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Part of an Old Story


PART OF AN OLD STORY.

MANY a traveler whose taste has led him fondly to sip the flavor of oral tradition in old European towns has heard the story of Angelo and Francesca told in the quiet streets of Palermo—told always in a minor strain of mystery and sadness which recalls the memory of that other Francesca, the shadow of whose fate Dante has multiplied and cast upon every heart. There comes a point where the story is abruptly broken off; for the narrator, with pious ejaculations, says that, having lived thus long, Angelo and Francesca one day suddenly disappeared, and were never heard of again.

Strangely enough, now, after the lapse of nearly a hundred years,—for they disappeared in 1793,—the rest of their history comes to light. It is narrated in the Vatican manuscript entitled "The Last Confessions of the Count Orlando di Cagliostro," to which the attention of the world was called for the first time last year by Professor Emanuel Kopfweh, of the University of Todtstadt. It is through his courtesy that the writer is enabled to present here a translation of the part containing the story of Angelo and Francesca.

If any one is going to ask whether the story is true—bah! Cagliostro was reputed not only a great scientist but a great charlatan—a greater one, perhaps, than that other Cagliostro, the letters of whose name were emblazoned with the disappearing gleams of the "Diamond Necklace." Moreover, these "Confessions" were written for a credulous age; and it is known that Cagliostro vigorously worked the inexhaustible mine of human credulity, and found gold wherever he dug.

Still the history must be accepted as substantially true; for is not one-half of the story of Angelo and Francesca told even to-day in the streets of Palermo? And—not to be tediously logical—has the other half ever been told elsewhere than here? Cagliostro wrote in the third person as follows:


I.

Count Cagliostro, prince of alchemists, sat alone one evening in the reception-room of his residence in Paris. Not long since he had passed beyond the eternal snow-line of human ambition, and from radiant heights he now stood looking down upon his contemporaries, as a being who towered midway between the mortal and the divine. On his threshold, indeed, was still lingering the last loiterer of a worshiping throng that had sought him this very night from every caprice of the human fancy, every need of the human soul. Their departure, however, had brought Count Cagliostro no relief; for he was now in solitude to meet the yet more insistent company of his thoughts, which began to gather as of old around the subject of life—its essential nature, its irreversible laws, its melancholy imperfections, its pitiful span. Ere long he was interrupted in his meditations by the unexpected entrance of a young couple in whom all the warm, splendid beauty of the Italian race seemed to have but lately flowered forth in the richest perfection. They approached him with truthlike simplicity of demeanor and unrestrained evidences of reverential regard for his august presence. Interested in the highest degree, he asked them whence they came, and learned that they were from Palermo, the city of his own nativity, and the place where the achievements of his incomparable learning were most enthusiastically exaggerated.

"To what do I owe the happiness of this visit?" then inquired Cagliostro.

"We have come to ask a favor of your wonderful skill, Signor Conte."

"And what favor may my wonderful skill render you, Angelo and Francesca? Shall I summon Death to relieve you of the burdens of old age?"

"Oh, Signor Conte! Francesca is but twenty-one."

"And Angelo is just twenty-three, Signor Conte."

"Then you are wasting away with incurable disease!"

"We have never known a day's illness in our lives, Signor Conte."

"Ah! I see. You wish to learn the alchemist's secret of converting all things into gold."

"We have great wealth, Signor Conte."

"Why, here is an excellent mystery! Is it some monstrous crime that I am to hear you confess?"

"We have committed no crime, Signor Conte, and we are absolved of all our sins."

"Youth, beauty, health, wealth, innocence! You possess all these, and yet you come to bespeak the offices of my poor skill! Ah! Angelo and Francesca, it can render you no service. It is for those who come to me and say, 'Only mitigate the infirmities of old age, and we can bear all the rest'; or, 'Only ease this agony of pain, and we can bear all the rest'; or, 'Only aid us in the unequal struggle against poverty, and we can bear all the rest'; or, 'Only take from our souls the gnawing fang of remorse, and we can bear all the rest.' Such is the imperfect humanity by which my insufficient skill is too confidently sought. But you, you alone of all that I have ever seen, realize my dreams of ideal manhood and womanhood. And yet you may lack one thing: is it love?"

"Signor Conte," they cried passionately, "we love beyond the love of earth—beyond the love of heaven. It is the very perfection of our love that is the only source of our unhappiness. Two years ago we were wedded. Ah! the rapturous, the delirious joys of those two happy, happy years! From the ecstasy of this long trance, during which we had no thought of coming sorrow, we have just been fatally awakened. A pestilence is raging in Palermo. The air is full of the farewells of the dying, of wailings for the dead. Every morning we have trembled at the horrors of the coming day; every night we have clasped each other with forebodings that it would be the last. Ah! Signor Conte, the sadness of the human lot! Death, which may come at any instant, is the end of earthly love, and earthly love is so blissful that nothing in the power of even Heaven to bestow can ever compensate for its troubled course and too early dissolution."

"Angelo and Francesca, your remonstrances against destiny are at best short-sighted and vain. How have you lived so long in this world and been so strangely shielded from contact with its irreparable imperfections? Do you not know that love increases with increase of uncertainty? that it is purified by sorrows? that it blooms over the very abyss of parting, and sheds its perfume by the law of its own death? Too imperious and consuming is it, moreover, to be felt in this life without much alloy and for the briefest season. Return, then, to Palermo. Touching those inevitable casualties, those many sorrows, and that closing scene whereby it has pleased the will of Heaven to make the noblest passion of our mortal estate uneasy, sad, and brief, look not to find, in any means of mine, prevention or escapement."

"Signor Conte," they exclaimed in tears, "do not send us home to Palermo, but hear and grant the request which we have secretly come hither to make. How often have we not heard that you possess a marvelous elixir which has potency to restore even to the old the intense and satisfying realities of the long-lost youth! Is not this known to the whole world? Is it not the highest distinction of your name? Have you not openly promised its benefits to those who will become your followers? By means of this elixir, then, blot out of our lives the past two years. Bring us back once more to the very hour of the night on which we stood before the altar and plighted our troth, that we, starting thence again, may live through the perfect joys—the ideal bloom and unspent freshness—that now seem to have vanished from life forever. The two years that are gone are worth more to us than all the uncertain future."

"Angelo and Francesca, you may indeed recall the past and live over its pleasures many, many times; for have you not memory? And a thousand other pleasures yet to come you may even now experience many, many times; for have you not hope? Be content, I pray you, with the beautiful past, and so act that the favor of Heaven may reward you with a beautiful future. This longing for a return to the years that are gone is the old, universal dream of the race—as uncontrollable as it is idle. Do you not understand that if the happy past could be recalled once, twofold then would be the regret that it could not be recalled yet again? Do you not feel that no repetitions of it, however many, could ever satisfy the soul, whose ideal is a youth of perpetual renewal, that is, a youth immortal? But I cannot bestow upon you immortality, Angelo and Francesca; and therefore, even if my skill were sufficient for it, would I be doing you a kindness in bringing back these two coveted years a single time?"

But his reply only made them the more importunate, and Cagliostro became conscious that for him their request was fast acquiring a supreme fascination. What they had said was true. He had indeed proclaimed to the world his discovery of an inestimably precious elixir which would consolidate in man the most vigorous forces of youth. He had indeed promised perfection, through physical and moral regeneration, to those who would become his followers and pass through the long and intricate ceremonials that he had ordained as the esoteric initiation to his mysterious cult. But he knew that all those marvelous cures which had hitherto contributed so much to his fame were effected by his unequaled skill in extracting and compounding the virtues of medicinal substances, powerfully aided by the credulity and the sanguine imaginations of those who took them. Only he knew that he had toiled through many years with unwearied assiduity of experiment and intensity of thought, to discover a potion that would not only arrest for a time the processes of natural decay, but even suspend or reverse the action of the vital forces at work in the human body. Only he knew that there was now in his possession a subtle fluid which represented the product of his life-long labors. Its effects on human life he had hitherto allowed himself to test only in the most partial and unsatisfactory manner. The minutest drop, greatly diluted, he had seen reanimate the old for a short season, causing the long-silent laughter to break forth from the lips, the long-smoldering fires to flame up in the eye, the long-bent form to struggle to regain its intrepid erectness. If twice as much were given, the Count noted with wonderment that very much the same effects were produced, lasting through twice as long a time. Repeated experiments enabled him to determine with minute accuracy the relation between the strength and the quantity given and the length of time during which the effects would endure.

He had never ventured to test fully the qualities of the elixir, however, on account of his inability to secure the conditions under which it was imperative that the experiment should be made. All these he now saw fulfilled in the young couple before him. They were physically perfect, and would thus insure the most favorable result. They were willing to become parties to the secrecy which the awful nature of the deed would make indispensable. They had entire faith in his supernatural skill. And the period of two years which they had mentioned was so short that he would be enabled to modify the strength of the draught and thus greatly diminish the possibility of a fatal result. Never again would such an opportunity occur: should he allow it to pass?

Count Cagliostro arranged to make the experiment on the next night, which was the second anniversary of Angelo and Francesca's marriage.


II.

For the first few hours after giving to each of them a draught, the strength of which he delicately regulated by the means already mentioned, he hung over the couch on which they lay, with scarcely a hope that life was not extinct, and that the light of day would not fully reveal to him the ghastliness of his presumptuous and most unnatural deed. Angelo and Francesca lay in the same deathlike trance that they had immediately sunk into, clothed in the mysterious beauty with which mortality adorns itself before its transmutation into dust. At length a sigh that seemed to issue not from human lips, but from the bosom of some invisible floating dream, wandered to the strained ear of the alchemist. Was it the last sigh of the old life, now soaring away from the earth, or was it the first troubled moan of a strange new life, that had just come in to tenant the abandoned clay? How dire had been the conflict between the forces of the two: the one hitherto had borne Angelo and Francesca inexorably forward toward old age and death; would the other now transport them as irremediably toward the past?

As the night wore on, their state seemed to become that of a weary, unnatural slumber. During the next day it assumed by imperceptible stages the aspect of a healthful and delicious rest. Cagliostro, who had never for a moment left their bedside, noted with transport the successive changes that denoted their difficult return from the very portals of death: the disappearance of ghastly pallor, the faint bloom that began to suffuse the cheeks, the eyelids, long rigid and tightened, now veiling the eyes with the soft adaptations of a sympathetic curtain. The white drapery of the couch fell like the thinnest veil of cloud about their forms, and revealed in clear outlines the exquisite molding of the limbs. Once the young husband, stirring in his sleep, threw his right arm across Francesca's breast. By this action the arm was left bare to the shoulder. Cagliostro then for the first time noticed that on it between the elbow and the shoulder was a wound, not yet entirely healed, that had evidently been made with a stiletto. Bending down to inspect this, he observed that on Francesca's bosom also, just above the heart, was a similar wound, in the same stage of incomplete healing. Afterward these wounds came to have a peculiar significance. Late that night Cagliostro, now worn out not so much by watching as by intense anxiety, sought his own chamber for a few hours' sleep, hopeful that the morning would bring him auspicious revelations.

Scarcely had the sun risen, when he hastened to them. They had already dressed themselves, and were now sitting with clasped hands at the open window. An exclamation of delight broke from the alchemist at the spectacle of their more than restored beauty. Such was its dewy freshness, its semblance of unworn faculty and surcharged power, that they might indeed have embodied a dream of immortal youth. But when Cagliostro had quickly approached them, he stood transfixed with horror to perceive that the intellectual and emotional counterpart of all this physical loveliness was lacking. Some great and incomprehensible change had passed over them, in regard to which they themselves could give only bewildered and bewildering statements. Their lips seemed ever ready to part in delightful laughter, yet they felt no impulse to laugh; their eyes flashed, but not from the enjoyment of anything visible nor with the excitement of mental discovery; their graceful and animated movements appeared to have no relation to newly formed purposes and future results, but to be aimless revivals of things already experienced.

Many days passed before Cagliostro grasped the startling significance of the physical and the psychical phenomena that now began to fall under his notice and that became his constant study during the next two years. In so far as the elixir had affected the physical bases and forces of life, it seemed to have inaugurated a series of changes that might supposably have taken place in the case of persons growing younger, and growing younger at the same rate at which they had previously grown older. The evidences of this were slowly derived both from special facts and general results. Thus, he ascertained from Angelo that the stiletto wounds had been inflicted by a former suitor of Francesca's, who, maddened by long brooding over his unhappy passion, had one evening suddenly sprung upon them in the street, and aimed a blow at her heart. Angelo's quickly interposed arm had checked the course of the weapon, which had then been run through the arm itself by the assassin before he fled. This incident had occurred two months before their coming to Cagliostro. Two months after their coming these wounds disappeared, leaving neither on Angelo's arm nor Francesca's bosom the least traceable cicatrice. Most remarkable was it to observe that during this period the wounds had the appearance of going through a process the reverse of that of healing. They daily grew more red and swollen and painful, and on the night prior to their complete disappearance, they opened and bled afresh, as though but just inflicted.

During the previous year, Angelo's artistic imagination had all at once become fascinated with the heroic models of antiquity, and he had developed his muscles to athletic proportions. These now gradually declined, and in the end they reassumed simply the fine outlines that were his natural masculine endowment. Francesca, too, slipped from the lately opened rose of womanhood back into the half-blown, more enrapturing delicacy of the maiden.

More extraordinary still were the psychical changes through which they passed. If, as regards the purely vital forces, they seemed to be in the condition of persons who were growing younger, so, as regards the mind, they appeared to be retracing the stages of their latest development. All the knowledge that they had acquired in the two preceding years they now began to lose in an order the reverse of acquisitive technical skill left them, and they remained as though it had never been possessed. Thus, there were favorite books which they had hitherto never grown weary of discussing. Henceforth all knowledge of these began to pass away. The familiar passages in due time died out of their memories; they remembered them only as forgotten. Angelo had brought with him to Paris an unfinished painting, one of the figures in which was to represent Francesca. When he resumed work on it, he found himself unable to carry out the unexecuted part of his design. The particulars of this design, one by one, were lost from his consciousness, as one by one they had grown in his artistic conception. Under his diminishing skill the picture passed from bad to worse. Time and again, at rare intervals, he returned to it and despairingly left it; and before the period of two years had expired, it became simply a blurred and unintelligible canvas. Cagliostro ascertained that only two years before he had begun to receive instructions in painting. Francesca, too, gradually forgot the songs that she had most recently learned to sing. Those highest notes of her beautiful voice, which marked the latest extensions of its register, she soon discovered that she could no longer reach. Even while at the piano one day, the familiar notes of the music began to falter strangely from her lips, and her fingers grew motionless amid the dying echoes of the forgotten chords.

While there was this phase of forgetfulness, there was also one of reminiscence. They seemed to experience as complete a resuscitation of mental experience as was possible, considering the differences between their present and their original situation in the world. The past came back to them; disjointed sentences, the fragments of former conversations, started from the brain; sudden impulses to action, now divorced from all natural setting, swayed the will; old perplexities and old temptations besieged the heart; the former joys, which they had so eagerly desired to revive, now reappeared,—all a faded pageant,—a mocking, ghostly train, sweeping before the disappointed and disenchanted vision of the soul and compelling it to sit in calmer judgment upon the ruined idols and empty vanities of its previous estate.

Finally, there were the emotions with which Angelo and Francesca contemplated all these changes. As, in the order of nature, the soul abides within and notes how the body grows old,—how a furrow is plowed across the brow, a film creeps over the eye, how knowledge perishes and skill is lost,—so the souls of this young pair, remaining aloof from all material mutations though not uninfluenced by them, appeared freely cognizant of the progressing rejuvenescence. They remembered their former future, which had now become their past; they realized that they were now being borne toward their former past, which thus became their future. But scarcely had they awakened to a realization of the fearful thought that they were growing younger, that they alone of all the race were being borne irremediably, not toward that verge of life where Death opens the portal of the infinite hereafter, but toward that more awful verge where Birth closes the portal upon the void and formless infinite behind; scarcely had they begun to see themselves losing day by day all that knowledge has power to bestow or art has beauty to inspire, before they threw themselves at the alchemist's feet and implored him to release them from the inexorable force of the imperious elixir.


III.

Unhappy, thrice unhappy Cagliostro! He had evoked the occult powers of science, and he now stood aghast at his own indestructible success. He durst neither interfere with what he had done, lest instant death should be the result, nor breathe to his own spirit a prophecy of the uncertain end. The visible workings of those laws which he and a long line of illustrious predecessors from the days of Hippocrates had, with the costliest devotion of years, sought to bring into activity, now terrified him as the very presence of the supernatural. Worse than this: Francesca had been under his roof but a little while ere he conceived for her a consuming passion. In earlier years he had known no pleasure greater than that of the society of beautiful and brilliant women, but the rigor of scientific pursuits and the august character of his position in the world had long compelled him to lead a life of unmitigated loneliness. Now his passionate heart reasserted itself; and ambition, learning,—all that he had achieved or ever hoped to win,—became as nothing to him in comparison with his love for Francesca, whose perfection he had once coldly surveyed as the means of making a scientific experiment. Exquisite punishment—reaching him even before the awful vengeance of insulted Heaven! By his own skill he had forced himself to behold the daily restoration of her more youthful loveliness; and he had given the labor of his life-time to renew for her those two years of wedded happiness with Angelo, to see her in whose arms for a single moment was to him the torture of eternity.

Truly, when Heaven shall allow one to attain a knowledge of the elixir of youth, will it not curse him by denying the wisdom that should accompany the power to use it?

He could not even fly from her, for he alone might hope to save her life. Thus, the fear of some unforeseen issue kept him near her during the day; and often at night, starting with horror from the pale specter of his dreams, he would take a lamp, and, stealing to the couch whereon she lay with her head on Angelo's bosom, assure himself that the end was not yet come. How little sweeter than death was this spectacle to him! In her incomprehensible state of mind and body, even momentary separation from Angelo might have brought about immediate death, and to destroy Angelo, as in his jealous frenzies he sometimes thought of doing, was an aggravation of his offenses that the dread thought of eternity always intervened to prevent.

One midnight he returned from one of these stolen visits to their chamber and threw himself upon the floor of his room, groveling in agony. Then he went to a secret panel-hidden recess in the wall, and taking from it a crystal vial filled with an ineffably bright fluid, he placed it on a table in the center of the room and took his seat before it.

"Inestimably precious elixir! What toil of studious years is not compressed into thy golden drops! What beautiful processes are not involved in thy slow distillation! The subtlest secrets of earth and air and sky unite their potencies in thy unequaled composition, Old—old—old baffler! universally dreamt of, despairingly sought for, never before found! Best of all things on this mortal side of the universe! Restorer of the past! Giver of strength and nimbleness and color to decrepitude, tottering and shivering and whitening through the long night of wintered years! Thou flashest here and dashest thy shimmering depths against thy prison-walls, as diffusive as perfume, as light as thought. But thou shalt return this night to the thousand visible and invisible sources from which thy virtues were collected. What hast thou been to Cagliostro? Poison deadlier than twisted wolf's-bane or mournful nightshade—draught of death to his hopes, his love, and his ambition. Thou mockery of the race! Over none other shalt thou ever cast thy fatal enchantment. Shattered now be thy receptacle! scattered be thy volatile, fast-vanishing drops! Blotted out from the brain be thy unhallowed formula, and never again be thy awful substance compounded!"

After this, nothing seemed to remain for him in life but to bring his daring experiment to an issue, and dismiss the young pair in peace. He had assigned them apartments in his house opening upon a garden, in which had been collected not only the numerous plants whose medicinal properties he wished to ascertain, but every flower that could delight the senses. It was here, face to face with material nature, that they had the final realization of their deplorable state. Twice they watched the annual procession of her forces, and through the benign stages of growth, mature effulgence, and decay traced the completed cycle of her forms. But they—they alone of all created things—seemed to have turned backward in their course, as though the vine, having clambered high upon the wall, should sink down into the tender, precarious shoot; or the rose, having once bloomed, should gather together its petals and disappear from sight on the summit of the green stalk. Here, perhaps, they came to entertain that broad view of life which embraces its endless succession of transitory forms, its long array of waiting and more splendid pageants, for which room must be made by those in front and whose preëstablished order of march none dare confuse. Here, perhaps, the overweening selfishness of personality, which would ask to have its coveted joys renewed and repeated at any unnatural cost, received its complete humiliation. And, in the end, perhaps the least desirable of all things was this return to their past, since it could but lengthen the time before they could enter those higher mysteries whose privileges appertain to eternity alone.


IV.

At length the two years drew toward a close, and the day approached in which Cagliostro had arranged that the effects of the elixir should expire. Whatever the result might be, he had now come to perceive that for one or all of them it must be tragical. If Angelo and Francesca should be left free to return to the world and publicly attest his supernatural skill, he foresaw his loss of her and his probable martyrdom at the hands of the Holy Inquisition for his impious attempts to contravene the divinely appointed laws of life and death. Over the other possible issues he had latterly pondered with awful forebodings. They were three. What if his calculation should prove erroneous, and the relentless hold of the elixir upon the bodies of Angelo and Francesca should continue, continue for years, continue until they were carried backward into helpless infancy—into—horrible thought!—what final state? Should he be compelled to witness the gradual transformation of the woman he loved into a handful of dust? Or, what if the calculation were right, and the effects of the draught were to expire at the expected moment? Would not the shock to the brain have been too great—its long unnatural action fatal—and would not Angelo and Francesca be left mindless, emotionless, mere beautiful idiots? Or, what if the natural life had ceased at the time the elixir was given, as it had seemed to do, and this strange state were but due to the fictitious vitality imparted by his own skill? When its sustaining virtues should be spent, would it not be found that the threads of existence had been snapped asunder long before?

Cagliostro denied himself to all visitors, and prepared for the supreme moment. In order to facilitate a transition from their artificial to their natural state, he arranged that it should take place amid a scene of bridal joy and beauty, befitting their return to the very hour of their nuptials. He chose for this purpose the most splendid room in his almost palatial residence. Lamps, swung by silver chains from the fretted ceiling, emitted flames of various colors. Down the walls and before the lofty windows fell rich tapestries and cloudlike masses of gorgeous curtains. On the marble floor lay the richest skins and rugs of the Orient. In the center of the room was represented the fountain of perpetual youth, whose descending perfumed sprays filled the ear with low molten music. Near this stood a collation, with joy-bringing wines in which they were to pledge each other for the new life. Over the feast presided a bronze figure of Time, his scythe entwined with roses. At one end of the room was a bridal altar, illumined by the myriad serene, starlike lights of crystal chandeliers. Above this altar hung one great picture—Medea at the moment of witnessing the triumphant restoration of the old king to his youth.

The day passed, the evening came, the hour began that was, at its close, to usher in the fateful moment. Cagliostro had instructed Angelo and Francesca to dress themselves as they had been dressed on the night of their nuptials. Half an hour before the time, he went to them and led them into the room that was to be the auspicious scene of their awakening. Borne on by uncontrollable excitement, he advanced with them unconsciously to the very steps of the altar, and standing on one of the steps, he joined their hands and held them clasped firmly in his own. How could he control himself to speak to them? His heart was broken; his brain was on fire. Never had he seen or dreamt of such beauty as Francesca now finally revealed when dressed as a bride; it was the last extreme of torture. She stood arrayed thus only to renew her pledges of love to Angelo! Never, in comparison with the lustrous bloom and admirable symmetry of Angelo, had his own weakened frame and homely face been so acute a cause of irreparable wretchedness. Silently he looked down upon them, as they looked at each other and seemed suddenly to flush as with joyful anticipations of the approaching change. A few minutes, and he spoke:

"Angelo and Francesca, two years ago this evening, at the exact expiration of this hour, you received from me by your own request a draught of that elixir which was to turn backward the course of your lives and restore to you the joys of your bridal. With the stroke of the clock, as I expect, the last traces of that elixir will die out of your veins, leaving you free to go forth into the world again. But oh! Angelo and Francesca, you have learned in the meantime how melancholy a thing it is to turn backward over the course of even the happiest life. You have long since haply been led to believe that this longing for a return to youth is not meant to be gratified here, where one imperfect life is enough for one to live, but constitutes a slumberous prescience of its realization elsewhere in the universe."

Was it the effect of his words that sent a sudden shiver through their frames and caused them to drink deep, deep of the light in each other's eyes?

"While you have been learning this, I—alas!—have been purchasing wisdom with an age of suffering. I shall send you forth into life now, better reconciled to its inalienable imperfections, because better understanding their spiritual beauty and divine forecastings; but who is there to teach me, an old man, broken and desolate and pierced with many sorrows, how the residue of my years may be sweetened with human joys, or made an acceptable offering to Heaven?"

With a sudden pallor overspreading their faces, and heavy shadows under their eyes, they turned their gaze upon him, and clung awe-stricken to each other.

"A minute more, and the stroke of the clock will release you from the thralldom of the draught. Angelo, as you lead Francesca toward the long green uplands of life, remember Cagliostro, who used his skill—and did not use it ungenerously against you! Francesca, Francesca! Sometimes remember Cagliostro, whose heart was broken—"

The stroke!

At that instant Angelo and Francesca, without a groan, sank down together dead at the foot of the altar, their natural life having been ended two years before; and Cagliostro, his secret fears realized,—Francesca dead, and he her murderer,—fell forward in a long swoon upon the bridal attire and the cold dust of the unhappy pair, nor heard the music of the fountain of youth, nor saw the roses dying around the scythe of the figure of Time, nor watched the lights go out one by one on the bridal altar, nor met the gaze of Medea looking down fiercely upon him from the pictured wall.

James Lane Allen


 

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1925, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.