Puslapio vaizdai
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No. 5


Author of "In Titian's Garden," etc.


VENICE lay, a ring of jewels, white

Filomène, and threaded the noisy fleet,

VENICE blue of leaving the babble and outcry, and at last,

the water far away. They had driven through the astounding region of the Dolomites with their red porphyry crags and elemental suggestion; and a sudden relief in the wide low distances of the waters fell upon Francesca, as the train ran out on the long trestle.

Francesca had had a fear that she might feel the lures of the place, with all its shadowy poetry, the more because she did not wish to yield. But she had said she would see Venice as she had seen London or Munich. And she remembered now that once she had crossed Trinity Bay on as long and low a trestle as this, and had seen Galveston lying on the waters, a ring of jewels, too. She would have a season of quiet here, of course, resting from the fatigue felt in the stir of cities and in the shadow of the Alps and their fellowship of the gigantic forces of nature.

But when, from the steps of the station, Vittorio, Mrs. Daniel's gondolier, helped her aboard, with Miss Maria and her

rounding the curves of narrow strips of water black between walls like those of a cañon, glided out over the side of the planet, as it seemed, into a great cool space of sweet silence and semi-gloom and sense of solitude, then Francesca was not so sure of herself.

Only the warning cry of an unseen gondolier broke the stillness, or the voice of Vittorio, like the ring of a golden vase, repeating some name. And when he said Rezzonico her heart stood still for Browning dying there, and when he said Giustiniani it began to beat for Tristan and the great sea-measures forged there; and it was all dark and mystical with a weirdness of beauty before undreamed.

By and by they slipped into another side-canal, beneath high garden-walls, and stopped. Then an endless flight of stone stairs with the sound of lapping water below, before coming to a vast salon whose marble floors and gilded cornices, whose wax candles, and rugs and books and draperies told of new luxury imposed upon

Copyright, 1911, by THE CENTURY CO. All rights reserved.



the old. And when in her own room, another vast salon, she bade Filomène good night, after that pleasant person had tucked in the mosquito curtains, Francesca was aware that she had come into something entirely other than the every-day world, and hardly knew were she waking or sleeping, but thanked the fates, even if half-heartedly, that it was a world where she could have no more to fear from Arthur Gordon, and the gay sparkle of his love-making.

The bell of Santa Maria della Salute, answering the bell of San Giorgio Maggiore, that in turn answered the peal of belfries from islands out beyond and beyond again, hailed then by all the bells of Venice with sweet resonance and wild echoes, waked Francesca in the dawning, and, as on a tiptoe of expectation, she hurriedly opened her casement and looked out over the rose and gold that bathed the world of waters and its palaces, she felt as though it were impossible it could be she, the tired reviewer for "Books and Pens"; and she had a swift fancy that in this transformation-scene she was transformed herself, that she had dwelt here before, whether as fisher-girl or dogaressa. She twisted up her long dark hair with a contradicting sense of its being out of place, remembering the gold of the Venetian women, and went back to bed. After a while, coming from the state between sleeping and waking, she looked out again, and felt with a satisfied surprise the warm wealth of the glorious flood of white light enveloping tower and dome and the faded hues and lovely lines of palace-fronts, and shining back from the wide waters, as if she were something shut within a glowing crystal. And there were the boats coming up from the Dogana, piled high with fruit and branching boughs of flowers, and the brown sails, stealing round the Giudecca, with their orange suns and scarlet symbols, the whole outlook a blaze of light and color. Well, this was a region of dreams, she said, three thousand miles and more away from care. But when she had returned from Miss Maria's room, Luisa tapped and entered, her face blubbered with tears-the Padrona, as she explained by vigorous pantomime, having cuffed her. And with that Francesca felt somewhat restored to common day. "I suppose it is the inheritance of primitive things, primi

tive passions," she said afterward to Miss Maria. "The barbarous strain made the splendor richer, and survives when the splendor fades. If we slapped our maids at home!" Nothing could have made her feel farther from experience. Well, she was safe; she was free. She had left Arthur Gordon behind her.

Imagine then her condition when, on going to the later breakfast, the first of the guests she saw there was Arthur Gordon.

Certainly it was very unfortunate. Still, she would act as if nothing had happened. Indeed nothing had happened, save that she had determined to live unmarried, and Arthur Gordon had wished to change her determination. The worst of it was that she had been,-no, could have been-not exactly fond-but certainly interested; and although she did not choose to marry him herself, she would hardly have liked it had he married any one else. Another unpleasantness in the affair was that Miss Maria, who was giving her the delights of this trip, was Arthur Gordon's aunt. It would be sad to give her pain; and Francesca's heart was very tender toward poor little hunched and crooked Miss Maria.

The color sprang on the beautiful oval of Francesca's cheek; but she was as determined as when she left home. She had seen such misery in marriage, such tyranny, -her own father, her gentle sister who had died broken-hearted; she could not think of her now without tears. Alas, how much trouble she herself had known! She, the unhappy Francesca! No, she would not give way to an unworthy inclination; and, besides, she was not going to abandon her career. Perhaps as a critic she would not rival-let us say Tainebut she meant to do good work. Marriage would interfere with that. And then she loved her work; she loved her freedom. And, moreover, there was the stain! Oh, there were reasons enough for her not marrying. She must bear her father's name, with all the stain upon it, but she would never let that bring shame upon another.

"It is not," his Aunt Maria had said, "that she is averse. But there is her father-"

"Her father?"

"Yes. Don't you remember-oh, it was a terrible disgrace!"

"You don't mean to say-my God, was that her father!"

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"Arthur Gordon, I don't believe this is Daniel's inquiry, as if he would shield or had forgotten Francesca's delinquency.


It was not fortunate, then, according to Francesca's view, some months afterward, that when she had become completely detached; that is, in truth, content to fancy that he cared for her under his anger, and intending to give him nothing in return, she should find Arthur Gordon, who had been going on to Athens determined to

She went out with Filomène, later that day, traversing narrow footpaths beside narrow canals, and over countless bridges as it seemed to her, to the Merceria for some slight shopping. She laughed to find herself then buying beads under the clocktower on the first day she was in this region of dead histories, and where the life and motion had in some way been unex

pected. And then Filomène, who had been there before, led her into St. Mark's. Awed by all the illuminating splendor, she stood breathless in the golden atmosphere. "It is a sort of sacred city in itself," said a voice beside her; and she recognized Gordon. "The city descended from on high, you know, whose light was like unto a stone most precious. We see what the apostle meant when he said the city was pure gold like unto clear glass. Well, you will have to come many days. And, sometime, go up on the outside gallery, for the bronze horses, you and Filomène;-the ancestor of a friend of mine was with Tosti when they first were brought away. That rather humanizes things." Something of all the golden radiance seemed to surround that bright head of his as he


They walked out finally to the edge of the Piazzetta, where Filomène hailed a gondola; and as they hung there a moment, in the bright gay scene, with the sun, the rollicking wind, the domes and towers, the moving, light-hearted people, their distant hum like silence singing to itself, the golden air, she seemed to be in a region where it was always morning, the summer morning of happy childhood, the day of bright enchantment.

It was a sort of magic still to Francesca, as she was rowed up the Grand Canal one

forenoon with Miss Maria, Mr. Gordon having joined them before Vittorio pushed off, that returned to her the life in the old palaces, the story of Venice in her glory, as all the way from the house of Desdemona to the Loredan,-where the gorgeous macaw hung on the post, and the gondola of Don Carlos waited with its red and yellow flag, the home of kings uncrowned and discrowned, -to the Grimani and the Vendramini and the rest, making the ancient names familiar, Gordon told legends of the time when the lights burned to midday. She seemed to see old pageants with fleets of gilded gondolas trailing the fringes of their blue and silver cloths, their rose and gold, their snow-white, and sea-green, the crimson and orange glory of the standard with the golden lion of St. Mark, the swarms of bannerols and pennons, all like a fluttering cloud of splendid butterflies upon the water, drifting into the blaze of light and out of sight. And when at night, gliding back from some evening with Mrs. Daniel's friends, through the faint glow of the water on the clear obscure of the dark, then the gay company of nobles, Contarini, Doria, Ziani, of lovely ladies with their sumptuous charm, the tragic splendor, the intrigue, the blacka-vised Ten, all seemed to be a part of the night, the shifting tide, the air, and she

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