Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. 15,
Part 3 out of 5
instrument, or perhaps an orchestra, is needed to reveal them. The
picture, the statue, has no secrets but open secrets. You stand before
it, and the very soul and essence of it comes softly forth and
breathes upon yours. Oh moments of delight, when we lose ourselves in
the soft Arcadian mood of Claude Lorrain, in the cool, tranquil revery
of the Dutch landscape-painters, in the giant impetuosity of
Tintoretto, in the rich, warm sensuousness of Titian, in the glowing
mystery of Giorgione, in the calm, profound devoutness of the early
Flemings, in the religious rapture of the early Italians! It needs no
jot of technical knowledge for this, however much that may enhance our
enjoyment, as it undoubtedly must. But the inspiration of a work of
art may be felt by any one.
I have considered sculpture less than painting in these remarks,
partly because to the majority it is less interesting, and partly
because it seems to me so much simpler in itself. The absence of
color, the relief of form, the unity of idea, the limitation of each
subject to a single figure, or at most two or three, perhaps too the
repose and simplicity which characterize antique art, make the path
less arduous. I never, even in the infinite vistas of the Vatican,
felt the fatigue and perplexity which have beset me in the smallest
If any reader has had patience with me until now, he or she may like to
know the books which were of most use to me in my apprenticeship. There
is no pleasanter instructress than Mrs. Jameson, although she is
superficial and sentimental, a little lackadaisical indeed: her _Early
Italian Painters_, _Sacred and Legendary Art_, and the supplementary
volumes on the _Legends of the Madonna_ and of the _Monastic Orders_,
and on those relating to the life of our Lord, have all been
republished in this country. There is a finer book of the same order,
Lord Lindsay's _Christian Art_, now out of print, but to be found in
public libraries. M. Rio's work, _De l'Art Chretien_ (let the purchaser
beware of two volumes of _Epilogue_, which are autobiography), is a
full and admirable history of religious art: it is written from a
purely Roman Catholic point of view, and his opinions are deeply imbued
by prejudice. The reader will soon perceive this, however, and be upon
his guard, remembering that, after all, the Roman Catholic view is the
true one whence to contemplate art from the twelfth to the seventeenth
century, but that art and theology are not one, nor even akin. M. Rio
does not mention the Spanish school, perhaps with reason, as the
Virgins of Murillo, the saints of Zurburan and Ribera, scarcely belong
to the realm of religious art: this deficiency is supplied by
Stirling's _Annals of the Artists of Spain_. Kugler's _Handbuch der
Kunstgeschichte_ (translated, I believe) is a capital and comprehensive
work, including ancient as well as modern art; and the knowledge of the
one is as necessary for the understanding of the other as an
acquaintance with ancient history is for the comprehension of modern
history. I cannot recommend Vasari's _Lives of the Italian Painters_
entertaining as it is, for so much of each page is taken up by notes of
different editors and commentators denying flatly the assertions of the
text that to read him for information seems waste of time. Messrs.
Crowe and Cavalcaselle's _New History of Painting in Italy_ is the
latest English authority. Mr. Charles Perkins's _Tuscan Sculptors_, of
which we have reason to be very proud, is already the accepted standard
work everywhere. Kugler's _Handbook of the German and Dutch Schools_,
edited by Sir Edmund Head, has not been superseded, I think. It is with
great hesitation that I name Mr. Ruskin in the catalogue of
guidebooks: he is so arbitrary and paradoxical, lays down the law so
imperiously, and contradicts himself so insolently, that a learner
attempting to follow him in his theories will be hopelessly bewildered.
Yet nowhere are the eternal, underlying truths upon which art rests so
clearly discerned and nobly defined as in _Modern Painters, The Seven
Lamps of Architecture_ and _The Stones of Venice_; and nowhere do we
find such poetical or beautiful descriptions. Yes, one should read
these earlier books of Ruskin's, if it be but for the pleasure they
give. All theories of art are useless for the American student who has
not been abroad: the object is not to make up one's mind respecting the
principles and limits of beauty in painting and sculpture, to form a
code of aesthetics while the great pictures and statues of the world
are still unknown; yet if a natural curiosity impel us to the inquiry,
there are Lessing and Winckelmann, still the first authorities, despite
some slight signs of human fallibility.
I will not say that all these stories of artists whose works one has
not seen, that even the most brilliant and graphic descriptions of
their works, have not often the bitter flavor of the Barmecide feast,
but we must have faith and patience: the real banquet will be
forth-coming, and then we shall see what an appetite we bring to it
from our studies.
SARAH B. WISTER.
BY THE LAKE.
"Who is she?" asked Maurice Grey of the lady with whom he was walking.
"Fay Lafitte," replied the latter curtly: then, as if by chance, she
turned in another direction, saying, "You left them all well at home?"
The young man halted, forcing his companion to do the same, and with
his eyes fixed on a figure pacing up and down the opposite alley, he
remarked, "I suppose she is one of the reigning belles here?"
"Rather a solitary belle," laughed his cousin.
"I should think even a belle might enjoy solitude at times," rejoined
The lady, Mrs. Clare Felton, slightly raised one shoulder, indicating
thereby that the point in question did not interest her, and asked,
"Shall we walk on?"
"Couldn't you introduce me? That's a good soul, do."
"My dear cousin, it is impossible: the girl has a particular aversion
"Nonsense, Clare! Don't be ill-natured the first day I arrive. How do
you know she has?"
"We are neighbors at Felton, and--"
"Neighbors in the country, I perceive. Did their chickens destroy your
flower-beds, or their cock wake you by crowing at unearthly hours in
the morning? Had they a barking dog they refused to part with, or was
it the servants?"
"If you mean to be sarcastic I shall need support. Now go on, and,
notwithstanding your provoking innuendo, I will try to satisfy your
"Firstly," began Maurice, seating himself on the rustic bench near
her, "why isn't Miss Lafitte a belle?--she is certainly beautiful."
"'Pretty is as pretty does'--a motto especially true of belles."
"Which, interpreted, means she is not agreeable. Yet she has mind, or
she would not keep that thoughtful position for so long a time."
"She may be planning the trimming for her next ball-dress," remarked
"She is too serious for that."
"It is a serious affair at times."
"There is something about her extremely interesting to me."
"Maurice, of course you will think me odious"--and Mrs. Felton checked
her bantering tone--"but don't sit here allowing your imagination to
run wild, deifying Miss Lafitte before you know her. Either make her
acquaintance in the ordinary way, or, which I should like better,
"Do you think I am falling in love at first sight?"
"I think any idle young man tempts Providence when he sits weaving
romances about a very beautiful girl before he knows her."
"Then introduce us."
"She won't speak to me."
"What have you quarreled about?"
"Very mysterious. Clare, listen! If you don't tell me the whole
secret, I will fall in love with her for spite, and make a terrible
fool of myself."
"An easy task."
"Shoot it off, Clare: I know you are dying to tell me."
"I would rather you heard it from some one else: I would indeed.
Still, if you insist--"
"I command, I entreat."
"Incorrigible! For your own good I--"
"My peace of mind depends on it."
"I wish you were not so obstinate." Then, lowering her voice, "The
report is that the poor girl is insane."
"What a horrible slander!" exclaimed the young man, springing to his
"Yes," remarked the widow, "if it is not true."
"It is heartless." Then looking at her sharply, "There is no
foundation for it, is there?"
"She has strange fancies, takes aversions to people--I can't say. Let
us continue our walk. I have told you I am not acquainted with her."
"We will walk that way: I want to see her closer."
Not satisfied with merely passing, Dr. Maurice Grey--to give him his
full title--crossed the path when near the solitary figure, so as to
have a full view of her face. At that moment Miss Lafitte raised her
eyes, and their expression when they rested on Mrs. Felton was hard to
interpret. It seemed a mixture of repulsion and dread. She drew back
as they went by, and involuntarily shuddered.
"What do you think of that?" asked the widow as soon as they were at a
"Unquestionably she is a good hater," answered Maurice.
Maurice again saw Fay Lafitte that evening at a ball given at the
hotel by the lake where they were both staying. She was standing among
a group of girls laughing and talking gayly, but to a close observer
this light gayety might appear a symptom of restlessness rather than a
proof of enjoyment. With her shining eyes and her crimson cheeks and
lips she looked the Allegro of her morning's Penseroso. The young
doctor took a station where he would not be remarked, and, forgetting
Mrs. Felton's sage advice, kept his eyes fixed on the graceful girl.
She gave him the impression of one who had been brought up in some
foreign land, where public opinion is more exacting and the bounds of
propriety more restricted than in ours. She was clearly a favorite
among the ladies with whom she conversed. Several middle-aged
gentlemen approached her with their wives and met a kind reception,
but she avoided young men with a perversity that was amusing. In a
person speaking to her he recognized an acquaintance, and, awaiting
his opportunity, addressed him. After the first salutations he asked,
"Mr. Allen, do you know Miss Lafitte?"
"From a child: her father is my oldest friend."
"Was she educated abroad?"
"Bless you! no: she is altogether American in training."
"Isn't she rather peculiar?" ventured Maurice.
"If by peculiar you mean the sweetest girl in the world, she is that,"
replied the old man enthusiastically.
"Is she generally liked?"
"Not by dandies and coxcombs: my little girl over there adores her.
But let me introduce you."
"Willingly," ejaculated the other.
"Wait a moment: I will ask her permission."
As Mr. Allen went to prefer his request the doctor narrowly watched
the result. A slight accession of color on the lady's face as her old
friend indicated him told Maurice he had been recognized; which fact
rendered her answer more annoying, for "Miss Lafitte begged to be
excused: she was fatigued and wished to retire."
But she did not retire, as he saw with an irritation that grew as the
evening advanced. For what reason did she refuse to make his
acquaintance? Did she extend to him the dislike she had for his
cousin? Did she class him among the fops, or was it but a caprice?
Now, Dr. Grey was a truthful man, and he told himself the _case_
interested him. When, later, he was accosted by an old college-chum,
George Clifton, who proceeded to give him the newest confidential
slander at the lake, it was but natural he should try to unravel this
"What do you fellows mean by not surrounding that beauty over there?
Where are your eyes?" he asked.
"Miss Lafitte? We have dubbed her the man-hater. She has never been
known to make herself agreeable to any male creature under fifty, and
not then if he were either a bachelor or a widower. A fellow is
obliged to marry before he can be received. Rather too great a
sacrifice, isn't it?"
"French blood?" insinuated the doctor.
"French?--as if wickedness had a country and was too patriotic to
travel! You are an olive-gray, Maurice. Besides, you could as
truthfully accuse an oyster of light behavior."
On making further inquiries one lady told him that she understood the
beauty was a bluestocking, and when he asked another why Fay appeared
to shun gentlemen's society, "To make them more eager to seek her,"
was the reply.
"What an amount of trash one can hear at these places in a single
hour!" muttered Dr. Grey as he retired that night: then he added,
thoughtfully, "I shall certainly make her acquaintance."
The night brings counsel. Maurice decided, on awaking, that he must
depend on himself if he would succeed in overcoming Miss Lafitte's
prejudice. What if he should make an excuse and speak to her without
an introduction? Chance must determine. About the same hour that he
had met her the day before the young man directed his steps to the
alley where she had been walking. There she was, pacing to and fro
meditatively, enjoying the morning air.
"She looks the sanest of sane people," thought the doctor as he noted
her calm expression, but the next moment he had occasion to retract
his opinion. The girl caught the sound of his footstep, looked up,
recognized him, and, turning, ran like a frightened roe in the
Dr. Grey, giving forth a prolonged low whistle, stood motionless with
astonishment, but suddenly he too was running at full speed. The
Atalantis had stepped into a hole made by the washing of the rain, and
falling forward with violence lay motionless.
The instincts of the physician replaced those of the man as he gently
raised the insensible form and laid it on a grassy bank. But her
antipathy, whatever its cause, seemed more potent than the injury she
had received, for as he touched her she moved uneasily, and opening
her eyes said with difficulty, "Thanks. I am not hurt: I do not need
"I am a physician," returned Maurice gravely. "Your foot has had a
terrible wrench: permit me." He dropped on his knee before, her and
proceeded to make an examination with so much quiet authority that
she ceased to resist. "There is nothing wrong here: do you feel pain
She was trembling, for the nervous reaction of the shock had taken
place, but she endeavored to conceal it: "I have an oppression on my
chest, and this arm--I cannot lift it."
"Do not be alarmed: lean against this tree."
She reluctantly submitted as he carefully felt the arm--nothing; the
shoulder, across to the neck--a cry of pain.
"The clavicle is fractured."
"Is that very dreadful?" and now her eyes sought his for the first
"Oh no: it happens every day. It will be tedious perhaps, but can
scarcely be called an accident at all--only a mishap. I think I will
bring you a little brandy before you try to walk."
"Don't speak of it at the house: my father would be troubled. And
hurry back: I do not want to be alone."
"What an inconsistent prescription she is!" thought Maurice as he
went. "However, fright will make the most obstinate woman docile."
If it was fright, it certainly worked marvels. When he returned Fay
obediently followed every direction given by him, even taking his arm
for support as they walked to the hotel. Having seen his patient to
the door of her room, professional delicacy prompted the doctor to
withdraw. As he bade her good-morning she became embarrassed,
hesitated a moment, then abruptly throwing open the door which gave
entrance to a parlor, she said with a suspicious quaver in her voice,
"Won't you come in? I must thank you, and papa must thank you."
"Not at all necessary," he replied lightly. "I will see you again if
you permit me, but I must go now."
"You are offended because I--No matter: it is best. Go, then;" and she
held out her hand, which he took, while her face became grave, almost
sad; or was it but the young man's fancy?
"She is a warm-hearted, impulsive, spoilt child," was Maurice's final
dictum as he left. "I must go now to Clare, to be warned or scolded
or lectured about her; but first a cigar. Query: when a man forgets
his morning cigar, what does it portend? There was a special
providence in the rain washing that hole. A pity for the poor girl,
but it gave me just the excuse I needed."
Maurice had been smoking for about an hour on the piazza when he was
accosted by a servant, who had the air of really trying to find some
one for whom he had been sent.
"Are you a doctor?" asked the man.
"They are waiting for you: come quick, please."
"I rather think you are mistaken: suppose you look up some one else?"
"Have been all about, sir. I can't get any one else. You'll do, I
think: won't you come? The governor is deuced easy with his money."
"That accounts for your eagerness to serve him. Well, I suppose I must
go and see about it."
He was taken, as he had anticipated, to Miss Lafitte's room. A
gentleman with very white hair and an anxious face was alone in the
parlor, who, introducing himself as Mr. Lafitte, repeated the
servant's question: "Are you a physician?"
"As much as a diploma and three years' practice can make me," answered
the young man.
"My daughter has had a severe fall," he explained: "she is suffering.
I hope you can relieve her."
"Excuse me when I tell you that I am here for absolute rest. Is it
possible to get another doctor?"
"No, we have tried. I beg that you will undertake the case without
Maurice felt the position awkward. "On one condition," he answered
finally, at the same time giving his card: "that is, if the lady is
Perhaps the father was accustomed to the whims of his child, for he
did not appear surprised at the proviso, but immediately went to the
next room to inquire. In a moment the communicating door was opened
and the doctor invited to enter.
He found his patient very much excited--pulse high and cheeks
flushed. She did not wait for Mr. Lafitte to present him, but
commenced pettishly, "It would have been much better to stay when you
were here, instead of keeping me waiting so long. It is of no use to
resist. Oh what shall I do?"
"Your dress must be removed," said Dr. Grey briefly.
"I cannot put my arm back: I can't breathe. Do you think there could
be something broken in my lungs?"
"Not likely: do not talk so much. Some of the ladies in the house must
have valerian: I will beg a little for you. In the mean time your maid
can rip your dress on the shoulder and round the sleeve: it will then
come off without trouble."
"He is a fine doctor," said Jane as she quickly obeyed the directions.
"One of them quacks would have cut this good dress to pieces, and
never thought but it grew on a person without a seam. If he can save a
dress, he is safe to know how to save a life."
"We will not call it saving a life," replied Maurice entering. "Take
this and lie still while I prepare the bandages: it will soon be
"You did hurt me fearfully," murmured Fay reproachfully when at last
the bone had been set.
"Not fearfully," he smiled. "Now sleep and forget it."
"Unless a doctor kills some one outright, he thinks it no operation at
all," she exclaimed with sudden change of mood. "Now, please don't
neglect me, but come often--twice a day until I am better."
On leaving Miss Lafitte the young man went to his cousin and told her
how he had become acquainted with the beauty.
"She is but a spoilt child, Clare."
"Infatuated," exclaimed the lady.
"Jealous," returned the gentleman.
The young doctor, though he had frequent opportunities of being with
his fair patient, soon chafed at a relation which, while it permitted
him to see her, prevented him from taking advantage of his intimacy.
The confidence with which she now treated him was an additional
grievance: she was too _friendly_. Her position toward the outside
world had also changed. Three, four, five weeks passed by, and had any
one gathered the opinions of the crowd who surrounded Miss Lafitte, he
would have heard but praise. Perhaps her capricious nature was tired
of seclusion, for at present she had smiles for all. Piquant, original
and clever, her popularity became as great as it was sudden, while she
was only invalid enough to enlist sympathy or exact attention. But in
one particular the girl had never varied--that of her rooted dislike
to Mrs. Felton.
One morning when Maurice was paying a professional visit, which
afforded his only chance of seeing her alone, he curiously asked,
"Miss Lafitte, what is the cause of your aversion to my cousin?"
She was silent a few moments, then with apparent irrelevancy said, "Do
you believe in premonitions?"
An emphatic "No" was the answer.
"Why should they not be true? Our thoughts arise from the same source
as our actions; or, rather, there must be a creative thought for every
separate act. Now, whether the act follows its producing impulse by
moments, days or years, the fact remains the same."
"So that a man can tell before he goes into battle whether he will be
brave or cowardly?"
"Certainly: we are conscious of our disposition, of our general manner
of thinking, and consequently can judge of our course of action."
"That would make life plane sailing.
"No, for though you know your own qualities, you can seldom force
events to fit them. As long as he can avoid danger the coward may be
brave, but if danger is thrust upon him, off he runs."
"Of course you have presentiments?" said he ironically.
"And they always come true?"
"Sooner or later. The time is indefinite, but the result is certain.
"Can you predict for others?"
"Not unless I love them: I can for my father. Either you must know a
person well, or have naturally a great deal of penetration, insight,
quick observation. Give it what name you please, it is the gift of
seers, by which they interpret the marks that character leaves upon
face and form."
"When you fall in love--"
"I shall not do that," she interrupted: "I have been warned."
"How? Tell me about it."
"I do not see as clearly as some: I only vaguely feel that a certain
occurrence will bring a certain catastrophe. If I love, I shall die."
"Nonsense! And is that the reason you avoided gentlemen's society?"
"Yes. I was afraid, really afraid;" and she made the expression
stronger by a slight shudder.
"And you are so no longer?" he questioned hopefully.
"After I knew you I saw there was no danger in simply being acquainted
Dr. Grey winced, and was silent for a time; then resumed
energetically: "I am glad you have told me this. What will you think
when I say that what you call presentiments are common to every
delicately organized person? They are purely physical; an indigestion,
a change in the weather or fatigue will cause them; a dose of medicine
or a night's repose will cure them. The brain becomes indisposed with
the rest of the body, but to allow such morbid fancies to influence
you is preposterous."
"They are prophetic: I have often proved it."
"Mere coincidences. My advice is to begin to fight them at once. In
regard to my cousin--"
"She has already brought me trouble. I knew it would be so when she
crossed my path the other day. Look at my accident."
"That might have happened to any one. Why did you run away from me?"
"It was an impulse I could not restrain."
"I hope the oracle has not been traducing me?"
"I have had no premonitions lately: when I was suffering I could
think of nothing. But you have been so kind it seems impossible you
should bring me harm."
"I would not for the world," he broke in earnestly.
"I am drifting blindly, and my mind misgives me that all is not right.
I may be walking toward danger unaware. I believe I am," she continued
dreamily, "but so long as I do not fall in love, nothing dreadful will
"You had better fall in love than become a monomaniac," exclaimed the
young man with more warmth than the occasion seemed to warrant. "If
your premonitions have ceased, it is evidence of an improved state of
health, and as your physician I forbid you to indulge in them."
"Doctors think they can treat everything," she said impatiently; then
continued in an explanatory tone: "I inherit my foreknowledge from my
mother, who was a gypsy celebrated in her tribe for reading the
future. You see that the faculty is hereditary with me, and a dose of
medicine will not cure it. My poor mother died at my birth: she was
very young and beautiful. My father was past forty when he married. I
have never spoken of it before, as he dislikes it to be mentioned. But
you look like a man who could keep a secret, and I want to prove that
I am not as foolish as you think."
Maurice saw it was useless to argue further: the delusion must be
firmly established to have caused this young creature to seclude
herself from general society for so long a period. The facts of her
parentage must have been imprudently confided to her when young, and
an imaginative temperament had done the rest. The secresy with which
she guarded these ideas served to strengthen them. He could only hope
that the life she was now leading would diminish their influence, or
perhaps totally destroy her singular belief. Maurice thought it would
be easy to wait for time to effect this change, but he had not counted
It was, of all people, that rattlecap George Clifton. George was a
man who invariably attached himself where notoriety was to be
obtained, and since Miss Lafitte had become the rage he was her
shadow. Maurice, soon after this conversation, had discontinued his
professional visits. He wished gradually to make it evident to Fay
that his attentions had a deeper meaning. Besides, he was scarcely in
a state to coolly feel her pulse when he was ready to devour her hand
with kisses. The consequence of this change was that he seldom saw her
alone: he had less opportunity than ever of winning her affection, and
he was tormented by thinking that if she became cured of her eccentric
fancy, it would be to marry Clifton.
The doctor was a man of expedients. One evening, when on the shore
with Miss Lafitte at a little distance from a party of gay companions,
he spied one of those flat-bottomed boats which are a feature of the
place, and invited her to enter. Without a word he sent the tiny craft
far over the water, out of hearing, almost out of sight, when, resting
on his oars, he began: "I am glad to see you have entirely given up
your faith in premonitions, Miss Lafitte."
She was sitting, her hands lying idly in her lap, gazing dreamily at
the drifting clouds above. Without taking the trouble to change her
position, she asked, "How so?"
"You are in love with George Clifton."
"What an amount of penetration you have, Dr. Grey!"
"You are always with him."
"Why should I not be? he is the safest man I know."
"I hope your confidence is not misplaced." Maurice turned, and,
shading his face with his hand, looked at the setting sun, although he
would have required the eye of an eagle to enjoy its brilliancy. "She
acknowledges her preference," thought the young man bitterly, but in
the midst of the turmoil her words occasioned he heard her tranquilly
saying, "If I were with him a hundred years there would be no danger
of my falling in love with him."
Maurice gave a start that caused the water about the boat to dance,
but before he could enjoy in full the satisfaction of her last remark,
another fear suggested itself. "Perhaps you come with me for the same
reason," said he.
"You are my physician."
"I find to my cost that physicians are as capable of loving as other
men, but whether their love will be returned is another matter."
Emotion has its peculiar language. Though he strove to be calm, there
was a ring in his voice that was unusual, and Fay could not but notice
it. "Are you in love, doctor?" she asked gently. "I might help you if
I knew with whom it is. Could you tell me?"
Was it worth while to reply to so unconscious, so friendly, a question
by the truth? Why ask? What man, having gone so far, would be content
to stop? Letting his eyes speak for him, he met her innocent
questioning look by a long imploring gaze as he whispered, "You."
As he spoke the expression came over her face that he had noticed when
he had first crossed her path with Mrs. Felton: the color forsook her
cheeks, the dreamy composure of her attitude vanished, and she
murmured in a scared, helpless tone, "Do you want to kill me?"
"No, no: do not think that," he hastily replied. Then seeing the boat
had drifted behind a little island that hid them from view, he moved
and sat on the floor beside her. "Dear Fay, believe me there is no
reality in your foreknowledge. Such a thing is impossible. Love me,
Fay, and I will shield you from any evil that may happen. Do not let
those sick fancies mislead you: they are gone never to return."
"Take me home, take me home," she sobbed, covering her face with her
hands. "Oh why do you talk to me in this way? It is unkind. You know
it cannot be. I will not listen to another word. Take me home."
Dr. Grey was too wise to insist. Love had quickened his intuitions. He
would have liked to take her in his arms and chase this threatening
horror from her mind: he was eager to plead his cause, to assure her
of his devotion, but without a word he resumed his seat and obeyed.
The generosity shown in thus preferring her wishes to his own touched
Fay more than any pleading could have done. She was convinced of his
unselfishness, and her confidence in him remained unshaken. For some
time after the scene in the boat she was very shy; but seeing he
avoided the forbidden subject, and unconsciously growing each day
fonder of his society, she allowed herself to drift into that closer
intimacy which can have but one reason for its charm. Maurice saw and
rejoiced. If he had won her heart he felt sure of surmounting the
imaginary objection to his suit, and he resolved on a bold stroke.
One evening after a long walk they were seated on a huge table-rock
jutting from the shore into the water, nothing but the lake before
them, the sky above, the forest behind. "Is it not a matter of
surprise that you should still be living, Miss Lafitte? he asked,
concealing his trepidation under the appearance of raillery.
"Because you have been in love with me for several weeks."
Struck with the truth rather than the audacity of his assertion, she
looked down, pondering intently a little space; then, not considering
what the admission involved, she said in a choked voice, "You are
"And it has not hurt you," he went on eagerly. "I cannot hurt you.
Won't you believe me?"
Another longer pause, and the words came trembling forth: "If it
_could_ be so!"
"It _is_ so. It has been already proved." He took her hand gently: she
permitted it to lie in his, and silence, the language of full hearts,
ministered between them.
She broke it finally by the whispered question, "You are quite, quite
sure that these warnings are not peculiar--that science can account
"On my honor, yes."
"I want to believe--I do believe you. I will risk my life for you:
I--I--I love you, Maurice."
She was very quiet, even sad, that evening. Conversation seemed an
effort, and after some vain attempts to shake off her depression she
hastily retired. After a long search Grey found her walking in one of
the alleys of the garden, and could perceive by her tones that she had
"In a very few days you will laugh at these pet superstitions. Do not
indulge this mood: come and walk," he said persuasively.
"You are cruel."
"Indeed it is for your good."
"Maurice, do you think we are justified in thus tempting Fate?"
He smiled at her as if she were a child: "I have no doubts."
Her eyes shone solemnly as she replied, "Then lead me, even to death."
"To life--to a happy life, dear Fay." He put her unresisting hand on
his arm and led her to the door of her room: "Sleep, my darling, and
to-morrow you will feel more tranquil."
The next day the young man congratulated himself: Fay was as bright as
if evil could never touch her. On passing him at the breakfast-table
she whispered, "I defy Fate."
But the struggle was not yet over: the old fear and the new love
fought a hard battle. A fortnight of these alternate lights and
shadows passed. In his presence the poor girl tried to put on a brave
face, but what she endured when alone could be seen in her loss of
flesh and color. Sometimes the doctor almost repented having brought
this misery upon her, but he comforted himself by looking forward to
the calm which must surely follow this storm.
One morning, Miss Lafitte not appearing at her usual time, Maurice
became alarmed. Fearing she might be ill, he went to her parlor to
inquire: his knock was responded to by Jane, who gave him a note
evidently written in expectation of his coming. It ran thus: "Meet me
this evening at seven on the rock that you know." Of course he knew
the place: it was where she had acknowledged her love.
As may be supposed, the young man was not late at the rendezvous, but
he found Fay already there, walking restlessly up and down the
"Sit down," she began in the peremptory tone of extreme emotion; then
clasping her hands as she stood before him, she said, "I wanted to see
"Not more than I wanted to see you," he interrupted lightly.
Without noticing his remark, she continued hurriedly, "I wish to say
that all between us is broken off."
"It is not: I won't submit." He made a motion to rise.
"Do not come near me," she cried with growing agitation. "You have
brought me my death. Oh, Maurice!"--here her voice sank
pathetically--"why did you make me love you? I shall die--nothing can
persuade me to believe otherwise--and it will be soon, soon, soon."
"How very unreasonable, dear Fay! You have long acknowledged your
love, yet nothing has happened."
"It is about to happen."
"Come and sit by me," he begged.
"Never again: it must be ended. All day this miserable feeling has
oppressed me. I have tried to shake it off, but cannot. It is a
warning--it is horrible. Death is near, close, close. I must cease
loving you or pay the penalty."
Her wan face presented such a picture of grief, her, voice expressed
such an excess of suffering, that Maurice felt his eyes grow dim.
Scarcely less moved than herself, he replied, "You cannot cease loving
me, dear, dear Fay, nor can I bear to lose you. Let us end this
struggle by an immediate marriage. You will then be calm--you will be
happy. I will go to your father at once and make the arrangements: he
will consent when I explain. There is a clergyman at the house, and a
midnight train for New York. Oh, my darling, do not hesitate: this
suspense is killing you. Can't you trust me, Fay?"
She listened eagerly: his voice seemed to soothe her. Seeing this, he
rose, and, still speaking words of love, approached her. Controlled
by, yet fearing, his influence, she slowly retreated as he advanced.
Suddenly he cried as if in agony, "Fay, come to me!"
She was standing on the brink of the rock with her back to the danger.
A moment she wavered: then Maurice could restrain himself no longer,
but, extending his arm, he rushed toward her.
A little step backward, a shy movement to yet delay the consent that
was already on her lips, a fall, a splash, and the waters of the lake
closed over the body of Fay Lafitte.
To save her or lose himself was the resolution of the doctor as he
leapt to the rescue. He was a good swimmer, and soon came to the
surface after the plunge, but the shadow of the rock retarded his
search. At last he found her, and then a new difficulty, that of
landing, presented itself. The shore was covered with a fringe of
impenetrable brushwood, which gave him the scantiest support, and it
was impossible to mount the face of the rock. Almost in despair, he
looked across the water, where he saw in the moonlight a fisherman's
boat. Slowly the little craft obeyed his repeated calls for help.
Sturdy arms relieved him of his insensible burden, while he, scarcely
taking time to climb beside her, hoarsely bade the men row for their
It is needless to describe the scene of confusion which followed on
their arrival at the hotel. The only practical man there was Dr.
Grey, who gave orders and applied remedies with desperate energy.
His persistence was rewarded: the veined lids opened, the white
lips parted, intelligence returned: she spoke, and Maurice
threw himself on his knees and bent over her that he might
catch the words. "My warning was true," she whispered slowly,
"but--I--am--willing--to--die--for--loving--you." Then perception faded
from those gentle eyes, breathing ceased, the muscles relaxed. Fay was
And the doctor?
He afterward married his cousin: she was so kind to him at the time of
his sad affliction.
ITA ANIOL PROKOP.
A SCENE IN THE CAMPAGNA.
You remember the Piazza della Bocca della Verita at Rome? No? Perhaps
it is too far away from the Piazza di Spagna and the stairs of the
Monte di Trinita, which may be taken to be the central points of
English or American Rome. Yet you must have passed by the Bocca della
Verita on your way to your drive on the Via Appia and the tomb of
Caecilia Metella. Do you not remember a large, shambling,
unkempt-looking open space, a sort of cross in appearance between the
_piazza_ of a city and a farmyard, a little after passing the remains
of the Teatro di Marcello, the grand old arches of which are now, in
the whirligig of Time's revenges, turned into blacksmiths' shops? The
piazza in question is nearly open on one side to the Tiber, on the
immediate bank of which stands that elegant little round temple, with
its colonnade of charming fluted pillars, which has from time out of
mind been known as the Temple of Vesta, though the designation, as
modern archaeologists tell us, is probably erroneous. All the world,
whether of those who have been at Rome or not, knows the Temple of
Vesta, for it is the prettiest, if not the grandest, of the legacies
to us of old pagan Rome, and it has been reproduced in little
drawing-room models by the thousand in every conceivable material.
Close to it, at one corner of the piazza, is the ancient and
half-ruinous house which is pointed out as the habitation of Cola di
Rienzi. It is altogether a strange-looking spot, that Piazza della
Bocca della Verita, standing as it does on the confines of what may
be called the inhabited part of Rome and that portion of the huge
space within the walls which still remains sacred to the past and its
memories and remains. But not the least strange thing about it is its
name--the _Piazza of the Mouth of Truth_! There is a story of some one
of the great doctors of the early ages of Christianity having taught
in the very ancient church which stands on the side of the piazza
farthest from the Tiber. Ay, to be sure, the name must come very
evidently thence. The "mouth of truth" was the mouth of that seraphic
or angelic or golden-tongued or other "doctor gentium," and the old
church and the piazza still preserve the memory of his eloquence. Not
a bit of it! Under the venerable-looking portico of this church there
is a huge colossal marble mask, with a gaping mouth in the middle of
it. There it lies, totally unconnected in any way with the various
other relics of the past around it--tombs and frescoes and
mosaics--and the stranger wonders what it is, and how it came there.
To the last question there is no reply. But in answer to the former,
tradition says that the Roman populace when affirming anything on oath
were wont to place their hands in the mouth of this mask as a form of
swearing, and hence the stone was called the "Bocca della Verita," and
has given its name to the piazza.
Well, it was while traversing this piazza a few days since with a
stranger friend, whom I was taking to visit the curious old church
above mentioned, that I received and returned the salutation of an
acquaintance whose appearance induced my companion to ask with some
little surprise who my friend was. The individual whose courteous
salutation had provoked the question was a horseman mounted on a
remarkably fine black mare. Whether, in consequence of some little
touch with the spur, or whether merely from high condition and high
spirits, the animal was curvetting and rearing and dancing about a
little as she crossed the piazza, and the perfect ease--and one may
say, indeed, elegance--of the rider's seat, and his consummate
mastery of the animal he bestrode, must have attracted the attention
and excited the admiration of any lover of horses and horsemanship. It
was abundantly evident that he was neither one of the "gentlemen
riders" who figure in the somewhat mild Roman steeple-chase races, nor
of those Nimrods from beyond the Alps who, mounted on such steeds as
Jarrett or Rannucci can supply them with, attend the "meets" of the
Roman hunt. The man in question was very unlike any of these; his
horse was quite as unlike any that such persons are wont to ride; and
his seat upon his horse and his mode of riding were yet more unlike
theirs. It was not the seat of a man accustomed to "go across the
country" and ride to hounds; and still less was it the seat of a
cavalry-man, the result of teaching in a military riding-school. It
was more like the seat (if the expression be permissible) of a
centaur. The rider and his steed seemed to be one organization and
governed by one and the same will.
But I must endeavor to give the reader an idea of the outward
appearance of my acquaintance. He wore a long horse-man's cloak of
dark-brown cloth, with a deep fur collar, which hung loosely from his
shoulders, and being entirely open in front displayed a scarlet
waistcoat ornamented with silver buttons beneath it, and thighs clad
in black velveteen breeches. His lower legs were cased in gaiters of a
very peculiar make. They were of light-brown colored leather, so made
as to present an altogether creaseless surface, and yet fitted to the
leg by numerous straps and buckles so closely that they exhibited the
handsome and well-formed limb beneath them almost as perfectly as a
silk stocking could have done. Below the ankle they closely clasped a
boot which was armed with a very severe spur. The rider wore a high
conical black felt hat--such a hat as is called, significently enough,
"un cappello de brigante," a brigand's hat. It had, moreover, a
scarlet ribbon around it, which added much to the brigand-like
picturesqueness of the figure. Yet my friend was by no means a
brigand, for all that. But the portion of his accoutrement which was
perhaps the most remarkable has not been mentioned yet. While managing
his reins, snaffle and curb, with excellent ease in his left hand, his
right held--not a whip or stick of any sort, but--a lance like a rod,
some seven or eight feet long, and armed at the end with a short iron
spike. This spike rested on the toe of his boot as he rode--an
attitude which, resembling that of a cavalier entering the tournament
lists, gave to the rod in question all the appearance of a knightly
lance. Yet there is in the recollection or the imagination of most
people another figure whom on the whole the rider in the Piazza della
Bocca della Verita would have been more likely to recall to their
minds--the mounted Arab of the desert. I hardly know why it should be
so. But there was a something about the general outline of the figure
draped in its cloak, and in the way in which the long slight lance was
held, that had an unmistakably Eastern look about it. There was a
certain air of dignity too about my friend which contributed to his
Arab-like appearance. Yet it was not exactly the dignity of the grave
and impassible Eastern man. It was a mixture of dignity and
jauntiness. There was a certain air of self-consciousness about the
man in the cloak and brigand's hat that told you clearly enough that
he knew he was riding remarkably well, and expected you to mark it
too. He would have been exceedingly unwilling that the glories of the
scarlet waistcoat with its silver buttons should have been eclipsed,
and he would have unmistakably fallen in his own esteem had the broad
scarlet ribbon been taken from his hat. The _pose_ and turn of his
well-shaped head on his shoulders provocatively challenged admiration,
and would have had a dash of insolence in them if the expression had
not been corrected by a pleasant smile, which showed a range of bright
white teeth beneath a jet-black moustache, and the good-humor of the
glance that tempered the frank roving boldness of the well-opened eye.
When it has been added that he was in the very prime of manhood, a
man of some thirty-five or thereabouts, I think that the reader will
be able to form a tolerably correct picture to himself of my
acquaintance, Nanni Silvani.
"And who and what is Nanni Silvani?" asked my companion when I had
categorically answered his question by stating the name of the rider
whose salutation I had returned.
"Nanni--or, more correctly, Signor Giovanni--Silvani is a _buttero_ of
the Roman Campagna," said I.
"And, pray, what may a 'buttero' be?" rejoined my Johnny Newcome,
looking back after the receding figure of the horseman with no little
"A buttero," I answered, "is one of the most peculiar and
characteristic products of that very peculiar region, the _Agro
The conditions under which the district around Rome is cultivated--or
rather possessed and left uncultivated--are entirely _sui
generis_--quite unlike anything else in the world. The vast undulating
plain called the Campagna is divided among very few proprietors in
comparison to its extent, who hold immense estates, which are more
profitable than the appearance of the country, smitten to all seeming
with a curse of desolation, would lead a stranger to suppose. These
huge properties are held mainly by the great Roman papal families and
by monastic corporations whose monasteries are within the city. In
either case the property is practically inalienable, and has been
passed from father to son for generations, or held by an undying
religious corporation in unchanging sameness for many generations.
Cultivation in the proper sense of the word is out of the question in
this region: the prevalence of the deadly malaria renders it
impossible. But the vast extent of the plain is wandered over by large
herds of half-wild cattle, in great part buffaloes, the produce of
which is turned to profit in large dairy and cheese-making
establishments, and by large droves of horses, from which a very
useful breed of animals is raised. The superintendence and care of
these is the work of the buttero. Large flocks of sheep and goats
also are fed upon the herbage of the Campagna. But the shepherds who
tend them are quite a different race of men from the buttero, and are
deemed, especially by himself, to hold a far inferior position in the
social scale. And, as is ever the case, social prejudice justifies
itself by producing the phenomenon it has declared to exist. The
shepherd of the Campagna, having long been deemed the very lowest of
the low, has become such in reality. Clad in the dried but untanned
skin of one of his flock, he has almost the appearance of a savage,
and, unless common fame belies him, he is the savage he looks. The
buttero looks down upon him from a very pinnacle of social elevation
in the eyes of every inhabitant of the towns and villages around Rome,
especially in those of the youthful female population. While the poor
shepherd, shaggy as his sheep, wild-looking as his goats, and savage
as his dogs, squalid, fever-stricken and yellow, spending long weeks
and even months in solitude amid the desolation of the Campagna,
saunters after his sauntering flock, crawling afoot, the gallant
buttero, in the saddle from morning to night, represents that
aristocracy which among all uncivilized races and in all uncivilized
times is the attribute of the mounted as distinguished from the
unmounted portion of mankind. And if this fact is recognized by the
generality of the world in which he lives, it is very specially
assumed to be undeniable by the buttero himself. There is always a
smack of the dandy about him. He is proud of his appearance, of his
horse and of his mastery over him. He knows that he is a picturesque
and striking figure, and the consciousness of the fact imparts a
something to his bearing that is calculated to make the most of it.
His manners and ways of life, too, are really more tinctured by
civilization than those of the rest of the rural population among whom
he lives. And this arises mainly from the fact that his occupations
bring him more and more frequently into contact with his superiors in
the social scale. The agricultural system prevailing in the district
around Rome differs markedly and essentially from that in use
generally in Tuscany. There the system of rent is almost unknown. The
present tiller of the soil occupies it on condition of rendering to
the landowner the half of the produce of it, and this arrangement is
conducted under the superintendence of a _fattore_. But the
widespreading possessions of a Roman landowner are for the most part
let to a speculator, who is termed a "mercante di campagna." The
commercial operations engaged in by these "merchants of the country"
are often very extensive, and many of them become very wealthy men. It
is hardly necessary to say that neither they nor their families live
on, or indeed in most cases near, the land from which they draw their
wealth. They are absentees, with a paramount excuse for being so. For
the vast plains over which their herds and flocks and droves wander
are for the most part scourged by the malaria to such an extent that
human life, or at all events human health, is incompatible with a
residence on them. The wealthy _mercante di campagna_ lives in Rome
therefore, and his wife and family take the lead in the rich, but not
in the aristocratic, circles of the society of the capital. One of
these men may be seen perhaps at a "meet" of the Roman hunt, mounted
on the best and most showy horse in the field, attended probably by a
smart groom leading a second (very needless) horse for his master's
use, or holding in readiness an elegant equipage for him to drive
himself back to the city at the termination of the day's sport. His
wife and daughters meanwhile are probably exhibiting themselves in the
Villa Borghese or on the Pincian Hill in the handsomest carriage and
with the most splendid horses in all the gay throng, and displaying
toilettes which throw into the shade the more sober style of those of
the duchesses, princesses and countesses whom they would so gladly,
but may not, salute as they pass them in their less brilliant
equipages. The balls, too, given in the Carnival by these men and
their wives will probably be the most splendid of the season, in so
far as the expenditure of money can ensure splendor, but they will
not be adorned by the diamonds of the old patrician families, nor will
it be possible for the givers of them to obtain access to the
sighed-for elysium of the halls of the historical palaces where those
diamonds are native. Between the two classes there is a great gulf
fixed, or perhaps it would be more accurately correct to say that
there _was_ such a great gulf fixed a year or two ago. The great gulf
exists still, but it is beginning gradually to be a little bridged
over. No doubt another twenty years will see it vanish altogether. But
enough has been said to indicate the social position of the mercante
di campagna as it was, and for the most part still is. But, fine
gentleman as he is, the wealthy speculator, if he would remain such,
is not always at the hunt or lounging in the Corso. He is often at the
_tenuta_ (or estate) from which his wealth is gathered, and on such
occasions spends long hours on horseback riding over wide extents of
country, and attended by the all-important buttero, sure to be mounted
on as good a horse as that which carries his employer, or perhaps a
better. Perhaps two or three of these functionaries are in attendance
upon him. And such excursions necessarily produce a degree of
companionship which would not result from attendance in any other
form. As riders the two men are on an equality for the nonce. The tone
of communication between the men is insensibly modified by the
circumstances of a colloquy between two persons on horseback. It
cannot be the same as that between a master sitting in his chair and a
servant standing hat in hand before him. And then how proudly does the
gallant buttero ride past the pariah shepherds tending their shaggy
flocks and seeming barely raised above them in intelligence!
All this tends, as may be supposed, to civilize the buttero to a
degree that he would not attain without it. He is, as has been
intimated, generally eminently self-conscious of his own advantages
and proud of his position. To the other elements which go to produce
this feeling may be added the pride of caste. Our buttero is probably
the son and the father of a race which follows the same occupation.
The knowledge and skill which are absolutely necessary to his
profession, and which are acquired no otherwise than traditionally,
have a tendency to produce this result. He grew up to be a buttero,
with a consummate knowledge of horses and horned cattle, and a sure
eye for the condition of the pastures from one to another district of
which the animals are constantly moving, under the eye of his father,
who put him on a half-broken colt almost as soon as he could walk. And
he is giving his son the same education. For a young buttero to marry
with a daughter of the despised shepherd class would be a mesalliance
not to be thought of. Nor would a marriage with the daughter of a
small artisan of the towns be deemed a very acceptable one. The
chances are that the young centaur marries a girl of his own centaur
breed, and all the prejudice and barriers of caste are thus propagated
and intensified. It must not be supposed that the buttero or his
family lives on the malaria-stricken plains which his occupation
requires him to be constantly riding over. The wretched shepherd is
constrained to do so, and sleeps in the vicinity of his flock,
finding, if he can, the shelter of a ruined tomb or of the broken arch
of an aqueduct, or even of a cave from which _pozzolana_ has been dug,
and strives to exorcise the malaria fiend by kindling a big fire and
sleeping with his head in the thick smoke of it. But the buttero, well
mounted, to whom it is a small matter to ride eight or ten miles to
his home every night, lives with his family either in Rome or in one
of the small towns on the slopes of the hills which enclose the
Campagna. And it is thus that these strikingly picturesque figures may
often be seen traversing the streets and _piazze_ of Rome, and
especially of those parts of it which lie on the far side of the Tiber
or to the southward of the Quirinal Hill and the Piazza di Venezia.
They are almost always handsome fellows, well grown, and striking
specimens of robust and manly vigor, probably by virtue of the lives
they lead, and of the similar lives the race from which they spring
have led before them; partly also, no doubt, from the fact that should
any son be born to a buttero who should not be thus happily endowed,
he could not think of following the ancestral occupation, but would
have to be weeded out from the race and seek his place in the towns,
where he would not become the father of degenerate _butteri_.
My friend Nanni Silvani was all that I have described the buttero to
be. He was indeed a very perfect specimen of his class; and if the
reader will allow me to tell him how I first came to be acquainted
with Nanni, the relation of the circumstances will at the same time
show him one of the most remarkable phases of the buttero's life, and
one of the most curiously characteristic scenes of Italian--and
especially Roman--life which it falls to the lot of foreign visitors
It will be readily understood that the cattle, whether horned beasts
or horses, which wander from pasture to pasture over the vast extent
of the Campagna are liable to stray occasionally, and perhaps to
become mingled with the herds belonging to another proprietor. It is
necessary, therefore, that they should be _marked_; and this marking
is the occasion of a great and very remarkable festival and solemnity.
It is called _La Merca_, which is a Romanism for _La Marca_, the
"mark" or "marking" of the cattle. This operation takes place in the
spring, generally in May; and the mercante di campagna whose herds of
horned cattle, oxen, cows and buffaloes and droves of horses are to be
marked on a settled day invites all his friends and acquaintance to
come and see the operation. From what has already been said of the
social habits and status of the persons occupying that position, it
will be readily imagined that the company thus called together is
often a very numerous and sufficiently brilliant one. A good half of
the assemblage will in all probability belong to the more ornamental
sex. A liberally supplied picnic luncheon will not fail to complete
the pleasures of the day; and altogether the festival of the _merca_
of such or such a year will probably remain as an epoch in the
memories of many of those invited to be present. The carriages, the
horses, the light country gigs and conveyances of all kinds must be
ordered early in the pleasant May morning, for a drive (or ride) of
several miles across the Campagna is before us, and perhaps before the
spot appointed for the business in hand is reached a scramble across a
mile or so of open rolling ground impracticable for wheels. But
nothing can be more lovely than the views of the hills around Rome in
the fresh early hours of a May morning. Even the melancholy Campagna
puts on a look of brightness and smiles a pale smile for the nonce. We
soon overtake or are overtaken by other parties bound for the same
destination. All are chatting and laughing in high good spirits, for
the spectacle that awaits us is a favorite one with the Roman dames
and their attendant squires. There are very few, if any, foreigners
among the invited, partly because it hardly comes in their way to hear
anything about the merca and its specialties, or to make the
acquaintance of the hosts upon such occasions; partly and mainly
perhaps because they have almost all of them left Rome for the summer
before the season for these rural festivals commences.
At length we reach the ground. A large hollow in the undulating
surface of the Campagna, surrounded in great part by a steeply rising
bank, has been chosen as the scene of operations, in order to afford
as much vantage-ground as may be for the spectators. But other
accommodation than such as is afforded by Nature has been provided. A
range of seats of rough planks, something in the form of the grand
stand on a race-course, has been erected by the hospitable mercante di
campagna, who is busily engaged in receiving and seating his numerous
friends. Large droves of young horses, and still larger herds of
bullocks and buffaloes, are assembled in a neighboring yard. Before
taking our places on the range of seats we go to have a look at this
portion of the _dramatis personae_ in the coming spectacle--from the
_outside_, be it understood, of a high railed palisade, or
_stazzionata_, as this description of enclosure is called in the
language of the Roman Campagna. The appearance of the animals inside,
of the buffaloes especially, does not tempt one to make any nearer
acquaintance with them. The wild cattle of the Western prairies can
hardly look wilder or more savage. Whether the buffaloes are in
reality more savage in their temper than the other horned cattle, or
not, seems to be a doubtful question. Some of the herdsmen say they
are so: others deny it. Possibly the former may have the more
sensitive imaginations, for unquestionably the buffalo is a far more
terrible-looking fellow than his congener. His dark color and the form
of the vicious-looking, crumply horn in great part contribute to this.
But it seems to me that the expression of the eye produces the same
effect to a yet greater degree. The buffalo's eye is smaller than that
of the ordinary bull or cow, and often gleams out of the shaggy
thicket of black hair around it with a red glare that has something
truly diabolical in it. There may perhaps be collected in the yard and
in one or two enclosures near it some forty or fifty young horses, and
perhaps altogether from a hundred to a hundred and fifty head of
horned cattle. Lounging about around these enclosures, or looking on
while the last completing touches are given to the strong and high
railing which surrounds the space in front of the range of seats, are
several butteri and their aids, awaiting the master's signal for the
beginning of the day's work.
Altogether, the scene is a very strange one. The contact of the rural
and the city life, the elements of which meet in these countries so
rarely and mix so little and so unwillingly, seems strange and
incongruous. Nothing can be wilder than all the local surroundings of
the scene; nothing less town-like than the living things, human and
other, which are to enact their parts in it; nothing less rural,
nothing more completely of the town townish, than the assembled
company of spectators. Evidently, the individuals belonging to either
category look upon those of the other very little in the light of
fellow-creatures. In no country in the world is the division between
the town population and that of the country so wide as it is in Italy.
No one of either class seems to be struck by, or even to see, the
extreme beauty of the prospect from the spot on which we are standing.
It is a spot in the Campagna somewhat to the south-west of a line
drawn from the city to the base of the Alban Hills; and though the
place chosen for the operation of the merca is, as I have said, a
hollow, the generality of the immediate neighborhood is somewhat
higher than the level of the surrounding plain, and the eye is thus
enabled to wander far and wide over the Campagna--to the Alban Hills
southward; to the peak of Monte Cavo, where the early rays of the sun
are just touching with light the old gray walls of the convent on its
summit; to the large village of Rocca di Papa on its hillside a little
farther to the left; to the town of Grotto Ferrata on the lowest
instep of the hill, and more still to the left; and then Frascati,
with the heights of Tusculum above it; and thence to that wonderfully
beautiful opening in the range of hills where Preneste lies; and
beyond that, as we turn the delighted eye slowly round to the
eastward, the olive-rich hill of Tivoli, the woods that mark the
position of Hadrian's Villa, and the whole range of the Sabine Hills.
But little do the Roman dames care for the scene so fair. Their eyes
are all for matters nearer at hand. They are curiously scanning the
men who are going to be the heroes of the day--the butteri--some
sitting carelessly on their horses, some lounging around the
enclosure. And well aware are they in either case that they are the
cynosures of neighboring eyes, and the consciousness that they are so
is betrayed in every movement and every glance of their roving eyes.
Never did knights of old enter the lists, while the heralds reminded
them that bright eyes beheld their deeds, more stimulated to bear
themselves well in the coming contest than are these modern knights
of the Campagna to show their prowess in the ring which is to witness
a not less arduous and hardly less dangerous emprise.
At length the hospitably busy mercante di campagna has seated all his
guests, and the work of the day may begin. Some half dozen or so of
butteri and their aids enter the arena, which is thoroughly enclosed
on all sides by high and secure palisades. The long cloaks are
discarded now, as may be supposed. I hardly know when else the butteri
are to be seen without them or on foot. Now they are seen as succinct
as may be. Every muscle is braced up for the coming struggle, and
there may be observed something in the faces and bearing of the men
that indicates that the work in hand is not expected to be child's
play. They stand in a group in the middle of the enclosed space. The
day's work will begin with the most arduous part of it--with that
which needs all the fresh strength and address of the men--the marking
of the buffaloes. A young buffalo bull, not yet grown to his full
strength, but yet abundantly powerful enough to be a very formidable
antagonist, is driven into the arena, and the gate by which he has
entered is immediately closed behind him. Many a yearling of the more
domesticated breeds is a larger and heavier animal, and yet most men
would, if they were compelled to such a struggle, prefer to measure
their force against an animal of the latter class than against this
half-savage creature. He may be considered, indeed, to be wholly
savage, save in so far as he may be supposed to inherit from his
progenitors the nature of a race that man has more or less perfectly
subjected and compelled to labor. On first entering the arena he
tosses up his head and shakes the shaggy black locks of wiry hair from
before his small wicked-looking eyes, looks half alarmedly, half
defiantly around, and stamps three or four times with one fore foot on
the ground, partly, as it would seem, in wonder and doubt, and partly
in increasing anger. Then he trots slowly round the enclosure,
starting aside and shying as the bright colors of the ladies' dresses
(at safe distance behind the palisades) catch and offend his eye.
Evidently he is seeking an egress and escape from a scene which must
appear to him so wondrous and full of strange and unknown dangers. But
he has soon satisfied himself that there is no way out, that his
enemies have encompassed him about on every side. Then once again he
throws his shaggy head into the air, shaking his short thick curly
horns in a very menacing manner, and this time accompanying the action
with a loud bellow, the compound expression of fear, wonder and wrath.
Now, what has to be done is simply this--to seize him, throw him to
the ground on his side, then to impress the branding-iron on his
flank, and dismiss him to make way for another. Of course nothing
would be easier with properly contrived appliances and means than to
accomplish this with promptitude, safety to man and beast, without
struggle and without glory. But this would involve change of
habitudes, recourse to new methods, modern improvements, a confession
to the mind of the buttero that he was no longer able to do what his
fathers for many a generation had done before him. It would be to lose
the opportunity of exhibiting himself and his prowess on the great
festival of the year, together with those subsequent hours of repose
and reward for danger and fatigue endured which heroes of all ages,
from the quaffers of mead in the halls of Odin to the "food for
powder" around the vivandiere's paniers, have never disdained. For
these sufficient reasons the merca is practiced still in the old way
in the Roman Campagna, and the victory of the man over the brute has
to be achieved by main force and dexterity. The buttero has not so
much as a lasso, or even a halter or a stick, to assist him in the
struggle. There is the beast with his horns, and there is the man with
his hands. Probably it might have been better to seize the creature
instantly on his entry into the arena, while he was under the
influence of his first bewilderment; and doubtless when the men have
got hot to their work, and the advancing sun warns them to get on
with it, the business will be more summarily despatched. But in the
first opening of the day's work a little show-off is indulged in. The
buffalo has ceased his trot round the railing, and stands head in air
as he bellows his defiance. That is the moment seized by the watchful
buttero for accepting the challenge. With a sudden spring at the
animal he seizes him by the horns, and with a sudden vigorous and
knowingly-applied wrench throws him to the ground on his side. Then
burst forth the plaudits from the well-dressed crowd, more heartily
bestowed perhaps by the ladies than by their kid-gloved cavaliers, who
are conscious that they could not have done so much to save their own
lives or those of the fair dames by their side. With the fall of the
beast to the ground the work is done. All the rest is without
difficulty, and is completed in a minute. Other men come forward and
apply the brand to the struggling but comparatively helpless brute,
who in the next minute finds himself free from his persecutors and at
liberty to trot off out of the enclosure.
Thus matters pass in a case where the buttero is master of his
business, where he is in his own best condition of muscular force and
activity, and where he is not matched against a beast of exceptional
strength. It frequently occurs, however, that all these conditions are
not fulfilled. Some men are cleverer at it than others. It will be
readily understood that, as in wrestling, the knack of the thing
counts for much, and sometimes, either from want of this or some other
circumstance of disadvantage, the struggle is prolonged. Man and beast
put forth their utmost strength. They sway backward and forward; the
ground becomes trampled into mud; the strong muscles of the creature's
brawny neck resist every effort of his enemy. Not a man of the group
within the area comes to the assistance of his comrade. They watch the
contest indeed with vigilant eyes, and should real danger to the man's
life ensue they are ready to throw themselves forward and overpower or
drive off the buffalo. But short of this the fight must be a duel. The
man must throw his beast, or be thrown. Not unfrequently, the latter
occurs; and then the city crowd, who were so loud in their plaudits of
the victor--cruel as their ancestors whose upturned thumbs condemned
the conquered gladiator in the Coliseum--are equally loud in their
hooting of the prostrate buttero. But only his self-love and
self-respect, and not his life, in these days pays the penalty. As he
falls worsted his fellows, watchful to prevent mischief, though
perhaps not sorry for a rival's discomfiture, rush forward and
overpower the conquering brute.
And this goes on until the assembled butteri and their aids have got
through their day's work and marked all the animals that were awaiting
the brand, and the merca for that year is finished. The citizens,
dames and dandies get them back to their carriages and to the city,
while the butteri, victors and vanquished alike, spend the night in
discussing the vicissitudes of the merca and worshiping Bacchus with
rites which in this most conservative of all lands two thousand years
have done but little to change.
T. ADOLPHUS TROLLOPE.
BY WILLIAM BLACK, AUTHOR OF "A PRINCESS OF THULE."
Toward eleven o'clock that night Mrs. Rosewarne became somewhat
anxious about her girls, and asked her husband to go and meet them, or
to fetch them away if they were still at Mr. Trewhella's house.
"Can't they look after themselves?" said George Rosewarne. "I'll be
bound Mabyn can, any way. Let her alone to come back when she
Then his wife began to fret, and as this made him uncomfortable, he
said he would walk up the road and meet them. He had no intention of
doing so, of course, but it was a good excuse for getting away from a
fidgety wife. He went outside into the clear starlight, and lounged
down to the small bridge beside the mill, contentedly smoking his
There he encountered a farmer who was riding home a cob he had bought
that day at Launceston, and the farmer and he began to have a chat
about horses suggested by that circumstance. Oddly enough, their
random talk came round to young Trelyon.
"Your thoroughbreds won't do for this county," George Rosewarne was
saying, "to go flying a stone wall and breaking your neck. No, sir.
I'll tell you what sort of hunter I should like to have for these
parts. I'd have him half-bred, short in the leg, short in the pastern,
short in the back, a good sloping shoulder, broad in the chest and the
forehead, long in the belly, and just the least bit over fifteen
hands--eh, Mr. Thoms? I don't think beauty's of much consequence when
your neck's in question. Let him be as angular and ragged in the hips
as you like, so long's his ribs are well up to the hip-bone. Have you
seen that black horse that young Trelyon rides?"
"'Tis a noble beast, sir--a noble beast," the farmer said; and he
would probably have gone on to state what ideal animal had been
constructed by his lavish imagination had not a man come running up at
this moment, breathless and almost speechless.
"Rosewarne," stammered Mr. Roscorla, "a--a word with you! I want to
The farmer, seeing he was in the way, called out a careless good-night
and rode on.
"Well, what's the matter?" said George Rosewarne a little snappishly:
he did not like being worried by excitable people.
"Your daughters!" gasped Mr. Roscorla. "They've both run away--both of
them--this minute--with Trelyon! You'll have to ride after them.
They're straight away along the high-road."
"Both of them? The infernal young fools!" said Rosewarne. "Why the
devil didn't you stop them yourself?"
"How could I?" Roscorla said, amazed that the father took the flight
of his daughters with apparent equanimity. "You must make haste, Mr.
Rosewarne, or you'll never catch them."
"I've a good mind to let 'em go," said he sulkily as he walked over to
the stables of the inn. "The notion of a man having to set out on this
wild-goose chase at this time o' night! Run away, have they? and what
in all the world have they run away for?"
It occurred to him, however, that the sooner he got a horse saddled
and set out, the less distance he would have to go in pursuit; and
that consideration quickened his movements.
"What's it all about?" said he to Roscorla, who had followed him into
"I suppose they mean a runaway match," said Mr. Roscorla, helping to
saddle George Rosewarne's cob, a famous trotter.
"It's that young devil's limb, Mabyn, I'll be bound," said the father.
"I wish to Heaven somebody would marry her!--I don't care who. She's
always up to some confounded mischief."
"No, no, no," Roscorla said: "it's Wenna he means to marry."
"Why, you were to have married Wenna?"
"Then why didn't you? So she's run away, has she?" George Rosewarne
grinned: he saw how the matter lay.
"This is Mabyn's work, I know," said he as he put his foot in the
stirrup and sprang into the saddle. "You'd better go home, Roscorla.
Don't you say a word to anybody. You don't want the girl made a fool
of all through the place."
So George Rosewarne set out to bring back his daughters; not
galloping, as an anxious parent might, but going ahead with a long,
steady-going trot, which he knew would soon tell on Mrs. Trelyon's
over-fed and under-exercised horses.
"If they mean Plymouth," he was thinking, "as is most likely from
their taking the high-road, he'll give it them gently at first. And so
that young man wants to marry our Wenna? 'Twould be a fine match for
her; and yet she's worth all the money he's got--she's worth it every
farthing. I'd give him the other one cheap enough."
Pounding along a dark road, with the consciousness that the farther
you go the farther you've got to get back, and that the distance still
to be done is an indeterminate quantity, is agreeable to no one, but
it was especially vexatious to George Rosewarne, who liked to take
things quietly, and could not understand what all the fuss was about.
Why should he be sent on this mad chase at midnight? If anybody wanted
to marry either of the girls, why didn't he do so and say no more
about it? Rosewarne had been merely impatient and annoyed when he set
out, but the longer he rode, and the more he communed with himself,
the deeper grew his sense of the personal injury that had been done
him by this act of folly.
It was a very lonely ride indeed. There was not a human being abroad
at that hour. When he passed a few cottages from time to time the
windows were dark. Then they had just been putting down a lot of loose
stones at several parts of the road, which caused Mr. Rosewarne to
swear. "I'll bet a sovereign," said he to himself, "that old Job kept
them a quarter of an hour before he opened Paddock's Gate. I believe
the old fool goes to bed. Well, they've waked him up for me, any way."
There was some consolation in this surmise, which was well founded.
When Rosewarne reached the toll-bar there was at least a light in the
small house. He struck on the door with the handle of his riding-whip,
and called out, "Hi, hi! Job! Come out, you old fool!"
An old man with very bandy legs came hobbling out of the toll-house,
and went to open the gate, talking and muttering to himself: "Ay, ay!
so yue be agwoin' after the young uns, Maister Rosewarne? Ay, ay! yue'll
go up many a lane and by many a fuzzy 'ill, and acrass a bridge or
two, afore yue come up wi' 'en, Maister Rosewarne."
"Look sharp, Job!" said Rosewarne. "Carriage been through here
"Ay, ay, Maister Rosewarne! 'tis a good half hour agone."
"A half hour, you idiot!" said Rosewarne, now in a thoroughly bad
temper. "You've been asleep and dreaming. Here, take your confounded
So he rode on again, not believing, of course, old Job's malicious
fabrication, but being rendered all the same a little uncomfortable by
it. Fortunately, the cob had not been out before that day.
More deep lanes, more high, open, windy spaces, more silent cottages,
more rough stones, and always the measured fall of the cob's feet and
the continued shining and throbbing of the stars overhead. At last,
far away ahead, on the top of a high incline, he caught sight of a
solitary point of ruddy fire, which presently disappeared. That, he
concluded, was the carriage he was pursuing going round a corner, and
showing only the one lamp as it turned into the lane. They were not so
far in front of him as he had supposed.
But how to overtake them? So soon as they heard the sound of his
horse would they dash onward at all risks, and have a race for it all
through the night? In that case George Rosewarne inwardly resolved
that they might go to Plymouth, or into the deep sea beyond, before he
would injure his favorite cob.
On the other hand, he could not bring them to a standstill by
threatening to shoot at his own daughters, even if he had had anything
with him that would look like a pistol. Should he have to rely, then,
on the moral terrors of a parent's authority? George Rosewarne was
inclined to laugh when he thought of his overawing in this fashion the
high spirit of his younger daughter.
By slow and sure degrees he gained on the fugitives, and as he could
now catch some sound of the rattling of the carriage-wheels, they must
also hear his horse's footfall. Were they trying to get away from him?
On the contrary, the carriage stopped altogether.
That was Harry Trelyon's decision. For some time back he had been
listening attentively. At length he said, "Don't you hear some one
riding back there?"
"Yes, I do," said Wenna, beginning to tremble.
"I suppose it is Mr. Roscorla coming after us," the young man said
coolly. "Now I think it would be a shame to drag the old gentleman
halfway down to Plymouth. He must have had a good spell already. Shall
I stop and persuade him to go back home to bed?"
"Oh no," said Mabyn, who was all for getting on at any risk.
"Oh no," Wenna said, fearing the result of an encounter between the
"I must stop," Trelyon said. "It's such precious hard lines on him. I
shall easily persuade him that he would be better at home."
So he pulled up the horses, and quietly waited by the roadside for a
few minutes. The unknown rider drew nearer and more near.
"That isn't Roscorla's pony," said Trelyon listening. "That's more
like your father's cob."
"My father!" said Wenna in a low voice.
"My darling, you needn't be afraid, whoever it is," Trelyon said.
"Certainly not," added Mabyn, who was far more uncomfortable than she
chose to appear. "Who can prevent us going on? They don't lock you up
in convents now-a-days. If it is Mr. Roscorla, you just let me talk to
Their doubt on that head was soon set at rest. White Charley, with his
long swinging trot, soon brought George Rosewarne up to the side of
the phaeton, and the girls, long ere he had arrived, had recognized in
the gloom the tall figure of their father. Even Mabyn was a trifle
But George Rosewarne--perhaps because he was a little pacified by
their having stopped--did not rage and fume as a father is expected to
do whose daughter has run away from him. As soon as he had pulled up
his horse he called out in a petulant tone, "Well! what the devil is
all this about?"
"I'll tell you, sir," said Trelyon, quite respectfully and quite
firmly: "I wished to marry your daughter Wenna--"
"And why couldn't you do that in Eglosilyan, instead of making a fool
of everybody all round?" Rosewarne said, still talking in an angry and
vexed way, as of one who had been personally injured.
"Oh, dada," Mabyn cried, "you don't know how it happened; but they
couldn't have got married there. There's that horrid old wretch, Mr.
Roscorla--and Wenna was quite a slave to him and afraid of him--and
the only way was to carry her away from him; and so--"
"Hold your tongue, Mabyn," her father said. "You'd drive a windmill
with your talk."
"But what she says is true enough," Trelyon said. "Roscorla has a
claim on her: this was my only chance, and I took it. Now look here,
Mr. Rosewarne: you've a right to be angry and all that--perhaps you
are--but what good will it do you to see Wenna left to marry
"What good will it do me?" said George Rosewarne pettishly. "I don't
care which of you she marries."
"Then you'll let us go on, dada?" Mabyn cried. "Will you come with us?
Oh, do come with us! We're only going to Plymouth."
Even the angry father could not withstand the absurdity of this
appeal. He burst into a roar of ill-tempered laughter. "I like that!"
he cried. "Asking a man to help his daughter to run away from his own
house! It's my impression, my young mistress, that you're at the
bottom of all this nonsense. Come, come! enough of it, Trelyon: be a
sensible fellow, and turn your horses round. Why, the notion of going
to Plymouth at this time o' night!"
Trelyon looked to his companion. She put her hand on his arm, and
said, in a trembling whisper, "Oh yes: pray let us go back."
"You know what you are going to, then?" said he coldly.
She trembled still more.
"Come, come," said her father: "you mustn't stop here all night. You
may thank me for preventing your becoming the talk of the whole
"I shouldn't have minded that much," Mabyn said ruefully, and very
like to cry indeed, as the horses set out upon their journey back to
It was not a pleasant journey for any of them--least of all for Wenna
Rosewarne, who, having been bewildered by one wild glimpse of liberty,
felt with terror and infinite sadness and despair the old manacles
closing round her life again. And what although the neighbors might
remain in ignorance of what she had done? She herself knew, and that
"You think no one will know?" Mabyn called out spitefully to her
father. "Do you think old Job at the gate has lost either his tongue
or his nasty temper?"
"Leave Job to me," the father replied.
When they got to Paddock's Gate the old man had again to be roused,
and he came out grumbling.
"Well, you discontented old sinner!" Rosewarne called to him, "don't
you like having to earn a living?"
"A fine livin' to wait on folks that don't knaw their own mind, and
keep comin' and goin' along the road o' nights like a weaver's
"Well, Job, you sha'n't suffer for it this time," Rosewarne said.
"I've won my bet. If you made fifty pounds by riding a few miles out,
what would you give the gatekeeper?"
Even that suggestion failed to inveigle Job into a better humor.
"Here's a sovereign for you, Job. Now go to bed. Good-night!"
How long the distance seemed to be ere they saw the lights of
Eglosilyan again! There were only one or two small points of red fire,
indeed, where the inn stood. The rest of the village was buried in
"Oh, what will mother say?" Wenna said in a low voice to her sister.
"She will be very sorry we did not get away altogether," Mabyn
answered. "And of course it was Mr. Roscorla who spoiled it. Nobody
knew anything about it but himself. He must have run on to the inn and
told some one. Wasn't it mean, Wenna? Couldn't he see that he wasn't
"Are you talking of Mr. Roscorla?" Trelyon said: George Rosewarne was
a bit ahead at this moment. "I wish to goodness I had gagged him and
slung him below the phaeton. I knew he would be coming down there: I
expected him every moment. Why were you so late, Mabyn?"
"Oh, you needn't blame me, Mr. Trelyon," said Mabyn, rather hurt. "You
know I did everything I could for you."
"I know you did, Mabyn: I wish it had turned out better."
What was this, then, that Wenna heard as she sat there bewildered,
apprehensive and sad-hearted? Had her own sister joined in this league
to carry her off? It was not merely the audacity of young Trelyon that
had led to their meeting. But she was altogether too frightened and
wretched to be angry.
As they got down into Eglosilyan and turned the sharp corner over the
bridge they did not notice the figure of a man who had been concealing
himself in the darkness of a shed belonging to a slate-yard. So soon
as they passed he went some little way after them until, from the
bridge, he could see them stop at the door of the inn. Was it Mrs.
Rosewarne who came out of the glare, and with something like a cry of
delight caught her daughter in her arms? He watched the figures go
inside and the phaeton drive away up the hill; then, in the perfect
silence of the night, he turned and slowly made toward Basset Cottage.
AN ANGRY INTERVIEW.
Next morning George Rosewarne was seated on the old oak bench in front
of the inn reading a newspaper. Happening to look up, he saw Mr.
Roscorla hurrying toward him over the bridge with no very pleasant
expression on his face. As he came nearer he saw that the man was
strangely excited. "I want to see your daughter alone," he said.
"You needn't speak as if I had tried to run away with her," Rosewarne
answered, with more good-nature than was his wont. "Well, go in-doors:
ask for her mother."
As Roscorla passed him there was a look in his eyes which rather
startled George Rosewarne.
"Is it possible," he asked himself, "that this elderly chap is really
badly in love with our Wenna?"
But another thought struck him. He suddenly jumped up, followed
Roscorla into the passage, where the latter was standing, and said to
him, "Don't you be too harsh with Wenna: she's only a girl, and they
are all alike." This hint, however discourteous in its terms, had some
significance as coming from a man who was six inches taller than Mr.
Mr. Roscorla was shown into an empty room. He marched up and down,
looking at nothing. He was simply in an ungovernable rage. Wenna came
and shut the door behind her, and for a second or so he stared at her
as if expecting her to burst into passionate professions of remorse.
On the contrary, there was something more than calmness in her
appearance: there was the desperation of a hunted animal that is
driven to turn upon its pursuer in the mere agony of helplessness.
"Well," said he--for indeed his passion almost deprived him of his
power of speech--"what have you to say? Perhaps nothing. It is
nothing, perhaps, to a woman to be treacherous--to tell smooth lies to
your face and to go plotting against you behind your back. You have
nothing to say? You have nothing to say?"
"I have nothing to say," she said with some little sadness in her
voice, "that would excuse me, either to you or to myself: yes, I know
that. But--but I did not intentionally deceive you."
He turned away with an angry gesture.
"Indeed, indeed I did not," she said piteously. "I had mistaken my own
feelings--the temptation was too great. Oh, Mr. Roscorla, you need not
say harsh things of me, for indeed I think worse of myself than you
"And I suppose you want forgiveness now?" he added bitterly. "But I
have had enough of that. A woman pledges you her affection, promises
to marry you, professes to have no doubts as to the future; and all
the while she is secretly encouraging the attentions of a young
jackanapes who is playing with her and making a fool of her."
Wenna Rosewarne's cheeks began to burn red: a less angry man would
have taken warning.
"Yes, playing with her and making a fool of her. And for what? To pass
an idle time and make her the by-word of her neighbors."
"It is not true, it is not true," she said indignantly; and there was
a dangerous light in her eyes. "If he were here, you would not dare to
say such things to me--no, you would not dare."
"Perhaps you expect him to call after the pretty exploit of last
night?" asked Roscorla with a sneer.
"I do not," she said. "I hope I shall never see him again. It is--it
is only misery to every one." And here she broke down, in spite of
herself. Her anger gave way to a burst of tears.
"But what madness is this?" Roscorla cried. "You wish never to meet
him again, yet you are ready at a moment's notice to run away with
him, disgracing yourself and your family. You make promises about
never seeing him: you break them the instant you get the opportunity.
You profess that your girlish fancy for a barber's block of a fellow
has been got over; and then, as soon as one's back is turned, you
reveal your hypocrisy."
"Indeed I did not mean to deceive you," she said imploringly. "I did
believe that all that was over and gone. I thought it was a foolish
"And now?" said he hotly.
"Oh, Mr. Roscorla, you ought to pity me instead of being angry with
me. I do love him: I cannot help it. You will not ask me to marry you?
See, I will undertake not to marry him--I will undertake never to see
him again--if only you will not ask me to keep my promise to you. How
can I? How can I?"
"Pity you! and these are the confessions you make!" he exclaimed.
"Why, are you not ashamed of yourself to say such things to me? And so
you would undertake not to marry him? I know what your undertakings
He had struck her hard--his very hardest indeed--but she would not
suffer herself to reply, for she believed she deserved far more
punishment than he could inflict. All that she could hope for, all
that her whole nature cried out for, was that he should not think her
treacherous. She had not intentionally deceived him. She had not
planned that effort at escape. But when, in a hurried and pathetic
fashion, she endeavored to explain all this to him, he would not
listen. He angrily told her he knew well how women could gloss over
such matters. He was no schoolboy to be hoodwinked. It was not as if
she had had no warning: her conduct before had been bad enough, when
it was possible to overlook it on the score of carelessness, but now
it was such as would disgrace any woman who knew her honor was
concerned in holding to the word she had spoken.
"And what is he?" he cried, mad with wrath and jealousy. "An ignorant
booby! a ploughboy! a lout who has neither the manners of a gentleman
nor the education of a day-laborer."
"Yes, you may well say such things of him now," said she with her eyes
flashing, "when his back is turned. You would not say so if he were
here. But he--yes, if he were here--he would tell you what he thinks
of you, for he is a gentleman, and not a coward."
Angry as he was, Mr. Roscorla was astounded. The fire in her eyes, the
flush in her cheeks, the impetuosity of her voice--were these the
patient Wenna of old? But a girl betrays herself sometimes if she
happens to have to defend her lover.
"Oh it is shameful of you to say such things!" she said. "And you know
they are not true. There is not any one I have ever seen who is so
manly and frank and unselfish as Mr. Trelyon--not any one; and if I
have seen that, if I have admired it too much, well, that is a great
misfortune, and I have to suffer for it."
"To suffer? yes," said he bitterly. "That is a pretty form of
suffering that makes you plan a runaway marriage--a marriage that
would bring into your possession the largest estates in the north of
Cornwall. A very pretty form of suffering! May I ask when the
experiment is to be repeated?"
"You may insult me as you like--I am only a woman," she said.
"Insult you?" he cried with fresh vehemence. "Is it insult to speak
the truth? Yesterday forenoon, when I saw you, you were all smiles and
smoothness. When I spoke of our marriage you made no objection. But
all the same you knew that at night--"
"I did not know--I did not know," she said. "You ought to believe me
when I tell you I knew no more about it than you did. When I met him
there at night, it was all so sudden, so unexpected, I scarcely knew
what I said; but now--but now I have time to think. Oh, Mr. Roscorla,
don't think that I do not regret it. I will do anything you ask me--I
will promise what you please--indeed, I will undertake never to see
him again as long as I live in this world; only, you won't ask me to
keep my promise to you?"
He made no reply to this offer, for a step outside the door caused him
to mutter something very like an oath between his teeth. The door was
thrown open. Mabyn marched in, a little pale, but very erect.
"Mabyn, leave us alone for a moment or two," said Wenna, turning away
so as to hide the tears on her face.
"I will not. I want to speak a word or two to Mr. Roscorla."
"Mabyn, I want you to go away just now."
Mabyn went over to her sister and took her by the hand: "Wenna, dear,
go away to your own room. You've had quite enough--you are trembling
all over. I suppose he'll make me tremble next."
"Really, I think your interference is lather extraordinary, Miss
Mabyn," said Mr. Roscorla, striving to contain his rage.
"I beg your pardon," said Mabyn meekly. "I only want to say a word or
two. Wouldn't it be better here than before the servants?" With that
she led Wenna away. In a minute or two she returned.
Mr. Roscorla would rather have been shut up in a den with a hungry
tigress. "I am quite at your service," he said with a bitter irony. "I
suppose you have some very important communication to make,
considering the way in which you--"
"Interfered? Yes, it is time that I interfered," Mabyn said, still
quite calm and a trifle pale. "Mr. Roscorla, to be frank, I don't like
you, and perhaps I am not quite fair to you. I am only a young girl,
and don't know what the world would say about your relations with
Wenna. But Wenna is my sister, and I see she is wretched; and her
wretchedness--Well, that comes of her engagement to you."
She was standing before him with her eyes cast down, apparently
determined to be very moderate in her speech. But there was a cruel
frankness in her words which hurt Mr. Roscorla a good deal more than
any tempest of passion into which she might have worked herself. "Is
that all?" said he. "You have not startled me with any revelations."
"I was going to say," continued Mabyn, "that a gentleman who has
really a regard for a girl would not insist on her keeping a promise
which only rendered her unhappy. I don't see what you are to gain by
it. I suppose you--you expect Wenna to marry you? Well, I dare say if
you called on her to punish herself that way, she might do it. But
what good would that do you? Would you like to have a wife who was in
love with another man?"
"You have become quite logical, Miss Mabyn," said he, "and argument
suits you better than getting into a rage. And much of what you say is
quite true. You _are_ a very young girl. You don't know much of what
the world would say about anything. But being furnished with these
admirable convictions, did it never occur to you that you might not be
acting wisely in blundering into an affair of which you know nothing?"
The coldly sarcastic fashion in which he spoke threatened to disturb
Mabyn's forced equanimity. "Know nothing?" she said. "I know
everything about it, and I can see that my sister is miserable: that
is sufficient reason for my interference. Mr. Roscorla, you won't ask
her to marry you?"
Had the proud and passionate Mabyn condescended to make an appeal to
her ancient enemy? At last she raised her eyes, and they seemed to
plead for mercy.
"Come, come," he said, roughly: "I've had enough of all this sham
beseeching. I know what it means. Trelyon is a richer man than I am:
she has let her idle girlish notions go dreaming day-dreams, and so I
am expected to stand aside. There has been enough of this nonsense.
She is not a child; she knows what she undertook of her own free will;
and she knows she can get rid of this school-girl fancy directly if
she chooses. I, for one, won't help her to disgrace herself."
Mabyn began to breathe a little more quickly. She had tried to be
reasonable; she had even humbled herself and begged from him; now
there was a sensation in her chest as of some rising emotion that
demanded expression in quick words. "You will try to make her marry
you?" said she, looking him in the face.
"I will try to do nothing of the sort," said he. "She can do as she
likes. But she knows what an honorable woman would do."
"And I," said Mabyn, her temper at length quite getting the better of
her, "I know what an honorable man would do. He would refuse to bind a
girl to a promise which she fears. He would consider her happiness to
be of more importance than his comfort. Why, I don't believe you care
at all whether Wenna marries you or not: it is only you can't bear her
being married to the man she really does love. It is only envy, that's
what it is. Oh, I am ashamed to think there is a man alive who would
force a girl into becoming his wife on such terms!"
"There is certainly one considerable objection to my marrying your
sister," said he with great politeness. "The manners of some of her
relatives might prove embarrassing."
"Yes, that is true enough," Mabyn said with hot cheeks. "If ever I
became a relative of yours, my manners no doubt would embarrass you
very considerably. But I am not a relative of yours as yet, nor is my
"May I consider that you have said what you had to say?" said he,
taking up his hat.
Proud and angry, and at the same time mortified by her defeat, Mabyn
found herself speechless. He did not offer to shake hands with her. He
bowed to her in passing out. She made the least possible
acknowledgment, and then she was alone. Of course a hearty cry
followed. She felt she had done no good. She had determined to be
Back to Full Books