Mrs. Humphry Ward
Part 8 out of 9
'Miss Foster is a long time,' she said to Marie. 'It is too hot for her to
be out. And how odd! There is the Contessa's carriage--and the Contessa
herself--at this time of day. Run, Marie! Tell her I shall be delighted to
see her. And bring another comfortable chair--there's a dear.'
The Contessa mounted the stone stairs with the heavy masculine step that
was characteristic of her.
'_Vous permettez, madame!_'--she said, standing in the doorway--'at this
Eleanor made her welcome. The portly Contessa seated herself with an
involuntary gesture of fatigue.
'What have you been doing?' said Eleanor. 'If you have been helping the
harvesters, _je proteste_!'
She laid her hand laughingly on the Contessa's knee. It seemed to her that
the Contessa knew far more of the doings and affairs of her _contadini_
than did the rather magnificent _fattore_ of the estate. She was in and out
among them perpetually. She quarrelled with them and hectored them; she had
as good a command of the local dialect as they had; and an eye that pounced
on cheating like an osprey on a fish. Nevertheless, as she threw in yet
another evident trifle--that she cared more for them and their interests
than for anything else in the world, now that her son was gone--they
endured her rule, and were not actively ungrateful for her benefits. And,
in her own view at any rate, there is no more that any rich person can ask
of any poor one till another age of the world shall dawn.
She received Eleanor's remark with an embarrassed air.
'I have been doctoring an ox,' she said, bluntly, as though apologising for
herself. 'It was taken ill last night, and they sent for me.'
'But you are too, too wonderful!' cried Eleanor in amusement. 'Is it all
grist that comes to your mill--sick oxen--or humans like me?'
The Contessa smiled, but she turned away her head.
'It was Emilio's craze,' she said abruptly. 'He knew every animal on the
place. In his regiment they called him the "vet.," because he was always
patching up the sick and broken mules. One of his last messages to me
was about an old horse. He taught me a few things--and sometimes I am of
use--till the farrier comes.'
There was a little silence, which the Contessa broke abruptly.
'I came, however, madame, to tell you something about myself. Teresa has
made up her mind to leave me.'
'Your daughter?' cried Eleanor amazed. '_Fiancee?_'
The Contessa shook her head.
'She is about to join the nuns of Santa Francesca. Her novitiate begins in
October. Now she goes to stay with them for a few weeks.'
Eleanor was thunderstruck.
'She leaves you alone?'
The Contessa mutely assented.
'And you approve?' said Eleanor hotly.
'She has a vocation'--said the Contessa with a sigh.
'She has a mother!' cried Eleanor.
'Ah! madame--you are a Protestant. These things are in our blood. When we
are devout, like Teresa, we regard the convent as the gate of heaven. When
we are Laodiceans--like me--we groan, and we submit.'
'You will be absolutely alone,' said Eleanor, in a low voice of emotion,
'in this solitary place.'
The Contessa fidgetted. She was of the sort that takes pity hardly.
'There is much to do,'--she said, shortly.
But then her fortitude a little broke down. 'If I were ten years older, it
would be all right,' she said, in a voice that betrayed the mind's fatigue
with its own debate. 'It's the time it all lasts; when you are as strong as
Eleanor took her hand and kissed it.
'Do you never take quite another line?' she said, with sparkling eyes. 'Do
you never say--"This is my will, and I mean to have it! I have as much
right to my way as other people?" Have you never tried it with Teresa?'
The Contessa opened her eyes.
'But I am not a tyrant,' she said, and there was just a touch of scorn in
'We have so few years to live and be happy in,' she said in a lower voice,
a voice of self-defence.
'That is not how it appears to me,' said the Contessa slowly. 'But then I
believe in a future life.'
'And you think it wrong ever to press--to _insist_ upon--the personal, the
selfish point of view?'
The Contessa smiled.
'Not so much wrong, as futile. The world is not made so--_chere madame_.'
Eleanor sank back in her chair. The Contessa observed her emaciation, her
pallor--and the pretty dress.
She remembered her friend's letter, and the 'Signor Manisty' who should
have married this sad, charming woman, and had not done so. It was easy
to see that not only disease but grief was preying on Mrs. Burgoyne. The
Contessa was old enough to be her mother. A daughter whom she had lost in
infancy would have been Eleanor's age, if she had lived.
'Madame, let me give you a piece of advice'--she said suddenly, taking
Eleanor's hands in both her own--'leave this place. It does not suit you.
These rooms are too rough for you--or let me carry you off to the Palazzo,
where I could look after you.'
'This place is very good for me,' she said with a wild fluttering breath.
'To-day I feel so much better--so much lighter!'
The Contessa felt a pang. She had heard other invalids say such things
before. The words rang like a dirge upon her ear. They talked a little
longer. Then the Contessa rose, and Eleanor rose, too, in spite of her
guest's motion to restrain her.
As they stood together the elder woman in her strength suddenly felt
herself irresistibly drawn towards the touching weakness of the other.
Instead of merely pressing hands, she quickly threw her strong arms round
Mrs. Burgoyne, gathered her for an instant to her broad breast, and kissed
Eleanor leant against her, sighing:
'A vocation wouldn't drag _me_ away,' she said gently.
And so they parted.
* * * * *
Eleanor hung over the _loggia_ and watched the Contessa's departure. As the
small horses trotted away, with a jingling of bells and a fluttering of the
furry tails that hung from their ears, the _padre parroco_ passed. He took
off his hat to the Contessa, then seeing Mrs. Burgoyne on the _loggia_, he
gave her, too, a shy but smiling salutation.
His light figure, his young and dreamy air, suited well with the beautiful
landscape through which it passed. Shepherd? or poet? Eleanor thought of
David among the flocks.
'He only wants the crook--the Scriptural crook. It would go quite well with
Then she became aware of another figure approaching on her right from the
piece of open land that lay below the garden.
It was Father Benecke, and he emerged on the road just in front of the
The old priest took off his hat. Eleanor saw the sensitive look, the
slow embarrassed gesture. The _padre parroco_ passed without looking
to the right or left. All the charming pliancy of the young figure had
disappeared. It was drawn up to a steel rigidity.
Eleanor smiled and sighed.
'David among the Philistines!--_Ce pauvre Goliath_! Ah! he is coming here?'
She withdrew to her sofa, and waited.
Marie, after instructions, and with that austerity of demeanour which
she, too, never failed to display towards Father Benecke, introduced the
'Entrez, mon pere, entrez,' said Eleanor, holding out a friendly hand. 'Are
you, too, braving the sun? Did you pass Miss Foster? I wish she would come
in--it is getting too hot for her to be out.'
'Madame, I have not been on the road. I came around through the Sassetto.
There I found no one.'
'Pray sit down, Father. That chair has all its legs. It comes from
But he did not accept her invitation--at least not at once. He remained
hesitating--looking down upon her. And she, struck by his silence, struck
by his expression, felt a sudden seizing of the breath. Her hand slid to
her heart, with its fatal, accustomed gesture. She looked at him wildly,
But the pause came to an end. He sat down beside her.
'Madame, you have taken so kind an interest in my unhappy affairs that you
will perhaps allow me to tell you of the letter that has reached me this
morning. One of the heads of the Old Catholic community invites me to go
and consult with them before deciding on the course of my future life.
There are many difficulties. I am not altogether in sympathy with them.
A married priesthood such as they have now adopted, is in my eyes a
priesthood shorn of its strength. But the invitation is so kind, so
brotherly, I must needs accept it.'
He bent forward, looking not at her, but at the brick floor of the
_loggia_. Eleanor offered a few words of sympathy; but felt there was more
'I have also heard from my sister. She refuses to keep my house any
longer. Her resentment at what I have done is very bitter--apparently
insurmountable. She wishes to retire to a country place in Bavaria where we
have some relations. She has a small _rente_, and will not be in any need.'
'And you?' said Eleanor quickly.
'I must find work, madame. My book will bring me in a little, they say.
That will give me time--and some liberty of decision. Otherwise of course I
am destitute. I have lost everything. But my education will always bring me
enough for bread. And I ask no more.'
Her compassion was in her eyes.
'You too--old and alone--like the Contessa!' she said under her breath.
He did not hear. He was pursuing his own train of thought, and presently
he raised himself. Never had the apostolic dignity of his white head, his
broad brow been more commanding. But what Eleanor saw, what perplexed her,
was the subtle tremor of the lip, the doubt in the eyes.
'So you see, madame, our pleasant hours are almost over. In a few days I
must be gone. I will not attempt to express what I owe to your most kind,
most indulgent sympathy. It seems to me that in the "dark wood" of my life
it was your conversation--when my heart was so sorely cast down--which
revived my intelligence--and so held me up, till--till I could see my way,
and choose my path again. It has given me a great many new ideas--this
companionship you have permitted me. I humbly confess that I shall always
henceforward think differently of women, and of the relations that men and
women may hold to one another. But then, madame--'
He paused. Eleanor could see his hand trembling on his knee.
She raised herself on her elbow.
'Father Benecke! you have something to say to me!'
He hurried on.
'The other day you allowed us to change the _roles_. You had been my
support. You threw yourself on mine. Ah! Madame, have I been of any
assistance to you--then, and in the interviews you have since permitted me?
Have I strengthened your heart at all as you strengthened mine?'
His ardent, spiritual look compelled--and reassured her.
She sank back. A tear glittered on her brown lashes. She raised a hand to
dash it away.
'I don't know, Father--I don't know. But to-day--for some mysterious
reason--I seem almost to be happy again. I woke up with the feeling of one
who had been buried under mountains of rocks and found them rolled away;
of one who had been passing through a delirium which was gone. I seem to
care for nothing--to grieve for nothing. Sometimes you know that happens to
people who are very ill. A numbness comes upon them.--But I am not numb. I
feel everything. Perhaps, Father'--and she turned to him with her old sweet
instinct--of one who loved to be loved--'perhaps you have been praying for
She smiled at him half shyly. But he did not see it. His head bent lower
'Thank God!' he said, with the humblest emphasis. 'Then,
madame--perhaps--you will find the force--to forgive me!'
The words were low--the voice steady.
Eleanor sprang up.
'Father Benecke!--what have you been doing? Is--is Mr. Manisty here?'
She clung to the _loggia_ parapet for support. The priest looked at her
pallor with alarm, with remorse, and spoke at once.
'He came to me last night.'
Their eyes met, as though in battle--expressed a hundred questions--a
hundred answers. Then she broke the silence.
'Where is he?' she said imperiously.' Ah!--I see--I see!'
She sat down, fronting him, and panting a little.
'Miss Foster is not with me. Mr. Manisty is not with you. The inference
is easy.--And you planned it! You took--you _dared_ to take--as much as
this--into your own hands!'
He made no reply. He bent like a reed in the storm.
'There is no boldness like a saint's'--she said bitterly,--'no
hardness--like an angel's! What I would not have ventured to do with my
closest friend, my nearest and dearest--you--a stranger--have done--with a
light heart. Oh! it is monstrous!--monstrous!'
She moved her neck from side to side as though she was
suffocating--throwing back the light ruffle that encircled it.
'A stranger?'--he said slowly. His intense yet gentle gaze confronted hers.
'You refer, I suppose, to that most sacred, most intimate confidence I
made to you?--which no man of honour or of heart could have possibly
betrayed,'--she said passionately. 'Ah! you did well to warn me that it
was no true confession--under no true seal! You should have warned me
Her paleness was all gone. Her cheeks flamed. The priest felt that she was
beside herself, and, traversed as his own mind was with the most poignant
doubts and misgivings, he must needs wrestle with her, defend himself.
'Madame!--you do me some wrong,' he said hurriedly. 'At least in words
I have told nothing--betrayed nothing. When I left him an hour ago Mr.
Manisty had no conception that you were here. After my first letter to him,
he tells me that he relinquished the idea of coming to Torre Amiata, since
if you had been staying here, I must have mentioned it.'
Eleanor paused. 'Subterfuge!' she cried, under her breath. Then,
aloud--'You asked him to come.'
'That, madame, is my crime,' he admitted, with a mild and painful humility.
'Your anger hits me hard. But--do you remember?--you placed three lives in
my hands. I found you helpless; you asked for help. I saw you day by day,
more troubled, yet, as it seemed to me, more full of instincts towards
generosity, towards peace. I felt--oh! madame, I felt with all my heart,
that there lay just one step between you and a happiness that would
compensate you a thousand times for all you had gone through. You say that
I prayed for you. I did--often--and earnestly. And it seemed to me that--in
our later conversations--I saw such signs of grace in you--such exquisite
dispositions of the heart--that were the chance of action once more given
to you--you would find the strength to seize the blessing that God offered
you. And one evening in particular, I found you in an anguish that seemed
to be destroying you. And you had opened your heart to me; you had asked my
help as a Christian priest. And so, madame, as you say--I dared. I said, in
writing to Mr. Manisty, who had told me he was coming northward--"if Torre
Amiata is not far out of your road--look in upon me." Neither your name nor
Miss Foster's passed my lips. But since--I confess--I have lived in much
disturbance of mind!'
'Are all priests as good casuists as you, Father?'
His eyes wavered a little as though her words stung. But he did not reply.
There was a pause. Eleanor turned towards the parapet and looked outward
towards the road and the forest. Her face and eyes were full of an
incredible animation; her lips were lightly parted to let the quick breath
Then of a sudden she withdrew. Her eyes moved back to Father Benecke; she
bent forward and held out both her hands.
'Father--I forgive you! Let us make peace.'
He took the small fingers into his large palms with a gratitude that was at
once awkward and beautiful.
'I don't know yet'--he said, in a deep perplexity--'whether I absolve
'You will soon know,' she said almost with gaiety. 'Oh! it is quite
possible'--she threw up one hand in a wild childish gesture--'it is quite
possible that to-morrow I may be at your feet, asking you to give me
penance for my rough words. On the other hand--Anyway, Father, you have not
found me a very dutiful penitent?'
'I expected castigation,' he said meekly. 'If the castigation is done, I
have come off better than I could have hoped.'
She raised herself, and took up her gloves that were lying on the little
table beside her sofa.
'You see'--she said, talking very fast--'I am an Englishwoman, and my race
is not a docile one. Here, in this village, I have noticed a good deal,
and the _massaja_ gossips to me. There was a fight in the street the other
night. The men were knifing each other. The _parroco_ sent them word that
they should come at once to his house--_per pacificarli_. They went. There
is a girl, living with her sister, whose husband has a bad reputation. The
_parroco_ ordered her to leave--found another home for her. She left. There
is a lad who made some blasphemous remarks in the street on the day of the
Madonna's procession. The _parroco_ ordered him to do penance. He did it.
But those things are not English. Perhaps they are Bavarian?'
He winced, but he had recovered his composure.
'Yes, madame, they are Bavarian also. But it seems that even an
Englishwoman can sometimes feel the need of another judgment than her own?'
She smiled. All the time that she had made her little speech about the
village, she had been casting quick glances along the road. It was evident
that her mind was only half employed with what she was saying. The
rose-flush in her cheeks, the dainty dress, the halo of fair hair gave her
back youth and beauty; and the priest gazed at her in astonishment.
'Ah!'--she said, with a vivacity that was almost violence--'here she is.
Father--please--!' And with a peremptory gesture, she signed to him to draw
back, as she had done, into the shadow, out of sight of the road.
But the advancing figure was plain to both of them.
Lucy mounted the hill with a slow and tired step. Her eyes were on the
ground. The whole young form drooped under the heat, and under a weight of
thought still more oppressive. As it came nearer a wave of sadness seemed
to come with it, dimming the sunshine and the green splendour of the woods.
As she passed momentarily out of sight behind some trees that sheltered the
gate of the courtyard, Mrs. Burgoyne crossed the _loggia_, and called to
'Marie--be so good as to tell Miss Foster when she comes in that I have
gone out; that she is not to trouble about me, as I shall soon return; and
tell her also that I felt unusually well and strong.'
Then she turned and beckoned to Father Benecke.
'This way, Father, please!'
And she led him down the little stair that had taken Lucy to the garden the
night before. At the foot of the stairs she paused. The wall of the garden
divided them from the courtyard, and on the other side of it they could
hear Lucy speaking to the _massaja_.
'Now!' said Eleanor, 'quick I--before she discovers us!'
And opening the garden door with the priest's help she passed into the
field, and took a wide circuit to the right so as to be out of view of the
'Dear madame, where are you going?' said the priest in some alarm. 'This is
too fatiguing for you.'
Eleanor took no notice. She, who for days had scarcely dragged one languid
foot after another, sped through the heat and over the broken ground like
one of the goldfinches in the convent garden. The old priest followed her
with difficulty. Nor did she pause till they were in the middle of the
'Explain what we are doing!' he implored her, as she allowed him to press
his old limbs for a moment on his stick, and take breath.
She, too, leant against a tree panting.
'You said, Father, that Mr. Manisty was to leave you at midday.'
'And you wish to see him?' he cried.
'I am determined to see him,' she said in a low voice, biting her lip.
And again she was off, a gleam of whiteness gliding down, down, through the
cool green heart of the Sassetto, towards the Paglia.
They emerged upon the fringe of the wood, where amid scrub and sapling
trees stood the little sun-baked house.
From the distance came a sound of wheels--a carriage from Selvapendente
crossing the bridge over the Paglia?
Mrs. Burgoyne looked at the house for a moment in silence. Then, sheltered
under her large white parasol, she passed round to the side that fronted
There, in the shade, sat Manisty, his arms upon his knees, his head buried
in his hands.
He did not at first hear Mrs. Burgoyne's step, and she paused a little way
off. She was alone. The priest had not followed her.
At last, as she moved, either the sound of her dress or the noise of the
approaching wheels roused him. He looked up--started--sprang to his feet.
They met. Their eyes crossed. She shivered, for there were tears in his.
But through that dimness there shone the fierce unspoken question that had
leapt to them at the sight of his cousin--
'Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?'
Eleanor was the first to break the silence.
'You have had a long pilgrimage to find us,' she said quietly. 'Yet perhaps
Torre Amiata might have occurred to you. It was you that praised it--that
proposed to find quarters at the convent.'
He stared at her in amazement.
'Eleanor--in God's name!' he broke out violently, 'tell me what this
all means! What has been the meaning of this mad--this extraordinary
She tottered a little and leant against the wall of the house.
'Find me a chair, please, before we begin to talk. And--is that your fly?
Send it away--to wait under the trees. It can take me up the hill, when we
He controlled himself with difficulty and went round the house.
She pressed her hands upon her eyes to shut out the memory of his face.
'She has refused him!' she said to herself; 'and--what is more--she has
made him believe it!'
Very soon his step was heard returning. The woman he had left in the shade
listened for it, as though in all this landscape of rushing river and
murmuring wood it the one audible, significant sound. But when he came back
to her again, he saw nothing but a composed, expectant Eleanor; dressed,
in these wilds, with a dainty care which would have done honour to London
or Paris, with a bright colour in her cheeks, and the quiver of a smile on
her lips. Ill! He thought he had seldom seen her look so well. Had she not
always been of a thistle-down lightness? 'Exaggeration!--absurdity!' he
said to himself fiercely, carrying his mind back to certain sayings in a
girl's voice that were still ringing in his ears.
He, however, was in no mood to smile. Eleanor had thrown herself sideways
on the chair he had brought her; her arms resting on the back of it, her
delicate hands hanging down. It was a graceful and characteristic attitude,
and it seemed to him affectation--a piece of her fine-ladyism.
She instantly perceived that he was in a state of such profound and
passionate excitement that it was difficult for him to speak.
So she began, with a calmness which exasperated him:
'You asked me, Edward, to explain our escapade?'
He raised his burning eyes.
'What can you explain?--how can you explain?' he said roughly. 'Are you
going to tell me why my cousin and comrade hates me and plots against
me?--why she has inflicted this slight and outrage upon me--why, finally,
she has poisoned against me the heart of the woman I love?'
He saw her shrink. Did a cruel and secret instinct in him rejoice? He was
mad with rage and misery, and he was incapable of concealing it.
She knew it. As he dropped his head again in an angry stare at the grass
between them, she was conscious of a sudden childish instinct to put out
her hand and stroke the black curls and the great broad shoulders. He was
not for her; but, in the old days, who had known so well as she how to
soothe, manage, control him?
'I can't tell you those things--certainly,' she said, after a pause. 'I
can't describe what doesn't exist.'
And to herself she cried: 'Oh! I shall lie--lie--lie--like a fiend, if I
'What doesn't exist'?' he repeated scornfully. 'Will you listen to my
version of what has happened--the barest, unadorned tale? I was your host
and Miss Foster's. I had begun to show the attraction that Miss Foster had
for me, to offer her the most trifling, the most ordinary attention. From
the moment I was first conscious of my own feeling, I knew that you were
against me--that you were influencing--Lucy'--the name dropped from his
lips in a mingled anguish and adoration--'against me. And just as I was
beginning to understand my own heart--to look forward to two or three last
precious weeks in which to make, if I could, a better impression upon her,
after my abominable rudeness at the beginning--_you_ interfered--you, my
best friend! Without a word our party is broken up; my chance is snatched
from me; Miss Foster is spirited away. You and she disappear, and you leave
me to bear my affront--the outrage done me--as best I may. You alarm, you
distress all your friends. Your father takes things calmly, I admit. But
even he has been anxious. Aunt Pattie has been miserable. As for me--'
He rose, and began to pace up and down before her; struggling with his own
'And at last'--he resumed, pausing in front of her--'after wandering up and
down Italy, I find you--in this remote place--by the merest chance. Father
Benecke said not a word. But what part he has played in it I don't yet
understand. In another half-hour I should have been off; and again you
would have made the veriest fool of me that over walked this earth. Why,
Eleanor?--why? What have I done to you?'
He stood before her--a superb, commanding presence. In his emotion all
unshapeliness of limb or movement seemed to have disappeared. Transfigured
by the unconsciousness of passion, he was all energy and all grace.
'Eleanor!--explain! Has our old friendship deserved this? Why have you done
this thing to me?--And, my God!'--he began to pace up and down again, his
hands in his pockets--'how well--how effectually you have gone to work! You
have had--Lucy--in your hands for six weeks. It is plain enough what has
been going on. This morning--on that hill--suddenly,'--he raised his hand
to his brow, as though the surprise, the ecstacy of the moment returned
upon him--'there among the trees--was her face! What I said I shall never
remember. But when a man feels as I do he has no need to take thought
what he shall say. And she? Impatience, coldness, aversion!--not a word
permitted of my long pilgrimage--not a syllable of explanation for this
slight, this unbearable slight that had been put upon me as her host,
her guardian, for the time being! You and she fly me as though I were no
longer fit to be your companion. Even the servants talked. Aunt Pattie and
I had to set ourselves at once to devise the most elaborate falsehoods, or
Heaven knows where the talk would have spread. How had I deserved such a
humiliation?--Yet, when I meet Miss Foster again, she behaves as though she
owed me not a word of excuse. All her talk of you and your health! I must
go away at once--because it would startle and disturb you to see me. She
had already found out by chance that I was here--she had begged Father
Benecke to use his influence with me not to insist on seeing you--not to
come to the convent. It was the most amazing, the most inexplicable thing!
What in the name of fortune does it mean? Are we all mad? Is the world and
everyone on it rushing together to Bedlam?'
Still she did not speak. Was it that his mere voice, the familiar torrent
of words, was delightful to her?--that she cared very little what he said,
so long as he was there, living, breathing, pleading before her?--that,
like Sidney, she could have cried to him: 'Say on, and all well said, still
say the same'?
But he meant to be answered. He came close to her.
'We have been comrades, Eleanor--fellow-workers--friends. You have come to
know me as perhaps no other woman has known me. I have shown you a thousand
faults. You know all my weaknesses. You have a right to despise me as an
unstable, egotistical, selfish fool; who must needs waste other people's
good time and good brains for his own futile purposes. You have a right
to think me ungrateful for the kindest help that ever man got. You have
a right as Miss Foster's friend--and perhaps, guessing as you do at some
of my past history,--to expect of me probation and guarantees. You have
a right to warn her how she gives away anything so precious as herself.
But you have not a right to inflict on me such suffering--such agony of
mind--as you have imposed on me the last six weeks! I deny it, Eleanor--I
deny it altogether! The punishment, the test goes beyond--far beyond--your
right and my offences!'
He calmed--he curbed himself.
'The reckoning has come, Eleanor. I ask you to pay it.'
She drew a long breath.
'But I can't go at that pace. You must give me time.'
He turned away in a miserable impatience.
She closed her eyes and thought a little, 'Now'--she said to herself--'now
is the time for lying. It must be done. Quick! no scruples!'
'You understand,' she said slowly, 'that Miss Foster and I had become much
attached to each other?'
'That she had felt great sympathy for me in the failure of the book, and
was inclined--well, you have proof of it!--to pity me, of course a great
deal too much, for being a weakling. She is the most tender--the most
loving creature that exists.'
'How does that explain why you should have fled from me like the plague?'
he said doggedly.
'No--no--but--Anyway, you see Lucy was likely to do anything she could to
please me. That's plain, isn't it?--so far?'
Her head dropped a little to one side, interrogatively.
He made no reply. He still stood in front of her, his eyes bent upon her,
his hands in his pockets.
'Meanwhile'--the colour rushed over her face--'I had been, most innocently,
'Ah!' he said, with a movement, 'that night? I imagined it.'
'You were not as cautious as you might have been--considering all the
people about--and I heard.'
He waited, all ear. But she ceased to speak. She bent a little farther over
the back of the chair, as though she were making a mental enumeration of
the leaves of a tiny myrtle bush that grew near his heel.
'I thought that bit of truth would have stiffened the lies,' she thought to
herself; 'but somehow--they don't work.'
'Well: then, you see'--she threw back her head again and looked at him--'I
had to consider. As you say, I knew you better than most people. It was all
remarkably rapid--you will hardly deny that? For a fortnight you took no
notice of Lucy Foster. Then the attraction began--and suddenly--Well, we
needn't go into that any more; but with your character it was plain that
you would push matters on--that you would give her no time--that you would
speak, _coute qua coute_--that you would fling caution and delay to the
winds--and that all in a moment Lucy Foster would find herself confronted
by a great decision that she was not at all prepared to make. It was not
fair that she should even be asked to make it. I had become her friend,
specially. You will see there was a responsibility. Delay for both of
you--wasn't that to be desired? And no use whatever to go and leave you
the address!--you'll admit that?' she said hurriedly, with the accent of a
child trying to entrap the judgment of an angry elder who was bringing it
He stood there lost in wrath, bewilderment, mystification. Was there ever a
more lame, more ridiculous tale?
Then he turned quickly upon her, searching her face for some clue. A sudden
perception--a perception of horror--swept upon him. Eleanor's first flush
was gone; in its place was the pallor of effort and excitement. What a
ghost, what a spectre she had become! Manisty looked at her aghast,--at her
unsteady yet defiant eyes, at the uncontrollable trembling of the mouth she
did her best to keep at its hard task of smiling.
In a flash, he understood. A wave of red invaded the man's face and neck.
He saw himself back in the winter days, working, talking, thinking; always
with Eleanor; Eleanor his tool, his stimulus; her delicate mind and heart
the block on which he sharpened his own powers and perceptions. He recalled
his constant impatience of the barriers that hamper cold and cautious
people. He must have intimacy, feeling, and the moods that border on and
play with passion. Only so could his own gift of phrase, his own artistic
divinations develop to a fine suhtlety and clearness, like flowers in a
An experience,--for him. And for her? He remembered how, in a leisurely and
lordly way, he had once thought it possible he might some day reward his
cousin; at the end of things, when all other adventures were done.
Then came that tragi-comedy of the book; his disillusion with it; his
impatient sense that the winter's work upon it was somehow bound up in
Eleanor's mind with a claim on him that had begun to fret and tease; and
those rebuffs, tacit or spoken, which his egotism had not shrunk from
inflicting on her sweetness.
How could he have helped inflicting them? Lucy had come!--to stir in
him the deepest waters of the soul. Besides, he had never taken Eleanor
seriously. On the one hand he had thought of her as intellect, and
therefore hardly woman; on the other he had conceived her as too gentle,
too sweet, too sensitive to push anything to extremes. No doubt the flight
of the two friends and Eleanor's letter had been a rude awakening. He
had then understood that he had offended Eleanor, offended her both as a
friend, and as a clever woman. She had noticed the dawn of his love for
Lucy Foster, and had determined that he should still recognise her power
and influence upon his life.
This was part of his explanation. As to the rest, it was inevitable that
both his vanity and passion should speak soft things. A girl does not take
such a wild step, or acquiesce in it--till she has felt a man's power.
Self-assertion on Eleanor's part--a sweet alarm on Lucy's--these had been
his keys to the matter, so far. They had brought him anger, but also hope;
the most delicious, the most confident hope.
Now remorse shot through him, fierce and stinging--remorse and terror! Then
on their heels followed an angry denial of responsibility, mingled with
alarm and revolt. Was he to be robbed of Lucy because Eleanor had misread
him? No doubt she had imprinted what she pleased on Lucy's mind. Was he
indeed undone?--for good and all?
Then shame, pity, rushed upon him headlong. He dared not look at the face
beside him with its record of pain. He tried to put out of his mind what it
meant. Of course he must accept her lead. He was only too eager to accept
it; to play the game as she pleased. She was mistress! That he realised.
He took up the camp-stool on which he had been sitting when she arrived and
placed himself beside her.
'Well--that explains something'--he said more gently. 'I can't complain
that I don't seem to you or anyone a miracle of discretion; I can't
wonder--perhaps--that you should wish to protect Miss Foster, if--if you
thought she needed protecting. But I must think--I can't help thinking,
that you set about it with very unnecessary violence. And for yourself
too--what madness! Eleanor! what have you been doing to yourself?'
He looked at her reproachfully with that sudden and intimate penetration
which was one of his chief spells with women. Eleanor shrank.
'Oh! I am ill,' she said hastily; 'too ill in fact to make a fuss about. It
would only be a waste of time.'
'Of course you have found this place too rough for you. Have you any
comforts at all in that ruin? Eleanor, what a rash,--what a wild thing to
He came closer to her, and Eleanor trembled under the strong expostulating
tenderness of his face and voice. It was so like him--to be always somehow
in the right! Would he succeed, now as always, in doing with her exactly as
he would? And was it not this, this first and foremost that she had fled
'No'--she said,--'no. I have been as well here as I should have been
anywhere else. Don't let us talk of it.'
'But I must talk of it. You have hurt yourself--and Heaven knows you have
hurt me--desperately. Eleanor--when I came back from that function the
day you left the Villa, I came back with the intention of telling you
everything. I knew you were Miss Foster's friend. I thought you were mine
too. In spite of all my stupidity about the book, Eleanor, you would have
listened to me?--you would have advised me?'
'When did you begin to think of Lucy?'
Her thin fingers, crossed over her brow, as she rested her arm on the back
of the chair, hid from him the eagerness, the passion, of her curiosity.
But he scented danger. He prepared himself to walk warily.
'It was after Nemi--quite suddenly. I can't explain it. How can one ever
explain those things?'
'What makes you want to marry her? What possible congruity is there between
her and you?'
He laughed uneasily.
'What's the good of asking those things? One's feeling itself is the
'But I'm the spectator--the friend.'--The word came out slowly, with a
strange emphasis. 'I want to know what Lucy's chances are.'
'Chances of what?'
'Chances of happiness.'
'Good God!'--he said, with an impatient groan.--'You talk as though she
were going to give herself any opportunity to find out.'
'Well, let us talk so, for argument. You're not exactly a novice, you
know, in these things. How is one to be sure that you're not playing with
Lucy--as you played with the book--till you can go back to the play you
really like best?'
'What do you mean?' he cried, starting with indignation--'the play of
'Politics--ambition--what you will. Suppose Lucy finds herself taken up and
thrown down--like the book?--when the interest's done?'
She uncovered her eyes, and looked at him steadily, coldly. It was an
Eleanor he did not know.
He sprang up in his anger and discomfort, and began to pace again in front
'Oh well--if you think as badly of me as that'--he said fiercely,--'I don't
see what good can come of this conversation.'
There was a pause. At the end of it, Eleanor said in another voice:
'Did you ever give her any indication of what you felt--before to-day?'
'I came near--in the Borghese gardens,' he said reluctantly. 'If she had
held out the tip of her little finger--But she didn't. And I should have
been a fool. It was too soon--too hasty. Anyway, she would not give me
the smallest opening. And afterwards--' He paused. His mind passed to his
night-wandering in the garden, to the strange breaking of the terra-cotta.
Furtively his gaze examined Eleanor's face. But what he saw of it told
him nothing, and again his instinct warned him to let sleeping dogs lie.
'Afterwards I thought things over, naturally. And I determined, that night,
as I have already said, to come to you and take counsel with you. I saw you
were out of charity with me. And, goodness knows, there was not much to
be said for me! But at any rate I thought that we, who had been such old
friends, had better understand each other; that you'd help me if I asked
you. You'd never yet refused, anyway.'
His voice changed. She said nothing for a little, and her hands still made
a penthouse for her face.
At last she threw him a question.
'Just now--what happened?'
'Good Heavens, as if I knew!' he said, with a cry of distress. 'I tried
to tell her how I had gone up and down Italy, seeking for her, hungering
for any shred of news of you. And she?--she treated me like a troublesome
intruder, like a dog that follows you unasked and has to be beaten back
with your stick!'
Eleanor smiled a little. His heart and his vanity had been stabbed alike.
Certainly he had something to complain of.
She dropped her hands, and drew herself erect.
'Well, yes,' she said in a meditative voice, 'we must think--we must see.'
As she sat there, rapt in a sudden intensity of reflection, the fatal
transformation in her was still more plainly visible; Manisty could hardly
keep his eyes from her. Was it his fault? His poor, kind Eleanor! He felt
the ghastly tribute of it, felt it with impatience, and repulsion. Must a
man always measure his words and actions by a foot-rule--lest a woman take
him too seriously? He repented; and in the same breath told himself that
his penalty was more than his due.
At last Eleanor spoke.
'I must return a moment to what we said before. Lucy Foster's ways,
habits, antecedents are wholly different from yours. Suppose there were a
chance for you. You would take her to London--expect her to play her part
there--in your world. Suppose she failed. How would you get on?'
'Eleanor--really!--am a "three-tailed bashaw"?'
'No. But you are absorbing--despotic--fastidious. You might break that
girl's heart in a thousand ways--before you knew you'd done it. You don't
give; you take.'
'And you--hit hard!' he said, under his breath, resuming his walk.
She sat white and motionless, her eyes sparkling. Presently he stood still
before her, his features working with emotion.
'If I am incapable of love--and unworthy of hers,' he said in a stifled
voice,--'if that's your verdict--if that's what you tell her--I'd better
go. I know your power--don't dispute your right to form a judgment--I'll
go. The carriage is there. Good-bye.'
She lifted her face to his with a quick gesture.
'She loves you!'--she said, simply.
Manisty fell back, with a cry.
There was a silence. Eleanor's being was flooded with the strangest, most
ecstatic sense of deliverance. She had been her own executioner; and this
was not death--but life!
She rose. And speaking in her natural voice, with her old smile, she
said--'I must go back to her--she will have missed me. Now then--what shall
we do next?'
He walked beside her bewildered.
'You have taken my breath away--lifted me from Hell to Purgatory anyway,'
he said, at last, trying for composure. 'I have no plans for myself--no
particular hope--you didn't see and hear her just now! But I leave it all
in your hands. What else can I do?'
'No,' she said calmly. 'There is nothing else for you to do.'
He felt a tremor of revolt, so quick and strange was her assumption of
power over both his destiny and Lucy's. But he suppressed it; made no
They turned the corner of the house. 'Your carriage can take ms up the
hill,' said Eleanor. 'You must ask Father Benecke's hospitality a little
longer; and you shall hear from me to-night.'
They walked towards the carriage, which was waiting a hundred yards
away. On the way Manisty suddenly said, plunging back into some of the
perplexities which had assailed him before Eleanor's appearance:
'What on earth does Father Benecke know about it all? Why did he never
mention that you were here; and then ask me to pay him a visit? Why did he
send me up the hill this morning? I had forgotten all about the convent. He
made me go.'
Eleanor started; coloured; and pondered a moment.
'We pledged him to secrecy as to his letters. But all priests are
Jesuits, aren't they?--even the good ones. I suppose he thought we had
quarrelled, and he would force us for our good to make it up. He is very
Manisty said no more. Here, too, he divined mysteries that were best
They stood beside the carriage. The coachman was on the ground remedying
something wrong with the harness.
Suddenly Manisty put out his hand and seized his companion's.
'Eleanor!'--he said imploringly--'Eleanor!'
His lips could not form a word more. But his eyes spoke for him. They
breathed compunction, entreaty; they hinted what neither could ever say;
they asked pardon for offences that could never be put into words.
Eleanor did not shrink. Her look met his in the first truly intimate gaze
that they had ever exchanged; hers infinitely sad, full of a dignity
recovered, and never to be lost again, the gaze, indeed, of a soul that
was already withdrawing itself gently, imperceptibly from the things of
earth and sense; his agitated and passionate. It seemed to him that he saw
the clear brown of those beautiful eyes just cloud with tears. Then they
dropped, and the moment was over, the curtain fallen, for ever.
They sighed, and moved apart. The coachman climbed upon the box.
'To-night!'--she said, smiling--waving her hand--'Till to-night.'
'_Avanti!_' cried the coachman, and the horses began to toil sleepily up
* * * * *
'Sapphira was nothing to me!' thought Eleanor as she threw herself back in
the old shabby landau with a weariness of body that made little impression
however on the tension of her mind.
Absently she looked out at the trees above and around her; at the
innumerable turns of the road. So the great meeting was over! Manisty's
reproaches had come and gone! With his full knowledge--at his humble
demand--she held his fate in her hands.
Again that extraordinary sense of happiness and lightness! She shrank from
it in a kind of terror.
Once, as the horses turned corner after corner, the sentence of a
meditative Frenchman crossed her mind; words which said that the only
satisfaction for man lies in being _dans l'ordre_; in unity, that is, with
the great world-machine in which he finds himself; fighting with it, not
Her mind played about this thought; then returned to Manisty and Lucy.
A new and humbled Manisty!--shaken with a supreme longing and fear which
seemed to have driven out for the moment all the other elements in his
character--those baser, vainer, weaker elements that she knew so well. The
change in him was a measure of the smallness of her own past influence upon
him; of the infinitude of her own self-deception. Her sharp intelligence
drew the inference at once, and bade her pride accept it.
They had reached the last stretch of hill before the convent. Where was
Lucy? She looked out eagerly.
The girl stood at the edge of the road, waiting. As Eleanor bent forward
with a nervous 'Dear, I am not tired--wasn't it lovely to find this
carriage?' Lucy made no reply. Her face was stern; her eyes red. She helped
Eleanor to alight without a word.
But when they had reached Eleanor's cool and shaded room, and Eleanor was
lying on her bed physically at rest, Lucy stood beside her with a quivering
'Did you tell him to go at once? Of course you have seen him?'
'Yes, I have seen him. Father Benecke gave me notice.'
'Father Benecke!' said the girl with a tightening of the lip.
There was a pause; then Eleanor said:
'Dear, get that low chair and sit beside me.'
'You oughtn't to speak a word,' said Lucy impetuously; 'you ought to rest
there for hours. Why we should be disturbed in this unwarrantable, this
unpardonable way, I can't imagine.'
She looked taller than Eleanor had ever seen her; and more queenly. Her
whole frame seemed to be stiff with indignation and will.
'Come!' said Eleanor, holding out her hand.
Unwillingly Lucy obeyed.
Eleanor turned towards her. Their faces were close together; the ghastly
pallor of the one beside the stormy, troubled beauty of the other.
'Darling, listen to me. For two months I have been like a person in a
delirium--under suggestion, as the hypnotists say. I have not been myself.
It has been a possession. And this morning--before I saw Edward at all--I
felt the demon--go! And the result is very simple. Put your ear down to
'The one thing in the world that I desire now--before I die--(Ah! dear,
don't start!--you know!)--the only, only thing--is that you and Edward
should be happy--and forgive me.'
Her voice was lost in a sob. Lucy kissed her quickly, passionately. Then
'I shall never marry Mr. Manisty, Eleanor, if that is what you mean. It is
well to make that clear at once.'
'And why?' Eleanor caught her--kept her prisoner.
'Why?--why?' said Lucy impatiently--'because I have no desire to marry
him--because--I would sooner cut off my right hand than marry him.'
Eleanor held her fast, looked at her with a brilliant eye--accusing,
'A fortnight ago you were on the _loggia_--alone. I saw you from my room.
Lucy!--I saw you kiss the terra-cotta he gave you. Do you mean to tell me
that meant nothing--_nothing_--from you, of all people? Oh! you dear, dear
child!--I knew it from the beginning--I knew it--but I was mad.'
Lucy had grown very white, but she stood rigid.
'I can't be responsible for what you thought, or--for anything--but what I
do. And I will never marry Mr. Manisty.'
Eleanor still held her.
'Dear--you remember that night when Alice attacked you? I came into the
library, unknown to you both. You were still in the chair--you heard
nothing. He stooped over you. I heard what he said. I saw his face. Lucy!
there are terrible risks--not to you--but to him--in driving a temperament
like his to despair. You know how he lives by feeling, by imagination--how
much of the artist, of the poet, there is in him. If he is happy--if there
is someone to understand, and strengthen him, he will do great things. If
not he will waste his life. And that would be so bitter, bitter to see!'
Eleanor leant her face on Lucy's hands, and the girl felt her tears. She
shook from head to foot, but she did not yield.
'I can't--I can't'--she said in a low, resolute voice. 'Don't ask me. I
'And you told him so?'
'I don't know what I told him--except that he mustn't trouble you--that we
wanted him to go--to go directly.'
'And he--what did he say to you?'
'That doesn't matter in the least,' cried Lucy. 'I have given him no right
to say what he does. Did I encourage him to spend these weeks in looking
for us? Never!'
'He didn't want encouraging,' said Eleanor. 'He is in love--perhaps for the
first time in his life. If you are to give him no hope--it will go hard
Lucy's face only darkened.
'How can you say such things to me?' she said passionately. 'How can you?'
Eleanor sighed. 'I have not much right to say them, I know,' she said
presently, in a low voice. 'I have poisoned the sound of them to your
Lucy was silent. She began to walk up and down the room, with her hands
'I will never, never forgive Father Benecke,' she said presently, in a low,
'What do you think he had to do with it?'
'I know,' said Lucy. 'He brought Mr. Manisty here. He sent him up the
hill this morning to see me. It was the most intolerable interference and
presumption. Only a priest could have done it.'
'Oh! you bigot!--you Puritan! Come here, little wild-cat. Let me say
Lucy came reluctantly, and Eleanor held her.
'Doesn't it enter into your philosophy--tell me--that one soul should be
able to do anything for another?'
'I don't believe in the professional, anyway,' said Lucy stiffly--'nor in
the professional claims.'
'My dear, it is a training like any other.'
'Did you--did you confide in him?' said the girl after a moment, with a
Eleanor made no reply. She lay with her face hidden. When Lucy bent down to
her she said with a sudden sob:
'Don't you understand? I have been near two griefs since I came here--his
and the Contessa's. And mine didn't stand the comparison.'
'Father Benecke had no right to take matters into his own hands,' said Lucy
'I think he was afraid--I should die in my sins,' said Eleanor wildly. 'He
is an apostle--he took the license of one.'
Lucy frowned, but did not speak.
'Lucy! what makes you so hard--so strange?'
'I am not hard. But I don't want to see Mr. Manisty again. I want to take
you safely back to England, and then to go home--home to Uncle Ben--to my
Her voice showed the profoundest and most painful emotion. Eleanor felt a
movement of despair. What could he have said or done to set this tender
nature so on edge? If it had not been for that vision on the _loggia_, she
would have thought that the girl's heart was in truth untouched, and that
Manisty would sue in vain. But how was it possible to think it?
She lost herself in doubts and conjectures, while Lucy still moved up and
Presently Cecco brought up their meal, and Eleanor must needs eat and drink
to soothe Lucy's anxiety. The girl watched her every movement, and Eleanor
dared neither be tired nor dainty, lest for every mouthful she refused
Manisty's chance should be the less.
After dinner she once more laid a detaining hand on her companion.
'Dear, I can't send him away, you know--at once--to please you.'
'Do _you_ want him to stay?' said Lucy, holding herself aloof.
'After all, he is my kinsman. There are many things to discuss--much to
'Very well. It won't be necessary for me to take part.'
'Not unless you like. But, Lucy, it would make me very unhappy--if you were
unkind to him. You have made him suffer, my dear; he is not the meekest of
men. Be content.'
'I will be quite polite,' said the girl, turning away her head. 'You will
be able to travel--won't you--very soon?'
Eleanor assented vaguely, and the conversation dropped.
In the afternoon Marie took a note to the cottage by the river.
'Ask Father Benecke to let you stay a few days. Things look bad. What did
you say? If you attacked me, it has done you harm.'
* * * * *
Meanwhile Lucy, who felt herself exiled from the woods, the roads, the
village, by one threatening presence, shut herself up for a while in her
own room, in youth's most tragic mood, calling on the pangs of thought to
strengthen still more her resolve and clear her mind.
She forced her fingers to an intermittent task of needlework, but there
were long pauses when her hands lay idle on her lap, when her head drooped
against the back of her chair, and all her life centred in her fast beating
heart, driven and strained by the torment of recollection.
That moment when she had stepped out upon the road from the shelter of the
wood--the thrill of it even in memory made her pale and cold. His look--his
cry--the sudden radiance of the face, which, as she had first caught sight
of it, bent in a brooding frown over the dusty road, had seemed to her the
very image of discontent.
The word had escaped him, in his first rush of joy, his spring towards her.
And she had felt herself tottering, in a sudden blindness.
What could she remember? The breathless contradiction of his questions--the
eager grasp of her hand--the words and phrases that were the words and
phrases of love--dictated, justified only by love--then her first mention
of Eleanor--the short stammering sentences, which as she spoke them sounded
to her own ear so inconclusive, unintelligible, insulting--and his growing
astonishment, the darkening features, the tightening lips, and finally his
step backward, the haughty bracing of the whole man.
'Why does my cousin refuse to see me? What possible reason can you or she
And then her despairing search for the right word, that would not come! He
must please, please, go away--because Mrs. Burgoyne was ill--because the
doctors were anxious--because there must be no excitement. She was acting
as nurse, but it was only to be for a short time longer. In a week or
two, no doubt Mrs. Burgoyne would go to England, and she would return to
America with the Porters. But for the present, quiet was still absolutely
Then--silence!--and afterwards a few sarcastic interrogations, quick,
practical, hard to answer--the mounting menace of that thunderbrow,
extravagant, and magnificent,--the trembling of her own limbs. And at
last that sharp sentence, like lightning from the cloud, as to 'whims and
follies' that no sane man could hope to unravel, which had suddenly nerved
her to be angry.
'Oh! I was odious--odious!'--she thought to herself, hiding her face in her
His answering indignation seemed to clatter through her room.
'And you really expect me to do your bidding calmly,--to play this
ridiculous part?--to leave my cousin and you in these wilds--at this time
of year--she in the state of health that you describe--to face this heat,
and the journey home, without comforts, without assistance? It is a great
responsibility, Miss Foster, that you take, with me, and with her! I refuse
to yield it to you, till I have given you at least a little further time
for consideration. I shall stay here a few hours longer. If you change your
mind, send to me--I am with Father Benecke. If not--good-bye! But I warn
you that I will be no party to further mystification. It is undesirable for
us all. I shall write at once to General Delafield-Muir, and to my aunt. I
think it will be also my duty to communicate with your friends in London or
'Mr. Manisty!--let me beg of you to leave my personal affairs alone!'
She felt again the proud flush upon her cheek, the shock of their two
wills, the mingled anguish and relief as she saw him turn upon his heel,
Ah! how unready, how _gauche_ she had shown herself! From the beginning
instead of conciliating she had provoked him. But how to make a plausible
story out of their adventure at all? There was the deciding, the fatal
difficulty! Her face burnt anew as she tried to think his thoughts, to
imagine all that he might or must guess; as she remembered the glow of
swift instinctive triumph with which he had recognised her, and realised
from it some of the ideas that must have been his travelling companions all
No matter: let him think what he pleased! She sat there in the gathering
dark; at one moment, feeling herself caught in the grip of a moral
necessity that no rebellion could undo; and the next, childishly catching
to her heart the echoes and images of that miserable half-hour.
No wonder he had been angry!
Her name was sweetened to her ear for ever. He looked way-worn and tired;
yet so eager, so spiritually alert. Never had that glitter and magic he
carried about with him been more potent, more compelling.
Alack! what woman ever yet refused to love a man because he loved himself?
It depends entirely on how she estimates the force of his temptation. And
it would almost seem as though nature, for her own secret reasons, had
thrown a special charm round the egotist of all types, for the loving and
the true. Is it that she is thinking of the race--must needs balance in it
the forces of death and life? What matters the separate joy or pain!
Yes. Lucy would have given herself to Manisty, not blind to risks,
expecting thorns!--if it had been possible.
But it was not possible. She rose from her seat, and sternly dismissed her
thoughts. She was no conscious thief, no willing traitor. Not even Eleanor
should persuade her. Eleanor was dying because she, Lucy, had stolen from
her the affections of her inconstant lover. Was there any getting over
that? None! The girl shrank in horror from the very notion of such a base
and plundering happiness.
On the following morning when Lucy entered Eleanor's room she found her
giving some directions to Marie.
'Tell Mamma Doni that we give up the rooms next week--Friday in next week.
Make her understand.'
'_Parfaitement_, Madame.' And Marie left the room. Lucy advanced with a
face of dismay.
'Ten days more!--Eleanor.
Eleanor tapped her lightly on the cheek, then kissed her, laughing.
'Are you too hot?'
'Dear!--don't talk about me! But you promised me to be gone before August.'
She knelt down by Eleanor's bedside, holding her hands, imploring her with
her deep blue eyes.
'Well, it's only a few days more,' said Eleanor, guiltily. 'Do let's take
it leisurely! It's so horrid to be hurried in one's packing. Look at all
She waved her hand desperately round the little room, choked up with
miscellaneous boxes; then laid both hands on Lucy's shoulders, coaxing and
smiling at her like a child.
Lucy soon convinced herself that it was of no use to argue. She must just
submit, unless she were prepared to go to lengths of self-assertion which
might excite Eleanor and bring on a heart attack.
So, setting her teeth, she yielded.
'Friday week, then--for the last, last day!--And Mr. Manisty?'
She had risen from her knees and stood looking down at Eleanor. Her cheek
had reddened, but Eleanor admired her stateliness.
'Oh, we must keep Edward. We want him for courier. I gave you trouble
enough, on the journey here.'
Lucy said nothing. Her heart swelled a little. It seemed to her that under
all this sweetness she was being treated with a certain violence. She went
to the balcony, where the breakfast had just been laid, that she might
bring Eleanor's coffee.
'It _is_ just a little crude,' Eleanor thought, uneasily. 'Dear bird!--the
net is sadly visible. But what can one do?--with so little time--so few
chances! Once part them, and the game is up!'
So she used her weakness once more as a tyranny, this time for different
The situation that she dictated was certainly difficult enough. Manisty
appeared, by her summons, in the afternoon, and found them on the _loggia_.
Lucy greeted him with a cold self-possession. Of all that had happened on
the previous day, naturally, not a word. So far indeed as allusions to the
past were concerned, the three might just have travelled together from
Marinata. Eleanor very flushed, and dressed in her elegant white dress and
French hat, talked fast and well, of the country folk, the _padre parroco_,
the Contessa. Lucy looked at her with alarm, dreading the after fatigue.
But Eleanor would not be managed; would have her way.
Manisty, however, was no longer deceived. Lucy was aware of some of the
glances that he threw his cousin. The trouble which they betrayed gave the
girl a bitter satisfaction.
Presently she left them alone. After her disappearance Eleanor turned to
Manisty with a smile.
'On your peril--not another word to her!--till I give you leave. That would
He lifted hands and shoulders in a despairing gesture; but said nothing.
In Lucy's absence, however, then and later, he did not attempt to control
his depression, and Eleanor was soon distracting and comforting him in
the familiar ways of the past. Before forty-eight hours had elapsed the
relations between them indeed had resumed, to all appearance, the old and
close intimacy. On his arm she crept down the road, to the Sassetto, while
Lucy drove with the Contessa. Or Manisty read aloud to her on the _loggia_,
while Lucy in the courtyard below sat chatting fast to a swarm of village
children who would always henceforward associate her white dress and the
pure oval of her face with their dreams of the Madonna.
In their _tete-a-tetes_, the talk of Manisty and Eleanor was always either
of Lucy or of Manisty's own future. He had been at first embarrassed or
reluctant. But she had insisted, and he had at length revealed himself
as in truth he had never revealed himself in the days of their early
friendship. With him at least, Eleanor through all anguish had remained
mistress of herself, and she had her reward. No irreparable word had passed
between them. In silence the old life ceased to be, and a new bond arose.
The stifled reproaches, the secret impatiences, the _ennuis_, the hidden
anguish of those last weeks at Marinata were gone. Manisty, freed from
the pressure of an unspoken claim which his conscience half acknowledged
and his will repulsed, was for his cousin a new creature. He began to
treat her as he had treated his friend Neal, with the same affectionate
consideration, the same easy sweetness; even through all the torments that
Lucy made him suffer. 'His restlessness as a lover,--his excellence as a
friend,'--so a man who knew him well had written of him in earlier days.
As for the lover, discipline and penance had overtaken him. But now that
Eleanor's claim of another kind was dead, the friend in him had scope.
Eleanor possessed him as the lover of Lucy more truly than she had ever yet
done in the days when she ruled alone.
One evening finding her more feeble than usual, he implored her to let him
summon a doctor from Rome before she risked the fatigue of the Mont Cenis
But she refused. 'If necessary,' she said, 'I will go to Orvieto. There is
a good man there. But there is some one else you shall write to, if you
like:--Reggie! Didn't you see him last week?'
'Certainly. Reggie and the first secretary left in charge, sitting in their
shirt-sleeves, with no tempers to speak of, and the thermometer at 96. But
Reggie was to get his holiday directly.'
'Write and catch him.'
'Tell him to come not later than Tuesday, please,' said Lucy, quietly, who
was standing by.
'Despot!' said Eleanor, looking up. 'Are we really tied and bound to
Lucy smiled and nodded. When she went away Manisty sat in a black silence,
staring at the ground. Eleanor bit her lip, grew a little restless, and at
'She gives you no openings?'
'Except for rebuffs!' he said, bitterly.
'Don't provoke them!'
'How can I behave as though that--that scene had never passed between us?
In ordinary circumstances my staying on here would be an offence, of which
she might justly complain. I told her last night I would have gone--but for
'When did you tell her?'
'I found her alone here for a moment before dinner.'
Manisty moved impatiently.
'Oh! she was very calm. Nothing I say puts her out. She thought I might be
useful!--And she hopes Aunt Pattie will meet us in London, that she may be
free to start for New York by the 10th, if her friends go then. She has
written to them.'
Eleanor was silent.
'I must have it out with her!' said Manisty presently under his breath. In
his unrest he rose, that he might move about. His face had grown pale.
'No--wait till I give you leave,' said Eleanor again, imploring. 'I never
forget--for a moment. Leave it to me.'
He came and stood beside her. She put out her hand, which he took.
'Do you still believe--what you said?' he asked her, huskily.
Eleanor looked up smiling.
'A thousand times more!' she said, under her breath. 'A thousand times
But here the conversation reached an _impasse_. Manisty could not
say--'Then why?--in Heaven's name!'--for he knew why. Only it was not
a _why_ that he and Eleanor could discuss. Every hour he realised more
plainly with what completeness Eleanor held him in her hands. The situation
was galling. But her sweetness and his own remorse disarmed him. To be
helpless--and to be kind!--nothing else apparently remained to him. The
only gracious look Lucy had vouchsafed him these two days had been in
reward for some new arrangement of Eleanor's sofa which had given the
invalid greater ease.
He returned to his seat, smiling queerly.
'Well, I am not the only person in disgrace. Do you notice how Benecke is
'She avoids him?'
'She never speaks to him if she can help it. I know that he feels it.'
'He risked his penalty,' said Eleanor laughing. 'I think he must bear it.'
Then in another tone, and very softly, she added--
Manisty thought the words particularly inappropriate. In all his experience
of women he never remembered a more queenly and less childish composure
than Lucy had been able to show him since their scene on the hill. It
had enlarged all his conceptions of her. His passion for her was thereby
stimulated and tormented, yet at the same time glorified in his own eyes.
He saw in her already the _grande dame_ of the future--that his labour, his
ambitions, and his gifts should make of her.
If only Eleanor spoke the truth!
* * * * *
The following day Manisty, returning from a late walk with Father Benecke,
parted from the priest on the hill, and mounted the garden stairway to the
Lucy was sitting there alone, her embroidery in her hands.
She had not heard him in the garden; and when he suddenly appeared she was
not able to hide a certain agitation. She got up and began vaguely to put
away her silks and thimble.
'I won't disturb you,' he said formally. 'Has Eleanor not come back?'
For Eleanor had been driving with the Contessa.
'Yes. But she has been resting since.'
'Don't let me interrupt you,' he said again.
Then he looked at her fingers and their uncertain movements among the
silks; at the face bent over the workbasket.
'I want if I can to keep some bad news from my cousin,' he said abruptly.
Lucy started and looked up. He had her face full now, and the lovely
'My sister is very ill. There has been another crisis. I might be summoned
at any time.'
'Oh!'--she said, faltering. Unconsciously she moved a step nearer to him.
In a moment she was all enquiry, and deep, shy sympathy--the old docile
Lucy. 'Have you had a letter?' she asked.
'Yes, this morning. I saw her the other day when I passed through Rome. She
knew me, but she is a wreck. The whole constitution is affected. Sometimes
there are intervals, but they get rarer. And each acute attack weakens her
'It is terrible--terrible!'
As she stood there before him in her white dress under the twilight, he
had a vision of her lying with shut eyes in his chair at Marinata; he
remembered the first wild impulse that had bade him gather her, unconscious
and helpless, in his arms.
He moved away from her. For something to do, or say, he stooped down to
look into her open workbasket.
'Isn't that one of the Nemi terra-cottas!'
He blundered into the question from sheer nervousness, wishing it unspoken
the instant it was out.
Lucy started. She had forgotten. How could she have forgotten! There in a
soft bed of many-coloured silks, wrapped tenderly about, yet so as to show
the face and crown, was the little Artemis. The others were beneath the
tray of the box. But this for greater safety lay by itself, a thin fold
of cotton-wool across its face. In that moment of confusion when he had
appeared on the _loggia_ she had somehow displaced the cotton-wool without
knowing it, and uncovered the head.
'Yes, it is the Artemis,' she said, trying to keep herself from trembling.
Manisty bent without speaking, and took the little thing into his hand. He
thought of that other lovelier head--her likeness?--whereof the fragments
were at that moment in a corner of his dressing-case, after journeying with
him through the mountains.
As for Lucy it was to her as though the little head nestling in his hand
must somehow carry there the warmth of her kisses upon it, must somehow
betray her. He seemed to hold a fragment of her heart.
'Please let me put it away,' she said hurriedly. 'I must go to Eleanor. It
is nearly time for dinner.'
He gave it up silently. She replaced it, smoothed down her silks and her
work, and shut the box. His presence, his sombre look, and watching eye,
affected her all the time electrically. She had never yet been so near the
loss of self-command.
The thought of Eleanor calmed her. As she finished her little task, she
paused and spoke again.
'You won't alarm her about poor Miss Manisty, without--without consulting
with me?' she said timidly.
'Would you rather I did not tell her at all? But if I have to go?'
'Yes then--then you must.'
An instant--and she added hastily in a voice that wavered,' I am so very,
'Thank you. She often asks about you.'
He spoke with a formal courtesy, in his 'grand manner.' Her gleam
of feeling had made him sensible, of advantage, given him back
The soft flutter of her dress disappeared, and he was left to pace up and
down the _loggia_ in alternations of hope and despair. He, too, felt with
Eleanor that these days were fatal. If he lost her now, he lost her for
ever. She was of those natures in which a scruple only deepens with time.
She would not take what should have been Eleanor's. There was the case in
a nutshell. And how insist in these circumstances, as he would have done
vehemently in any other, that Eleanor had no lawful grievance?
He felt himself bound and pricked by a thousand delicate lilliputian bonds.
The 'regiment of women' was complete. He could do nothing. Only Eleanor
* * * * *
The following day, just outside the convent gate, he met Lucy, returning
from the village, whither she had been in quest of some fresh figs for
Eleanor's breakfast. It was barely eight o'clock, but the sun was already
fierce. After their formal greeting, Lucy lingered a moment.
'It's going to be frightfully hot to-day,' she said, looking round her with
a troubled face at the glaring road, at the dusty patch of vines beyond
it, at the burnt grass below the garden wall. 'Mr. Manisty!--you will make
Eleanor go next Friday?--you won't let her put it off--for anything?'
She turned to him, in entreaty, the colour dyeing her pure cheek and
'I will do what I can. I understand your anxiety,' he said stiffly.
She opened the old door of the courtyard and passed in before him. As he
rejoined her, she asked him in a low voice--
'Have you any more news?'
'Yes. I found a letter at Selvapendente last night. The state of things is
better. There will be no need I hope to alarm Eleanor--for the present.'
'I am so glad!'--The voice hurried and then paused. 'And of course, for you
too,' she added, with difficulty.
He said nothing, and they walked up to the inner door in silence. Then as
they paused on the threshold, he said suddenly, with a bitter accent--
'You are very devoted!'
She looked at him in surprise. Her young figure drew itself erect. 'That
isn't wonderful--is it?--with her?'
Her tone pierced him.
'Oh! nothing's wonderful in women. You set the standard so high--the men
He stared at her, pale and frowning. She laughed artificially, but he could
see the breath hurrying under the blue cotton dress.
'Not at all! When it comes to the serious difficulties we must, it seems,
apply to you. Eleanor is thankful that you will take her home.
'Oh! I can be a decent courier--when I put my mind into it,' he said
angrily. 'That, I dare say, you'll admit.'
'Of course I shall,' she said, with a lip that smiled unsteadily. 'I know
it'll be invaluable. Please, Mr. Manisty, let me pass. I must get Eleanor
But he still stood there, barring the way.
'Then, Miss Foster, admit something else!--that I am not the mere
intruder--the mere burden--that you took me for.'
The man's soreness expressed itself in every word, every movement.
Lucy grew white.
'For Eleanor's sake, I am glad you came,' she said struggling for
composure. But the dignity, the pride behind the agitation were so evident
that he dared not go a step further. He bowed, and let her pass.
* * * * *
Meanwhile the Contessa was useful. After a very little observation, based
on the suggestions of her letter from Home, she divined the situation
exactly. Her affection and pity for Mrs. Burgoyne grew apace. Lucy she
both admired and acquitted; while she half liked, half hated Manisty. He
provoked her perpetually to judgment, intellectual and moral; and they
fell into many a sparring which passed the time and made a shelter for
the others. Her daughter had just left her; and the more she smarted,
the more she bustled in and out of the village, the more she drove about
the country, attending to the claims, the sicknesses, and the animals of
distant _contadini_, the more she read her newspapers, and the more nimbly
did her mind move.
Like the Marchesa Fazzoleni, she would have no pessimism about Italy,
though she saw things in a less poetic, more practical way.
'I dare say the taxes are heavy--and that our officials and bankers and
_impiegali_ are not on as good terms as they might be with the Eighth
Commandment. Well! was ever a nation made in a night before? When your
Queen came to the throne, were you English so immaculate? You talk
about our Socialists--have we any disturbances, pray, worse than your
disturbances in the twenties and thirties? The _parroco_ says to me day
after day: "The African campaign has been the ruin of Italy!" That's only
because he wants it to be so. The machine marches, and the people pay
their taxes, and the farming improves every year, all the same. A month or
two ago, the newspapers were full of the mobbing of trains starting with
soldiers for Erythrea. Yet all that time, if you went down into the Campo
de' Fiori you could find poems sold for a _soldo_, that only the people
wrote and the people read, that were as patriotic as the poor King
'Ah! I know,' said Manisty. 'I have seen some of them. The oddest, naivest
things!--the metre of Tasso, the thoughts of a child--and every now and
then the cry a poet.'
And he repeated a stanza or two from these broad-sheets of the war, in a
rolling and musical Italian.
The Contessa looked at him with cool admiration; and then aside, at Lucy.
Certainly, when this Englishman was taking pains, his good-looks deserved
all that could be said of them. That he was one of the temperaments to
which other lives minister without large return--that she had divined at
once. But, like Lucy, she was not damped by that. The Contessa had known
few illusions, and only one romance; her love for her dead son. Otherwise
she took the world as it came, and quarrelled with very few of its marked
and persistent phenomena.
They were sitting on a terrace beneath the north-western front of the
Palazzo. The terrace was laid out in a formal garden. Fountains played;
statues stood in rows; and at the edge cypresses, black against the evening
blue and rose, threw back the delicate dimness of the mountains, made
their farness more far, and the gay foreground--oleanders, geraniums,
Eleanor was lying on a deck-chair, smiling often, and at ease. Lucy sat a
little apart, busy with her embroidery. She very seldom talked, but Eleanor
could not make a movement or feel a want without her being aware of it.
'But, Madame, I cannot allow you to make an enemy out of me!'--said Manisty
to the Contessa, resuming the conversation. 'When you talk to me of this
Country and its future, _vous prechez un converti_.'
'I thought you were the Jonah of our day,' she said, with her abrupt and
rather disdainful smile.
'A Jonah who needn't complain anyway that his Nineveh is too ready to hear
'Where is the preaching?' she asked.
'In the waste-paper basket,' said Manisty, throwing away his cigarette.
'Nowadays, apparently it is the prophets who repent.'
Involuntarily his eye wandered, sought for Lucy withdrew. She was hidden
behind her work.
'Oh! preach away,' cried the Contessa. 'Take up your book again. Publish
it. We can bear it.'
Manisty searched with both hands for his matches; his new cigarette between
'My book, Madame'--he said coolly--' outlived the pleasure its author took
in writing it. My cousin was its good angel; but not even she could bring a
blunder to port. Eleanor!--_n'est-ce pas?_'
He gathered a spray of oleander that grew near him, and laid it on her
hand, like a caress. Eleanor's emaciated fingers closed upon it gently. She
looked up, smiling. The Contessa abruptly turned away.
'And besides--' said Manisty.
He puffed away steadily, with his gaze on the mountains.
'I wait,' said the Contessa.
'Your Italy is a witch,' he said, with a sudden lifting of eyes and voice,
'and there are too many people that love her!'
Lucy bent a little lower over her work.
Presently the Contessa went away.
Eleanor lay with eyes closed and hands crossed, very white and still. They
thought her asleep, for it was common with her now to fall into short
sleeps of pure exhaustion. When they occurred, those near her kept tender
and generally silent watch, joining hands of protection, as it were, round
her growing feebleness.
After a few minutes, however, Manisty bent across towards Lucy.
'You urged me once to finish the book. But it was she who told me the other
day she was thankful it had been dropped.'
He looked at her with the half irritable, half sensitive expression that
she knew so well.
'Of course,' said Lucy, hurriedly. 'It was much best.'
She rose and stooped over Eleanor.
'Dear!--It is getting late. I think I ought to call the carriage.'
'Let me,' said Manisty, biting his lip.
'Thank you,' said Lucy, formally. 'The coachman understood we should want
him at seven.'
When he came back, Lucy went into the house to fetch some wraps.
Eleanor opened her eyes, which were singularly animated and smiling.
'Be angry!' she said, laying a light grasp on his arm. 'Be quite angry.
Now--you may! It will do no harm.'
He sat beside her, his head bent; gloomily listening, till Lucy reappeared.
But he took the hint, calling to his aid all his pride, and all his
singular power of playing any role in his own drama that he might desire to
play. He played it with energy, with desperation, counting meanwhile each
hour as it passed, having in view always that approaching moment in London
when Lucy would disappear within the doors of the Porters' house, leaving
the butler to meet the demands of unwelcome visitors with such equivalents
of 'Not at home' as her Puritan scruples might allow; till the newspapers
should announce the safe sailing of her steamer for New York.
He ceased to propitiate her; he dropped embarrassment. He ignored her. He
became the man of the world and of affairs, whose European interests and
relations are not within the ken of raw young ladies from Vermont. He had
never been more brilliant, more interesting, more agreeable, for Eleanor,
for the Contessa, for Benecke; for all the world, save one. He described
his wanderings among the Calabrian highlands. He drew the peasants, the
priests, the great landowners of the south still surrounded with their
semi-feudal state; he made Eleanor laugh or shudder with his tales of
the brigandage of the sixties; he talked as the artist and the scholar
may of the Greek memories and remains of the Tarentine coast. Then he
turned to English politics, to his own chances, and the humours of his
correspondence. The Contessa ceased to quarrel with him. The handsome
Englishman with the colour of a Titian, and the features of an antique,
with his eloquence, his petulance, his conceit, his charm, filled the
stage, quickened the dull hours whenever he appeared. Eleanor's tragedy
explained itself. The elder woman understood and pitied. As for Lucy
Foster, the Contessa's shrewd eyes watched her with a new respect. At what
stage, in truth, was the play, and how would it end?
Meanwhile for Lucy Foster alone, Manisty was not agreeable. He rose
formally when she appeared; he placed her chair; he paid her all necessary
courtesies. But his conversation never included her. Her coming generally
coincided--after she was ceremoniously provided for--with an outbreak of
talk between him and Eleanor, or between him and Benecke, more eager,
animated and interesting than before. But Lucy had no part in it. It
was not the early neglect and incivility of the villa; it was something
infinitely colder and more wounding; the frigidity of disillusion and
resentment, of kindness rebuffed and withdrawn.
Lucy said nothing. She went about her day's work as usual, making all
arrangements for their departure, devoting herself to Eleanor. Every now
and then she was forced to consult with Manisty as to arrangements for the
journey. They spoke as mere acquaintances and no more than was necessary;
while she, when she was alone, would spend much time in a silent
abstraction, thinking of her uncle, of the duties to which she was
returning, and the lines of her future life. Perhaps in the winter she
might do some teaching. Several people in Greyridge had said they would
And, all the time, during the night hours when she was thus wrestling
down her heart, Manisty was often pacing the forest paths, in an orgie
of smoke and misery, cursing the incidents of the day, raging, doubting,
suffering--as no woman had yet made him suffer. The more truly he
despaired, the more he desired her. The strength of the moral life in her
was a revelation, a challenge to all the forces of his own being. He was
not accustomed to have to consider such things in women. It added to her
a wealth, a rarity, which made the conquest of her the only object worth
pursuing in a life swept bare for the moment of all other passions and
zests. She loved him! Eleanor knew it; Eleanor declared it. Yet in ten
days' time she would say,--'Good bye, Mr. Manisty'--with that calm brow
which he already foresaw as an outrage and offence to love. Ah! for some
means to cloud those dear eyes--to make her weep, and let him see the
'Hullo, Manisty!--is that you? Is this the place?'
The speaker was Reggie Brooklyn, who was dismounting from his bicycle at
the door of the convent, followed by a clattering mob of village children,
who had pursued him down the hill.
'I say, what a weird place!' said Reggie, looking about him,--'and at the
other end of nowhere. What on earth made Eleanor come here?'
Ho looked at Manisty in perplexity, wiping the perspiration from his brow,
which frowned beneath his fair curls.
'We were hero last year,' said Manisty, 'on that little tour we made with
the D.'s. Eleanor liked it then. She came here when the heat began, she
thought it would be cool.'
'You didn't know where she was ten days ago,' said the boy, looking at him
queerly. 'And General Muir didn't know, for I heard from some one who had
seen him last week.'
'All the same, she is here now,' he said drily.
'And Miss Foster is here too?'
'And you say that Eleanor is ill?'
The young man had still the same hostile, suspicious air.
Manisty, who had been poking at the ground with his stick, looked up.
Brooklyn made a step backward.
'_Very_ ill,' he said, with a face of consternation. 'And nobody knew?'
'She would not let us know,' said Manisty slowly. Then he added, with the
authority of the older man, the man in charge--'now we are doing all we
can. We start on Friday and pick up a nurse at Genoa. When we get home, of
course she will have the best advice. Very often she is wonderfully bright
and like herself. Oh! we shall pull her round. But you mustn't tire her.
Don't stay too long.'
They walked into the convent together, Brooklyn all impatience, Manisty
moody and ill at ease.
'Reggie!--well met!' It was Eleanor's gayest voice, from the vine-leafed
shadows of the _loggia_. Brooklyn sat down beside her, gazing at her with
his troubled blue eyes. Manisty descended to the walled garden, and walked
up and down there smoking, a prey to disagreeable thoughts.
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