that foreigner and you."

"You were hiding from me. I have authority. You have lent yourself to what may be illegal. Perhaps to penalties and punishment. Tell me your story for your own sake."

The servant, a little sullenly but with some uneasiness, tried to avoid all responsibility in the matter in which he had become involved.

He had been engaged in Nuremberg, casually, as Adriana Beheim had been engaged in Vienna. He had been surprised at being offered a position as a body servant, for though he was well trained he had had to keep to stable work for several years, since the smallpox had disfigured him.

"Who engaged you?" interrupted Florio. "And what is your own name?"

As he spoke he moved to the door that he held open, so that he could see if anyone passed up or down the stairs.

"I am named August," replied the servant, "and it is useless, sir, to stand sentinel. The house is empty."

"Where have they gone?" demanded Florio.

"I do not know," the man muttered. "They are under the Duke's protection."

"Or so they say. I repeat, who engaged you?"

It had been, came the reluctant confession, the matter of a bribe. August, who had held many occupations in his time, and done some soldiering in the late war, had been well chosen for the part he was to play in Wilhelmsruhe. He was unscrupulous, adroit and callous, as soon appeared in his recital. He was also baffled and frightened. He obviously wanted to get away and lose himself safely in the town where he had been found.

"A gentleman engaged me," he admitted, "who said I was not to ask his name, he was French and I might speak of him as M. Nesle. The position was one of French refugees. After all, a common story—is not Europe now full of these wanderers? They had money. I found a sick lady here and a hired maid. I was told to take the name of Martin, and to ask no questions."

"What manner of man was this M. Nesle?"

"Uncommonly handsome. I had not much to do when I first came. The lady was shut up. The maid whispered to me that she was of royal blood. It was no business of mine. They seemed afraid of being discovered—all this was no business of mine. Some wood cutters came to Wilhelmsruhe—a solitary place! A priest once, so Adriana said, and a doctor whom I saw. Nothing strange in all this," added August, defiantly. "It was not for me to ask questions."

Florio thought, "This comedy was taking place while I was idling in an illness at Rippoldsau."

"Well, finish this tale," he said aloud.

"I don't know what authority you have to ask it," grumbled August, "but it is soon told, and I want to get away before sunset. I don't like the Forest after dark."

Florio left the door, crossed the room and seated himself on one of the stiff chairs; he felt an almost overwhelming lassitude. He had no horse and immediate pursuit was impossible, wherever they might be. He could only hear the story out and pick up what clues he might. He stared from the window at the tall motionless trees of the Forest that encircled the clearing before the house.

"My master had spies about Nuremberg, I think, or else he received news from the court. He used to be away a good deal, and he was plainly in dread of someone. Adriana said the lady's relations would abduct her if they could find her. What was it to me? My master kept a silk plaster mask in his room, he said he wore it against the weather when crossing the Alps."

"You go from the point," said Florio.

"There is nothing much more to say. This Austrian woman became frightened, she said that her mistress was very sick indeed, then that she had died. The woodcutters brought a coffin, Adriana said, and she had seen the lady in it. Then Adriana was dismissed and sent by the stage wagon on her way to Vienna, I suppose."

"What was your part in this?"

"Very little," replied the other with a sly look. "A few days after the lady's death her body was buried in the summer house by the woodcutters, and my master. 'Do you,' he said, 'stay by me, for I am heart broken, and if anyone comes inquiring after us you can show him that grave and the inscription I put on it.'"

"Was he expecting anyone?"

"Yes, he seemed to fear that some enemy was close, and so he was, for I take that foreigner you met to be one—an enemy, I mean, to M. Nesle."

"The Englishman?"

"He was English? He spoke German, but slowly. I promised to stay here with M. Nesle for a while, and to take any intruder who might come to the grave. Truly death ends all things, even pursuit."

"You must have been well paid for all this trouble."

"Yes," admitted August, "and frightened, too. I do not know who he is, nor who the Englishman is, nor who you are."

"If you knew the solution of this mystery you would find it much simpler than you suppose," remarked Florio with a bitterness most unusual to him, but forced from him by fatigue and disappointment. He had not recovered as well from his illness as he had hoped. He trembled a little and his eyes ached. The darkness of the trees without seemed to weigh on his spirit. He wished that he could get away from Wilhelmsruhe, from the neglected park named Solitude, from the Forest.

"Yesterday, M. Nesle told me," said August, "that he had heard his enemy, or one of them, was at Stuttgart and feared that he might have traced them here, so he rode off, where to I know not, and left me with my directions. I said I would stay until three o'clock. At half-past two this foreigner came up and I told him of the lady's death and showed him her grave."

"He was disturbed?"

"Yes, with a painful passion. Remorse, perhaps, for hounding them. I brought him back to the house to give him a glass of wine. Then, as he left, I was watching from the window, where you are sitting now, sir, and I saw you come up."

"Why did you hide, instead of telling me the tale and showing me the grave?" demanded Florio sternly.

"It was past three o'clock," replied August sullenly, "and I'd had enough of this affair. I did not want to visit the summer house again. M. Nesle never said anything of two people."

"Did you believe his story?"

"What does it matter whether I believe it or not? I've done no wrong and I've been well paid."

"And so the matter ends for you." Florio spoke thoughtfully.

"Yes," replied August, advancing and speaking curtly. "And you could not get anything more out of me."

"Even if I paid you?"

"No." The man was firm though frightened and knew when to stop dangerous work. "I won't be involved any further. I think it safer to disappear. It is lucky for me you came on foot, sir. I have a horse in the stables, I bargained for that."

Florio thought, with annoyance, that he had indeed been foolishly casual when he had come over on foot from Rippoldsau. He had been so sure they were safely in the net that he could draw closer any moment he chose that he had been careless. For the first time in his life he had the sense of being outwitted, and by someone inferior to himself.

"This business is not what you imagine," he said. "I have no more questions to ask. I knew that you were hiding here, the Englishman told me of a valet named Martin. I have discovered all that I wished to know. You lied, telling him you were taking the keys to Rippoldsau."

August glanced at him slyly. He knew he had the advantage of the horse, and that this formidable stranger, whom he feared as he had never feared the Englishman, knew it also.

Florio did not move from the window place. If he had known where the fugitive was he might have tried to gain possession of the horse by force. But he loathed violence and would never use it save in extremity.

"Your master awaits you in Nuremberg," he said. "You would not have concerned yourself to wait here to show a possible visitor this secret grave, had you not been promised a bribe."

"I told you, sir, I have been paid already," replied August, sullenly and edging towards the door.

"But on your report you will be paid more. You are a shrewd rascal. And the man who employs you is not witless. When, and only when, you describe this Englishman, will you receive a further fee."

"You cannot follow me," retorted the servant, his disfigured face grimaced unpleasantly. "I said that I was going to Nuremberg, but you don't know if I lied or not."

"I'll take a chance on that. I'll pay you for whatever information you care to give me about this man and where he is."

"As for that, this place is lonely."

"And you could rob me of whatever I had?" Florio took a small pistol, such as ladies carry in their muffs when travelling, out of his flap pocket. "I am armed, and this pretty toy can be accurate and deadly."

"I meant no threats," mumbled August. "This M. Nesle is nothing to me. I've met too many emigrés, deserters long ago from M. d'Artois army on the Rhine. He told me to meet him at the Drei Linden on the Haupt Platz. And, as you guessed, sir," added the servant impudently, "I am to have more money if I describe the visit of a stranger, such a one as came."

"A stranger answering the description of the Englishman, but how are you to prove that he saw the grave?"

"M. Nesle must take my word for that."

"Very well. I, too, shall go to Nuremberg, on the chance that what you say is true. I shall stay at another post house, the Blaue Stern, and if you care to find me there, some days hence, and your information has proved accurate, I shall pay you well."

The man grinned again, mopping his inflamed eyes with a handkerchief pulled from his breast.

"I perceive, sir," he said carefully, "that you are a keen bargainer. I wonder you are at such trouble seeing that the lady is dead. The Englishman was satisfied that the quest was ended."

"It is this man who employed you whom I wish to see," smiled Florio. "Go now, or the twilight you dread will overtake you in the Forest."

August hesitated, then left the room, closing the door behind him. Florio, watching from the window, from behind the pot of flowers (where plucked and by whom?), saw him walk away round the silent house, skirting the overgrown space that had once been a lawn, and then return, on a stout cob, and ride away along the darkling bridle path.

Florio felt acutely that he was alone in the forsaken house. He was almost resolved to return to Rippoldsau and from there to begin the long journey to Bologna, where he would be surrounded by activity, cheerfulness and a splendid routine that spaced the hours with a full and rich employment.

Now it seemed to him foolish that he had left his proper place (that he had kept undisturbed during long revolutions and wars that he despised) for this pursuit that seemed sometimes sordid and trivial, and sometimes dangerously bordering on the menace enclosed in dreams.

Even during the tumults in Bologna, the passing of victor and vanquished, Florio, a youth and a scholar, had lived withdrawn in the Villa Aria, surrounded by philosophic friends who had instructed him in the only sanity (so they declared), that of academic pursuits, easy and elegant surroundings, and an enjoyment of his peculiar good fortune in having comeliness of person, wealth, high birth and a swift intelligence.

"I shall return," he promised himself. "This attempt to break away from my destiny is absurd. It is true that I was sometimes melancholy and found the time tedious, but that despondency was nothing compared to what I suffer here."

He went upstairs, forcing his fatigue. The empty house was an unpleasant pausing place; he disliked the echo of his own steps on the bare stairs.

There was a chance that they might be concealing themselves in some upper chamber, but he did not think this likely, but rather that the man who named himself August had, on the whole, spoken the truth.

The four plain rooms were, in fact, empty. Two were bed chambers, and in one some thin yellow and white shawls were thrown over the horn chairs, and a few saffron coloured roses had been placed in a green glass by the mirror on the dressing table.

Florio San Quirico considered these with a pang of self reproach.

"While I flatter myself I play the part of a knight errant, am I no better than a spy? What do I understand of their story? Surely there is something behind the commonplace facts. Bonino speaks justly when he urges me to leave these foreigners to their no doubt dull destiny."

But the silence of the Forest, of the empty house, contrived an enchantment not so easily broken. What had begun as a whim (or so it now appeared to Florio) took on a considerable importance, and some invisible, immortal power seemed to hover over his decision either to return to Bologna or to continue his pursuit.

He did not consider failure. It was true that they had escaped him when he had believed them fast in the net. But he commanded such power that sooner or later he believed that he was certain to overtake and confront them.

What then?

He could neither answer nor avoid that question.

No sunshine fell into the cool room where, in haste or carelessness, she had left those pale silks that he remembered so well, but there was a green shadow from the Forest cast even across the space that had been the Duke's lawn. The silence was so intense that to this nervous listener it seemed to be filled with a multitude of whispers.

It is seldom that he was sunk in the mists of hopes and dreams that he had observed overbear other men. Both by race and nature he was ironic and viewed even visions with a magnanimous detachment. But now the Forest and the lassitude of his ill health vanquished him.

A romantic melancholy that was usually with him a deliberate indulgence, now surged over him, beyond his control.

He fingered the yellow shawl, remembering how she had held it over the bosom of her muslin gown while she had looked at him with a steady glance that he had thought to be imploring. Did she feel as if some destruction awaited her? There was so little to destroy in poor Letty.

Florio San Quirico considered that a slight harshness, a subtle neglect, a flick of open shame, and the harassed, foolish woman would be like a withered lily on a broken stalk that no sunshine or dew could revive.

She was the least impressive, the least important of the women he had known, having neither great beauty nor any wit. And he was accustomed to both beauty and wit, and to many elegances and pretty tricks in women to which Letty could never pretend.

As he stared from this upper window at the Forest, he endeavoured to persuade himself that he would renounce this adventure that was so unprofitable and so unamusing.

He went downstairs into the lower room, and closed the window behind the vase of flowers. A slight wind had arisen that stirred the muslin curtains and shook the tops of the high trees.

He had no desire to take the flowers that she had probably gathered, nor the shawls she had left in the empty bedroom.

The brilliant light was fading in the pure sky that he could barely glimpse above the trees.

He left the house, closing the door behind him. His mood was then a desire, an intention, to return to Bologna where he knew so many, his equals and his admirers, with whom he could gracefully play the game of life. Leaving them, the players and the game, whenever he wished. As he could, he reminded himself, leave Letty whenever he wished.

He entered on the path that led to Rippoldsau, looking back several times at the house named Wilhelmsruhe and the park named Solitude, until the tall dark trees hid it from his sight. Being weary, he walked slowly and the glow was withdrawn from the upper air and strengthening in the west before he reached the Bad establishment at Rippoldsau that lay, to his sudden view of it, as if dropped from the clouds, in the secluded valley.

Bonino awaited him with anxiety. Florio San Quirico felt pleasure in hearing his native tongue with the Bolognese accent. In the presence of this constant friend and servant was something of home.

"Sir, you did not find them?" asked Bonino, hopefully. "Assuredly you are fatigued. You should have allowed me to accompany you."

Florio took off his cloak in the alien room and seated himself by the window.

Here the scenery was more open, the trees less dense than at Wilhelmsruhe, the huge blown boughs farther off.

"I have nothing to tell you, Bonino. Perhaps tomorrow we shall start on the way to Bologna, that would please you, eh?"

"And many others, sir; who am I to be considered? I speak always in the name of your noble kinsman and friends."

Florio smiled.

"Serve my supper here. It is a sombre chamber, but I am in no mood for the gossip of good Herr Weissnix."

Beyond the Forest the sky, obscured by wisps of cloud, flared with what to Florio's mood seemed to be supernatural splendour between the swaying boughs of the purple trees, outlined massively against this flow of scarlet and gold.

Florio, closing his tired eyes, could believe he was seated beside that other window in the deserted house, with the flowers on the sill, and the silence full of whispers. The lackey, with his callous impudence, tricks and lies, riding away, and the Forest near.

As the blaze of the eclipsed sun faded, Bonino brought in the candles, two for the supper table, two for the dressing table, two flames reflected in the mirror, making four stars in the shadowed corner, two flames shining above the clean cloth, the bread on the board, the dusky grapes in the basket, the wine in the green bottle.

Florio ate and drank languidly.

"If I abandon her she will die stupidly, Bonino."

"As such women die every day, sir."

"She is in the power of one more cunning than I had expected. His deceits are ingenious."

"He is afraid, sir, and desperate." The servant spoke with contempt. "Afraid of the Englishman whom you saw at Bode's."

"Whom I deceived, Bonino. All these are Arlequino's tricks, I am not proud of them."

"She is not worth even that amount of exertion, sir."

"I suppose not. Nor am I worth more myself," smiled Florio. "I must save myself from the more bitter consequences of my folly."

"Yes, folly I do think it, sir," agreed the servant sternly, but with a very decorous manner. "And I do perceive a cloud over you, who used to be of a perfect gaiety, as well as the most indulgent and agreeable of men."

"Yet I used to dream much alone, Bonino, even amid my books, my academies and my salons. Often I had not an iota of interest in those about me, I even felt myself to be lacking in natural affection for those who loved me. Much of what I appeared to enjoy was a vexation to me. I held everything in disfavour until this adventure, at once bizarre and commonplace, came my way."

"If you would but realize, sir, how ordinary these foreigners are," pleaded the servant. "How sordid is their story."

"I certainly am somewhat enchanted by the Forest," smiled Florio. "How often one has read of it or pictured it, symbolic of this or that, and here I am actually within it. As I walked from Wilhelmsruhe to-day, alone, I could have credited many fables."

"This romantic mood has been sufficiently indulged," declared Bonino severely. "You, sir, with all this brooding, musing and the miasma from these grapes they grow too closely here, and the foul airs of the Forest, will sicken again."

Florio, with his amiable good breeding, listened patiently to this over long speech inspired, he knew, by devotion.

"Who am I," he thought with humility, "to mean so much to any fellow creature?"

He was abashed to consider this man, older than himself, not his inferior in courage or intelligence, who was not only content, but happy, to serve him and to exist in that service only.

Yet he could not bring himself to promise to return to Bologna. The old fire glittered, brilliant yet false, with an hypercritical air; the confused, ordinary adventure seemed true and worthy.

"Sir, do you love her?" asked Bonino, observing him closely, the pale, comely face with the auburn hair, illumined by the light of the candles before him, and by those reflected in the mirror at his side.

Florio San Quirico did not answer. His thoughtful smile showed that he had not been offended.

"Even princes," added Bonino with an air of resignation, "have been afflicted by a romantic passion for some foolish woman whose pitiless vanity destroyed them."

"I do not suppose that my birth puts me above human weakness," replied Florio with a deepening of his smile. "Do you, then, think her vain?"

"Has she not encouraged you, sir, to follow her?"

"I have never been sure of that."

"At this hunting box to-day, was there nothing, sir, left?"

"There was," replied Florio, thinking of the grave that he had not spoken of. "Yes, in her room, Bonino," he added lightly, "there was a posy and two of her thin shawls."

"It was as if she had left a note," remarked the servant, sadly.

"She could not have guessed that I would come to Wilhelmsruhe, their thought, their dread, is all for the other man. And he has been there, and missed them."

"I do not think that you love her, sir, or you would not discuss her with me," said the servant shrewdly.

"As to that, you know her too well for me to pretend reverence. And I shall never have anything to conceal from you, Bonino."

A look of exultation passed over the lean face of the servant; he turned aside to conceal his deep emotion.

Florio drank his pale yellow wine and looked out into the darkness that had been the gleaming sky and the purple wood.

"I long to have no responsibilities, Bonino, to be free as a vagabond, and I know the folly of that longing. Yes, the Forest has infected me—though the air is pure, not foul as you think, Bonino—as keenly as the miasma from the vintage at Stuttgart. I think I talk nonsense. Yes, I felt she had left the shawls and the flowers for me, yet I was wrong."

"Will you return to Bologna, sir?"

"It is my pleasure to talk to you as a friend," smiled Florio. "You must not reprove me. I wish we had more light than these four candles."

"I shall ask for more, sir."

"No, disturb no one for me. I shall sit by the window awhile. Go to your bed, Bonino."

"I do not expect to see Bologna for a long time," remarked the servant dryly, as he left the chamber.


§ 13

Florio San Quirico parted from the Forest with a reluctance, as if a wistful enchantment held him back. He saw with regret the Badhaus waiting to be closed after his departure. Herr Weissnix was returning to Stuttgart for the winter. Florio could picture, with a poignant sharpness, what Rippoldsau would look like under the frost and snow, with the leafless trees surrounding the shuttered house and the cold springs. Even more lonely would be Wilhelmsruhe and the park named Solitude, drenched and smitten by storms. It was not likely that the deserted hunting box would be visited by any of the grotesque creatures, in their fantastic costumes, who dwelt in the remote farms and cottages, nor would even the woodmen or charcoal burners pass this place of one time pleasure, now neglected and with an ill name, no doubt.

Florio wondered who had removed the vase of flowers by the open window, or if it would stand there until the wind overturned it by creaking the shutters on their hinges. Would her shawls moulder in the empty bed chamber under cobwebs and dust?

Herr Weissnix did not wish to visit this abandoned property, he declared; indeed, he had no right to do so since he had been paid for it six months in advance. And when Florio told him that the foreigners had left, he said they might return, that it was no business of his to go prying, and that he felt some uneasiness lest, by meddling in this matter, he drew on himself the displeasure of the Duke. Besides this, there was nothing of value in Wilhelmsruhe and no one was likely again to require so desolate a place. Florio did not mention the grave in the blue and gold baroque summer house, and he encouraged Herr Weissnix to, at least, wait a while before making inquiries at Wilhelmsruhe.

"I shall not go before the spring," replied the landlord, who had the townsman's dislike of the country in the winter. "And it is useless to write, for no post goes there; of course, in the days of the Grand Duke there was a courier."

Florio took a kind farewell of the agreeable man, who was anxious to return to the home he and his mother kept for his student son, and was driven by Bonino in the light carriage to Stuttgart, he preferring to make his journey that way along the high road, past the racecourses and pleasure grounds at Cannstatt to Waiblingen, through varied hills and valleys, to Stalen where he spent the night. He made no effort at haste for he knew that this would help him little, since he had already lost several days; he would have to, with what philosophy he might command, leave it to chance whether or not he found the fugitives at the Drei Linden, and whether or not the servant named August called on him at the Blaue Stern in Nuremberg.

He crossed the frontier again near Dinkelsbuhl and proceeded with a steady purpose towards his goal. He was still at odds with himself as to his final resolve in the matter of his journey. As Bonino skilfully drove the travelling carriage along the well-kept roads bordered with lustrous colours of autumn and of harvest, gilded by a sumptuous and unvarying sunlight, Florio pondered on his quest, until he became inclined to put it to a total hazard, so equally were his emotions and opinions divided.

"Bonino!" he exclaimed, leaning forward in his padded leather seat, "I shall promise you this, no I shall promise myself, if I do not find them in Nuremberg, I shall return to Bologna."

"Do you indeed make a promise of that, sir?" asked the servant, looking over his shoulder.

"Yes, I do, to myself. It is not fair to pretend I do this because of you. The truth is that I cannot be certain in my mind. Partly I am weary of this vagabond existence, and partly I cannot endure to relinquish it."

Bonino's lean face crinkled with a smile of satisfaction.

"Then, I think, sir, if you keep your bond we shall soon be returning to Bologna, for there is but a slight chance, after all these delays, that they will still be in Nuremberg, if indeed they ever went there, for probably, sir," added the servant, again turning his attention to the horse, "that rascal you met in Wilhelmsruhe lied. Ah, had you but taken me with you, I would have dealt with him."

Florio laughed. Bonino's humours often dispelled his own moods.

"That is part of the hazard that I am prepared to take, whether he lied or not. Be at ease, if they are not at Nuremburg I have no more clue to their whereabouts than has that beguiled Englishman."


§ 14

Florio considered Nuremberg a decayed and Gothic city, with an air farouche and displeasing, almost barbarous. The once great Imperial city was gloomy, silent and half inhabited, and the rock-like castle towering above the crag seemed to darken the northern part of the town that it dominated. The spire of St. Sebald rose into heavy seeming gold grey clouds, from under which a slant light fell on the balconied houses, the handsome squares and the Gothic fountains, with crowded statues and elevated crosses.

The Blaue Stern, a post-house already known to Florio, who had once already crossed the ancient city in his quest, was situated in the Milch Markt, and accommodation was soon obtained from the landlord who displayed in his bow window a quantity of wooden toys and clocks, the work of the peasants in the Forest, who sent their handwork to the town in the hope of a purchase from the infrequent traveller.

Florio felt listless, almost inclined to abandon his journey. Already he had come a long way, his return would occupy many weary stages, it would be winter before he reached Bologna. And if he tarried much longer, travel would be difficult, perhaps impossible; roads icy, snow bound, and all the cold grey months would have to be passed in Germany.

"Bonino," he confessed, "I am half minded to leave Nuremberg without visiting the Drei Linden."

"Indeed, sir, you cannot do better than depart from this uncouth place that is quite unfitted to entertain a man of your rank," agreed the servant. "Yet I fear I know your disposition too well, and that you will certainly try your luck at the detestable inn that scoundrel mentioned."

"Have you already discovered that it is detestable?"

"Yes, sir. I asked the boy here and he told me it was an ill thought of place, where the farmers and small traders put up on market days, that it does not offer accommodation for gentle folk and is situate in a ruined street."

At this Florio's astonishment and compassion were aroused.

"They cannot be there," he declared. "Have they lost all their money? They spent so lavishly."

"Where, sir, did they obtain this money?" asked the servant suspiciously.

"An estate was sold. They should be well supplied." Bonino glanced with vexation at his master's animated face.

"Ah, now I perceive I spoke hastily in mentioning the misery of this inn!" he cried in self reproach. "Nothing will do but that you must see it for yourself."

"Yes, I must do that, Bonino. But I shall keep my word. If I do not find them there, you can prepare for our long journey home."


§ 15

Florio found the Drei Linden in a quiet part of the city near the fortifications and the Nonnen Garten, where some fine houses had gradually fallen into ruin from the time, more than a hundred and fifty years ago, when Gustavus II and Wallenstein had battered down the Imperial city in their furious struggles that left thousands dead by fire, sword and disease.

Florio thought of these old wars and those lately over, as he walked along these solitary streets; the quarter, so mean in Bonino's opinion, had to him a rude and Gothic charm.

The three lime trees as easily distinguished the inn of that name, as the freshly-painted board with the Blue Star on it picked out that hostelry from the neighbouring houses.

These trees grew of immense girth, the leaves rusty coloured and curling; one was encircled by chairs and supported by stakes.

The inn was gabled and seemed part of a more ancient building, as the lime trees seemed part of some ancient garden. Either side were houses that were now let in tenements, poor folk, weavers or pencil makers, watched listlessly from the richly-balconied windows. Florio saw the glances of dull curiosity that followed his elegance to the porch of the inn.

A clumsy, fair girl answered his knock and gazed at him heavily.

"Yes, no," Florio repeated to himself, "rouge—noir, how is my total hazard to fall?"

He then tried to turn the moment into a jest, to disguise from himself how serious it had become. The maid, holding the door open, eyed him doubtfully when he asked for the foreigners, and he felt that they could not be in this retreat. The slow answer when it came, was not hopeful.

"An Italian trader and his wife were staying there, they had come to buy toys—they were not gentlefolk." The girl shook her head stupidly, yet conscious of Florio's quality.

"It is they," he thought. "Bonino has lost."

"Countryfolk of mine, then," he smiled. "But are you sure they are from Italy?"

"Or Jews," suggested the girl. "There are many Jews in Nuremberg, they come to trade, we often have them here."

"I am a trader," said Florio. "I come to do business with them."

"Why didn't you say so?" she retorted, crossly but without suspicion. "You interrupt my work, come into the parlour."

He followed her, thankful for her dullness, for had she asked for names he would not have known what to call himself or them.

"Stay," he said, fearful of giving them the alarm and time to escape again. "Have they a parlour of their own?"

"Yes, upstairs—the two best rooms."

He put a piece of money into her fat and greasy hand. "I shall go up. I am pressed for time. I want to show my samples and be gone."

She grinned, staring at the silver in her palm.

"He is in," she said, readily now. "I heard him go upstairs just now."

She trudged away, clanking wooden shoes, to the back of the house and Florio San Quirico ascended the steep stairs and opened, without knocking, the door in front of him.

The room, roughly finished, was littered with painted dolls, trinkets in cases, boxes of pencils, mirrors and trivial carvings in wood and ivory.

At a table in the centre, a tall man was seated, bending over a pile of account books and papers; he wore a shabby dark green coat and his black hair was cut close. As the door opened, he raised his head and showed an uncommonly handsome face that instantly darkened with astonishment.

"I hardly expected to see you again, prince," he remarked in English, with forced composure.

"I am sorry if I disturb you, Captain Calamy, but I thought I made it clear that you would not easily lose my friendship." Florio smiled. "Come, surely my visit does not displease you? Certainly I entered brusquely, but I feared to alarm you by sending a message by that stupid servant."

"I am here because they are all stupid," said the other, alert and watchful. "I can even pass as a Jew or an Italian. See my stock-in-trade!"

"You are cool, Captain Calamy. I had thought to startle you more."

"I have had to learn not to be startled, or astonished," replied Philip Calamy. "No doubt we can come to terms of friendship. You must have been at some trouble to find me."

"A little fatigue. But the clues fell into my hands."

Florio seated himself on one end of a chest covered with wooden dolls. "I have not seen you since you left Bologna," he added smiling still, with eyes and lips.

Philip Calamy smiled also, but not so pleasantly.

"Letty is abroad," he remarked. "She likes to walk on the ramparts."

"Alone?"

"She has a fine dog, Rover. Neither is she likely to attract much attention in this decayed place, full of petty traders."

"And you pretend to be one of them, an Italian or a Jew? The girl gave me no name."

"She is a fool—as they all are here. Thick peasants are what they are used to, they do not know if I speak English or Italian."

"I have been of some service to you," remarked Florio. "Colonel Winslow came to see me in Stuttgart."

"Still searching for us?"

"Yes. I sent him across the Swiss frontier. I, of course, soon discovered that you had gone to Rippoldsau, passing as mysterious French refugees."

"Did you change your mind and set Winslow on to us?" asked Philip Calamy sharply.

"No. Not finding you at Schaffhausen, he became suspicious of me, and of you. He stayed in the same post house at Dinkelsbuhl, as I suppose you know."

"Yes, I brushed against him under the linden trees, outside there as here. Letty had won the landlord's kindness and that of an Austrian woman we had hired. Letty can act very prettily."

"What made you think of so wild a tale?"

"Why should I satisfy your curiosity?" smiled Philip Calamy. "Yet, why not? I saw the news in The Gazette, that such a royal fugitive was masquerading in Wurtemberg—it was easy to write a letter from the Duke, to alter one's papers, to impose on simple people, at least for a while. They delight in these marvels. Of course, the extraordinary likeness of Letty to the late Queen of France made me think of it. She did her part, embroidered fleur-de-lys on some linen, painted a sketch in a prayer book. How easily these imbeciles are deceived!"

Florio listened attentively to this speech that seemed to him to be spoken to gain time, as if Philip Calamy who must, however good a face he put on it, have been considerably astonished by this visit, was rapidly considering his attitude and his next action.

"But Colonel Winslow found you, even at Wilhelmsruhe."

"You know that?"

Florio was disdainful of this parrying of the main issue. He told all that had happened to him since he had left Bologna, briefly, while the other watched with a brooding interest.

"I saw the grave in the summer house. Your man earned his money and the dupe went away deceived."

"It was easily done. Of course I acted alone. I arranged everything with my own hands. It was not difficult to find a pock marked fellow here, chaplain, woodmen were my invention, we had a visit from a fool of a doctor."

Florio had not thought Philip Calamy possessed of the courage and resource he had shown in all these tricks that he had played single handed.

"I had the approaches to the Forest watched. The French tale and the Ducal protection fable went down very well with these simpletons. He nearly caught us at Dinkelsbuhl. We were saved by Letty's wig, and my drop in rank. Winslow would never think of either of those devices."

"Your mask was clever, too."

"Yes. I knew Winslow would never suspect a servant and that I could find a disfigured fellow to take my part whenever I wished. No one has followed here. I am no longer Martin, the faithful lackey, but Martino, the modest Lombard trader, come to Nuremberg to buy toys and trinkets." Philip Calamy spoke carefully, then added a question he did not seem to wish to speak. "Do you know where he has gone?"

"I know nothing. I spoke with him at Wilhelmsruhe, he was completely baffled. I should think that he would return to Switzerland. I told him I had seen you at Stuttgart, as I was able to give an exact description of you and your belongings, even to Letty's name and her dressing case. He believed me."

"I am grateful to you for being at so much trouble to throw him off the scent."

"For my part," admitted Florio, "I disliked telling these lies. I found no fault with Colonel Winslow, a man of breeding and dignity, fiercely afflicted."

"Since he has your sympathy, why did you not help him?" demanded Philip Calamy, dryly.

"I knew he intended murder."

"I told you that in Bologna."

"Yes, but I never supposed that he could obtain long enough leave of absence to follow you so far."

"Nor did I. He is armed?"

"Undoubtedly."

"Do you think he wants to challenge me?"

"Rather, I should say, to shoot you on sight. He is a man possessed by one overwhelming purpose."

"And what is to be Letty's fate if he finds her?" sneered Philip Calamy.

"I do not know. He never did discuss his case with me, or with anyone. He has been neither enervated nor degraded by his tragedy."

"Tragedy!"

"So it is to him."

"An obstinate, ungovernable man," burst out Philip Calamy. "You do not know him."

"I think I do."

"Then, if you do, answer me this," replied the other man roughly. "Would he take Letty back?"

Florio had not expected this question, that fitted in with nothing in the case.

"No, assuredly not," he declared. "He is a man of honour, a soldier—"

"I know, I know. But if he is infatuated, he could resign from the regiment and live retired. He has a handsome estate."

"You make a jest of it all," protested Florio, rising. "After she has been two years with you."

"Very well, leave the matter." Philip Calamy grinned. "I can but pray for another war that will extinguish this firebrand."

He controlled some turbulent emotion and, rising also, began to pack some of the clocks and puppets that were lying out of their boxes.

His movements were well trained and graceful. Florio knew him as a most charming and accomplished companion, with no flaw in his gay temper and brilliant good looks.

But now he was changed since the Bologna days, when he and the woman who had passed as his wife had kept an agreeable salon, and joined graciously in all the sports and pleasures of the city.

It was their sudden flight that had sharpened Florio's interest in them. That and the confession they had made before they left Bologna, that they were not married and a husband was on their heels.

"You are our kindest friend," Letty had said, her hand trembling in his, and then she had revealed that her name was not Latymer, but Winslow, that her companion was Philip Calamy, and that she had eloped from a stern, dull husband much older than herself, two years before. This story had been ordinary to Florio, it was a period, a country, for free manners. Even when he heard that Letty Winslow's husband was coming to Europe in search of his wife and her lover, he could not take this act of Arlequino and Panteleone seriously.

But their alarm was in her case poignant, in the man's ferocious. They declared that Colonel Winslow was dangerous, would at best require a duel. "A barbarian," Florio had thought, but after meeting the unhappy soldier at Bode's he had changed his opinion and thought, "not barbarism, but another code from mine."

He had also at once felt sure that Colonel Winslow did mean murder, or, as he would express it, "a satisfaction to his honour."

He recalled this as he watched Philip Calamy at his futile occupation, with which he concerned himself very precisely.

"What do you intend to do now, Captain Calamy?"

"Perhaps, since you have been at pains to follow us, you can advise me."

"Maybe I can."

"Why did you follow us?"

"I was weary of Bologna. And interested in you."

"I see, we are objects of curiosity."

"Undoubtedly," smiled Florio. "All three of you. But do not be offended, I may be of use to you."

"I dare say."

"You cannot stay here, in this paltry disguise."

"It is remarkably safe. I have certainly thrown off his spies—if he has the intelligence to employ any."

"He works through these little German courts where he has some influence. You had better leave Wurtemberg and Bavaria."

"No doubt." Captain Calamy grinned again. He certainly was not the man he had been, or appeared to be. A sullenness, a bitterness smouldered in his eyes, a sneer touched his lips, his manners were brusque. Something of the coarseness of the mask he had assumed, something of the craft he had employed, defaced his person and his air.

"I speak as a friend," smiled Florio. "You know how I look on your situation, and that I consider Colonel Winslow is behaving with folly."

This angered Philip Calamy.

"You understand nothing of this in your Popish country," he replied. "And yet it has been explained to you. I was in his regiment. Letty and his two children were all he cared for—naturally he wants to kill me."

"Then I wonder that you, knowing this, lived so easily in Florence, Rome and Bologna."

"He was safe, unable to leave the army, I thought. How did I know that he would get leave of absence, or that some tatler would tell him we were in Italy?"

Florio shrugged. The pursuit had been more agreeable than finding the pursued. The romantic mood created by the Forest had entirely left him. Philip Calamy, in his misfortune, had become prosaic and material, engrossed in his plight, almost without courtesy.

"I am staying at the Blaue Stern," said Florio. "If you want me, pray send there."

The Englishman turned and looked him up and down.

"Are you in love with Letty?"

"A little, yes."

"And there, when you supposed her to be my wife?"

"Yes, her cavaliere. As you understood."

"I understood," agreed Philip Calamy. "It is the manner of your country. No doubt it is to Letty I owe your help in the misdirecting of Colonel Winslow."

"I did that for your sake, also, and for his. What will his fate be if he kills you?"

"The gallows, I hope. No need to pity him, he holds all the winning cards."

"He is savagely unhappy."

Philip Calamy was about to answer hastily, but checked himself.

"Well, I thank you for what you did. I owe it to you to let you know what I shall do next—if you care to know."

The two young men considered one another. The Englishman's handsome eyes were blank, as if he deliberately obscured their expression. Florio's light glance was candid.

"You will find Letty on the walls, if you would like to see her. No doubt she is lonely, she has not had any civilized company for several weeks. And she found Wilhelmsruhe melancholy."

"I shall meet her and bring her here," replied Florio. "Poor lady, I pity her."

"That you need not," the Englishman again controlled himself. "She has all my care," he added, sombrely.

"I know." Florio spoke warmly. "You have shown great skill and ingenuity in protecting her. I do not believe she has any regrets."

"Regrets!" The Englishman took up one of the dolls and flung it down gently. "Regrets, oh, no!"

"As true lovers neither of you would feel any."

Florio took his leave; looking up from below, as he passed the ancient lindens, he saw Philip Calamy watching him from the window, staring at him without a look or gesture of recognition, as if he gazed at a stranger.


§ 16

Florio San Quirico asked the dull servant maid where Signor Martin's wife had gone, adding that he had been sent to fetch her home.

"I thought that she would be late with her work," was the unexpected reply.

"What part of the work is hers?"

"She dresses the dolls. I thought that you knew."

"No. I saw some pretty trifles upstairs."

"She makes them." The stout girl smiled maliciously. "And never fast enough or well enough."

Florio passed between the old lime trees, along a cobbled street to the right, as he had been directed, and so out on to the walls that, rugged as cliffs, enclosed the decayed Gothic grandeur of the city.

He soon saw her, walking lonely save for a bright brown dog who rushed at him as he approached.

She wore a plain coat, a hat tied under the chin, and was not in any way noticeable.

She recognized Florio at once, and, in an excited tone, called the dog, Rover, to her side. "It is a friend," she added in English and advanced, smiling.

He observed that she did not wear a wig, but had been using some lotion to darken her red hair; that she was pallid, appeared weary, even frightened, and was glad of his coming.

"I am not as astonished to see you as I should be," she said candidly. "I thought, prince, that you might follow us."

"Did you not intend me to when you told me why you had left Bologna?"

"Perhaps. Is one ever sure of one's own intentions? I felt that we wanted a friend and that you were chivalrous."

He noted but did not remark on the fact that they had met without greetings, as naturally as if they had been parted but a few hours.

"You have wanted a friend?" he asked, falling into step beside her. "I have been to the Drei Linden and seen Captain Calamy."

"Do not give him that rank; you know that he was cashiered—dismissed with ignominy—from his regiment."

"I did not—you did not tell me that."

"Maybe, but it follows, at least in England."

"There are no such Puritanical rules in Italy," he replied, smiling down at her delicate profile. "But I understood from the attitude of Colonel Winslow—"

"You have seen my husband?" She was shocked, trembled and sat down on one of the old walls, Rover panting at her feet.

"I, of course, regard Philip Calamy as your husband."

"But you know that he is not," she replied earnestly. "What did—Colonel Winslow—say?"

Standing leisurely beside her, Florio repeated the story of his two encounters with the Englishman, and emphasized how he had twice put him off the track of Letty.

Her bosom heaved and she pressed her thin hands together, glancing nervously up and down the empty ramparts.

"It has brought it all back," she confessed. "In Rome, Florence and Bologna I had believed I was who I feigned to be, but when I heard that my husband had come to Italy all that pretence dropped away."

"You did not think he would be vengeful?" asked Florio curiously. The three English people were odd to him, apart from the fascination Letty possessed over him, he found them all interesting because of their strange codes and eccentric behaviour.

"I knew he would hate me. I thought he would put me altogether out of his existence. It is two years ago. It was horrible when Philip had that warning from his friend that my husband had returned from India and was following us to the continent. Yes, I was filled with horror."

"Colonel Winslow has done a mad, a cruel thing," said Florio. "Since you left him freely."

"O, pray don't make excuses for me!" she exclaimed piteously. "He is a man of honour and dignity, it was I who did a cruel thing. I forfeited everything, I did not pause to think—my husband was away so long, his sisters were dull and censorious. I had some money of my own, I was gay and went about London; every woman wanted Philip, and he wanted me only. He was in my husband's regiment and adjutant to the Commander-in-Chief—"

"My dear," said Florio tenderly, checking this flow of words that seemed the expression of musings long repressed, "there is no need to justify yourself to me."

"I do not want you to think I condone my own behaviour," she replied hurriedly. "I am quite lost and ruined."

"Not anywhere—only, indeed, in your own stiff country."

"And everywhere English people go. We have had to move continually for fear of meeting English people."

Florio understood that she did indeed regard herself as one lost and ruined; this was to him a proof of her essential innocence. Candid, simple and romantic, she had been overwhelmed by a passion for an uncommonly attractive man while her elderly husband was abroad, and had flung away reputation, position, peace of mind, her two children, in the indulgence of this headlong infatuation.

This was not difficult for Florio to realize, he found it a simple story. Philip Calamy's part in it was not so easy to read. Florio would not have considered him the man to fling every ambition aside for love. Yet he had done so. The Bolognese respected this supreme love. He could not conceive of himself as becoming an outcast, which was what Philip Calamy seemed to consider himself, for the sake of any woman.

"You are together. You must think of some life away from the world."

Yet even as he spoke he wondered if any manner of seclusion would be anything but galling to either of them. Philip Calamy was a man of pleasure, and little else, and Letty was light-minded. Whatever remorse and fear she might show now, she had sparkled brilliantly in Bologna as long as she had thought herself safe.

"What will you do?" he asked thoughtfully. "What will you do?"

She rose, nervously pulling at the strings of her hat.

"At present I must return and dress dolls. Philip has entered seriously into the trade—he buys the wooden puppets, then I dress them and he sells them again."

"What a stupid occupation for you!"

"Oh, what else can I do all day!"

She stooped and patted the dog's smooth head, in order to hide her ready tears, then her troubles came tumbling out again.

"It is a relief to speak English with you, it has always been German or French, and we know so little of either. We had to avoid French people, that is why I had to find an Austrian maid who did not know French."

"That disguise was extravagant and painful for you."

"Yes," she agreed, eagerly. "I had to keep my face wrapped in muslin most of the time, and use tricks on servants and landlords. But Philip liked the intrigue; you recall how clever he was with the shows and plays?"

"Yes, a pronounced aptitude for the theatre."

Florio had taken this for granted, since the members of the society in which he moved excelled in being exquisite amateurs of the arts, in particular those of the stage. Now this gift and zest for acting seemed a trait out of keeping with the character he knew Philip Calamy to be, an Englishman of fashion. Before, it had not occurred to him that in England the aristocracy seldom acted, though passionately addicted to masquerades.

The dark, sombre, romantic aspect of the Forest had not passed from Florio's memory, though there was nothing of this strange atmosphere about the lovers. Now they were no longer carefree and gay, they were prosaic. Yet there was more, evidently, in Philip Calamy than might have been supposed. He had played out the drama of Wilhelmsruhe, and Letty had said that he had enjoyed that melancholy charade. He was, then, no mere fribble.

"We had better return," she said, wiping her eyes with a lawn handkerchief on which she had embroidered a fleur-de-lys. "Philip will be impatient."

"Not with you—now or ever, I hope, sweet Letty."

"He is good. He has never reproached me," she replied. "Yes, we love one another, but that role I had to play of the dying French Princess—I disliked it, I felt I was that wretched girl. Philip rehearsed me in all the horrors of the Revolution. I had not heard them before; I led a very sheltered life when at home with my dear parents."

"You have had no news of them?" he asked compassionately.

"My father died soon after my marriage, my mother married again. I am not speaking of that, but of that venerable town, Dinkelsbuhl; my husband stayed there, I lay awake all night, thinking of him in a chamber overhead. And then that fearful place in the Forest, and Philip in the white mask. I felt I was dying indeed, and the grave he was making in the summer house really for me."

"Hush, sweet Letty, you are agitated. This life you are leading is grotesque."

"Yes, I think so," she agreed, smiling uncertainly, her eyes still wet. "So many names, disguises, inns, coaches, hired servants, travelling—and I am no one but silly Letty Winslow."

"Philip has some plan, surely? He has shown himself ingenious and resourceful, but he had better leave Germany soon, those forged passes and letters from the Duke of Wurtemberg will sooner or later be discovered."

"He employs some agents, or has some friends in Italy, he gets news. But he tells me nothing beyond the part I am to play."

As they left the fortifications he looked at her with great compassion. So young, so delightful and so unworldly, condemned by an imprudent marriage and a reckless elopement to this vagabond life, always in disguise and in hiding. Over for her were the days of brittle splendour she had spent in Bologna, where she had been satisfied with her pretended situation as wife to Captain Latymer, an English dilettante. Now she was being driven into a half world, more than that, into a crazy existence of masks and mumming. Florio did not think that Philip Calamy, who had either so changed or so revealed himself in the last few weeks, would ever take any place in any society again. For he was afraid of murder.

Florio was considering how to rescue Letty from the worst of the consequences of her flight from her home as they walked back to the Drei Linden, slowly through the autumn heat.

But all his plans were checked by the reflection that these two loved one another, and had lost the world for love. They must be together. Yet how could they endure a perpetual concealment?

She broke in on his musings by asking timidly: "Do you think that my husband has given up his search for me?" The question Philip Calamy had posed.

"I do not know," replied Florio, cautiously. "He certainly had no clue to your whereabouts. I suppose his leave of absence will soon come to an end. Is it possible that he will leave the army, in order to be free?"

"Leave the regiment!" she exclaimed, almost with indignation. "Oh, no! You understand so little of—us. My husband must have had special leave of absence—he is highly honoured by the Commander-in-Chief, everyone will sympathize with him so truly, his return from India—and his home blasted!"

She spoke so passionately, as if in abhorrence of her own action, that Florio marvelled how she had ever come to commit what she evidently regarded as a crime.

"You never loved this stern man, Letty?" he asked delicately.

"O no!" she exclaimed again, looking sad and childlike. "I was sixteen years old when we married. I was always afraid of him."

"He loves you?"

"I did not think so," she murmured, "and he was away so much—at the war, and in India."

"Then it is his pride that drives him on?"

"His pride," she agreed, pitifully.

"I do not know the laws of your country—could he not divorce you?"

"I suppose so. But Philip would not marry me—now.

"Why not, he loves you?"

She shook her head. "Still you do not understand, and it is useless to speak of this, if my husband had wanted to divorce me he would have done so at once."

"You are divorced from this man, so unsuitable to your youth and spirits," he replied, "and the wife of Philip Calamy."

"I thank you for your respect," she said, divining his intention to raise her in her own esteem. "I must so think of myself. But I know it is a pretence, like the charade of a princess, and of a doll maker."

"You have no friends?"

"Lost, all lost," she smiled, so as not to seem to complain. "I have only you. At one time," she added ingenuously, "I did not suppose one could have a man as a friend, but you are that to me."

"Yes, I am indeed. But I do not know how to help you, dear Letty."

They were now approaching the linden trees. Florio would have liked to have asked her about money; they had spent extravagantly in Bologna, and their forced travelling, these disguises and shifts, such as the hiring of Wilhelmsruhe and the two servants, Adriana Beheim and August, could not have been cheap. But he could not bring himself to question her on such a matter. Philip Calamy had spoken of funds that were sent to him regularly at Bologna. Moreover, there was mention of an estate that had been sold, and she had said she had money of her own. So, though she had just protested that she had no friends, they were in touch with someone in England who must be supplying them with funds.

Though he could not refer to this, Florio said: "You have one other friend at least, Letty, and that is whoever warned you that Colonel Winslow had leave of absence to come to Italy."

"O, Captain Lennard Giles," she answered. "He is one of Philip's friends and always wrote to him at a Bankers in Florence who forwarded the letters under cover. I hardly knew Lennard Giles."

They had reached the three linden trees and they parted. Florio did not glance up at the window where probably Philip Calamy was watching them, but waited until she had passed into the inn, then went slowly on his way through the decayed city and the stagnant autumn heat.


§ 17

Florio was seated in his private chamber, casting up accounts with himself.

He had won the hazard he had cast. He had, against all chance, found the fugitives, but he was still not sure that he did not wish to return to Bologna.

Philip Calamy and Letty Winslow were condemned to a life of subterfuge, deceit and wandering, from which he could not save them.

Since meeting Colonel Winslow, he no longer smiled at the severe code of English society, and since hearing Letty speak of her elopement he realized that she was an outcast indeed from her home, her country, her way of life. She had nothing save the love and protection of Philip Calamy. She did not, Florio believed, want anything more.

But what, precisely, was that worth?

During the few months of their stay in a small hired palazzo in Bologna, Captain Latymer, as Philip had styled himself, had led the life of an elegant man of fashion and shown himself accomplished, easy and amiable. His story was that he had been wounded in the late war and sent to Italy for his health. But another side of his character had appeared in the fantastic disguises by means of which he had thrown off the pursuit of Colonel Winslow, and his behaviour to Florio in the parlour at the Drei Linden had not been amiable.

Indeed he had seemed concerned with his own safety and, though he had asked Florio two strange questions: "Are you in love with Letty?" and "Do you think he would take Letty back?" he had not seemed to attach much importance to either of them.

The first might have been a mere courteous pleasantry and was spoken lightly; the second was, perhaps, ironic, but difficult to interpret.

What was clear, at last, to Florio, was the full meaning of this elopement which, when told to him in Bologna, he had taken lightly, as a mere escapade. Now he could realize the loss it had meant to both of them, the abandonment of all they valued. They had only one another.

This surrender was understandable on the part of Letty: She had been young, foolish, unprotected and headlong in love, but Philip Calamy?

Florio again emphasized in his mind that he would not have supposed the young Englishman was the type to lose the world, his world, for the sake of a woman like Letty, who was no enchantress. He could have married well, certainly, and shone in his own circle. He had qualities, too, as well as looks and brilliance.

Florio did not know his family, but was sure that he was well born.

To the astute Latin it seemed unlikely that such a man as Philip Calamy could for long adapt himself to the obscure, indefinite position he must occupy as the lover of a woman so abased, not only in the opinion of her world but in her own opinion, as to have to live forever in social oblivion. Was it not unavoidable that the love that once played so strongly as to urge him into this reckless action must, sooner or later, burn itself out? Both Letty and her lover were people born within a certain order, relying on a certain code; these they had broken and no settlement of their affairs seemed possible.

All that money, the help and protection of former friends—like this Captain Lennard, who had warned them of Colonel Winslow's journey to the continent, but who would never see them again—could do for them was to cover their retreat into some lonely, avoided part of Europe where they would have no companions save those as fallen as themselves from their original place in society, or, worse, mere tradesmen and peasants such as surrounded them now.

Florio, looking out from his window at the sunlit space of the empty Milch Markt, wondered how Letty, so candid, simple and innocent, would accept this prolonged and piteous masquerade.

Yet it might well be that she was one who would live happily if she could live in love, and that she could live long.

She had not spoken of her children. Florio supposed that they were little to her. Probably they had been taken from her early by elder and sterner women, her husband's sisters.

The view this story gave to Florio of England was bleak. His compassion was entirely for Letty, about Philip Calamy he was curious. The man had not fitted into his own society, had lost everything for what Florio could not feel was other than a weakness, for so the ironically-minded Italian regarded an indulged and dangerous love of a forbidden woman.

Yet Philip Calamy was no mere idler, as his late rapid shifts and expedients had shown, and could he long be content with an existence, cruel indeed for one brought up in a position of authority?

"The time will come," thought Florio, "when he will tire of her—yet what will there be for him, even then? Or is this a romantic, deathless love, of which the poets sing, and will he be content merely to live with her?"

Florio believed he had the patience to watch this tale unfold, but he did not know if this patience was inspired by love of Letty—more than that little love that he had admitted to Philip Calamy.

Florio, gracious and well bred, leisurely and keen witted, threw over the eloping couple the elegance and the charm of his own mind. So that, intelligent as he was, he did not yet clearly interpret them, giving them too much respect as victims of a great passion that he did not pretend to be capable of himself, but that he could believe in and admire in others.

His meditations were not so much interrupted as continued by a visit from August who came, with a leer, to ask for his reward.

"You thought that I lied, but you see, sir, that M. Nesle is at the Drei Linden."

Florio adjusted himself to the man's tone and assented to what he said.

"Yes, I have found this M. Nesle, thanks to your information, and my servant shall pay you."

August was satisfied with this and about to leave to take his fee, when Florio detained him.

"Can you tell me anything more of this M. Nesle?"

"Only what I suppose you have seen for yourself—that he now passes as a trader in toys and has another woman with him."

"So," thought Florio, "you believe that the mound in the summer house is a grave."

"What is your guess as to this mystery?" he asked.

"I suppose that this emigre, naming himself M. Nesle, is now, since his mistress's death, reduced to earning a living and that it is wiser for him to remain in disguise."

"You are not minded to betray him?"

"Why should I be? And to whom?" asked August, still lingering by the door, his fingers on the latch, as if eager to be gone. "These things are beyond my meddling. I do not know who he is, nor who you are, as I told you before, sir."

"And you have been well paid for whatever you have done—twice over, by this French gentleman and by myself."

"Precisely," agreed August. "I have found employment as a groom at Gmund and prefer a quiet life. I came here only to collect my fee from you, sir."

Florio observed that he would get little more from this fellow, who wished to avoid trouble and who would never disclose what he knew or guessed, but the Bolognese endeavoured to extract some further information from him as to the guests at the Drei Linden.

August, however, protested that he had been in Nuremberg but once before to collect his money from M. Nesle. Florio interrupted here.

"How did he receive you? What notice did he take of your account of the Englishman's visit?"

"He said I had played my part very well and made me describe the man minutely, then he seemed satisfied that I had shown the grave to the right person. And now, sir, the lady being dead," added August, stubbornly, "there is an end."

"Who do you think this other lady is?"

"I did not see her. I am not interested in the affairs of M. Nesle." August still showed a reluctance to continue this conversation, that seemed, also, useless to Florio.

"Go and get your money," he said and returned, when he was alone, to his place at the window.

The light was withdrawing from the day that had been so golden, and the upper air appeared an intense purple above the crooked roofs and pointed gables of the ancient houses opposite that showed dark and sharp against the lustre of the sky.

Florio had sat at too many windows of inns, looked out on too many alien scenes. He was beginning to be haunted by the impermanency of life, by the sense of being always a traveller, homeless, friendless, self-sufficient.

Yet it was only a few months since he had left Bologna, on an impulse partly curiosity, partly affection. He rested his comely face in his hand, and his reflections that had been active, passed into a passive melancholy.

Scenes of his boyhood came before him, that secret inner life that no one save himself could know. The winters in the arcaded palace in Bologna, the summers in the Villa Aria, happy days of ease, yet pricked by wonders, by ambitions, by griefs not easily, even now, in retrospect, to be understood.

It was strange how his life had altered by the coming of the two strangers to Bologna. They had found their way cunningly into his world, and must have had help from English friends, for they had been introduced by letters from countrymen of standing to prominent residents in the city.

Unless, as Florio now reminded himself, somewhat startled, Captain Latymer had forged these letters as he had forged those that purported to offer the protection of the Duke of Wurtemberg.

This man of pleasure was certainly more than an idler, and adroit at many crafts. There had not been time to send to England and verify his credentials. Probably, even without the advent of the husband, he would have left Bologna before this was possible. Meanwhile the couple had passed perfectly into Italian society, for they were exactly what they stated they were, people of quality.

Florio summed up his reflections on a strong note of doubt as to the real character of this man who had seemed merely an elegant idler, and gallant officer in retirement, honourably discharged by peace and wounds from service in the field.

Considering this, Florio recalled that Philip Calamy now no longer troubled to assume the slight lameness that he had affected in Bologna. He had, then, been acting a part from the first. Florio respected his ability.

Bonino, entering with his master's supper, asked him if he did intend to return to Bologna—"For it seems to me, sir, as if, in this old dead city, we had come to a pause and a decision," he added, respectfully. "I know that you found the fugitives and therefore, sir, feel yourself entitled to continue your journey, yet I am not sure that you are resolved to do so."

"You are right," replied Florio, "and read me, as you so often do, better than I read myself. I am still, it is true, undecided. This Englishman is not the person I took him to be in Bologna, where, it is true, I had but a passing concern with him. He stirs my curiosity. He is in a dilemma of extraordinary difficulty."

"Yes, it would be amusing, sir," agreed the servant, "if it did not involve yourself. It is fear of the husband that goads him?"

"Yes, and, I suppose, love of the lady. Nor, in my opinion, is he wrong in supposing that Colonel Winslow wishes to murder him. England is a stern country. This ferocious gentleman has had special permission from his commander-in-chief to travel on the continent in order to find his wife and her lover, with the avowed intention of killing the latter, either by a duel or, more likely, a shot at sight."

Bonino asked the question that Philip Calamy 'himself had asked.

"What does Colonel Winslow intend shall become of his wife?"

"There my imagination fails, Bonino. She has no experience of any kind, is very slight and candid. It cannot be that this man would leave her abandoned; she has only him, her lover. From her own lips I learn that she considers herself a creature completely ruined. Lost to all the society she once knew. No one, it seems, in her own country would receive her again. Yet she has a mother living, and, no doubt, other relatives."

"Can there be such cruelty!" exclaimed Bonino. "When, sir, one considers the liberty allowed Italian ladies!"

"And English ladies, also, I doubt not. This silly creature has been too bold. She had not the wit to carry on an underhand intrigue, and had the recklessness or courage to elope openly."

"So much," remarked Bonino, "one understands. It is the man's part that is dubious to me."

"Why, so it is to me," replied Florio. "He has lost so much and gained only this one woman who has nothing."

"Eh, well, sir, is this problem worth your pains?" urged the servant. "They may linger for weeks in Nuremberg, until the roads are winter bound."

"You are again right," agreed Florio, rousing himself from a lethargy from which he had been speaking lazily. "I must know their mind, and soon. I must, indeed, force him—senseless to speak to her, she has no will of her own—to declare his intentions or leave him to his destiny."


§ 18

Florio San Quirico did not have to put this resolve into practice, for the morning following his visit to the Drei Linden, Philip Calamy, still in his modest habit of a small trader, waited on him, and, unsmiling, stated his position.

"You, prince, are the only person who knows our plight; you have taken a sharp interest in our affairs and I assume we have your sympathy." Without pausing for an assent to this statement, the Englishman continued: "You have followed us and pierced our disguises, very well. I am, you may guess, most uncertain what to do."

"Indeed," agreed Florio, "I cannot conceive of a more unhappy position."

"I should have thought that you could scarcely understand it," replied Philip Calamy, coldly. "In your country there are no such laws of honour as govern in ours."

"I can, at least, comprehend that you are in the position of an outcast, and in flight before a man who menaces your life," said Florio, directly.

Philip Calamy's face hardened, his eyes assumed a blank expression. His splendid head had, to the appraising glance of the young man who watched him, the noble balance and gracious proportion of an antique bronze of the youthful Alexander or Antinous.

"Then, prince, you understand enough. Understand also that I have come to you for help."

"I offer it."

"I had intended," continued Philip Calamy, "to remain in Nuremberg indefinitely, in my present safe disguise, until I could learn from my friend in London of Colonel Winslow's return. But that would mean, in the present state of the posts, many months, perhaps the entire winter. And when you appeared the other day I decided to make use of you."

"Pray inform me in what way."

"I desire your advice."

Florio San Quirico was seldom confounded, but now he was baffled. His debate within himself had been precisely on this question, what advice he should offer the fugitives.

"Come," urged Philip Calamy, leaning forward and driving into this almost imperceptible pause, "you owe me this—through meddling in my affairs."

"Meddling? You did not use that word in Bologna," smiled Florio.

"In Bologna you had not meddled. You were merely one of my acquaintances."

Florio was amused at this coming from one who he considered of lower rank than himself, and one, too, in a dubious position. Too greatly placed to take offence, he replied: "Leave it at that. I advise you, then, to live in retirement until the death of Colonel Winslow, who is a much older man than you are, of a choleric habit and a soldier, and then to marry Letty."

"And where is this retirement to be?"

"You would not consider my country house, the Villa Aria?"

"No, it is too public."

This brusque tone was very unlike that used by Philip Calamy when in Bologna; he had the air of one conferring, rather than asking, a favour.

Florio agreed with him and made, on an impulse, a suggestion that had not come into his mind before, indeed one that he would have rejected as grotesque had it occurred to him.

"Do you know Sicily?" he asked.

Philip Calamy replied that he had not been further south than Florence.

"My father's mother was a Sicilian, and from her we hold a castle that I never visit. It is remote, in the midst of some of the most rugged mountains in the island. But it has been kept in good repair, and there are servants in charge, others to be had among the tenantry."

"You offer this refuge to me, prince?"

"Yes, it might be a temporary retreat."

"How far is it from Palermo?" asked Philip Calamy.

"Six or seven miles, but that by a rough road over the mountains, the Pass of Mezzagna, nearer twenty miles through the valley. You follow the stream that flows beneath the castle."

"We should be safe," Philip Calamy sighed. The tension left his face and body, he sank back in his chair.

"So," thought Florio, "that is what he is thinking of, his safety, and, I must suppose, some love for her—for poor Letty."

"Yes, and it is not so gloomy or desolate as Wilhelmsruhe, and you would not need such elaborate disguises. As my guests, you would be unquestioned. My steward runs a farm there and the vineyards in the valley."

"What is the name of this place?"

"Chiaramonte, near Misilmeri, a poor place, there from the time of the Saracens. There is no society."

"I could have communications addressed to me in Palermo?"

"Assuredly. There is every commodity in Palermo, a capital, a royal city."

"Then, I accept." Philip Calamy rose. "For a while, at least, we can live hidden, without restraint, and watch events. As you say, the old man may—must—die."

"Do not count on that happening very soon, unless there is another war; he is, after all, in the prime of his life. I suppose when he is dead and you have married Letty, even your English society will receive you again?"

The Englishman gave him an inscrutable glance.

"No doubt, prince," he remarked, slowly, "you consider me an adventurer."

"Only in the sense that we all are."

"No, no, you think me a rascal, a scoundrel, perhaps meanly born."

"That, never, I can assure you," smiled Florio.

"I am a man of quality, closely connected with one of our noblest families—" He broke off as if angry with himself for having said so much.

"The greater your sacrifice," added Florio, gracefully. Then, drawing out his pocket-book: "What of passports, travel—it is a long journey, the inns are poor and the roads rough in Sicily. You had better start immediately, as the rains begin in six weeks time."

"I must be indebted to you for all information and maps," replied the Englishman. "I shall be relieved to be away from this life of inns."

"I can contrive your visa, I know the Lord Lieutenant Prince Cuto; the King, you know, is a mere figurehead, who lives in retirement. I must warn you that the English have a force still in Sicily, but few now, and those not likely to trouble you in Chiaramonte. You will use your passport name of Latymer?"

"The name on my passport has been altered several times," said Philip Calamy curtly. He seemed baffled, even angered, by the quiet, practical tone used by Florio, as if he wished to force some emotional issue and was prevented by Florio's manner from so doing.

"You are performing a good action for us," he said with an air of constraint. "Is it because of Letty?"

"First," replied Florio, "I am not putting myself out by lending you this castle that is no use to me, and smoothing your way with Prince Cuto, who is discreet and the soul of honour and who will ask no questions of any guest of mine, no matter what name you assume. My motives? Curiosity—and, as I have told you before, I am a little in love with Letty—neither do I wish to see any of you, including Colonel Winslow, blotted out in tragedy."

"You are changed from the man I knew in Bologna," remarked Philip Calamy, sharply.

"Why, I thought the same of you." Florio was surprised, not having considered that he might have altered as much as had the other man. "In what way changed?" he added, smiling at himself that he was now the one up for judgment.

"O, you are serious minded," returned the Englishman, ironically, "offering me good advice and protection, yet I think you are younger than I am.

"I happen to be in a more fortunate position."

"You have learnt to keep your temper and are really infernally cool. However, there is a great deal that you do not understand."

"Need I understand?"

"No, by Heaven! I suppose you have other affairs in your life besides mine."

"Too many, that is why I left them. How did you consider me in Bologna?"

"A fribble, a dilettante, we have such in London. For my part, I was a soldier and a man of fashion."

"And what conclusion is to be drawn from this, Mr. Calamy?"

The Englishman noticed that his military rank, that Florio did not touch on because of Letty's warning, had been dropped and he scowled.

"O, I do not think that we like one another, prince, and that you follow us and offer these favours out of small liking for Letty, who has taken the fancy of a blasé youth."

"Maybe," replied Florio, still unruffled. "But as you intend to accept these favours, why quarrel with them?"

Philip Calamy caught himself up at this, and checked whatever hasty reply was on his lips.

Florio, in compassion for his plight, which was that of a cornered man, added: "My feelings for Letty are entirely respectful. I am deliberately putting her out of my own reach. I shall do all I can for her comfort at Chiaramonte."

"I hope that this place is not beyond my means to maintain," interrupted Philip Calamy abruptly.

"No—it is nothing luxurious, a square yellow building with a turret, and a farm at the back. Nothing imposing save the situation. I can have some furniture sent from my villa in Cefalu, my mother used to spend the winter there sometimes. I do not offer this house to you as there are country seats of the nobility about, your pretensions would be examined and might not be accepted."

Philip Calamy suddenly smiled and the full beauty of his face was revealed.

"I shall pass as an antiquary," he declared, "engaged in searching for classic remains. Several friends of mine were touched with this mania, and travelled in search of camei and mosaics, statues and pictures. My cousin's place at—my cousin's house, is full of them. I know nothing of this futility, but I can learn, it will pass the time."

"What was your occupation in London?" asked Florio.

The Englishman slightly raised his lip as if in hint of a sneer.

"Occupation? I frequented White's, Almacks, the Opera, the prize ring, the cock pit, balls, dinners, my military duties, a few masks, charades." He laughed aloud. "It is like conning over the details of another existence, yet only two years away."

"The life of a man of fashion anywhere," commented Florio, "though some of your sports are barbarous. I admire you that you surrendered it all for the possession of the lady you love in so romantic a fashion."

Philip Calamy looked at him sharply.

"I shall return to Letty and tell her of your generosity of this retreat in Sicily. And perhaps, prince, you will honour us by coming to see her before we leave Nuremberg?"

Florio San Quirico gracefully accepted this ungraceful invitation. He could not yet see the part that Philip Calamy intended him to play in his own drama and that of Letty.


§ 19

The weather had been fair and dry for overlong, the courtyard in front of the Drei Linden was dusty, the leaves on the lime trees curled brittle and scorched on the stiff boughs that cast a lattice of shade on the front of the inn. Florio sat with Letty in the private parlour that was still littered by dolls, toys, clocks and animals carved in wood and ivory.

Philip Calamy had taken out the dog, named, so oddly to Florio's ears, Rover.

The Bolognese was, under his charming manner, at a loss; he did not know if he was allowed to see Letty alone out of courtesy, or if the Englishman's jealousy would stage a scene of comic opera, a sudden return and denunciation of a secret lover, or if there was something deeper in the situation.

Philip, Calamy knew that Letty was passionately faithful to him and was too much under an obligation to Florio to pick a quarrel with him, yet the young Italian was not at ease. Besides everything else, he was not sure of Letty's intelligence or knowledge, or how far she was a mere instrument of her companion's strong will.

"I hope you will find a sweet repose in Chiaramonte, Letty," he said. "The climate is superb, in January it is already the spring, the vistas from the old castle are heavenly."

"What shall I do all day?" she asked, turning over a doll on her knee on whom she was stitching a dress of pink taffeta.

"How did you occupy yourself in your own country?" She looked at him, her pretty eyes vague. She hardly knew how she had spent her time, routine had kept her up, like a prop.

"There were friends," she murmured, vaguely. "In the country I was weary—but in London, people came and went, there was entertainment—Oh, it was like Bologna, except that it was by no means as fantastic."

"But you threw away this life of pleasure for the sake of Philip Calamy?"

"Yes, oh yes," her tone was film now.

"Very well, Chiaramonte can be an Arcadia for you. It is not a desert, the existence of the countryside will move round you, and you can take your part. You will be respected," he added, firmly.

"I value that more than everything, and I have to thank you for it." She looked fully at him, clasping her hands on the doll.

"It is the best that any friend can do for you, Letty, a retreat like this. In a city, or in a villa near the city, you will finally be discovered, you will always be moving, with episodes like Wilhelmsruhe—and this—"

"Yes, yes," she agreed. "Always furtive, afraid and in disguise."

"In Chiaramonte you will be free. Besides, you cannot indefinitely travel on forged passports, however cleverly these are done there is always the detail that betrays the trick to the eye of a sharp official."

"I am glad to go to this castle of yours," she answered eagerly. "I detested Wilhelmsruhe, I detest this place, I think they suspect us of being other than we say we are."

"And Philip—is he really pleased to go to Sicily?"

"Yes, oh yes," she said again but, as he thought, reluctantly.

"Persuade him that it is wiser for him to go, and that only in dreams can we play a role without discovery."

"Philip relishes the adventure," she said, placing the doll, like a child, on her knee. "He was always active. It amuses him to cross and foil people."

"I have observed that," replied Florio, wondering if he was destined by Calamy to be one of the victims of his deceptive games. "Yet he will go to my Sicilian castle because he is afraid."

"One should not use that word of a man of honour," protested Letty, flushing.

"Nevertheless, Philip is afraid of being murdered by Colonel Winslow."

"Murder!" She appeared horrified. "It would be a duel."

"I do not think so, since seeing your husband—I should say, Colonel Winslow."

"It does not matter, I always think of him as my husband," said Letty. "It is true that he is a most choleric man," she added, forlornly. "And that I have destroyed everything he valued."

"He appeared to me," remarked Florio, "to have lost the taste for living. That, if it is so, is his weakness and not your fault. He should be able to forget you and build his career with another woman."

"He does not care for me," explained Letty. "He never did. I told you so, prince, before. It is the disgrace."

"I think he did care, Letty, and does still," smiled Florio. "I think he loved you. In love one gives all of oneself, the evil as well as the good, only the evil now remains in Colonel Winslow's feeling for you."

"The evil as well as the good," she repeated. "Then that is true of Philip and myself."

"There is nothing evil in you, Letty."

"And in Philip?"

Florio was surprised that she should ask this; in the question seemed to be the first hint of a doubt concerning her lover's attitude towards herself.

"You must have all of him, his entire soul, Letty, or your elopement was a mere frivolous escapade, and you would not admit that."

"No. I was all in this action," she interrupted with a quickness he had not expected. "But Philip?"

"With him also it must have been, still is, a passion making all obstacles as nothing. Or why did he take you away?"

"Yes, I often think of that. I do not complain of him—he loves me, I know. We are happy, desperately—it has been worth while. But lately these disguises seem to hide him, even from me."

"As I have promised you, at Chiaramonte there need be no disguises."

"That white taffeta mask was a hideous concealment for him to conceive."

"Think of it no more. Consider, rather, me a little. I shall begin my journey to Bologna as soon as you have started on yours. You will have a long, long way to go, Letty, across the plains and hills of Italy, but when you reach Sicily you will be safe."

"I am sorry—cannot you travel with us, as far as the north of Italy?"

"No, dear Letty, that would attract attention to all of us." He raised her hand from the pink skirt of the doll and kissed her fingers.

"Why did you follow us, prince?"

"You know that I am in love with you," he smiled, "in a romantic way as if you were a rare flower, a fine statue or an uncommon work of art."

She did not seem able to comprehend this fanciful and chivalrous attitude.

"You hardly know what love is, I think, prince, you could not speak so coolly. But I am grateful for your kindness, most of all for your undeserved respect."

Florio San Quirico was forced to agree with this judgment. Letty, so slight, if so fascinating a creature to him, had an experience that had been denied to him. She knew what it was to be transported beyond the restraint of even the strongest codes, by a passion that filled her entire being. She existed only in and through Philip Calamy. Florio felt a keen admiration for such a capacity for love, and an envy for such an experience.

Moreover, he felt cheated because he could not achieve such a passion himself, frustrated because even his pursuit of Letty that involved the greatest trouble he had ever been put to for a woman, was not inspired by a love such as she felt for Philip Calamy.

He was not jealous of her, did not wish to endeavour to win or snatch her from her lover. The affection he felt for her was tender and unselfish, born more or less of a whim, a curiosity as to the story of these foreigners that he had indulged in order to relieve the tedium of his life, splendid to satiety.

But he could admire this overweening passion he could hardly understand, and offer his Sicilian castle.

"It is of no importance to me," he told himself. "It is vital to them."

Tired with the conversation that had been heavy, like a physical weight, and weary with the dry heat of the day, the last of so many hot days in the decayed Gothic city, Florio sighed and was silent. For her part, Letty put aside the doll in the pink dress and took up another and curled its yellow tow locks round her rounded arm.

Florio considered her, wishing to take her memory away with him, as a picture hung in the mind.

She wore a dress of a faded green, that seemed part of the late summer colouring of nature, contrasted as it was with her red hair that, rich and glossy, hung down in careless locks from under her muslin cap.

A pale rose showed in her cheeks and lips, a deep tinted and lively gold outlined her eyebrows and lashes. She had now no painting or dyeing to deform her native beauties. The arched nose, the pouting underlip that gave her so poignant a resemblance to the late Queen of France, added a regal air to her expression, and one that, Florio knew, was misleading, for there was nothing majestic in the simple nature of poor Letty.

"If she has been at fault," he thought, "and never used what little reason she has, it is because there is something angelic about her that ignores the rules of man. She is all passion, all emotion. Under the quiet exterior she is capable of heroism."

He forced himself, out of his languor, to a man's part.

"I cannot ask Philip, but I ask you, have you funds sufficient for all this journeying, hire of carriages and horses?"

"O, I never think about it, Philip says I must not. He sold an estate, he has revenues," she answered vaguely. "Captain Lennard manages his affairs."

"And your own money, and jewels?"

"I left all behind, in London," she answered, surprised. "Of course, all that belongs to my husband. I cannot touch anything."

"Surely Colonel Winslow would wish to send you your personal effects?"

She shook her head, as if she despaired of making him understand.

"Then, the clothes, jewels you wore in Bologna?"

"Philip bought them for me in Paris. I do not know what has become of them, perhaps he has sold them again. What does it matter?"

"Then you have nothing."

"Nothing." She caressed the doll. "Save Philip."

"I must believe that sufficient."

He hesitated, looking at her curiously, envying her certainty of love; even his own offers of help, so pure in intention and so needed, seemed to him an interference. He knew the value all the women of his acquaintance set on jewels and rich appointments, and he remembered how Letty had shone in Bologna. Therefore he could measure the extent of the devotion that did not even ask where all her possessions were.

She wore but a wedding ring, not that, he supposed, that her husband had placed on her finger.

"If misfortune overtakes Philip, send for me," he said, rising, "as if you sent for a brother."

Her brilliant, prominent eyes shone with gratitude; he could see that she was touched, that this was exactly the manner of help she valued. But she was, also, confident in her destiny.

"Nothing will happen to Philip."

She rose also, holding out her hands. She was enchanting when at ease and happy, she was made for smiles and a light heart.

"Philip is coming to see me to-night for the practical issues of this Sicilian venture. There is one promise that he must make to me—to call me if you are in any peril or even inconvenience."

She looked doubtful at that, as if this pledge might lessen the manly pride of her lover, but Florio wondered if she really understood the man for whom she had so cheerfully thrown away the golden gifts with which fortune had endowed her so bountifully.


§ 20

But this was not the pledge that Florio demanded from Philip Calamy when they met that night in the Blaue Stern.

Candles had been lit, the long summer heat had broken and the rain could be heard falling in the invisible trees of the moonless dark beyond the closed windows.

Florio was aware that this setting of a quiet inn room was not suitable to either of them. Acutely aware of his own background, he wondered about that of the other man. He had never visited England, and believed that his guesses as to the society that had formed Philip Calamy and Letty were probably awry.

He was also conscious that he felt no friendliness towards the Englishman, though at one time he had thought him agreeable but trivial, now he knew that he was not the person he thought him to have been and that he was indifferent towards him, would even have been hostile, had it not been beneath him to feel so strongly. He endeavoured, out of courtesy, to make what he said harmless, yet he did not intend Philip Calamy to escape all obligations for the services he had solicited.

It was the Englishman who, bluntly, put forward the subject that Florio was considering.

"You have helped me, prince, and to a man like you an expression of gratitude is an insult—something, however, you expect from me."

Florio refused to be forced to the point; there was a touch of impatience in the Englishman's attitude, as if he wished to be done with a tiresome business, and to this Florio would not concede.

He placed a packet of papers on the table between them.

"These will help you through Italy and Sicily, pray do not forge any more credentials or passports."

"Is that what you wanted to ask of me?" demanded Philip Calamy quickly.

"One of the things. I am no longer Signor Miola. We have set aside our masks and I have put my name to the papers."

"I'll not abuse it," replied the other, coolly placing the papers in the pocket of his shabby summer coat. "Is there anything else?"

"Yes—there is something else that you must promise not to abuse, and that is Letty Winslow."

"Must!" The Englishman repeated the one word with a malicious inflection, quickly softened his tone and added: "It is odd that you should suppose I need warnings as to my conduct towards Letty, since you know what I have paid for her, a very high price."

"That might be, in time, resented."

"I am deeply in love with her, need I say more?"

Florio found these words too smooth, Philip Calamy's beautiful face too expressionless.

"As one man of honour to another," he added, "I assure you that I have now only one possession dear to me, one object in my life, and that is Letty Winslow."

After this, Florio could not force the grave promise that he had intended to extort. Promise or word of honour, what was the difference?

He could not have Calamy watched at Chiaramonte, that would be beneath him. Besides, his ironic wit soon told him it would set a difficult set of suspicions in motion if he were to ask his Sicilian servants to report on his guests, and it would not be easy to have messages sent swiftly and secretly from Bologna to Chiaramonte.

He would have to trust Philip Calamy.

"I told Letty to send for me if she needed help," he remarked. "My reason? I think because there is no other person in the world to whom she could send. And some accident might happen to you."

The Englishman smiled.

"Yes, it sounds a lonely place, this castle of yours, I have not even a servant of my own."

"How will you occupy yourself? I ask again, seriously," asked Florio, feeling acutely the loneliness of the life these two outcasts were accepting.

"I shall write my memoirs and study viniculture," replied the Englishman, unexpectedly. "Moreover, I am really interested in antiquaries. I travelled on the continent before, soon after the revolution, and bought cheaply. I had several cabinets of curiosities."

Florio admired this energy; he felt he had been foolish to imagine loneliness in Chiaramonte, they would have their love and Calamy was obviously a man of energy and resource. As a moment before he had pitied them, he now envied them.

Studying his thoughtful, comely face, on which was a cast of melancholy, Philip Calamy suddenly laughed.

"You are spending a good deal on us, prince, and none of the reasons you give is very plausible; a whim, a fancy for Letty, who is no great beauty—"

"Say that I am a very rich man," interrupted Florio, "in a country where most of the nobility are poor, and that these riches are chance marriages in my family into the families of Bankers in Genoa and Venice, early deaths, leaving me sole heir to much wealth then, all the best of life pressed on me before I was twenty years of age."

"That is something of my history also," put in Philip Calamy, "save that I never had enough money. My uncle is extremely wealthy, but I am no favourite of his. Well, you, pampered by fortune, found us entertaining, is that your motive?"

"No," replied Florio firmly. "I have never lacked entertainment. I was tempted by the novelty of exercising power over other human beings. I followed you, feeling I had you in a fowler's net that I could draw close at will."

"But that was not so easy."

"No. You showed an unexpected cunning. But it came my way to meet Colonel Winslow and interfere in his destiny and yours."

"Thereby saving my life, I suppose."

"Maybe. I wished to save him also. And always I was thinking of Letty Winslow, how harmless she was, and how happy, and how, if you left her or were slain by her husband, she would die abandoned and stupidly." Florio rose. "Why pry into my motives? I have been useful to you and you have promised me that Letty Winslow shall always be in the forefront of your care."

"Which promise is ridiculous, since I left all I had for her—"

"Yet, not so ridiculous, since I asked it, and there might come some pass in which your memory of your word to me would be a stay, cause a reflection, a pause."

"You think I shall desert Letty. That seems absurd. Why must you even think of it?" Philip Calamy spoke with more energy than he had yet shown. "I think you do not understand. Letty told me that you did not understand. We have no longer anything to lose. We have cut ourselves off from everything. We must always live in exile. Why do we do these things?" He also rose and stood listening to the steady rain. "Out of stupidity, or carelessness?"

"From a great passion."

"Yes, that." Philip Calamy turned his head, so nobly set on his wide shoulders, so that he eluded Florio's gaze. His shadow, thickened by the outline of the overcoat with capes, was cast by the candlelight on the whitewashed wall. He was in all his gestures, movements and words, even when he imposed a restraint, a coldness, on himself, full of strength and grace.

Florio admired him, still without liking him; still without completely understanding him He regretted that he must part from these people, so commonplace in much, merely to him the stock figures of the Comedy, yet, also in much, so alien and so strange.

Bologna, where he must return, seemed to him stale; he felt no pleasure at the thought of seeing his friends again, he had no near relatives and no woman who held his special interest.

He would, he told himself, miss this pursuit, the wandering up and down Wurtemberg and Bavaria. He would miss Letty Winslow.

Philip Calamy stood silent, as if waiting for the other man to dismiss him, thus acknowledging that he received favours, but there was no humility in his air and bearing.

"I must bid you a fair journey," said Florio, "and not detain you from Letty, sitting alone in that inn."

"She has her dolls."

The tone was meaningless, but the words moved Florio to ask: "Does she ever think of her children?"

"I do not know all her thoughts." Philip Calamy faced the other man, and the candlelight was golden over his composed face. "She saw little of them when at home. Why must you puzzle over Letty? She is an ordinary woman."

"Her affection for you cannot be ordinary. Where a hundred married women of her rank would carry on a clandestine intrigue, not one would elope with her lover."

"Then I have an incomparable creature," smiled Philip Calamy, "and my joy is immense, if secret." Florio bowed formally.

"Will you write to me when you arrive in Chiaramonte?" he asked. "I shall wish to know that everything is for your comfort. I have made out the papers in the name of Steffens that you say is in your family."

"Yes, you desired me to keep as near the truth as possible. I can assure you of my discretion."

Florio accompanied him to the entrance of the inn, and opened the heavy door on the empty, dark market place and the steady slant of the rain.

The Englishman held a small dark lantern he had brought with him, as he raised the shutter a long beam was cast out into the darkness, and the falling drops were shown swiftly descending and vanishing, from dark to dark.

"I must hope that you will not need my hospitality long," said Florio.

On which the Englishman, pulling his hat over his eyes, asked: "What do you hope for us?"

"That your enemy, so much older than yourself, will die or set free his victim."

"I thank you for your good wishes."

Philip Calamy touched his hand to his hat and strode over the cobbles, along the crooked houses that edged the Square, the beam of his lantern going steadily before him. It was not until this light had vanished abruptly, as the bearer of it passed round the angle of a jutting wall into a side street, that Florio returned to the inn parlour that seemed to his excited fancy more than usually foreign and lonely.

Bonino, who had been waiting for the departure of the detested Englishman, came to offer his services, but his master preferred solitude.

He sat by the newly-trimmed candles and the small wood fire that had been lit against the first damp of autumn, and listened to the rain falling, and thought of Philip Calamy returning to the inn behind the linden trees where Letty Winslow waited with her dolls and toys.

He was fatigued and sat heavily in the worn leather cushioned chair. He was alone and it seemed as if he had shut himself up with an enemy. He was exhausting himself with concerns that were none of his affairs.

They were gone and, in the tumult that was the modern world, some change would soon free them from their southern seclusion, some accident, some chance would hurry them on their way again.

He found it strange that he was so moved by Letty's condemnation of herself. This had caused him to reconsider the standard she had defied, and to feel that she had committed a powerful fault, lost her integrity and been justly condemned.

It was her acceptance of her punishment that had made him consider that her infidelity was not the triviality he had thought it until recently.

Nominally a member of a Church that dealt lightly with offences against a social code that nevertheless she upheld, Florio had followed the manners of his time and place that regarded the preservation of outward appearances as sufficient. Inwardly, and outwardly too when among his equals, Florio was a freethinker and judged no one for breaking necessary but tedious conventions. It was Letty herself who had set other standards. Through her eyes he now saw her husband, not as a ridiculous figure of comedy, the elderly wittol, but as a profoundly wronged human being.

He could even now understand, by an effort of his subtle imagination, the narrow, yet frivolous life from which Letty had fled; the point of view of her sisters-in-law, her family and her friends. There had been the country life, decorous, stiff, bridged with rules and prohibitions, that Letty had been too ignorant and too light minded to find satisfying. And there had been the easy, cynical life of London, that yet kept a respectable surface, where Letty did not really belong. And then there had been the headlong elopement, breaking all the rules of the game, shocking alike the puritan and those of easy virtue. Florio could picture the return of the husband from India where, no doubt, he had adorned his stern profession with more than routine gallantry, to the lonely young wife on whom he doted with the possessive affection of a man passing his prime and for the first time gratified by his own establishment.

It had, evidently, been that, the estate, the family, and all appertaining that Englishmen valued so highly. And then he had found this citadel laid low, ransacked, the treasure despoiled. And the despoiler had been a junior officer of his own regiment, who was in England, while he, the obedient soldier, had been exposing all his fortunes to the total hazard of war.

Florio could understand the agony endured by Colonel Winslow, and he himself experienced a qualm in considering the abandoned children of whom Letty never spoke.

He could not discover the chronology of this story. How old was Letty? How long had she been married? How long left? And Colonel Winslow was two years behind the lovers. Perhaps the long voyage from India had devoured some of this time and no one had told him by letter of his tragedy, or letters had missed him on the way, or he had been ill from shock on his return, or detained, harshly scrupulous as he was, by his military duties.

Well, the time had passed and yet he was still consumed by a passion for revenge.

Liberal, tolerant and even tempered, Florio did not know what it was to feel this passion. He could not conceive of wishing to inflict punishment on anyone. Those he ceased to like he would leave, with an amiable gesture. It had not yet happened to him to be left, he had too much to offer. This terrible emotion was, then, to him but a curiosity, but he could not doubt that it ravaged Colonel Winslow.

Florio sighed, stirred and quenched one of the candles that had guttered to the stick.

He believed that Philip Calamy would keep his word passed to him about Letty's happiness, for there they were at one, a gentleman's code of honour was the same everywhere. She was, therefore, safe from any desertion or betrayal on the part of her lover. "Strange," Florio thought, "that I had to exact that pledge from a man, who, as he remarked himself, had thrown away all for love. And, besides, I do not really distrust him, it was only my great compassion for Letty, who is so helpless, that made me wish to exact that promise."

He wondered if he would ever see either Letty or her lover again, and knew that it rested with himself if he did so or not.

Already he had been bountiful towards them, there was no strain on him to oblige them further.

It would not affect him if they occupied his Sicilian castle indefinitely. If Calamy needed money no doubt, thought Florio with a smile, he would apply for it, and it could be sent, but probably the couple were well provided with these funds sent by loyal friends—one at least, there was, this Captain Lennard Giles—from Calamy's English fortune.

The second candle guttered out unheeded, and Florio sat by the light of one flame only, contending with his enemy who was himself, with whom he was, when alone, in conflict.

For he desired both to forget these people and take them lightly, as a mere kindly amusement, and to follow their story to the end; he wished both to think of Letty as a foolish creature, who had stirred his idle fancy, and as a tragic woman whom he might come to love profoundly, with a spiritual love, for the courage with which she had broken the laws of her society, and the constancy with which she still admitted their validity. This conflict was not resolved. They had parted, that was all that seemed to matter to Florio; the inn, the decayed Gothic city seemed empty. The steady fall of the rain between the two inns separated them like an abyss.

Florio took the solitary candle and went upstairs to his ancient, gaunt bedchamber. Bonino, watchful as a dog, on guard from the closet where he slept, saw his master fling off his coat, then toss himself on to the bed, quenching the last candle with his bare hand.


§ 21

In the other inn, Philip Calamy entered upon Letty seated among the dolls that she had dressed and laid in their boxes.

"This is a dull solitude!" she exclaimed, looking up nervously. "Why did you leave me alone so long?"

"Your good friend must have his say." With a rapid change of voice and manner the Englishman began to mimic the Bolognese, making a parody of his slow, careful academic English, his languid manners, his formal courtesy, all of which were unconscious, but that Philip Calamy made appear as affectations.

"He has been our good friend," said Letty. "Where should we have been without his opportune offer?"

"I should have devised something, my love. But I admit that it is convenient to be well out of your husband's way for the present."

"Then do not deride Prince Florio."

"O, I perceive you have a tender regard for him. No doubt you consider his exertions are entirely because of your charms, my love."

"I care nothing about that."

"You do well not to flatter yourself over much, Letty. This pampered worldling finds us diverting. The custom of infidelity in married women is one much tolerated in Italy—an elopement is startling."

"Prince Florio," she protested, "is not so cold as you infer, he is chivalrous and romantic."

"Your head is still full of novelettes from the circulating library, Letty. Chivalry! Romance! When did either exist save in the daydreams of women."

"Do not be moody," she implored, turning her fair face towards him. "I could be happy, if you were. This is a respite that is offered to us."

"A respite?" he demanded. "What do you suppose our life will be in that desolate place that is offered us?"

"Philip," Letty replied with earnest warmth, "you know how hateful everything has been to me since we left Bologna."

"That means you cannot endure a little hardship, my love. Before we left Bologna, your life was as gay as London."

"It was more secure," she murmured. "But what is so detestable to me is the flight, always moving, one inn after another, then Wilhelmsruhe, so gloomy, so lonely."

"There will not be much improvement at this Chiaramonte, it is given to us because it is desolate."

"There will be the sun, we shall not be shut in by trees. Then there need be no disguise. I was always afraid of your white mask and of having to pretend to be a French princess."

"Do you suppose that I liked my role of servant? Those tricks saved us."

"I know, and you were clever to think of them."

"Certainly I was," replied Philip Calamy, coolly. "I think you forget, my love, that twice your husband nearly caught us."

"Forget? Shall I ever forget that night in Dinkelsbuhl, when we slept in the same inn?"

"And at Wilhelmsruhe, if I had not found that clever rascal, August, your husband would have come upon us. My love, twice these disguises you so dislike have got us out of peril. And why do you dislike them? In London you were wild enough and enjoyed a masquerade as much as any woman I knew."

Philip Calamy spoke quietly, perhaps with indifference. He never referred to the past and she admired his rigorous discipline and copied it, so now she did not take up this glancing hint at her former life, but sat silent, her head in her hand, her elbow on the table where stood the small lamp, her red locks hanging carelessly over her shoulders.

"Why in a brown study, Letty?" he asked. "You are pleased, I thought, that your cavaliere servente should have found you this retreat."

He began again to imitate Florio San Quirico, and spoke with derision of his long hair, his melancholy face, his tastes of an amateur of the arts.

"Is not all this trifling?" asked Letty, with a beseeching glance. "The Prince is very well in his person and I do think that he is kind and generous."

"Do you think I am jealous of him?" smiled Philip Calamy.

"Alas, I know you are not! I should like you to be a little jealous."

"To be jealous in Italy is to make a fool of oneself—if Colonel Winslow had claimed you there he would have been laughed at, and we should have been applauded."

"Why, then, did we fly from him?"

"Because he might have killed me first."

Letty sighed.

"What is our future to be, Philip? We are so young—after this Sicilian interlude—"

"It is not like you to make calculations, Letty. I suppose Colonel Winslow will die of apoplexy or be killed in the next war before long."

"What difference would that make, Philip?" she asked. "Even when we were married we could never return to England."

He glanced at her quickly, trying to read her expression.

"We might live in Paris," he suggested, quietly.

"Yes, that would not be the same as London; I suppose no one would receive me, yet once I was your wife I should not care so deeply about that; but as long as you love me, Philip—"

The plea was familiar, he had heard it frequently since the flight from Bologna. Before that she had been too occupied with gaiety and the brilliant social life, for which her charms and graces so well fitted her, to make such constant demands on his attention.

Philip Calamy gave his usual answer.

"If I did not love you I should not be here."

"You say that every time." She spoke with the self-confidence of a constantly flattered woman. "Remember I have no one save yourself."

"So Prince Florio reminded me. I had to promise to treat you well. He has a strong sentimental regard for you."

"He respects me."

"Why, Letty?" asked Philip Calamy, half laughing. "I mean, you are such a silly little thing."

She was pleased with his good humour and took his comment as an endearment.

"I mean that he does not consider me disgraced. You know, Philip, how delicate a point that is with me.

"I have remarked to you, several times, Letty, that none of Prince Florio's countrymen would consider you disgraced."

She could not answer this, but she knew that in the regard of Florio San Quirico was an esteem beyond mere indifference.

"O, I am tired!" she exclaimed suddenly. "I shall be glad when we are away from this melancholy, decayed country."

"Already beginning to live in the future, Letty?"

"What do you mean?"

"That you are not happy in the present."

"I told you I was not, Philip—the flight, the disguise."

"We shall be disguised in Sicily."

"That will be different. We shall assume our own rank, our own characters. O, I am tired!"

"Go to bed then, my love. I shall have some preparations to make for our journey to-morrow."

Letty rose, hesitant. She felt light headed, as if, in these surroundings to which she could never become accustomed, she had lost her identity.

When she had been living daintily and splendidly openly with her lover passing as her husband, she had, save in moments of secret depression, felt sure of herself as a woman pleased and pleasing, upheld by the brilliant society that accepted her without question. Since she had been a fugitive, pretending different characters, she had felt unsure of herself.

And to-night there was the rain, an unfamiliar sound, after this long, dry summer, and the thought of the early departure on the morrow for a long journey.

More, there was Philip. She did not want to admit it, but there was a fear of estrangement in her tired heart. They had been divided by the parts of mistress and servant they had taken, by the fear that drove them on, absorbing all their senses; in a sense, also, by the interference of Florio San Quirico in their destiny, by the traders at Nuremberg. Their situation was as unreal as it was misleading, Letty thought. Something had passed in the harmony there had been between them. Certainly, she admitted during the two years before the letters from Lennard Giles arrived, they had often been distracted from one another, but always by amusements or cheerful companions.

Never before had they been so much alone together and never had Letty felt so far apart. "Terror," she mused, "has had a numbing effect upon our love. But in Sicily everything will be different."

"Why do you linger?" he asked. "I have a great deal to do. There are all these dolls and trifles to be disposed of."

"Do you concern yourself with them?"

He stared at her across the darkness of the candlelit room faintly dispersed by the glow of her little lamp.

"I have to be careful with money, even with the smallest sum," he said, and turned again to his packing, moving in and out of the gloom, so feebly lit by the one flame, as Florio San Quirico had been lit by the one flame in the other inn divided from them by the rain that they could hear falling steadily through the windless night.

"I'll not hamper you," she said softly.

She thought: "What a strange employment he has. He seems a different person from the Philip I knew so well."

Aloud she asked: "What do you mean, care about money? We have, surely, sufficient, with the price of the lands you sold?"

He answered precisely, not looking at her, as if he concealed bitterness or vexation.

"Have I ever asked your concern in these matters?"

"No, yet now you mentioned it, as if it were important to sell these poor toys. Then, how are we to travel? I have not had a servant since Adriana Beheim left."

"I cannot afford one for the journey. You will have servants at Chiaramonte."

"O, I do not care. I leave everything to you, I have heaped all on you, I submit to everything. I have not even asked where my clothes and jewels have gone. O, I lay no charge on you, only love me."

"I think I do," she thought that he was smiling, though she could not see his face, "a little, as Florio San Quirico loves you."

"Oh, more than a little, Philip!" She longed for the warm and controlling intimacy of his closest affection, but dared not press him farther. All her strength and courage depended on him, all her emotions encircled him, giddy and full of lassitude as she was she expressed obedience, hoping to draw him towards her, into forgetting his occupation, to her so paltry.

Philip Calamy did not respond. He made no movement towards her as she stood, hesitant, at the door.

Letty went to her humble bedroom, taking the candle that was set for her on the stairs and lighting it with an unsteady hand, the flint striking several times vainly on the steel.

Seated on the hard chair by the window, Letty listened to the rain. She felt a regret for she knew not what loss, and broken pictures of her past life, still so short, rose before her fatigued mind.

Some of her blurred and distorted memories were the same as those that had disturbed Colonel Winslow during his labyrinth of journeying across Europe. They were of water meadows, smooth lawns sloping to the river, a handsome house, with long windows open on the summer warmth.

She had found that home tedious, even the company of her two children had been vapid. She saw them so seldom, her husband's sisters were always scolding her on their behalf. She considered, they declared, herself more than her infants. She had gone to London, to stay with a fashionable friend who encouraged her coquettish ways; and after that, everything was Philip Calamy. She tried to put these tremulous recollections from her mind and heart; she would think of last summer when they had passed the villeggiatura with members of the Bolognese world of fashion at the Villa Aria. Florio had played the violoncello—they had danced in the gardens, she had been admired, Letty Latymer, the beautiful Englishwoman.

The attention paid her had been most flattering. Philip had been proud of her, it had really been as if she were his wife, as if Richard Winslow had never even existed.

She had had liveried servants and had never thought of money. Philip had lived extravagantly in London and she had always supposed him rich, she had heard his uncle spoken of as one of the wealthiest men in the country, and though Philip was two young lives off the succession to the title, she had never known him want for anything.

Taking her one candle to the glass, she considered herself. She was not beautiful, surely—no, it had been her air of distinction, of high breeding, her gay temper, the dashing manner in which she could wear sumptuous fashions, that had engaged the admiration of the Bolognese. She had been more sought after in Italy than in London, and there had been no reproaches, no unkindness, no criticism.

It had been, in a way, a fairy land and, like a fairy land, it had vanished and the future was shadowy. Her thoughts, as she put out her candle and in the dark took off her mean clothes, were of Florio San Quirico, in the other inn, across the ancient Gothic city, divided from her by the cobbled streets, the crooked houses, the pelting rain. Although she was entirely occupied by Philip Calamy, she could not forget the services given her by this agreeable man, with his fluent use of her native language, his great wealth and power, his readiness to employ all this for her benefit.

She fell asleep, thinking of him. After a little while Phillip Calamy softly entered the room, a lit candle in his hand that he raised on high. He stood staring down at her red hair, then turned away abruptly to the closet where he had his bed.

END OF PART I


PART 2

§ 22

FLORIO SAN QUIRICO travelled elegantly in Sicily, pausing for a while at his villa in Cefalu, the former Greek town that once on the bluff headland had withstood the Roman fleet, but that now lay along the beach at the foot of the cliffs, behind the walls built to keep out the raiding corsairs, and overtopped by the ruins on the summit of the bold hills. Florio's villa was situate among the broken rocks that lined the avenue that led gently along a low ridge into the town, with the cathedral's two towers on the shore and the gaunt outline of the once princely castle on the heights, standing out clearly against the vivid sky.

This residence, though tolerable only in the Spring, was liked by Florio because of its air of fantasy.

The white building, with porticoes and terraces designed for the enjoyment of air and sun, was screened from the blaze of the Sicilian heat by the flat boughs of blue black cypress trees that rose higher than the casino, and the more delicate fronds of date palms.

Beyond the garden, outlined by a balustrade of alabaster, the sharp rocks, of porphyry or jasper, stretched down to the sea, festooned by dark ivy garlands and interspersed by the grotesque shapes of the prickly pear cactus. On the lower reaches were almond and olive trees, some vineyards, with the vines, unsupported, lying along the hot earth, and set here and there, among the sparkling rocks, in plantations, in the gardens of the villas and growing almost to the verge of the brilliant waves were the manna trees, the plumes of white blossoms, the clear green foliage adding beauty and gaiety to a landscape already bright.

The carriage road from Palermo to Mersina ran along the coast only as far as Cefalu and, as thus the coast journey between the two great cities of the island had to be accomplished on horse back, Cefalu and the adjacent villas were much isolated, and to one of Florio San Quirico's turn of mind, the quiet place merged into the past and had little to force the present on his philosophic mood. The beacon towers on the olive covered cliffs might yet be filled with men waiting to give the signal that the Barbary pirates were sighted; the blue bays formed by the jutting cliffs of yellow limestone, the snowy crest of Monte San Calogero, were the same as they had been during the Carthaginian and the punic wars, and when Frederick Hohenstaufen had named San Calogero—"the most splendid." The Norman churches, chapels and monasteries, many of them in ruins, that stood among groves of sumach and fields of tulips, spurge and purple stock, slid into place in the panorama of his imagination, and became part of a vast perspective charged with the decayed churches of Nuremberg, the chapel that had become a chemist's shop at Stuttgart, the Badhaus of Rippoldsau, the various inns behind their lime trees and the heavy signs of South Germany, where he had stayed his travels. Those travels had passed into his dreams; save there, the Forest no longer existed and he had left forever the park named Solitude, the post houses, their formal, dark bedchambers, the impersonal parlours, the tall room where Letty Winslow had sat with her dolls, and that other chamber, at the sign of the Blue Star, where he had listened to the slanting rain that separated them, like a curtain drawn across the tiled gabled houses, the narrow twisted cobbled streets, the empty market places.

The episodes of the masked lackey and the grave-like mound in the blue and gold summer house, of Letty in a dark wig, of Colonel Winslow at Bode's, of Wilhelmsruhe, with the fine shawls thrown down in the deserted room and the posy of flowers on the window sill, were now as remote from his reality as any Roman noir he had ever glanced at in amused curiosity, any of those tales of Gothic horror his circle in Bologna had repeated with a jest when some one had chanced on a volume of Phantasmagoria written by a gloomy German amateur of the ghostly and the horrible.

For it was as ghostly and horrible that he recalled that late summer in Wurtemberg and Bavaria, a year ago. Yet there had been nothing dreadful about the fugitives or in his pursuit of them.

Colonel Winslow he had sent harmlessly on his misdirected way. Letty he had seen in a quiet mood, humbly clad, without other disguise than that. Philip Calamy had accepted his services in a matter of fact manner, yet, in the remembrance, all had an outline of the haunted and the terrible, as if he viewed them through the delirium of the fever that had infected him, at Stuttgart, from the quantities of over ripe and slightly rotting grapes that sent out the mal aria from the crowded terrace vineyards that ringed the town. Philip Calamy had written a civil, guarded letter, signed in his assumed name of Steffens, as soon as he had reached Chiaramonte, that expressed his satisfaction at the retreat in Misilmeri. This had been followed by other epistles, equally correct, and once there had been a billet, prettily sealed, from Letty, offering her gratitude for her "sweet tranquillity," not disturbed even by an echo from her former existence.

Florio took this to mean that her husband had returned to England and put Letty out of his well ordered and successful career. Perhaps the outraged gentleman had already divorced his fugitive wife, but Florio supposed that Philip Calamy's friends would communicate with him, even at Chiaramonte; he had asked about facilities for post and banking at Palermo.

For his part, Florio had endeavoured to forget them. The steward of his Misilmeri estate, Mario Roccaforte, had written his yearly account and epistle, in which he mentioned, without curiosity, his master's English guests soon after their arrival.

Florio had often pictured Letty, secure in the affections of her lover, and she had become to him something of the distant princess in the enchanted castle, safeguarded from care by her own dim unreality.

The posts were slow and difficult. Florio's last letter had not been answered and it was several months since he had heard of them when he started on the long journey to Sicily.

Now, pausing at Cefalu, he debated with himself as to whether he wished to proceed to Chiaramonte, or, after lingering in a sunny leisure in Sicily, return to Bologna. The winter that he had passed there had resembled all the winters of his life. He had been rallied on the sudden flight of his elegant English friends and his (as it was suspected among the wits) following of them, then this agreeable tattle had died away. The same ladies were offered in exchange for his titles and fortunes, the same friends met him at cards, masks and the theatre; the same acquaintances bowed to him when they passed him by the fountain of Neptune, the palazzo del Podesta, by the tall red towers, or who sat near him on the days of festa in the basilica of San Petronio.

Now he had left them all and they also seemed remote, although so familiar. All these places and people were effaced by the clear sunshine, the hot landscape, the sharp, glittering rocks, hung with the hard shapes of dark ivy, the lavish white blossom of the manna trees, and the imposing outlines of mountains, castle and snowy crag against the blue brilliancy of the heavens.

Florio avoided Palermo, where he had many acquaintances, and left Cefalu only to visit the baths of Sciacca on the summit of Monte San Calogero.

The springs were not yet open for the invalids who yearly resorted to the Saracenic courts, enlarged by Greek monks where the waters, on their way to the groves of fan palms and the sea, possessed such refreshing properties as to acquire the name of aqua santa.

Bonino, who accompanied his master on this pilgrimage, was impressed by the wild and unearthly, as he considered, nature of the spot, with the echoing grottos that penetrated the mountain side, sacred, the cicerone told them, to some pagan demons, and the roar of hidden streams plunging unseen to the sea, that rose from the wells and shafts sunk in the sulphureous rock.

The boiling vapours that arose from these apertures, and billowed from the various caverns that sloped away from the steep and rocky track, caused Bonino now and again to cross himself, with a flashing thought that the priests' talk to which he had hardly lent an ear in Bologna might be true.

The cicerone related the fable of San Calogero, who had been sent by St. Peter to attack and disperse the devils clustering in the crevices of the bare mountain above even the stunted dwarf palm, and to bless their lurking places so that they became healthful springs for the afflicted in body.

Florio San Quirico went ahead, even of the guide; there was but the one path and that, he knew, led directly to the summit of the mountain where was the ancient hermitage of the Greek saint.

He wore a fine silk coat and a straw hat, and the heat enveloped him like a cloak, but as he neared the crest of the mountain, from which the circle of snow had scarcely melted, he called to Bonino to bring him his travelling mantle to wear against the chill. The guide sprang ahead, eager to display the last modern buildings erected by the monks for the visitors to the baths, but Florio dismissed him and turned, solitary, to the ancient hermitage, and from there gazed across the superb vista, the broken rocks that strewed the mountain, the clouds of sulphureous vapour giving place to lavishly fertile plains covered with vines, almond trees and grain, to the lofty peak of Luna d'oro, and the coast line bounding the quivering dazzle of the violet blue sea, a brilliant sweep from Girgenti to Granetola and the isle of Pantellaria shimmering in the purple haze.

"I shall never," thought Florio, "be further away from all distractions. Here are no shadows, or goblins, no dark trees or dim glades, as in the Forest, no to and fro of people, as in Bologna. Here is no intrusion, here there is no one masked, or disguised."

He sighed, leaning on the cool stone where a blue and golden lizard lay immobile. The wide, fair and shining prospect bounded him at an immense distance, the bright freedom of the air, sea and land was his; he felt delivered from himself.

But not from Letty Winslow.

In the city he had not been sure if she had left him or not. Sometimes she had seemed to be standing behind him, sometimes he had lost her, and then the clays had seemed without lustre.

He now set his wisdom against his emotions...did he love her, in any meaning of that abused and tormented word?

Why was it that he could not forget her and her silly little fantastical adventure?

He knew many women more beautiful, wittier, wiser; women with more virtue, too, who could be constant and keep the rules; women with more dignity who would never play the mountebank, but it was always of Letty he thought. Letty, to whom a ride along the rocky coast road would soon bring him, any day he chose.

He gazed down at the grey green groves of olive trees, the white sandy beaches running into creeks, smooth as pale amber, the broad expanses of corn, the swamps in the hollows with cork trees growing on the crags above them, the rosy pink plumey flower of the tamarisk, growing almost to the edge of the waves, the soft strands of the willows bending over the rivulets that ran to the sea, and there, standing on the grey mountain above all this luxuriant beauty of the ancient world, that had lasted so long that it seemed immortal, Florio still thought of Letty.

A monk approached him and, quickly sensing his mood, stood in silence, turning his hollowed eyes, worn with fasting and staring at the implacable words of his breviary, on the magnificent vista that spread before them, like the entire landscape of pagan legend, the eternal background for all the fables that men have never forgotten.

Florio rose from his rocky seat and asked the monk if many foreigners made this steep ascent.

The monk, who appeared surprised to be spoken to in his own language, replied, yes, indeed, they came for the baths that were excellent, and for the perspective that was the finest in Sicily, and sometimes there were antiquarians, who endeavoured to discover the former name of this or that stream or promontory or the site of some battle fought before the dawn of Christianity, such as that stupendous victory won by a Corinthian general over the Carthaginians, on the banks of the Belici, as the learned would now insist.

Florio wondered if Philip Calamy, taking, perhaps, seriously, his pose of antiquary, had made some such investigations, accompanied by Letty, the two of them on donkeys, riding along the rocky defiles, or beside the swamps where the wild duck and lapwings flew.

"Here it is always healthy," said the monk. "But in the swamps there is fever, in the autumn; the roads, too, are lonely and infested by robbers, the locande dirty, indeed those bleak and lonely downs that you see yonder—let your gaze pass the almond trees, the olives and the cornfields—are of bad repute, and I should not advise you, sir, even with the servant I see you have with you, to traverse them."

"But rather to remain here, in your agreeable establishment?" smiled Florio. "Indeed, Father, you speak wisely. But I live—for a while only—at Cefalu where I have a villa."

"You come from the North," replied the priest. "Though you speak the purest Italian I recognise the accent, a man of the world, I perceive," he added with what might have been a wistful note, and he continued that he had some satisfaction in gazing down, as he could every day, across a country and a sea that had been the scenes of terrible battles, and watch the unsullied waves tossing where armed galleys had foundered, and the corn and vine growing where once men had been trampled into the defiled earth.

"I was in Naples at the time of the late massacres," he remarked. "Everything of value in the city was destroyed by the rabble, set on by the English, whose warships kept watch in the bay. The garrison was murdered after surrender, no mercy, no justice, for rebels. I escaped when I could be of no more service. One could say the city ran blood."

"I recall, of course, that barbarous event." The mention of the English had brought Philip Calamy sharply to Florio's mind. No doubt that Englishman could be savage if need arose. "Bologna, where I lived, escaped lightly."

"The last war, and the aimless slaughters, in Paris and in Naples," said the monk, "are now as remote to me as the ancient battles that took place on this wide campaign. Considering this commonplace, I find satisfaction. Those I saw slain in Naples now enjoy a peace as profound as those who fell centuries ago on these undulating downs."

The monk said nothing of heaven or the comforts of faith, and Florio guessed that he was a sceptic who had taken a monk's role in order to withdraw from the world that he had discovered to be too vile and horrible for his endurance.

"I was a scientist," he remarked, perceiving the young man's thought. "My laboratory, my books were burnt by the mob in Naples. Standing here, that seems of no importance."

"I can comprehend your mood, Father."

"But you are young and do not, I think, intend to withdraw from society."

"I have thought of it. I am a very rich man, I lack the energy to employ my wealth to any good purpose. In Cefalu, near my villa, are peasants living in ugly poverty. They exist on poor harvests and the gum from the manna trees. When I am on my estate I give them money. I pay well all whom I employ, beyond that I do not think of them. Some-. times it touches my mind to give up all this wealth that comes from no effort of mine, and to retire to some such spot as this."

"The infection from Rousseau, Voltaire, the affairs of 'eighty-nine in France, these savage wars," said the monk. "But you are not a man of action."

"No. I reflect, I linger, I travel. Sometimes it seems to me that I am always trying to find home and that there is...no way home."

"Of what are you thinking now

"Of this perfection of beauty; the sea resembles a field of wild hyacinth, the hills close packed, the sands shine silver, like snow and rose leaves are the manna trees and the tamarisk, the rocks of jasper and porphyry, glint like gems; the air is full of sparkles of gold. I see not only the true delights of the scene, but these remind me of everything precious and rare that I have ever known, everything lovely and desirable."

The monk considered his comely face, now unlined by any illness or anxiety, his eyes of a gemlike brightness, the hue and sparkle of the topaz, the calm brow beneath the auburn locks. Some such youth had he of the old Neapolitan nobility been, and many such had he seen slaughtered in the prisons and streets of Naples when the King returned from his flight to Palermo.

"What will you do with your life, sir," he asked, "in these chaotic times when peace is only to be had on the mountain tops of a forgotten island?"

"An amateur in everything, I do not know how to answer you," smiled Florio. "My present interest, nay, my interest for nearly two years now, has been two lovers. They have the rare merit of fidelity in adversity."

"Yes, it is uncommon."

"They lost everything for the sake of one another, more than we, in this country, can compute, their entire world is closed to them."

"And they are content?"

"When last that I saw them they were, certainly. They are now in a retreat and I hear little of them."

The monk, who had retained all his worldly good breeding, put no more questions, but Florio continued his story that, as he spoke, seemed to flow into the golden air.

"A husband pursued them, not the pantaleone of comedy but a man of dignity, profoundly hurt; it was as if one could see the wound in his heart. He followed them to the continent with the purpose of killing at least the man. I saved them."

"For the sake of all of them?" asked the monk.

"Yes. I can truly declare as much."

"And you still think of them? And you have climbed to this solitary hermitage to consider them?"

"Yes, but they do not disturb me."

"Humanly speaking, he should have tired of her by this time—a year."

"And two years before that. But what fascinates me is their faithful love. I, moreover, as they both know, am something enamoured of her. Yes, even now, though she is foolish, no great beauty, save for her red tresses, elegant and gay at Bologna, but nothing compared to some ladies of my acquaintance."

"So all your philosophy," remarked the monk, "comes to this, that you undertake a tedious ascent, in order to dream in peace over a pretty woman."

Florio good humouredly tried to explain that his interest was in the situation of these two foreigners, to him so poignant and so moving. He spoke of their adventures in Germany, of the woman's meek fidelity, of her utter dependence on the man, and he related how he had made this man promise his constant protection to his lover who, without that, would, abandoned by all, "die stupidly," said Florio abruptly.

He had always thought of Letty's possible fate in those words; her end would not be heroic, but stupid, fever, the shelter of a convent or a hospital, a grave unnamed.

"He has been true to that promise and to me," he added, shielding his eyes from the level sunbeams. He had thrown off his straw hat, for he stood in the shadow of a rock.

"You have, then, heard from him?" The monk affected a courteous interest in this affair, for he was attracted to the delightful aspect of Florio San Quirico, to his smiling manner and fascinating voice.

"No, nor from her, for several months, but I am sure that if she had come upon misfortune she would have sent to me."

The monk glanced at him tenderly, perceiving how absorbed he was, despite his philosophic air, in the fables he had invented about the strangers who had touched his life and passed on.

The wide and golden vista that had brought peace to the monk in the sense of a painless and not displeasing apathy, now flushed to a deeper, more ruddy tint, that overspread even the white flowers of the manna trees with a rosier glow, as the earth turned from the sun.

"So," said the monk, "you have nothing to fear as you have had nothing to gain from this adventure of the mind and spirit."

"And something of the body, too, father, for I have travelled a good distance over those outlandish Gothic countries, and now here, in this fantastic land."

"The meaning is that you are not yet content."

"Content! I never think of the word."

A bell chimed from the small belfry above the convent buildings beyond the houses, now vacant, for the accommodation of visitors.

The sound was sharp and unearthly on this mountain solitude even to Florio, who all his life had listened unconsciously to the sound of bells in the background of his princely existence.

The monk moved away, a dark figure against the grey rock, to the formal futilities with which he passed the small time left to him on the earth he had found so cruel and so radiant.

Florio San Quirico had to come to a decision here as he had had to come to a decision in the Forest. Should he pass his early villeggiatura in Cefalu and return in the great heat to the mountains and the sea, and so, to another winter in Bologna. Or should he visit Chiaramonte and himself inquire after the well being of his guests?

He noted that philosophy, in the person of the patrician Neapolitan monk, had departed, that common sense, in the person of his body servant, Bonino, remained behind, comfortably in the shade of a sharply-jutting rock, conversing with the cicerone, and that he was left to himself.

There was no one to help him.

And, he asked himself, in what did he need help? Surely Letty was but a phantom of his fancy, a mere fragment of a dream?

But he could not persuade himself of this. She was part of this wide perspective that embraced heaven and earth, the fields of lavish corn, of olive and almond trees, the bleached sands, the glitter of purple horizons where the line of sea and sky shimmered into one light that was more than light as mortal mind could conceive it—and yet she was only poor Letty, the fugitive Englishwoman who had broken all the rules of her caste, as he, Florio San Quirico, would never break the rules of his caste.

Chivalry he had been taught to smile at; good manners had taken the place of this impossible ideal, and he did not know how to classify his affection for Letty, that had been so constant and that asked no return.

And he checked himself on the word "affection" that had formed in his thoughts. He did not know if that was the exact expression of his feeling for Letty.

What problem had the wide vista, so ennobling to behold, resolved for him?

He did not know and he laughed at his own ignorance; how useless to climb a height in order to consider a commonplace dilemma! All this was but indulging a whim, a fantasy.

Yet he could contradict himself there, and with some show of reason. Letty and her lover were real people, not shadows in a fable, and their action in finding and acclaiming one another, in going away together, was, to Florio, more positive and energetic than any action he had known. There was not one of his friends or acquaintances who would be capable of such a decision. Letty Winslow and Philip Calamy had proved to him that romantic love not only could exist but that it was strong and positive.

"It is true," his quick wit reminded him, "that they are living in hiding, under false names and with my powerful protection, yet the fact that they can be happy in that exile and isolation is a proof of the reality of their love."

Fanning himself with his straw hat, for the breeze was stilled, he closed his eyes from the dazzle of the landscape, where every wavelet on the distant sea, every frond of the palm leaves, was edged with burning gold.

He did not, on the most rigid inspection of his wide acquaintance he had to admit this, know of any woman who would have surrendered for him what Letty had surrendered for Philip Calamy, and this set her high in his regard.

"Why should I not visit this paragon, and marvel at her felicity?"

Following these questions came a feeling that the noble happiness of this ideal pair was, in some sort, his possession, a jewel that he had a right to gaze at now and then, if merely to assure himself that such a treasure existed.

He glanced at Bonino and the guide, who were seated drowsily in the shade of the grey rock, heavy with the enchantment of the sun on the mountain, and the girdling campaign below. He wished he had their tranquillity; both were satisfied with their service and their reward. He called his servant, who came at once, and sent him with a piece of gold to offer in the chapel of the Saracenic bath establishment.

Then he began the descent from the mountain to the radiant plains.


§ 23

Florio rode along the narrow path cut into the red breccia, then along the valley of the ficerme de Mirti, overhung with wild myrtles and shadowed by steep heights of golden rock, until he saw, at midday, having left Palermo with the dawn, the poor village of Misilmeri, the flat-tiled roofs of the straggling houses showing bright in the glare of the sun that fell straightly on the lofty, bare cliffs behind the village.

In the valley, flowers that would be amber-coloured and rosy grapes were showing on the baked earth, among the scrolling brown leaves; the black-veiled women were moving listlessly, with pitchers on their heads, treading with bare feet the paths from distant springs, but in the village all was silent and seemed deserted.

Florio had not remembered the place was so poor. He recalled his own wealth and that this was the century of the "rights of man," but was moved to no more than an abstract pity for the wretchedness of these inferior beings. They were part of life, like the mosquitoes and the mules, torments or conveniences as the case might be, and he raised his eyes, slightly inflamed by the dust, to the castle of golden stone, set in a dominant position on the steep, bold cliff, with the wild treeless slopes.

"It is becoming too hot in Sicily, especially for Northerners," thought Florio, and he turned over in his mind what suggestion he should make to Philip Calamy for spending the summer in the mountains of Italy, either in a hunting box in the Apennines, or a casino on the Ligurian coast.

He took the bridle path that led to the square white, red-tiled house of Mario Roccaforte, but the place was empty, the rooms green shuttered against the heat.

"Stay here for me, Bonino, Mario is abroad in the valley, or even up at the castle."

He took the bridle path that wound along the yellow rock to the square yellow building, that appeared as formidable as a fort against the sparkling purple of the sky. In his memory the place had not appeared to him so bleak and lonely, but he knew that within it was cool, rich and spacious, and that there was an inner courtyard with a fountain whose spray kept fresh camellias, orange and lemon trees in majolica pots.

Perhaps Letty would be sitting there now, in the shadow of the arcade, attended by some black-haired girl from the village in her gay festa costume, and between them would be a length of white muslin or linen that they were chequering with a Greek design in red.

Soon he was himself in shadow, that of the castle that fell blue on the golden rock.

The scene had a poetical, even a legendary aspect to Florio; he felt himself in some time more grand and splendid than his own, the squalid village below was far away to him, not only hidden by the bold jutting of the cliff, but by his own absorption in the castle and the lovers it enclosed, like a fortress holding a treasure.

The path widened into a stately approach to a gate in a wall that went zig zag along the cliff that it bended into to the sight, being built of the same substance. This gate stood open and led directly to the outer court of the castle that stood on a tableland of rock.

Now that he was near to the square yellow building it took on form and shapeliness in all the details; the small neat ashlar of the Saracen and the Norman, the towers at the angles, the square headed windows, some of which had been adorned with flamboyant tracery.

Florio San Quirico entered the first courtyard in which there was a chapel, and waited for some groom to take his horse, none appearing he rode into the second courtyard that contained the offices of the establishment, and, no one being there, into the third that was the residence of the family and in which was the flashing fountain of which he had thought when ascending the path between the bare mountain crags.

This too was empty and Florio dismounted, holding by the bridle his white horse whose flanks were stained dark with sweat.

He experienced that sensation of forlorn loneliness that had assailed him when he had entered the empty rooms in Wilhelmsruhe and walked through the park named Solitude.

Here all was bright, radiant, brilliant, of the orient, there all had been dim, dark, gloomy, haunted, but the sense of desolation was a similar pain, then as now, and the weather-stained blue summer house, with the grave-like mound, blotted the clear scene of the inner court, and the sound of the rain at Nuremberg blended with the falling water of the fountain in the basin of pale yellow alabaster.

Green persane closed the round arched windows, that looked on the courtyard, from the sun.

Florio stood hesitant, when a woman, startled by the sound of a horseman, appeared in one of the doorways that gave on to the enclosed space of sparkling water, marble paving stones and flowers gleaming white and red amid smooth glossy foliage.

She had her arms full of newly-washed linen, and a child came running behind her staring with curious black eyes.

"Your mistress, the English lady?" asked Florio. "You did not expect me, I know."

The sharp intelligence of the Sicilian peasant perceived that this was the foreign master of the estate who was, though never seen, so liberal and easy. She answered with respect and the dignity never lacking in her country.

The English lord and lady had left Chiaramonte long ago—they had, indeed, stayed only a few weeks. Doubtless, letters to his Highness had been lost, on the long journey, from floods, brigands. The steward, Mario Roccaforte, had certainly written.

"It is a long time since I heard," said Florio, with difficulty understanding the Sicilian, yet knowing the sense of it at once, without mistake.

They had gone. Been gone for some time. Letters? It was likely enough that Philip Calamy had written from some other part of Sicily, pretending to be at Chiaramonte; useless to ask the woman more, she could not speak Italian but she quickly called a groom, who ran up and took the sweating white horse to the stables in the second courtyard, and she motioned Florio into the room, where she stood and shouted up a corkscrew staircase. The steward appeared at once, tall, lean, a red silk tied round his shaven head; he, too, at once understood the moment and the problem.

Though greatly surprised at seeing his master, who had not been to Chiaramonte since he was a boy, the steward was gravely composed. His accounts were in order, he knew, and the property excellently maintained. But he soon realized that Florio San Quirico was not interested in these matters, but in his English guests.

"I am utterly surprised, Mario, that they should be gone."

The steward, shrewd, obliging, could but repeat that he had written of this departure—ah, but some time after the lord and lady had left; he supposed these noble friends of his master would themselves inform him of their movements.

Florio knew this was reasonable. He had purposely abstained from giving Mario any hint that he required news of his guests. Philip Calamy must have discovered this delicacy and taken advantage of it. "Why did I ever trust him after all his tricks?"

The woman returned with a glass of iced sherbet and some sweet biscuits that she offered as gracefully as if she was a handmaiden of Ceres, the goddess of the island.

Mario, standing easily, explained his care of the castle. He was staying up there for a few days, as he did now and then, to set everything in order.

"And no one ever comes, or only comes to leave," said Florio. He felt sick and weary, his gaze fell to the slats of vivid light on the mosaic floor that fell between the bars of the sun blinds. There were paintings of nymphs with butterfly wings on the walls, and set against them cabinets of Sicilian agate and amber, with between terra cotta busts of satyrs on porphyry plinths.

"I shall stay," he added. "I hardly expected to find my friends, yet I supposed that they might have remained here for the winter."

This, it seemed, was not so. Mario did not require to be questioned, he observed that every detail about the English visitors would be acceptable to his master, and readily gave these.

They had arrived, after rough travelling and without servants, early in the New Year. Mario had supplied them with every luxury in his power, obeying the letter that had arrived from Nuremberg shortly before they came, and that other which they brought with them from Florio.

The lord had been able to make himself understood in Italian; the lady knew little, and it was difficult with the women servants, peasants from the estate. The lord had shown an ardent interest in everything, made himself agreeable, and been very gracious; his wife was shy and seemed fragile, she spent most of her time in her room, sitting over the charcoal brazier.

Once she had dressed herself in some of the ancient garments kept in the chestnut wood chest.

For the rest, Mario could not remember that she had ever done or said anything to be noted.

Then they had left, while the winds still blew bleak from Etna, refusing service, merely borrowing mules and a guide who brought the animals back to Chiaramonte.

Since the steward had not expected them to stay long, this had not been surprising, and not until his next quarterly account that had probably passed Florio on the road from Rome to Naples, had he mentioned how brief the visit had been.

Now he was extremely discreet, if the little episode had seemed to him anything out of the common, he gave no hint of this.

Florio San Quirico knew himself outwitted. He was sure that the Englishman had coldly and carefully deceived him. Philip Calamy had never intended to stay in the Sicilian castle, his going there had merely been to cover other designs. Florio reminded himself that he should have expected this after the Englishman's ingenious tricks and masquerades. It had been foolish to consider him as desperate and eager to accept any shelter offered. He was far too cunning easily to be in distress for an expediency. His aim had been Palermo, a city with many resources; Florio remembered that he had questioned as to the facilities of the capital. There he had gone, with Letty, and there, most likely, he was lost, not only to Colonel Winslow but to Florio himself.

"I was made use of," reflected the young man. "At one time I was amused to imagine that the fate of these two people lay in my hands. But no, I was, instead, merely a tool for this rascal's designs."

This was the first time that he had given an ill name to Philip Calamy, now it came instinctively and was retained deliberately. Yes, the Englishman was a rascal, a scoundrel, the promise he had made to protect Letty was worthless. Florio was even doubtful as to the love between these two that had seemed to redeem them both from follies and lies. Once, no doubt, their passion had united them, but Florio thought that it must, naturally, have burned away, at least on the man's part, though she seemed by nature constant, tender and obedient.

Florio wished that she had appealed to him in the crisis of her fortunes that had evidently overtaken her—but perhaps she had gone as the willing companion of Philip Calamy. But on what excuse and why? And what could her life be in Palermo, without money, in disguise and in hiding?

Florio recalled the mumming she had already undertaken at her lover's bidding—a French princess in a transparent mask, a toy dealer's wife—subterfuges engineered with a kind of malicious relish by Philip Calamy, but with a kind of passive terror (or so it seemed to Florio) by Letty.

"The lady took some of the dresses with her," said the steward with distant respect, he added that he felt answerable to His Highness for this, but that the English lord had assured him that the Prince had desired him to take the garments.

"For all that," added Mario, "I should have prevented him, since he showed no authority, but I could not, without using force."

"You were well advised, Mario."

Florio knew that the steward did not trust Philip Calamy though he had given such a good report of his behaviour.

"What dresses did my guests take?" he asked, now careful to avoid the word "friends."

The steward described them, clothes that had belonged to Donna Bianco and Donna Luisa, Florio's mother and grandmother. They were garments of an orient richness, and with them had been taken combs, brooches, chains and belts, not of precious metals and jewels, but of some value.

"So, a thief," thought Florio. "Yet of what use to him this plunder? Letty cannot wear fashions of a century, of fifty years ago, and the clothes would be worth little in money."

Aloud he commended Mario and dismissed him. Even behind the persane the heat was like a spell, impeding movement, almost thought. The magnificent, formal decorations of the room afforded little repose to a weary spirit. Florio did not like Chiaramonte nor yet Sicily. Neither did he consider with pleasure the long journey home to Bologna nor the life that would await him when he arrived at his destination.

The flick of the word "home" into his tired mind brought a new turn into his vague speculations as to the fate of Letty Winslow.

Perhaps a friend—they had spoken of a friend who had kept in touch with them by letter—had written to inform them of the death of Colonel Winslow, and they had married and returned to England. Florio recalled that Letty had herself rejected this hope with vehemence. She had declared that in the society of her country, where divorce was possible, it was utterly shameful, and the legal means provided for redress from a hateful marriage were regarded with abhorrence and that never would or could her lover make her his wife.

But this seemed to Florio, not knowing England, as grotesque. He still supposed that they might marry and return to their kinsfolk and friends, nor could he persuade himself that Philip Calamy was debarred from serving his country in the field because he had eloped with another man's wife.

His heart felt lighter as he considered the errant couple as married and the man restored from his vagabond existence to a place of honour. Perhaps by now he was fighting on the continent where English troops were again engaged in war.

He put the case to Bonino that evening when the servant was with him in the large bedchamber that looked on to the barren slopes of the mountain that had a metallic outline against the livid pink sky. Curtains of fine muslin protected the windows against the mosquitoes and the mal aria of the evening. For the same purpose Bonino kept a brazier of incense burning, the blue smoke from this blurred the sharp outline of the heavy furniture and the outer glare of light that, even through the nets, ached on the sight.

The servant disagreed with his master and even accused him of becoming infected by a Northern romanticism.

For his part, he considered that the English pair were in some new masquerade, and probably in Palermo.

"Why should he—I do not say they, Bonino, for I think that there is but one will between them, and that is his will—have left the shelter, security and dignity of Chiaramonte for any mountebank adventures?"

"I think that the Englishman—and you are right, sir, he alone counts—would find the life here insufferably tedious. Moreover he would feel spiteful towards you because he is under an obligation to you, and would delight in throwing your favours back at you by leaving your home in this ungrateful manner."

"He had no, or little, money."

"He had his wits," replied Bonino. "He is cunning and clever and enjoys tricks, also, being an outcast, it soothes him to fool and prey on the society that has rejected him."

"Why, you speak as if you knew what he was doing, Bonino."

The servant answered that he could indeed guess the occupation of the Englishman, and he begged his master to consider the man, the circumstances, the place, for surely this adventurer had got no farther than Palermo. "It would be difficult for him to leave the island—here, your safe conduct protects him, beyond he would have to produce passports and he cannot continue to forge these. Besides there is war again, making all travel exceedingly hazardous."

Florio reflected on what Bonino had said, and on Philip Calamy, and Palermo, as he knew it by reputation, not having visited it since the days of his early youth.

"Then, Bonino, following your suggestion, I should say that the man has become a professional gambler."

"Precisely, sir. He is a born gambler, as is manifest in his actions. It is a great, mastering vice with the English—once they turn to it, they become addicts."

"It might be," agreed Florio. "He has the skill and address to gamble for a livelihood, and to such employments come men of his stamp. Palermo, rich, idle and corrupt, would offer him some scope, but not for long. Utterly déclassé, he would soon be an object of suspicion, and have to move, as such gentry do, and where to?—as you wisely remarked, Bonino."

"Yes, in time he would have to fly, possibly from the police. Not yet, I think. His talents are considerable and he would find not only profit but diversion in the role of card sharper."

"He is a gentleman," protested Florio, caught at that last word. "And though lost to all honour, I doubt if he would know the devices whereby to fleece the honest and credulous that card-sharpers are so adroit with."

"If he did not know them, sir," replied Bonino, "he would not be able to make a living out of card playing. Had he decided, in desperation, to take to cards, and played fair, he would at once have been ruined."

"He may have been so ruined."

"I do not think so, sir. All his life, I am convinced, he has betted, gambled, laid wagers, ay, and for high stakes, also, as he did in the French disguise, in the Nuremberg disguise, and that under which he came here; each time, sir, he played total hazard, for his life, and won."

"That is true, Bonino."

"It is his manner and his nature, sir," proceeded the servant, encouraged by his master's quiet approval. "Moreover, he likes to cheat."

"He played straightly in Bologna and was not often at the tables."

"Because such behaviour suited the part he was acting, that of an honourable soldier, wounded and in repose.

"You have studied him closely, Bonino."

"Alas! Yes, sir, for you have attached so much importance to him. But I speak in deference. What, sir, is your opinion of this Englishman?"

"I share yours, Bonino. As far as I can judge one who has deceived me, you have understood him correctly. I think it likely that he has sunk to some gambling salon in Palermo. But, in that case, Bonino, what of the poor lady?"

"We can suppose," answered the servant cautiously, "that he has kept her apart in some casino in the suburbs, and that she knows nothing of his occupation. She is meek and incurious and wholly trustful."

"Yes, we may suppose that," replied Florio, "for I have no reason to think him quite detestable." He was silent a moment, then added: "There is a flaw in our reading of this fellow's character. An artful rogue, a cool gambler, an adroit cheat, we decide, yet, Bonino, on an impulse of sincere emotion—love for a woman—he threw away everything that he must have valued. And he has been faithful to her. No, a worthless man would not have eloped with Letty Winslow, she is no enchantress and has no coquetries, a worthless man would not have been constant to her."

"That action," agreed Bonino, still speaking with respectful reserve, "is indeed difficult to read. The seduction of the lady would have been in his character, as I see it, but the elopement is not. As for his constancy, certainly he could have abandoned her, but she may be useful to him."

"What! Do you not allow him passion? Love? I do and must—that is the sole interest these people have for me, their common love."

"Alas," thought the servant, turning from his master, "I would that this were so, but you are entangled far more deeply than that in the fortunes of this accursed couple. A mere respect for their love and what they have sacrificed for it? Indeed no, you are absorbed in them, and enamoured of the woman, for all I can see to the contrary."

Florio noticed the man's silence and his averted face. "I do not defend myself," he smiled. "You know that I shall go to Palermo and search for them."

"I do indeed," replied Bonino. "I shall, of course, do what I can to help you. I have long ceased the impertinence of imploring you to give up this quest."


§ 24

Florio San Quirico paused in the bedchamber that Letty had occupied in the castle of Chiaramonte, as he had paused in that she had occupied in the hunting lodge at Wilhelmsruhe.

Here she had left no trace of her presence, no shawls of yellow and white silk flung over chairs, no flowers on the window sill.

The hard South did not offer posies, here were no romantic shadows, here no darkling forest, but the vivid sun, and the hot air and a dry dust on walls faced with yellow marble, on tables of alabaster, on stiff furniture covered in bright Genoese velvets.

Beyond the windows were the bare yellow mountains, the pink skies, the angular shapes of the prickly cactus, termed by Sicilians Indian figs, and the wounding brilliancy of the air that was composed of millions of burning motes.

He wondered that she had not chosen a room that looked on the inner courtyard where the fountain plashed over the glossy leaves of the white and crimson camellias in the cork-filled vases of white earthenware. Mario had said that she had chosen this outside room herself, refusing those formerly the chambers of the ladies of Chiaramonte.

A whim or delicacy?

In either case Florio found something touching about the action, as if it had been a gesture of thanks or gratitude towards him. Better than a letter, he thought, for gratitude can only be expressed indirectly. Then he recalled the garments so coolly taken. No nicety there. If she turned aside from using the rooms hitherto belonging to his women folk, she had not scrupled to avail herself of their hoarded finery.

But he saw Philip Calamy's hand in that, she would be passive. No, Florio thought that she would have protested. Why did the Englishman want the clothes?

Florio thought of yet another masquerade and this was most unpleasant to him. He did not wish to see Letty in another disguise. Yet he could not have told himself why he wished to see her at all. She was already veiled from him by the passage of time. She had followed her lover, leaving no message, no token for the man who had helped her at such uncommon pains. She had given no recognition of the luck that had sent so powerful a person as Florio San Quirico across her path, the luck that she had aroused his intense interest. She had slipped away from the refuge he had offered her as she must have slipped away from her home and husband, from her family and her country.

There was not the slightest warrant or excuse for Florio to meddle further in the poor fortunes of Letty Winslow.

He knew that, and knew that he must try to find her, continue to puzzle over her story and her character, challenge Philip Calamy as to his right to control her destiny—yes, challenge him, but indirectly, matching craft to craft.

He was aware now with whom he dealt, a scoundrel, though he still gave him the honour of a powerful poetical love and passion such as he, Florio, could never hope to experience. But for the rest, Bonino had seen him clearly. It was likely enough that he would be found in the gambling rooms of Palermo.

To indulge his own zest for excitement and license, he had taken Letty from the safe retreat, where she was respected and where she could live softly, to the hazards of his own disreputable fortunes in a dissolute city. Florio hoped that he had, as Bonino so cautiously had suggested, kept her safe in some little house in the suburbs of Palermo, where he would return, kind and loving, never telling her of his means of livelihood. Such conduct alone could, in Florio's opinion, condone his brutal departure, without a word to his benefactor, from Chiaramonte.

Believing in his love for Letty, knowing what he had lost for Letty, Florio could trust that she was, in so much, safe with Philip Calamy, yet beneath that trust was an unresolved and tenacious doubt as to any good being in the nature of the wayward Englishman.

Letty had made no impression on the Sicilian servants, alert, intelligent and interested in the unexpected foreigner. Florio himself indirectly, and Bonino more directly, had tried to learn something of the ways, manners and disposition of the Englishwoman during her sojourn in the yellow castle.

She appeared never to have done or said anything that was not entirely commonplace. It was as if no one had noticed her at all. But everyone had noticed Philip Calamy, his good looks, good humour, his skill in everything to which he turned his mind or his hand, his readiness in learning Sicilian.

"I did not," thought Florio, "see much of that good humour—humour it must be, not nature, and affected for a purpose. The man has qualities, it is evident." And again Florio turned to the possibility that the lovers were now married and had returned to England. He wished that he could receive that unlikely news, for he knew that if he did he would be able to dismiss this haunting phantom of the futitive Englishwoman from his life.

This thought increased the energy with which he resolved to discover Philip Calamy and his companion.


§ 25

The Sicilian nobility had left Palermo for the summer months, but the sumptuous city had lost nothing of its rich, oriental and extravagant air. Though so many of the palaces were shuttered against the unbroken blaze of the sun and inhabited only by servants, there remained a large population of those who would not forego urban delights even in the blaze of summer, and people who had been driven from country to country during the long European wars, who now had no longer any thought of home, and who picked up their livings as best they might and with no great nicety.

Added to these were the jostling crowds of adventurers who find a field of action in every large city. Many of them were refugees from Naples and the interior of Italy, some were deserters from the one time conquering army of the French and the one time conquering navy of the British, who had found the luxurious life of Sicily more to their tastes than the hazards of war.

They preyed upon one another and upon such students, country gentlemen and travellers who wished to investigate the byeways of Palermo regardless of heat, disease and filth.

Added to these were the monks and nuns from the numerous convents, who led an existence apart, yet contributed to the atmosphere of the city with their chants, processions and bell ringing.

Florio San Quirico did not trouble to disguise himself in a city where there was no one his equal or likely to trouble about him if he lived quietly.

The untempered heat, reflected in thousands of rays and facets from the gilt and mosaic domes and towers of Palermo, foretold, the physicians said, the plague, and excited and clamorous presses of the ignorant and the fearful were already filling the dark interiors of the gorgeous churches.

There was a deadly stagnation in the burning air, foul odours arising from the beautiful profuse gardens, and clouds of venomous insects whirling in the searing sunlight to give some colour to their miserable dreads. From the poor quarters the death bell tolled incessantly, and the death carts rolled incessantly, carrying away the bodies of the beggars, thieves and those depraved by wretchedness who herded in the slums of Palermo.

Florio felt himself infected by something of the restless depression caused by the proximity of so many nervous dreads, such frequent recitals of unavenged crimes and untended diseases.

If he was aware of the stately splendour of the city, so superbly set on the bay of purple ocean, and overhung by a stainless sky, rosy with sun by day and dark azure by night, shot by the pallid rays of a monstrous moon, so he was also aware of the putrid smells from the narrow streets, the drooping forms of the passers by, the languid wasted faces of those who sat listless on balconies, behind ornate railings.

He thought, with an unreasonable apprehension, for the plague had not yet come to Palermo nor, indeed, to Sicily, that Letty, blotched with corruption, was already lying dead in some pest house, and a cold rage, such as he had never felt before, rose within him towards Philip Calamy, who had taken her from the security of Chiaramonte, with the cool rooms, the plashing fountain, the bright flowers, and the willing servants, into the dismal perils of the corrupt city.

The larger houses of accommodation for travellers being closed, Florio and his man had found rooms in an osteria of the better sort that was kept by a Frenchman, not far from Monte Reale. This man was something of a philosopher and told his guests that he did not expect the pestilence since the summer was already far advanced without the least sign of it. "But," said he, "every year, when the gentry forsake the city and the rag tag remain, the monks get the upper hand and one sees the Capuchins and the Carmelites, the Franciscans and others, out in processions frightening the people with their misereres and their ghostly looks."

"But many die," said Florio. "There is some sickness abroad."

"As always in the heat, sir, and when the baser sort press together in their fairs, markets and plays, and there are many wandering vagabonds about, such as discharged soldiers, jugglers, quacks and mountebanks."

Florio set Bonino to ask this fellow about the gambling salons of the city and received the report that there were many, and not all known to honest men.

Concealing his secret behind a show of candour, as was his wont, Florio said that he was searching for a weak young relative who had escaped guardianship and was believed to be in hiding in Palermo, wasting his estate in vile company, and he asked if there were any resorts where such people might be pleasantly entrapped by rogues.

The Frenchman said that the assistance of the magistrates and the police had better be sought, but Florio could not accept this advice, as he did not really wish to rescue a victim from a gambling salon, but to find a man running one.

The best known of these places Bonino had soon visited and by means of money and wit discovered that they had never had anything to do with an Englishman answering to the description of Philip Calamy.

He then, on his master's instructions, began a search through the lesser dens or hells, as they were truly termed, of the city, where card play for high stakes was combined with traffic in all the profitable vices.

Some of these places he visited warily, afterwards burning fumigants over his clothes and always keeping vinegar handkerchiefs and pastilles powerfully recommended by Bolognese physicians, crushed against his nostrils. Such tawdry resorts were often found in decayed mansions, crudely patched against the searching sun, or in ancient playhouses, long neglected, where the stage served for the tables, the tattered scenery to drape the flies and wings, and the auditorium as a dormitory, where on straw, cloaks and saddle bags, the outcast and the criminal slept and cooked their meals on braziers before the doors were opened to the evening's play.

In none of these places did Bonino find Philip Calamy though he came across several Englishmen.

To one of these he confided something of his quest, giving the outline of the story and no names.

The Englishman grinned.

"Why trouble yourself?" he asked. "This man goes his own way and will not thank you for following him."

Bonino thought so, too, and said so, but added that he served another, a powerful Prince of mid-Italy, who was to set these two on the way to a life of honour in their own country.

The Englishman swore at such simplicity.

"Why, my master is far from simple," protested Bonino.

"Then he is infatuated," retorted the other, "not to realize that there is no way home for such as these."

"So the sad lady used to say herself," agreed Bonino. "But you speak justly when you speak of my master as infatuated. So he is, though he does not know it, but thinks of himself as only animated by kindness and a philosophical curiosity."

When he returned to Florio he related this incident. "The fellow was a gentleman, though much fallen, and knew his own country. 'No way home,' he declared, for such as they."

But Florio only replied: "I must find them."


§ 26

When they had been in Palermo for a week without any respite from the yellow glare nor any success in their search, Florio met an acquaintance of his in the street, who recognized him with surprise.

Florio explained that he was in villeggiatura at Chiaramonte and had come into the city to make some purchases for the farm. He did not expect this to be credited by the young Sicilian, but he knew that he would not be questioned. He had often entertained the elegant nobleman at the Villa Aria and he was now entreated to visit a summer retreat near the royal palace at the Conca d'oro, where Biago Giandola was in residence with members of his family. Florio, sickened by the heat, the sights and fumes of the city and Bonino's reports of squalid haunts of vice and crime, accepted and, sending to the osteria for his servant, drove away at once in the young duke's carriage.


§ 27

The villa to which Florio was taken was situate in a curve of the yellow cliffs that abutted on to a deep blue ocean, clear of the stains of the harbour and the city.

The villa house was toylike, in the Chinese fashion, with a curved roof, bells and half moons in silver, tinkling in the slight breeze that blew from the sea in the evenings.

The rooms were mostly circular and to avoid the tedium of the presence of servants, the dining table set with dishes, appeared from and sank through the floor by a mechanical device. The furniture was light and delicate; the ladies of the party in Parisian muslins and leghorn straw hats. They showed themselves kindly towards Florio whose long absence from society had given him an attractive romantic air in their eyes. They associated this withdrawal of a young man of wealth, rank and charm, from the companies he had so long adorned with some secret story of love, and admired him for his constancy while they regretted his indifference to themselves.

They agreed that he seemed melancholy, had lost much of his philosophic air and displayed but a feeble interest in the arguments on art and letters where he had once shone; they remarked his amiable smile, the veiled expression in his topaz coloured eyes, the extreme simplicity of his dress and appointments, and some of them endeavoured to tease and tempt Bonino into disclosing the reason for his master's long wanderings across Europe and avoidance of those of his own rank.

But the servant kept his counsel. None of these people had known of the sudden flight of the English visitors from Bologna and therefore they had no suspicion of the cause of the Prince of San Quirico's eccentric behaviour.

For his part Florio found the retreat pleasant, it did not seem to be on the same island as Palermo.

Here was nothing noisome, no fears, no anxieties. The air blew pure from the sea and was scented by the orange and lemon trees that were set in pots along the terraces and round the white tiled pagoda at the end of the cypress walk.

The bright fruit had already formed along the dark leaves and the sun extracted an essence from the brilliant rind that mingled with perfume of the box hedges that edged the walks.

Here was shade, here was water, in fountain and in pool, here was peace, elegance and agreeable company. Florio wished that here also was Letty.

But time was drawing veils that soon would be veils of oblivion more closely round that fugitive figure; time not as is measured on clocks, but the time known to the spirit and the fantasy, that goes by leaps and starts or stays still, according to the place and the circumstances.

The Sicilian journey had removed Letty far from her pursuer. She had left no memory at Chiaramonte, he could not think of her as at Palermo, and though he idly wished that he might find her on one of the marble seats by the termini with goats' heads and human masks shadowed by the grey foliage of the ilex trees, he would have thought her out of place there, and more and more definitely as the summer days passed did he think of her as returned to the safe cool north with her lover.

Bonino, however, continued his labours in Palermo, going to the city every evening and searching carefully any place where he considered Philip Calamy might be. He did not share his master's dreamlike feeling that the English couple had left Italy. As a practical man this did not seem to him possible, and the "no way home" of Philip Calamy's compatriot was deeply impressed on his mind.

He remained convinced that the Englishman would make his living in the way best suited to his needs and temperament, by gambling, and he guessed that the adventurer was doing this under some cunning disguise, since his natural appearance was so conspicuous and would have at once attracted attention and become known in Palermo.

Nor, though he dutifully searched base habitations and vile abodes, did Bonino really expect to find Philip Calamy other than prosperous. He was too cunning, too brilliant, too accomplished not to have made, Bonino thought, a success of any roguery that he undertook.

Yet again, the faithful servant argued to himself, if Philip Calamy had cut a figure at anything, it was odd that he, Bonino, with his constant combing of the purlieus of the city should not have heard of him. So Bonino continued another man's quest, becoming worn, frowning and taciturn with this vicarious burden so that even Florio bade him desist and rest until the cool autumn came.

But Bonino would not leave his search, now on this excuse, and now on that, he went daily to Palermo sometimes not returning at night to the Villa Giandola.

Florio did not trouble to explain his servant's continual absences though he knew that they must be observed. He and his acquaintances were linked in a gentle intimacy that might soon dissolve and they part never to meet again. They accepted him without wishing for an explanation of his reserves.

Sometimes the women tried to reach him by music, by song and harp, spinet and flute, played when the swift dark fell and the large stars seemed to hang low enough to touch the tops of the cypress trees.

He was touched by their tenderness and thanked them for their entertainment, but kept his secret without knowing that he had one, for he was not even aware that he was brooding in his mind over Letty Winslow. At this period her image had become blended into all his musings of fair women, and this though he knew that she was not beautiful. Philip Calamy he considered very little. His first anger at the thought that he had taken Letty into a place of pestilence had vanished. The summer was passing and there was no plague in Palermo, nor did he any longer think that Letty was hidden there.

On the other hand Bonino thought of the man, and of the woman hardly at all. He supposed it quite likely that she was dead, or utterly broken and hidden away, so degraded that she was no longer Letty Winslow even to herself. For Bonino did not think, as his master did, that any mighty and pure passion bound Philip Calamy to his companion. Certainly it was difficult to find any other ground on which he could have made the cruel sacrifice of his elopement, yet Bonino did not credit that the Englishman loved Letty nor that he would not, on the best opportunity, be rid of her. But Bonino said nothing of this to his master.

When he had, as he believed, exhausted all the disreputable gaming houses in Palermo, Bonino began to reflect anxiously on the private residences still open, where high play took place.

He believed it possible that Philip Calamy had gained a footing in good society and was in some disguise or other, a hanger on of an establishment of the better sort where vice was accompanied by luxury, and idleness gilded by elegance.

Careful inquiries brought one such residence under his suspicions. When he considered that he had his case clear he brought the matter to the notice of Florio.


§ 28

"Bonino, I begin to weary of this pleasant place," said Florio. "I am becoming inert, almost drowsy."

"I think there is a chance that I may have found him, sir."

It was the most lovely moment of the Sicilian dawn. Florio had sent for the servant to bring him some ice water and the two stood together by the window, overlooking the garden, Florio in a chamber robe, with the thin porcelain beaker in his hand.

Bonino chose this time to bring his news, for they would not be interrupted.

"Yes, sir," he insisted, with an emphasis of his usual deference, "I believe I know where this artful foreigner is concealed."

"It is the lady I search for."

"I know, but to find one is to find the other," Bonino covered up his mistake.

"I am very wearied," smiled Florio. "And mostly by dreams. I wonder you do not bear me a resentment, my faithful friend, for all the fatigue I have put you to—out of idleness—I have sent you to chase my chimera."

Bonino blushed with pleasure and looked intently at his master's gentle and noble face, pale from a sleepless night.

"I do not take so fanciful a view, sir. I am a common man searching for, as I think, an uncommon rogue, and I believe I have found him."

Florio glanced at the servant in perplexity. His musings had been so long drawn from reality, certainly during his sojourn near the Golden Shell, that this hint of something concrete seemed like an intrusion.

"There is a Russian come, none knows how, to Palermo," said Bonino. "An old man, who boasts of having once served the Empress Catherine. Some say he is really a Scot. He has hired the palace of Prince Camaldi that is of modest pretensions and situate near the outskirts of the city, near some ruined dwellings and a tavern. This man, who is named Demetrious, or some such title, and claims to be a prince, is of sober and respectable repute and sufficient fortune to maintain himself. The story—spread by himself—is that he brought a store of plunder from St. Petersburg and has since been travelling the world spending it."

Florio noticed the seriousness of his servant's voice and feigned an interest in this report. He observed that Bonino looked strained, fatigued and lean and he felt remorseful because of the hardships he had undertaken for what he himself accounted a tedious folly.

Intent on his tale, Bonino proceeded.

"A careful scrutiny shows this old Russian to be of dubious origin, a stranger to Palermo and a keen gambler, though Sicilian society knows nothing of him. He entertains all new corners to the city, sending invitations to all foreigners, discreetly enough—in short, he runs a gambling hell. It is difficult for anyone whom he suspects to obtain admittance to his house, and he suspects all but likely victims of his skill at cards. He has a young woman with him who is, or feigns to be, his daughter. She is seldom seen, but graces the tables now and then."

"A gambler's decoy," remarked Florio, watching the brilliant light spread over the garden.

"Exactly, but it is all done very well. Now there is an aide, or secretary, in this establishment, who is supposed to be a Frenchman, a Monsieur Désiré, but I think this is Philip Calamy."

"Why, Bonino?"

"The description of his person, though disguised, sounds like that of the Englishman, who has already passed as French and is extremely clever at these masks. Moreover, this is the kind of employment that he would seek and obtain."

"Where would Mrs. Winslow be

"In some little casino—safe, no doubt," said Bonino with the precise caution he used on this subject.

"Yes, I do not think Mr. Calamy would take her into that kind of underworld," agreed Florio confidently. "Your story is strange, Bonino. I know you would only tell me this after careful consideration, yet I cannot see how you connect Philip Calamy with this Désiré."

"If he be not this fellow, then I cannot think that he is in Palermo," said Bonino with a sigh of fatigue. "Pray recall, sir, how I have searched."

"Why should this gentleman—as he is—leave the dignity and respect that he had at Chiaramonte, for this vile life?" Florio again put this question that was so hard for him to answer.

"He is a gambler, sir, and would not be under an obligation to you."

"And to that he would sacrifice this unfortunate lady who lost everything for him?" asked Florio doubtfully.

"I am sure, sir, that the Englishman is thinking of what he lost for her."

But Florio had already taken this news in the romantic spirit he now so frequently indulged.

"There is something noble," he declared, "in this man, outcast as he is, undertaking this degrading occupation to keep this lady in safety and hidden, even from the casual eye. Yes, I can understand that out of a jealousy that she should not accept anyone's favour he took her away from Chiaramonte, and that he would have no means of supporting her, save in a large city and by his wits. Surely a constant love unites them and he is happy in his card sharping as she is in her retreat."

"If you think this, sir," suggested Bonino modestly, "should you not leave them alone? Supposing that this Monsieur Désiré is Mr. Calamy, what purpose do you serve by discovering him?"

"That is reasonable," agreed Florio. "But I am not in a reasonable mood. I wish keenly to see this man and to discover how he lives. I must know the end of this love story."

"The end will not be yet, sir."

Florio ignored this and asked Bonino to obtain full particulars of the Russian's establishment, at the same time keeping an open eye for any other possible clue to the whereabouts of the English couple.

The servant set off on this business, not with an easy heart, for the investigation promised to be tedious, but with the conviction that in the expert gambler who assisted the Russian to run his discreet household, he would discover Philip Calamy.

Sedate and civil Bonino had contrived to make many acquaintances in Palermo who were helpful to him in his schemes. He now professed himself to be the steward and temporary guardian of a young nobleman from central Italy, a second son with some property, who was travelling for pleasure during the interval between his studies.

As Bonino had a precise knowledge of the families, armorial bearings, estates and histories of the country, he was soon accepted as what he claimed to be, and got into the acquaintance of several needy hangers on to gentility who offered to affect an introduction to the life of pleasure of the capital in a decorous fashion.

In this manner Bonino found a man who frequented the Russian's salon and who was able to give some account of it, though he said that this gambling resort, for it was nothing else, was conducted with an air of reserve and mystery, artfully used to heighten the excitement of the play.

The owner was old, a Moscovite, wearing the ancient dress of the Boyards and a long white beard, yet full of vigour and energy. He seldom appeared until towards the end of the day's play, and then not for long. The Secretary, Monsieur Désiré, was adroit and lively—undoubtedly he cheated and was an expert at clearing out the pockets of the unwary, but this was done by such clever means that the victims could not find any cause for complaint.

Lydia, the fascinating daughter of the Russian worthy, helped to beguile the players into high stakes and soothed them when they were dejected by their losses.

So far scandal had been avoided, but, as Bonino's informant declared, any day some trouble would break out and some formal complaint be made to the police about the Russian, "and then they will all decamp and disappear over night."

Meanwhile it would be an amusing place to take a young scholar to, forewarned he need not lose much money, if any, for newcomers were often allowed to win, and he need not return.

"He is a grave youth," said Bonino, "and already longs to return to his studies. But he considers that while in Palermo he should visit some well conducted gambling salon and note the manners of those who frequent them."

This man was a Florentine, poor, but of decent birth, who had been bred for the Church, but disliking that life had become an actor and attached himself to the establishments of wealthy people, living by his wits, and sometimes almost as a professional fool. He had been cast away in Palermo because he fell sick when in the train of a luxurious traveller and when Bonino met him was acting as a guide to the more refined entertainments of the town.

In this capacity he had had access to the mansion of the Russian, Demitrious, and permission to take there any likely young gentleman.

"I do no evil by this," the fellow assured Bonino. "For I always warn any I take to this establishment to be on their guard. Youthful curiosity must be satisfied and it is better that it should be indulged in this way than grossly."

He added that on some evenings there was little or no play, but a concert of music and learned conversation. In this manner Florio San Quirico received the entry into the house of the old Russian that was named the Palazzo Vizzavona, the original owner having been a Corsican grandee, though since sold to Prince Camoldi. The neighbourhood had decayed from its former splendour; the road, ankle deep in yellow dust, was deserted; two empty mansions rising from the yellow rock, showed gaunt and broken against the glare of the sunlight, large acanthus plants thrust their strong leaves through the broken windows, heaps of fallen masonry filled the courtyards where they had lain since the last earthquake tremor from Etna, between them grew ilex trees, cactus and the poets laurel.

Beyond these neglected palaces was the ruin of an ancient temple in pale golden alabaster, the fluted pillar cracked, the roof half fallen and stuck with tafts of dark flowers and prickly fern.

In the base of this pagan building was a wine shop, a rude habitation, sheltered by a projecting thatch of dry reeds and showing, as a trade sign, a bunch of withered box boughs on a pole.

A mule and some peasants were in the shade of this humble erection, they staring at Florio and his companions with the intelligent and abstracted interest of their race.

The Palazzo Vizzavona lay beyond this humble osteria and stood in a well-kept and paved garden where the fine foliage of the pepper tree and the rich fruit of the pomegranate showed clear and brilliant in the blaze of light.

Then, as their guide pulled the bell chain at the portico, the dark fell swiftly as a purple veil dropped from the heavens over the earth, and the three men were admitted by what seemed to be invisible means into a large hall.

As Florio's eyes became accustomed to the darkness he perceived that the door had been opened by an elegant negro wearing a livery of striped silk in the Roman fashion.

After taking their hats and cloaks he conducted them up a marble staircase to a circular chamber where overhead candelabra were already lit.

Florio found something oppressive in the atmosphere, that was loaded with the fumes of incense as if never changed with the freshness of the outer air.

The furniture, black and massive, was in the Italian style, painted with scenes of pagan landscapes and adorned with heavy gilding. A large table occupied the centre of the room and chairs were placed about it, that facing the door being in the shape of a throne.

Bowls and ewers of lustred majolica stood on a buffet, with fruit, flagons of wine and napkins.

The back of the chamber was filled by a small raised stage, from which a curtain of straw-coloured silk was partly drawn aside by a thick gold cord. The drop cloth represented a pine forest and a storm coming up out of an azure sky.

This stage was carefully lit by concealed lamps that cast an enchanting glow over the set.

Florio found the place distasteful, perhaps, as he reminded himself, because he knew its character. It seemed to him forced, unnatural and tawdry; he hesitated as to whether or not this place was likely to be the haunt of Philip Calamy.

There were other guests, all men, and of the commonplace character of idlers, or those, at least, indulging in idleness. They saluted Florio with civility and accepted him for what he appeared to be, though the extreme simplicity of his dress and the distinction of his bearing marked him as different from the usual seeker for pleasure who attended the house of Demetrious.

The Russian soon made his entrance and then took his place in the thronelike seat, bowing to the assembly.

He wore the stiff robes and silk scarves of the formal dress of the Boyards, before the reforms forced on them by Peter the Great, and Florio found this eccentricity displeasing.

A hat of glittering brocade that increased his height by a couple of feet was set on heavy grey locks, and a full white beard flowed over the old man's chest. He had the appearance of vigour and authority, but his eyes were concealed by a pair of spectacles of frosted glass and the light was arranged to fall on the crown of his hat and leave his face in shade, so that it was difficult to judge of him save that he appeared monstrous in his barbaric attire, that was composed of the richest possible velvets, satins and embroideries.

By his side stood a tall, dark young man in modern dress who was not Philip Calamy.

This personage shook a pile of gold coins on to the table and announced that Prince Demetrious would play to-night and himself hold the bank.

"Is that Monsieur Désiré?" whispered Florio to the Florentine.

A nod answered him and he turned to Bonino.

"Let us depart, we were mistaken," he said very softly. "I have no heart for this scene."

Bonino was about to protest that to leave suddenly would be to attract undesirable attention, and the Russian, who had turned his unwieldy bulk towards the strangers, seemed as if going to speak, when a woman stepped on to the stage behind the group in the chamber. The negro followed her and placed a silver chair in the shape of a cockle shell in the centre of the stage. In this she seated herself, pulled out her skirts, held up her head and remained still, as if posing for her portrait.

Her entry, the movement of the Russian and Florio's whisper had all been simultaneous and in a moment of time.

Florio looked at the woman and saw that she was Letty Winslow and that she was wearing one of the antique dresses from Chiaramonte, of white silk, with gold bullion. Her red hair was piled on the top of her head and held by combs of coral; her face was skilfully painted and the stage light was flattering. She looked beautiful, in an artificial and heartless fashion.

The Russian looked at Florio who remained motionless and silent, then he swept the money back into the bag and declared in a deep voice that there would be no play that evening.

Several of the guests murmured and one asked if there would be supper, at least, and music, offered by the Princess Lydia.

"You know my humour," replied the Russian, still staring at Florio. "It changes. I respect omens, also, and I have had one now. Désiré, see that these gentlemen are attended to the door."

"What is this?" whispered the Florentine to Bonino, who replied: "As he says—or perhaps he has seen an enemy."

The guests rose to depart, glancing reluctantly at the adorned woman, who sat aloof and indifferent, on the stage, not seeing what was taking place beyond the foot-lights.

"I shall stay," said Florio in English, leaning across the table.

The Russian replied in the same language: "I thought so, damn you."

"Pray depart with the others," said Bonino to the Florentine. "I know where to find you for your reward. My charge has found an acquaintance in this Russian and they would discourse privately."


§ 29

Philip Calamy pulled off the beard, the hat and the wig, passed a handkerchief over his face and opened the stiff collar of his gorgeous tunic.

"How long did it take you to discover me?" he asked softly. "And what, in the devil's name, was it to do with you?"

"I do not know," said Florio. He looked wan, even ghostly. The lights and the disguises, all arranged to deceive, gave him a sense of illusion, as if he were taking part in some charade. He felt as if other figures besides those of Philip Calamy, Bonino and Letty, were present, crowding in on him and passing up and down in the shadows between the lamps.

"Eh, well," remarked the Englishman. "We had come to about the end of Palermo. And I am weary of this tiresome disguise. Are you still prepared to help us?"

"That is brutally put," murmured Florio. He rose and approached the stage. "Madam, Mrs. Winslow, will you please to descend?"

"She has forgotten that name," said Philip Calamy.

"Perhaps I am wrong and it is no longer hers—is the Colonel dead and have you married her?"

Florio spoke thus naturally because he had so often dreamt of just this happening.

Letty had come to the footlights, and, holding up the rich gown that was too long for her, peered into the confusion of lights and shadows beyond the stage.

"Who is there?" she asked. "Who is calling me? Who speaks to Mrs. Winslow? Ah, I see you, Prince. I thought you would follow us from Chiaramonte. I shall come down."

But when she entered the room from a side door she did not know what to say or do, and sat on the first chair that came, looking at Philip Calamy like a spaniel.

"Wait for me outside," said Florio to Bonino, and the servant, dejected now that his quest was over, left the room.

Philip Calainy was silent, as if leaving the moment to the others; he flung off his tunic and scarves and sat in his white silk blouse, open at the throat, his beauty was emphatic, even under the smear of grease paint still on his face.

"What shall I do?" asked Florio, at last, looking at Letty.

She was worn, appeared older than her years; he noticed the thinness of her throat and hands, her air of essential timidity under the bravery of the splendid dress.

"We travel under false passports," said Philip Calamy. "You could report us to the police for that. But why? Do you resent our departure from Chiaramonte? It was confoundedly dull and I lacked money."

"I would have provided you."

"I preferred to earn it. And you would hardly have made endless provision for the only way of life open to us."

"We took your clothes," said Letty suddenly. "I had nothing fine. I keep them carefully and only wear them here."

"Well?" demanded Philip Calamy, rising. "What, sir, do you want of a man completely ruined? What is this searching interest in me and my poor companion?"

"Your poor companion," repeated Florio. "What is she now

"What you see. A gambler's decoy and lure. She can do nothing else, nor this much longer. She is faded and often ill."

"He is kind to me," said Letty eagerly. "You must not think that I am ill treated. It is but to sit in an easy chair, and help with the entertainment of a few gentlemen."

"Do you wish to stay?" asked Florio.

She was amazed.

"What else?" she asked.

"You waste your chivalry," remarked Philip Calamy. "The woman is as content as she can be. You heard her say that she is well treated. I have kept my word to you. Now that you have discovered us, we must pass on. Perhaps you can again oblige us in the matter of passports."

"Dear Letty," said Florio, "will you leave us, and take off that mumming dress, and come here presently in your ordinary attire?"

"Go, Letty," added Philip, and when she obeyed, he added: "It is useless for you to command her, she listens only to me."

The door closed on Letty Winslow.

"You see," continued Philip Calamy, "she is quite ruined now—good for nothing but this. Her voice is not trained and she is a poor musician. I only pass her off as a beauty by the lights and the stage effects."

"You never loved her," said Florio.

"No. And you have only guessed that now?"

"Yes, only now. That was why I was interested in you, because I thought it was love."

"You were wrong."

"So I see. But you lost everything for her."

"That was a bet," smiled Philip Calamy. "I made a bet among my fellow officers that I would have every girl with that shade of red hair. I won a good deal of money though it is an uncommon shade. Then I met Letty—a Field Officer's wife and simple, two children, high rank, stiff relatives. I should have been wise to let her alone. But I'd taken on the bet. And Colonel Winslow was in India. Of course the others egged me on—it took me a season's hard work, but she was as willing as the others in time. When she heard that her husband was returning she lost her head and rushed to my rooms. I was well in debt and didn't fancy a bullet through my head. Winslow is a violent man. Besides, to elope with the exquisite, unattainable Mrs. Winslow was something. So I took her to the Continent. It was the betting money we lived on. We did quite well, until Winslow had leave of absence to follow us."

"And I prevented him from finding you and killing you," whispered Florio.

"I might have killed him, I'm a good shot. But I dare say he's a better by now. Practises day and night, my friends write. I still have them and they still write to me." Philip Calamy smiled and added quietly: "Damn him to Hell."

"He rather should curse you."

"He doesn't like me." The Englishman's smile deepened unpleasantly. "But he's got his revenge, damn him again. He keeps me out of England. Not that there is much there for me since I was cashiered. I should be cut everywhere. But I'd like to see my own country again."

"You are clever at disguise and lies," said Florio bitterly.

"Yes. But I dare not risk it. If I returned, he'd find out. And it would not even be a duel, for which I have no fancy, it would be plain murder."

"And justified, if ever murder is," said Florio.

"You think so? Well, I've no wish to pay with my life for breaking a social law. I've paid enough," he added with a passionate note. "And I'll stay abroad."

Florio gazed at him intently where he leaned by the footlights of the little stage, and could have pitied him for his youth, beauty, brilliancy and ruin, were it not for the thought of Letty.

"You have been patient in tracking us down," added Philip Calamy, "and deserve the truth. Besides, I am weary of playing the hero of romance. It used to amuse me—you thinking I did for love what I'd only have done for a bet."

"I was certainly fooled," said Florio sternly.

"And in love with Letty yourself, in a fashion? That is infernally queer. She isn't even pretty—save for that hair—and silly. At first she was tolerable with her devotion and fresh ways. A gentlewoman of her breeding was a novelty for me. Then she was very docile about the masquerades. I'd always liked masks and charades. Now I am weary of her—weary."

"But it is impossible for her, either, to return to England."

"Colonel Winslow wouldn't murder her," smiled the Englishman. "I daresay he would even make some provision for her."

"It is impossible for her to return to England!" repeated Florio.

"O, yes. The escort, for one thing—how is she to get there? I was not thinking of that. I suppose you are still interested in her as you have taken all this trouble to discover her?"

He paused and Florio made a quick inclination of his head.

"Then take her off my hands," said Philip Calamy. "You've stayed your course and there is your prize."

He looked at Florio as if he said a careless thing and spoke of someone of no import.

The moment was neither large nor impressive. The comedy seemed to have become a farce and Florio felt as if cast for the part of buffoon.

Philip Calamy leaned over the stage and turned out one of the lamps that was smoking, thus increasing the hot shadows that filled the room.

"Pluto, the negro," he remarked, "usually snuffs the candles every half hour and to-night he has not dared to enter, so the grease is falling."

And he pointed up to the candelabra where the wax was gathering down the crystal pendants, obscuring the glitter of the prisms.

"You turn everything to futility," said Florio.

"Can you tell me what else it is?" asked the Englishman. "And were you not always the tolerant worldling, fastidiously idle, amused by my predicament? And yet—did you come here for some scene of melodrama? Did you want an accent of fury? Was I to be unmasked in some vulgar fashion?"

"I did not know that you required unmasking," replied Florio. "I thought that you were Désiré the Frenchman..." then he paused, aware that he had been delicately pushed into an attitude of self defence, that the tragic issue between them had been insolently overlaid. He found it difficult to recover his usual unconscious self-assurance.

"Désiré," said Philip Calamy, "is an agreeable rogue I picked up here. Come, I don't suppose that we care much for one another's company—why not settle the question of Letty? Will you take her and what will you give me for her?"

Florio was involved in the intricacy of an endless complication. He felt that Philip Calamy, in thus breaking down all civil usage, was revealing a fine skill in getting his own way. It was clear to Florio that he really wanted money, and that he was deliberately employing these coarse methods to achieve his ends quickly.

"Come," added the Englishman, with a mocking urgency, "you can hardly expect me to hold her in respect. I've looked after her for years now, and I told you the whole folly was the result of a bet. Why pretend that my offer is of a delicate nature?"

Florio, still at a disadvantage, said: "I suppose you still consider yourself a man of honour?"

"Certainly. This has nothing to do with honour, as you well know."

"Then how can you try to make this brutal bargain?" But Florio felt that he spoke feebly and was being outwitted at every turn. The manner in which Philip Calamy spoke of Letty certainly gave her a dwindling value that increased Florio's deep compassion for her desolation.

"I suppose you have not considered that she is fond of you?" he asked sadly.

"As a spaniel. As Pluto, the negro, whom I bought here in Palermo. There's trading in flesh and blood. Unlawful, no doubt, but the fellow is worth more than Letty is."

Florio mastered himself. He was resolved to master the other man also. He spoke softly, with native guile, and the duplicity of his rank and race.

"How is she now? In health and spirits? Hardly the Letty of Bologna, I suppose?"

Philip Calamy glanced at him sharply and smiled, as if to say: "Whether this tone is sincere or not, it is one easy to me."

He responded in an equable accent, as one talking disinterestedly about another's tale.

"She has a certain craze of mind that renders her unfit for the management of a house or a life of fashion. She is abstracted, weeps often, for no cause."

"For no cause," repeated Florio.

"None," smiled Philip. "She is kindly treated. She told you that herself. She is lazy, idle, reads romances, when we can get them, and I have tried in vain to improve her education. She is a dull companion."

"Does she never speak of her husband or her children?"

"No. Why should she?"

"No regrets? No longings?"

"You quite mistake her. She enjoys this kind of life. She was absolutely bored with her elderly husband, her sickly infants, her censorious sisters-in-law. You have no idea," and he laughed, "my dear Prince, of the existence my respectable countrywomen lead."

"Then," said Florio carefully, "she is content with you and it would be a cruelty to take her away."

"Do you suppose I can keep her until one of us dies?" demanded Philip with a touch of savagery. "I was considering how to be rid of her, when you came, opportunely."

"What do you intend to do?"

"O, I have no plans. This disguise I assumed, gave me thought of Russia. It is difficult to avoid the war now. Venice, perhaps. At least I wish to travel alone."

"Then I shall ask Letty her wishes."

"She has none."

"You mean that you command her entirely?"

"Put it that way, if you will. But all this talk is tedious. You have spoiled the evening's play and owe me something on that score."

Florio, though still in control of himself, was conscious of little but fatigue, falling over him like a cloak of lead.

This meeting, this unmasking, had proved an anticlimax, a bathos.

The candles, now flaring, lighted up the dark furniture, the wan face of Florio, the wild beauty of Philip, and sent wreaths of smoke slowly curling through the close atmosphere.

Philip moved and pulled down the candelabra, one by one, and extinguished the candles with the large cowl that hung to the chain.

Florio watched these flames, put out one by one, until the room was in darkness and the lamps before the stage stood out more distinctly and cast a clearer radiance over the drop cloth and the yellow curtain.

"I only recognized you," said Philip, "as Letty entered the stage—the very moment of my own entry—had you not seen her, I should have continued the comedy for the pleasure of deceiving you."

"You think that in me you have met with an eccentric," remarked Florio. "And it's true that you have fooled me. But now we have come to a narrow issue. I also can be frank. I am a man of wealth and power, you are utterly penniless and undone, an outcast quite lost to your own rank, that I take to be near my own."

"Do you not suppose that I have faced that, a hundred times?" replied the Englishman. "I am restless and desperate, hunted, if you will, and I have exhausted every shift, so that I am hardly safe anywhere, for I know not if this fanatic still pursues me by means of spies and agents, or no. What then? Why do you seek to contrast our states?"

"I can say no more to you until I have spoken to Letty," replied Florio. "I think you have played an evil part—all your life, as it seems to me. But your position is so wretched that I cannot take offence at any of your wildness."

"Do you believe in sin?" mocked Philip. "I suppose your Church teaches that. For me I do not believe in God."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because you spoke of evil and the word awoke some echoes in my mind. I wished to silence you if you were going to speak of punishment or divine vengeance. I have not broken any human laws, and as for God, I care nothing for fables."

"Nor I," said Florio, "though they are all founded on truth. No need for me to speak of punishment, you are punished already."

"I won my bet," smiled Philip. "And I should have had to leave England and the army in any case—too many debts. My uncle is as wealthy and powerful as you are, but he will have nothing more to do with me, neither will my cousin, so I had no expectations—so this life is not so distasteful, only I want to be rid of Letty."

His tone, his movements, were beginning to reveal a passionate impatience.

"Have I not been clear enough?" he exclaimed. "Will you take Letty off my hands?"

"I shall see her," said Florio.

Under his composed exterior was a crisis of emotion that he himself could not have described. Letty was still to him ravaged innocence, and her companion a proper object of scorn. One, moreover, who had proved intractable even against his own interests, by preferring this squalid quackery and cheating to the dignity and repose of Chiaramonte.

Yet Florio could not hate the exile, who, for all his bravado and bitter candour, was at the end of all his resources, his country and all honourable ways closed to him, his youth, beauty and passions but a mockery and a scorn to him, for they were useless and would indeed but serve him for dismal ends.

"I shall have this house watched, and the ports," said Florio, moving close to the flickering light of the lamps on the stage. "You boasted just now that you had never broken the law. You have done so with your false passports, and I could have you arrested."

"But you will not do so."

"Why do you suppose that I will not?"

"Because it is not in your nature," replied Philip. "But do not concern yourself. I shall remain here until you have decided how far you can help me."

He crossed the room and opened a side door.

"Letty will be in the chamber—up the spiral staircase—pray go and talk to her, she will have some supper ready. Pluto will wait on me down here."

"You put yourself in my power?" asked Florio.

"No, chance did that," remarked the Englishman carelessly. He closed the door on Florio, who stood in a dimly lit passage, the staircase rising directly, in an elegant twist, to his right hand.


§ 30

Florio endeavoured to know himself, to understand the turmoil of his own emotions. He stood still, pressing his hot brow on the cool metal scrolled baluster of the staircase. He felt no pleasure or even relief in this meeting with those whom he had so long and so steadily pursued. Their degradation and their acceptance of it with a ghastly calm, humility on the woman's part, and reckless composure on the man's, was dreadful to Florio and seemed a reproach to his own life of luxury and even idleness that had never been ruffled by any grief, loss or temptation.

They seemed beyond his reach. Even pity could not touch them. Philip Calamy only wanted money to help him to sink even lower, to escape from Palermo and live by lower tricks in a lower stratum of society.

Probably he had many debts and was being watched by the police. He was certainly anxious to continue his restless wanderings and had been even thankful at his exposure by Florio.

He wanted to be rid of Letty. Perhaps his gross offer to Florio had been in the hope of a quarrel. "He might," thought the subtle Bolognese, "have wished to fight with me. He expected resentment, yet I felt none, only that I wished that I had not saved him from Colonel Winslow, but allowed him to be overtaken then and shot like a beast of prey, as his pursuer intended to shoot him."

Florio thought of the Villa Giandola by the Golden Shell that he had left so recently, of the pleasant family there and their friendly ways, and of the kind welcome they would give to the English couple.

They would be received as Florio's acquaintances, without as much as a questioning glance, and Philip would be very popular with his brilliant good looks, his easy manners, his entertaining tricks.

"He could easily," thought Florio, "find a place in a wealthy family and make a rich match, were he given an entrée into society. And he is right, he has done nothing that would be condemned in Italy as far as the elopement goes; as for the cheating at cards, one could be silent about that."

Then Florio was angry with himself for this random reflection. It was impossible for him to give Philip the countenance that would mean his reception in Continental society, he did not even know who the man was. He himself had been resigned to his own outcast position and must be left to fall lower in his schemes of intrigue and knavery, until some chance scuffle, some chance disease sent him to prison or hospital, or extinguished his life as rapidly and carelessly as he had extinguished the flaring candles.

Neither did Florio deceive himself into thinking that Letty could be rescued from the ruin that enveloped her; she was not utterly lost to the conventions of Italian society as she had been before to the conventions of English society.

He considered the quiet convents he knew—those in valleys of the Apennines, set in fields of wild thyme, came to his mind, where the penitent and the broken might be received into a healing solitude and silence.

And in thinking thus, Florio was unconsciously and at last taking Letty's own valuation of herself and using the terms and symbols of his own religion that he did not admit he held, but that in moments of stress overcame his mind, like dark, cool shadows.

And then he could not endure to think of Letty as closed away in loneliness, and he wished that he had a sister or a mother who could have advised him what to do with her, and then again he wondered what were his own feelings for her, and if he loved her, even a little.


§ 31

Florio saw at once that all the splendour of the Palazzo Vizzavona was in the gambling salons. The room he entered, though tastefully arranged, showed bare poverty. Letty had, with her ready habit of obedience, changed into her own clothes; these were several years out of fashion and worn, limp, washed ruffles revealed her thin wrists. She had wiped the cosmetics from her face that appeared hollow and pallid; her abundant red hair hung in tangles on her narrow shoulders.

By her side, on the straight hard couch, sat the dog Rover. He looked at Florio with a dumb appeal that was also the expression of his mistress—it was as if both of them said: "We are helpless, we have done wrong, do with us as you will, we shall not complain."

A cheap metal lamp lit this scene, and the scanty array of wine flagons and goblets on a plain wooden table. With a hasty motion of a trembling hand Letty indicated a seat, but Florio remained standing. It was intolerable to him that these two powerless creatures should gaze at him with resignation.

"Is that dog whipped that he looks so?"

"No," said Letty. "It is Rover—you remember at Nuremberg? He loves me, you see, and knows my mood. He asks you to forgive me."

"How are you accountable to me?"

"O, you trusted me to ask you if I was in need," replied Letty humbly. "You wished me to be respected, you offered me Chiaramonte. But I left that to follow Philip—stealing from you also."

"You love him, of course, as the dog loves you."

"I don't know. I am now wedded to this wandering life, and I can never leave it now. I have no will but his, and no desire to please anyone else. But I ask your pardon, sincerely."

"How do you live, Mrs. Winslow?"

She started at the name.

"O, pray do not call me that here! I live well enough, truly I do. Philip is kind."

"Always...kind?"

"He has his moods," she admitted, downcast. "And sometimes I do not see him for days, but he always sends me money by Pluto and he always returns."

She fondled the dog that continued to gaze anxiously at Florio.

"Please leave us," she added. "I cannot understand why you follow us. Please forget us. It humiliates me—yes, I am still capable of being humiliated—to see you."

She rested her head on the dog's neck and wept softly. More from weariness than wretchedness, Florio thought. "See, sir, this poor little friend of mine, how he entreats you to be gone."

"I must think how I can serve you, Letty."

"You cannot. No one can. I hope that I do not live long." She uttered this commonplace not peevishly, but almost tenderly. "I have been very ill, as foreigners are, from the unhealthy night airs and the noisome vapours. I have been melancholy and despondent."

"You would soon recover in cheerful surroundings."

"Do you not perceive how fallen I am? I have to amuse the men Philip cheats at cards."

"Stuck up on that tawdry stage, decked out—why the perpetual masquerade?" exclaimed Florio.

"Philip likes that—the mask—and the lower we sink, the more he desires to disguise himself, even from himself."

Florio sat beside her on the hard couch and took her shaking hands in his strong fingers. The dog sighed and laid his head on his mistress's knee; she tried to hide her face by lowering her head so that the red curls, still entwined with tinsel ribbons, fell over her wet eyes. Florio thought that she was still in poor health and that her air of listless sorrow was due to weakness as much as to shame. The excitement of meeting Florio soon left her, she withdrew her hands, that were of an unhealthy heat, and rising with an effort poured out some wine.

"So," Florio thought, "is she used to entertaining Philip Calamy's victims."

He dare not tell her of the fantastic suggestion that Philip had made to him, that he should take her away, buy her, as the Englishman had termed it; nor dare he question her as to how far her complaisance with her master's interests had gone. He could not believe of Philip Calamy that he had allowed her to take lovers, but he would not have ventured to question either of them on this for fear of what he might hear. Nor did it greatly matter. She was utterly degraded, a gambler's decoy, set up on a stage to be stared at, like a wanton at a fair. But still he could not think of her grossly, nor with contempt, only with regret.

She was drawing fast to that end he had always dreaded for her. A lonely and a stupid death.

"Do you ever hear from England?" he asked, setting aside the wine she offered him.

"O, no! Who should write to me?" she asked, alarmed. "Philip hears sometimes from Captain Giles, of whom I told you. I do not know how he arranges it, but he is able to receive letters under cover of Banks. He has not heard for a long time now," she added pensively. "He went yesterday and there was nothing."

"Does he ever have any news?"

"Nothing he tells me—no, how could it be good news?"

"The future promises you nothing," said Florio. "Could you not nerve yourself to leave this man?"

"O, no. I am more bound to him than if I were his wife."

"One day he may leave you."

"He will never do that. O, I know that I have only brought him disaster and disgrace, but he would never leave me."

Florio could say no more, his heart was pinched, he lacked strength to argue with her, he did not know what to offer her, what he wished to say.

He felt exhausted, not having eaten for several hours and not being able to touch food or drink in this house, and as he hesitated, she dropped to her knees with a wild and childish abandon and entreated him to leave her, never to think of her or her wretched companion again.

"You follow me even in my dreams!" exclaimed Florio, raising her instantly. "How can I depart not knowing your destiny?"

"It is nothing but evil," she answered, struggling in his arms as if to throw herself down again, while the dog whined in distress.

"Your fancy is disordered, Letty," he answered, setting her on the couch. "You are ill—I must lend you the strength to overcome this weakness. Come. I have good friends in Palermo, will you see them?"

"Friends?" she asked faintly.

"I mean ladies, of good family."

"As if any such would even look at me!"

"I said friends, Letty. If I leave you now will you promise me to see them to-morrow and to take their advice?"

She was relieved by this, only anxious, as he perceived, to be rid of him. Fearing to provoke in her some fit of nervous derangement he resolved to depart, to have the mansion watched, though he did not expect Philip Calamy to escape without his fee, and to take up this strange situation on the morrow.

Pulling out his notebook he wrote on a page his address in Palermo and the name of his host, still hoping that Letty might turn to him before he came again to her, and put the torn out paper in her hot hand.

In the passage Florio found Bonino, and told him to hire men to keep a guard on the house that no one went out without being followed.

"It is a wretched establishment," murmured the servant as they stepped into the livid scorched night. "No woman at all, only the black slave. The so-called Monsieur Désiré has fled."

"Where is he, Philip Calamy, now? While I was with Mrs. Winslow?"

Bonino did not know.

"Everything seems distorted and malign to me," said Florio.

"Would that you could say, sir, 'Good-day, Madam, and luck go with you,'" murmured the servant.

"I cannot," replied Florio simply. "I must linger over her fortunes, though she requires nothing from me, save, perhaps, money for her scoundrel partner. She is so impassive, Bonino, amid the surge of ugly passions in which she lives—a decoy indeed, like one of those miserable birds who, helpless in the net, attract other victims."

"What is the Englishman's humour?" asked Bonino.

"Braggadocio, and, I think, beneath, despair. He feels himself so totally lost that he cares about very little. Then part of his nature is satisfied with these crazy and sordid mountebank tricks."

Even to Bonino Florio could not speak of Philip Calamy's intention to rid himself of Letty Winslow.

The Giandola family had long retired when he returned to the Conca d'oro and the porter, who admitted him, had to be awakened.

Bonino prepared his master a light supper. He declared that it was a needless precaution to watch the Villa Vizzavona since he had already, while Florio was with Letty, found the Florentine (who had not gone far) and warned him to keep an eye on the Russian. This the fellow had readily agreed to do. He was prepared to regard the Russian as but another of the suspicious characters in the underworld of Palermo, to spy on him, and to lay any information against him if he could find any advantage to himself by so doing.

Florio agreed that he had been over anxious in this respect, indeed quite at a loss.

He repeated that "quite at a loss" and told Bonino that never before had he met, or thought to meet, a situation that so outwitted him as that he had found in the Villa Vizzavona had outwitted him.

If, he argued, there had been any scene of drama, of reproach or anguish, he could have faced it and dealt with it, but the man's reckless cynicism, so casually expressed, and the woman's meek acquiescence in her dreadful fate, the acceptance of both of them, of their bitter exile and foul degradation, it was this that had left Florio helpless.

He could not find any way out of the mental and emotional impasse in which he found himself, could not discover by what means he could save Letty, nor even disentangle his own emotions.

As far as he could get was a resolve to ask the advice of Donna Angelica, the eldest of his host's relatives and one who seemed to him wise and kind. And then he dismissed the weary and anxious Bonino, drew his curtains, and tried to sleep.

But within half an hour he was awake, and pacing the marble floor, contending with unsolved problems. When he could no longer support his anxieties that increased with his weakness and the weight of the darkness and the silence, he sank on his bed, and fell into a swoonlike slumber of fatigue.


§ 32

When Florio woke he lay awhile quiet, his mind a blank, and it was only slowly that the events of the preceding day recalled themselves, at first in a series of lifeless pictures, to his consciousness.

Then he rose, looked at the clock and perceived the day to be well advanced.

Probably Bonino had put about some story of indisposition and left him undisturbed.

He gazed at himself in the mirror and was irritated by his pallid, heavy look. Adjusting his clothes, in which he had slept, he pulled the curtains apart and glanced at the gardens entranced in the heat. The air seemed to throb as with invisible flames, as if unseen lightning flashed behind the cypress trees and the dim grey-green foliage of the ilex.

He was relieved that he had almost forgotten his dreams, for he remembered sufficient of them to know that they had been filled with fearful images that he had regarded with apprehension.

Feeling still exhausted, for his slumber had brought him but little refreshment, he pulled the bell and when Bonino came asked him to prepare the bath and to make his excuses to his host, the Duke Biago Giandola.

The servant brought him a breakfast of milk, perfumed oranges, olives, fine bread and a crystal cup containing some late roses of a crimson that was almost purple in the folds of the petals and with the spicy odour of cloves.

Florio made his toilet, ate his breakfast and felt no inclination to do anything, not even to interview the sympathetic Donna Angelica.

"This," he told himself, "is the lethargy of a man who has endured an enormous disappointment, added to a natural indolence and long fatigues."

He could not conceive of any concise ending to the story of the English couple.

It seemed to him as if Philip Calamy would continue to wander aimlessly from city to city, cheating, masquerading, falling deeper and deeper into self contempt. Letty dragging out what remained of her life as his despised companion and slave.

For Letty must go with him, that much was clear. If Philip Calamy would be rid of her for money, he must be obliged to take money to keep her, on no other terms would Florio help him.

Yet, what a poor solace to his own pride and sense of power, that he, Florio San Quirico, must bribe this wretch to keep his miserable mistress in her most degraded existence.

But since she would not leave him—what other way?

Florio wondered sadly if Donna Angelica's feminine tenderness could think of any device to separate Letty from her evil protector, and induce her to pass into some retreat from which she might emerge to a new life.

Florio's mind baulked here—there was no new life possible for such as Letty Winslow.

Thwarted in her natural desires, checked, blocked, thrown out of the only society to which she was suited, this woman could not, by any means that Florio could imagine, be now redeemed.

Her sorrows, unvoiced and unshared, of which she made no complaint, weighed oppressively on Florio, and he began to fear a return of the fever that had made him useless at Wilhelmsruhe.

At this point when he feared a failing of all his powers and could do no more than languidly calculate what sums he had with him for the immediate relief of Philip Calamy—for only by money could he hold him and only through holding him could he help Letty—an incident occurred that was of all things the most unforeseen and unexpected. Bonino entered to inform him, with a hardly disguised agitation, that Mrs. Winslow had arrived at the Villa Giandola and asked to see Prince San Quirico.

Florio had forgotten that he had given her his address—the events of yesterday were so confused and unreal to him as the fragments of the uneasy dreams that still kept troubling his mind.

His first emotion was one of pleasure. "Ah, she has resolved to leave that scoundrel!" Then—"What shall I do with her?"

But there was no time for speculation. Roused from his apathy, Florio told Bonino to go to the lady, offer her refreshment, and say that he would wait on her immediately.

Then, when the servant had departed, he reflected that this action of Letty was out of character; this was the first time he had known her undertake any independent action—but was it this? Perhaps she had been sent by Philip Calamy to bargain over her own pride, and in a deadly compliance had obeyed.

This possibility unnerved Florio. He thought of Letty as of someone who had received an injury of spirit as disfiguring as a maiming of the body, and shrank from seeing her, yet hastened to the cool room where she waited.

The Giandola ladies, being in the garden, had seen Letty Winslow under the guidance of the porter enter the Villa house, and had gone forward to receive her and been told by the man that the stranger had inquired for Florio San Quirico.

Delicacy and a sensitive courtesy prompted them to suppress curiosity and the desire to set this visitor at her ease. They perceived that she was a foreigner, poor and well bred. Her clothes were old, a cotton mantilla shaded her from the sultry glare and she was alone. Her poverty then was shocking, and the ladies sensed some pitiful tragedy behind this mean appearance, this gentle air, and such an unheard of breaking of the conventions as a visit, unescorted, to a gentleman. They perceived also, and with a romantic pain, that here was the reason of Florio's tender melancholy, as they named his abstraction, and this lady surely the cause of grave concern to him.

But they hesitated to go in to her because this might seem like an intrusion, although they were desirous of nothing but offering kindness and, if need be, protection. Florio, traversing the passage that led to the room where Bonino had told him Letty waited, saw the ladies together in the garden as he looked from the uncurtained window shaded by vine leaves, and guessed their purpose in their withdrawal.

He wished now that he had confided in them, or, at least, in Donna Angelica.

Letty rose to receive him as he entered and he saw at once that she was much changed since yesterday. Though haggard and wan in the full stream of golden light in which she stood, she now had vigour and purpose.

He immediately supposed that, in a flash of energy, she had fallen on, and perhaps worked out, some plan for her own deliverance. Her first words came to him as a shocking surprise.

"Philip is ill, and I have come to you as there is no one else."

Florio knew then that Letty depended absolutely on Philip and that no one was of any importance to her save in as far as they could serve him.

He took her by the shoulders, for she was ready to fall, and placed her in a chair. For the second that he had supported her she had seemed as light as a half-starved bird.

"I shall come with you at once," he said, "or, if you would rather, rest here."

"O, no. I could not—I must return at once, and if you could find some physician..."

"Surely. Do not concern yourself so terribly, Letty—this will be some usual illness. There is no sign of the plague?"

Again she shook her head, murmuring: "O, no—it is a fit; he fell down as if struck. Pray, let us go, there is no one with him save the negro."

"Yes, yes," said Florio, pulling at the bell. "I shall go and take every help, but if only you would rest here a little, at least during the heat of the day—my friends..."

"I saw them, as I passed across the garden—ladies—I must not meet them."

"As you please. Do not tremble so. Philip is young and strong."

As he spoke, Florio wondered what could have thus overthrown a man in the prime of his life and powers. "It was the letter."

She rose as she spoke, and looked anxiously at the door. "Cannot we go at once? And perhaps in a carriage. I came on foot and the way seemed so long."

"It is long, and you are exhausted. I regret that I slept late to-day or I should have been early at the Villa Vizzavona and saved you this distress. Now I must leave you for a moment—a moment only—and speak to my friends. The letter you said? A letter thus overwhelmed him?"

Before Letty could answer, Bonino entered and Florio stayed his conjectures to bid the servant ask for a carriage at once, while he, again delicately setting Letty in the chair, went out to the ladies in the garden.

It was impossible for him to tell them the truth. He knew that they would not expect this. He informed them that the woman they must have seen had come to take him on an errand of compassion. That he had known her and her companion for a long time and that they were bred in gentility though now in poverty.

He asked for a carriage, and the address of a physician—said it was a question of illness that he must visit, but that if it was a case of contagion, he would not return but remain in the infected house.

Donna Angelica answered for the ladies, and, she was sure, for the young Duke, her nephew.

She offered, without faltering, all that they had, beginning with service, and begged that she might go in to the stranger and console her and offer her refreshment.

"I thank you for your graciousness," said Florio. "But she is distracted and not able to consider anything but a return to her friend."

"Then we must not put any impediment in her way. Hasten, my dear Florio, and send us a message as to how we can be of use."

One of the other ladies then begged him to take care of contagion, for though the summer had passed without the plague appearing in Palermo, yet there might still be some dread on this score.

"There is no fear," said Florio, recalling what Letty had said and that he had hardly noticed at the time. "This is some fit or seizure, brought on by shock."

Donna Angelica then, seeing that he had but one wish, to be gone, gave him the names of several physicians in Palermo, and hastened into the house; her companions followed her, each pressing Florio's hand as she passed.


§ 33

In the carriage Letty recovered something of her spirits; her strong reason had inspired her to a strong action, but this had meant an effort foreign to her nature—the long walk in the torrid heat had shaken her, so had the seeking of Florio among strangers. She was entirely unused to any kind of independence. Florio saw that she was relying on him now that Philip was incapable of playing the master.

As they drove along the roads covered with yellow dust, under the golden cliff, the sky darkened to a livid purple and the lightnings that had for long been vibrating in the air became visible in darts of bluish white, like jagged cracks in the firmament, while the thunder rolled seawards.

Letty readily told the story of Philip's illness, speaking English, not only because she still halted in Italian, but because of Bonino and the coachman beside him on the box.

"I could not sleep last night," she explained. "I knew that we must move again and I was troubled, wondering what would become of us. I knew I must return you the dresses we had taken from Chiaramonte, and I sat up making a list, here it is." She searched in her pocket and drew a paper out. "Two blue rich feathers, sewn with pearls; a pair of gauntlets made out of stag's leather; a scarlet hat band; a pair of crimson silk hose; silk and silver garters, roses and gloves."

"Don't, Letty, pray don't. You astonish me. What care I for these trifles? What was this news that Philip received? Some communication from the police, hurtful to his pride?"

"It was a letter from England."

"From your husband?"

"No. It was from Captain Giles, and I do not know more than that. I did not see Philip last night. When I came down this morning, the negro told me that his master had gone out early—oh, how close that flash of lightning seemed!"

"Lean closer back under the hood, Letty. Yes, speak to me and find a release from your cares in speaking."

"While I was in the salon this morning not knowing what to do, Philip came in. I could see that he was not in a pleasant humour. He asked if you had come or sent, and said that there was a letter from Lennard Giles, at last, and that he felt too disgusted with life to break the seals, for there was never anything in these letters but the news he most loathed to hear, namely that my husband was still alive."

She shrank as she spoke, as if at the remembrance of violence, and Florio felt his anger rise against himself, he should have been round early at the Palazzo Vizzavona and present at this scene.

"Then I noticed," continued Letty, "that the packet seemed heavy. I thought perhaps here were some bills and monies, to help us, after our fatigues and expenses, and I said so, but Philip rebuked me, saying sternly he had nothing in the world to come from England."

"What, then, was in the letter?"

"I do not know. He opened it, read it, and another that was in it, read them over twice, looked at me, ghastly, seemed to try to curse me, and fell down. He struck his head, and bled. I called the negro, and came for you. I have no credit anywhere in Palermo—Monsieur Désiré has gone."

"Did you not read the letters?"

"I never thought of it. I was too terrified for him, they were clutched in his hand. You cannot think how frightful it was to see him fall! I have never known the least weakness in him."

Florio saw that she spoke the truth, childishly and without compulsion. She trusted him, but merely because she wanted his help. Personally he was nothing to her.

"Perhaps," she added, "Philip will be conscious, and angry at seeing you, Prince."

"I do not think so," replied Florio quietly. "He asked my help yesterday and was waiting for it."

And he thought, if the Englishman was to die now or never recover his senses, she need never know that he wanted to be rid of her, poor, sad creature.


§ 34

Donna Angelica had contrived, in the few minutes she had, to put a basket of provisions, wine, medicine, and fruit, into the carriage. Bonino carried these into the house of the Villa Vizzavona, that in the livid light of the stormy day and against the sombre heavens, constantly crackling with forked lightning, looked far more shabby than it had appeared to be the night before, and little better than the neglected mansions in the vicinity.

The dog was waiting behind the front door. Letty had left him in charge of the solitary house, but he had no thought save for his mistress, and approached her with an extravagant delight that included an acknowledgment of Florio, whom he now accepted with confidence and joy.

Florio entered the salon with a feeling of relief that definite action was required of him, and his problem as how to deal with the English couple, solved by outside events.

Whatever the news from England that had felled Philip Calamy, he, Florio San Quirico, would be equal to facing it, and it was with his habitual serenity that he advanced across the room to the couch where the Englishman lay.

There was no daylight in the room, for the shutters had been nailed across the windows for the sake of theatrical effect. The lamps and candles that had given the artful illumination of the night before were extinguished, and only the cheap brass lamp, that Florio had seen in Letty's room, lit the scene.

Philip wore ordinary clothes, worn and mended. His coat was folded under his head for a pillow and his shirt open at the neck. Across his brow was a bandage.

The negro sat at the foot of the couch. He, too, had put off his finery of Roman stripes, and wore a miserable livery of faded green. He had a bowl of slop on his crouched knees, and rolled his eyes in terror as the thunder rumbled without.

Philip was conscious. A sarcastic smile moved his lips as he saw Florio and Letty advancing out of the shadows. If she had changed through his unexpected overthrow, something, Florio at once perceived, had changed him He had lost his indifference, his cynical resignation, and was now wild, passionate and hardly controlled.

"So, Letty fled to you for help," he murmured.

"You being ill, I must take charge of your fortunes," replied Florio. "I believe that you have no one else."

"You are wrong," whispered the Englishman. "I am now as important, as wealthy and as influential as you are."

Florio supposed that he was in a delirium and, going to the couch, looked at him keenly.

But Philip Calamy, though he appeared pallid and exhausted, was not in a fever; he had no signs on him of the plague or any sickness.

Raising himself on his elbow, he smiled fixedly at Florio. His air and his tone, always haughty behind all his social complacency, were now of an imperiousness he hardly tried to restrain.

"The excitement of your visit, my dear fellow," he said, "the heat and the news that I received from England struck me down, and I injured my head. If Letty were not such a fool she would have seen the case and not gone running of to you."

"Yet I think you were much shaken," said Florio. "What do you mean by speaking, in this place, of your wealth and importance?"

"That they equal yours," replied Philip Calamy, fiercely. "As for this place, I shall soon leave it. And now, by God, there will be no need for any more masks."

"You are raving, surely," sighed Letty. "Do, pray, let us send for a physician."

The Englishman interrupted.

"I need none, but some one to take my orders. Has that rogue, Désiré, left? This black cerberus is useless. Letty, have you sense to have a note delivered to Mr. Harte, the English Resident?"

"He is out of his mind," sighed Letty. "M. Harte was the man who, of all others, he avoided. Philip, we have only false passports."

"That will not matter," he answered brusquely. "The Resident will do what I please. First, I must get out of this accursed place." He glanced at Florio with a flare of mockery. "Perhaps you will send a letter for me to the Resident? Find some one who will step out briskly and despatch my business?"

"I may do so, if you will inform me what this business is."

Philip Calamy put his hand under the cloak that served for his pillow and drew out a package with broken seals.

"My uncle and my cousins are dead," he said. "And I am the sole heir. Two of them drowned when a boat upset on a Scots lake and Henry—who I did not even know was in the army—shot through the head—a lieutenant in the Ninety-second Foot."

"You are sure of this?" asked Florio, astounded. "Read these letters." And Philip Calamy handed them over with a steady hand.

"Sit down, Letty, and repose," said Florio, noticing that she was weeping quietly. "You see that your companion is in no danger."

"Do you know what this means?" she asked, sinking into one of the chairs by the gaming table.

"No, he does not," said Philip. "Let him read the letters. Since he will interfere in my affairs, let him bear the brunt of them."

Florio drew the small lamp nearer to the seat at the end of the couch. The bulk of the papers were copies of legal documents, and with them was a lawyer's letter. Florio at once understood that Philip Calamy had spoken the truth. He had inherited a sumptuous fortune and several titles, of which the highest was an English Earldom. Enclosed with these papers was a letter from Lennard Giles.

"DEAR PHILIP,

"I am asked to send you these. No one knows your whereabouts. The news will be stale by the time you receive it. Of course you must return at once. The lawyers want you to take up your inheritance, and all the stewards await your instructions. I've asked them to enclose a draught for a thousand guineas. Fortune's not such a bad jade, eh? This wipes out everything. Lord Mountsellis will be persona grata in even strict society. Come home and enjoy your luck.

"Your faithful
"LENNARD.

Post Scriptum. Colonel Winslow continues his pistol practise and is considered the finest marksman in the country, another reason for your immediate return. L.G."

Florio folded up the letters.

The other man's dilemma caused him to shiver. He could see the complications of this frightful news, and why it had felled Philip Calamy.

"Will you return?" he asked directly.

"Presently," returned the Englishman, rising from the couch. "There is no hurry. I must establish myself with Harte. Well, San Quirico, you never expected this, did you?"

"I knew that you were a man of rank, Lord Mountsellis."

The Earl smiled at hearing his title.

"It means money, power, everything that I have ever wanted—there are a few scores to pay off, too. Life is worth while when one is rich. My uncle was careful, too, the estates are all flourishing."

"But the post scriptum," said Florio. "You must face that at once. For years you have been hiding from Colonel Winslow."

Lord Mountsellis glanced round in a sharp fury.

"Do you suppose that old man will prevent me from claiming my inheritance? Damn Giles for mentioning him."

Letty raised her face from her hands.

"There may be a welcome home for you," she said. "There will be none for me."

"You will be provided for," replied the Englishman, coolly. His glance went from point to point in the dark room—the dim figure of Letty in her shabby clothes, the stupid face of the negro, who understood nothing of what was being said, Florio who appeared serene and self assured.

The atmosphere was sultry, charged with electricity.

"Let us get into the fresh air," said Lord Mountsellis.

"There is none to-day," repined Florio. "There is a storm over Palermo. You need rest, my lord, and perhaps solitude."

He looked at Letty, her shoulders sagged and she had again buried her face in her hands. A long lock of red hair straggled over her shoulder.

Beneath his mannered calm Florio felt his nerves relax. The difficulty of a decision was no longer his, and in that was relief.

But this twist to the story of the eloping couple was monstrous, almost intolerable. It doomed Letty Winslow. No longer would it be possible for any bribe to be offered to Philip Calamy, Lord Mountsellis, to induce him to keep Letty as his companion.

He would probably part with her at once, in order to be rid, as soon as possible, of the scandal attaching to her presence.

"Will you return to Chiaramonte, Mrs. Winslow?" he asked.

He could not offer the Villa Giandola, his friends' house, after this gambling episode, nor would Letty, he thought, face women of her own rank.

"So you make no move to have my note delivered?" demanded Lord Mountsellis. "You posed as a friend, you know, my dear fellow. Very well, I can contrive myself. I still have a little money—though the gold you saw last night is tinfoil."

He continued to talk, excitedly, pacing up and down. He had forced into oblivion the postscript of Lennard Giles' letter and dwelt solely on his immense good fortune. He spoke harshly, stridently, like an actor hurrying over the words of a part before he has troubled to put any expression into them, and Florio understood from what he said, more of his past life than he had ever realized before.

It was confusing to watch his swift movement with his arms folded. Florio felt that one or both of them must be racked by fever.

Everything in the room seemed unreal, the stage from which the tattered curtain had been dragged aside, was full of darkness in which the painted pine trees of the background were barely visible.

Florio made an effort of will to retain command of the situation. He went up to Letty who raised her face that was red with weeping and distorted like a child that has been hurt.

"Now he will leave me," she sobbed.

"No," said Florio clearly. "He could not leave you without a scandal."

Lord Mountsellis paused at that and remarked: "I am no longer afraid of scandals."

"You boast," returned Florio. "I could make it impossible for you to remain in Italy."

"No," the Englishman smiled. "I think not, I am now able to go above your head, my dear fellow. But let us be reasonable. I need to let my good fortune sink in. I have talked too much, and that accursed blow, the truth is I've been profoundly shocked—yes, nothing could have been more unexpected. As for Winslow, he would never touch a man of my rank."

He was close to Florio and stared at him with a harrowing fixity of gaze.

"Allow her to go to Chiaramonte until you have settled your plans."

"I shall not let him out of my sight," whispered Letty.

"You hear that? Had you not better leave us? It is true that I intended to borrow money of you, but now I don't need it. Pray leave us, my dear Prince," he added incisively. "And recall that in certain moods a man is capable of anything."

Softly, appealingly, Letty whispered: "Please leave us."

"I'm no longer a damned mountebank," added Lord Mountsellis in a lower tone, with a look of menace.

Florio felt a compassion for him that he knew to be absurd.

"Mrs. Winslow asked me to come," he said, "and now she asks me to leave. I shall be staying at the Villa Giandola as long as you are in Palermo."

"My head is aching," said the Englishman, casting himself on the couch. "Come here, Letty, and take oft this bandage."

She rose at once, and Florio left them.

Bonino was waiting in the carriage. No rain had fallen, the deep purple clouds shot with lightning, being over the towers and domes of Palermo that glittered in the lurid glow of sulphureous yellow in the sky. The plants, dark, thick and sharp edged, rustled together in the dry, hot breeze.

Florio entered the carriage, drawing round him his thin summer cloak. Anxieties were on him in a dark cloud. For all his cool exterior he felt as if the least provocation would make him weep. What had happened was fantastic and extremely important. He felt a premonition of tragedy, his senses and his reason were in revolt, his inner life, that for so long had centred round the English couple, had been shaken; the focus of his being jarred out of place. He would need time to adjust himself to his new situation.

One poignant fact alone was clear, there was now not the slightest hope of bribing the Englishman to keep his companion with him.

Florio could not imagine under what excuse or by what means Philip Calamy could be rid of her, indeed the Englishman's dilemma seemed, to the Italian, so acute that he half supposed that he would not return home but remain in exile, his fortune being sent out to him.

Here Florio admitted to himself that ignorance of English customs hampered his judgment of the case. He did not know to what extent his inheritance of rank and wealth would reinstate him in the society from which he had fled, loaded with debt and with another man's wife—the wife of a senior officer of the same regiment, a fact that, according to Letty, made his offence unforgivable.

The friend, this Captain Giles, had added a warning about Colonel Winslow; Florio supposed that murder or a duel was hinted at, and that the new Lord Mountsellis's honour would be reflected on if he evaded that issue. But it was starkly clear to Florio that the man who, in masks and disguises, had turned and twisted before his enemy across Europe, valued his life far more highly than his honour, that, indeed, he might be held to have long since forfeited. And Florio recalled, with a cold pang, the Englishman's confession, so insolently made, that he had eloped with Letty Winslow because of a bet and paid for the Bologna days on the profit of it.

Florio thought: "These two have ceased to provide me with entertainment. I am now involved with them, I cannot shake them off and return to my former life. My fluctuations of sentiments are over, I no longer regard them as romantic abstractions and bandy to and fro my notions of them in my day dreaming, keeping myself remote and cool. They have now become for me human beings, not actors in an opera bouffe. Letty's degradation has made her real to me as never before."

This realization came to Florio with a thrill of pleasure and apprehension; he both welcomed and feared the strong emotion that, for the first time in his life, was taking possession of his heart.

It seemed to him hardly possible that Letty, who had now so little to offer anyone, and that little all had bestowed with a very despair of constancy on another, should arouse in him, fastidious as he was, the spring of a pure love.

Yet so he felt it to be, in the tenderness in which he dwelt on her helpless ruin.

So deep was this experience, that seemed to Florio of the spirit, that for all his resolve to shake himself free of day dreaming, he gave no heed to outward events, nor made any effort to trace the fortunes of the English couple, but getting through his life at the Villa Giandola like an automaton, allowed the autumn days to pass, like revolving wheels of gold and purple, drawing time into eternity.


§ 35

Florio was roused by a letter from Lord Mountsellis delivered at the Villa Giandola by a manservant in a trim, plain livery, civilly asking him to accept a simple hospitality in the Palazzo Carlentini near the Porta Felice, the time being that day, at the seventh hour.

Florio returned an immediate reply. His surprised musings became ready to translate themselves into actions. He noticed with a quick interest the lodging of the Englishman. This palace was one of the most splendid and famous in Palermo. The family would not be in residence now, but it must have taken considerable influence to procure the admission of a foreigner to this haughty residence. Either the Englishman had worked another of his tricks or he had come into uncommon rank and fortune.

Florio took leave of his kindly hosts, who had watched him with misgiving for the last few days, sensing that he was completely withdrawn from them behind his courtesies, and without even the attendance of Bonino went on foot towards the Porta Felice that, situate on the Marina, looked towards the sea.

Never had Florio beheld Palermo so clearly; his imagination, self absorbed, had seen the city as a dream place, the mere drop cloth or background for his search. Now, that quest over, and his senses sharpened by his increasing emotion, he saw all sharply.

The thunderous weather, rare in that climate, had passed, and with the waning of the year the exhausting heat was allayed. Thin clouds hid the sun and mild breezes blew across the narrow streets and wide piazzas; the domes and spires sparkled in a blue light.

The entire city, in the natural amphitheatre at the foot of Monte Pellegrino, now appeared to deserve the name of "The Golden Shell;" the rich plain between the chain of mountains sending up a perfume from the orange and lemon orchards that lingered in the streets cleansed by the late persistency of the south-west wind.

This balmy air and the brilliancy of the azure sky Florio noted keenly as he proceeded along the Toledo and the Cassaro, and when he was in sight of the gate with its sweet memories of a darling wife, Felice, he noted that also, dazzling behind the showers of the fountains below the white statues of Pomona and Pan. He observed the warm colour of the yellow stone, the crowned Eagle of Sicily, the arms of the families of Palermo and Colonna, and it seemed to him that it was the portal to some domain hitherto only visited in dreams.

The Palazzo Carlentini he knew so well that it continued to surprise him that it should be a setting for the vagabond Englishman.

It was a magnificent building in warm brown masonry with a grand and singular porch, where the stone pillars were trees, the clusters of foliage meeting in the centre of the arch, the whole twisted together by ropes of stone. Over the door was a crest, shield with seven swords bound within a thong and the Spanish motto Manya y Fuerça, craft and force. Ogee niches with statues of saints stood on either side of this grandiose door, and above monsters stared down from the corbels of the round-headed windows.

Florio entered at once. The servants in attendance appeared to be waiting for him and he was at once shown into a salon on the ground floor where he found Lord Mountsellis and another Englishman who was presented to him by the former, as the British Resident to the King of Sicily, Mr. Charles Harte.

Florio soon perceived why this personage was present, it was to assure him that Philip Calamy had indeed come into his kingdom, and was now so important a person in his own country that no former trespasses against the social code of his class would be remembered against him. Indeed the Resident, with the ease of a diplomat, spoke as if Captain Philip Calamy had been merely idling time away on the Continent when he became, through three most unexpected deaths, the Earl of Mountsellis.

Florio listened civilly. He was pleased to have this information, to know exactly where he stood in regard to the Englishman.

Mr. Harte made graceful allusion to the Prince Florio San Quirico who had entertained Lord Mountsellis so handsomely at Bologna and lent him his castle of Chiaramonte.

Lord Mountsellis, through his, the Resident's influence, had obtained the use of this famous palace in Palermo and was now reposing there, buying curios and antiquities to be shipped to England when possible. Having been recently ill, he was living quietly, but in a costly fashion, the Bank having advanced him handsome sums.

No mention was made of Letty Winslow.

But for this Florio would have found the situation amusing.

The Englishman had very quickly recovered health and spirits and was correctly dressed, except that his good looks would probably appear theatrical to his fellow countrymen. He now appeared, after so many disguises, what he was, and what Florio had always supposed he was, though his rank was higher than the Italian had guessed.

His manner with the Resident was easy, even gay; they discussed common acquaintances and the London scene that both of them, exiled for several years, were likely to find changed.

The salon was large, the walls encrusted with mosaics that glittered with the colours of peacocks and leopards on a golden ground, beneath bands of dappled blue and white marble. The pointed windows were hung with crimson damask. Lord Mountsellis sat at a table covered with a velvet cloth on which was a small white alabaster figure of a woman pierced with arrows, and a small golden ram.

Florio considered him closely, against these bizarre surroundings he appeared sharply, in every detail, the English gentleman, exasperating in his deliberate self effacement that had in it so much of implacable pride.

Only an inextinguishable wildness in his glance, and a movement over hasty as he turned about his toys before him, betrayed him as other than what he was supposed to be, a man happy in a magnificent turn of fortune.

When the Resident had gone, he turned at once to Florio.

"Now you have my credentials, now you will admit that I was not boasting when I declared that my position equalled your own."

This was spoken quietly but Florio did not know if they were to meet as friends or enemies. Lord Mountsellis kept his glance turned on the golden ram that he held carefully.

"You keep me long in suspense," said Florio. "Where is Letty?"

"Safe, I assure you."

"I hope you do not say that lightly. I have the ear of Prince Cuto, the Lord Lieutenant."

"And would have me rebuked, if not apprehended, for any ill treatment of Letty?" replied the other instantly. "But you already forget the lesson I would have had you learn, Prince, from Mr. Harte; I am now an important subject of His Britannic Majesty and under his protection. The King of Sicily would not dare to meddle with me."

"But I should—if Letty..."

"My dear fellow, your chivalry is really misplaced—here is an extremely foolish and tiresome woman, without constancy..."

"To you, sir, truly constant."

"That is nothing, her liking goes with it, she could not be constant when virtue was difficult. She has little value. But I don't wish to dispute about her—I asked you to take her off my hands, but now the situation has changed. I don't need whatever you were prepared to pay for her, and, besides that, she won't go. Leave that—she is disposed of."

"I demand to see her."

"Why so you shall." Lord Mountsellis turned a sparkling look on the other. "See her and learn from her that she is satisfied. First I have some business with you. You think, perhaps, I should have waited on you, instead of summoning you here?"

Florio was of too high a quality to have thought of this.

"I came because of Letty Winslow," he replied.

Lord Mountsellis had opened a drawer and taken out some papers. One of these he laid on the red velvet cover.

"A bill for what I suppose I owe you, sir," he remarked. "If you are too proud to keep the money, you may give it to your begging priests."

"I am not proud," smiled Florio. "And what I have spent on you you could never repay. I shall send my servant to collect the bill."

The Englishman was staring at him steadily and Florio wondered why he prolonged the meeting. There seemed to be neither hostility nor malice in his glance, yet Florio could not think of him as other than an enemy.

"When do you return to England?"

"Why should I return at all? Is not Sicily a pleasant place with a delicious climate? Roses at every season—all luxuries at hand, horse races, the festas, palaces like this; with the money such as I have now at my command everything could be bought in Palermo."

"Even forgetfulness of the past?"

"My position is now such that even if any of my adventures were discovered they would pass as lively jests."

"Do you not have to give up your position in your own country?"

"If I chose to forego some advantages my return could be indefinitely delayed."

"It can be little matter to me, one way or another, since I learned the truth of your connection with Letty Winslow, all my concern has been for her."

"Ah, yes, you placed us in some ideal world—great lovers—'the world well lost for love' as the old play says. Well, was it ever so in life? Is it not merely a ranting of the poets? At least you know what it was with Letty and me, a matter of a bet."

"No need to repeat that."

"Ah, you move in a sickly twilight—there is no such thing as this ideal love."

Florio was silent. He thought, "You mean that you know nothing of it," and rising he came to the table where the Englishman sat and put his shapely hand on the statue.

"A pagan creature," he said. "Then struck with arrows and termed a saint. You have a pretty taste, Lord Mountsellis, and Palermo offers many delights to such as you, but you cannot remain here."

"Do you think so?"

Florio was surprised by the earnestness of this question that the Englishman did not give him time to answer for, rising, he added:

"I have written to Giles and other friends to learn the news of Colonel Winslow."

"It was contained in the letter that you showed me—he practises at his shooting."

"Bah! That might have been a tease, merely. Giles is dexterous at that. What do you think?"

"How should I know?" Florio was surprised at this turn in the interview, he could have truthfully added: "How should I care?"

"You saved me once, you know—turned him off my track, I shall never forget that."

"I did not think of it as that—how long ago it seems!"

"You helped me by lending me your castle, and with the passports and speaking to Prince Cuto for me."

Florio disliked this urgency of speech and the manner in which the Englishman was now pacing the room, as he had paced up and down the morning he had received the letter from Lennard Giles.

Now that he approached closer, Florio could see a square of silk plaster over the wound on his forehead that he had made when he fell, and this reminded him of the plaster mask this same man had worn when he affected to be Letty's servant.

Florio's mind went back to those disguises, to Wilhelmsruhe and Nuremberg; he recalled the motto craft and force shamelessly flaunted in front of the palace where they now debated; he saw the little alabaster figure as an image of Letty, struck with arrows, fallen from any niche or pedestal, defenceless.

And while he was busy with these symbols in the workings of his mind that were as needful to him as air, he saw with the same clarity with which he had observed the gorgeous city of Palermo when he had crossed it to this meeting, the details of the Englishman's appearance.

He wore a plain dark coat buttoned closely up to the simple white linen stock folded round his neck; his thick hair was cut short, thus throwing into relief the noble lines of his face, that, with his pale wide brow and splendid eyes, comprised his astonishing good looks.

It was a face that a sensual man might find a passport to any pleasure, but it bore no mark of sensuality. A cold care as to his health and appearance, an interest in intelligent stratagems and shifts, a certain natural firmness in his contours had left his handsome countenance without any of the flaws left by passion or fleshy self indulgence.

Florio thought that the bare and undisguised face was in itself like a mask for the real man. But now it was plain that he was deeply moved as he passed in and out of the last ray of light falling through the ornate window. There was something terrible in the beautiful face set in the impassive lines that so easily twisted to mockery but that were not mocking now.

Florio tried to withdraw his attention from what the man looked like to turn it on to what he said. But there was nothing new in the Englishman's words.

He was merely exposing the very nerve of his dilemma. Should he remain in exile, living as an outcast (that was what his position would be, gild it as he might) or return to face the man from whom he had been hiding for years?

"Stay here—your soft southern days!" said Florio. "What do you miss? As you said yourself, you can have your money sent here."

"The money is not the hundredth part of it," said the Englishman harshly. "I am Mountsellis now. I have a position, friends, acquaintances. I can't be refused the court, or the clubs, or the army, by God, though it must be another regiment. I should be welcomed everywhere. An excellent parti you understand. No one is going to remember a few damned tradesmen's debts, paid by now, and a scrape with a married woman, against a man of my quality."

"Except Colonel Winslow—he will remember."

"I wonder. He must be sixty. Giles wrote in one of his letters that the old devil had had a slight stroke, bad luck that, as they retired him, if he had been sent to the continent a bullet might have stopped him."

"Eh, well," said Florio, "old, sick, and his wrong some years ago, he may have turned philosopher."

"But you know that he has not," interrupted the Earl, passionately. "You know that he is waiting for me and has been so waiting since I came into the title."

"I do not so know. In Italy the affair would be settled gracefully."

"You saw him. You are the only man to whom I can speak, Prince, who saw him. You know that he looked like murder."

"Yes, but it is some time ago."

"Time has stopped with him. Come, San Quirico, help me in this infernal situation. You are a cool fellow. I'd do as much for you. As for this quirk you have about Letty, you know that I can't marry her, even if the old devil dies."

"I understood that," smiled Florio.

"It could not be expected. But what shall I do?"

"Return in disguise, you are clever at that, put through your business secretly and return abroad."

Lord Mountsellis stared across the room into which darkness had fallen with the sudden sinking of the sun, and said sternly:

"I have to reveal myself. It is expected of me. If I don't face him I shall be branded as a coward."

"But you have fled from him, hidden from him, during—what is it?—nearly four years."

"Then I was nobody, but poor ruined Philip Calamy, now I am Mountsellis."

"In your place these obligations would not concern me."

"You have not been and never would be in my place."

The Englishman paused, then broke out furiously:

"Can't you understand that I desire what is awaiting me? The titles, the lands, the houses, some, pretty young wife, the children, the esteem, the respect."

"Not yours, but paid to the place you hold."

"What do I care? I want precisely what is offered me."

"But you fear to go and take it."

"Fear? I'm not yet thirty years of age—would you want to be killed, or perhaps maimed or blinded, after what is offered me?"

"I see your difficulty," said Florio. "But, sir, you have ceased to interest me very much. I can no longer help you. And I don't trust you."

"You think of Chiaramonte and the dresses and finery—the price of them is in that bill."

"I think of Letty Winslow and no one else, and of her price and who is to pay it."

"You can."

"What is not given me freely is nothing to me," smiled Florio.

"Bah! I shall not begin to defend what I do. I have never done that." The Englishman was clearly impatient at being distracted from his own affairs, to which he reverted by adding: "My dear fellow, do pray inform me what this ruffian, Winslow, looked like. Did you judge him to be strong? Deeply inflamed?"

Florio was astonished at this persistency.

"I have already answered all these questions," he replied. "I could tell you no more if you were my best friend. Colonel Winslow, who by no means seemed to me a ruffian, was certainly deeply moved. When he had left, after I had put him on the wrong road, I remarked to my body servant that he seemed primed for murder—or some such comment."

"Ah!" exclaimed Lord Mountsellis on a painful breath, pausing by the window and looking out on to the purple dark of the evening. "But possibly this virulent hatred has lessened."

"Maybe. The unhappy man has had a stroke of apoplexy, you say. Time has passed, yet you say that there is no time in his vengeance. There are his children to remind him of his wrong. And from what you tell of the austere rules of your society, I do not see that it can hold both Colonel Winslow and Lord Mountsellis."

"Very well, then, you think that I should return home and expect a challenge from this man the moment that I set foot in Dover?"

"I suppose so." Florio lightly shrugged. "Even so, Colonel Winslow might fall by your hand."

"That would not save me. If I killed him it would be murder and I should have to stand trial or fly abroad again. Even if one, or both of us, were badly wounded, the scandal would be overwhelming."

"You have considered all possible ill luck," said Florio curiously. "What would you desire to happen?"

"I would desire Colonel Winslow to behave like a man of the world and content himself with a divorce action—if he must—but as he is not likely to want to marry again, I don't see the need of that."

The Englishman spoke with a readiness astonishing to Florio, who regarded him then, on an impulse of detestation, as a creature utterly worthless and hollow, a sentiment increased by Lord Mountsellis's next comment on his fantastic situation.

"By God, Letty ought to be dead or in a convent—with her whims and tears and sickly qualms. If she were dead, Winslow would have the less cause of complaint."

Florio, controlling himself, agreed quietly.

"Yes, Letty would be better dead, it would be more decorous, would it not? and set you free from a miserable tangle. But Letty is not dead, and you can in no wise evade this responsibility."

"You endeavour to remind me of a promise I made to you once? She is intractable. I have offered her a settlement, the choice of another protector, but I have no leisure for her extreme nicety."

"Tell me where I may speak with her," asked Florio coldly.

"First conclude this discussion. I like you, San Quirico, upon my soul I do, and if you do not wish to be burdened in my affairs you should never have meddled in them," he added with a menacing look. "I did not ask you, or expect you, to follow me from Bologna. You must pay for enjoying a sense of power over my misfortunes, and a high flown attraction for the insipid Letty."

"I have no advice to give," said Florio. "Why did you not ask your countryman, Mr. Harte, what you should do?"

"Here I have been answered," replied the Englishman, sombrely. "Without any discussion of my case, he took it as beyond cavil that I should return to England."

His low drawn brows and compressed lips showed that he was excessively vexed; the deceptive appearance of languor that he had shown earlier in the evening had vanished, he looked energetic and alert.

Florio wished to leave him, but, despite his mental fatigue, would not do so without some certain news of Letty.

Disguising all signs of the nervous fret that he felt, he held himself in check, his iron firmness hidden by his easy air.

Glancing at him with peculiar malice, the Englishman pulled the satin bell strip and when the walnut door was almost instantly opened, asked, in English, for lights.

The newcomer had a lamp, shaped like a foot of alabaster, in her hand; a small flame floated on the oil cast a wavering light over her menial dress of grey cotton, her coarse white kerchief and apron.

Florio glanced at her, surprised that they should be waited upon by a woman. In a palace of this magnificence, female servants seldom left the kitchen.

He saw that it was Letty, lit by the flickering flame that cast a small halo of darkness in the large grand room, her red hair hidden by the frill of a white cap.

"Here she is," said the Englishman briskly. "Since she will not leave me, there is no other expedient that will not expose her to be made a talk of."

"So she is sent to the kitchens," murmured Florio, approaching her where she had set down the lamp on a console table, as if not having the strength to carry it farther.

"The only place where she can be safe," remarked Lord Mountsellis. "She knows sufficient Italian to pass for a native of the mainland in a Sicilian household, and she is in the charge of some wary and discreet old women. Come, speak to her, it was arranged that she should enter when I pulled the bell. My dear Letty, look up, say your mind and have done with puling."

"Can you endure this last masquerade, Mrs. Winslow?" asked Florio, taking her thin hand closely in his.

She looked at him earnestly across the lamp flame, as if she conned more seriously than ever before his face, sweet and serious, framed in his warm-coloured hair, his topaz tinted eyes turned on her with a searching gaze, his generous mouth set in the constriction of pain.

"It seems grotesque and pitiful," she whispered. "But I cannot be turned into the streets, and here I am no cause of scandal."

"Not yet, not yet," interrupted Lord Mountsellis impatiently. "This is all I could contrive for the moment. Now pray explain yourself, my dear Letty, to Prince Florio who is your only friend."

"I am confounded before both of you," sighed Letty, withdrawing her hand from Florio's grasp. "I know that Philip wishes me dead, and I do, also, but it is difficult to die with some violence I have no courage for."

This made Florio fear that the Englishman had spoken brutally to his companion, but still he controlled himself, fearing to lose this opportunity of speaking to her, even in the presence of her master.

"I am your friend and not without power," he said keenly. "Tell me what I must do to serve you, to please you."

"Speak, in the Devil's name," urged Lord Mountsellis. "I cannot continue this indulgence."

"I have nothing to say," replied Letty, wildly. "I came to look at a kind face. To speak with one who held me in respect."

"Go with him, my dear," broke in the Englishman. "I have sufficient troubles without you. He is rich, kind, as you say. He will give you a fine establishment and care nothing that you go to him in a mob cap and mourning gown."

"These brutalities can injure neither of us," smiled Florio. "You can end all these charades, Letty, if you will trust me."

"I do trust you, indeed I do. What other friend have I ever had? Yet I cannot leave Philip."

"You heard her? She will not say yes or no—but once she knew her own mind, when she implored me to take her from London before her husband came home. Then she was resolute, leaning out of the coach and urging the turnpikes to open."

"It is a resolution that I still keep," said Letty sadly.

"Yet you wished to see me, you are willing to listen to me," urged Florio.

"Only to see you, for a moment, to listen to you for a moment, out of my weakness."

Lord Mountsellis made an impatient movement.

"I have rented a villa at Bagaria," he said quickly, "where I shall meditate on my decision. The house is shabby, I hear, but full of those whimsical conceits that please me. Castello Sad the name—you notice that I still travel, no respite, and you, as I suppose still on my heels."

"If Letty goes in your household."

"Carefully phrased—she may go or stay as she pleases."

"I shall go," interrupted Letty. "In no other manner could I be so carefully hidden."

"I take my leave of both of you," said Florio with, what was for him, an abrupt accent, for he could no longer well endure this scene.

"You'll come to see us in this suburb?" asked Letty.

Lord Mountsellis broke into laughter and ordered her from the room as if she had indeed been a servant.

Florio, taking no leave of the Englishman, hastened after her, but she had fled down the wide stairs and was gone into the dark.


§ 36

Florio put aside a gust of anger that shook him and went home carefully, shivering in the warm air as if he were naked in a great cold. Odd that Letty should look as she had always looked, as the fine lady of Bologna, as the toymaker's wife at Nuremberg, as the gambler's decoy; he might have expected her to be changed by her present wretchedness.

The Englishman had put what insult he could into his laugh and Florio had not resented it; though he had not flinched nor abased his princely air, he had been, by some enchantment of the senses, away from the gorgeous salon and in some moment of the imagination that combined all the moments in which he had seen or dreamed of Letty.

He had seen her, not in the miseries and uncertainties of her present position, but set apart, with averted face and a pretty air of dove-like innocence and grace.

And so he saw her now as he walked home through the moonlight that lay with a brightness over Palermo that seemed solid, like a wash of silver.

She had seemed, in the kitchen garb that was the very livery of degradation, candid, childish, sincere. Did she love Philip Calamy?

Did he, Florio San Quirico, love her?

He could not answer these questions, but it excited him to dwell on them, nor even this—"I am interested in them because..."

No, he could not say, even to himself, why he was absorbed in the fortunes of the English exiles. And as he used that word in his mind he thought that he too was an exile, and entirely for her sake, and he thought, unbidden: "How lonely we all are."

When, later that evening, he told the tale to Bonino he asked that constant servitor what was his opinion as to the dilemma of Lord Mountsellis.

"He will return to England and you, sir, will follow him."

"I had not thought of that, but rather to detain Mrs. Winslow in Sicily."

"Sir, you will not detach her from the fortunes of this rash man," replied Bonino in a strong accent of irony.

Florio put into words the question that had teased his mind.

"Do you think she loves him?"

"In the English manner, perhaps," said Bonino, suddenly dejected. "At least she is dependent on him—eh, see for yourself, sir, she would sooner be in his kitchen than leave his household. And she might have from your impulsive, reckless generosity—anything."

"So, you would say," concluded Florio, "that she must love him. Bonino, you are a bold, curious fellow, you foretold that this rash Englishman would have a hazard at the cards in Palermo and you were right, and now you foretell that he will return to England. Maybe you are right, but I can assure you that he believes that Colonel Winslow is in wait for him, and that he by no means wishes to die. In brief, he is ready to gamble again, but this time it is for his life and he greatly fears to lose the throw."

"He is reckless, audacious," said Bonino. "Always, mark you, the gambler, and he will go, not only for the prizes awaiting him, but because of the opinion of his countrymen."

Florio looked away, his face shadowed by a pallor of fatigue. His mood seemed one of unrest and despondency.

"If we are gamblers," he said, "the Englishman holds all the winning cards. Consider, Bonino, how, in a short while they have been all tossed from me to him. He is no longer to be bought or bribed or threatened—quite outside my reach."

And he stood silent, very much concerned with this matter, both anger and sorrow in his fine countenance.

"If," added Bonino, "the Englishman could entice his enemy to Italy he could hire bravi to murder him."

"Eh?" Florio San Quirico was startled, then remarked: "Yes, I think he might, but when Colonel Winslow was in Italy he did not attempt this."

"He dared not," replied Bonino. "He was himself poor, in disguise and hunted. Now he has power. And would use it. But why speak of this, sir? Colonel Winslow will not come to Italy, but wait for his enemy in England. And there it will not be possible to have him murdered."

"No," agreed Florio. "All this belongs to rambling fancy, and I have done with that."

"But not with these English people?"

"No—for there is more than fancy. She was hastily, coarsely attired; she appeared so young, so full of tears, with that little lamp in her trembling hand. You would not have known her for the poor tawdry wretch set up on the stage—neither proud, wilful nor obstinate, but hurt to a great stillness."

"Everything in her life has turned to mischief and calamity," said Bonino.

"You are very patient with me," replied his master with a look of gratitude. "Don't suppose I have any amorous designs on this sad lady. I never had, and what I feel now is a higher emotion."

"You were always minded to love her, sir."

"Maybe you know me better than I know myself. I think perhaps I love her now. I know that I cannot leave her disconsolate, that I feel a clear obligation to bring her to some comfort."

"It will pass for love," smiled Bonino sadly.

"And so will your fidelity to me. Shall we never have rest or respite, Bonino? Always the inn or the hired rooms, or the sojourn in a friend's house. Well, once I was on good terms with my destiny and satisfied with the thin gaudy joys that made up my days."

"And what came between you and that pleasant life?" asked Bonino with deep regret. "A little silly, light creature, long since lost, and now—but I must not say what she is now."

"I smile no longer at the persistency of my folly nor do I resent your reproaches," answered Florio. "I realize what this woman is. I also realize that I cannot forsake her—to-morrow we must leave this Villa Giandola and move to the suburb where Lord Mountsellis has taken a villa, Barrais. I must not be defeated by this turn of events. It is the lot of every man to have to face some such crisis when his heart is engaged against his reason. Let us talk of it no more, Bonino."

He turned aside to his bed and fell into a reverie that was beyond time and place.


§ 37

The estates of the Sicilian nobility at Bagaria were cultivated in a costly and luxurious manner, on the model of the royal residence at La Favorita, and when Florio reached this suburb it was still largely occupied, for the heat of the autumn had not yet ceased to render grateful the groves of orange, lemon and citron, the terraces of rose bushes and geranium, the avenues of mulberry, date palms and cypress that adorned the lavish gardens of the wealthy Palermitans.

This stretch of land was given to pleasure and there were no inns or hired rooms for the passing traveller on the isthmus overhung by the red rocks of Monte Giordano, and Florio had begun to consider putting into use his influence with the Lieutenant Governor, Prince Cuto, in order to find himself some quiet accommodation at Bagaria when one of Lord Mountsellis's servants brought an invitation from his master to stay at the Castle Sad as his guest.

This bizarre invitation suited Florio, he accepted immediately and proceeded with Bonino in a hired carriage to Bagaria.

The extreme beauty of the scene impressed even his abstraction. It was one that seemed to the Bolognese like the setting of an Oriental fairy tale.

The town, on the spit of land that divides the two bays of Palermo and Termini, commanded a view of the Sicilian coast, gold, purple and azure, that seemed to stretch beyond limits of the human fancy as well as beyond the limits of the human eye. The Lipari islands, far out in the sea, unbounded by an horizon line, seemed to be suspended between heaven and earth, and to wear the aspect of the dwellings of Circe or Armida, or to have the shape and glow of the Fortunate isles.

Leaning from his carriage Florio could look back, for the road through Bagaria rose to high ground, at the glittering and coloured domes and turrets of Palermo, the blue bay with white ships, the dense array of aloes and prickly pears with their fantastic cactus shapes, the groves of oriental trees, the plane, broad leaved and stately, the cypress, blue-black and tall, and here and there the impressive ruins of past ages, Greek, Roman, Saracenic, fragments of temples, forts, showing broken columns and walls in rich marble, stone or brick, between the vineyards and the cornfields now awaiting a second reaping.

So sensible was Florio of the extreme magnificence of this scene that he felt his own concerns fade in importance until it seemed of little matter whether he continued his pursuit of this wretched Letty Winslow or not.

Never passionate and always melancholy, he now doubted if he should meddle any more in the affairs of the English exiles.

The sight of Ustica, melting into the quivering gold of the smooth and distant ocean—calm lay like an enchantment over land and sea—filled him with nostalgia for some other world where there would be neither rogues like Philip or fools like Letty, where he might live, without a heart.

There, surely, was his way home, to that far off country of the imagination where all was a drowsy peace.

"But you'll not go, sir," said a voice beside him, and, turning, he stared into Bonino's anxious face.

"You read my thought," he said kindly. "It is true that I am a man of little resolution. I take no action. I follow this woman to little purpose."

"At least," said the servant, "you now admit, sir, that you do follow her."

Florio ordered the coachman to drive on. He was exasperated by his own indecision. A subtle indecision, for he was not in any conflict on the subject of Letty or, indeed, any other, he was merely at variance with his own profound inner indifference as to the course of his own life.

Although he knew his own power, and continually used it for his own purposes, he felt himself to be essentially too insignificant to affect the lives of others. A spectator always.

It had seemed as if the degradation of Letty to the gaming saloon and the kitchen had roused in him the strong and pure emotion he had been awaiting to arise in himself. Pity, indignation and chivalry had moved him (or so he thought) to something near to love. Now, driving through this luxuriant scene of air, land, city, town, mountain, sea, spread before him in a gorgeous panorama, he was unsure again. It did not seem to matter under what disguise Letty was hidden. She had been lost to her own world years ago when she had left England, and now she still had all she had left, her attachment to her master.

"Probably," Florio thought, "she also is indifferent by now to her situation, but is this the folly of love or the dullness of habit? She, no more than I, will know the answer."


§ 38

The Castle Sad that Mr. Harte had procured for Lord Mountsellis from the steward of the absent owner, stood on a rock outside the town and above a valley spanned by an aqueduct with narrow pointed arches. This valley was crossed by a number of streamlets that spread into marshy, sandy soil, overgrown with reeds and papyrus grasses. A small mansion, no more than a century old, had been built on to the massive fragment of the Saracenic fort that rose formidable against the blue sky, so vivid at the midday hour when Florio approached it, as to seem to pierce the sight.

This residence had been chosen, obviously, because it was apart from the other pleasure villas with their splendid houses and beautiful gardens. It was a place, for all its name meant "castle of delight," where one could be secret and alone.

And Florio, as he looked up at it, thought of the old symbol of the castle on the crest of a rock that the priests had told him of when he was a child. The subject of many a confused monkish parable, dream or feverish hallucination, the castle stood for any spiritual protection with which a man might encase and protect his fears and miseries.

A place where he might be fortified, while without was desolation and danger.

But nothing, even a wandering wind, threatened Castle Sad; green blinds hung over the windows of the yellow stone mansion, the rocks piled before the portal, and either side the rude carriage road was grown with carow trees with shining brown berries and evergreen leaves, sumach, fan palm, spurge and cistus, while trails of dark ivy overhung the boulders. Behind the castled heights could be seen the glimpse of distant mountains, so, pausing, as Florio paused midway from the aqueduct to the gate, the eye could glance with a dizzy sense of being poised in air, from the lofty mountains, to the crag, the castle, the yellow mansion, then to the green valley with the shivering reeds, far below.

The walls of Castle Sad were covered in bas reliefs, eagles, shields, lions, boars, trophies showed sharply outlined in shadows as if about to spring into a monstrous life. Above the door of the house was a label resting on two heraldic beasts who served as corbels; the round-headed windows either side were studded with nail heads in imitation of the Eastern style of the ancient castle, that Florio now saw, on a closer inspection, was partially a ruin, darkly streaked with ivy, dwarf palms, thistles and manna ash growing unchecked on the jutting ramparts.

Florio had not expected the spectacle that met him as the neat liveried servant conducted him and Bonino into the ground floor salon, shaded from the outer brightness by green slatted persane.

The Englishman, wrapped in a summer cloak of thin material, was lying on the hard couch of classic shape, drawn up near the left wall. A pile of papers lay on the tessellated floor near him; his hands were clasped behind his head and he regarded Florio with an intent and fearful stare.

"I am much obliged to you for coming," he said quickly, but without moving. "It is something to be able to speak one's own language."

"You really desire me to remain here?" asked Florio.

"I do, I do. I am indebted to you—and to your man, he is a faithful fellow. I never could arouse that devotion in anyone, though I was a lavish master in my time."

Florio perceived that he was talking in extreme agitation without taking much heed of what he said, and as he continued to talk in this vague, yet animated strain, Florio sent Bonino from the room, and approaching Lord Mountsellis said:

"I do not come as your friend. I know nothing of you that I like and we have had already too many speeches together that have led nowhere."

"Bah!" interrupted the Englishman impatiently. "If you are concerned with any nicety over Letty Winslow, pray be at ease on that score. Take her, on any terms or none. Not only is she indifferent to me, it is worse than that—"

"I can believe that nobody is indifferent to you, Lord Mountsellis, it is either love or hate."

"Near hatred here, the wretch has ruined me." With a flash of impatience that threw all reserve to the wind, he added: "Nothing but that damnable bet stands between me and all I ever wanted."

"You, not she, made the bet."

"I am in no mood for philosophy. But I'm glad you came—you say you're not a friend. No doubt I've offended you, irked you. But you followed me—us. I've no one else to whom to turn!" he burst out, with his aslant, not displeasing smile odd on his pale, grey face, that looked sick in the greenish light. "No woman is worth a man's entire attention," he added. "It is a strange quirk you have for Letty—it amused me once to dress her up, to disguise her, she is so passive, but now!"

"She is still here?"

"Yes, in this bizarre place, not so splendid as your Chiaramonte, my dear Prince, but my own, I chose it and I pay for it. I like it because it too is a disguise." He moved with his easy air of sullen withdrawal and said: "My head aches confoundedly."

Florio observed that he was now disarranged as well as carelessly attired, that his hands were shaking, his eyes suffused. "To think that I, who was always on my guard against artful women, should have been ruined by a fool!" he exclaimed. "But you, my dear Prince, as a foreigner, don't understand the English honour."

"No," agreed Florio simply. "You are a man of ample mental resources, and since you now have money and need not live in hiding—"

Lord Mountsellis broke in.

"I cannot live in hiding. He will soon be able to find out where I am, and find me out, even across a world at war, and shoot me as he nearly shot me before. So I had as soon go to meet him while I have some credit left, as wait for him to come to me." He turned his beautiful tired eyes towards Florio. "Do you understand now how I am utterly lost and ruined?"

"I understand that you persist in treating me as a friend and I am none. Once, I amused myself with the power I had over you—"

"And I hated you for that. It's gone now, as we are equals there—as for friends, I tell you again I have not one." He pointed down at the letters and papers on the floor beside him. "Do you think there is one friend among those who have written to me? All of them eager to see what I shall do, a toady here, a knave there, one with an old debt to remind me of, another hoping for a favour—there is not one of them, one time school, college, army colleagues and all, I would trust as I do you."

"You have no cause to trust me," said Florio.

"O, you are too indifferent to all of it to trouble to deceive me."

"Too indifferent to offer you advice."

"I don't desire even that."

"What then?"

"That you should stay with me."

Florio was quick to note the misery in his face, that had a death-like look in the greenish light.

"Don't go home," he said. "You know what awaits you. Do your letters mention Colonel Winslow?"

"All of them—and with malice. Save some from women that advise me to remain abroad. I hoped he might be dead. But no—he lives."

"Don't go home," repeated Florio. "What is this honour to a man like you? Remain here. You enjoy disguises, you can pass from one to another, and if this old man should come here, which is not likely, you could easily throw him off the track."

"You speak like that because you think I am utterly worthless," remarked the Englishman.

"Yes, I do. I don't regard you as worth all this flourish of punctilio. Remain hidden, slipping from mask to mask. A gambler's life, one you chose for yourself very early."

"I am Mountsellis," said the Englishman, without offence or reproach. "I want all that means, most of all the honour."

It seemed to Florio that they might juggle with that word indefinitely.

"In this country," added the Earl, "there is no scruple about putting a man out of the way."

Florio recalled what Bonino had said on this point. He seemed to understand the Englishman very well.

"No," he replied, affecting not to know what was meant. "If Colonel Winslow had killed you he would never have been blamed."

"I did not think of that, my dear fellow, and you know it. If that old devil were to come to Sicily he would be in immediate danger. But he won't come—he is sure that, as a gentleman, I must return."

"'As a gentleman,'" smiled Florio, moving towards the door.

"To take up the obligations of my rank. Winslow understands me better than you do. But stay with me, for God's sake."

"I came here to see Letty."

"You shall see her. But keep her out of my sight."

"Does she wish to remain in it?"

Lord Mountsellis appeared to check what he was about to say. He rose and said sullenly: "Don't leave me alone. I told her to wait for you on the rocks outside the old castle. Don't detain her long, I would rather not have talk about her. Persuade her—" he paused so suddenly and so long that Florio asked: "What do you want me to persuade Letty Winslow?"

"To keep away from me—get her into a convent, anywhere," he spoke quietly and with difficulty, as if every word cost a struggle.

"She can't go home, I suppose?"

"No. I told you, so did she, I think. I want to persuade people at home that she is dead. She might so easily have died."

"I shall try to take her away to a more fitting place than your kitchen," said Florio.

The Englishman suddenly laughed, with an insolence that had a touch of wild mirth.

"But even you must be put to it to know what to do with her!"

Florio smiled brilliantly.

"I must do what I can, my lord."

"And when you have seen her, return to me. You are my guest and I demand your company."

"I shall return. I could not make Palermo to-night, but I do not know what more we have to say to one another."


§ 39

Letty was seated on one of the pale yellow boulders clasped by ivy. A drip straw hat was tied with black ribbons under her chin; she wore the dress of a kitchen maid; her eyes were red and she had an air of great lassitude. The shadow of the old castle was over her and a warm breeze from the sea softened the heat of the declining day.

"Have you seen him?" she asked at once, springing up as Florio approached. "Is he not ill? Distracted?"

"Something, yes—but I am not concerned with him, but with you."

"O, don't you yet understand that there is nothing for me, that I am nothing?"

"I will not so understand, Letty. I want you to leave him and forget him."

She shook her head and seemed unable to speak.

"You, then, love him, Letty?"

"I don't know if that is the word for it," she whispered, hoarsely. "It is almost more than love. He is all I have. I know that he is tired of me—he long has been weary of the whole adventure."

"Then, out of pride, you should leave him."

"I never had any pride."

"You will remain, then, in the only place he offers you—his kitchen?"

"Tell me," she asked, instead of replying, "what you offer me."

Because she asked him this, he at once offered her more than he had intended.

"I can give you security, respect, a retreat." He thought of the Giandola family and the tacit friendship and sympathy of the women that he had never drawn upon. "I can obtain for you the companionship of ladies of your own rank."

"That would mean yet another disguise for me."

"No—neither you nor I have need of disguises."

"It is agreeable to hear you offer this kindness. I never thought that I should have such a chance. Of course I cannot take it."

Florio was surprised at his own disappointment. The hope that she would accept anything from him had been brief indeed, yet there was the oppression of a blighted hope over him as he answered.

"What do you suggest, then?"

"I want you to stay with Philip. He asked you that himself, did he not? He said that was his intention."

"Yes, it is strange that he should feel this partiality for me. Our story has indeed become twisted. He used to dislike me and look on me as an enemy."

Letty, with an unusual energy in her docile and timid look, assured him that this was so. "When we were at Chiaramonte he spoke often of you and the interest you had shown in us, and how you understood us better than anyone."

"Yet now he complains that I do not understand his English punctilio."

"He is not a very reasonable man. He meant, I think, that you are the only person who, knowing the whole of our story, tolerates us."

"He will find, in his present condition, many to tolerate him, already he has had letters."

"I know, they are months old, there will be others. Yet he is so lonely, and afraid."

She gave him a full look; though she had lost her bloom, she appeared immature, quite feeble and defenceless, as if ready to fade and vanish out of life.

Florio sat on the yellow rock beside her and took her thin hand in his strong fingers.

"Tell me," he said, "all you wish to say of Philip."

She began hurriedly to speak of the increasing illness and restless misery of her companion, whose moods had rapidly become so harsh and wild as to alarm the superstitions of the Sicilian household during the few days they had been at the Castle Sad.

Something mysterious in the foreigner, who was a heretic and of a beauty that was startling, his storms of ill temper and his terror of being alone, who was reckless in expenditure, caring nothing as to who robbed him, yet who lived withdrawn from society, alarmed the hired servants, and some had already left him, protesting that he had the evil eye, was under a spell, or damned.

"Fear is overturning his wits," whispered Letty. "He resents his fate. He knows that he must return to England."

"And can find no strength in his own threadbare spirit."

"None. He knows he must face my husband."

"He will do that, I suppose."

"Yes. It is a long-standing fear, it has been gnawing at him ever since Colonel Winslow obtained leave of absence to follow us. But he relied on his disguises."

"He has neither God not philosophy."

"No. Neither have I. I suppose he was my god once, but he told me it was only a matter of a bet, not love."

"He told you that!"

"Yes, long ago. I was jealous and vexatious. I thought we might have made something sublime of it, you know, all lost for love."

"So did I, my poor Letty."

And he thought: "We are both idealists, this simple woman and I with my learning of the schools and my ironic worldliness."

"If I had had any dignity or self respect I should have left him then," continued Letty. "But I had none. I raved and wept and was ill. He left me behind once at a wayside inn, but I followed him on foot."

"You intend still to follow him?"

"Yes. What else could I do?"

"As his servant?"

"There is no other way. I am cunningly hidden. If I keep out of his sight long enough, the mood will come upon him when he will send for me, only to sit with him a little, or, maybe to reproach me, yet—"

He waited for her to continue, not well being able to speak himself.

The sea breeze freshened and seemed to shake liquid gold over the leaves of palm and carow trees growing near to them, for it came from the west with the last glory of the sun.

"It is my only chance of going to England with him," she continued rapidly. "If need be, I would go as a footman—I must do this, must contrive it, do you not see that we cannot be parted?"

"Have you thought what will happen to you in England?"

"No. How can I think? I just go on and take my destiny—only the word is rather large for me. I am the cause of this trouble," she added. "I cannot escape."

"Do you hope to prevent these two men from meeting?"

"No," she replied, yet hesitant. "No. I am without hope. I don't think that even if I died it could be prevented. He is bound in honour," she added, without sarcasm.

"And what binds you to him, Letty, or me to you? But how useless to ask!" He felt that he parted with the last pretence at intellectual disinterestedness on this admission. He was involved with Letty, even with Philip, in complex meshes of emotion that had nothing to do with reason.

"You want me to stay?"

"Yes—in the loneliness closing on him he asked so often for you, there is no one else."

"I offered you all I had, and this is the one thing you desire?"

"Indeed it is. I cannot suppose that you will do it for me, and I know that you must be indifferent to him, if not worse, but I ask it, being desperate."

"Have you considered that I could not be more at your disposal if I loved you, Letty, that, perhaps, I do love you?"

"You repine on it too much," she whispered, rising. "What you think that you see in me is the creation of your dreams."

"You have so effaced yourself," he replied, "that you have become like a dream. And I, to whom the common stuff of life is vulgar and coarse, find that pleases me."

He found a relief almost amounting to joy in this confession, that assuaged his hidden romanticism, his careless eccentricity, his restless pursuit of an emotion, possibly a passion that would be beyond even his usual scope.

His position and his gifts put almost everything within his reach, it was indeed owing to his worldly power that this had been put into his reach. Yet it was something that was rare, that had nothing to do with money, influence or rank.

This humbled woman, truly an outcast, was indifferent to his person and to what he could offer her; she trusted him, however, with a grotesque mission, comfort for her companion, a creature Florio disdained to dislike, that she hardly loved, who could offer no return for any fellowhsip but a share in his own doom.

Florio looked down into the valley, a space of blue light beneath the narrow arches of the aqueduct, the tall canes and reeds rippled by the west wind that, to Florio's fancy, was coloured gold and visible. The place and the hour had the vagueness of a dream, that word came to him repeatedly, especially since Letty had used it. The essence of the adventure, followed across Europe during years, was a dream. The Forest and the mound in the summer house, the open window with the posy of flowers on the sill, the desolate ramparts at Nuremberg and the long road winding south.

He saw, in this dream, Philip Calamy, hunted from one disguise to another, turning, twisting, and now, at last, cornered and driven on to his doom in his own country, stripped of all his arts and tricks, defenceless before this strange notion of honour.

"He has his dark side," whispered Letty. "—then he can be, could be, gay, full of delight because of some new scheme—a play—his fits of mad rage you can understand. He enjoys life so much. He cannot endure a scratch or a scar, nor any ugliness. When he wore that white plaster mask it was for the relish of taking it off and seeing himself in a looking-glass."

"Does he know how well you understand him?" With a touching sweetness she replied: "I am nothing to him either way."

"What do you think I can be?"

"I don't know." She rose steadying herself by Florio's hand. "Do what you can."

With that and no more, by as much as a glance, she left him and moved delicately away, between the straight trunks of the palm trees into the blue shadow at the back of the ruined yellow fortress.


§ 40

"I have been in dangerous situations before," muttered the Englishman, "but always known how to get myself out; now I'm damned if I see a way."

He had spoken on this theme for the entire evening. Nothing, his sole listener, Florio San Quirico, thought could be more monotonous than hearing a man rail against his own decision.

There was nothing new that Lord Mountsellis could turn over in his quandary, yet he persisted in raking among the ashes of his miseries and fears until they, monstrous phantoms of his making, were ready to overwhelm him in despair.

Yet words only touched the surface of his suffering that was, Florio observed, unspeakable.

It was clear that the Englishman had never himself realized the strength of his smothered ambitions. He had been resigned to his exile, to his errant life, because he had few hopes or expectations in his own country. Having made his position there disagreeable, almost untenable, he had not had much to lose when he eloped with Letty, and the monies sent him in payment of his bet had procured him the season in Bologna, where he had been more at ease, more luxurious and better thought of than ever before. Three lives, two of them young, had stood between him and the family fortunes, to which it was clear he had never given a regret.

Now they were his, but only to be had at so fearful a price that he raged to think of it. Lust for power, money and all that was now nominally his, turned ferociously in his quick spirit.

He seemed indeed to Florio to be in the early stage of a fever, perhaps of a desperate illness, and his sole comfort was the presence of the Bolognese.

"I know you are not my friend," he said. "But you act the part of one."

Now he walked the room, now he tossed on the sofa, now in the low chair with arms by the green marble table with the goats' legs in bronze on which stood the silver lamp.

The windows were wide open; he had them so every night, despite the demurs of his servants who believed that dangerous miasmas came in from the campaign at dark, not only mal-aria but evil spirits.

The night was superb, the rich scene of rock, tree, shrub, aqueduct and valley lay in differing tints of blue and green silver under the moon that filled the upper air with a brilliant refulgence, broken by a few still clouds, white as lilies under clear water. Florio stood at the window, looking out on this scene that afforded him some escape from the pressure of the Englishman's passion.

Florio was tired. He wondered if Letty was watching the lighted space where he stood. He did not know where she slept, perhaps in some broken chamber in the yellow castle, where, kneeling in the dark she could peer down at Philip's room.

Like a sentinel Florio waited, his arms folded on his heart. Bonino was waiting also, he knew, in the closet next the room allotted to him, as he, the constant servitor, had waited in so many alien rooms, patient, uncomplaining.

All of them waiting on one another, exiled by their own actions from the pleasantness of common life. Sometimes the Englishman cursed, in his own language, in French, in Italian, in German, casting, in these tongues, imprecations on all the resting places of his travels. Sometimes he lamented in a low voice, as if speaking to someone who would understand.

Florio knew that at these moments he had forgotten where he was, and that it was to some kind companion of his childhood, long since lost, to whom he made his miserable complaint.

And the Italian wondered yet again what this man's life had been, the people he had known, the chances he had had, the enemies he had made, and if the gifts and graces he had exploited for his pleasures had served to bring him any good will from anyone.

It did not seem so. There had been time now for someone to come in person with his news, to tell him exactly what he might expect in England.

But no one had come. Not even a lawyer, a steward or a servant, merely letters, servile, tormenting or foolish.

Only Letty whom he quite despised, perhaps hated, remained with him, and the foreigner who would have despised, perhaps hated him, had he not been so indifferent to him as to feel no emotion where he was concerned.

At length the Englishman was silent and Florio turned to look at him and saw his reflection in the vast looking-glass that hung opposite the couch where he lay, his cravat untied, his hair tangled, his eyes closed, one arm across his breast, the other flung stiffly outwards.

His attitude and his expression showed an extremity of despair that affected even Florio so that he shuddered and felt, for the first time, a thrill of horror at the realization that this young, brilliant creature must be doomed.

He could think of no other word than that; if he slew his adversary he would be hunted again, this time as a criminal, but the chances were that he would be himself slain.

He lay there, in his wilful youth, under sentence of death.

Florio thought of the other man, the stiff soldier whom he had seen in Germany, of his long suffering and long waiting.

He, too, was approaching either death or disaster; probably the strange code of his countrymen, what they termed their honour, would absolve him if he killed Philip, but he would not be ever at ease again.

"I must persuade them that she is dead—and dead she is—to them—to me," muttered the Englishman, without looking up or moving.

"I wish you would not speak of Letty Winslow," said Florio. "Leave her to her own strange loyalty."

"Would I could leave her—anywhere," Philip sat up and glanced at the lamp on the green table. "Keep her away from me, pray do."

"Why do you wish it supposed that she is dead?"

Philip looked at him bitterly.

"I want her off my hands, out of the way," he replied, fixing an obstinate, vindictive glance on his own image in the mirror.

"She will not trouble you," said Florio advancing to the couch. "I shall take charge of that."

"You will? You are a good fellow, San Quirico, stay with me a little longer."

"Do you not intend to sleep to-night?"

"I have not slept for many nights, only a half hour or so. The doctor's stuff brings hallucinations that I cannot well bear. I never learned to get drunk."

Florio had observed that, like many gamblers, the Englishman was always sober, careful to be in full control of his wits, careful of his appearance and his elegance, self-controlled in that and other things, because he enjoyed the intrigues, adventures and sports that were only to be relished by one whose mind was clear.

"Watch with me this one night," he asked. "I shall begin the journey to England to-morrow."

"Give up this resolution," said Florio warmly. "One way or another it will be murder—can you endure to put this crime on this old man, already so wronged by you? Or yourself to murder him? Have you thought of his children, who are Letty's children, too, who, no doubt, love him and look to him, and any other friends he may have?"

"It is a point of honour," said Lord Mountsellis, sullenly. "I shall not challenge him, of course, but there is no hope that he will not challenge me."

"If someone spoke to him of the stupidity of this barbarous revenge—"

Lord Mountsellis grimaced.

"You don't understand," he whispered, and took his head in his hand. "And I do not care if you understand or not, as long as you remain with me."

"This is a melancholy fellowship," said Florio. "If I liked you I should feel a strong compassion for you, even though I think you behave like a fool. This honour that you hold in such a strange admiration is a weak superstition."

He looked closely at the haggard face of the Englishman, all his features were taut, as if he strained under a physical oppression. He began to complain softly to himself, with now and then a distracted pause.

"If I had never come into my fortune," he said, "I could have found sufficient amusement in wandering up and down Europe, outwitting the police, playing with fools—but now, it is infernally hard to have to give up—"

He checked abruptly and smiled wanly.

"Give up," thought Florio, "all your greeds and lusts that now might be indulged. I wonder what poor use you would make of all this power and riches, were you allowed to live to enjoy them?"

Suddenly looking up, the Englishman added:

"If you have no sympathy with me, you have shown at least, a good deal of interest—admit that—for years now."

"Yes, I have been absorbed in your vagaries."

"And you have shown a good deal of patience, also. There is something useful, after all, in the philosophic turn of mind that you affect."

Florio thought that he was talking in order to put off the hour of his companion's departure.

The night was still, the moonlight, so brilliant that it seemed filled by the glimmer of all the rainbow colours fused into silver, was withdrawing from the chamber, the squares of the open windows were purple bright, the room filled with bluish shadow as the flame of the untended lamp sunk in the socket.

The Englishman rose, gave himself a ghastly grin in the looking-glass that appeared, in this uncertain light, like a sheet of water, and turned to the sideboard of yellow marble.

There he hesitated, taking up and putting down glasses and goblets that stood beside bottles, flagons and decanters.

Florio, in his weariness, was reminded of the traveller, Colonel Winslow, in the hotel room at Wurtemberg. Just so had he stood, self absorbed, withdrawn into himself, his hand shaking on his glass of sparkling wine as he had described Letty—as no great beauty, with red hair, a well-bred Englishwoman. How would Colonel Winslow now describe his wife, so worn, forlorn and hopeless, her gentle eyes reddened with useless tears, her kitchen maid's attire?

Lord Mountsellis turned away, leaving the wine and brandy untouched; much as he longed for oblivion he was terrified lest he might unsteady his nerves or his wits even beyond their present agitation.

"I began to practise yesterday," he remarked hoarsely, his hand to his throat as if he had a physical difficulty with his speech. "I was always a good swordsman, but never interested in pistols."

"I wonder that you did not begin to make yourself more expert with this weapon as soon as you knew that Colonel Winslow was in pursuit."

"I was so sure of evading him," replied the Englishman sullenly. "I began, I say, yesterday—before then my hand was not steady enough. No use, I could hit nothing. I shall be a defenceless mark."

He turned sharply and stared at the door as if he had heard someone on the threshold.

"You are not in danger yet," said Florio. "Take an opiate and sleep."

"I do not dare to do so. I feel that he might come on me as soon as I am unconscious."

"You know that he cannot come to you, but that you must go to him. If you do not sleep your reason will be unsettled."

"If you will stay in this house until I wake, I will take it. Certainly I begin to lose all strength."

"I could not leave at this hour," said Florio. "I shall stay."

Lord Mountsellis took, with unsteady fingers, a small gold box from his waistcoat pocket and gave it, with a simplicity that was almost childlike, to Florio.

"There are some pastils there—an opiate."

As the lamp flame flared up for the last time, Florio poured some ice water out of a carafe on the sideboard into one of the beakers of Venetian glass.

"Lie down," he said. "I shall see that you are not disturbed."

The Englishman obeyed. He seemed, even, faintly relieved, as if his destiny had been taken out of his hands. He swallowed the drug, drank the water and lay down on the couch, pulling the cushions piled there under his head.

The lamp went out, and the dusky blue light from the two windows alone filled the chamber.

At that hour there was a sudden chill in the air, Florio took the travelling cloak from one of the chairs and laid it over the Englishman, who pressed his hands warmly, then gave a long drawn sigh.

The dose, opium Florio guessed it to be, must have been powerful for the strong young man, so fretted and alert, was soon asleep, a slumber broken at first by a few whispered moanings, then disturbed only by deep breaths.

Florio left the room.

In the eastwards facing corridor the sudden dawn-light was falling through the narrow-pointed windows. Beneath one of them sat Letty Winslow, a peasant's white handkerchief over her red hair.

"Ah," whispered Florio, vexed.

"How long you have been," she said softly. "Would he not rest?"

"Must you watch here, like a spaniel?"

"I crept down from the closet they have given me—no one knows. I fear he is ill."

"He has taken a sleeping powder."

"At last! You see he trusts you. Did you shut the windows?"

"I never thought of that," smiled Florio. "I covered him with a cloak."

"It is so chill about the dawn! I shall steal in and close the windows."

"No need. It will soon be hot enough."

"But I want to see him as he sleeps. It will be agreeable to see him when he is not frowning or scolding me."

She glided away with that well bred grace that made her coarse garments show for what they were, a disguise.

"How they draw me in and net me round," Florio pondered. "And I deserve this trap for my meddling."

He waited in the passage as the day brightened and the sunlight gleamed on the marble lining of the walls, then re-entered the salon well knowing what he should find.

Letty was seated on the floor where the Englishman slept, his senses and his terrors sealed up by the drug. She had closed the windows and removed to the distant sideboard the lamp that smelt of burnt oil, and had re-adjusted the folds of the thin riding cloak over the sleeper's limbs.

She turned with a shrinking timidity when Florio opened the door.

"One cannot leave him alone," she excused herself, timidly. About her look, her voice, her gesture, was a retired modesty not to be associated with her history.

Florio recalled how he had once thought, "She will one day die stupidly," and wondered why that remembrance had come to him. He reminded himself that he too was weary from the vigil.

"Come, Letty, you must not remain here, soon the servants will be about, and if there is any gossip it will anger your patient. He can well be left as he will sleep for many hours."

Letty rose, though reluctantly, made a needless rearrangement of the cloak over the sleeper's shoulders and followed into the passage.

"I shall fly away and not be seen," she promised earnestly. "But you will stay?"

In this pitiless disregard of him save as an instrument for her person, Florio saw her utter integrity. If this was not love it was some fine illusion as powerful as love, something of what he himself felt for Letty, an ideal passion of the dream and the waking fantasy.

And it was this; it was beyond time and chance and not to be disturbed by either parting or death. An attachment termed in the Academies where Florio San Quirico had often been a spirited debater, Platonic even on Letty's part, for her absence of all jealousy or resentment at her humiliations showed that she had lost any worldly or common passion she might have had for her companion, and regarded him now with this pure detached tenderness only.

While he, who had never loved her at all in this manner, and but little in other, having brought her down for a wager, as a marksman might bring down, in a wanton gamble, a fair, innocent bird, now regarded her with distaste, perhaps enmity.

"I too must sleep," said Florio. "I shall send my manservant to watch over him. Do you, also, get some repose."

She then looked swiftly and anxiously into his pallid face as he leaned against the shining wall, and swiftly accused herself.

"O, I observe your kindness—do not be angry with me. I have no one else. I leave all in your hands."

She was gone, hastening away from him as if she feared that her presence vexed him.

Florio, mistaking the way once or twice in his weariness and his scanty knowledge of the house, found his way to the chambers allotted to him.

Bonino was asleep, fully dressed, in a chair by the window.

Florio regarded him intently.

The man looked old in his sleep and seemed to have put off his air of a servant and an inferior. Lines of dignity as well as care showed in his thin cheeks, high brow and firm lips.

Florio thought, "He is old enough to be my father and he has fallen asleep watching for me."

Bonino would never complain nor ever mention his tedium and his fatigue; surely his homesickness, also, for he, though without a family, had lived pleasantly in Bologna.

Since he had followed his master on what, to him at least, was a senseless errand, he had gradually lost his spirit, though never his alacrity in his master's service. His gaiety was spent and he had lived much apart among the southerners, whom he regarded as foreigners. Now, Florio thought, he looked wistful and downcast in his slumber. This was the first time that he had been found sleeping at his post.

A voluntary watch, since Florio had not bid him wait.

"I trifle with his affection," reflected the young man. And he recalled the long diligence of Bonino in tracking down Philip Calamy, and his shrewdness in surmising where, and in what occupation, that adventurer would be found. "And I was, without thought, going to set him to guard the Englishman."

Florio went into the chamber assigned to him that opened from the closet where the servant slept.

His bed had been prepared, the mosquito net was in place, the toilet appointments unpacked.

The room seemed deserted, though so carefully prepared for a guest's entertainment; it reminded Florio of the room at Wilhelmsruhe, of the room at Chiaramonte, of other rooms where Letty had stayed awhile, leaving in one shawls, a posy, in the others, nothing, yet a sense of her one time presence conjured up by his imagination and the withdrawal of her presence, her escape and flight from him, that was like a desolation of the spirit.

He looked from the window. All was bright now, the purple autumn seas melted into the deep blue of the heavens, the foliage of palm and plane, of manna ash and cypress was sharp and clear as enamel. Here, as under the moonlight, was a landscape of a dream, a dream lost, forgone and scarcely remembered.

Florio stood there longer than he knew. When he moved, it was to bathe his face quietly in the basin of cool water Bonino had put ready for him, then to pass lightly the still sleeping servant, and return himself to watch the Englishman.


§ 41

When Lord Mountsellis awoke, well on into the day, he was much refreshed and had recovered something of his usual slightly insolent composure.

He found the physician he now had always with him, on duty by his couch and on asking at once for Prince Florio was told that he had been sleeping this hour or more.

"Well," remarked the Englishman, yawning and stretching. "He gave me some confoundedly good advice. He is a cool fellow and ahead of the times. I don't know, on my soul, I don't, why I didn't listen to him, instead of getting into a romantic frenzy, however, it is not too late."

The doctor could make nothing of this and bowed civilly. He was well paid for his post and regarded it as a sinecure, the mere whim of an eccentric and possibly lunatic Englishman.

He was inclined to regard all members of this nation as mad, from the stories he had heard of them during the British occupation of the two Sicilies, and some strange happenings he had witnessed himself. His patron had not confided in him, but naturally as shrewd as discreet, he had gathered from the careless and often random talk of Lord Mountsellis that he dreaded to return home because of some crime or scandal.

He now made his punctilious inspection of his patient, who seemed to him to be in such admirable health as might be expected from the care he had always taken of himself and his natural advantages.

"And, sir, your spirits seem relieved this morning, both from the pining melancholy that afflicted you, and the claps of frenzy that you yourself mentioned just now."

"It was the sleep—a much-needed oblivion."

"You should have taken this opiate before, sir."

"I was afraid to do so. I feared dreams. But there were none. Will you breakfast—dine—I know not what hour it is, on the terrace? And I should like the company of Prince Florio as soon as he awakes."


§ 42

It was not until the evening that Lord Mountsellis had his desire of meeting his guest again.

Bonino, now on duty in his master's room, refused to have him disturbed, and Florio slept long.

"We shall be out of our wits through this mad Englishman," grumbled Bonino, who was sharply humiliated at his own failure to keep vigil, and shaken by the delicate look of Florio, sunk in the slumber of complete exhaustion.

Philip complained at this delay. Now that he had decided on his course of action, Castle Sad seemed to him like a prison, idleness irked him, there was nothing to do in this hired house with foreign servants, who seemed half afraid of him, half hostile, yet his spirits were higher than they had been since he had received the letter from Lennard Giles.

The physician found his company tedious, for he spoke only of himself and made it clear that he required no more medical services, but that the good doctor would be presently dismissed.

When Florio came at last on the terrace, that was a mere levelling of the yellow rock at the side of the house, set about with an arched balustrade, he had a dense headache and the fatigue of his sleepless night was still over him, and with it the despair of the Englishman, so it was with a kind of stupefaction that he beheld Philip, spruce and animated, seated behind an iron table loaded with fruit, cakes and sherbet, yet there was something forced about the gaiety of his greeting, something unnatural about his composure.

"I have decided to take your advice," he said at once, rising to set a chair for Florio. "I shall leave this place to-morrow and return to the mainland. I shall take a villa in Rome or Florence."

"You do not, then, intend to return to England?" Florio was startled, bewildered.

"No, that was your advice, was it not

"My advice?" Florio reviewed the situation swiftly. "Yes, I think it more civilized. Why provoke murder or offer murder for a punctilio? You can find all you desire in Italy."

"I intend to try, and there are other countries still open." Lord Mountsellis spoke with luxurious self satisfaction. "Then the war can't be eternal, Paris will be open again, and Paris equals London."

"This decision should please many," said Florio, and he thought that his own country would be well rid of this man, and many saved from embarrassment if he stayed in exile, and that even Colonel Winslow would be secretly relieved, for surely now he did not still wish to play the part of an avenger seeking blood.

Lord Mountsellis spoke rapidly of the advantages of his change of plan, and dwelt in detail on his schemes for the future that were varied and intricate.

Florio thought that he spoke thus with a light and affected eagerness, to distract and confuse observation, as if, while the man himself sat there, discoursing negligently, yet with an air of resolution, his spirit was in retreat and obscuring its intentions.

Florio thought, "Here the story ends, then," and the scene of his own place came up before him, the palace in Bologna and the Villa Aria, where now he could return.

"And Letty?" he asked.

"Letty must take a settlement and be gone."

Florio was silent. Though he had himself suggested the reasonable course of action that the Englishman was now taking, he, unreasonable himself, found he despised the exile for not returning home to face his enemy, for not being true to his own barbaric code.

"I know what you are thinking," said Lord Mountsellis suddenly. "But I'm too fond of life to throw it away for the sake of pleasing the notions of a parcel of rogues who hate me. Do you think there is one of those who have written urging me to redeem my honour, who cares in the least what happens to me? No, I'll stay where I am safe."

"You are wise," agreed Florio dryly. He held up his opal glass with the sparkles of light in the golden threads that spangled it, and the blue air seeming to lie liquid in it, like wine. "You have every opportunity now to enjoy your gifts and likings."

"And I mean to take them, these opportunities." The Englishman spoke with what seemed to Florio a ghastly relish and with a flare of wildness in his look that he tried to conceal by turning aside and staring across the azure prospect below the terrace and the rocks, the valley with the silver marsh waters and the swaying reeds, and the white span and pointed arches of the aqueduct.

"I must ask you again about Letty," said Florio with authority. "I suppose, now your mood has changed, you do not want my company that you begged for."

"No, my dear fellow, I don't. I desired you to see me through a hellish business—you're generous, clement and cool, yes, that is what I like about you, cool. You seem as if you could keep things off."

"Very well," said Florio, rising. "It will be a relief to me to part from you. But first I must know the mind of Letty Winslow. There I must press you.

"How, press me?" Lord Mountsellis spoke sullenly, rising also and staring down into the valley.

"You wished me to stay with you, now you are wishful to be alone. But you will not be rid of me until this is faced."

"She is free to go where she wills," replied the Englishman. "She knows it, and so do you. What more is there to say?"

"I do not know. Whatever it is you must hear Letty Winslow say it, and before me."

"Very well," agreed the Englishman. "It is not of the least consequence. There is not even any need to keep up appearances, as I shall be dismissing this entire household when I return to Palermo. I shall send for Letty and talk to Letty, and so may you, and I hope that will be the end of the matter.'

"It must be determined to-night."

"It shall be." The Englishman spoke in a tone of unexpected brevity. "It will serve to pass the time. Upon my soul, I don't know why I came to this outlandish seat."

"You will send for her

"Immediately—as I am about to tell the major-domo to disperse the establishment I can ask him to send Letty. Where? Not that chamber where I slept last night," he glanced, half scornful, half exasperated at Florio, "but the yellow salon that I glimpsed last night. I like to have settings for these charades, the piece is suitable for the exit of Letty Winslow."


§ 43

Punctual to the hour named, which was that of the sudden dusk, Letty entered the yellow salon that ran the length of the back of the house and gave on to the ancient castle by means of arches encrusted with mosaics. The floor was tessellated in black and white; the furniture, stiffly arrayed along the walls, was of walnut and dull yellow satin, the curtains at the trefoil windows were of the same material. A large chest covered with red velvet stood between these windows, beyond them, either side, were two half columns of red marble supporting figures of the genius of Palermo, shown as youthful kings, seated in conch shells.

This grandiose room had long been disused and had the desolate air of a place built for festival, then closed away, forgotten. Yellow dust was over everything, there were no covers to protect the brocade seats that were faded and fraying; the lamp that had been placed on the red chest cast an uncertain light and was reflected, in a gloomy fashion, in the looking glass behind it, that held also the images of Florio, Philip and Letty, all appearing small and out of place in this vast chamber.

Letty, on her entrance, had flinched back, and remained in the shadows. She refused the chair that Florio set for her and remained standing. She looked haggardly weary and humble, and only the grace of her carriage and the turn of her head, with her red locks piled carelessly up like a crown, made her seem above her coarse dress.

"Letty," said Philip at once, "I am not returning to England. I had a sound night's sleep and it cured me of that folly. I shall set up house in Rome or Florence until Paris is free. Now, you are not to make a to do of this, my dear, but to say directly what settlement you expect to leave me in peace."

Florio, looking at Letty, saw that she had a compassionate expression on her tired face.

"Why do you speak like that?" she asked. "It is no use, you know."

"I speak at the request of our friend who has taken such an uncommon interest in us."

Letty turned to Florio.

"But you don't believe that he will stay in Italy?"

"It was my advice to him. We must not concern ourselves with him, but with you."

"It is all one," she replied.

Florio regarded her with a powerful emotion of tenderness and pity. "How," he thought, "she troubles and bewilders me."

"Come, Letty," urged Philip, moodily pacing up and down, "this won't do."

"No," she said. "It won't do to stay in Italy, in exile, in hiding. You must return to England. You will keep to your purpose there, of course."

He turned his back on her, went to the window and looked out into the spreading blaze of moonlight.

"Why do you say that?" asked Florio, startled.

"He must return," she repeated, as if not hearing this question. "And he knows it. And all the arguments. I need not run over them again."

"You should persuade him to stay, you know what awaits him—he wants his life."

"He wants something else more," said Letty. "I know him better than you do, Prince. This is merely a humour, a mood."

"What has he to lose?" asked Florio. "Consider how he has lived, how he must have been regarded."

"That is nothing. If he returns, when he returns, he will be regarded as a man of honour."

Philip turned and looked at her very keenly.

"What did it matter before—he was no one, but now it is a great name and a great position and he is expected, by all his equals, to uphold it and by all his inferiors, and by those above him, to uphold it. But I'll not speak of it any more, of course he will return to England."

"Have you considered," asked Florio, "that, if he does so return, it may mean the death of Colonel Winslow, or the making of a murderer of Colonel Winslow?"

"I don't think of him," returned Letty, "any more than I thought of him when I ran away from him years ago. I think only of Philip."

"She loves him," thought Florio curiously. "She is not considering herself at all. What should it be to her whether he goes or stays, unless she loved him."

The character of the woman, more than the woman herself, her personality and her situation, had for him an increasing fascination that made him oblivious of himself, as he had remarked so keenly, she was of herself.

He found something almost frightful in the steady unmoving look she fixed on Philip, who had now turned to face her, something overpowering in the strength of her purpose that quite eclipsed her wretched attire, the helplessness and wretchedness of her circumstances.

These two people, caught and cornered by what was to him a mere barbaric notion, mistermed honour, seemed to Florio as if in the intensity of their passion they had been transformed into something more than their usual vitality. The woman, in particular, seemed to glow with an emotion that made her, rigidly as she stood, motionless as she was, like an incarnation of fierce energy.

Both of them had forgotten Florio, who felt that he was of no importance to either of them.

"You're right, Letty," said Philip. "Of a certainty I must return to England."

"You never really hesitated," she replied. "You were drugged or had some disturbing dream. Do be gone quickly from this sluggish place. In this quiet heat it is hard to keep to any active purpose. You know well what you have to do."

"I do know it, Letty."

The Englishman turned away again and stood with his back to the room, facing the moonlit prospect.

Letty moved swiftly, as if she had forgotten an important errand, and left the room. Florio followed her at once and caught her hand. She turned, surprised, glanced at him and exclaimed: "Ah, you!"

"Yes, I," said Florio. "You have made a mockery of my friendship. This meeting was to hear what you wished for yourself."

"There is nothing, never can be, for I am nothing," she answered quickly. "Cannot you understand that it is as if I had died—long ago?"

"Why did you persuade him to return to England?"

"I did not persuade him, I merely reminded him. O, it was but a lapsed purpose of a few hours!"

"You choose, then, to have him murdered or a murderer though you—"

"I don't choose," said Letty, desperately pulling her hand away, "to have him scorned and called a coward, and disgraced for me—cannot you see that he knows he must go, and would be most wretched if he did not go? That he believes, and I believe, that he must go, and that nothing else matters?"

"Nothing else matters?"

"What else is there, for either of us? What has there been since we left home?"

"You foil me, at every turn. I can do nothing for you—how often that word 'nothing' comes into our talk!"

"You can stay with Philip. He needs you, whatever he says."

"Useless to remind you again of Colonel Winslow."

"Yes. I tell you I don't think of him. I am too abased, too humble for noble thoughts. It will please him to kill Philip or to die himself—didn't he follow us for that? Now we will seek him out. It will come to an end at last, all the torment, the misery, the exile, the flight—" she checked her voice, already low, and added in a whisper: "We are all very weary."

"Do you think I am so weary as to leave you?"

"I don't think. I don't think of you at all, or only in as far as you can help Philip. Yes, you have been a good friend. It was curiosity, was it not, and idleness and a sense of power that made you meddle with us?"

"Yes—that and the pursuit of a dream, idle enough. I always thought you loved one another, that had a fascination for me."

"And now that you know it was a matter of a bet on his part—and on mine—I don't know."

"I think I do. I believe that you love him, Letty."

"Well, there is nothing else. Love? I don't know, I say. Why must you, with all your advantages and all you might have, concern yourself with us—with me. But if you must, why then, look to Philip, who needs you."

She was gone into the shadows down the long passage where the moon, shining through the trefoil windows, glistened on the encrusted mosaics.

Florio hesitated. He tried to pretend to himself that he was free to go to Bonino and tell him to prepare for the long journey to Bologna.

He looked at the still, cold prospect beyond the window, the wide valley beneath the white aqueduct, the shadows were cold and gloomy, the west wind touched with chill, the moonshine outlined the leaves of plane, manna ash and carow tree with silver that appeared as heavy as precious metal. Some cool distant clouds troubled the distant purple refulgence of the skies.

Florio was soothed by the silence and the solitude, again he felt the essence of his experiences since he had left Bologna to follow the exiles, past and present, as in a dream when one image rises from another, dissolves into yet a new shape, and so, intermingling, the shadows pass, each different, each full of the same meaning.

Somewhere in dreams, in the centres of their hidden lives, they met, he and the Englishwoman; in her very obscurity was a charm to hold him, in her humiliation and degradation a purity to move him to a deep tenderness, for she had accepted all her losses and misfortunes as if they were of no matter at all. She asked nothing, expected nothing—and again he reminded himself how this word "nothing" came into his thoughts of her and his speech with her. She had given her all and not counted the cost. She had never repined, even in the intense searching looks she had given him now and then there was no complaint.

Florio returned to the yellow salon.

Philip was seated in one of the worn, splendid chairs, his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands. He looked up at once as Florio entered.

"I thought you had gone," he said sharply. "You don't mean that you are staying with me?"

"Yes," smiled Florio. "Will you sleep to-night, or shall I sit with you?"

"I shall sleep," said the Englishman, rising. "I'm relieved you are staying. It is infernally lonely. No, I shall not sleep—I have preparations for the journey to make."

"I and Bonino can help you there."

"Yes, I suppose so, but no necessity for false passports now."

"Don't you think of Letty at all? Her insults and injuries?" asked Florio.

"O, Letty! We never settled what was to become of Letty, did we

"She is not to be moved from following you."

"Let her keep out of my sight, though." He spoke in a charming, gentle manner and smiled in a fashion that made the rude words sound like a caress. "Never mind Letty. I'll see the doctor and the steward and arrange my affairs. I'm glad you've stayed," he added and did not ask for how long he might expect Florio's company.


§ 44

"For humility, acceptance of pain, forgetfulness of self, her actions seem to express love, but what is this urging of him unto his doom?"

"She would have him," replied Bonino, "accept with dignity and courage what he cannot escape. It is likely that if he doesn't return, the old man would seek him out wherever he may hide."

"Is it as simple as that?" pondered Florio.

"It is more simple than you make it, sir."

"I am going to England with them, Bonino."

"Sir, I supposed you would."

"Yes, you must have seen it, there is nothing else to do."

"You bear her burden as she bears his."

"And as you bear mine, Bonino."

"And you will follow him as I shall follow you."


§ 45

As the four travellers crossed Italy the Englishman's mood changed frequently. Though still resolute not to confuse his senses with wine or spirit, he frequently took opium that touched his humour now into frenzy, now into reckless high spirits.

He kept Florio constantly with him, and paid no attention to Letty, leaving his friend, as he insisted on terming the Bolognese, to arrange the fictions of the journey. He, who had been so engrossed in his masquerading and charades, so delighted to invent and wear disguises, was now indifferent to Letty's awkward and touching appearance as a young scholar who was supposed to be acting as secretary to Signor Miola, for Florio had again taken that nom de voyage, who for his part, was posing as an Italian dilettante, travelling to England to assist a wealthy Englishman in the arrangement of his pictures, statuary and coins. Florio could not invent any other excuse for the presence of himself and Letty in the company of Philip Calamy, who was also content to travel incognito, using the name he had assumed when living at Chiaramonte.

Letty excused a constant withdrawal on the excuse of a sickness that was not, Florio thought, entirely assumed and about which Philip cared nothing.

With a heavy scarf wound round her mouth, wrapped in her travelling cloak, she retired to her room whenever the party stopped at an inn or post-house, and Florio had no opportunity of speaking to her, and knew nothing about her mind, save that she was obviously determined to accompany the man who had been her lover to England.

During the night crossing from Palermo to Leghorn a brief storm had risen, then Florio had gone to her cabin, fearful of her fear in circumstances so terrifying and forlorn.

He had found her asleep beneath the swaying lantern, looking thin, pale and grotesque in her male attire, her red hair hidden under a linen cap that she wore constantly under her hat.

Florio had wondered at her adopting this ugly device, but she would by no means cut off her fine curls, even though they had been the cause of her ruin. She, by feminine perversity, persisted in cherishing the illusion that Philip had once loved her for them, and truly admired what with him had been merely the matter of a bet.

This was the first time that he had seen Letty helpless, unwitting of his scrutiny, and he was much moved by the fatigue that held her in slumber even through the storm, and by the meekness with which she wore the dull, harsh clothes that Bonino had procured for her. Florio had not dared permit her any disguise save this, that of an ungainly shuffling lad, for had she come as any manner of woman her travelling with the men would have caused a scandal and a trouble that would, Florio knew, have roused the Englishman to brutally discard her; he only suffered her because she kept out of his way.

They travelled without servants, using hired couriers and carriages, and after that long look in the humble cabin as the packet swung to the southern storm, Florio saw little of Letty, who travelled with Bonino who guarded her with a scrupulous care, so that those who saw them during the journey often remarked on his tenderness to the sickly boy, who gave no trouble certainly, but who was no company either.

Philip engrossed Florio's attention. He would have him sleep in the same room with him, Philip often lying fully dressed on a couch or bed while Florio held his hand until he slept.

He was interested in nothing save himself, and often discoursed of his properties, income, money in the funds, and the circle of friends who would be waiting to make life agreeable for him as if there was no shadow across his future.

At the first stop, Florence, Philip found some letters waiting at the agents employed by his lawyers. These, all full of the one theme of his return, heightened his excitement.

"It is impossible to credit the different tone people take with me now," he declared, and with a ghastly look he showed Florio one letter that read: "As a betting man, my dear Philip, it will amuse you to know that the wagers are being laid pretty freely as to whether you'll return, if you'll return alone, what will be the result of your meeting with Colonel Winslow. What say you to the odds?"

As the theatre of war had to be avoided and any territory in possession of the French, the little party hurried into the Papal States and took little pause, bad as the roads, cumbrous as the coaches were, until they arrived at Ancona.

Florio did not mention to Bonino that it would have been possible to make a stage of the journey at Bologna, and the servant sighed in secret for the fair times past that were gone like a gilded light out of the sky dies at the end of day.

The lengthy, tedious journey irked them all, for different reasons. Philip wanted to put his fate to the proof. Florio desired the end of a painful companionship, and Letty suffered not only from the humiliation of her disguise, and the heavy discomforts of the way, but from the dark blankness of the future.

From Ancona they took a Russian ship, whose Captain was induced by bribes to give them a passage to Trieste, where three weeks travel over mountains brought them to Vienna.

There there was a large number of English residents, and though Philip preserved his incognito some of them found him out and left cards and compliments on him in a buzz of curiosity.

"You see," he remarked, "how important a creature a lord is. I should not be allowed to slip into England unobserved."

Here he indulged his taste for cards and visiting a public gaming place brought back to the inn four hundred rix dollars that he had won.

Showing these to Florio in a blue net bag as if he displayed a work of art, he remarked that he had always been lucky with the cards, and had at one time supported himself with his earnings, as he termed them, that had amounted to over two thousand a year, "then my luck turned and I took to betting."

"You are the strangest creature," said Florio; he felt a nervous melancholy weigh his own humour, and an uncertainty that was at variance with his character, as if he was acting in some unfamiliar and repellent drama and did not know the words of his part.

At Vienna Philip first suggested that what he termed "the affair" between himself and Colonel Winslow should be made the matter of "total hazard," red or black with the cards, or a throw of the dice. He liked this expedient better than that of a duel that was but "standing up to be murdered" as the old man was so good an aim, and would surely require three shots, so there would be no escaping. He was not likely to fire low and think honour satisfied. So, in a duel, Philip saw no hope. But in the cards or the dice there was a chance, the gambler's chance.

Florio thought that he spoke wildly, under the influence of opium or a frenzy of passion, and did not argue the matter. But at the next halt, Dresden, Lord Mountsellis was on this device again.

He believed, he said, that Colonel Winslow, who had played high in his youth, would consider the offer sporting.

"The loser is to shoot himself within twenty-four hours," he said. "Suicide, with a note left explaining the matter, so the winner goes free. If it is a duel both lose. There is nothing but exile, hiding for the survivor. Besides, to shoot oneself in front of a mirror would be a clean thing, but the Devil knows how one might be mauled after three shots from a furious man."

Still Florio could not take this proposition seriously though Philip continued to argue it strongly.

"It could even be made to look like an accident and all be done in a gentlemanly way. Colonel Winslow ought to prefer it for his children, as less scandal—at Almacks or Whites it would be considered quite the thing, I assure you."

"And if this fantastic arrangement were made," asked Florio, "how is the winner to be assured that the loser will carry out his part?"

"By God, sir, will he not have given his word?"

Florio was silent before this flourish, spoken by the man who in a ludicrous disguise had cheated, with the most adroit skill, in a common gambling hell in Palermo, using as a decoy the woman he, for the sake of a wager, had brought down from a secure and brilliant position, to infamy. But he could see that Philip was sincere in his notions of honour.

From Dresden they went to Hamburg and had to wait before they could find a merchantman going to an English port willing to take them. And there Philip with his own hand, and at his own suggestion, wrote out what he knew was his possible death warrant.

"The Most Honourable the Earl of Mountsellis is returning from the continent to his mansion in Hill Street, Piccadilly."

"I shall send that to The Gazette as soon as we reach England," he declared. "I suppose he is already in London waiting for me."

In Hamburg he perfected his plan for the gamble that was to decide the question as to whether he or Colonel Winslow should live.

"I stake far more than the old devil," he said violently. "He is near the end of his life and I've all mine before me as well as a higher rank, a larger fortune and brighter wits—what does he stand to lose beside what I offer?"

The Englishman would not be distracted from this theme. He described the clubs that he had frequented in London, Almacks, Whites and the Savoir Vivre. The games were chiefly faro and hazard, each player had his dish of tea beside him and a bowl to hold the rouleaux of gold, there was seldom less than a hundred thousand pounds on the table and one never played for less than fifty.

"And between the play the bet books come out and there are wagers on every subject under the sun—so why not on my life and Colonel Winslow's? I swear thousands will change hands when it is known we intend to settle matters on a cast of the dice."

Philip added regretfully that he had never had the fortune to play deep; his uncle, whose honours he had just inherited, had at first supplied him with funds, but on hearing of his way of life had cut them off.

"But I was successful," said the Englishman, with a wild smile, "and lucky—he need not have feared for his timber. I knew when to stop, also. That was what set me on to the woman, and when I was running down all the red-heads I forgot the cards. You cannot conceive, not being a gambler, the thrill of emotion I felt when I first saw the wife of my commanding officer with red hair—you're lost now, they said, but no—no—"

"This is raving," interrupted Florio sternly. "You'll need to keep your wits better than this."

"At the London clubs I first learned to use a mask," continued Philip, unheeding. "They are worn to conceal the feelings when the stakes are high and perhaps a man's whole estate is at issue, with straw hats to shade the eyes so that a man's whole face is invisible. When we had to fly from Bologna I thought of the mask, and now I dream that if he shoots me in the face and I live, I shall have to wear a mask for ever.

"These are the desperate dreams of opium," protested Florio. "If gamesters will not drink, neither should they drug. You abuse the anodyne given you."

Still not heeding, but suddenly clasping the other's hand, Philip continued in a hoarse, muttering voice: "I don't want to wait his challenge like a fool. Will you go ahead when we land in England, and wait on him with this proposal of mine?"

"Yes," agreed Florio at once, for he had thought that he would use the opportunity of seeing Colonel Winslow, not to make this dissolute and extravagant proposal, but to persuade him to a rational solution of the fantastic situation.

"Do you delay a little and I shall certainly attend this unhappy man."

"It will make a stir in town," remarked Philip with satisfaction. "He'll be thought poorly of if he doesn't accept."

"Have you again forgotten Letty?"

The Englishman scowled.

"It will make no difference to her whichever way the hazard falls. I'll make a settlement on her, but she must keep out of my sight."

He fell into an uneasy silence. Florio thought he was trying to forget that Letty accompanied them, that this lost, ruined penniless creature was always round the corner in the guise of a sickly shambling boy, the red hair hidden beneath the ugly linen cap, her thin figure hunched in a clumsy cloak.

Glancing up at Florio sullenly, he spoke at last.

"She is an obstinate woman. Wild, ungovernable for one so prudishly bred. What does she suppose will become of her?"

"She supposes nothing, neither fears nor hopes," said Florio. "She is submissive to providence."


§ 46

Florio, with difficulty, found an opportunity to speak to Letty. She was shy, timid and kept resolutely apart. At the post house in the suburbs of Hamburg where the party rested, there was no one to concern himself about the characters of the party of four travellers who were, like so many cast about by the tumult of war, waiting their passage to England. And the indifferent boy who kept to his chamber, forever writing and reading, was little considered, partly owing to the address of Bonino who knew how to spread a tale, create an impression and keep up an appearance with singular adroitness.

He was the go between, and at first he had to report that Letty refused to see Florio, having "nothing to say."

And Florio's stretched fancy noted again how this word came into everything that belonged to Letty.

Another difficulty was to avoid Philip, who would hardly endure Florio out of his presence. Not only did he insist on discussing his brilliant scheme for deciding the issue between himself and Colonel Winslow, he longed to dwell on all the pleasures that should be his, if his gamble was lucky.

He was not, he declared vehemently, a besotted gamester who cared for nothing but the cards and the betting books, he had other pleasures, elegant as well as base. He planned to restore, perhaps to rebuild the splendid but old fashioned seats he had inherited, and in particular he relished describing Belmore in Wiltshire that had been the scene of his final interview with his uncle, when he had gone begging and been denied money or any countenance.

On that occasion he had had angry words with his cousin Edward, lately killed in France, and he ran over the circumstances and the zest he would have in returning to this place as the master, before the very same servants who had seen him "turned away like a dog," for he had sent orders that all the staffs in his various houses were to be kept, "and those who were insolent to me I'll dismiss myself."

There were several improvements he wished to make, on the model of luxuries he had seen in Italy, and in particular at the Villa Aria.

He liked, also, to count over his fortune, hundreds of thousands in the funds, long rent rolls, rich properties. The Calamys had married heiresses for generations and now all the garnered wealth, for they had mostly been prudent and careful people, had come to this prodigal.

For the first time he spoke of his parents; his father, a younger son, had been killed in a duel in Ireland where his regiment was stationed, and his mother had "died of a broken heart, as they term it when a woman pines away in a tantrum."

But two days after their passage to Yarmouth was arranged on board a merchantman flying a neutral flag, Florio did contrive a meeting with Letty. She had a room in the attic gable of the old crooked house, floors, walls and windows sloped. A large stove of white glazed earthenware gave out a grateful heat, for the weather was sharply cold, already the world seemed a different one from that in which they had played out their parts in Palermo.

Letty sat by the window, a favourite post of hers, as if, like a bird in a cage, she crouched as near the closed way of escape as possible.

She was wrapped in her cloak, being ashamed and uneasy in her masculine dress. The cap was still over her hair, her features were poignantly delicate. She smiled sadly at Florio who sat down by the stove and told her the intention of Philip as regards a gamble with Colonel Winslow.

"He will never agree," she said at once. "This is fantastic, wayward talk."

"I expected that you would say that, but it is not on this rash proposal I make my gamble, but on the chance of meeting Colonel Winslow first and persuading him into a reasonable attitude—in brief, not to challenge Lord Mountsellis."

"He will never agree to that either."

"I shall try," said Florio. "After so much passion and folly, surely, with an old man, a man with children to consider—"

"He won't consider them, any more than I do. They'll have their own lives, their own chances in time."

"There a distracted, wilful woman speaks, Letty. I hoped to bring you some comfort by this prospect."

She looked at him with a searching curiosity.

"Comfort? How?"

"If Colonel Winslow can be persuaded to forgo this ridiculous duel and these fantastic notions of honour, maybe he can be persuaded to divorce you and Lord Mountsellis to marry you."

"O, surely you have been taking opium now!" she exclaimed softly. "Are you not yet convinced, after what you have seen, after what I have told you, that the great and fashionable world has no place for me? Could you, even you, with your generosity and chivalry, dare to find me a place in your own society?"

"No. But money, position, power, can always find a retreat somewhere."

"You think that Philip might thus forgo all his eagerly grasped fortune to retreat from the world with me? You think that?"

"Your position is owing to him. He has degraded himself by what he has done to you. His honour lies, not in blood shedding, but in reparation to you."

"He will never make it, nor do I deserve it."

"I might persuade Colonel Winslow to force him, perhaps by withholding the challenge and offering the divorce on the terms that he, Lord Mountsellis, marries you—he might be forced."

"You take on yourself the offices of a god," said Letty sadly.

"I have meddled in your affairs, as Lord Mountsellis continually reminds me, and at first it was from idle motives and in a light mood. Now I, too, have to make reparation, to you."

"This is all in your fancy—it can never happen. My husband will insist on the duel, one will be slain and the other ruined."

"Then why, Letty, will you persist in this tedious unhappy voyage? Look, already it is cold, desolate. It is yet open to you to return to Italy, you know what is offered you there."

"No, I must go on, blindly, and take what comes."

"Is there nothing that I can do for you, Letty?"

"Yes, when we arrive in England, procure me some women's clothes and a maid, and decent lodgings in London. Philip's house is in Hill Street, my husband lives at Winslow Park in Surrey, but has a house in Great Queen Street, where he seldom goes but he will be there now—get me some lodging close to Hill Street."

"I do not know the town."

"I forget. I always forget that you are a foreigner. I'll tell you when we arrive."

He came closer to her and regarded her tenderly.

"Take off that cap, Letty."

She obeyed at once and the rich locks came falling on to her shoulders, making her appear beautiful.

"This wild talk of bets!" she said. "Philip always liked my hair. I think he loved me."

"Maybe."

"It doesn't matter now."

"Surely not. You never notice me in the least, do you?"

"You are a bounty one takes for granted like the air one breathes."

"Thank you, Letty. What is to become of me when your destiny is settled?"

"You will go home, of course, and forget us all. No, not forget, but remember less and less every year."

She looked at him searchingly, as if she were staring at a portrait and wondering if she knew who it was meant to represent, if she could trace some teasing likeness to someone once known, once liked, but only faintly remembered. Her obsession in the man she followed allowed her only this distracted, straining interest in Florio.

She considered carefully his gentle features, the wide set topaz-coloured eyes, the warm-hued hair, the extreme plainness of his dress and his air of incomparable distinction, and she tried, like one beating on an imprisoning wall, to explain, to excuse why she thought not of him, but of Philip.

"I don't think I love him," she whispered, then used the word that haunted Florio. "He has nothing for me, nothing to give me. A fine face, O, he is very well in his person."

"You need not explain yourself to me, Letty."

"I want to—to myself. I think it began because I thought he loved me. I had never had that before, someone loving me. My husband loved what he believed I was. Philip loved me, I could not resist it. And then fear, fear of my husband's return. But, afterwards he said it was not true, but only for a bet the deception was enough."

"Letty, don't think of it now. I shall do something for you yet."

He did not desire to remain to be a spectator of her forlorn state. She seemed to him to be given a kind of innocency by her degradation, set apart by that as some might have been by grandeur or virtue.

He left her surrounded by the books she pretended to read, that he had bought at various stages of their travels, and the paper on which she never wrote, and he wondered how she passed her time, living like a prisoner.


§ 47

Bonino detained his master, who was startled at this obedient servant suddenly becoming articulate on his own behalf.

"When you have put into practice, sir, the plan you confided to me, of suggesting this wild bet to the old lord—"

Florio interrupted gently.

"There I shall tell him that, chiefly as an instance of the frenzy of the man he wishes to encounter. My purpose will be to suggest magnanimity to him."

"Yes. I understand. Then if you succeed, the young lord will marry this lady?"

"Yes." Florio smiled at him, remembering that Letty had told him he took on the offices of the gods.

"So, that way the tale is ended. And you, sir?"

"I shall, at last, return home."

"Yes, at last. And the other way, if there is a duel?"

"In that event I don't know." Again he recalled what Letty had said. "Who will survive? If Lord Mountsellis does he will go into exile again and she will follow him."

"Then you will go home, sir?"

"In that case, yes, at last, again."

"And if the young lord is killed?"

"I suppose she will die, too, Bonino."

"Then you will go home, sir?"

"Yes, once more, at last."

"It has been a long time, sir."

"How often have I remembered that and asked you to return, I know you have your family and friends at Bologna, your way of life, also."

"It was your way of life I liked, sir, always, I am your servant. I have been sorry and jealous and homesick for you."

Bonino had never spoken so clearly before, and of late Florio had accepted him and his service, though affectionately and gratefully, as a matter of course. He now looked at him keenly and with remorse.

"You are homesick, Bonino. Do not stay with me any longer, return to Bologna."

But even as he spoke he knew that it was as hopeless a request as that made to Letty to desire her not to follow Philip. They were all set in a fidelity at once radiant and obscure.

But for the moment this was no longer Bonino, the faithful docile servant, but a man appealing for his human rights.

"I cannot face indefinite exile, or the contemplation of seeing your excellency forever lost to your rightful place, always laden with a disguise, and in hiding, so that oblivion closes over you and Bologna, and all that word means is but another name for oblivion."

"Why, Bonino, I have never heard you speak so earnestly before. I know that you often tried to dissuade me but never with this force."

"The time passes, sir. I seem to hear it fly, while the days are wasted in this trivial pursuit."

"You had no dear or close ties in Bologna," protested Florio, still astonished.

"I yearn, I long for you," replied the servant simply. "For your excellency, for the great, grand days, for all your life as it might have been, for the wife and children you might have had, that you would have had save for these English people."

"She is not to blame," said Florio sadly. "Do not hate her because of me."

"Have I not been protecting her, even in her present wretchedness, as if I were her father? I do not hate her, she is a creature of nothing. The man is a villain."

"There is little good to be said of him, but I forced myself even on him, they amused me, aroused my curiosity."

"The Englishman was the cause," insisted Bonino sullenly, his furrowed face was yellowish and looked old, already nipped by the vigours of the north. His master had never before noticed so much grey in his hair, nor the slight yet notable bowing of his back.

"You confound me, Bonino, I have taken too carelessly your devotion, but I think it was also a devotion to what I stand for—"

"And that you destroy," put in Bonino distinctly in a mourning tone, and with a desperate fixing of his glance on the young man's tired face.

"Bonino, understand, my dear and good friend, that this affair, so tedious to you, will be over when we reach England. I have good hopes that Colonel Winslow will listen to me and divorce his wife, and forego the duel, and that if Lord Mountsellis won't marry her, even then—"

"He never will."

"So she says. Well, there must be some place, some friend to shelter her in her own country. At least, my task will be done. We shall return to Bologna."

"Ah, we shall return to Bologna!"

"Yes, and in the other case, if the duel is forced and one killed and the other ruined—well, the same for Letty, there must be someone in whose care I can leave her."

"And we shall return to Bologna?"

"Yes. Words are poor, insufficient to express my debt to you."

"O, no," interrupted Bonino in distress, with an impassioned countenance. "It has been my sole pleasure to make myself a little agreeable, a little useful to you. I have nothing to ask, nothing to regret."

"Only me, and all I have put aside—unsubstantial glories to you, Bonino, but dearly cherished. I deeply admire this constancy. And I shall not disappoint you. Our journey will soon be ended, we shall soon be on our way home."

And while he spoke he meant what he said and pressed the older man's hand and then touched his shoulder in a caressing fashion, as if this was one in whom he had a complete trust, and the servant believed his master and put away his homesick longings and his yearning after all the young man, who was his whole existence, had put by, and went on with his duties and the travelling that took him ever further from home.


§ 48

When the four travellers arrived at Yarmouth after a tedious grey voyage, Florio at once put in practice his promises to Letty and Philip, although the country, the colour of ashes under a slight snow storm, cast a spell of cold over his spirit.

Money and Bonino's adroit ways provided Letty, even in Yarmouth, with clothes and a serving woman, and respectable apartments in which to rest. She was exhausted and silent, but still whispered her resolve to come to London as soon as possible.

Philip, though sombre and wilful, seemed to keep up his spirits by the thought of the proposal that Florio was to take to Colonel Winslow. He had persuaded himself that this would be accepted and that, in the outcome, his luck, that he rated high, would serve him.

Florio made one last attempt to offer what he considered a reasonable comment on this wild affair.

"If Colonel Winslow should agree to your request and lose and duly shoot himself, will not you be abominated?"

"No betting man would think the less of me," replied Philip. "And all my friends are betting men. If it all be done according to the laws of honour—"

But Florio stayed to hear no more and set out on his journey through what seemed to him a bleak unfriendly country, without grace or delight, to the capital.

He travelled alone, having left Bonino in charge of Letty, and Philip preparing his entry into London, that he intended to be, in his extravagant style, in a carriage with outriders, so that no one should say he had sneaked home. From the Lord Governor he was dispatching couriers to his lawyers, stewards and friends, and one, who would ride faster than the post, with the notice of his return for The Gazette.

On his arrival in London Florio put up at a small hotel in a narrow street that ran from the Strand to the river. This address had been given him in Yarmouth and he found it, though to him amazingly dull, plain and austere, yet clean, quiet and well suited to his purpose, that was so fantastic, so important and secret.

Having ascertained from The Gazette that they had all seen at Yarmouth that Colonel Winslow was in town, Florio wrote a note stating that "Mr. Campion might recall Signor Petrionio Miola and their meeting at Bode's in Stuttgart. Signor Miola had now a communication to make to Colonel Winslow that was a matter of life and death."

This letter he delivered himself on the first morning after his arrival, and the servant, after one glance at him, admitted him into a front room and begged him to wait while Colonel Winslow was consulted.

Florio was shaken by the severe room, with stiff dark furnishings, the colourless light falling from the pallid wet morning, the austere silence of the house. Everything was of good quality, but of a cold taste and a precise arrangement. For the first time Florio savoured exactly what Letty had run away from, and he flinched.

For the first time also he realized the full measure of Bonino's homesickness and felt, himself, a longing for his own life, quickly suppressed, however, for he had still the most important part of his task to fulfil.

The servant returned at once and Florio was shown into a gloomy room at the back of the house that looked on to a narrow garden full of yesterday's snow lying in pockets in the sooty earth.

Colonel Winslow sat behind a desk, a glass fronted bookcase on which the cold light gleamed, directly behind him. He wore dark clothes and a fur-lined cloak was cast over his shoulders.

Florio would scarcely have recognized him as the robust gentleman who had confronted him in the private parlour at Bode's. His hair was white, his face drawn and flushed, his lips unsteady. But he still had a handsome appearance, as the wreck of a fine man brought down by suffering while still in his prime of life.

"I cannot rise, Signor Miola," he said at once. "I have had a slight indisposition and must keep my chair. Put me at ease by being seated yourself."

Florio observed that his legs were covered by a rug, and that he bowed, in a stately way, without offering his hand.

"I remember," he added, glancing at Florio's note lying on the desk before him. "Signor Miola and his excellent English and his misleading information. Yes, I remember you very well. How did you, sir, obtain my real name?"

"First, allow me to tell you my own," replied Florio, seating himself. "Miola was a nom de voyage, like Campion. I am Florio, Prince of San Quirico."

Colonel Winslow eyed him steadily.

"I believe it," he said. "Why should the Prince of San Quirico be interested in my affairs?"

"I do not know myself, Colonel Winslow. But I can assure you it was unwittingly. I made the acquaintance of two English people in Bologna, without being aware of their true history."

"I understand you. Where are they now?"

"At Yarmouth, or on their ways, separate ways for some time now, to London."

"Has he sent you to call me out?" asked Colonel Winslow fiercely.

"No. He is expecting your challenge. He sent me with a proposal."

"I must be very careful what I say, sir."

"So must I. It is not my intention to repeat this proposal suggested by Lord Mountsellis."

"Ah, Mountsellis! An honoured name is degraded by the present bearer. I say this, even if he be your friend."

"He is not my friend. I think his proposal wicked as well as fantastic. He has been living a strange life while in exile, under odd disguise, and lately he has been taking opium. He may not be altogether accountable for his actions. I agreed to bring this plan to you in order to achieve this interview. He would have put many difficulties in the way of my proceeding to London. I had to keep him in as reasonable mood as possible."

"Tell me," interrupted Colonel Winslow, "did he flinch at all—from returning?"

"No," said Florio. "It is your code, I understand, if he had blenched from what he thinks will be death, or mutilation, or ruin, the lady would have strengthened his purpose. She, too, follows this code, and she saw nothing for him to do but to return."

"You said they had separated?"

Florio looked aside from the harsh, strained face.

"She travels in his company no more. She considers herself lost, and she has no lament to make."

"Come, sir, tell me the purpose of your visit."

"Yes. I shall not detain you with debate or evasion. I suggest, entirely on my own feeling and opinion, that you do not challenge Lord Mountsellis, that you divorce your wife, and urge or shame him into marrying her. In brief, that you behave like a magnanimous human being, not like a barbarian."

Colonel Winslow was silenced as if by a blow. Florio knew he had said something that was, to the Englishman, monstrous.

"She will never have anything but the name of wife," he continued. "They would live apart. But he owes her that—the worldly position."

"And what do they owe me?" whispered Colonel Winslow.

"So much that they can never repay you, so you must forgive them this overwhelming debt."

"You are a foreigner, a Papist. That's it."

"Yes, that's it, Colonel Winslow. At this awful crisis consider the point of view of a man not of your world. I saved you—as I thought then, as I think now—from murder once. I want to save you again. For it is murder you contemplate, though it is disguised with punctilio."

"Sometimes murder is justified."

"I do not think so. A man like you should scorn revenge."

Weariness settled on Florio like a leaden cloak, he knew from the other man's ghastly face that he spoke in vain.

Indeed, Colonel Winslow did not deign to reply to his visitor's proposal.

"What was it he suggested?"

Florio would not follow this painful avoidance of names.

"Lord Mountsellis suggested a fantastic project that I can hardly bring myself to repeat."

"Let me hear it."

"Why? You will not answer me when I suggest a reasonable adjustment of these tangled affairs."

"Perhaps I am in no mood for anything reasonable, sir. You have no right to interfere."

"I have. Both these distracted people have asked my help."

"I cannot imagine how you became interested in either of them. You must have followed them—for months."

"Yes."

"You have a fancy perhaps for her?" asked Colonel Winslow bitterly and coldly. "I should not suppose that she is any longer a fine or a pretty woman."

"No, but there are other qualities besides fineness and prettiness. This lady is very meek, accepts her outrageous punishment with great sweetness, and has been very faithful to a romantic lover."

"Faithful! Faithful!"

"Faithful where she placed her faith."

"I will not hear anything more of her. Tell me what he suggested."

"Why should I, since you are resolved on this murderous duel? No doubt your second has galloped to Yarmouth. I suppose that you are sure of killing him."

"I am a first class shot."

"Murder, then."

"You understand nothing of the laws of honour."

"It is difficult, indeed," smiled Florio gently, "to grasp how powerful are these barbaric traditions. On the duel, then, you are resolved."

"As for the divorce," said Colonel Winslow, "I'll not be troubled. He would not marry her if I did, and if he survived until he could."

"So you all assure me," said Florio gravely. He felt the cold, stiff dreary room oppress him. The light was without colour and a universal greyness like a blight overspread everything.

Leaning forward, Colonel Winslow struck the desk with his fist.

"I demand that you tell me what he suggested."

"Yes, no doubt I should do so, since he entrusted me with the message. It is a folly, fitted to the wild nature of the man and his desperate situation. Above everything he dreads this duel. Brave enough, he fears this—that you will aim at his face, and mutilate him. He has no confidence in his own skill as a shot and his friends do not fail to tell him of yours."

"His guilt will make his hand unsteady, he knows that."

"His guilt! Ah, well, leave the terms. He suggests, being a gambler, that you stake your lives on a toss of the dice or a turn of the cards—total hazard, and that the loser shoots himself. All to be in order with witnesses."

Colonel Winslow drooped back in his chair, his hand unclenched itself and fell off the desk. A slight distortion passed over his congested face.

"That suits me very well," he grinned. "I was always lucky in a gamble. It was my hope to make him destroy himself. For I can't. This is a fortunate chance. I accept."

"What! You forego the duel for this extravagant folly!"

"Yes. Let him shoot himself," said Colonel Winslow harshly. "For I can't."

"Why?"

"I can't trust you. A foreigner and a Papist. All respect, but you are too reasonable, your ideas are too different from ours. Sufficient that I can't fight this duel, or not yet—finally, yes, I hope. I meant to hold it over him, drive him to some frantic action, but this is better, yes, this is better."

"Tell me, at least, if your conscience or anything I have said has stirred you."

"No, no." Colonel Winslow was struggling with some almost overwhelming emotion. "No, again. Certainly I meant to challenge him. I hardly know what I said just now, nothing would have prevented me. A tiresome, passing indisposition hinders me for the moment. But only for the moment. But I prefer this, the gamble. I'm a betting man myself."

Florio could no longer strive with what seemed a final resolve, compounded of a wild hope and a spasm of despair. He rose.

"As a gentleman," added Colonel Winslow, "you are obliged to take this message. But it doesn't matter if you won't—I'll send to him myself."

"I'll take your assent to this desperate proposal. There are limits beyond which I can neither protest nor interfere."

"Thank you, sir," said Colonel Winslow, bowing and ringing a bell that stood on the desk. "Pray," he added, with an effort that caused him to grimace, "don't think I doubt your integrity. Different ways of thinking, that's all. And I've made a settlement on her, whenever he casts her out of his own keeping."

"And no word of compassion?"

"I don't know the word, sir. I leave it to women. And she had none, even for her wretched children."

Florio bowed in silence. There was nothing more that he could say. As he withdrew, a servant entered and hastened to his master with an anxious air.


§ 49

Florio returned to his modest lodgings, he had no heart to hasten to Philip with Colonel Winslow's unaccountable acceptance of his fantastic offer, but decided to wait until the new earl arrived in Hill Street.

Of Letty, travelling to London under Bonino's charge, he could not endure to think at all. He tried to shut her out of his mind, but she remained, a restless, troubled phantom, haunting, unbided. The day musings and the night dreams he could not control.

The city suffocated his spirit. The heavy marsh air, the sluggish grey river, the narrow streets, the houses like grey rocks in the early twilight, the vaporous sky, the sun and moon shrouded in mists and without radiance or colour, the pressure of the alien crowds, all about business or pleasures of which he knew nothing and from which he felt excluded, as if he were a ghost returned to earth, mingling among men and unseen, unheard and unthought of.

This was not the London of his imagination. Of all the halts on his travels, this was the most melancholy. Here he felt truly exiled, as if indeed there was now no way home.

He knew that he had himself made the city the drop cloth of his mood, and that every amusement and interest was open to him if he but cared to use his name as passport to all that English society offered. He was isolated because he remained in strict incognito, without even a body servant, in a humble hotel, and when he went abroad he was but an unremarked member of the indifferent press of foreigners passing to and fro.

Twenty-four hours after he had visited Colonel Winslow Florio went to Hill Street, where Mountsellis House, a handsome baroque mansion, stood back from the road before a half-moon gravelled drive and two-pillared gates.

A light fall of snow had outlined the snags of stone fruit and flowers, the masks and scrolls on the façade of the grandiose mansion, and a strong wind blew thin grey clouds into shreds in a sky of pallid blue.

Several carriages blocked the court. Florio made his way between them, a quiet figure among the liveried servants.

The door stood open and Florio was admitted without difficulty. The new lord was evidently accessible to all, and a number of elegantly-dressed men and officers in regimentals were passing up and down the curving double stairs.

Florio thought this a painful indecency on the part of Philip to be thus ostentatiously public, and wondered if his reason might not be unbalanced by his hideous position and the uncertainty of his life.

Moreover, these former friends of Captain Calamy were gay, laughing, jesting, with every sign of satisfaction as if they enjoyed some amusing scandal of the moment.

Florio entered the first room and saw the new lord surrounded by his flatterers, amid handsome furnishings from which the covers had been hastily removed.

When he noticed Florio coming towards him he burst out laughing, and whispered to his companion.

He was richly dressed in a fashion outlandish and distasteful to Florio, and his remarkable good looks were animated by radiant high spirits. He turned to glance at Florio with an extraordinary intensity of expression, as if he were filled with malicious pleasure.

All his disguises and all the different places where he had met him were fused in Florio's imagination into one monstrous scene, the gambler behind his table with his cards, his betting book, his dice.

"Come aside," said Florio and drew him, by a touch on the arm, into the window place, while, in a sudden silence, the company followed them with curious stares.

"He accepts," added Florio. "I must tell you that. I have no more to say."

"What did he accept?" Philip laughed again.

"Your proposal of the bet."

Philip glanced beyond Florio at the company beyond him as if inviting them to share some excellent jest.

"There'll be neither bet nor duel, my dear fellow," he said, raising his voice. "Colonel Winslow is dead."

His friends took up the words and murmured them among themselves as if in mockery—"Colonel Winslow is dead."

"It is only a day ago that I saw him!" cried Florio.

"He died last night, of a stroke. The news of my approaching visit to London, I suppose. You see," and Lord Mountsellis spoke with great relish, "he could not have challenged me. He fell down in his shooting gallery two weeks ago and has been paralyzed, unable to stand, ever since."

"That is why he grasped at the gamble."

"Precisely. You say he did? It was his only chance. But I should have withdrawn. One can't gamble with a sick man." His brilliant face glowed with malice. "Alive or dead, he was harmless to me."

Florio remembered that Colonel Winslow had said, "I can't fight him," and refused to disclose the reason.

"He kept his disability a close secret," added Philip. "But at his death it came out, and the town is ringing with it."

Florio looked round all of them, then drawing the smiling Philip closer into the window place said sternly: "Lower your voice, speak softly—what of her?"

The other answered swiftly in a soft fury.

"Anything of her as long as she doesn't trouble me again. If she does trouble me my servants will turn her away. I've made her a settlement. As for you, sir, I don't require your company any more. I'm free of all annoyances now and I have the world to play with. I wish you good-bye."

He bowed slightly and turned abruptly to join his companions, leaving Florio standing alone against the cold grey space of the outer air framed in the dark red of the long stiff curtains.

Then Philip looked back over his shoulder and laughed softly again.

"If this foreigner were a fellow of spirit you'd have a duel on your hands after all," said one of his companions loud enough for Florio to overhear.

"O, he knows I mean no harm," sneered Philip. "And he'd scorn murder, as he terms it! Murder! Not a pretty thing! And it's not coming my way after all!"

"I don't like to hear you speak like that, Mountsellis," said another of the group about him, and the speaker, an older man, came forward and walked beside Florio out of the room.

"An ugly affair," he remarked carefully. "The fellow has been drinking too much—he's not used to it, he was always sober but he feels like one reprieved from death."

"I thank you for your courtesy," said Florio as he stood at the head of the stairs. "This is not the ending to the story I expected—reprieved, I suppose he is."

"Colonel Winslow has been ill for a long time, but he kept the serious state of his health concealed. Now, this shock—"

"Yes, shock," smiled Florio sadly.

"He saw Mountsellis escaping him. No one would have taken his challenge."

"This is a splendid mansion," said Florio. "A splendid array of servants, a large number of visitors. Lord Mountsellis is an extremely rich man?"

"Yes. One can understand he does not want to leave all this." The elder man indicated the scene, the people, and raised his eyebrows.

"Your society will receive him?"

"As you see."

"But surely there are some—"

"Colonel Winslow has his friends, of course."

A touch of reserve chilled the geniality of the speaker. Florio saw he had gone to the limits of his condescension to a foreigner whom he had tried to relieve in an awkward position.

Florio went slowly down the curved, gleaming marble stairs with the curved shining brass banisters, and unnoticed by the press of people hurrying to congratulate a twice fortunate man, out into the winter grey, the steady wind, that stung his face like a blow.


§ 50

Bonino was waiting in the modest little hotel in the side street. He hunched his shoulders and shivered, even under his thick top coat, and murmured against the colourless light, the penetrating cold, the hideous city.

He looked at his master as if he hardly recognized him. Their alien and detested surroundings seemed to disguise them one from the other.

"I have taken the lady and her woman to rooms in Dover Street," said Bonino; his tired eyes appealed for mercy, for compassion. "When do we go home?" he murmured softly, as if he moaned.

Florio, to whom, in his own preoccupation, Bonino was now again only an efficient instrument ready to his hand, did not hear this agonized protest against a protracted exile.

"Did you hear that Colonel Winslow is dead?"

"Yes, at the first post we stopped near London; such a thing goes about like a spurt of wild fire. The drawing-rooms, the kitchens! All must have their say. The town was agog over this duel."

Florio put his hand before his eyes but could not shut out the picture of the stern, harsh old man, in his gloomy room, concealing his weakness so fiercely.

It was in his shooting galley he had fallen down, robbed of his long nourished revenge while practising the deadly skill that was to fulfil it, grasping at a gambler's chance, and losing even that through being snatched away by death.

It seemed to Florio as if Colonel Winslow had been treated with great indecency by the blind fury.

"Does she, Mrs. Winslow, know?"

"I could not keep it from her. And her mood was too heavy to be well able to feel further trouble. She said that it was well that there was to be no murder, that he was on in years and had suffered long enough, and that his sisters would care for the children, who had been taught to hate their mother."

Florio was silent, all the past was coiling about his spirit in phantom shapes.

A shadow filled the high, narrow room, cast from the dark houses across the mean sloping street. The wind rattled the window frames, and crept, cold, under the ill-fitting door.

"There is nothing more to do, sir?" asked Bonino anxiously.

Florio glanced at him, again not hearing, being engrossed in other matters.

"I must go to her," he said. "I suppose she has no friend, not one, in this country."

Bonino shrugged his hunched shoulders, as if he would protest once more that he had done with all of it and would be away.

"I did what I could," he said. "The house was recommended to me at the post. It is a respectable place, but the lady cannot remain long without gossip and being discovered. She takes what was her own name of Considine, that was her own—"

"Ah, I never knew her own name. Odd, I never thought to ask. Letitia Considine—how little I know of her after all, of her family, where she came from, how she lived."

"There is nothing worth knowing, sir."

"What do you say, Bonino? No, perhaps not. I must go to her—where is this street? And how shall I find the house?"

Bonino described the place, near to Mountsellis House, as she had wished.

"She must not go to him," exclaimed Florio, starting up. "I forgot she might do that. He is implacable, and will have her turned away by his lackeys. He is like a man bewitched by his good luck."

"And is this villain to go free, unpunished!" cried Bonino in a sudden burst of passion that caused his master to notice him at last.

"He has won the gambler's throw with fate, Bonino. Leave him to the next hazard. I have something else to think of. He turned me out of his house," added Florio, picking up his cloak and smiling.

"Ah! And he was clinging to you in his cowardice!"

"That is over. He is overwhelmed by flatterers." Florio paused, having already forgotten Lord Mountsellis. "Stay, I'll not break in on Mrs. Winslow so soon. Do you go to her, Bonino, tell her I shall come in a few hours time, and she is to keep herself close."

"What will you do with her demanded Bonino.

"What I must." Florio's sad smile deepened. "But I shall keep my promise to you, Bonino, we shall leave England."

"Then, in the name of all the saints, my dear master, let us begone as soon as maybe, and dispose of this lady quickly—there must be some retreat for her."

"There is, Bonino. I know of it."

Bonino went heavily on his errand, and Florio, with a shudder of distaste, went into the cold bedchamber and lay down on the traveller's bed, with the image of Colonel Winslow, stiff and sheeted in that other gloomy room in that other gloomy house in the gloomy city. The proud man had died defiantly from excess of passion, and Florio thought: "I should have allowed him to follow and murder him, all those months ago in Stuttgart, where the vines had so powerful a scent. Why do I remember that? And looking from the window at Bode's at the travelling coaches below. And Wilhelmsruhe, and the Forest, an empty window with a posy of flowers, an empty chair and a shawl, an empty summer house and an empty grave."


§ 51

The wind had blown out of the sky and the vapours had soon drifted up from the river and thickened the evening as Florio came by the palace and up St. James's Street.

The public lamps were few and gave out uncertain haloes of misty light and cast uncertain pools of shadows. Some of the wide windows of the houses were brightly lit and there was a hurry of passers by.

Florio found his way slowly, in this city utterly strange to him. Several times he started, thinking he was again at the gates of Mountsellis House; these English mansions much resembled one another. He endured an almost intolerable loneliness and his step hesitated, as much because of the pain he bore as because of his doubtful knowledge of his neighbourhood.

He felt as if the young man who had left Bologna to follow, out of a light compassion and a light curiosity, two foreigners in their headlong flight, was dead, and he a ghost who had usurped the place of Florio San Quirico.

How long and devious the way had been, from his home to this strange city, with how many strange halts and pauses, how many strange shifting scenes.

He stopped as a crowd of gentlemen cut across his path, descending from carriages to enter a wide doorway. Among them was Lord Mountsellis, his brilliant, laughing face was for a moment in the lamplight and was gone. His laughter seemed to echo after him in the dull, heavy air.

Florio asked a passer-by, what was the name of that house, the fellow stared at him and said it was White's, the gambling club.

Florio went on his way, enveloped in the rising mist.


§ 52

Bonino was waiting in the quiet hotel room, over him also the marsh vapours were floating, for he had the window open and was listening for a well-known footstep, watching for a well-known form. He was oblivious to everything in the monstrous city save his master, who must be returning soon, soon now.

To-morrow they could take the coast road. Bonino had packed the valises and got the papers in order, well performed his long practised duties of a servant.

He primed a travelling pistol that he had never used and set it in the case. He rubbed up a small dagger that had never been either rusted or stained. His master smiled at these weapons when he chanced to see them, and to Bonino himself they meant nothing but a matter of routine. Florio was always unarmed.

It was to pass the time that Bonino looked to these things now, glancing now and then at the white-faced clock with the black hands and figures on the dingy mantel-shelf.

When there was no longer anything that he could do, he took a little crucifix from his breast, kissed it and prayed.

Then he closed the window, suddenly conscious of the freezing cold, the raw mist.


§ 53

Bonino looked sharply at his master, as if trying to surmise his intention.

Florio, filled with exultation, stood absorbed, thinking of the future that suddenly appeared to him fair and still, as if dense clouds had parted before a serene perspective, radiant with distant sun.

"I have been confused," said the servant, "by the deceit of many people."

"Why do you say that? Have you everything ready for our departure?"

"Yes. I am well used to these preparations for a journey."

"I know. And you know, Bonino, there is no reward that I would not give you for what you have done for me."

"There is one. I desire to return to Bologna."

"So you may."

"I do not desire to go alone. I desire you to return to take up your old life, sir, that alone was worthy of you."

Florio looked at him and sighed gently. He saw not the servant with the childhood's name, but Bonaventuro Bertini of a substantial family, bred in the service of the house of San Quirico, who had given up everything in order to serve himself, Florio, sole heir of that name.

At that moment Florio felt that he had taken too much from this ageing man. For years it had been a matter of course to have this efficient devotion at his command, recently their relationship had altered. Bonino had given more than could ever be repaid. Florio stirred uneasily under the weight of the debt.

"You have more loyalty to my duties, as you assume them to be, than I have myself, Bonino."

"So it would seem, sir."

They spoke in Italian, and the formal third person used by the servant put an artificial distance between them, out of keeping with these dingy alien surroundings. Florio felt perplexed, even dismayed at something, he knew not what, in the other man's demeanour.

"You can return to Bologna when you will, Bonino; it is a long way, but you can travel luxuriously."

"Do you mean, sir, that I am to go alone?"

"I cannot go. I confide in you what I shall confide in no other."

"You wish me to leave you?"

"No, not that, but my plans are changed."

"Ah! And it is because of the woman?"

"I am going to marry Mrs. Winslow."

Bonino shrunk away, putting out his hands in a piteous gesture of self defence, then dropping them as if aware that all defence was useless.

"You can never take her to Bologna."

"I know that. Not for years, at least. For me, also, there is no way home."

"It is not for me to put questions."

"Yes, you have the right, but I hardly know what I could answer. She means something to me that is perhaps more than love, if you can understand that."

"A fascination, it was from the first," replied Bonino sombrely. "An enchantment."

"No, not that. Yet I could not be sure. Perhaps an overmastering pity."

"And a turn for the extravagant gesture," said the servant. "You always used to pour your purse into the cap of the beggar—even one gold piece was not enough."

"I cannot think of anything else, it is a haunting."

"And this—lady—" Bonino spoke with cold irony, "—has discovered, as ladies in her plight do, that she is no longer amorous of the brutal Englishman?"

"She is lost, ill, hopeless, but relieved that there has been neither murder—though she does not term the duello that—nor dishonour, as she thought Lord Mountsellis would have incurred had he refused to return to England."

"And this marriage, one of the finest in Europe, is to her but a cloak for her fatigue and her degradation?"

"Mrs. Winslow does not know herself why she accepts me. She is very tired. Her story has had an unexpected ending, she was prepared to die if either of these men had been killed. She is scarcely prepared to live. Perhaps she will not succeed in doing so."

"Where will you take her

"Disguises again, Bonino. By slow stages to Switzerland, perhaps, or perhaps to Rome or Florence—where the war allows."

"You have thought of what you forfeit?"

"Yes, all I had, all I was—and for one who is indifferent. I may resign everything but enough money for us to live on modestly. My distant cousin, Biagio, would do very well."

"You cheat yourself of children who can inherit."

"That is part of it. I am not the man for the position I had, Bonino, or I should never have shirked it."

There was silence. Bonino turned to the valises and drew the straps tighter, he seemed to be listening intently to some inner promptings to action that he could scarcely grasp, and he frowned in his concentration as was his custom when taking to heart his master's instructions.

"One thing more, Bonino. Will you come with us, as my friend?"

Florio put his hand on the other man's shoulder. Bonino lifted a livid and troubled face.

"Does the Englishman escape—everything?"

"Yes, he has indeed won his toss with fortune. He has kept his code by returning, and his enemy has been removed by death. He is callous, triumphant—hard to credit how he once implored me to stay with him. I saw him, with his flatterers, just now."

Florio recounted how he had met Philip Calamy (as he still thought of the man) going into the gaming house in St. James's Street, and he described the place exactly, for the incident had impressed him deeply and remained before his mind like a picture seen in a flash and then obscured.

"So, Bonino, the wicked are not always punished—this is what the priests would term a wicked man. It is Colonel Winslow who lies dead."

"And the young lord murdered him, and ruined his silly wife, and has ruined you and me."

"Ah, Bonino, this is but your mood. You have these humours, they will pass, nothing can part us." Florio smiled affectionately. Urbane and affable he again touched the servant's shoulder and passed into the other room, where he sank down in the worn arm chair where so many travellers had rested, took his face in his hands, set his elbows on his knees, and considered as to the means for a speedy marriage with Letty and a speedy departure from this grey, cold country that would always, in his mind, be associated with the sinister and beautiful Philip Calamy.

He thought also of his future life and how he could make it useful, in a new century, stripped of all the trappings of the ancient ways he had outgrown.


§ 54

Florio, early at Letty's lodgings, was much preoccupied with his own affairs. He would need to reveal himself to several people and use all his influence to rescue Letty without scandal. He counted, as a matter of course, on Bonino's help. Last night the faithful servant had been tired, what he had said was not to be remembered. He would soon recover from his disappointment at not returning to Bologna.

Florio had not disturbed him, but had left the quiet hotel in the side street without opening the door of the closet where Bonino slept.

Letty was exhausted, also. The woman and the surgeon who attended her with a curiosity Florio paid them highly to conceal, suggested that she should be left in seclusion sleeping in her hired bed. Florio agreed. He had nothing more to say to her.

The snow fell heavily, covering the mud and dirt of the grey city with a transient purity, and casting an unreal white light into the rooms that looked on to yards and streets. Florio felt shut in by the veil of flakes that made him slightly dizzy as he looked at them swiftly descending. He thought of the shrouded room where Colonel Winslow must be lying in his grave clothes, and wished himself out of this alien city.

With the intention of arranging for his marriage in a Roman Catholic chapel, he waited on the envoy of the King of Naples and made himself known. He was received with cordiality, but astonishment, as if his story was well known.

"Before the husband is buried, and while the lover lives," smiled Florio. "It is odd, but it must be. A question of convenience, of passports."

The envoy, who was a former acquaintance, interrupted.

"The lover does not live. Lord Mountsellis was murdered last night."

As Florio did not speak, but sat confounded, the other went on easily: "O, a simple affair, but his rank and his theatrical return make it a nine days wonder. The town buzzes."

"A duello?" asked Florio faintly, pressing his handkerchief to his lips.

"No—a footpad. He was gambling at one of the clubs in St. James's—exultant, as one understands—he had been drinking too, against his custom, and boasted of his habit, acquired in our country, of opium taking. He seemed, his wild companions say, to be extravagant, even in that place. His flatterers thought him a little drunk, possibly drugged."

"Why should he be drugged, in his triumph?"

"There is some gossip about that he spoke of the ghost of Colonel Winslow coming for him."

"That is not like him, he had no remorse."

"But fear, eh?"

Florio rose.

"Tell me the rest, and quickly."

"Not much to tell. He won, large sums, and laughed at his luck. About three o'clock this morning—"

"When I was asleep at last—asleep."

"Yes, the city asleep except for these rakes. A decent looking man, but muffled and whose person was not observed closely, left a message for Lord Mountsellis, a note in a stiff hand to state that Colonel Winslow waited for him behind Montague House, a favourite place for these duello."

"A hideous jest!"

"So it was held to be, but the besotted young man was moved to bravado, and then to fear, and at last bravado again and would go out, alone. He was warned, of course; there have been many crimes of violence in London lately, and he insisted on taking his winnings with him, all his pockets full of gold. The gamblers were over excited by then, and began to lay bets as to whether the ghost would keep the tryst or not."

"He went, at last, alone?"

"Yes, and with a small lantern only, you know how dark the night was. He remarked constantly that he'd be killed if the luck was against him, willingly, but not mutilated, and he wore his gambling mask, as if it were a vizor, and a straw hat with flowers, as is the barbaric custom of the fashionable gamblers here."

"Did no one follow him?"

"Yes—the more reasonable, almost at once. They stumbled over him, at the corner, by the footpath posts, stabbed through the back."

"A robber hiding in a doorway, who had set the trap."

"One supposes so." The envoy shrugged. "But the gold was spilled out of his pockets, untouched."

"The footpad had not had time to take it, hearing the others approach, seeing their lights, he had fled."

"But he had had time to do something else. The handsome face beneath the mask had been slashed across and across—an un-English crime these Londoners say."

The envoy looked thoughtfully at Florio, who smiled faintly and said: "No, my friend, it was not I, who did not even desire the death of this brutal man. He no longer concerned me."

"O, it was a common robber, of course. What makes the talk is that this fellow should have known that Lord Mountsellis was once afraid of a duello with Colonel Winslow, valued his good looks and dreaded mutilation, and known also where he was."

Florio, thinking rapidly, took his leave, after arranging for his marriage. He believed that he could get c Letty out of the country without her knowing of this end to the story of her lover. Dark, sombre, like an empty theatre when the actors have gone, the city would be left behind them for ever.

Hurrying through the snow, he returned to his gloomy rooms in the quiet hotel.

As he had expected, there was a letter for him, left on Bonino's empty bed.

"As I believe you would wish, I have taken provision for my journey. Do not inquire after me. My papers are in order and my accounts are settled."


THE END

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