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The diary of a man of Fifty

by Henry James

 

 

FlorenceApril 5th1874.--They told me I should find Italy greatly

changed; and in seven-and-twenty years there is room for changes.

But to me everything is so perfectly the same that I seem to be

living my youth over again; all the forgotten impressions of that

enchanting time come back to me. At the moment they were powerful

enough; but they afterwards faded away. What in the world became of

them? Whatever becomes of such thingsin the long intervals of

consciousness? Where do they hide themselves away? in what unvisited

cupboards and crannies of our being do they preserve themselves?

They are like the lines of a letter written in sympathetic ink; hold

the letter to the fire for a while and the grateful warmth brings out

the invisible words. It is the warmth of this yellow sun of Florence

that has been restoring the text of my own young romance; the thing

has been lying before me today as a clearfresh page. There have

been moments during the last ten years when I have fell so

portentously oldso fagged and finishedthat I should have taken as

a very bad joke any intimation that this present sense of juvenility

was still in store for me. It won't lastat any rate; so I had

better make the best of it. But I confess it surprises me. I have

led too serious a life; but that perhapsafter allpreserves one's

youth. At all eventsI have travelled too farI have worked too

hardI have lived in brutal climates and associated with tiresome

people. When a man has reached his fifty-second year without being

materiallythe worse for wear--when he has fair healtha fair

fortunea tidy conscience and a complete exemption from embarrassing

relatives--I suppose he is boundin delicacyto write himself

happy. But I confess I shirk this obligation. I have not been

miserable; I won't go so far as to say that--or at least as to write

it. But happiness--positive happiness--would have been something

different. I don't know that it would have been betterby all

measurements--that it would have left me better off at the present

time. But it certainly would have made this difference--that I

should not have been reducedin pursuit of pleasant imagesto

disinter a buried episode of more than a quarter of a century ago. I

should have found entertainment more--what shall I call it?--more

contemporaneous. I should have had a wife and childrenand I should

not be in the way of makingas the French sayinfidelities to the

present. Of course it's a great gain to have had an escapenot to

have committed an act of thumping folly; and I suppose thatwhatever

serious step one might have taken at twenty-fiveafter a struggle

and with a violent effortand however one's conduct might appear to

be justified by eventsthere would always remain a certain element

of regret; a certain sense of loss lurking in the sense of gain; a

tendency to wonderrather wishfullywhat MIGHT have been. What

might have beenin this casewouldwithout doubthave been very

sadand what has been has been very cheerful and comfortable; but

there are nevertheless two or three questions I might ask myself.

Whyfor instancehave I never married--why have I never been able

to care for any woman as I cared for that one? Ahwhy are the

mountains blue and why is the sunshine warm? Happiness mitigated by

impertinent conjectures--that's about my ticket.

6th.--I knew it wouldn't last; it's already passing away. But I have

spent a delightful day; I have been strolling all over the place.

Everything reminds me of something elseand yet of itself at the

same time; my imagination makes a great circuit and comes back to the

starting-point. There is that well-remembered odour of spring in the

airand the flowersas they used to beare gathered into great

sheaves and stacksall along the rugged base of the Strozzi Palace.

I wandered for an hour in the Boboli Gardens; we went there several

times together. I remember all those days individually; they seem to

me as yesterday. I found the corner where she always chose to sit--

the bench of sun-warmed marblein front of the screen of ilexwith

that exuberant statue of Pomona just beside it. The place is exactly

the sameexcept that poor Pomona has lost one of her tapering

fingers. I sat there for half an hourand it was strange how near

to me she seemed. The place was perfectly empty--that isit was

filled with HER. I closed my eyes and listened; I could almost hear

the rustle of her dress on the gravel. Why do we make such an ado

about death? What is itafter allbut a sort of refinement of

life? She died ten years agoand yetas I sat there in the sunny

stillnessshe was a palpableaudible presence. I went afterwards

into the gallery of the palaceand wandered for an hour from room to

room. The same great pictures hung in the same placesand the same

dark frescoes arched above them. Twiceof oldI went there with

her; she had a great understanding of art. She understood all sorts

of things. Before the Madonna of the Chair I stood a long time. The

face is not a particle like hersand yet it reminded me of her. But

everything does that. We stood and looked at it together once for

half an hour; I remember perfectly what she said.

8th.--Yesterday I felt blue--blue and bored; and when I got up this

morning I had half a mind to leave Florence. But I went out into the

streetbeside the Arnoand looked up and down--looked at the yellow

river and the violet hillsand then decided to remain--or ratherI

decided nothing. I simply stood gazing at the beauty of Florence

and before I had gazed my fill I was in good-humour againand it was

too late to start for Rome. I strolled along the quaywhere

something presently happened that rewarded me for staying. I stopped

in front of a little jeweller's shopwhere a great many objects in

mosaic were exposed in the window; I stood there for some minutes--I

don't know whyfor I have no taste for mosaic. In a moment a little

girl came and stood beside me--a little girl with a frowsy Italian

headcarrying a basket. I turned awaybutas I turnedmy eyes

happened to fall on her basket. It was covered with a napkinand on

the napkin was pinned a piece of paperinscribed with an address.

This address caught my glance--there was a name on it I knew. It was

very legibly written--evidently by a scribe who had made up in zeal

what was lacking in skill. Contessa Salvi-ScarabelliVia

Ghibellina--so ran the superscription; I looked at it for some

moments; it caused me a sudden emotion. Presently the little girl

becoming aware of my attentionglanced up at mewonderingwith a

pair of timid brown eyes.

"Are you carrying your basket to the Countess Salvi?" I asked.

The child stared at me. "To the Countess Scarabelli."

"Do you know the Countess?"

"Know her?" murmured the childwith an air of small dismay.

"I meanhave you seen her?"

"YesI have seen her." And thenin a momentwith a sudden soft

smile--"E bella!" said the little girl. She was beautiful herselfas

she said it.

"Precisely; and is she fair or dark?"

The child kept gazing at me. "Bionda--bionda" she answeredlooking

about into the golden sunshine for a comparison.

"And is she young?"

"She is not young--like me. But she is not old like--like--"

"Like meeh? And is she married?"

The little girl began to look wise. "I have never seen the Signor

Conte."

"And she lives in Via Ghibellina?"

"Sicuro. In a beautiful palace."

I had one more question to askand I pointed it with certain copper

coins. "Tell me a little--is she good?"

The child inspected a moment the contents of her little brown fist.

"It's you who are good" she answered.

"Ahbut the Countess?" I repeated.

My informant lowered her big brown eyeswith an air of conscientious

meditation that was inexpressibly quaint. "To me she appears so"

she said at lastlooking up.

"Ahthenshe must be so" I said"becausefor your ageyou are

very intelligent." And having delivered myself of this compliment I

walked away and left the little girl counting her soldi.

I walked back to the hotelwondering how I could learn something

about the Contessa Salvi-Scarabelli. In the doorway I found the

innkeeperand near him stood a young man whom I immediately

perceived to be a compatriotand with whomapparentlyhe had been

in conversation.

"I wonder whether you can give me a piece of information" I saidto

the landlord. "Do you know anything about the Count Salvi-

Scarabelli?"

The landlord looked down at his bootsthen slowly raised his

shoulderswith a melancholy smile. "I have many regretsdear sir--

"

"You don't know the name?"

"I know the nameassuredly. But I don't know the gentleman."

I saw that my question had attracted the attention of the young

Englishmanwho looked at me with a good deal of earnestness. He was

apparently satisfied with what he sawfor he presently decided to

speak.

"The Count Scarabelli is dead" he saidvery gravely.

I looked at him a moment; he was a pleasing young fellow. "And his

widow lives" I observed"in Via Ghibellina?"

"I daresay that is the name of the street." He was a handsome young

Englishmanbut he was also an awkward one; he wondered who I was and

what I wantedand he did me the honour to perceive thatas regards

these pointsmy appearance was reassuring. But he hesitatedvery

properlyto talk with a perfect stranger about a lady whom he knew

and he had not the art to conceal his hesitation. I instantly felt

it to be singular that though he regarded me as a perfect strangerI

had not the same feeling about him. Whether it was that I had seen

him beforeor simply that I was struck with his agreeable young

face--at any rateI felt myselfas they say herein sympathy with

him. If I have seen him before I don't remember the occasionand

neitherapparentlydoes he; I suppose it's only a part of the

feeling I have had the last three days about everything. It was this

feeling that made me suddenly act as if I had known him a long time.

"Do you know the Countess Salvi?" I asked.

He looked at me a littleand thenwithout resenting the freedom of

my question--"The Countess Scarabelliyou mean" he said.

"Yes" I answered; "she's the daughter."

"The daughter is a little girl."

"She must be grown up now. She must be--let me see--close upon

thirty."

My young Englishman began to smile. "Of whom are you speaking?"

"I was speaking of the daughter" I saidunderstanding his smile.

"But I was thinking of the mother."

"Of the mother?"

"Of a person I knew twenty-seven years ago--the most charming woman I

have ever known. She was the Countess Salvi--she lived in a

wonderful old house in Via Ghibellina."

"A wonderful old house!" my young Englishman repeated.

"She had a little girl" I went on; "and the little girl wasvery

fairlike her mother; and the mother and daughter had the same name-

-Bianca." I stopped and looked at my companionand he blushed a

little. "And Bianca Salvi" I continued"was the mostcharming

woman in the world." He blushed a little moreand I laid my hand on

his shoulder. "Do you know why I tell you this? Because you remind

me of what I was when I knew her--when I loved her." My poor young

Englishman gazed at me with a sort of embarrassed and fascinated

stareand still I went on. "I say that's the reason I told you

this--but you'll think it a strange reason. You remind me of my

younger self. You needn't resent that--I was a charming young

fellow. The Countess Salvi thought so. Her daughter thinks the same

of you."

Instantlyinstinctivelyhe raised his hand to my arm. "Truly?"

"Ahyou are wonderfully like me!" I saidlaughing. "That wasjust

my state of mind. I wanted tremendously to please her." He dropped

his hand and looked awaysmilingbut with an air of ingenuous

confusion which quickened my interest in him. "You don't know what

to make of me" I pursued. "You don't know why a stranger should

suddenly address you in this way and pretend to read your thoughts.

Doubtless you think me a little cracked. Perhaps I am eccentric; but

it's not so bad as that. I have lived about the world a great deal

following my professionwhich is that of a soldier. I have been in

Indiain Africain Canadaand I have lived a good deal alone.

That inclines peopleI thinkto sudden bursts of confidence. A

week ago I came into Italywhere I spent six months when I was your

age. I came straight to Florence--I was eager to see it againon

account of associations. They have been crowding upon me ever so

thickly. I have taken the liberty of giving you a hint of them."

The young man inclined himself a littlein silenceas if he had

been struck with a sudden respect. He stood and looked away for a

moment at the river and the mountains. "It's very beautiful" I

said.

"Ohit's enchanting" he murmured.

"That's the way I used to talk. But that's nothing to you."

He glanced at me again. "On the contraryI like to hear."

"Wellthenlet us take a walk. If you too are staying at this inn

we are fellow-travellers. We will walk down the Arno to the Cascine.

There are several things I should like to ask of you."

My young Englishman assented with an air of almost filial confidence

and we strolled for an hour beside the river and through the shady

alleys of that lovely wilderness. We had a great deal of talk: it's

not only myselfit's my whole situation over again.

"Are you very fond of Italy?" I asked.

He hesitated a moment. "One can't express that."

"Just so; I couldn't express it. I used to try--I used to write

verses. On the subject of Italy I was very ridiculous."

"So am I ridiculous" said my companion.

"Nomy dear boy" I answered"we are not ridiculous; we aretwo

very reasonablesuperior people."

"The first time one comes--as I have done--it's a revelation."

"OhI remember well; one never forgets it. It's an introduction to

beauty."

"And it must be a great pleasure" said my young friend"tocome

back."

"Yesfortunately the beauty is always here. What form of it" I

asked"do you prefer?"

My companion looked a little mystified; and at last he said"I am

very fond of the pictures."

"So was I. And among the pictureswhich do you like best?"

"Oha great many."

"So did I; but I had certain favourites."

Again the young man hesitated a littleand then he confessed that

the group of painters he preferredon the wholeto all otherswas

that of the early Florentines.

I was so struck with this that I stopped short. "That was exactly my

taste!" And then I passed my hand into his arm and we went our way

again.

We sat down on an old stone bench in the Cascineand a solemn blank-

eyed Hermeswith wrinkles accentuated by the dust of agesstood

above us and listened to our talk.

"The Countess Salvi died ten years ago" I said.

My companion admitted that he had heard her daughter say so.

"After I knew her she married again" I added. "The CountSalvi died

before I knew her--a couple of years after their marriage."

"YesI have heard that."

"And what else have you heard?"

My companion stared at me; he had evidently heard nothing.

"She was a very interesting woman--there are a great many things to

be said about her. LaterperhapsI will tell you. Has the

daughter the same charm?"

"You forget" said my young mansmiling"that I have neverseen the

mother."

"Very true. I keep confounding. But the daughter--how long have you

known her?"

"Only since I have been here. A very short time."

"A week?"

For a moment he said nothing. "A month."

"That's just the answer I should have made. A weeka month--it was

all the same to me."

"I think it is more than a month" said the young man.

"It's probably six. How did you make her acquaintance?"

"By a letter--an introduction given me by a friend in England."

"The analogy is complete" I said. "But the friend who gave memy

letter to Madame de Salvi died many years ago. Hetooadmired her

greatly. I don't know why it never came into my mind that her

daughter might be living in Florence. Somehow I took for granted it

was all over. I never thought of the little girl; I never heard what

had become of her. I walked past the palace yesterday and saw that

it was occupied; but I took for granted it had changed hands."

"The Countess Scarabelli" said my friend"brought it to herhusband

as her marriage-portion."

"I hope he appreciated it! There is a fountain in the courtand

there is a charming old garden beyond it. The Countess's sitting-

room looks into that garden. The staircase is of white marbleand

there is a medallion by Luca della Robbia set into the wall at the

place where it makes a bend. Before you come into the drawing-room

you stand a moment in a great vaulted place hung round with faded

tapestrypaved with bare tilesand furnished only with three

chairs. In the drawing-roomabove the fireplaceis a superb Andrea

del Sarto. The furniture is covered with pale sea-green."

My companion listened to all this.

"The Andrea del Sarto is there; it's magnificent. But the furniture

is in pale red."

"Ahthey have changed itthen--in twenty-seven years."

"And there's a portrait of Madame de Salvi" continued my friend.

I was silent a moment. "I should like to see that."

He too was silent. Then he asked"Why don't you go and see it? If

you knew the mother so wellwhy don't you call upon the daughter?"

"From what you tell me I am afraid."

"What have I told you to make you afraid?"

I looked a little at his ingenuous countenance. "The mother was a

very dangerous woman."

The young Englishman began to blush again. "The daughter is not"he

said.

"Are you very sure?"

He didn't say he was surebut he presently inquired in what way the

Countess Salvi had been dangerous.

"You must not ask me that" I answered "for after allIdesire to

remember only what was good in her." And as we walked back I begged

him to render me the service of mentioning my name to his friendand

of saying that I had known her mother welland that I asked

permission to come and see her.

9th.--I have seen that poor boy half a dozen times againand a most

amiable young fellow he is. He continues to represent to mein the

most extraordinary mannermy own young identity; the correspondence

is perfect at all pointssave that he is a better boy than I. He is

evidently acutely interested in his Countessand leads quite the

same life with her that I led with Madame de Salvi. He goes to see

her every evening and stays half the night; these Florentines keep

the most extraordinary hours. I remembertowards 3 A.M.Madame de

Salvi used to turn me out.--"Comecome" she would say"it'stime

to go. If you were to stay later people might talk." I don't know

at what time he comes homebut I suppose his evening seems as short

as mine did. Today he brought me a message from his Contessa--a very

gracious little speech. She remembered often to have heard her

mother speak of me--she called me her English friend. All her

mother's friends were dear to herand she begged I would do her the

honour to come and see her. She is always at home of an evening.

Poor young Stanmer (he is of the Devonshire Stanmers--a great

property) reported this speech verbatimand of course it can't in

the least signify to him that a poor grizzledbattered soldierold

enough to be his fathershould come to call upon his inammorata.

But I remember how it used to matter to me when other men came;

that's a point of difference. Howeverit's only because I'm so old.

At twenty-five I shouldn't have been afraid of myself at fifty-two.

Camerino was thirty-four--and then the others! She was always at

home in the eveningand they all used to come. They were old

Florentine names. But she used to let me stay after them all; she

thought an old English name as good. What a transcendent coquette! .

. . But basta cosi as she used to say. I meant to go tonight to Casa

Salvibut I couldn't bring myself to the point. I don't know what

I'm afraid of; I used to be in a hurry enough to go there once. I

suppose I am afraid of the very look of the place--of the old rooms

the old walls. I shall go tomorrow night. I am afraid of the very

echoes.

10th.--She has the most extraordinary resemblance to her mother.

When I went in I was tremendously startled; I stood starting at her.

I have just come home; it is past midnight; I have been all the

evening at Casa Salvi. It is very warm--my window is open--I can

look out on the river gliding past in the starlight. Soof old

when I came homeI used to stand and look out. There are the same

cypresses on the opposite hills.

Poor young Stanmer was thereand three or four other admirers; they

all got up when I came in. I think I had been talked aboutand

there was some curiosity. But why should I have been talked about?

They were all youngish men--none of them of my time. She is a

wonderful likeness of her mother; I couldn't get over it. Beautiful

like her motherand yet with the same faults in her face; but with

her mother's perfect head and brow and sympatheticalmost pitying

eyes. Her face has just that peculiarity of her mother'swhichof

all human countenances that I have ever knownwas the one that

passed most quickly and completely from the expression of gaiety to

that of repose. Repose in her face always suggested sadness; and

while you were watching it with a kind of aweand wondering of what

tragic secret it was the tokenit kindledon the instantinto a

radiant Italian smile. The Countess Scarabelli's smiles tonight

howeverwere almost uninterrupted. She greeted me--divinelyas her

mother used to do; and young Stanmer sat in the corner of the sofa--

as I used to do--and watched her while she talked. She is thin and

very fairand was dressed in lightvaporous black that completes

the resemblance. The housethe roomsare almost absolutely the

same; there may be changes of detailbut they don't modify the

general effect. There are the same precious pictures on the walls of

the salon--the same great dusky fresco in the concave ceiling. The

daughter is not richI supposeany more than the mother. The

furniture is worn and fadedand I was admitted by a solitary

servantwho carried a twinkling taper before me up the great dark

marble staircase.

"I have often heard of you" said the Countessas I sat down near

her; "my mother often spoke of you."

"Often?" I answered. "I am surprised at that."

"Why are you surprised? Were you not good friends?"

"Yesfor a certain time--very good friends. But I was sure she had

forgotten me."

"She never forgot" said the Countesslooking at me intently and

smiling. "She was not like that."

"She was not like most other women in any way" I declared.

"Ahshe was charming" cried the Countessrattling open her fan.

"I have always been very curious to see you. I have received an

impression of you."

"A good oneI hope."

She looked at melaughingand not answering this: it was just her

mother's trick.

"'My Englishman' she used to call you--'il mio Inglese.'"

"I hope she spoke of me kindly" I insisted.

The Countessstill laughinggave a little shrug balancing her hand

to and fro. "So-so; I always supposed you had had a quarrel. You

don't mind my being frank like this--eh?"

"I delight in it; it reminds me of your mother."

"Every one tells me that. But I am not clever like her. You will

see for yourself."

"That speech" I said"completes the resemblance. She wasalways

pretending she was not cleverand in reality--"

"In reality she was an angeleh? To escape from dangerous

comparisons I will admitthenthat I am clever. That will make a

difference. But let us talk of you. You are very--how shall I say

it?--very eccentric."

"Is that what your mother told you?"

"To tell the truthshe spoke of you as a great original. But aren't

all Englishmen eccentric? All except that one!" and the Countess

pointed to poor Stanmerin his corner of the sofa.

"OhI know just what he is" I said.

"He's as quiet as a lamb--he's like all the world" cried the

Countess.

"Like all the world--yes. He is in love with you."

She looked at me with sudden gravity. "I don't object to your saying

that for all the world--but I do for him."

"Well" I went on"he is peculiar in this: he is ratherafraid of

you."

Instantly she began to smile; she turned her face toward Stanmer. He

had seen that we were talking about him; he coloured and got up--then

came toward us.

"I like men who are afraid of nothing" said our hostess.

"I know what you want" I said to Stanmer. "You want to knowwhat

the Signora Contessa says about you."

Stanmer looked straight into her facevery gravely. "I don't care a

straw what she says."

"You are almost a match for the Signora Contessa" I answered."She

declares she doesn't care a pin's head what you think."

"I recognise the Countess's style!" Stanmer exclaimedturningaway.

"One would think" said the Countess"that you were trying tomake a

quarrel between us."

I watched him move away to another part of the great saloon; he stood

in front of the Andrea del Sartolooking up at it. But he was not

seeing it; he was listening to what we might say. I often stood

there in just that way. "He can't quarrel with youany more than I

could have quarrelled with your mother."

"Ahbut you did. Something painful passed between you."

"Yesit was painfulbut it was not a quarrel. I went away one day

and never saw her again. That was all."

The Countess looked at me gravely. "What do you call it when a man

does that?"

"It depends upon the case."

"Sometimes" said the Countess in French"it's alachete."

"Yesand sometimes it's an act of wisdom."

"And sometimes" rejoined the Countess"it's a mistake."

I shook my head. "For me it was no mistake."

She began to laugh again. "Caro Signoreyou're a great original.

What had my poor mother done to you?"

I looked at our young Englishmanwho still had his back turned to us

and was staring up at the picture. "I will tell you some other

time" I said.

"I shall certainly remind you; I am very curious to know." Then she

opened and shut her fan two or three timesstill looking at me.

What eyes they have! "Tell me a little" she went on"if Imay ask

without indiscretion. Are you married?"

"NoSignora Contessa."

"Isn't that at least a mistake?"

"Do I look very unhappy?"

She dropped her head a little to one side. "For an Englishman--no!"

"Ah" said Ilaughing"you are quite as clever as yourmother."

"And they tell me that you are a great soldier" she continued;"you

have lived in India. It was very kind of youso far awayto have

remembered our poor dear Italy."

"One always remembers Italy; the distance makes no difference. I

remembered it well the day I heard of your mother's death!"

"Ahthat was a sorrow!" said the Countess. "There's not a daythat

I don't weep for her. But che vuole? She's a saint its paradise."

"Sicuro" I answered; and I looked some time at the ground."But

tell me about yourselfdear lady" I asked at lastraising my eyes.

"You have also had the sorrow of losing your husband."

"I am a poor widowas you see. Che vuole? My husband died after

three years of marriage."

I waited for her to remark that the late Count Scarabelli was also a

saint in paradisebut I waited in vain.

"That was like your distinguished father" I said.

"Yeshe too died young. I can't be said to have known him; I was

but of the age of my own little girl. But I weep for him all the

more."

Again I was silent for a moment.

"It was in India too" I said presently"that I heard of your

mother's second marriage."

The Countess raised her eyebrows.

"In Indiathenone hears of everything! Did that news pleaseyou?"

"Wellsince you ask me--no."

"I understand that" said the Countesslooking at her open fan."I

shall not marry again like that."

"That's what your mother said to me" I ventured to observe.

She was not offendedbut she rose from her seat and stood looking at

me a moment. Then--"You should not have gone away!" she exclaimed.

I stayed for another hour; it is a very pleasant house.

Two or three of the men who were sitting there seemed very civil and

intelligent; one of them was a major of engineerswho offered me a

profusion of information upon the new organisation of the Italian

army. While he talkedhoweverI was observing our hostesswho was

talking with the others; very littleI noticedwith her young

Inglese. She is altogether charming--full of frankness and freedom

of that inimitable disinvoltura which in an Englishwoman would be

vulgarand which in her is simply the perfection of apparent

spontaneity. But for all her spontaneity she's as subtle as a

needle-pointand knows tremendously well what she is about. If she

is not a consummate coquette . . . What had she in her head when she

said that I should not have gone away?--Poor little Stanmer didn't go

away. I left him there at midnight.

12th.--I found him today sitting in the church of Santa Croceinto

which I wandered to escape from the heat of the sun.

In the nave it was cool and dim; he was staring at the blaze of

candles on the great altarand thinkingI am sureof his

incomparable Countess. I sat down beside himand after a whileas

if to avoid the appearance of eagernesshe asked me how I had

enjoyed my visit to Casa Salviand what I thought of the padrona.

"I think half a dozen things" I said"but I can only tellyou one

now. She's an enchantress. You shall hear the rest when we have

left the church."

"An enchantress?" repeated Stanmerlooking at me askance.

He is a very simple youthbut who am I to blame him?

"A charmer" I said "a fascinatress!"

He turned awaystaring at the altar candles.

"An artist--an actress" I went onrather brutally.

He gave me another glance.

"I think you are telling me all" he said.

"Nonothere is more." And we sat a long time in silence.

At last he proposed that we should go out; and we passed in the

streetwhere the shadows had begun to stretch themselves.

"I don't know what you mean by her being an actress" he saidaswe

turned homeward.

"I suppose not. Neither should I have knownif any one had said

that to me."

"You are thinking about the mother" said Stanmer. "Why areyou

always bringing HER in?"

"My dear boythe analogy is so great it forces itself upon me."

He stopped and stood looking at me with his modestperplexed young

face. I thought he was going to exclaim--"The analogy be hanged!"--

but he said after a moment -

"Wellwhat does it prove?"

"I can't say it proves anything; but it suggests a great many

things."

"Be so good as to mention a few" he saidas we walked on.

"You are not sure of her yourself" I began.

"Never mind that--go on with your analogy."

"That's a part of it. You ARE very much in love with her."

"That's a part of it tooI suppose?"

"Yesas I have told you before. You are in love with herand yet

you can't make her out; that's just where I was with regard to Madame

de Salvi."

"And she too was an enchantressan actressan artistand all the

rest of it?"

"She was the most perfect coquette I ever knewand the most

dangerousbecause the most finished."

"What you meanthenis that her daughter is a finished coquette?"

"I rather think so."

Stanmer walked along for some moments in silence.

"Seeing that you suppose me to be a--a great admirer of the

Countess" he said at last"I am rather surprised at the freedom

with which you speak of her."

I confessed that I was surprised at it myself. "But it's on account

of the interest I take in you."

"I am immensely obliged to you!" said the poor boy.

"Ahof course you don't like it. That isyou like my interest--I

don't see how you can help liking that; but you don't like my

freedom. That's natural enough; butmy dear young friendI want

only to help you. If a man had said to me--so many years ago--what I

am saying to youI should certainly alsoat firsthave thought him

a great brute. But after a littleI should have been grateful--I

should have felt that he was helping me."

"You seem to have been very well able to help yourself" said

Stanmer. "You tell me you made your escape."

"Yesbut it was at the cost of infinite perplexity--of what I may

call keen suffering. I should like to save you all that."

"I can only repeat--it is really very kind of you."

"Don't repeat it too oftenor I shall begin to think you don't mean

it."

"Well" said Stanmer"I think thisat any rate--that youtake an

extraordinary responsibility in trying to put a man out of conceit of

a woman whoas he believesmay make him very happy."

I grasped his armand we stoppedgoing on with our talk like a

couple of Florentines.

"Do you wish to marry her?"

He looked awaywithout meeting my eyes. "It's a great

responsibility" he repeated.

"Before Heaven" I said"I would have married the mother! Youare

exactly in my situation."

"Don't you think you rather overdo the analogy?" asked poorStanmer.

"A little morea little less--it doesn't matter. I believe you are

in my shoes. But of course if you prefer itI will beg a thousand

pardons and leave them to carry you where they will."

He had been looking awaybut now he slowly turned his face and met

my eyes. "You have gone too far to retreat; what is it you know

about her?"

"About this one--nothing. But about the other--"

"I care nothing about the other!"

"My dear fellow" I said"they are mother and daughter--theyare as

like as two of Andrea's Madonnas."

"If they resemble each otherthenyou were simply mistaken in the

mother."

I took his arm and we walked on again; there seemed no adequate reply

to such a charge. "Your state of mind brings back my own so

completely" I said presently. "You admire her--you adore herand

yetsecretlyyou mistrust her. You are enchanted with her personal

charmher graceher wither everything; and yet in your private

heart you are afraid of her."

"Afraid of her?"

"Your mistrust keeps rising to the surface; you can't rid yourself of

the suspicion that at the bottom of all things she is hard and cruel

and you would be immensely relieved if some one should persuade you

that your suspicion is right."

Stanmer made no direct reply to this; but before we reached the hotel

he said--"What did you ever know about the mother?"

"It's a terrible story" I answered.

He looked at me askance. "What did she do?"

"Come to my rooms this evening and I will tell you."

He declared he wouldbut he never came. Exactly the way I should

have acted!

14th.--I went againlast eveningto Casa Salviwhere I found the

same little circlewith the addition of a couple of ladies. Stanmer

was theretrying hard to talk to one of thembut makingI am sure

a very poor business of it. The Countess--wellthe Countess was

admirable. She greeted me like a friend of ten yearstoward whom

familiarity should not have engendered a want of ceremony; she made

me sit near herand she asked me a dozen questions about my health

and my occupations.

"I live in the past" I said. "I go into the galleriesintothe old

palaces and the churches. Today I spent an hour in Michael Angelo's

chapel at San Loreozo."

"Ah yesthat's the past" said the Countess. "Those thingsare very

old."

"Twenty-seven years old" I answered.

"Twenty-seven? Altro!"

"I mean my own past" I said. "I went to a great many of those

places with your mother."

"Ahthe pictures are beautiful" murmured the Countessglancingat

Stanmer.

"Have you lately looked at any of them?" I asked. "Have yougone to

the galleries with HIM?"

She hesitated a momentsmiling. "It seems to me that your question

is a little impertinent. But I think you are like that."

"A little impertinent? Never. As I sayyour mother did me the

honourmore than onceto accompany me to the Uffizzi."

"My mother must have been very kind to you."

"So it seemed to me at the time."

"At the time only?"

"Wellif you preferso it seems to me now."

"Eh" said the Countess"she made sacrifices."

"To whatcara Signora? She was perfectly free. Your lamented

father was dead--and she had not yet contracted her second marriage."

"If she was intending to marry againit was all the more reason she

should have been careful."

I looked at her a moment; she met my eyes gravelyover the top of

her fan. "Are YOU very careful?" I said.

She dropped her fan with a certain violence. "Ahyesyou are

impertinent!"

"Ah no" I said. "Remember that I am old enough to be yourfather;

that I knew you when you were three years old. I may surely ask such

questions. But you are right; one must do your mother justice. She

was certainly thinking of her second marriage."

"You have not forgiven her that!" said the Countessvery gravely.

"Have you?" I askedmore lightly.

"I don't judge my mother. That is a mortal sin. My stepfather was

very kind to me."

"I remember him" I said; "I saw him a great many times--yourmother

already received him."

My hostess sat with lowered eyessaying nothing; but she presently

looked up.

"She was very unhappy with my father."

"That I can easily believe. And your stepfather--is he still

living?"

"He died--before my mother."

"Did he fight any more duels?"

"He was killed in a duel" said the Countessdiscreetly.

It seems almost monstrousespecially as I can give no reason for it-

-but this announcementinstead of shocking mecaused me to feel a

strange exhilaration. Most assuredlyafter all these yearsI bear

the poor man no resentment. Of course I controlled my mannerand

simply remarked to the Countess that as his fault had been so was his

punishment. I thinkhoweverthat the feeling of which I speak was

at the bottom of my saying to her that I hoped thatunlike her

mother'sher own brief married life had been happy.

"If it was not" she said"I have forgotten it now."--Iwonder if

the late Count Scarabelli was also killed in a dueland if his

adversary . . . Is it on the books that his adversaryas wellshall

perish by the pistol? Which of those gentlemen is heI wonder? Is

it reserved for poor little Stanmer to put a bullet into him? No;

poor little StanmerI trustwill do as I did. And yet

unfortunately for himthat woman is consummately plausible. She was

wonderfully nice last evening; she was really irresistible. Such

frankness and freedomand yet something so soft and womanly; such

graceful gaietyso much of the brightnesswithout any of the

stiffnessof good breedingand over it all something so

picturesquely simple and southern. She is a perfect Italian. But

she comes honestly by it. After the talk I have just jotted down she

changed her placeand the conversation for half an hour was general.

Stanmer indeed said very little; partlyI supposebecause he is shy

of talking a foreign tongue. Was I like that--was I so constantly

silent? I suspect I was when I was perplexedand Heaven knows that

very often my perplexity was extreme. Before I went away I had a few

more words tete-a-tete with the Countess.

"I hope you are not leaving Florence yet" she said; "you willstay a

while longer?"

I answered that I came only for a weekand that my week was over.

"I stay on from day to dayI am so much interested."

"Ehit's the beautiful moment. I'm glad our city pleases you!"

"Florence pleases me--and I take a paternal interest to our young

friend" I addedglancing at Stanmer. "I have become very fond of

him."

"Bel tipo inglese" said my hostess. "And he is veryintelligent; he

has a beautiful mind."

She stood there resting her smile and her clearexpressive eyes upon

me.

"I don't like to praise him too much" I rejoined"lest Ishould

appear to praise myself; he reminds me so much of what I was at his

age. If your beautiful mother were to come to life for an hour she

would see the resemblance."

She gave me a little amused stare.

"And yet you don't look at all like him!"

"Ahyou didn't know me when I was twenty-five. I was very handsome!

Andmoreoverit isn't thatit's the mental resemblance. I was

ingenuouscandidtrustinglike him."

"Trusting? I remember my mother once telling me that you were the

most suspicious and jealous of men!"

"I fell into a suspicious moodbut I wasfundamentallynot in the

least addicted to thinking evil. I couldn't easily imagine any harm

of any one."

"And so you mean that Mr. Stanmer is in a suspicions mood?"

"WellI mean that his situation is the same as mine."

The Countess gave me one of her serious looks. "Come" she said

"what was it--this famous situation of yours? I have heard you

mention it before."

"Your mother might have told yousince she occasionally did me the

honour to speak of me."

"All my mother ever told me was that you were--a sad puzzle toher."

At thisof courseI laughed out--I laugh still as I write it.

"Wellthenthat was my situation--I was a sad puzzle to a very

clever woman."

"And you meanthereforethat I am a puzzle to poor Mr. Stanmer?"

"He is racking his brains to make you out. Remember it was you who

said he was intelligent."

She looked round at himand as fortune would have ithis appearance

at that moment quite confirmed my assertion. He was lounging back in

his chair with an air of indolence rather too marked for a drawing-

roomand staring at the ceiling with the expression of a man who has

just been asked a conundrum. Madame Scarabelli seemed struck with

his attitude.

"Don't you see" I said"he can't read the riddle?"

"You yourself" she answered"said he was incapable ofthinking

evil. I should be sorry to have him think any evil of ME."

And she looked straight at me--seriouslyappealingly--with her

beautiful candid brow.

I inclined myselfsmilingin a manner which might have meant--"How

could that be possible?"

"I have a great esteem for him" she went on; "I want him tothink

well of me. If I am a puzzle to himdo me a little service.

Explain me to him."

"Explain youdear lady?"

"You are older and wiser than he. Make him understand me."

She looked deep into my eyes for a momentand then she turned away.

26th.--I have written nothing for a good many daysbut meanwhile I

have been half a dozen times to Casa Salvi. I have seen a good deal

also of my young friend--had a good many walks and talks with him. I

have proposed to him to come with me to Venice for a fortnightbut

he won't listen to the idea of leaving Florence. He is very happy in

spite of his doubtsand I confess that in the perception of his

happiness I have lived over again my own. This is so much the case

that whenthe other dayhe at last made up his mind to ask me to

tell him the wrong that Madame de Salvi had done meI rather checked

his curiosity. I told him that if he was bent upon knowing I would

satisfy himbut that it seemed a pityjust nowto indulge in

painful imagery.

"But I thought you wanted so much to put me out of conceit of our

friend."

"I admit I am inconsistentbut there are various reasons for it. In

the first place--it's obvious--I am open to the charge of playing a

double game. I profess an admiration for the Countess Scarabelli

for I accept her hospitalityand at the same time I attempt to

poison your mind; isn't that the proper expression? I can't exactly

make up my mind to thatthough my admiration for the Countess and my

desire to prevent you from taking a foolish step are equally sincere.

And thenin the second placeyou seem to meon the wholeso

happy! One hesitates to destroy an illusionno matter how

perniciousthat is so delightful while it lasts. These are the rare

moments of life. To be young and ardentin the midst of an Italian

springand to believe in the moral perfection of a beautiful woman--

what an admirable situation! Float with the current; I'll stand on

the brink and watch you."

"Your real reason is that you feel you have no case against the poor

lady" said Stanmer. "You admire her as much as I do."

"I just admitted that I admired her. I never said she was a vulgar

flirt; her mother was an absolutely scientific one. Heaven knows I

admired that! It's a nice pointhoweverhow much one is hound in

honour not to warn a young friend against a dangerous woman because

one also has relations of civility with the lady."

"In such a case" said Stanmer"I would break off myrelations."

I looked at himand I think I laughed.

"Are you jealous of meby chance?"

He shook his head emphatically.

"Not in the least; I like to see you therebecause your conduct

contradicts your words."

"I have always said that the Countess is fascinating."

"Otherwise" said Stanmer"in the case you speak of I wouldgive the

lady notice."

"Give her notice?"

"Mention to her that you regard her with suspicionand that you

propose to do your best to rescue a simple-minded youth from her

wiles. That would be more loyal." And he began to laugh again.

It is not the first time he has laughed at me; but I have never

minded itbecause I have always understood it.

"Is that what you recommend me to say to the Countess?" I asked.

"Recommend you!" he exclaimedlaughing again; "I recommendnothing.

I may be the victim to be rescuedbut I am at least not a partner to

the conspiracy. Besides" he added in a moment"the Countess knows

your state of mind."

"Has she told you so?"

Stanmer hesitated.

"She has begged me to listen to everything you may say against her.

She declares that she has a good conscience."

"Ah" said I"she's an accomplished woman!"

And it is indeed very clever of her to take that tone. Stanmer

afterwards assured me explicitly that he has never given her a hint

of the liberties I have taken in conversation with--what shall I call

it?--with her moral nature; she has guessed them for herself. She

must hate me intenselyand yet her manner has always been so

charming to me! She is truly an accomplished woman!

May 4th.--I have stayed away from Casa Salvi for a weekbut I have

lingered on in Florenceunder a mixture of impulses. I have had it

on my conscience not to go near the Countess again--and yet from the

moment she is aware of the way I feel about herit is open war.

There need be no scruples on either side. She is as free to use

every possible art to entangle poor Stanmer more closely as I am to

clip her fine-spun meshes. Under the circumstanceshoweverwe

naturally shouldn't meet very cordially. But as regards her meshes

whyafter allshould I clip them? It would really be very

interesting to see Stanmer swallowed up. I should like to see how he

would agree with her after she had devoured him--(to what vulgar

imageryby the waydoes curiosity reduce a man!) Let him finish

the story in his own wayas I finished it in mine. It is the same

story; but whya quarter of a century latershould it have the same

denoument? Let him make his own denoument.

5th.--Hang ithoweverI don't want the poor boy to be miserable.

6th.--Ahbut did my denoument then prove such a happy one?

7th.--He came to my room late last night; he was much excited.

"What was it she did to you?" he asked.

I answered him first with another question. "Have you quarrelled

with the Countess?"

But he only repeated his own. "What was it she did to you?"

"Sit down and I'll tell you." And he sat there beside she candle

staring at me. "There was a man always there--Count Camerino."

"The man she married?"

"The man she married. I was very much in love with herand yet I

didn't trust her. I was sure that she lied; I believed that she

could be cruel. Neverthelessat momentsshe had a charm which made

it pure pedantry to be conscious of her faults; and while these

moments lasted I would have done anything for her. Unfortunately

they didn't last long. But you know what I mean; am I not describing

the Scarabelli?"

"The Countess Scarabelli never lied!" cried Stanmer.

"That's just what I would have said to any one who should have made

the insinutation! But I suppose you are not asking me the question

you put to me just now from dispassionate curiosity."

"A man may want to know!" said the innocent fellow.

I couldn't help laughing out. "Thisat any rateis my story.

Camerino was always there; he was a sort of fixture in the house. If

I had moments of dislike for the divine BiancaI had no moments of

liking for him. And yet he was a very agreeable fellowvery civil

very intelligentnot in the least disposed to make a quarrel with

me. The troubleof coursewas simply that I was jealous of him. I

don't knowhoweveron what ground I could have quarrelled with him

for I had no definite rights. I can't say what I expected--I can't

say whatas the matter stoodI was prepared to do. With my name

and my prospectsI might perfectly have offered her my hand. I am

not sure that she would have accepted it--I am by no means clear that

she wanted that. But she wantedwanted keenlyto attach me to her;

she wanted to have me about. I should have been capable of giving up

everything--Englandmy careermy family--simply to devote myself to

herto live near her and see her every day."

"Why didn't you do itthen?" asked Stanmer.

"Why don't you?"

"To be a proper rejoinder to my question" he saidrather neatly

"yours should be asked twenty-five years hence."

"It remains perfectly true that at a given moment I was capable of

doing as I say. That was what she wanted--a richsusceptible

credulousconvenient young Englishman established near her en

permanence. And yet" I added"I must do her complete justice. I

honestly believe she was fond of me." At this Stanmer got up and

walked to the window; he stood looking out a momentand then he

turned round. "You know she was older than I" I went on."Madame

Scarabelli is older than you. One day in the gardenher mother

asked me in an angry tone why I disliked Camerino; for I had been at

no pains to conceal my feeling about himand something had just

happened to bring it out. 'I dislike him' I said'because you like

him so much.' 'I assure you I don't like him' she answered. 'He

has all the appearance of being your lover' I retorted. It was a

brutal speechcertainlybut any other man in my place would have

made it. She took it very strangely; she turned palebut she was

not indignant. 'How can he be my lover after what he has done?' she

asked. 'What has he done?' She hesitated a good whilethen she

said: 'He killed my husband.' 'Good heavens!' I cried'and you

receive him!' Do you know what she said? She said'Che voule?'"

"Is that all?" asked Stanmer.

"No; she went on to say that Camerino had killed Count Salvi in a

dueland she admitted that her husband's jealousy had been the

occasion of it. The Countit appearedwas a monster of jealousy--

he had led her a dreadful life. He himselfmeanwhilehad been

anything but irreproachable; he had done a mortal injury to a man of

whom he pretended to be a friendand this affair had become

notorious. The gentleman in question had demanded satisfaction for

his outraged honour; but for some reason or other (the Countessto

do her justicedid not tell me that her husband was a coward)he

had not as yet obtained it. The duel with Camerino had come on

first; in an access of jealous fury the Count had struck Camerino in

the face; and this outrageI know not how justlywas deemed

expiable before the other. By an extraordinary arrangement (the

Italians have certainly no sense of fair play) the other man was

allowed to be Camerino's second. The duel was fought with swords

and the Count received a wound of whichthough at first it was not

expected to be fatalhe died on the following day. The matter was

hushed up as much as possible for the sake of the Countess's good

nameand so successfully that it was presently observed thatamong

the publicthe other gentleman had the credit of having put his

blade through M. de Salvi. This gentleman took a fancy not to

contradict the impressionand it was allowed to subsist. So long as

he consentedit was of course in Camerino's interest not to

contradict itas it left him much more free to keep up his intimacy

with the Countess."

Stanmer had listened to all this with extreme attention. "Why didn't

SHE contradict it?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "I am bound to believe it was for the same

reason. I was horrifiedat any rateby the whole story. I was

extremely shocked at the Countess's want of dignity in continuing to

see the man by whose hand her husband had fallen."

"The husband had been a great bruteand it was not known" said

Stanmer.

"Its not being known made no difference. And as for Salvi having

been a brutethat is but a way of saying that his wifeand the man

whom his wife subsequently marrieddidn't like him."

Stanmer hooked extremely meditative; his eyes were fixed on mine.

"Yesthat marriage is hard to get over. It was not becoming."

"Ah" said I"what a long breath I drew when I heard of it! I

remember the place and the hour. It was at a hill-station in India

seven years after I had left Florence. The post brought me some

English papersand in one of them was a letter from Italywith a

lot of so-called 'fashionable intelligence.' Thereamong various

scandals in high lifeand other delectable itemsI read that the

Countess Bianca Salvifamous for some years as the presiding genius

of the most agreeable seen in Florencewas about to bestow her hand

upon Count Camerinoa distinguished Bolognese. Ahmy dear boyit

was a tremendous escape! I had been ready to marry the woman who was

capable of that! But my instinct had warned meand I had trusted my

instinct."

"'Instinct's everything' as Falstaff says!" And Stanmer began to

laugh. "Did you tell Madame de Salvi that your instinct was against

her?"

"No; I told her that she frightened meshocked mehorrified me."

"That's about the same thing. And what did she say?"

"She asked me what I would have? I called her friendship with

Camerino a scandaland she answered that her husband had been a

brute. Besidesno one knew it; therefore it was no scandal. Just

YOUR argument! I retorted that this was odious reasoningand that

she had no moral sense. We had a passionate argumentand I declared

I would never see her again. In the heat of my displeasure I left

Florenceand I kept my vow. I never saw her again."

"You couldn't have been much in love with her" said Stanmer.

"I was not--three months after."

"If you had been you would have come back--three days after."

"So doubtless it seems to you. All I can say is that it was the

great effort of my life. Being a military manI have had on various

occasions to face time enemy. But it was not then I needed my

resolution; it was when I left Florence in a post-chaise."

Stanmer turned about the room two or three timesand then he said:

"I don't understand! I don't understand why she should have told you

that Camerino had killed her husband. It could only damage her."

"She was afraid it would damage her more that I should think he was

her lover. She wished to say the thing that would most effectually

persuade me that he was not her lover--that he could never be. And

then she wished to get the credit of being very frank."

"Good heavenshow you must have analysed her!" cried my companion

staring.

"There is nothing so analytic as disillusionment. But there it is.

She married Camerino."

"YesI don't lime that" said Stanmer. He was silent a whileand

then he added--"Perhaps she wouldn't have done so if you had

remained."

He has a little innocent way! "Very likely she would have dispensed

with the ceremony" I answereddrily.

"Upon my word" he said"you HAVE analysed her!"

"You ought to he grateful to me. I have done for you what you seem

unable to do for yourself."

"I don't see any Camerino in my case" he said.

"Perhaps among those gentlemen I can find one for you."

"Thank you" he cried; "I'll take care of that myself!"And he went

away--satisfiedI hope.

10th.--He's an obstinate little wretch; it irritates me to see him

sticking to it. Perhaps he is looking for his Camerino. I shall

leave himat any rateto his fate; it is growing insupportably hot.

11th.--I went this evening to bid farewell to the Scarabelli. There

was no one there; she was alone in her great dusky drawing-room

which was lighted only by a couple of candleswith the immense

windows open over the garden. She was dressed in white; she was

deucedly pretty. She asked meof coursewhy I had been so long

without coming.

"I think you say that only for form" I answered. "I imagineyou

know."

"Che! what have I done?"

"Nothing at all. You are too wise for that."

She looked at me a while. "I think you are a little crazy."

"Ah noI am only too sane. I have too much reason rather than too

little."

"You haveat any ratewhat we call a fixed idea."

"There is no harm in that so long as it's a good one."

"But yours is abominable!" she exclaimedwith a laugh.

"Of course you can't like me or my ideas. All things consideredyou

have treated me with wonderful kindnessand I thank you and kiss

your hands. I leave Florence tomorrow."

"I won't say I'm sorry!" she saidlaughing again. "But I amvery

glad to have seen you. I always wondered about you. You are a

curiosity."

"Yesyou must find me so. A man who can resist your charms! The

fact isI can't. This evening you are enchanting; and it is the

first time I have been alone with you."

She gave no heed to this; she turned away. But in a moment she came

backand stood looking at meand her beautiful solemn eyes seemed

to shine in the dimness of the room.

"How COULD you treat my mother so?" she asked.

"Treat her so?"

"How could you desert the most charming woman in the world?"

"It was not a case of desertion; and if it had been it seems to me

she was consoled."

At this moment there was the sound of a step in the ante-chamberand

I saw that the Countess perceived it to be Stanmer's.

"That wouldn't have happened" she murmured. "My poor motherneeded

a protector."

Stanmer came ininterrupting our talkand looking at meI thought

with a little air of bravado. He must think me indeed a tiresome

meddlesome bore; and upon my wordturning it all overI wonder at

his docility. After allhe's five-and-twenty--and yet I MUST add

it DOES irritate me--the way he sticks! He was followed in a moment

by two or three of the regular Italiansand I made my visit short.

"Good-byeCountess" I said; and she gave me her hand in silence.

"Do you need a protector?" I addedsoftly.

She looked at me from head to footand thenalmost angrily--"Yes

Signore."

Butto deprecate her angerI kept her hand an instantand then

bent my venerable head and kissed it. I think I appeased her.

BOLOGNA14th.--I left Florence on the 11thand have been here these

three days. Delightful old Italian town--but it lacks the charm of

my Florentine secret.

I wrote that last entry five days agolate at nightafter coming

back from Casa Salsi. I afterwards fell asleep in my chair; the

night was half over when I woke up. Instead of going to bedI stood

a long time at the windowlooking out at the river. It was a warm

still nightand the first faint streaks of sunrise were in the sky.

Presently I heard a slow footstep beneath my windowand looking

downmade out by the aid of a street lamp that Stanmer was but just

coming home. I called to him to come to my roomsandafter an

intervalhe made his appearance.

"I want to bid you good-bye" I said; "I shall depart in themorning.

Don't go to the trouble of saying you are sorry. Of course you are

not; I must have bullied you immensely."

He made no attempt to say he was sorrybut he said he was very glad

to have made my acquaintance.

"Your conversation" he saidwith his little innocent air"has been

very suggestive."

"Have you found Camerino?" I askedsmiling.

"I have given up the search."

"Well" I said"some day when you find that you have made agreat

mistakeremember I told you so."

He looked for a minute as if he were trying to anticipate that day by

the exercise of his reason.

"Has it ever occurred to you that YOU may have made a greatmistake?"

"Oh yes; everything occurs to one sooner or later."

That's what I said to him; but I didn't say that the question

pointed by his candid young countenancehadfor the momenta

greater force than it had ever had before.

And then he asked me whetheras things had turned outI myself had

been so especially happy.

PARISDecember 17th.--A note from young Stanmerwhom I saw in

Florence--a remarkable little notedated Romeand worth

transcribing.

 

"My dear General--I have it at heart to tell you that I was married a

week ago to the Countess Salvi-Scarabelli. You talked me into a

great muddle; but a month after that it was all very clear. Things

that involve a risk are like the Christian faith; they must be seen

from the inside.--Yours everE. S.

"P. S.--A fig for analogies unless you can find an analogy for my

happiness!"

 

His happiness makes him very clever. I hope it will last--I mean his

clevernessnot his happiness.

LONDONApril 19th1877.--Last nightat Lady H-'sI met Edmund

Stanmerwho married Bianca Salvi's daughter. I heard the other day

that they had come to England. A handsome young fellowwith a fresh

contented face. He reminded me of Florencewhich I didn't pretend

to forget; but it was rather awkwardfor I remember I used to

disparage that woman to him. I had a complete theory about her. But

he didn't seem at all stiff; on the contraryhe appeared to enjoy

our encounter. I asked him if his wife were there. I had to do

that.

"Oh yesshe's in one of the other rooms. Come and make her

acquaintance; I want you to know her."

"You forget that I do know her."

"Oh noyou don't; you never did." And he gave a little significant

laugh.

I didn't feel like facing the ci-devant Scarabelli at that moment; so

I said that I was leaving the housebut that I would do myself the

honour of calling upon his wife. We talked for a minute of something

elseand thensuddenly breaking off and looking at mehe laid his

hand on my arm. I must do him the justice to say that he looks

felicitous.

"Depend upon it you were wrong!" he said.

"My dear young friend" I answered"imagine the alacrity withwhich

I concede it."

Something else again was spoken ofbut in an instant he repeated his

movement.

"Depend upon it you were wrong."

"I am sure the Countess has forgiven me" I said"and in thatcase

you ought to bear no grudge. As I have had the honour to sayI will

call upon her immediately."

"I was not alluding to my wife" he answered. "I was thinkingof

your own story."

"My own story?"

"So many years ago. Was it not rather a mistake?"

I looked at him a moment; he's positively rosy.

"That's not a question to solve in a London crush."

And I turned away.

22d.--I haven't yet called on the ci-devant; I am afraid of finding

her at home. And that boy's words have been thrumming in my ears--

"Depend upon it you were wrong. Wasn't it rather a mistake?" WAS I

wrong--WAS it a mistake? Was I too cautions--too suspicious--too

logical? Was it really a protector she needed--a man who might have

helped her? Would it have been for his benefit to believe in her

and was her fault only that I had forsaken her? Was the poor woman

very unhappy? God forgive mehow the questions come crowding in!

If I marred her happinessI certainly didn't make my own. And I

might have made it--eh? That's a charming discovery for a man of my

age