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Casa Braccio, Volumes 1 and 2 (of 2)
by F. Marion Crawford
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"That is a good knife," he observed carelessly.

The cobbler looked up and saw what he was doing.

"Black soul!" he cried out angrily. "That is my welt-knife, like a razor, and he pares his hoofs with it!"

But Stefanone dropped it into the little box of tools on the front of the bench, and whistled softly.

"You seem to me a silly boy!" said the cobbler, still wrathful.

"Apoplexy, how you talk!" answered Stefanone. "But I seem so to myself, sometimes."



CHAPTER XLIV.

THE life of Paul Griggs was not less lonely than it had been before the day on which he had received and read Gloria's letters to Reanda, but it was changed. Everything which had belonged to the dead woman was gone from the room in which he sat and worked as usual. Even the position of the furniture was changed. But he worked on as steadily as before.

Outwardly he was very much the same man as ever. Any one who knew him well—if such a person had existed—would have seen that there was a little difference in the expression of his impassive face. The jaw was, if possible, more firmly set than ever, but there was a line in the forehead which had not been there formerly, and which softened the iron front, as it were, with something more human. It had come suddenly, and had remained. That was all.

But within, the difference was great and deep. He felt that the man who sat all day long at the writing-table doing his work was not himself any longer, but another being, his double and shadow, and in all respects his slave, except in one.

That other man sometimes paused in his work, fingering the pen unconsciously, as men do who hold it all day long, and thinking of Gloria with an expression of horror and suffering in his eyes. But he, the real Paul Griggs, never thought of her. The link was broken, the thread that had carried the message of dead love between him and the lonely grave beyond Subiaco was definitely broken. Stefanone came to receive the small sum which Griggs paid him monthly for his care of the place, and Griggs paid him as he would have paid his tailor, mechanically, and made a note of the payment in his pocket-book. When the man was gone, Griggs felt that his double was staring at the wall as a man stares at the dark surface of the pool in which the thing he loves has sunk for the last time.

It was always the other self that felt at such moments. He could abstract himself from it, and feel that he was watching it; he could direct it and make it do what he pleased; but he could neither control its thoughts nor feel any sympathy for them. Until the fatal day, the world had all been black to him; only by closing his eyes could he bring into it the light that hovered about a dead woman's face.

But now the black was changed to a flat and toneless white in which there was never the least variation. Life was to him a vast blank, in which, without interest or sensation, he moved in any direction he pleased, and he pleased that it should be always the same direction, from the remembrance of a previous intention and abiding principle. But it might as well have been any other, backwards, or to right or left. It was all precisely the same, and it was perfectly inconceivable to him that he should ever care whether in the endless journey he ever came upon a spot or point in the blank waste which should prove to him that he had moved at all. Nothing could make any difference. He was beyond that state in which any difference was apprehensible between one thing and another.

His double had material wants, and was ruled by material circumstances. His double was a broken-hearted creature, toiling to make money for a little child to which it felt itself bound by every responsibility which can bind father to son; acknowledging the indebtedness in every act of its laborious life, denying itself every luxury, and almost every comfort, that there might be a little more for the child, now and in time to come; weary beyond earthly weariness, but untiring in the mechanical performance of its set task; fatally strong and destined, perhaps, to live on through sixty or seventy years of the same unceasing toil; fatally weak in its one deep wound, and horribly sensitive within itself, but outwardly expressionless, strong, merely a little more pale and haggard than Paul Griggs had been.

This was the being whom Paul Griggs employed, as it were, to work for him, which he thoroughly understood and could control in every part except in its thoughts, and they were its own. But he himself existed in another sphere, in which there were neither interests nor responsibilities, nor landmarks, nor touches of human feeling, neither memories for the dead nor hopes for the living; in which everything was the same, because there was nothing but a sort of universal impersonal consciousness, no more attached to himself than to the beings he saw about him, or to that particular being which was his former self,—in which he chose to reside, merely because he required a bodily evidence of some sort in order to be alive—and there was no particular reason why he should not be alive. He therefore did not cease to live, but a straw might have turned the balance to the side of death.

It was certainly true that, so far as it could be said that there was any link between him and humanity, it lay in the existence of the little boy beyond the water. But it would have been precisely the same if little Walter Crowdie had died. He did not wish to see the child, for he had no wishes at all. Life being what it was, it would be very much better if the child were to die at once. Since it happened to be alive, he forced his double to work for it. It was no longer any particular child so far as he himself was concerned. It belonged to his double, which seemed to be attached to it in an unaccountable way and did not complain at being driven to labour for it.

At certain moments, when he seemed to have got rid of his double altogether for a time, a question presented itself to his real self. The question was the great and old one—What was it for? And to what was it tending? Then the people he saw in the streets appeared to him to be very small, like ants, running hither and thither upon the ant-hill and about it, moved by something which they could not understand, but which made them do certain things with an appearance of logical sequence, just as he forced his double to work for little Walter Crowdie from morning till night. So the people ran about anxiously, or strolled lazily through the hours, careful or careless, as the case might be, but quite unconscious that they were of no consequence and of no use, and that it was quite immaterial whether they were alive or dead. Most of them thought that they cared a good deal for life on the whole, and that it held a multitude of pleasant and interesting things to be liked and sought, and an equal number of unpleasant and dangerous things to be avoided; all of which things had no real existence whatever, as the impersonal consciousness of Paul Griggs was well aware. He watched the people curiously, as though they merely existed to perform tricks for his benefit. But they did not amuse him, for nothing could amuse him, nor interest him when he had momentarily got rid of his double, as sometimes happened when he was out of doors.

One day, the month having passed again, Stefanone came for his money. It was very little, and the old peasant would willingly have undertaken that the work should be done for nothing. But he was interested in Paul Griggs, and he was growing very impatient because he could not get an opportunity of falling upon Lord Redin in a quiet place. He had formed a new plan of almost childlike simplicity. When Griggs had paid him the money, he lingered a moment and looked about the room.

"Signore, you have changed the furniture," he observed. "That chair was formerly here. This table used to be there. There are a thousand changes."

"Yes," said Griggs, taking up his pen to go on with his work. "You have good eyes," he added good-naturedly.

"Two," assented Stefanone; "each better than the other. For instance, I will tell you. When that chair was by the window, there was a little table beside it. On the table was the work-basket of your poor Signora, whom may the Lord preserve in glory! Is it truth?"

"Yes," answered Griggs, with perfect indifference. "It is quite true."

The allusion did not pain him, the man who was talking with Stefanone. It would perhaps hurt the other man when he thought of it later.

"Signore," said Stefanone, who evidently had something in his mind, "I was thinking in the night, and this thought came to me. The dead are dead. Requiescant! It is better for the living to live in holy peace. You never see the father of the Signora. There is bad blood between you. This was my thought—let them be reconciled, and spend an evening together. They will speak of the dead one. They will shed tears. They will embrace. Let the enmity be finished. In this way they will enjoy life more."

"You are crazy, Stefanone," answered Griggs, impatiently. "But how do you know who is the father of the Signora?"

"Every one knows it, Signore!" replied the peasant, with well-feigned sincerity. "Every one knows that it is the great English lord who lives at the hotel in the Piazza di Spagna this year. Signore, I have said a word. You must not take it ill. Enmity is bad. Friendship is a good thing. And then it is simple. With maccaroni one makes acquaintance again. There is the Falcone, but it would be better here. We will cook the maccaroni in the kitchen; you will eat on this table. What are all these papers for? Study, study! A dish of good paste is better, with cheese. I will bring a certain wine—two flasks. Then you will be friends, for you will drink together. And if the English lord drinks too much, I will go home with him to the hotel in the Piazza di Spagna. But you will only have to go to bed. Once in a year, what is it to be a little gay with good wine? At least you will be good friends. Then things will end well."

Griggs looked at Stefanone curiously, while the old peasant was speaking, for he knew the people well, and he suspected something though he did not know what to think.

"Perhaps some day we may take your advice," he said coldly. "Good morning, Stefanone; I have much to write."

"I remove the inconvenience," answered Stefanone, in the stock Italian phrase for taking leave.

"No inconvenience," replied Griggs, civilly, as is the custom. "But I have to work."

"Study, study!" grumbled Stefanone, going towards the door. "What does it all conclude, this great study? Headache. For a flask of wine you have the same thing, and the pleasure besides. It is enough. Signore," he added, reluctantly turning the handle, "I go. Think of what I have said to you. Sometimes an old man says a wise word."

He went away very much discontented with the result of the conversation. His mind was a medley of cunning and simplicity backed by an absolutely unforgiving temper and great caution. His plan had seemed exceedingly good. Lord Redin and Griggs would have supped together, and the former would very naturally have gone home alone. Stefanone was oddly surprised that Griggs should not have acceded to the proposition at once, though in reality there was not the slightest of small reasons for his doing so.

It was long since anything had happened to rouse Griggs into thinking about any individual human being as anything more than a bit of the world's furniture, to be worn out and thrown away in the course of time, out of sight. But something in the absolutely gratuitous nature of Stefanone's advice moved his suspicions. He saw, with his intimate knowledge of the Roman peasant's character, the whole process of the old wine-seller's mind, if only, in the first place, the fellow had the desire to harass Dalrymple. That being granted, the rest was plain enough. Dalrymple, if he really came to supper with Griggs, would stay late into the night and finish all the wine there might be. On his way home through the deserted streets, Stefanone could kill him at his leisure and convenience, and nobody would be the wiser. The only difficulty lay in establishing some sufficient reason why Stefanone should wish to kill him at all, and in this Griggs signally failed, which was not surprising.

All at once, as generally happened now, he lost all interest in the matter and returned to his work; or rather, to speak as he might have spoken, he set his mechanical self to work for him, while his own being disappeared in blank indifference and unconsciousness. But on the following day, which chanced to be a Sunday, he went out in the morning for a walk. He rarely worked on Sundays, having long ago convinced himself that a day of rest was necessary in the long run.

As he was coming home, he saw Lord Redin walking far in front of him down the Corso, easily recognizable by his height and his loose, swinging gait. Griggs had not proceeded many steps further when Stefanone passed him, walking at a swinging stride. The peasant had probably seen him, but chose to take no notice of him. Griggs allowed him to get a fair start and then quickened his own pace, so as to keep him in view. Lord Redin swung along steadily and turned up the Via Condotti. Stefanone almost ran, till he, too, had turned the corner of the street. Griggs, without running, nearly overtook him as he took the same turn a moment later.

It was perfectly clear that Stefanone was dogging the Scotchman's steps. The latter crossed the Piazza di Spagna, and entered the deep archway of his hotel. The peasant slackened his speed at once and lounged across the square towards the foot of the great stairway which leads up to the Trinita de' Monti. Griggs followed him, and came up with him just as he sat down upon a step beside one of the big stone posts, to take breath and light his pipe. The man looked up, touched his hat, smiled, and struck a sulphur match, which he applied to the tobacco in the red clay bowl before the sulphur was half burned out, after the manner of his kind.

"You have taken a walk, Signore," he observed, puffing away at the willow stem and watching the match.

"You walk fast, Stefanone," answered Griggs. "You can walk as fast as Lord Redin."

Stefanone did not show the least surprise. He pressed down the burning tobacco with one horny finger, and carefully laid the last glowing bit of the burnt-out wooden match upon it.

"For this, we are people of the mountains," he answered slowly. "We can walk."

"Why do you wish to kill that signore?" inquired Griggs, calmly.

Stefanone looked up, and the pale lids of his keen eyes were contracted as he stared hard and long at the other's face.

"What are you saying?" he asked, with a short, harsh laugh. "What is passing through your head? What have I to do with the Englishman? Nothing. These are follies!"

And still he gazed keenly at Griggs, awaiting the latter's reply. Griggs answered him contemptuously in the dialect.

"You take me for a foreigner! You might know better."

"I do not know what you mean," answered Stefanone, doggedly. "It is Sunday. I am at leisure. I walk to take a little air. It is my affair. Besides, at this hour, who would follow a man to kill him? It is about to ring midday. There are a thousand people in the street. Those who kill wait at the corners of streets when it is night. You say that I take you for a foreigner. You have taken me for an assassin. At your pleasure. So much the worse for me. An assassin! Only this was wanting. It is better that I go back to Subiaco. At least they know me there. Here in Rome—not even dogs would stay here. Beautiful town! Where one is called assassin for breakfast, without counting one, nor two."

By this time Griggs was convinced that he was right. He knew the man well, and all his kind. The long speech of complaint, with its peculiar tone, half insolent, half of injured innocence, was to cover the fellow's embarrassment. Griggs answered him in his own strain.

"A man is not an assassin who kills his enemy for a good reason, Stefanone," he observed. "How do I know what he may have done to you?"

"To me? Nothing." The peasant shrugged his sturdy shoulders.

"Then I have made a mistake," said Griggs.

"You have made a mistake," assented Stefanone. "Let us not talk about it any more."

"Very well."

Griggs turned away and walked slowly towards the hotel, well aware that Stefanone was watching him and would think that he was going to warn Lord Redin of his danger. That, indeed, was Griggs's first impulse, and it was probably his wisest course, whatever might come of the meeting. But the Scotchman had made up his mind that he would not see Griggs under any circumstances, and though the latter had seen him enter the hotel less than ten minutes earlier, the servant returned almost immediately and said that Lord Redin was not at home. Griggs understood and turned away, thoughtfully.

Before he went down the Via Condotti again, he looked over his shoulder towards the steps, and he saw that Stefanone was gone. As he walked along the street, the whole incident began to fade away in his mind, as all real matters so often did, nowadays. All at once he stopped short, and roused himself by an effort—directing his double, as he would have said, perhaps. There was no denying the fact that a man's life was hanging in the balance of a chance, and to the man, if not to Griggs, that life was worth something. If it had been any other man in the world, even that fact would have left him indifferent enough. Why should he care who lived or died? But Dalrymple was a man he had injured, and he was under an obligation of honour to save him, if he could.

There was only one person in Rome who could help him—Francesca Campodonico. She knew much of what had happened; she might perhaps understand the present case. At all events, even if she had not seen Lord Redin of late, she could not be supposed to have broken relations with him; she could send for him and warn him. The case was urgent, as Griggs knew. After what he had said to Stefanone, the latter, if he meant to kill his man, would not lose a day.



CHAPTER XLV.

IT was past midday when Paul Griggs reached the Palazzetto Borgia and inquired for Donna Francesca. He was told that she was out. It was her custom, the porter said, always to breakfast on Sundays with her relatives, the Prince and Princess of Gerano. Griggs asked at what time she might be expected to return. The porter put on a vague look and said that it was impossible to tell. Sometimes she went to Saint Peter's on Sunday afternoon, to hear Vespers. Vespers began at twenty-two o'clock, or half-past twenty-two—between half-past three and four by French time, at that season of the year.

Griggs turned away, and wandered about for half an hour in the vicinity of the palace, uncertain as to what he should do, and yet determined not to lose sight of the necessity for immediate action of some sort. At last he went back to the Piazza di Spagna, intending to write a word of warning to Lord Redin, though he knew that the latter would pay very little attention to anything of such a nature. Like most foreigners, he would laugh at the idea of being attacked in the streets. Even in an interview it would not be easy to persuade him of the truth which Griggs had discovered more by intuition and through his profound knowledge of the Roman character than by any chain of evidence.

Lord Redin had gone out, he was told. It was impossible to say with any certainty whether this were true or not, and Griggs wrote a few words on his card, sealed the latter in an envelope, and left it to be delivered to the Scotchman. Then he went back to the Via della Frezza, determined to renew his attempt to see Francesca Campodonico, at a later hour.

At the door of the little wine shop Stefanone was seated on one of the rush stools, his hat tilted over his eyes, and his white-stockinged legs crossed. He was smoking and looking down, but he recognized Griggs's step at some distance, and raised his eyes. Griggs nodded to him familiarly, passing along on the other side of the narrow street, and he saw Stefanone's expression. There was a look of cunning and amusement in the contraction of the pale lids, which the younger man did not like. Stefanone spoke to him across the street.

"You are well returned, Signore," he said, in the common phrase of greeting after an absence.

The words were civil enough, but there was something of mockery in the tone. Griggs might not have noticed it at any other time, but his thoughts had been occupied with Stefanone during the last two hours, and he resented what sounded like insolence. The tone implied that he had been on a fool's errand, and that Stefanone knew it. He said nothing, but stood still and scrutinized the man's face. There was an unwonted colour about the cheek bones, and the keen eyes sparkled under the brim of the soft hat. Stefanone had a solid head, and was not given to drinking, especially in the morning; but Griggs guessed that to-day he had drunk more than usual. The man's next words convinced him of the fact.

"Signore," he said, slowly rising, "will you favour us by tasting the wine I brought last week? There is no one in the shop yet, for it is early. If you will, we can drink a glass."

"Thank you," answered Griggs. "I have not eaten yet."

"Then Sor Angoscia did not ask you to breakfast!" laughed Stefanone, insolently. "At midday, too! It was just the hour! But perhaps he invited you to his supper, for it is ordered."

And he laughed again. Griggs glanced at him once more, and then went quietly on towards his own door. He saw that the man had drunk too much, and the idea of bandying words in the attempt to rebuke him was distasteful. Griggs had very rarely lost his temper, so far as to strike a man, even in former days, and it had seemed to him of late that he could never be really angry again. Nothing could ever again be of enough importance to make it worth while. If a man of his own class had insulted him, he would have directed his double, as it were, to resent the offence, but he himself would have remained utterly indifferent.

The one-eyed cobbler was not in his place, as it was Sunday. If he had been there, Griggs would very possibly have told him to watch Stefanone and to try and keep him in the wine shop until he should grow heavy over his wine and fall asleep. In that state he would at least be harmless. But the cobbler was not there. Griggs went up to his rooms to wait until a later hour, when he might hope to find Francesca.

Stefanone, being left alone, sat down again, pulled his hat over his eyes once more and felt in his pocket for his clasp-knife. His mind was by no means clear, for he had eaten nothing, he had swallowed a good deal of strong wine, and he had made up his mind that he must kill his enemy on that day or never. The intention was well-defined, but that was all. He had put off his vengeance too long. It was true that he had not yet caught Dalrymple alone in a quiet street at night, that is to say, under the most favourable circumstances imaginable; but more than once he might have fallen upon him suddenly from a doorway in a narrow lane, in which there had been but a few women and children to see the deed, if they saw it at all. He knew well enough that in Rome the fear of being in any way implicated in a murder, even as a witness, would have made women, and probably men, too, run indoors or out of the way, rather than interfere or pursue him. He told himself therefore that he had been unreasonably cautious, and that unless he acted quickly Lord Redin, being warned by Griggs, would take measures of self-defence which might put him beyond the reach of the clasp-knife forever. Stefanone's ideas about the power of an 'English lord' were vague in the extreme.

He had not been exactly frightened by Griggs's sudden accusation that morning, but he had been made nervous and vicious by the certainty that his intentions had been discovered. Peasant-like, not being able to hit on a plan for immediate success, he had excited himself and stimulated his courage with drink. His eyes were already a little bloodshot, and the flush on his high cheek bones showed that he was in the first stage of drunkenness, which under present circumstances was the most dangerous and might last all day with a man of his age and constitution, provided that he did not drink too fast. And there was little fear of that, for the Roman is cautious in his cups, and drinks slowly, never wishing to lose his head, and indeed very much ashamed of ever being seen in a helpless condition.

By this time he was well acquainted with Lord Redin's habits; and though Griggs had been told that the Scotchman was out, Stefanone knew very well that he was at home and would not leave the hotel for another hour or more.

Leaning back against the wall and tipping the stool, he swung his white-stockinged legs thoughtfully.

"One must eat," he remarked aloud, to himself.

He held his head a little on one side, thoughtfully considering the question of food. Then he turned his face slowly towards the low door of the shop and sniffed the air. Something was cooking in the back regions within. Stefanone nodded to himself, rose, pulled out a blue and red cotton handkerchief, and proceeded to dust his well-blacked low shoes and steel buckles with considerable care, setting first one foot and then the other upon the stool.

"Let us eat," he said aloud, folding his handkerchief again and returning it to his pocket.

He went in and sat down at one of the trestle tables,—a heavy board, black with age. The host was nodding on a chair in the corner, a fat man in a clean white apron, with a round red face and fat red prominences over his eyes, with thin eyebrows that were scarcely perceptible.

Stefanone rapped on the board with his knuckles; the host awoke, looked at him with a pleased smile, made an interrogatory gesture, and having received an affirmative nod for an answer retired into the dark kitchen. In a moment he returned with a huge earthenware plate of soup in which a couple of large pieces of fat meat bobbed lazily as he set the dish on the table. Then he brought bread, a measure of wine, an iron spoon, and a two-pronged fork.

Stefanone eat the soup without a word, breaking great pieces of bread into it. Then he pulled out his clasp-knife and opened it; the long blade, keen as a razor and slightly curved, but dark and dull in colour, snapped to its place, as the ring at the back fell into the corresponding sharp notch. With affected delicacy, Stefanone held it between his thumb and one finger and drew the edge across the fat boiled meat, which fell into pieces almost at a touch, though it was tough and stringy. The host watched the operation approvingly. At that time it was forbidden to carry such knives in Rome, unless the point were round and blunt. The Roman always stabs; he never cuts his man's throat in a fight or in a murder.

"It is a prohibited weapon," observed the fat man, smiling, "but it is very beautiful. Poor Christian, if he finds it between his ribs! He would soon be cold. It is a consolation at night to have such a toy."

"Truly, it is the consolation of my soul," answered Stefanone.

"Say a little, dear friend," said the fat man, sitting down and resting his bare elbows upon the table, "that arm, has it ever sent any one to Paradise?"

"And then I should tell you!" exclaimed Stefanone, laughing, and he sipped some wine and smacked his lips. "But no," he added presently. "I am a pacific man. If they touch me—woe! But I, to touch any one? Not even a fly."

"Thus I like men," said the host, "serious, full of scruples, people who drink well, quiet, quiet, and pay better."

"So we are at Subiaco," answered Stefanone.

He cleaned his knife on a piece of bread very carefully, laid it open beside him, and threw the crust to a lean dog that appeared suddenly from beneath the table, as though it had come up through a trap-door; the half-famished creature bolted the bread with a snap and a gulp and disappeared again as suddenly and silently, just in time to avoid the fat man's slow, heavy hand.

When he had finished eating, Stefanone produced his little piece of oilstone, which he carried wrapped in dingy paper, and having greased it proceeded to draw the blade over it slowly and smoothly.

"Apoplexy!" ejaculated the host. "Are you not contented? Or perhaps you wish to shave with it?"

"Thus I keep it," answered the peasant, smiling. "A minute here, a minute there. The time costs nothing. What am I doing? Nothing. I digest. To pass the time I sharpen the knife. I am like this. I say it is a sin to waste time."

Every now and then he sipped his wine, but there was no perceptible change in his manner, for he was careful to keep himself just at the same level of excitement, neither more nor less.

Half an hour later he was smoking his pipe in the Piazza di Spagna, lounging near the great fountain in the sunshine, his eyes generally turned towards the door of the hotel. He waited a long time, and replenished his pipe more than once.

"This would be the only thing wanting," he said impatiently and half aloud. "That just to-day he should not go out."

But Lord Redin appeared at last, dressed as though he were going to make a visit. He looked about the square, standing still on the threshold for a moment, and a couple of small open cabs drove up. But he shook his head, consulted his watch, and strode away in the direction of the Propaganda.

Stefanone guessed that he was going to the Palazzetto Borgia, and followed him as usual at a safe distance, threading the winding ways towards the Piazza di Venezia. There used to be a small cafe then under the corner of that part of the Palazzo Torlonia which has now been pulled down. Lord Redin entered it, and Stefanone lingered on the other side of the street. A man passed him who sold melon seeds and aquavitae, and Stefanone drank a glass of the one and bought a measure of the other. The Romans are fond of the taste of the tiny dry kernel which is found inside the broad white shell of the seed. Presently Lord Redin came out, wiping his mouth with his handkerchief, and went on. Stefanone followed him again, walking fast when his enemy had turned a corner and slackening his speed as soon as he caught sight of him again.

Francesca was out. He saw Lord Redin's look of annoyance as the latter turned away after speaking with the porter, and he fell back into the shadow of a doorway, expecting that the Scotchman would take the street by which he had come. But Dalrymple turned down the narrow lane beside the palace, in the direction of the Tiber. Stefanone's bloodshot eyes opened suddenly as he sprang after him; with a quick movement he got his knife out, opened it, and thrust his hand with it open into the wide pocket of his jacket. Lord Redin had never gone down that lane before, to Stefanone's knowledge, and it was a hundred to one that at that hour no one would be about. Stefanone himself did not know the place.

Dalrymple must have heard the quick and heavy footsteps of the peasant behind him, but it would not have been at all like him to turn his head. With loose, swinging gait he strode along, and his heavy stick made high little echoes as it struck the dry cobble-stones.

Stefanone was very near him. His eyes glared redly, and his hand with the knife in it was half out of his pocket. In ten steps more he would spring and strike upwards, as Romans do. He chose the spot on the dark overcoat where his knife should go through, below the shoulder-blade, at the height of the small ribs on the left side. His lips were parted and dry.

There was a loud scream of anger, a tremendous clattering noise, and a sound of feet. Stefanone turned suddenly pale, and his hand went to the bottom of his pocket again.

On an open doorstep lay a copper 'conca'—the Roman water jar—a wretched dog was rushing down the street with something in its mouth, in front of Lord Redin, a woman was pursuing it with yells, swinging a small wooden stool in her right hand, to throw it at the dog, and the neighbours were on their doorsteps in a moment. Stefanone slunk under the shadow of the wall, grinding his teeth. The chance was gone. The streets beyond were broader and more populous.

Lord Redin went steadily onward, evidently familiar with every turn of the way, down to the Tiber, across the Bridge of Quattro Capi, and over the island of Saint Bartholomew to Trastevere, turning then to the right through the straight Lungaretta, past Santa Maria and under the heights of San Pietro in Montorio, and so to the Lungara and by Santo Spirito to the Piazza of Saint Peter's. He walked fast, and Stefanone twice wiped the perspiration from his forehead on the way, for he was nervous from the tension and the disappointment, and felt suddenly weak.

The Scotchman never paused, but crossed the vast square and went up the steps of the basilica. He was evidently going to hear the Vespers. Then Stefanone, instead of following him into the church, sat down outside the wine shop on the right, just opposite the end of the Colonnade. He ordered a measure of wine and prepared to wait, for he guessed that Lord Redin would remain in the church at least an hour.



CHAPTER XLVI.

LORD REDIN lifted the heavy leathern curtain of the door on the right of the main entrance to the basilica, and went into the church. For some reason or other, the majority of people go in by that door rather than the other. It may be that the reason is a very simple one, after all. Most people are right handed, and of any two doors side by side leading into the same place, will instinctively take the one on the right. The practice of passing to the left in the street, in almost all old countries, was for the sake of safety, in order that a man might have his sword hand towards any one he met.

The air of the church was warm, and had a faint odour of incense in it. The temperature of the vast building varies but little with the seasons; going into it in winter, it seems warm, in summer it is very cold. On that day there were not many people in the nave, though a soft sound of unceasing footsteps broke the stillness. Very far away an occasional strain of music floated on the air from the Chapel of the Choir, the last on the left before the transept is reached. Lord Redin walked leisurely in the direction of the sound.

The chapel was full, and the canons were intoning the psalms of the office. At the conclusion of each one the choir sang the 'Gloria' from the great organ loft on the right. It chanced that there were a number of foreigners on that day, and they had filled all the available space within the gate, and there was a small crowd outside, pressing as close as possible in order to hear the voices more distinctly. Lord Redin was taller than most men, and looking over the heads of the others he saw Francesca Campodonico's pale profile in the thick of the press. She evidently wished to extricate herself, and she seemed to be suffering from the closeness, for she pressed her handkerchief nervously to her lips, and her eyes were half closed. Lord Redin forced his way to her without much consideration for the people who hindered him. A few minutes later he brought her out on the side towards the transept.

"Thank you," said Francesca. "I should like to sit down. I had almost fainted—there was a woman next to me who had musk about her."

They went round the pillar of the dome to the south transept where there are almost always a number of benches set along the edges of a huge green baize carpet. They sat down together on the end of one of the seats.

"We can go back, by and bye, and hear the music, if you like," said Francesca. "The psalms will last some time longer."

"I would rather sit here and talk, since I have had the good luck to meet you," answered Lord Redin, resting his elbows on his knees, and idly poking the green carpet with the end of his stick. "I went to your house, and they told me that you would very probably be here."

"Yes. I often come. But you know that, for we have met here before. I only stay at home on Sundays when it rains."

"Oh! Is that the rule?"

"Yes, if you call it a rule," answered Francesca.

"I like to know about the things you do, and how you spend your life," said the Scotchman, thoughtfully.

"Do you? Why? There is nothing very interesting about my existence, it seems to me."

"It interests me. It makes me feel less lonely to know about some one else—some one I like very much."

Francesca looked at her companion with an expression of pity. She was lonely, too, but in a different way. The little drama of her life had run sadly and smoothly. She was willing to give the man her friendship if it could help him, rather because he seemed to ask for it in a mute fashion than because she desired his.

"Lord Redin," she said, after a little pause, "do you always mean to live in this way?"

"Alone? Yes. It is the only way I can live, at my age."

"At your age—would it make any difference if you were younger?" asked Francesca. She dropped her voice to a low key. "You would never marry again, even if you were much younger."

"Marry!" His shoulders moved with a sort of little start. "You do not know what you are saying!" he added, almost under his breath, though she heard the words distinctly.

She looked at him again, in silence, during several seconds, and she saw how the colour sank away from his face, till the skin was like old parchment. The hand that held the heavy stick tightened round it and grew yellow at the knuckles.

"Forgive me," she said gently. "I am very thoughtless—it is the second time."

He did not speak for some moments, but she understood his silence and waited. The air was very quiet, and the enormous pillar of the dome almost completely shut off the echo of the distant music. The low afternoon sun streamed levelly through the great windows of the apse, for the basilica is built towards the west. There were very few people in the church that day. The sun made visible beams across the high shadows overhead.

Suddenly Lord Redin spoke again. There was something weak and tremulous in the tone of his rough voice.

"I am very much attached to you, for two reasons," he said. "We have known each other long, but not intimately."

"That is true. Not very intimately."

Francesca did not know exactly what to say. But for his manner and for his behaviour a few moments earlier, she might have fancied that he was about to offer himself to her, but such an idea was very far from her thoughts. Her woman's instinct told her that he was going to tell her something in the nature of a confidence.

"Precisely," he continued. "We have never been intimate. The reason why we have not been intimate is one of the reasons why I am more attached to you than you have ever guessed."

"That is complicated," said Francesca, with a smile. "Perhaps the other reason may be simpler."

"It is very simple, very simple indeed, though it will not seem natural to you. You are the only very good woman I ever knew, who made me feel that she was good instead of making me see it. Perhaps you think it unnatural that I should be attracted by goodness at all. But I am not very bad, as men go."

"No. I do not believe you are. And I am not so good as you think." She sighed softly.

"You are much better than I once thought," answered Lord Redin. "Once upon a time—well, I should only offend you, and I know better now. Forgive me for thinking of it. I wish to tell you something else."

"If it is something which has been your secret, it is better not told," said Francesca, quietly. "One rarely makes a confidence that one does not regret it."

"You are a wise woman." He looked at her thoughtfully. "And yet you must be very young."

"No. But though I have had my own life apart, I have lived outwardly very much in the world, although I am still young. Most of the secrets which have been told me have been repeated to me by the people in whom others had confided."

"All that is true," he answered. "Nevertheless—" He paused. "I am desperate!" he exclaimed, with sudden energy. "I cannot bear this any longer—I am alone, always, always. Sometimes I think I shall go mad! You do not know what a life I lead. I have not even a vice to comfort me!" He laughed low and savagely. "I tried to drink, but I am sick of it—it does no good! A man who has not even a vice is a very lonely man."

Francesca's clear eyes opened wide with a startled look, and gazed towards his averted face, trying to catch his glance. She felt that she was close to something very strong and dreadful which she could not understand.

"Do not speak like that!" she said. "No one is lonely who believes in God."

"God!" he exclaimed bitterly. "God has forgotten me, and the devil will not have me!" He looked at her at last, and saw her face. "Do not be shocked," he said, with a sorrowful smile. "If I were as bad as I seem to you just now, I should have cut my throat twenty years ago."

"Hush! Hush!" Francesca did not know what to say.

His manner changed a little, and he spoke more calmly.

"I am not eloquent," he said, looking into her eyes. "You may not understand. But I have suffered a great deal."

"Yes. I know that. I am very sorry for you."

"I think you are," he answered. "That is why I want to be honest and tell you the truth about myself. For that reason, and because I cannot bear it any longer. I cannot, I cannot!" he repeated in a low, despairing tone.

"If it will help you to tell me, then tell me," said Francesca, kindly. "But I do not ask you to. I do not see why we should not be the best of friends without my knowing this thing which weighs on your mind."

"You will understand when I have told you," answered Lord Redin. "Then you can judge whether you will have me for a friend or not. It will seem very bad to you. Perhaps it is. I never thought so. But you are a Roman Catholic, and that makes a difference."

"Not in a question of right and wrong."

"It makes the question what it is. You shall hear."

He paused a moment, and the lines and furrows deepened in his face. The sun was sinking fast, and the long beams had faded away out of the shadows. There was no one in sight now, but the music of the benediction service echoed faintly in the distance. Francesca felt her heart beating with a sort of excitement she could not understand, and though she did not look at her companion, her ears were strained to catch the first word he spoke.

"I married a nun," he said simply.

Francesca started.

"A Sister of Charity?" she asked, after a moment's dead silence. "They do not take vows—"

"No. A nun from the Carmelite Convent of Subiaco."

His words were very distinct. There was no mistaking what he said. Francesca shrank from him instinctively, and uttered a low exclamation of repugnance and horror.

"That is not all," continued Lord Redin, with a calm that seemed supernatural. "She was your kinswoman. She was Maria Braccio, whom every one believed was burned to death in her cell."

"But her body—they found it! It is impossible!" She thought he must be mad.

"No. They found another body. I put it into the bed and set fire to the mattress. It was burned beyond recognition, and they thought it was Maria. But it was the body of old Stefanone's daughter. I lived in his house. The girl poisoned herself with some of my chemicals—I was a young doctor in those days. Maria and I were married on board an English man-of-war, and we lived in Scotland after that. Gloria was the daughter of Maria Braccio, the Carmelite nun—your kinswoman."

Francesca pressed her handkerchief to her lips. She felt as though she were losing her senses. Minute after minute passed, and she could say nothing. From time to time, Lord Redin glanced sideways at her. He breathed hard once or twice, and his hands strained upon his stick as though they would break it in two.

"Then she died," he said. When he had spoken the three words, he shivered from head to foot, and was silent.

Still Francesca could not speak. The sacrilege of the deed was horrible in itself. To her, who had grown up to look upon Maria Braccio as a holy woman, cut off in her youth by a frightful death, the truth was overwhelmingly awful. She strove within herself to find something upon which she could throw the merest shadow of an extenuation, but she could find nothing.

"You understand now why, as an honourable man, I wished to tell you the truth about myself," he said, speaking almost coldly in the effort he was making at self-control. "I could not ask for your friendship until I had told you."

Francesca turned her white face slowly towards him in the dusk, and her lips moved, but she did not speak. She could not in that first moment find the words she wanted. She felt that she shrank from him, that she never wished to touch his hand again. Doubtless, in time, she might get over the first impression. She wished that he would leave her to think about it.

"Can you ever be my friend now?" he asked gravely.

"Your friend—" she stopped, and shook her head sadly. "I—I am afraid—" she could not go on.

Lord Redin rose slowly to his feet.

"No. I am afraid not," he said.

He waited a moment, but there was no reply.

"May I take you to your carriage?" he asked gently.

"No, thank you. No—that is—I am going home in a cab. I would rather be alone—please."

"Then good-bye."

The lonely man went away and left her there. His head was bent, and she thought that he walked unsteadily, as she watched him. Suddenly a great wave of pity filled her heart. He looked so very lonely. What right had she to judge him? Was she perfect, because he called her good? She called him before he turned the great pillar of the dome.

"Lord Redin! Lord Redin!"

But her voice was weak, and in the vast, dim place it did not reach him. He went on alone, past the high altar, round the pillar, down the nave. The benediction service was not quite over yet, but every one who was not listening to the music had left the church. He went towards the door by which he had entered. Before going out he paused, and looked towards the little chapel on the right of the entrance. He hesitated, and then went to it and stood leaning with his hands upon the heavy marble balustrade, that was low for his great height as he stood on the step.

A single silver lamp sent a faint light upwards that lingered upon the Pieta above the altar, upon the marble limbs of the dead Christ, upon the features of the Blessed Virgin, the Addolorata—the sorrowing mother.

Bending a little, as though very weary, the friendless, wifeless, childless man raised his furrowed face and looked up. There was no hope any more, and his despair was heavy upon him whose young love had blasted the lives of many.

His teeth were set—he could have bitten through iron. He trembled a little, and as he looked upward, two dreadful tears—the tears of the strong that are as blood—welled from his eyes and trickled down upon his cheeks.

"Maria Addolorata!" he whispered.



CHAPTER XLVII.

FRANCESCA had half risen from her seat when she had seen that Lord Redin did not hear her voice, calling to him. Then she realized that she could not overtake him without running, since he had got so far, and she kept her place, leaning back once more, and trying to collect her thoughts before going home. The music was still going on in the Chapel of the Choir, and though it was dusk in the vast church, it would not be dark for some time. The vergers did not make their rounds to give warning of the hour of closing until sunset. Francesca sat still and tried to understand what she had heard. She was nervous and shaken, and she wished that she were already at home. The great dimness of the lonely transept was strangely mysterious—and the tale of the dead girl, burned to take the place of the living, was grewsome, and made her shiver with disgust and horror. She started nervously at the sound of a distant footstep.

But the strongest impression she had, was that of abhorrence for the unholy deeds of the man who had just left her. To a woman for whom religion in its forms as well as in its meaning was the mainstay of life on earth and the hope of life to come, the sacrilege of the crime seemed supernatural. She felt as though it must be in some way her duty to help in expiating it, lest the punishment of it should fall upon all her race. And as she thought it over, trying to look at it as simply as she could, she surveyed at a glance the whole chain of the fatal story, and saw how many terrible things had followed upon that one great sin, and how very nearly she herself had been touched by its consequences. She had been involved in it and had become a part of it. She had felt it about her for years, in her friendship for Reanda. It had contributed to the causes of his death, if it had not actually caused it. She, in helping to bring about his marriage with the daughter of her sinning kinswoman, had unconsciously made a link in the chain. Her friendship for the artist no longer looked as innocent as formerly. Gloria had accused him of loving her, Francesca. Had she not loved him? Whether she had or not, she had done things which had wounded his innocent young wife. In a sudden and painful illumination of the past, she saw that she herself had not been sinless; that she had been selfish, if nothing worse; that she had craved Reanda's presence and devoted friendship, if nothing more; that death had taken from her more than a friend. She saw all at once the vanity of her own belief in her own innocence, and she accused herself very bitterly of many things which had been quite hidden from her until then.

She was roused by a footstep behind her, and she started at the sound of a voice she knew, but which had changed oddly since she had last heard it. It was stern, deep, and clear still, but the life was gone out of it. It had an automatic sound.

"I beg your pardon, Princess," said Paul Griggs, stopping close to her behind the bench. "May I speak to you for a moment?"

She turned her head. As the sun went down, the church grew lighter for a little while, as it often does. Yet she could hardly see the man's eyes at all, as she looked into his face. They were all in the shadow and had no light in them.

"Sit down," she said mechanically.

She could not refuse to speak to him, and, indeed, she would not have refused to receive him had she been at home when he had called that day. Socially speaking, according to the standards of those around her, he had done nothing which she could very severely blame. A woman he had dearly loved had come to him for protection, and he had not driven her away. That was the social value of what he had done. The moral view of it all was individual with herself. Society gave her no right to treat him rudely because she disapproved of his past life. For the rest, she had liked him in former times, and she believed that there was much more good in him than at first appeared.

She was almost glad that he had disturbed her solitude just then, for a nervous sense of loneliness was creeping upon her; and though there had been nothing to prevent her from rising and going away, she had felt that something was holding her in her seat, a shadowy something that was oppressive and not natural, that descended upon her out of the gloomy heights, and that rose around her from the secret depths below, where the great dead lay side by side in their leaden coffins.

"Sit down," she repeated, as Griggs came round the bench.

He sat down beside her. There was a little distance between them, and he sat rather stiffly, holding his hat on his knees.

"I should apologize for disturbing you," he began. "I have been twice to your house to-day, but you were out. What I wish to speak of is rather urgent. I heard that you might be here, and so I came."

"Yes," she said, and waited for him to say more.

"What is it?" she asked presently, as he did not speak at once.

"It is about Dalrymple—about Lord Redin," he said at last. "You used to know him. Do you ever see him now?"

Francesca looked at him with a little surprise, but she answered quietly, as though the question were quite a natural one.

"He was here five minutes ago. Yes, I often see him."

"Would you do him a service?" asked Griggs, in his calm and indifferent tone.

He was forcing himself to do what was plainly his duty, but he was utterly incapable of taking any interest in the matter. Francesca hesitated before she answered. An hour earlier she would have assented readily enough, but now the idea of doing anything which could tend to bring her into closer relations with Lord Redin was disagreeable.

"I do not think you will refuse," said Griggs, as she did not speak. "His life is in danger."

She turned quickly and scrutinized the expressionless features. In the glow of the sunset the church was quite light. The total unconcern of the man's manner contrasted strangely with the importance of what he said. Francesca felt that something must be wrong.

"You say that very coolly," she observed, and her tone showed that she was incredulous.

"And you do not believe me," answered Griggs, quite unmoved. "It is natural, I suppose. I will try to explain."

"Please do. I do not understand at all."

Nevertheless, she was startled, though she concealed her nervousness. She had not spoken with Griggs for a long time; and as he talked, she saw what a great change had taken place. He was very quiet, as he had always been, but he was almost too quiet. She could not make out his eyes. She knew of his superhuman strength, and his stillness seemed unnatural. What he said did not sound rational. An impression got hold of her that he had gone mad, and she was physically afraid of him. He began to explain. She felt a singing in her ears, and she could not follow what he said. It was like an evil dream, and it grew upon her second by second.

He talked on in the same even, monotonous tone. The words meant nothing to her. She crossed her feet nervously and tried to get a soothing sensation by stroking her sable muff. She made a great effort at concentration and failed to understand anything.

All at once it grew dark, as the sunset light faded out of the sky. Again she felt the desire to rise and the certainty that she could not, if she tried. He ceased speaking and seemed to expect her to say something, but she had not understood a word of his long explanation. He sat patiently waiting. She could hardly distinguish his face in the gloom.

The sound of irregular, shuffling footsteps and low voices moved the stillness. The vergers were making their last round in a hurried, perfunctory way. They passed across the transept to the high altar. It was so dark that Francesca could only just see their shadows moving in the blackness. She did not realize what they were doing, and her imagination made ghosts of them, rushing through the silence of the deserted place, from one tomb to another, waking the dead for the night. They did not even glance across, as they skirted the wall of the church. Even if they had looked, they might not have seen two persons in black, against the blackness, sitting silently side by side on the dark bench. They saw nothing and passed on, out of sight and out of hearing.

"May I ask whether you will give him the message?" inquired Griggs at last, moving in his seat, for he knew that it was time to be going.

Francesca started, at the sound of his voice.

"I—I am afraid—I have not understood," she said. "I beg your pardon—I was not paying attention. I am nervous."

"It is growing late," said Griggs. "We had better be going—I will tell you again as we walk to the door."

"Yes—no—just a moment!" She made a strong effort over herself. "Tell me in three words," she said. "Who is it that threatens Lord Redin's life?"

"A peasant of Subiaco called Stefanone. Really, Princess, we must be going; it is quite dark—"

"Stefanone!" exclaimed Francesca, while he was speaking the last words, which she did not hear. "Stefanone of Subiaco—of course!"

"We must really be going," said Griggs, rising to his feet, and wondering indifferently why it was so hard to make her understand.

She rose to her feet slowly. Lord Redin's story was intricately confused in her mind with the few words which she had retained of what Griggs had said.

"Yes—yes—Stefanone," she said in a low voice, as though to herself, and she stood still, comprehending the whole situation in a flash, and imagining that Griggs knew the whole truth and had been telling it to her as though she had not known it. "But how did you know that Lord Redin took the girl's body and burnt it?" she asked, quite certain that he had mentioned the fact.

"What girl?" asked Griggs in wonder.

"Why, the body of Stefanone's daughter, which he managed to burn in the convent when he carried off my cousin! How did you know about it?"

"I did not know about it," said Griggs. "Your cousin? I do not understand."

"My cousin—yes—Maria Braccio—Gloria's mother! You have just been talking about her—"

"I?" asked Griggs, bewildered.

Francesca stepped back from him, suddenly guessing that she had revealed Lord Redin's secret.

"Is it possible?" she asked in a low voice. "Oh, it is all a mistake!" she cried suddenly. "I have told you his story—oh, I am losing my head!"

"Come," said Griggs, authoritatively. "We must get out of the church, at all events, or we shall be locked in."

"Oh no!" answered Francesca. "There is always somebody here—"

"There is not. You must really come."

"Yes—but there is no danger of being locked in. Yes—let us walk down the nave. There is more light."

They walked slowly, for she was too much confused to hasten her steps. Her inexplicable mistake troubled her terribly. She remembered how she had warned Lord Redin not to tell her any secrets, and how seriously she, the most discreet of women, had resolved never to reveal what he had said. But the impression of his story had been so much more direct and strong than even the first words Griggs had spoken, that so soon as she had realized that the latter was speaking approximately of the same subject, she had lost the thread of what he was saying and had seemed to hear Lord Redin's dreadful tale all over again. She thought that she was losing her head.

It was almost quite dark when they reached the other side of the high altar. Griggs walked beside her in silence, trying to understand the meaning of what she had said.

The gloom was terrible. The enormous statues loomed faintly like vast ghosts, high up, between the floor and the roof, their whiteness glimmering where there seemed to be nothing else but darkness below them and above them. A low, far sound that was a voice but not a word, trembled in the air. Francesca shuddered.

"They have not gone yet," said Griggs. "They are still talking. But we must hurry."

"No," said Francesca, "that was not any one talking." And her teeth chattered. "Give me your arm, please—I am frightened."

He held out his arm till she could feel it in the dark, and she took it. He pressed her hand to his side and drew her along, for he feared that the doors might be already shut.

"Not so fast! Oh, not so fast, please!" she cried. "I shall fall. They do not shut the doors—"

"Yes, they do! Let me carry you. I can run with you in the dark—there is no time to be lost!"

"No, no! I can walk faster—but there is really no danger—"

It is a very long way from the high altar to the main entrance of the church. Francesca was breathless when they reached the door and Griggs lifted the heavy leathern curtain. If the door had been still open, he would have seen the twilight from the porch at once. Instead, all was black and close and smelled of leather. Francesca was holding his sleeve, afraid of losing him.

"It is too late," he said quietly. "We are probably locked in. We will try the door of the Sacristy."

He seized her arm and hurried her along into the south aisle. He struck his shoulder violently against the base of the pillar he passed in the darkness, but he did not stop. Almost instinctively he found the door, for he could not see it. Even the hideous skeleton which supports a black marble drapery above it was not visible in the gloom. He found the bevelled edge of the smoothly polished panel and pushed. But it would not yield.

"We are locked in," he said, in the same quiet tone as before.

Francesca uttered a low cry of terror and then was silent.

"Cannot you break the door?" she asked suddenly.

"No," he answered. "Nothing short of a battering-ram could move it."

"Try," she said. "You are so strong—the lock might give way."

To satisfy her he braced himself and heaved against the panel with all his gigantic strength. In the dark she could hear his breath drawn through his nostrils.

"It will not move," he said, desisting. "We shall have to spend the night here. I am very sorry."

For some moments Francesca said nothing, overcome by her terror of the situation. Griggs stood still, with his back to the polished door, trying to see her in the gloom. Then he felt her closer to him and heard her small feet moving on the pavement.

"We must make the best of it," he said at last. "It is never quite dark near the high altar. I daresay, too, that there is still a little twilight where we were sitting. At least, there is a carpet there and there are benches. We can sit there until it is later. Then you can lie down upon the bench. I will make a pillow for you with my overcoat. It is warm, and I shall not need it."

He made a step forwards, and she heard him moving.

"Do not leave me!" she cried, in sudden terror.

He felt her grasp his arm convulsively in the dark, and he felt her hands shaking.

"Do not be frightened," he said, in his quiet voice. "Dead people do no harm, you know. It is only imagination."

She shuddered as he groped his way with her toward the nave. They passed the pillar and saw the soft light of the ninety little flames of the huge golden lamps around the central shrine below the high altar. Far beyond, the great windows showed faintly in the height of the blackness. They walked more freely, keeping in the middle of the church. In the distant chapels on each side a few little lamps glimmered like fireflies. Before the last chapel on the right, the Chapel of the Sacrament, Francesca paused, instinctively holding fast to Griggs's arm, and they both bent one knee, as all Catholics do, who pass before it. But when they reached the shrine, Francesca loosed her hold and sank upon her knees, resting her arms upon the broad marble of the balustrade. Griggs knelt a moment beside her, by force of habit, then rose and waited, looking about him into the depths of blackness, and reflecting upon the best spot in which to pass the night.

She remained kneeling a long time, praying more or less consciously, but aware that it was a relief to be near a little light after passing through the darkness. Her mind was as terribly confused as her companion's was utterly calm and indifferent. If he had been alone he would have sat down upon a step until he was sleepy and then he would have stretched himself upon one of the benches in the transept. But to Francesca it was unspeakably dreadful.

The strangeness of the whole situation forced itself upon her more and more, when she thought of rising from her knees and going back to the bench. She felt a womanly shyness about keeping close to her companion, her hand on his arm, for hours together, but she knew that the terror she should feel of being left alone, even for an instant, or of merely thinking that she was to be left alone, would more than overcome that if she went away from the lights. She would grasp his arm and hold it tightly.

Then she felt ashamed of herself. She had always been told that she came of a brave race. She had never been in danger, and there was really no danger now. It was absurd to remain on her knees for the sake of the lamps. She rose to her feet and turned. Griggs was not looking at her, but at the ornaments on the altar. The soft glimmer lighted up his dark face. A moment after she had risen he came forward. She meant to propose that they should go back to the transept, but just then she shuddered again.

"Let us sit down here, on the step," she said, suddenly.

"If you like," he answered. "Wait a minute," he added, and he pulled off his overcoat.

He spread a part of it on the step, and rolled the rest into a pillow against which she could lean, and he held it in place while she sat down. She thanked him, and he sat down beside her. At first, as she turned from the lamps, the nave was like a fathomless black wall. Neither spoke for some time. Griggs broke the silence when he supposed that she was sufficiently recovered to talk quietly, for he had been thinking of what she had said, and it was almost clear to him at last.

"I should like to speak to you quite frankly, if you will allow me," he said gravely. "May I?"

"Certainly."

"The few words you said about Lord Redin's story have explained a great many things which I never understood," said Griggs. "Is it too much to ask that you should tell me everything you know?"

"I would rather not say anything more," answered Francesca. "I am very much ashamed of having betrayed his secret. Besides, what is to be gained by your knowing a few more details? It is bad enough as it is."

"It is more or less the story of my life," he said, almost indifferently.

She turned her head slowly and tried to see his face. She could just distinguish the features, cold and impassive.

"I came to you to ask you to warn Dalrymple of a danger," he continued, as she did not speak. "I knew that fact, but not the reason why his life was and is threatened. Unless I have mistaken what you said, I understand it now. It is a much stronger one than I should ever have guessed. Lord Redin ran away with your cousin, and made it appear that he had carried off Stefanone's daughter. Stefanone has waited patiently for nearly a quarter of a century. He has found Dalrymple at last and means to kill him. He will succeed, unless you can make Dalrymple understand that the danger is real. I have no evidence on which I could have the man arrested, and I have no personal influence in Rome. You have. You would find no difficulty in having Stefanone kept out of the city. And you can make Dalrymple see the truth, since he has confided in you. Will you do that? He will not believe me, and you can save him. Besides, he will not see me. I have tried twice to-day. He has made up his mind that he will not see me."

"I will do my best," said Francesca, leaning her head back against the marble rail, and half closing her eyes. "How terrible it all is!"

"Yes. I suppose that is the word," said Griggs, indifferently. "Sacrilege, suicide, and probably murder to come."

She was shocked by the perfectly emotionless way in which he spoke of Gloria's death, so much shocked that she drew a short, quick breath between her teeth as though she had hurt herself. Griggs heard it.

"What is the matter?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said.

"I thought something hurt you."

"No—nothing."

She was silent again.

"Yes," he continued, in a tone of cold speculation, "I suppose that any one would call it terrible. At all events, it is curious, as a sequence of cause and effect, from one tragedy to another."

"Please—please do not speak of it all like that—" Francesca felt herself growing angry with him.

"How should I speak of it?" he asked. "It is an extraordinary concatenation of events. I look upon the whole thing as very curious, especially since you have given me the key to it all."

Francesca was moved to anger, taking the defence of the dead Gloria, as almost any woman would have done. At the moment Paul Griggs repelled her even more than Lord Redin. It seemed to her that there was something dastardly in his indifference.

"Have you no heart?" she asked suddenly.

"No, I am dead," he answered, in his clear, lifeless voice, that might have been a ghost's.

The words made her shiver, and she felt as though her hair were moving. From his face, as she had last seen it, and from his voice, he might almost have been dead, as he said he was, like the thousands of silent ones in the labyrinths under her feet, and she alone alive in the midst of so much death.

"What do you mean?" she asked, and her own voice trembled in spite of herself.

"It is very like being dead," he answered thoughtfully. "I cannot feel anything. I cannot understand why any one else should. Everything is the same to me. The world is a white blank to me, and one place is exactly like any other place."

"But why? What has happened to you?" asked Francesca.

"You know. You sent me those letters."

"What letters?"

"The package Reanda gave you before he died."

"Yes. What was in it? I told you that I did not know, when I wrote to you. I remember every word I wrote."

"I know. But I thought that you at least guessed. They were Gloria's letters to her husband."

"Her old letters, before—" Francesca stopped short.

"No," he answered, with the same unnatural quiet. "All the letters she wrote him afterwards—when we were together."

"All those letters?" cried Francesca, suddenly understanding. "Oh no—no! It is not possible! He could not, he would not, have done anything so horrible."

"He did," said Griggs, calmly. "I had supposed that she loved me. He had his vengeance. He proved to me that she did not. I hope he is satisfied with the result. Yes," he continued, after a moment's pause, "it was the cruelest thing that ever one man did to another. I spent a bad night, I remember. On the top of the package was the last letter she wrote him, just before she killed herself. She loathed me, she said, she hated me, she shivered at my touch. She feared me so that she acted a comedy of love, in terror of her life, after she had discovered that she hated me. She need not have been afraid. Why should I have hurt her? In that last letter, she put her wedding ring with a lock of her hair wound in and out of it. Reanda knew what he was doing when he sent it to me. Do you wonder that it has deadened me to everything?"

"Oh, how could he do it? How could he!" Francesca repeated, for the worst of it all to her was the unutterable cruelty of the man she had believed so gentle.

"I suppose it was natural," said Griggs. "I loved the woman, and he knew it. I fancy few men have loved much more sincerely than I loved her, even after she was dead. I was not always saying so. I am not that kind of man. Besides, men who live by stringing words together for money do not value them much in their own lives. But I worked for her. I did the best I could. Even she must have known that I loved her."

"I know you did. I cannot understand how you can speak of her at all." Francesca wondered at the man.

"She? She is no more to me than Queen Christina, over there in her tomb in the dark! For that matter, nothing else has any meaning, either."

For a long time Francesca said nothing. She sat quite still, resting the back of her head against the marble, in the awful silence under the faint lights that glimmered above the great tomb.

"You have told me the most dreadful thing I ever heard," she said at last, in a low tone. "Is she nothing to you? Really nothing? Can you never think kindly of her again?"

"No. Why should I? That is—" he hesitated. "I could not explain it," he said, and was silent.

"It does not seem human," said Francesca. "You would have a memory of her—something—some touch of sadness—I wonder whether you really loved her as much as you thought you did?"

Griggs turned upon Francesca slowly, his hands clasped upon one knee.

"You do not know what such love means," he said slowly. "It is God—faith—goodness—everything. It is heaven on earth, and earth in heaven, in one heart. When it is gone there is nothing left. It went hard. It will not come back now. The heart itself is gone. There is nothing for it to come to. You think me cold, you are shocked because I speak indifferently of her. She lied to me. She lied and acted in every word and deed of her life with me. She deceived herself a little at first, and she deceived me mortally afterwards. It was all an immense, loathsome, deadly lie. I lived through the truth. Why should I wish to go back to the lie again? She died, telling me that she died for me. She died, having written to Reanda that she died for him. I do not judge her. God will. But God Himself could not make me love the smallest shadow of her memory. It is impossible. I am beyond life. I am outside it. My eternity has begun."

"Is it not a little for her sake that you wish to save her father?" asked Francesca.

"No. It is a matter of honour, and nothing else, since I injured him, as the world would say, by taking his daughter from her husband. Do you understand? Can you put yourself a little in my position? It is not because I care whether he lives or dies, or dies a natural death or is stabbed in the back by a peasant. It is because I ought to care. I do many things because I ought to care to do them, though the things and their consequences are all one to me, now."

"It cannot last," said Francesca, sadly. "You will change as you grow older."

"No. That is a thing you can never understand," he answered. "I am two individuals. The one is what you see, a man more or less like other men, growing older—a man who has a certain mortal, earthly memory of that dead woman, when the real man is unconscious. But the real man is beyond growing old, because he is beyond feeling anything. He is stationary, outside of life. The world is a blank to him and always will be."

His voice grew more and more expressionless as he spoke. Francesca felt that she could not pity him as she had pitied poor Lord Redin when she had seen him going away alone. The man beside her was in earnest, and was as far beyond woman's pity as he was beyond woman's love. Yet she no longer felt repelled by him since she had understood what he had suffered. Perhaps she herself, suffering still in her heart, wished that she might be even as he was, beyond the possibility of pain, even though beyond the hope of happiness. He wanted nothing, he asked for nothing, and he was not afraid to be alone with his own soul, as she was sometimes. The other man had asked for her friendship. It could mean nothing to Paul Griggs. If love were nothing, what could friendship be?

Yet there was something lofty and grand about such loneliness as his. She could not but feel that, now that she knew all. She thought of him as she sat beside him in the monumental silence of the enormous sepulchre, and she guessed of depths in his soul like the deepness of the shadows above her and before her and around her.

"My suffering seems very small, compared with yours," she said softly, almost to herself.

Somehow she knew that he would understand her, though perhaps her knowledge was only hope.

"Why should you suffer at all?" he asked. "You have never done anything wrong. Nothing, of all this, is your fault. It was all fatal, from the first, and you cannot blame yourself for anything that has happened."

"I do," she answered, in a low voice. "Indeed I do."

"You are wrong. You are not to blame. Dalrymple was—Maria Braccio—I—Gloria—we four. But you! What have you done? Compared with us you are a saint on earth!"

She hesitated a moment before she spoke. Then her voice came in a broken way.

"I loved Angelo Reanda. I know it, now that I have lost him."

Griggs barely heard the last words, but he bent his head gravely, and said nothing in answer.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

THE stillness was all around them and seemed to fold them together as they sat side by side. A deep sigh quivered and paused and was drawn again almost with a gasp that stirred the air. Suddenly Francesca's face was hidden in her hands, and her head was bowed almost to her knees. A moment more, and she sobbed aloud, wordless, as though her soul were breaking from her heart.

In the great gloom there was something unearthly in the sound of her weeping. The man who could neither suffer any more himself nor feel human pity for another's suffering, turned and looked at her with shadowy eyes. He understood, though he could not feel, and he knew that she had borne more than any one had guessed.

She shed many tears, and it was long before her sobbing ceased to call down pitiful, heart-breaking echoes from the unseen heights of darkness. Her head was bent down upon her knees as she sat there, striving with herself.

He could do nothing, and there was nothing that he could say. He could not comfort her, he could not deny her grief. He only knew that there was one more being still alive and bearing the pain of sins done long ago. Truly the judgment upon that man by whom the offence had come, should be heavy and relentless and enduring.

At last all was still again. Francesca did not move, but sat bowed together, her hands pressing her face. Very softly, Griggs rose to his feet, and she did not see that he was no longer seated beside her. He stood up and leaned upon the broad marble of the balustrade. When she at last raised her head, she thought that he was gone.

"Where are you?" she asked, in a startled voice.

Then, looking round, she saw him standing by the rail. She understood why he had moved—that she might not feel that he was watching her and seeing her tears.

"I am not ashamed," she said. "At least you know me, now."

"Yes. I know."

She also rose and stood up, and leaned upon the balustrade and looked into his face.

"I am glad you know," she said, and he saw how pale she was, and that her cheeks were wet. "Now that it is over, I am glad that you know," she said again. "You are beyond sympathy, and beyond pitying any one, though you are not unkind. I am glad, that if any one was to know my secret, it should be you. I could not bear pity. It would hurt me. But you are not unkind."

"Nor kind—nor anything," he said.

"No. It is as though I had spoken to the grave—or to eternity. It is safe with you."

"Yes. Quite safe. Safer than with the dead."

"He never knew it. Thank God! He never knew it! To me he was always the same faithful friend. To you he was an enemy, and cruel. I thought him above cruelty, but he was human, after all. Was it not human, that he should be cruel to you?"

"Yes," answered Griggs, wondering a little at her speech and tone. "It was very human."

"And you forgive him for it?"

"I?" There was surprise in his tone.

"Yes," she answered. "I want your forgiveness for him. He died without your forgiveness. It is the only thing I ask of you—I have not the right to ask anything, I know, but is it so very much?"

"It is nothing," said Griggs. "There is no such thing as forgiveness in my world. How could there be? I resent nothing."

"But then, if you do not resent what he did, you have forgiven him. Have you not?"

"I suppose so." He was puzzled.

"Will you not say it?" she pleaded.

"Willingly," he answered. "I forgive him. I remember nothing against him."

"Thank you. You are a good man."

He shook his head gravely, but he took her outstretched hand and pressed it gently.

"Thank you," she repeated, withdrawing hers. "Do not think it strange that I should ask such a thing. It means a great deal to me. I could not bear to think that he had left an enemy in the world and was gone where he could not ask forgiveness for what he had done. So I asked it of you, for him. I know that he would have wished me to. Do you understand?"

"Yes," said Griggs, thoughtfully. "I understand."

Again there was silence for a long time as they stood there. The tears dried upon the woman's sweet pale face, and a soft light came where the tears had been.

"Will you come with me?" she asked at last, looking up.

He did not guess what she meant to do, but he left the step on which he was standing and stood ready.

"It must be late," he said. "Should you like to try and rest? I will arrange a place for you as well as I can."

"Not yet," she answered. "If you will come with me—" she hesitated.

"Yes?"

"I will say a prayer for the dead," she said, in a low voice. "I always do, every night, since he died."

Griggs bent his head, and she came down from the step. He walked beside her, down the silent nave into the darkness. Before the Chapel of the Sacrament they both paused and bent the knee. Then she hesitated.

"I should like to go to the Pieta," she said timidly. "It seems so far. Do you mind?"

He held out his arm silently. She felt it and laid her hand upon it, and they went on. It was very dark. They knew that they were passing the pillars when they could not see the little lights from the chapels in the distance on their left. Then by the echo of their own footsteps they knew that they were near the great door, and at last they saw the single tiny flame in the silver lamp hanging above the altar they sought.

Guided by it, they went forward, and the solitary ray showed them the marble rail. They knelt down side by side.

"Let us pray for them all," said Francesca, very softly.

She looked up to the marble face of Christ's mother, the Addolorata, the mother of sorrows, and she thought of that sinning nun, dead long ago, who had been called Addolorata.

"Let us pray for them all," she repeated. "For Maria Braccio, for Gloria—for Angelo Reanda."

She lowered her head upon her hands. Then, presently, she looked up again, and Griggs heard her sweet voice in the darkness repeating the ancient Commemoration for the Dead, from the Canon of the Mass.

"Remember also, O Lord, thy servants who are gone before us with the sign of faith, and sleep the sleep of peace. Give them, O Lord, and to all who rest in Christ, a place of refreshment, light, and peace, for that Christ's sake, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Once more she bent her head and was silent for a time. Then as she knelt, her hands moved silently along the marble and pressed the two folded hands of the man beside her, and she looked at him.

"Let us be friends," she said simply.

"Such as I am, I am yours."

Then their hands clasped. They both started and looked down, for the fingers were cold and wet and dark.

It was the blood of Angus Dalrymple that had sealed their friendship.

The swift sure blade had struck him as he stood there, repeating the name of his dead wife. There had been no one near the door and none to see the quick, black deed. Strong hands had thrown his falling body within the marble balustrade, that was still wet with his heart's blood.

There Paul Griggs found him, lying on his back, stretched to his length in the dim shadow between the rail and the altar. He had paid the price at last, a loving, sinning, suffering, faithful, faultful man.

But the friendship that was so grimly consecrated on that night, was the truest that ever was between man and woman.

END OF VOL. II.



THE RALSTONS.

BY

F. MARION CRAWFORD.

2 vols. 16mo. Cloth. $2.00.

PRESS COMMENTS.

"The interest is unflagging throughout. Never has the author done more brilliant, artistic work than here."—Ohio State Journal.

"It is immensely entertaining; once in the full swing of the narrative, one is carried on quite irresistibly to the end. The style throughout is easy and graceful, and the text abounds in wise and witty reflections on the realities of existence."—Boston Beacon.

"As a picture of a certain kind of New York life, it is correct and literal; as a study of human nature it is realistic enough to be modern, and romantic enough to be of the age of Trollope."—Chicago Herald.

"The whole group of character studies is strong and vivid."—The Literary World.

"There is a long succession of exceedingly strong dramatic situations which hold the reader's attention enchained to the end. This is one of the strong books of the year, and will have a large circle of readers."—New Orleans Picayune.

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UNIFORM EDITION

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12mo. Cloth. Price $1.00 per volume.

KATHARINE LAUDERDALE.

The first of a series of novels dealing with New York life.

"Mr. Crawford at his best is a great novelist, and in 'Katharine Lauderdale' we have him at his best."—Boston Daily Advertiser.

"A most admirable novel, excellent in style, flashing with humor, and full of the ripest and wisest reflections upon men and women."—The Westminster Gazette.

"It is the first time, we think, in American fiction that any such breadth of view has shown itself in the study of our social framework."—Life.

"It need scarcely be said that the story is skilfully and picturesquely written, portraying sharply individual characters in well-defined surroundings."—New York Commercial Advertiser.

"'Katharine Lauderdale' is a tale of New York, and is up to the highest level of his work. In some respects it will probably be regarded as his best. None of his works, with the exception of 'Mr. Isaacs,' shows so clearly his skill as a literary artist."—San Francisco Evening Bulletin.

PIETRO GHISLERI.

"The imaginative richness, the marvellous ingenuity of plot, the power and subtlety of the portrayal of character, the charm of the romantic environment,—the entire atmosphere, indeed,—rank this novel at once among the great creations."—The Boston Budget.

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WITH THE IMMORTALS.

"Altogether an admirable piece of art worked in the spirit of a thorough artist. Every reader of cultivated tastes will find it a book prolific in entertainment of the most refined description, and to all such we commend it heartily."—Boston Saturday Evening Gazette.

"The strange central idea of the story could have occurred only to a writer whose mind was very sensitive to the current modern thought and progress, while its execution, the setting it forth in proper literary clothing, could be successfully attempted only by one whose active literary ability should be fully equalled by his power of assimilative knowledge both literary and scientific, and no less by his courage and capacity for hard work. The book will be found to have a fascination entirely new for the habitual reader of novels. Indeed, Mr. Crawford has succeeded in taking his readers quite above the ordinary plane of novel interest."—Boston Advertiser.

MARZIO'S CRUCIFIX.

"We take the liberty of saying that this work belongs to the highest department of character-painting in words."—Churchman.

"We have repeatedly had occasion to say that Mr. Crawford possesses in an extraordinary degree the art of constructing a story. His sense of proportion is just, and his narrative flows along with ease and perspicuity. It is as if it could not have been written otherwise, so naturally does the story unfold itself, and so logical and consistent is the sequence of incident after incident. As a story 'Marzio's Crucifix' is perfectly constructed."—New York Commercial Advertiser.

KHALED.

A Story of Arabia.

"Throughout the fascinating story runs the subtlest analysis, suggested rather than elaborately worked out, of human passion and motive, the building out and development of the character of the woman who becomes the hero's wife and whose love he finally wins, being an especially acute and highly finished example of the story-teller's art. . . . That it is beautifully written and holds the interest of the reader, fanciful as it all is, to the very end, none who know the depth and artistic finish of Mr. Crawford's work need be told."—The Chicago Times.

PAUL PATOFF.

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ZOROASTER.

"The field of Mr. Crawford's imagination appears to be unbounded. . . . In 'Zoroaster' Mr. Crawford's winged fancy ventures a daring flight. . . . Yet 'Zoroaster' is a novel rather than a drama. It is a drama in the force of its situations and in the poetry and dignity of its language; but its men and women are not men and women of a play. By the naturalness of their conversation and behavior they seem to live and lay hold of our human sympathy more than the same characters on a stage could possibly do."—The Times.

A TALE OF A LONELY PARISH.

"It is a pleasure to have anything so perfect of its kind as this brief and vivid story. . . . It is doubly a success, being full of human sympathy, as well as thoroughly artistic in its nice balancing of the unusual with the commonplace, the clever juxtaposition of innocence and guilt, comedy and tragedy, simplicity and intrigue."—Critic.

"Of all the stories Mr. Crawford has written, it is the most dramatic, the most finished, the most compact. . . . The taste which is left in one's mind after the story is finished is exactly what the fine reader desires and the novelist intends. . . . It has no defects. It is neither trifling nor trivial. It is a work of art. It is perfect."—Boston Beacon.

AN AMERICAN POLITICIAN.

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A CIGARETTE-MAKER'S ROMANCE.

"It is a touching romance, filled with scenes of great dramatic power."—Boston Commercial Bulletin.

"It is full of life and movement, and is one of the best of Mr. Crawford's books."—Boston Saturday Evening Gazette.

"The interest is unflagging throughout. Never has Mr. Crawford done more brilliant realistic work than here. But his realism is only the case and cover for those intense feelings which, placed under no matter what humble conditions, produce the most dramatic and the most tragic situations. . . . This is a secret of genius, to take the most coarse and common material, the meanest surroundings, the most sordid material prospects, and out of the vehement passions which sometimes dominate all human beings to build up with these poor elements scenes and passages, the dramatic and emotional power of which at once enforce attention and awaken the profoundest interest."—New York Tribune.



GREIFENSTEIN.

"'Greifenstein' is a remarkable novel, and while it illustrates once more the author's unusual versatility, it also shows that he has not been tempted into careless writing by the vogue of his earlier books. . . . There is nothing weak or small or frivolous in the story. The author deals with tremendous passions working at the height of their energy. His characters are stern, rugged, determined men and women, governed by powerful prejudices and iron conventions, types of a military people, in whom the sense of duty has been cultivated until it dominates all other motives, and in whom the principle of 'noblesse oblige' is, so far as the aristocratic class is concerned, the fundamental rule of conduct. What such people may be capable of is startlingly shown."—New York Tribune.

A ROMAN SINGER.

"One of Mr. Crawford's most charming stories—a love romance pure and simple."—Boston Home Journal.

"'A Roman Singer' is one of his most finished, compact, and successful stories, and contains a splendid picture of Italian life."—Toronto Mail.

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MR. ISAACS.

A Tale of Modern India.

"The writer first shows the hero in relation with the people of the East and then skilfully brings into connection the Anglo-Saxon race. It is in this showing of the different effects which the two classes of minds have upon the central figure of the story that one of its chief merits lies. The characters are original, and one does not recognize any of the hackneyed personages who are so apt to be considered indispensable to novelists, and which, dressed in one guise or another, are but the marionettes, which are all dominated by the same mind, moved by the same motive force. The men are all endowed with individualism and independent life and thought. . . . There is a strong tinge of mysticism about the book which is one of its greatest charms."—Boston Transcript.

"No story of human experience that we have met with since 'John Inglesant' has such an effect of transporting the reader into regions differing from his own. 'Mr. Isaacs' is the best novel that has ever laid its scenes in our Indian dominions."—The Daily News, London.

DR. CLAUDIUS.

A True Story.

"There is a suggestion of strength, of a mastery of facts, of a fund of knowledge, that speaks well for future production. . . . To be thoroughly enjoyed, however, this book must be read, as no mere cursory notice can give an adequate idea of its many interesting points and excellences, for without a doubt 'Dr. Claudius' is the most interesting book that has been published for many months, and richly deserves a high place in the public favor."—St. Louis Spectator.

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