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The Strand Magazine/Volume 1/Issue 1/The Maid of Treppi


The Maid of Treppi.

From the German of Paul Heyse.

[Paul Heyse, the greatest German novelist now living, was born in 1830, at Berlin. His father was a celebrated scholar and professor at the University; and he himself, while still a student, undertook a special tour in Italy in order to examine manuscripts in the libraries of Florence, Rome, and Venice. He was only twenty-four, when King Maximilian of Bavaria invited him to Munich, where he married the daughter of the eminent art critic, Franz Kugler, and where he has ever since resided. He had already turned from the dry bones of scholarship to the more congenial task of writing dramas, poems, and romances. His short stories—of which "The Maid of Treppi" is an excellent example—are his best achievements, and are full of passion, character, and romantic charm.]


CHAPTER I.

O
N the summit of the Apennines, just between Tuscany and the northern part of the States of the Church, there lies a solitary little village called Treppi. The paths that lead up to it are not fit for driving. Some miles further south the road for the post and "vetturine" goes winding through the mountains. None but the peasants who have to deal with the shepherds pass by Treppi; occasionally, too, a painter or pedestrian anxious to avoid the highroad, and at night the smugglers with their pack-mules,who, better than anyone, know of wild rocky paths by which to reach the solitary little village at which they make but a short stay.
"THE DOG RUBBED HIS NOSE IN HER HAND."

It was towards the middle of October, a season when up in those heights the nights are still very clear and bright. But after the burning hot sun of the day in question, a fine mist rose up from the ravine, and spread itself slowly over the bare but noble looking rocks of the highland. It was about nine in the evening. A faint light from the fires was still visible in the scattered low stone huts, which, during the day, were taken care of by the oldest women and the youngest children only. The shepherds with their families lay sleeping round the hearths where the great kettles were swinging; the dogs had stretched themselves amongst the ashes; one sleepless old grandmother sat up on a heap of skins, mechanically moving to and fro her spindle, and muttering a prayer or rocking a restless child in its cradle. The damp, autumnal night breeze came in through large crevices in the walls, and the smoke from the expiring flames on the hearth encountering the mist was forced back heavily and thickly, and floated beneath the ceiling of the hut without seeming to inconvenience the old woman. Presently she, too, slept as well as she could, but with wide open eyes.

In one house alone the dwellers were still stirring. Like the other houses it had only one storey, but the stones were better put together, the door was broader and higher, and adjoining the large square formed by the actual dwelling house were various sheds, extra rooms, stables, and a well-built brick oven. A group of well-laden horses stood before the door; one of the farm servants was just removing the empty mangers, while six or seven armed men emerged from the house into the fog and began hastily getting their steeds ready. A very ancient dog, lying near the door, merely wagged its tail at their departure. Then he raised himself wearily from the ground and went slowly into the hut, where the fire was still burning brightly.

His mistress stood by the hearth, turned towards the fire; her stately form was motionless, her arms hanging loosely at her sides. When the dog gently rubbed his nose in her hand, she turned round as though startled out of some dream. "Fuoco," she said, "poor fellow, go to bed, you are ill!" The dog whined and wagged its tail gratefully. Then he crept on to an old skin by the hearth, and lay down coughing and moaning.

Meanwhile a few menservants had come in and seated themselves round the large table on which stood the dishes left by the departing smugglers. An old maid-servant filled these again with polenta out of the big kettle, and taking her spoon sat down and joined the others. Not a word was spoken whilst they were eating; the flames crackled, the dog growled hoarsely in his sleep, the grave and solemn girl sitting on the stone slab by the hearth left untouched the little dish of polenta specially put there for her by the old maid, and gazed about the room buried in thought. In front of the door the fog was like a dense white wall. But at that moment the half-moon appeared, rising above the edge of the rock.

Then there was a sound of horses' hoofs and footsteps approaching up the path. "Pietro!" called out the young mistress of the house in quiet but admonishing tones. A tall young fellow immediately got up from the table and disappeared into the fog.

Steps and voices were heard drawing nearer, till the horse stopped at the door. After a pause, three men appeared in the doorway and entered with a brief greeting. Pietro went up to the girl who was gazing at the fire without showing the slightest interest. "These are two men from Porretta," he said to her, "without any wares; they are conducting a gentleman across the mountains; his passport is not quite in order."

"Nina!" called the girl. The old maid-servant got up and went across to the hearth.

"It is not only that they want something to eat, Padrona," continued the man, "can the gentleman have a bed for the night? He does not wish to go further before daybreak."

"Get ready a bed of straw for him in the chamber." Pietro nodded and went back to the table.

The three new arrivals had seated themselves without any particular attention being paid to them on the part of the servants. Two of them were contrabandists, well armed, their jackets thrown carelessly across their shoulders, and hats pushed well down over their brows. They nodded to the others as though they were old acquaintances, and leaving a good space between their companion and themselves they crossed themselves and began to eat.

The traveller who had come with them ate nothing. He removed his hat from a rather high forehead, passed his hand through his hair, and let his eyes survey the place and company. He read the pious proverbs traced with charcoal on the walls, looked at the picture of the Virgin with its little lamp in the corner, the hens sleeping beside it on their perches, then at the heads of maize hanging on a string from the ceiling, at a shelf with bottles, and jars, and skins, and baskets, all heaped up together. At last his eyes were attracted by the girl at the hearth. Her dark profile stood out clear and beautiful against the flickering red of the fire. A great nest of black plaits lay low on her neck, and her joined hands were clasped round one knee, while the other foot rested on the rocky floor of the room. He could not tell how old she was, but he could see from her manner that she was the mistress of the house.

"Have you any wine in the house, Padrona?" he asked at last.

Hardly were the words out of his mouth before the girl started as though struck by lightning, and stood upright on the hearth, leaning with both arms on the slab. At the same moment the dog woke up out of his sleep, a savage growl issuing from his wheezing chest. Suddenly the stranger saw four fiery eyes fixed on him.

"May one not ask whether you have any wine in the house, Padrona?" he repeated. The last word was still unspoken when the dog, in quite inexplicable fury, rushed at him, barking loudly, seized his cloak with his teeth, and tore it from his shoulder, and would have flown at him again if his mistress had not promptly called him off.

"Down, Fuoco, down! Quiet! Quiet!" The dog stood in the middle of the room, whisking his tail angrily, and keeping his eye on the stranger. "Shut him up in the stable, Pietro!" said the girl in an undertone. She still stood petrified by the hearth, and repeated her order, seeing Pietro hesitate. For many years the old dog's nightly resting place had been by the fireside. The men all whispered together as the dog followed most reluctantly, howling and barking terribly outside until at last he seemed to stop from sheer exhaustion.

Meanwhile, at a sign from her mistress, the maid had brought in the wine. The stranger took a drink, passing on the goblet to his companions, and meditated in silence on the very extraordinary scene he had unconsciously been the cause of. One after another the men laid down their spoons, and went out with a "Good-night, Padrona!" At last the three were left alone with the hostess and the old maid.


Maid of treppi, pg 59--The Strand Magazine, vol 1, no 1.png

"HAVE YOU ANY WINE IN THE HOUSE, PADRONA?"


"The sun rises at four o'clock," said one of the smugglers in an undertone to the stranger. "Your Excellency need not rise any earlier—we shall reach Pistoja in good time. Besides, we must think of the horse, which must have six hours' rest."

"Very well, my friends. Go to bed!"

"We will waken your Excellency."

"Do so in any case," answered the stranger, "although the Madonna knows I do not often sleep six hours at a stretch. Good-night, Carlone; good-night, Master Baccio!"

The men raised their hats respectfully, and got up. One of them went up to the hearth, and said:—

"I have a greeting for you, Padrona, from Costanzo of Bologna; he wants to know if he forgot his knife here last Saturday?"

"No," she answered shortly and impatiently.

"I told him you would certainly have sent it back to him if it had been left here. And then—"

"Nina," interrupted the girl, "show them the way to their room, in case they have forgotten it."

The maid got up from her seat. "I only wanted to tell you, Padrona," continued the man with great calmness and a slight blinking of the eyes, "that the gentleman there would not grudge the money if you give him a softer bed than what we get. That is what I wanted to say, Padrona, and now may the Madonna give you a good night, Signora Fenice!"

Thereupon he turned to his companion, and both bowing before the picture in the corner they crossed themselves and left the room with the maid. "Good night, Nina!" called out the girl. The old woman turned on the threshold and made a sign of inquiry; then quickly and obediently closed the door after her.

Hardly were they alone before Fenice took up a brass lamp which stood by the fireside and lit it hurriedly. The flames from the hearth were gradually dying out, and the three little red flames of the lamp only sufficed to light up quite a small portion of the large room. It seemed as though the darkness had made the stranger sleepy, for he sat at the table with his head bowed on his arms, his cloak well wrapped round him, as if he intended passing the night there. Then he heard his name called, and looked up. The lamp was burning before him on the table, and opposite stood the young hostess who had called him. Her glance met his with the utmost firmness.

"Filippo," she said, "do you not know me again?"

For a short time he gazed inquiringly into the beautiful face which glowed partly from the rays of the lamp and partly from fear as to what would be the answer to her question. The face was indeed one worthy to be remembered. The long silky eyelashes as they rose and fell softened the severity of the forehead and delicately-cut nose. The mouth was rosy—red in freshest youth; save only when silent there was a touch of mingled grief, resignation, and fierceness not gainsayed by the black eyes above. And as she stood there by the table the charm of her figure, and especially the beauty of her head and neck, were plainly visible. Still, however, after some consideration, Filippo merely said:

"I really do not know you, Padrona!"

"It is impossible," she answered in a strange low tone of certainty. "You have had time these seven years to keep me in your memory. It is a long time—long enough for a picture to be imprinted on the mind."

It was only then that the strange words seemed fully to rouse him out of his own thoughts.

"Indeed, fair maid," he answered, "he who for seven years has nothing else to do but think of one fair girl's face, must end at last in knowing it by heart."

"Yes," she said meditatively, "that is it; that is just what you used to say, that you would think of nothing else."

"Seven years ago? I was a gay and merry youth seven years ago. And you seriously believed that?"

She nodded gravely three times. "Why should I not believe it? My own experience shows me that you were right."

"Child," he said, with a good-natured look that suited his decided features, "I am very sorry for that. I suppose seven years ago I thought all women knew that the tender speeches of a man were worth about as much as counters in a game, which certainly can be exchanged for true gold, if expressly seeded and arranged so. How much I thought of all you women seven years ago! Now, I must honestly confess, I seldom think of you at all. Dear child, there is so much to think of far more important."

She was silent, as though she did not understand it all, and was quietly waiting till he should say something that really concerned her.

After a pause, he said: "It seems to dawn upon me now that I have once before wandered through this part of the mountain. I might possibly have recognised the village and this house, if it had not been for the fog. Yes, indeed, it was certainly seven years ago that the doctor ordered me off to the mountains, and I, like a fool, used to rush up and down the steepest paths."

"I knew it," she said, and a touching gleam of joy spread over her face. "I knew well you could not have forgotten it. Why, Fuoco, the dog, has not forgotten it and his old hatred of you in those bygone days—nor I, my old love."

She said this with so much firmness and so cheerfully, that he looked up at her, more and more astonished.

"I can remember now," he said, "there was a girl whom I met once on the summit of the Apennines, and she took me home to her parents' house. Otherwise, I should have been obliged to spend the night on the cliffs. I remember, too, she took my fancy——"

"Yes," she interrupted, "very much."

"But I did not suit her. I had a long talk with her, when she hardly uttered ten words. And when I at last sought by a kiss to unseal her lovely sullen little mouth—I can see her before me now—how she darted to one side and picked up a stone in each hand, so that I hardly got away without being pelted. If you are that girl, then, how can you speak to me of your old love?"

"I was only fifteen then, Filippo, and I was very shy. I had always been very defiant, and left much alone, and I did not know how to express myself. And then I was afraid of my parents. They were still living then, as you can remember. My father owned all the flocks and herds, and this inn here. There are not many changes since then. Only that he is no longer here to look after it all—may his soul rest in Paradise! But I felt most ashamed before my mother. Do you remember how you sat just at that very place and praised the wine that we had got from Pistoja? I heard no more. Mother looked at me sharply, and I went outside and hid myself by the window, that I might still look at you. You were younger, of course, but not any handsomer. You have still the same eyes with which you then could win whomsoever you would, and the same deep voice that made the dog mad with jealousy, poor thing! Until then I had loved him alone. He felt that I loved you more; he felt it more than you did yourself."

SOMETIMES ABUSING YOU

"Yes," he said, "he was like a mad creature that night. It was a strange night! You had certainly captivated me, Fenice. I know I could not rest because you did not come back to the house, and I got up and went to look for you outside. I saw the white kerchief on your head and then nothing more, for you fled into the room next the stable. Even now I feel ashamed when I think of the rage I was in as I went angrily away and lay the whole night through in one long dream of you."

"I sat up all through the dark night," said she. " Towards morning sleep overcame me, and when at last I started up and saw the sun was high—what had become of you ? No one told me, and I dared not ask. I felt such a horror and dislike of seeing anyone, just as though they had killed you on purpose that I might never see you again. I ran right away, just as I was, up and down the mountains, sometimes calling aloud for you and sometimes abusing you, for I knew I could never love anyone again, and all through you. At last I descended to the plain; then I took fright and went home again. I had been away two days. My father beat me when I got back, and mother would not speak to me. Well, they knew why I had run away. Fuoco the dog had been away with me, but whenever in my solitude I called aloud for you, he always howled."

There ensued a pause; the eyes of each of them were fastened on the other. Then Filippo said: "How long is it since your parents died?"

"Three years. They both died in the same week—may their souls rest in Paradise! Then I went to Florence."

"To Florence?"

"Yes. You had told me you came from Florence. Some of the contrabandists sent me to the wife of the 'caffetiere' out at San Miniato. I lived there for a month, and used to send her into the town every day to ask for you. In the evening I went down to the town myself and sought you. At last we heard that you had long since gone away, but no one quite knew where."

Filippo got up and paced the room with long strides. Fenice turned and followed him with her eyes, but she showed no signs of such emotion as he in his restlessness evinced. At last he approached, and looking at her for a little, said, "And wherefore do you confess all this to me, my poor child?"

"Because I have had seven long years in which to summon up courage to do it. Ah! if only I had confessed it to you then, this cowardly heart of mine would never have caused me such grief. I knew you would come again, Filippo, but I did not think you would have waited so long; that grieved me. But it is childish of me to talk like this. What does it matter now all is past and over? Here you are, Filippo, and here am I; and I am yours for ever and ever!"

"Dear child!" said he softly; but then was silent and kept back the words trembling on his lips. She, however, did not notice how silent and absorbed he was as he stood thus before her, gazing above her head at the wall beyond. She went on talking quite calmly; it was as though her own words were all well known to her, as if she had thousands of times pictured to herself: He will come again, and then I will say this or that to him.

"Many have wanted to marry me, both up here and when I was in Florence. But I would have none but you. When anyone asked me, and made sweet speeches to me, at once I seemed to hear your voice that memorable night—your words, sweeter far than any words ever spoken on this earth. For many years now they have let me be in peace, although I am not old or ugly. It is just as if they all knew that you were soon to come again." Then continuing: "And now, whither will you take me? Will you stay up here? But no, that would never do for you. Since I have been to Florence I know that it is dull up in the mountains. We will sell the house and the flocks, and then I shall be rich. I have had enough of this wild life with the people here. At Florence they were obliged to teach me everything that was proper for a town maiden to know, and they were astonished that I understood it all so quickly. To be sure, I had not much time, and all my dreams told me that it would be up here that you would come to seek me. I have consulted a fortune-teller too, and it has all come to pass as she said."

"And what if I already have a wife?"

She looked at him in amazement. "You want to try me, Filippo! You have no wife. The gipsy told me that, too. But she could not tell me where you lived."

"She was right, Fenice, I have no wife. But how could she or you tell that I ever intended to take one?"

"How could you not want to take me?" asked she in unwavering confidence.

"Sit down here beside me, Fenice! I have much to tell you. Give me your hand. Promise me that you will hear me quietly and sensibly to the end."

As she did not comply with his request, he continued with a beating heart, standing erect before her with his eyes fixed on her sadly, while hers, as though apprehending danger to her life, were sometimes closed, and sometimes roamed restlessly about the room.


Maid of treppi, pg 62--The Strand Magazine, vol 1, no 1.png

"FILIPPO PACED THE ROOM WITH LONG STRIDES."


"It is some years since I was obliged to flee from Florence," he resumed. "You know, it was just the time of those political tumults, and they lasted a long time. I am a lawyer, and know a great many people, and I write and receive a quantity of letters throughout the year. Besides, I was independent, proclaimed my opinion when necessary, and was hated accordingly, although I never took part in any of their secret plots and plans. At last I was obliged to leave the country with nothing in prospect, if I did not wish to be imprisoned, and go through endless trials. I went to Bologna, and lived there very quietly, attended to my own business, and saw very few people, least of all any women; for nothing now is left of the mad youth whose heart you so grievously wounded seven years ago, save only that my head, or if you will, my heart, is fit to burst when I cannot overcome any difficulty in my path. You may, perhaps, have heard that Bologna is in an unsettled state, too, latterly. Men of high position have been arrested, and amongst them one whose life and habits have long been known to me, and of whom I knew that all such things were foreign to his mind. My friend asked me to undertake his case, and I helped him to liberty. Hardly was this made public, when one day a wretched individual accosted me in the street, and loaded me with insults. He was drunk and unworthy of notice; but I could not get rid of him otherwise than by giving him a blow on the chest. No sooner had I made my way out of the crowd and entered a café, when I was followed by a relative of his, not drunk with wine, but mad with rage and indignation. He accused me of having retaliated with a blow instead of acting as every man of honour would have done. I answered him as moderately as I could, for I saw through the whole thing; it was all arranged by the Government in order to render me powerless. But one word followed another, and my enemies at last won the day. The other man pretended that he was obliged to go to Tuscany, and insisted on having the affair settled there. I agreed to this, for it was high time that one of our prudent party should prove to the unruly ones that it was not want of courage that restrained us, but solely and entirely the hopelessness of all secret revolutionary movements, when opposed to so superior a power. But when I applied for a passport the day before yesterday, it was refused, without their even deigning to give me a reason for it; I was told it was by order of the highest authorities. It was evident that they either wished to expose me to the disgrace of having shirked the duel, or else to force me to cross the frontier in some disguise, and thereby certainly cause my detention. Then they would have had an excuse for bringing an action against me, and letting it drag on as long as they thought fit."

"The wretches! The ungodly sinners!" interrupted the girl, and clenched her fists.

"Nothing then was left me but to give myself up to the contrabandists at Porretta. They tell me we shall reach Pistoja to-morrow morning early. The duel is fixed for the afternoon in a garden outside the town."

Suddenly she seized his hand in hers. "Do not go down there, Filippo," she said. "They will murder you."

"Certainly they will, my child. But how do you know?"

"I feel it here and—here!" and she pointed with her finger to her brow and heart.

"You, too, are a fortune-teller, an enchantress," he continued, with a smile. "Yes, child, they will murder me. My adversary is the best shot in the whole of Tuscany. They have done me the honour of confronting me with a goodly enemy. Well, I shall not disgrace myself. But who knows whether it will be all fair play? Who can tell? Or can your magic arts foretell that too? Yet what would be the use, child! it would make no difference."

After a short silence he went on: "You must banish entirely from your thoughts any further encouragement of your former foolish love. Perhaps all this has come about so that I might not leave this world without first setting you free, free from yourself, poor child, and your unlucky constancy. Perhaps, too, you know, we should have suited each other badly. You have been true to quite a different Filippo, a young fellow full of vain desires and without a care save those of love. What would you do with such a brooding, solitary being as I?"

He drew near to her, muttering the last words as he walked up and down, and would have taken her hand, but was startled and shocked to see the expression of her face. All trace of softness had left her features, and her lips were ashy pale.

"You do not love me," she said, slowly and huskily, as though another voice were speaking in her, and she were listening to hear what was meant. Then she pushed away his hand with a scream; the little flames of the lamp were nearly blown out, and outside the dog began suddenly barking and howling furiously. "You do not love me, no, no!" she exclaimed, like one beside herself. "Would you rather go to the arms of death than come to me? Can you meet me like this after seven years, only to say farewell? Can you speak thus calmly of your death, knowing it will be mine too? Better had it been for me had my eyes been blinded before they saw you again, and my ears deaf before they heard the cruel voice by which I live and die. Why did the dog not tear you to pieces before I knew that you had come to rend my heart? Why did your foot not slip on the chasm's brink? Alas! woe is me! Madonna, save me!"

She flung herself down before the picture, her forehead bowed to the ground. Her hands were stretched out before her; she seemed to pray. Her companion listened to the barking of the dog, and with it the mutterings and groanings of the unhappy girl, while the moon increasing in power shone through the room. But before he could collect, himself or utter a word he again felt her arms round his neck, and the hot tears falling on his face.

"Do not go to meet your death, Filippo," sobbed the poor thing. "If you stay with me, who could find you? Let them say what they will, the murderous pack, the malicious wretches, worse than Apennine wolves. Yes," she said, and looked up at him radiant through her tears, "you will stay with me; the Madonna has given you to me that I might save you. Filippo, I do not know what wicked words I may have spoken, but I feel they were wicked; I knew it by the cold chill they sent to my heart. Forgive me. It is a thought fit only for hell, that love can be forgotten, and faithful constancy crushed and destroyed. But now let us sit down and discuss everything. Would you like a new house? We will build one. Other servants? We will send these all away, Nina too, even the dog shall go. And if you still think that they might betray you—why, we will go away ourselves, to-day, now; I know all the roads, and before the sun has risen we should be down in the valley away northwards, and wander, wander on to Genoa, to Venice, or wherever you will."

"Stop!" said he harshly. "Enough of this folly. You cannot be my wife, Fenice. If they do not kill me to-morrow, it will only be put off a short time. I know how much I am in their way." And gently, but firmly, he loosed her arms from round his neck.

"See here, child," he continued, "it is sad enough as it is; we do not need to make it harder to bear through our own foolishness. Perhaps when in years to come you hear of my death, you will look round at your husband and your lovely children, and will feel thankful that he who is dead and gone was more sensible than you at this interview, although on that night of seven years ago, it may have been otherwise. Let me go to bed now, and go you too, and let us settle not to see each other to-morrow. Your reputation is a good one, as I heard from my companions on the way here. If we were to embrace to-morrow, and you made a scene—eh, dear child? And now—good-night, good-night, Fenice!"

Then again he offered her his hand. But she would not take it. She looked as pale as ashes in the moonlight, and her eyebrows and downcast lashes seemed all the darker. "Have I not already suffered enough," she said in an undertone, "for having acted too coyly that one night seven long years ago? And now he would again make me miserable with this wretched prudence, and this time my misery would last to all eternity! No, no, no! I will not let him go—I should be disgraced in the eyes of all if I let him go and he were to die."

"Do you not understand that I wish to sleep now, girl," he interrupted angrily, "and to be alone? Why do you go on talking in this wild fashion and making yourself ill? If you do not feel that my honour forces me to leave you, then you would never have suited me. I am no doll in your lap to fondle and play with. My path is cut out for me, and it is too narrow for two. Show me the skin on which I am to lie to-night; and then—let us forget one another!"

"And if you were to drive me from you with blows I will not leave you! If death were to come and stand between us, I would rescue you from him with these strong arms of mine. In life and death—you are mine, Filippo!"

"Silence!" cried he, very loudly. The colour rushed to his very brow as he with both arms pushed the passionate pleader from him. "Silence! And let there be an end of this, to-day, and for ever. Am I a creature or thing to be seized upon by whoever will and whoever takes a fancy to me? I am a man, and whoever would have me I must give myself up to freely. You have sighed for me for seven years—have you any right therefore in the eighth year to make me act to my dishonour? If you would bribe me, you have chosen the means ill. Seven years ago I loved you because you were different from what you now are. If you had flown round my neck then and sought to wrest my heart from me with threats, I would have met your threats with defiance as I do to-day. All is over now between us, and I know that the pity I felt for you was not love. For the last time, where is my room?"

"HE BOLTED THE DOOR BEHIND HIM."

He had said all this in harsh and cutting tones, and as he stopped speaking the sound of his own voice seemed to give him a pang. But he said no more, though wondering silently that she took it much more quietly than he had expected. He would gladly now, with friendly words, have appeased any stormy outbreak of her grief. But she passed coldly by him, opened a heavy wooden door not far from the hearth, pointed silently to the iron bolt on it, and then stepped back again to the fireside.

So he went into the room and bolted the door behind him. But he stayed for some time close by the door, listening to what she was doing. No movement was heard in the room, and in the whole house there was no sound save from the restless dog, the horse stirring in the stable, and the moaning of the wind outside as it scattered the last remains of the fog. For the moon in all its splendour had risen, and when he pulled away a large bundle of heather out of the hole in the wall that served as a window, the room was lit up by its rays. He saw then that he was evidently in Fenice's room. Against the wall stood her clean, narrow bed, an open chest beside it, a small table, a wooden bench; the walls were hung with pictures, saints and Madonnas; a holy water bowl was seen beneath the crucifix by the door.

He sat himself down on the hard bed. and felt that a storm was raging within him. Once or twice he half rose up to hasten to her and tell her that he had only thus wounded her in order to comfort her afterwards. Then he stamped on the floor, vexed at his own soft-heartedness. "It is the only thing left for me to do," he said to himself, "unless I would add to my guilt. Seven years, poor child!" . Mechanically he took in his hand a comb ornamented with little pieces of metal that was lying on the table. This recalled to him her splendid hair, the proud neck on which it lay, the noble brow round which the curls clustered, and the dusky cheek. At last he tossed the tempting object into the chest, in which he saw dresses, kerchiefs, and all sorts of little ornaments neatly and tidily put away. Slowly he let fall the lid and turned to look out at the hole in the wall.

The room was at the back of the house, and none of the other huts in Treppi interfered with the view across the mountains. Opposite was the bare ridge of rock rising up from behind the ravine, and all lit up by the moon, then just over the house. On one side were some sheds, past which ran the road leading down to the plain. One forlorn little fir-tree, with bare branches, was growing among the stones; otherwise the ground was covered with heather only, and here and there a miserable bush. "Certainly," thought he, "this is not the place to forget what one has loved. I would it were otherwise. In truth, she would have been the right wife for me; she would have loved me more than dress and gaiety, and the whisperings of gallants. What eyes my old Marco would make if I suddenly came back from my travels with a lovely wife! We should not need to change the house; the empty corners were always so uncanny. And it would do me good, old grumbler that I am, if a laughing child——but this is folly, Filippo, folly! What would the poor thing do left a widow in Bologna? No, no! no more of this! Let me not add a fresh sin to the old ones. I will wake the men an hour earlier, and steal away before anyone is up in Treppi."

He was just going to move away from the window and stretch his limbs, wearied from the long ride, on the bed, when he saw a woman's figure step out from the shadow of the house into the moonlight. She never turned her head, but he did not for a moment doubt that it was Fenice. She walked away from the house with slow, steady steps down the road leading to the ravine. A shudder ran through his frame as at that moment the thought flashed across his mind that she would do herself some injury. Without stopping to think, he flew to the door and pulled violently at the bolt. But the rusty old iron had stuck so obstinately fast in its place that he spent all his strength in vain. The cold sweat stood on his brow; he shouted and shook and beat the door with fists and feet, but it did not yield. At last he gave up, and rushed back again to the window. Already one of the stones had given way to his fury, when suddenly he saw the figure of the girl reappear on the road and come towards the hut. She had something in her hand, but in the uncertain light he could not make out what it was, but he could see her face distinctly. It was grave and thoughtful—no trace of passion in it. Not a single glance did she send to his window, and disappeared again into the shade.

As he still stood there and drew a deep breath after his fright and exertion, he heard a great noise which seemed to come from the old dog, but it was no barking or whining. This puzzled him more than ever, it was so uncanny. He stretched his head far out of the opening, but could see nothing save the still night in the mountains. Suddenly there was a short, sharp howl, then a low convulsive groan from the dog, but after that, though he listened long and anxiously, not another sound the whole night through, save that the door of the adjoining room was opened and Fenice's step was heard on the stone floor. In vain he stood for long at the bolted door, listening at first, then asking and begging and imploring the girl for one little word only—all remained still and quiet.


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"NO ONE SHALL EVER DRINK OUT OF IT AGAIN."


At length he threw himself on the bed in a fever, and lay awake thinking and thinking, till at last the moon went down an hour after midnight, and fatigue conquered his thousand fleeting thoughts. But still in his uneasy slumber he seemed to see the lovely face continually before his eyes, and to hear the pleading and impassioned voice still ringing in his ears.

When he awoke next morning, the light around him was dim; but as he raised himself from the bed and collected his thoughts, he was aware that it was not the dim light of dawn. On one side a faint ray of sunlight reached him, and he soon saw that the hole in the wall which he had left open before he fell asleep, had, nevertheless, been filled up again with branches. He pushed them out, and was dazzled by the bright rays of the morning sun. In a towering rage with the contrabandists, with himself for having slept, but above all with the girl to whom he attributed this treachery, he hurried to the door, the bolt of which yielded easily to his pressure, and stepped out into the other room.

He found Fenice there alone, sitting quietly by the fire, as though she had long been expecting him. Every trace of the stormy scenes of the day before had left her face; no sign of any grief, and no mark of any painfully acquired composure, met his stern glance.

"This is your fault," he said, angrily, "my sleeping beyond the time."

"Yes, it is," she answered, indifferently. "You were tired. You will reach Pistoja early enough, if you do not need to meet your murderers before the afternoon."

"I did not ask you to take heed of my fatigue. Do you still mean to force yourself on me? It will avail you nothing, girl. Where are my men?"

"Gone."

"Gone? Would you make a fool of me? Where are they? As if they would go away before I paid them!" And he strode rapidly to the door, thinking to leave.

Fenice remained sitting where she was, and said, in the same placid voice: "I have paid them. I told them that you needed sleep, and also that I would accompany you down the mountain myself; for my supply of wine is at an end, and I must buy fresh at about an hour's distance from Pistoja."

For a moment he was speechless with rage. "No," he burst out at last, "not with you; never again with you! It is absurd for you to think that you can still entangle me in your smooth meshes. We are now more completely parted than ever. I despise you, that you should think me soft and weak enough to be won by these poor devices. I will not go with you! Let one of your men go with me; and here—pay yourself what you gave to the contrabandists."

He flung a purse to her, and opened the door to look for some one who could show him the way down. "Do not trouble yourself," she said, "you will not find any of the men; they are all in the mountains. And there is nobody in Treppi who can be of use to you. Poor feeble old women and men, and children who have to be taken care of themselves. If you do not believe me—go and look!"

"And altogether," she went on, as he, in vexation and anger, stood undecided in the doorway, turning his back to her, "why does it seem to you so impossible and so dangerous for me to be your guide? I had dreams last night, from which I can tell that you are not destined for me. It is true enough that I still have a liking for you, and it would be a pleasure to me to have a few more hours' talk with you. But I do not, on that account, wish to intrude. You are free to go from me for ever, and wherever you will, to death or to life. Only I have so arranged it that I may walk beside you part of the way. I swear to you, if it will ease your mind, that it will only be part of the way—on my honour, not as far as Pistoja. Only just until I have put you in the right direction. For if you were to go away alone, you would lose your way, and would neither get forward nor backward. Surely you must remember that, from your first journey in the mountains."

"Plague upon it!" muttered he, biting his lips. He saw, however, that the sun was getting higher, and all things well considered, what grave cause for fear had he? He turned to her, and thought, from the indifferent look in her large eyes, that he could take it for granted there was no treachery hidden in her words. She really seemed to him to be a different person from the day before; and there was almost a feeling of discontent mingled with his surprise as he was forced to allow that her fit of grief and passion on the preceding day had passed away so soon, and left no trace. He looked at her for some time, but she did not in any way arouse his suspicions.

"Well," he said dryly, "since you have become so very prudent, let us start. Come!"

Without any particular sign of delight she got up, and said: "We must eat first; we shall get nothing for many hours." She put a dish before him and a pitcher, and ate something herself, standing at the hearth, but did not touch a drop of wine. But he, to get it over, ate some spoonfuls, dashed down the wine, and lit his cigar from the ashes on the hearth. All this time he had not deigned to look at her, but when he chanced to look up, standing near her, he saw a strange red in her cheeks, and something like triumph in her eyes. She now rose hurriedly, seized the pitcher, and, flinging it on the stone floor, shattered it at a blow. "No one shall ever drink out of it again," she said, "after your lips have touched it."

He started up in alarm; and, for a second, the suspicion crossed his mind: "Has she poisoned me?" but then he chose to think that it was the last remains of her lovesick idolatry which she had forsworn, and without further comment he followed her out of the house.

"They took the horse back with them to Porretta," she said to him outside, as he seemed to be searching for it. "You would not have been able to ride down without danger. They are steeper roads than those of yesterday."

"THEN SHE WENT ON BEFORE HIM."

Then she went on before him, and they soon left behind them the huts, which, deserted and without the faintest cloud of smoke from the chimneys, stood out clear in the bright sun. It was then only that Filippo became fully aware of the majestic scenery of this desolate place, with the clear transparent sky above it. The path, now hardly visible, like a faint track in the hard rock, ran northward the broad ridge along here and there, where there was a bend in the opposite parallel range of mountains, a narrow strip of sea shone in the far horizon to the left. There was still no sign of vegetation, far or near, except the hard and stunted mountain plants and interwoven bush and bramble. But then they left the summit, and descended into the ravine, which had to be crossed in order to climb the rocky ridge on the other side. Here they soon came upon fir-trees, and streams, which flowed into the glen; and far below them they heard the roaring of the water. Fenice now went on in front, stepping with sure feet upon the safest stones, without looking round, or uttering a single word. He could not help letting his eyes rest on her, and admiring the graceful strength of her limbs. Her face was entirely hidden from him by the great white kerchief on her head, but when it so chanced that they walked side by side, he had to force himself to look before him, and away from her, so greatly was he attracted by the wondrous regularity of her features. It was only when in the full light of the sun that he noticed her strangely child-like expression, without being able to say wherein it lay. It was as though for the last seven years something had remained unaltered in her face, while all else had grown and developed.

At last he began to talk to her of his own accord, and she answered him in a sensible and even easy way. Only that her voice, which as a rule was not so dull and harsh as is the case with the generality of the women in the mountains, sounded to him monotonous and sad, though only speaking of the most indifferent things.

While thus talking, Filippo never noticed how the sun had climbed higher and higher and still no glimpse of the Tuscan plains came in view. Neither did he give a thought to what awaited him at the close of the day. It was so refreshing to be walking along the thickly wooded paths, fifty paces above the waterfall, to feel the spray sometimes reach him, to watch the lizards darting over the stones, and the fluttering butterflies chasing the sun's rays, that he never even noticed that they walked on towards the stream, and had not as yet turned off to the left. There was a magic in the voice of his companion which made him forget everything which, the day before, had so occupied him in the society of the contrabandists. But when they left the ravine and saw an endless, unknown mountainous tract, with fresh peaks and cliffs lying barren and deserted before them, he awoke suddenly from his enchanted dreams, stood still, and looked at the heavens. He saw clearly that she had brought him in an utterly opposite direction, and that he was some miles further from his destination than when they started.


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"IS THIS THE WAY, YOU TREACHEROUS CREATURE?"


"Stop!" said Filippo. "I see betimes that you are still deceiving me. Is this the way to Pistoja, you treacherous creature?"

"No," she said fearlessly, but with downcast eyes.

"Then, by all the infernal, powers, the fiends might learn deceit from you. A curse upon my infatuation!"

"One who loves can do all things—love is more powerful than devil or angel," said she in deep, mournful tones.

"No," snouted he, in maddened anger, "do not triumph yet, you insolent girl, not yet! A man's will cannot be broken by what a mad wench calls love. Turn back with me at once, and show me the shortest paths—or I will strangle you, with these very hands—you fool, not to see that I must hate you, who would make me seem a scoundrel in the eyes of the world."

He went up to her with clenched fists, beside himself with passion.

"Strangle me, then!" she said in a clear but trembling voice; "do it, Filippo. But, when the deed is done, you will cast yourself on my body and weep tears of blood that you cannot bring me to life again. Your place will be here beside me; you will fight with the vultures that will come to eat my flesh; the sun by day will burn you; the dew at night will drench you; till you fall and die beside me—for you can never more tear yourself away from me. Do you think that the poor, silly thing, brought up in her mountain home, would throw away seven years like one day? I know what they have cost me, how dear they were, and that I pay an honest price in buying you with them. Let you go to meet your death? It would be absurd. Turn from me as you will, you will soon feel that I can force you back to me for all eternity. For in the wine which you drank to-day I mixed a love-potion, which no man under the sun has been able to withstand!"

Most queenly did she look as she uttered these words, her arm stretched out towards him, as though her hand wielded a sceptre over one who had deserted her. But he laughed defiantly, and exclaimed, "Your love-potion will do you a bad turn, for I never hated you more than at this moment. But I am a fool to take the trouble to hate a fool like you. May you be cured of all your folly as of your love when you no longer see me near you. I do not need you to guide me. On yonder slope I see a shepherd's hut, and the flocks are near. A fire, too, is burning. They will show me the right way up there. Farewell, you poor hypocrite; farewell!"

She answered not a word as he left her, but sat down quietly in the shadow of a rock by the ravine, burying her great eyes in the dark green of the fir trees growing below by the stream.

{To be continued)