Puslapio vaizdai

at home there had also been one little girl in a patched shirt-waist and worn shoes whom he had met in the haze of an undergraduate adventure, and who had wept. "because he was different."

Yet beneath his chaffing, nonchalant demeanor, his real nature, his legacy of sensitiveness, the traits that might have made him, with a less successful father, a practitioner in some emotional art,—suspected that all his heart-affairs were woefully undramatic in analysis. Still, dauntless because so young, he went on looking for the great experience; and because he was no more than twenty-six years old, at the approach of every woman who seemed beautiful, elegant, and more mature than he, Reginald asked himself, "Perhaps this is the one at last?"

Certainly the creature of his ideals had never at any time resembled Thallie.

She did not even resemble the girls of his own class, those young women whose simplicity of dress was nearly always artful, whose manners were subtly tinctured with sophistication, whose theoretical knowledge of the world seemed nearly to keep pace with masculine experience. At first she had amused him, like the heroine in a romance of rural setting, naïve, warm, natural, with the sweetness of a wild-flower, which, to be sure, one best appreciates when the mind is cleared of an enthusiasm for more complex blossoms. But, then, for the moment Reginald was sentimentally at liberty.

His sense of humor, rejoicing in what he would have called the "quaintness" of the Goodchild family, had led him presently into a sort of tenderness toward Thallie such as he often felt for the defenseless and the young, if to defenselessness and youth was added beauty. And, in fact, whenever he looked intently at her, he had to admit that in her special type she was a well-nigh flawless speci


She sat in a wicker chair against the hanging roses, her batiste collar rolling open from the neck, one pink, lax palm upturned on her round knee, her little white slippers close together on the gravel.

Those calls-her shy punctilio, her innocent self-revelation, her attempts at wise discussion, which seemed invariably out of place— reminded him somehow of a doll's tea-party. And yet, when he scrutinized her fair, pure skin, her ripe mouth, the mingled slenderness and plumpness of her form, he felt a swift impulse to seize her face between his hands and ravish her lips. Light-haired himself, the ideal of his romantic dreams had always been brunette, interestingly pale, with raven locks and large black eyes, as lithe as a beast of prey, in every pose expressing the soul-weariness of a Russian adventuress in a Broadway melodrama. It was refreshing for Reginald to learn that he could feel this way "toward blondes." The discovery enlarged the horizon of his possibilities: he derived from it, as it were, a greater sense of competence.

And Thallie flattered him by a sort of deference that he had imagined ended in these days of careless manners. And Thallie seemed more than just diverted by his visits. And presently he felt that if he did seize her flowerlike face between his hands, did drink of those ripe lips, all her shyness would melt into the enervation of surrender, all her apparent adolescence might be transformed into the fervor of maturity. When Hector Ghillamoor suggested moving north, it was Reginald, the notorious victim of periodic boredom, who held out for a longer stay in drowsy Florence.

Ghillamoor, his herculean form stretched on a sofa in the Villa Campoformio, his face of a young gladiator showing its customary sulky smile, agreed to one week more. So Reginald's calls continued at the pension; and Lieutenant Olivuzzi, who often met him there, took it for granted that he was going to marry Thallie.

The lieutenant, for his part, still called at the Pension Schwandorf on Euphrosyne's account.

Camillo Olivuzzi was at liberty, outside the army, to call himself a count, owing to a custom which, in some Italian provinces, permitted all the sons of petty

nobles to assume the same title as the father. His parents lived with their younger children in the depths of the Abruzzi, in a dwelling half-castle and half-farm, without modern conveniences, surrounded by slipshod servants who behaved like humble members of the family, with difficulty making both ends meet. The old Count Olivuzzi derived a slender living from his land, which source of revenue he believed to be the only one a gentleman might profit by. However, he counseled his sons to marry money; and every summer, after going thin and threadbare for ten months at home, the parents convoyed their daughters to the fashionable resorts, where for some weeks they managed to live like persons well-to-do while parading the three girls before eligible young men from Rome and Milan. Their savings spent, they trailed back for another hibernation in their rickety castle, donned the old costumes by which the peasantry had long recognized them from afar, resumed their diet of polenta, sausages, and family bread, and, without books or intellectual companionship, awaited, like the hope of resurrection, next spring's extravagances.

Camillo had escaped that life.

He had gone for three years to the military school at Modena, then two years to the cavalry school at Pinerolo, and finally had done his course at Tor di Quinto, where cavalry cadets received the finishing touch. During that time, because of the exceptional social benefits bestowed upon young cavalry officers, Camillo had replaced his rural awkwardnesses with an excellent set of manners. Also, the Tripoli War breaking out in his first year with the Magenta Regiment, he had learned in the wastes of Libya invaluable lessons both of patience and initiative, had proved his spirit, and acquired the poise of those who have come hand to hand with death.

His fellow-officers were well-mannered young men, with the bodies of athletes and the brains of dandies, dare-devil riders, eager gamblers, great amateurs of women, unmoral, yet likable, now ener

getic and now indolent, by nature callous and by impulse generous. All were well bred, and many had titles of nobility. Most had entered the army, the only honorable business that occurred to them, to escape in some measure the futile existence of their class. Few, however, had any thought of rising high in their profession, or even of continuing in it for long unless the Austrians threatened to come down at last. Made as if expressly for love, war, and fatalism, they were, like so much in modern Italy, out of date, as if they contained the souls of those gay, lazy, ruthless young gallants of the Middle Ages. who had been their ancestors.

But Camillo Olivuzzi was of a different fiber. Perhaps the old fortress of his fathers had bestowed on him something of its bleak simplicity, just as the Abruzzi gorges may have influenced his nature with their rugged strength. The lean early years, the loneliness of those hills, had brought him a host of thoughts almost ascetic in their seriousness. flighty comrades of his military life had not altered the intentions of his boyhood days to rise high in the service of his country, to remain always the cavalier without fear and without reproach, to find as soon as possible the good woman worthy to be the mother of his children.


One day, in Via Tornabuoni, he had seen Euphrosyne.

He had seen a girl whose fresh coloring and bright-red hair appealed, with a delightful novelty, to all that was wholesome in his character, whose firm features suggested sanity, cheerfulness, and high ideals, whose good, healthy figure, foreshadowing a matronly solidity, seemed fashioned to withstand the charge of happy babies. And instantly he had thought, with that strange thrill which accompanies the predestined crises of a life, "Whoever she is, wherever she comes from, here is the one whom I can marry!" Acquaintance with her had not abated. that conviction.

Speaking in her own tongue, she told him of Zenasville. But from her story he derived impressions of a village such as he

had seen portrayed in English photographs, neat, quaint, exhaling wholesomeness from ancient hedges and Elizabethan roof-trees, where, down mature green vistas, one perceived young people, whiteclad, clustered beside a cricket-field. He, speaking Italian, told her of the Abruzzi. She constructed from those descriptions a craggy landscape full of waterfalls and abandoned lairs of brigands, a sort of paradise out of a fairy-tale, crowned by a ruddy castle in the style of Maxfield Parrish. Yet, after all, each saw those regions merely as a poetic setting for the speaker.

Frossie, in a tone of raillery that was only half successful, ventured:

"Up there in your mountains some one is pining for you, I suppose, like the damsel in old story-books?"

"No, Signorina," he exclaimed emphatically. "But in your Zenasville, no doubt?"

Looking down, she shook her head. He was not satisfied.

"I understand that in America a girl may have been engaged half a dozen times?"

Meeting his gaze directly, she said:

"At least I know I should not engage myself to marry unless it was going to be for life."

"Till death do part, not so?" Camillo quoted in English, his smile returning.

"Till death do part," she echoed, with an attempt to imitate that smile. But a chill passed through her heart, as when a cloud suddenly obscures the sun.

Now, nearly every afternoon, the pension garden took on a military aspect. Lieutenant Fava, with his bony jaws, his squint, his rat-tail mustaches, always manoeuvered for a chair near Thallie, to spin for her, in fluent French, long, sanguinary yarns of Sicily, his native land. And still another lieutenant of the Magenta Cavalry had slipped into that circle, a youth from Lombardy, named Azeglio. Despite his Northern fairness, it was pale-haired Aglaia whom he approached with all his Latin gallantries. Reginald Dux, with at sour smile, suggested to Thallie that the

three lieutenants must have signed a protocol restricting each to one of the three Graces.

The tea-table was still laid beneath the palm-tree. Against the bamboo thickets the light dresses and smart uniforms composed a charming tableau. Cyril Bellegram halted in the glass corridor, glared at that scene, then stalked off to his bed


"Wretched foreigners! I leave this hole to-morrow!"

But Cyril Bellegram had made that resolution several times of late, only to break it. However, he was used to compromises with his nature.

In a family of strong, unimaginative, formal sons, he was the queer one.. A taint of degeneracy had predisposed him to the admiration and the practice of the fine arts, while excluding from his nature a virility which would have made endeavor in those arts effective. Worse still, any pleasure that he took in writing music, sketching, tinkering with Latin odes and English sonnets, was abated by his training, to the effect that artists of all sorts were very well in their own way, but hardly patterns for an English country. gentleman!

It was on his foreign journeys that he was happiest.

His allowance in his pocket, he bade good-by to convention, and took the road with the gay expectancy of a Bohemian. But, alas! in every hotel-pension convention rose before him in the person of some fellow-countryman, to whose humdrum point of view he must conform. And even in native taverns he felt an invincible obligation to uphold before those foreigners the conservatism of the British Isles.

Yet there were moments when he had thrown off decorum with a desperate gesture, as a young gallant might let slip his cloak in some enchanted garden, beneath the high window, half open to romance, that is reached by a ladder of vines all heavy with aromatic blossoms. And he would never regret those hours like elopements into a different world, resonant with hoof-beats, illumined by the window

lights of passing chalets, perfumed by youth and beauty close beside him, though the object of that flight was only some hilltop restaurant, though the romance, if analyzed, would doubtless have been contaminated by a mercenary motive, though the whole adventure cost a week, a month perhaps, of cheaper pensions, of grosser tobacco, of third-class instead of second-class compartments.

But he hoped, also, for a meeting that should have lifelong consequences, and the face he had seen on the Devon moors returned with a more complicated loveliness, contained the beauty of every woman who had ever stimulated the creation of a work of art. "Yes," he would think, without blushing, without remembering that by inheritance he was an English country gentleman, "she must exist somewhere in this world, the one who was meant to be my inspiration." And he pictured a woman content to live with him, "the world well lost," in some such remote, exotic villa as affords the closing scenes for certain novels of Mr. H. G. Wells, who would give up her life to encouraging his talents and to sympathizing with his quirks, who would keep all silent in the house while he composed his masterpieces, and then at twilight, entering softly in a sort of Preraphaelite negligée, would read the last pages, examine the last brush-strokes, hear the last chords, and lay her cool hand across his feverish brow, and utter every time, in a voice like water rustling through irisstalks, "But that is genius!"

At last, in the Pension Schwandorf, he had found Aglaia..

They seemed to think alike on every topic. A new sense of peace pervaded him when she agreed with all his views. He soon felt that she at least would not ridicule his secret aspirations. He believed finally that this was the only woman in the world who could appreciate him.

As he contemplated her clear-cut profile, her lustrous copper-colored tresses, her whole dainty person that was enveloped with the scent of heliotrope, a mist rose before his eyes till her face took on the ambiguity of the ideal. And Cyril, who

prided himself on a nice appreciation of all charming things, no longer saw Aggie as she had looked at first.

He wanted to pour out all his despairs and hopes for her, unload on her shoulders his countless fancied troubles, beseech her to be, if nothing more, his guiding star. But next day, when she bestowed that gentle, comprehending smile on Olivuzzi or Azeglio or Reginald Dux, Cyril marched. off to his room, threw some shirts into his trunk, determined to "leave her to her just deserts" among these aliens. Like many persons at once egotistical and timid, he was seized with a violent agitation at the first hint of rivalry.

Aglaia always found a way to calm him. When the suitors were gathered, if only she could catch his eye, she sent him a secret glance, as who should say, "When will you and I be free for a talk that 's really worth while!" Sometimes, when the rest were gone, she made a grimace, heaved a sigh of relief, fixed her gaze on Cyril with a veiled sweetness which confessed, "But with you I don't think I'd ever feel that way." And once more, as in times when the garden had been less popular, they sat down for a tête-à-tête beneath the palmetto.

Aglaia asked him:

"What foreign ambassador is it who writes such beautiful poetry? How splendid it must be to shine like that, with equal brilliance in two spheres! His diplomatic successes offset his literary triumphs; his poetic traits are pardoned by the most conservative, because of his statesmanship. By the way, have you thought any more about the foreign service?"

"I'd go in for it," he replied, "if you advised me to."

"Do it, then."

"By Jove, I will!" cried Cyril so sharply that Bristles, the Irish terrier, scrambled to his feet. Aggie, to seal the bargain, held out her slim, cool hand.

"Remember, I shall keep you to that resolution; for I want to see you use not one, but all, of your talents. I want to be very proud of you—"

She stopped there, released her hand

from his, looked away as one does who has been tempted to reveal too much.

In her bedroom she thought: "That was clumsy of me. He must n't propose till I 've made up my mind."

She knew by this time that Cyril was not the stuff from which ambassadors are made. By good management, however, he might at least become the secretary of an embassy. But even to wear the court regalia of a secretary's wife-the three plumes, the veil of tulle, the four-yard train-Aggie would not now be willing to give up the operatic stage. For she had found right in Florence a new singingteacher, a witty, convincing little man named Chiamorino, who had promised that in two years, with twenty-franc lessons only twice a week, her soprano would be "a sensation equal, perhaps, to Melba's."

She might make a wiser match if she I waited till she was famous.

"Oh, as for that, one can always divorce a husband that one 's outgrown! And in the meantime—”

She recalled a certain raw spring afternoon on the highway outside of Zenasville, when her sisters had voiced their discontent, when she herself had said, "But I am nearly thirty years old, with one whole side of life still a closed book."

While rubbing cold-cream on her nose, Aglaia paused to appraise the rest of the three Graces' court.

Camillo Olivuzzi would doubtless make the most impassioned lover; but Camillo could hardly be won away from Frossie. Besides, their titles notwithstanding, these cavalry officers were too poor for an ambitious girl to bother with. Cyril Bellegram, to be sure, was poor himself; but, as his family was rich, a baby ought to bring a handsome settlement. Reginald Dux, on the other hand, would be a splendid catch. But Aggie, after studying that young man well with her clear emerald eyes, had concluded that he would no more marry into the Goodchild family than he would hang himself.

"By the way, I really ought to tell Thallie so, poor kid!"



Reginald saved her that trouble by taking his departure. Hector daughter had fallen ill in Paris. The telegram reached the Villa Campoformio at dinner-time, and Reginald at once returned to town to say good-by to Thallie. He found the family taking coffee in the garden.

When he had given the reason for his leaving, there passed like a flash through Thallie's mind the bitter conviction, "He's going to comfort that black-haired woman of the Cherbourg tender, that hateful Mrs. Ghillamoor!" Moreover, he would regain that region of night restaurants and music-halls, full of ugly, fascinating, wanton girls who leaned their bare shoulders against pillars and responded to his chaffing with peculiar looks. She thought, "If you ever do that again, it must be all over between us!" But since he stood here, hat in hand, his cab at the gate, his baggage by this time at the station, was it not all over between them now?

All the life seemed to leave her body. She could hardly lift her arm to meet his hand-clasp. She did not dare to speak. He whispered:

"Walk to the corner with me."

She found herself beside him in the dusky street.

"So it's au revoir again," he said, looking down at her through the gloom with a gay, tender, patronizing smile.

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Her voice broke on those words. She knew that her mouth, half open, must be grotesquely twisted.

"Did you think for a moment that I was n't coming back?"

She only stared at him, her chin up, her hands clasped before her breast as if in an attitude of prayer. And her immobility that was so significant, her eyes that showed through the darkness all their secret, the whole sweet contagion that her presence spread around, bewitched the young man like a fulfilment of his most romantic reveries. Now, if ever, he wanted to snatch her into his embrace,

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