Puslapio vaizdai

frantic resistance, of mortal combat. They opened their eyes. The conductor and the carbineer had passed on to the next compartment. With a glittering jackknife the desperado was cutting an item

from his newspaper.

At Piacenza he hailed a passing waiter and bought a small cup of black coffee. At Parma he finished the news, and again inspected his neighbors. At Modena he asked permission in English to light a cigarette. The spasmodic effusiveness of Mr. Goodchild's assent caused the stranger to respond with some genial remarks.

He, too, was a foreigner, a Greek. He envied them their first sensations in Florence, a city with which he was well acquainted. "And what a city that is! A bijou, a cup of gold, a gem!" He rolled up his large, thickly fringed eyes, while a well-pretended smile of ecstasy altered his face. What sinister trick did this politeness foreshadow?

The warm weather notwithstanding, he had on a brown plush waistcoat with marbled buttons. His broken collar was held together by a flowing tie, below which, as the breeze made it flutter, there showed on his shirt a round spot, the color of the streak on his cuff. All at once they realized that these were winestains!

Mr. Goodchild felt an immense remorse. What a wrong he had done this man; how well he had been punished for that injustice! "It is not often," he thought, "that retribution is so prompt." He discovered in this poor fellow-traveler's face an unexpected goodness. In the ensuing conversation, Aurelius far exceeded his usual expansiveness.

He disclosed to the stranger the reasons for their invasion of Europe, the hopes they had built on Florence, the name of the pension where they expected to stay. The Greek could not recommend the Pension Schwandorf. One ought to enter some nice Italian family, learn the language from daily conversation, and at the same time "penetrate the soul of the country." He wrote an address on a dirty scrap of paper which he took from a

pocket-book swollen with newspaper clippings. Also, he named a singing-teacher much better than Valentino Mughetto, who, to be perfectly frank, was a charlatan! Florence, in fact, swarmed with swindlers of all kinds; especially one had to be on guard against foreigners who pretended friendship. He, for example, had been robbed that very morning in Milan while lighting a cigarette in the station. A chance acquaintance had taken out of his pocket not only some ninety francs, but also his card-case!

Mr. Goodchild made haste to produce a visiting-card of his own. By way of exchange, at the other's direction he wrote in his note-book, "Monsieur Constantine Farazounis, antiques, curiosities, commissions, box 387, general post-office, Naples."

At Bologna rather reluctantly Monsieur Farazounis rose, gave Aurelius a sticky hand-clasp, bowed low to the sisters, alighted, and marched away arm in arm with a burly fellow whose shepherd-plaid trousers were badly soiled round the bot


"What an awful tramp!" exclaimed Thallie.

"His eyes," Frossie volunteered, "with all those oily, thick lashes, were positively indecent!"

"I think, after this," Aglaia remarked, "we 'll travel first-class." To herself she added, "And keep dad from telling the story of our lives at least to people like that!"

"My child! A good plain man, after all-"

"A good plain sharper! My first impressions are always right. We'll be in luck if this one does n't make some bad use of your card."

They arrived in Florence. They had imagined a town of the sixteenth century, made up entirely of famous monuments and landmarks, in every part ready set for a comedy of Boccaccio or a tragedy of Dante. But as the cab conveyed them toward the northern quarter, they still saw long blocks of commonplace dwellings, with closed shutters, and avenues all

narrowing to the same mediocre vistas. Not a palace, not a loggia, not an antique fountain! Besides, since it was then the hottest hour of the afternoon, Florence seemed a city of the dead!

In a clean, wide street, with two rows of trees extending its full length, the cab stopped before a corner house, beside which a garden was confined by a tall iron fence. From the vestibule there ran out to them an agile, smiling little man in the gray mohair livery of a door-porter. And they read on a brass plate fastened to the wall, "Pension Schwandorf."

A wide hall, dim and cool, running back to a dining-room with crimson walls, was lined with book-cases and divans. On all sides appeared a dim confusion of ornaments: framed water-colors of gondolas and ruined towers, plaques of china and brass, strange weapons in papier-mâché, tufts of pampas-grass, faded photographs, and sea-shore souvenirs. Through a door to the left showed the outline of a pianoforte covered with Venetian brocade. To the right, behind glass portals, a large round table was littered with periodicals. The perfume of roses, diffused from bouquets placed here and there in vases, mingled with the perfume of old fabrics. The three Graces remembered Zenasville.

In the silence one heard, far off, the clatter of a bell, a faint cry of "Arrivi!" and presently foot-falls that echoed across long reaches of invisible bare floors. But suddenly, from a door in the wall, Mme. von Schwandorf entered.

Well past sixty, but with pale-yellow frizzes encircling her wrinkled brow, she showed a keen, kindly face in which remained a hint of Scandinavian, rather than Teutonic, beauty. From her salient nose, her still delicate mouth, her twinkling, faded eyes, one might have read the history of a crowded life, beginning in fervent enthusiasm, now drawing toward its close in resignation. A loose gown, decked with many dangling points of lace, exhaled a strong scent of bergamot. From among the ruffles of her sleeve a blond Florentine poodle stretched out his muzzle toward the strangers.

Aglaia said at once:

"Mr. John Holland-"

"John Holland!" cried Mme. von Schwandorf in the eager, liquid voice of Northern races, that seems when most amiable always close to tears. "That dear man! How long since I have seen him! But he is not here in Florence, or he would have called. I shall show you the room he had nearly twenty years ago, with the very same writing-desk. Indeed, it is part of a suite that will do so nicely for you,"

She led the way through the crimson. dining-room, then, through a glass corridor, across the garden, then into another building, and up two flights of stairs. A maid threw open some windows.

The two rear bedchambers overlooked the garden; the front room faced both garden and street. The high ceilings were painted with mermaids, griffins, and harpies, in the style of the Renaissance. The walls showed flowered paper of the gayest hues and most bewildering designs. The floors, of broad red tiles, were bare. In each apartment stood a stove of greenand-yellow porcelain. And the chintz covers of the chairs and sofas were grotesquely printed all over with camels, poppies, monkeys, pomegranates, butterflies.

But instantly the Goodchild family found themselves at home. These eccentric decorations were not able to dispel their feeling that they had reached at last a long-sought spot, where many influences, still unknown, were predestined to expand their souls.

When they had thrown their hats upon the iron beds, they leaned over the balcony of the front room. Already the broad, clean street, with its double row of trees, had a more friendly look. A breeze rustled the leaves; a few shutters swung ajar. A velvet-eyed lad lounged by, singing to himself a plaintive, wavering song. As his voice died away, a sweet, halfmelancholy peace enveloped them. So Florence began to weave its spell.

The perfumes, the silences interrupted by melodious, distant sounds, the riotous


hues that covered old masonry and the trunks of tropical trees, combined with the fervor of the Southern sun to loose in them sensations that the warmest seasons of the North had not aroused. As their young tissues eagerly drank in this ether of Italy, their hearts expanded to a subtler elixir still-the drowsy ecstasy, the passionate and soft delight, which is communicated from a place that has known many centuries of beauty, inspiration, and love.

Aurelius, standing on the Ponte Vecchio beside the bust of Cellini, let his eyes rove down the left bank of the river Arno, where old buildings rose on joists as in the Medici days. A fair face appearing in a casement full of flower-pots suggested to his mind the subject of a tragedy in verse. Fearful lest that inspiration pass, he jotted down some notes on the backs of hotel-bills already scribbled over with pencil-sketches-of flower-stands, porticos, beggars huddled on the steps of churches. Passing on, with lowered head, he bumped into pedestrians and donkeys as he reflected: "Her name should be Fiammetta and his Rodolfo. There is no reason why the Alexandrian meter would not be an excellent medium, if interspersed with prose dialogue in the comic relief, as in Shakspere's Italian plays." Then his daughters called his attention to the New Market, and, with the look of a somnambulist, he exclaimed: "Perfect! In this porch, at midnight, I will have Rodolfo set upon by the bravos of Piero de' Medici!"

When they returned to the pension from their explorations, the Goodchilds often saw Mme. von Schwandorf sitting in a little cubbyhole, half boudoir and half office, beside the vestibule. The poodle asleep in her lap, she was reading Anatole France, while a ribbon of cigarette smoke curled out between the persiennes of the window.

"And what nice things have you seen to-day, my dears?"

As they recounted the details of their excursion, her faded eyes grew soft beneath the yellow frizzes.

"Ah, these first impressions, these precious enthusiasms of youth! It is like love: repetition may bring deeper emotions, but never again the so delicate delights of the first kisses!"

And when she raised her eyes toward the painted cupids of the ceiling, one seemed to catch a glimpse of the girl she had been long ago, glowing, emotional, responsive, surely, in every fiber to the hot sunshine and the ardors of Italy.

The sisters, gathered round her chair, were mute. Thallie, stooping to touch the poodle's silky head, concealed her clouded face. Frossie stared at the page of Mme. von Schwandorf's novel, those paragraphs of French no more a puzzle than the loves which they undoubtedly related. But Aglaia's speculative eyes grew sharp as there came from the parlor a sound of music. Some one was playing on the piano a passage from "Tosca"-the "Vissi d'arte."

Once more she inquired of Mme. von Schwandorf:

"And Signore Mughetto?"

"Still at Montecatini."

Indeed, the "last master of the true bel canto" was hardly expected back in Florence before the autumn.

On the other hand, Thallie had heard of a painting-teacher, a middle-aged Frenchman, who was ready to begin instructing her at any moment. As for Frossie, her "novel of the time of Henry of Navarre" was half mapped out.

"For all my eagerness," Aglaia thought, "I am the one who must be balked!" And she wondered why her ambitions should seem to Providence less important than her sisters'.

In an access of will, she promised herself to pass, by hook or crook, every obstacle that fate threw across her way. She even vowed to attain her full desire before the others had finished their apprenticeship. But the notes of the piano, clear, strong, and accurate, reached her again, like the assured defiance of a rival. She went to see who was playing the "Vissi d'arte" in the parlor. It was a young man, a new-comer to the Pension Schwandorf.

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showing, as it were, the profile of a neurotic younger brother of Julius Cæsar, he sat limply before the piano in a rumpled Norfolk jacket, and struck the keys with his white, bony hands. Suddenly, in caprice, his fingers ran from one end of the keyboard to the other, beat out half a dozen crashing chords, were still. The innumerable knickknacks of the parlor gave forth a long vibration. He turned, saw Aglaia in the doorway, and at once stood up.

"Want to play?" he inquired, in a high, nervous voice.

"This," she thought, "must be a real Englishman at last!"

"Not after you," she responded in a natural way, though thrilled all at once with a peculiar exultation. For her voice, habitually low and steady, seemed the absolute complement of his irregular, staccato tones, just as her pale, still beauty seemed to balance his dark restlessness, and her calm gaze to quiet his unstable eyes. Many men and women meet for the first time alone with a very subtle and perhaps unconscious crossing of the swords of sex—a feint, a parry, a swift instinctive test of strength, the issue of which may determine the outcome of all their common future. And Aglaia, even when those words and glances crossed, knew that she was not only more adroit than he, but also stronger.

As she realized this, her shoulders drooped the lower, she seemed to grow smaller, wistful, and appealing, while her eyes, raised to his, expressed the sweet humility of the traditional weak woman in the presence of the "dominant sex." "How well you play!" she sighed. "That? Just fooling. Just fooling. Fancied every

one was out."

"But you?" he asked, with a tactlessness that nearly made her smile.

"I should believe I were if I could make that kind of music."

He laughed, trying not to show that he was flattered, but looking at her more. warmly.

"You sing, though?" he stammered. "If you'll try a song, I'll manage the accompaniment."


For she had heard her sisters in the hall, and she wanted to complete the impression she was making before he met the others. With a timid smile she drifted from the room.

Going straight to the guest-book, she read that he was Cyril Bellegram, of Twelve Chimneys, Devonshire, England. That name, that place, seemed to Aglaia curiously congenial, and as familiar as if the words had passed before her eyes innumerable times in dreams.



AGLAIA, in all the sentimental phases of her plans, saw herself the dominating partner. For her, man was the adversary who must be conquered and despoiled, though none the less desirable in his subjection. And she had for a long time believed that any woman of determination and intelligence could dominate any man.

Nearly all her life she had studied them from beneath her pale-fringed eyelids, spying out their weaknesses, divining their lines of least resistance, and in the end forming of their defenses a low opinion that was mixed with exultation. By putting forth her wiles in earnest, she might have held in Zenasville at least two

He was younger than she had thought, youths, either of whom could have given maybe twenty-seven or eight.

"You 're a musician?" she asked, while letting a look of hero-worship dawn in her green eyes.

"Goodness, no!" His expression told her that she had made an error, that he did not think very highly of musicians.

her a home of mediocre comfort. But she had let them go, while her thoughts went forth from the little yellowish frame house to far-off places, where women no more adroit than she had won world-famous triumphs over men.

And now she had encountered Cyril

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