Travelling Companions (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919)/Adina
WE had been talking of Sam Scrope round the fire—mindful, such of us, of the rule de mortuis. Our host, however, had said nothing; rather to my surprise, as I knew he had been particularly intimate with our friend. But when our group had dispersed, and I remained alone with him, he brightened the fire, offered me another cigar, puffed his own awhile with a retrospective air, and told me the following tale:
Eighteen years ago Scrope and I were together in Rome. It was the beginning of my acquaintance with him, and I had grown fond of him, as a mild, meditative youth often does of an active, irreverent, caustic one. He had in those days the germs of the eccentricities,—not to call them by a hard name,—which made him afterwards the most intolerable of the friends we did not absolutely break with; he was already, as they say, a crooked stick. He was cynical, perverse, conceited, obstinate, brilliantly clever. But he was young, and youth, happily, makes many of our vices innocent. Scrope had his merits, or our friendship would not have ripened. He was not an amiable man, but he was an honest one—in spite of the odd caprice I have to relate; and half my kindness for him was based in a feeling that at bottom in spite of his vanity, he enjoyed his own irritability as little as other people. It was his fancy to pretend that he enjoyed nothing, and that what sentimental travelers call picturesqueness was a weariness to his spirit; but the world was new to him and the charm of fine things often took him by surprise and stole a march on his premature cynicism. He was an observer in spite of himself, and in his happy moods, thanks to his capital memory and ample information, an excellent critic and most profitable companion. He was a punctilious classical scholar. My boyish journal, kept in those days, is stuffed with learned allusions; they are all Scrope's. I brought to the service of my Roman experience much more loose sentiment than rigid science. It was indeed a jocular bargain between us that in our wanderings, picturesque and archæological, I should undertake the sentimental business—the raptures, the reflections, the sketching, the quoting from Byron. He considered me absurdly Byronic, and when, in the manner of tourists at that period, I breathed poetic sighs over the subjection of Italy to the foreign foe, he used to swear that Italy had got no more than she deserved, that she was a land of vagabonds and declaimers, and that he had yet to see an Italian whom he would call a man. I quoted to him from Alfieri that the "human plant" grew stronger in Italy than anywhere else, and he retorted, that nothing grew strong there but lying and cheating, laziness, beggary and vermin. Of course we each said more than we believed. If we met a shepherd on the Campagna, leaning on his crook and gazing at us darkly from under the shadow of his matted locks, I would proclaim that he was the handsomest fellow in the world, and demand of Scrope to stop and let me sketch him. Scrope would confound him for a filthy scare-crow and me for a drivelling album-poet. When I stopped in the street to stare up at some mouldering palazzo with a patched petticoat hanging to dry from the drawing-room window, and assured him that its haunted disrepair was dearer to my soul than the neat barred front of my Aunt Esther's model mansion in Mount Vernon street, he would seize me by the arm and march me off, pinching me till I shook myself free, and whelming me, my soul and my palazzo in a ludicrous torrent of abuse. The truth was that the picturesque of Italy, both in man and in nature, fretted him, depressed him, strangely. He was consciously a harsh note in the midst of so many mellow harmonies; everything seemed to say to him—"Don't you wish you were as easy, as loveable, as carelessly beautiful as we?" In the bottom of his heart he did wish it. To appreciate the bitterness of this dumb disrelish of the Italian atmosphere, you must remember how very ugly the poor fellow was. He was uglier at twenty than at forty, for as he grew older it became the fashion to say that his crooked features were "distinguished." But twenty years ago, in the infancy of modern æsthetics, he could not have passed for even a bizarre form of ornament. In a single word, poor Scrope looked common: that was where the shoe pinched. Now, you know that in Italy almost everything has, to the outer sense, what artists call style.
In spite of our clashing theories, our friendship did ripen, and we spent together many hours, deeply seasoned with the sense of youth and freedom. The best of these, perhaps, were those we passed on horseback, on the Campagna; you remember such hours; you remember those days of early winter, when the sun is as strong as that of a New England June, and the bare, purple-drawn slopes and hollows lie bathed in the yellow light of Italy. On such a day, Scrope and I mounted our horses in the grassy terrace before St. John Lateran, and rode away across the broad meadows over which the Glaudian Aqueduct drags its slow length—stumbling and lapsing here and there, as it goes, beneath the burden of the centuries. We rode a long distance—well towards Albano, and at last stopped near a low fragment of ruin, which seemed to be all that was left of an ancient tower. Was it indeed ancient, or was it a relic of one of the numerous mediæval fortresses, with which the grassy desert of the Campagna is studded? This was one of the questions which Scrope, as a competent classicist, liked to ponder; though when I called his attention to the picturesque effect of the fringe of wild plants which crowned the ruin, and detached their clear filaments in the deep blue air, he shrugged his shoulders and said they only helped the brick-work to crumble. We tethered our horses to a wild fig tree hard by, and strolled around the tower. Suddenly, on the sunny side of it, we came upon a figure asleep on the grass. A young man lay there, all unconscious, with his head upon a pile of weed-smothered stones. A rusty gun was on the ground beside him, and an empty game bag, lying near it, told of his being an unlucky sportsman. His heavy sleep seemed to point to a long morning's fruitless tramp. And yet he must have been either very unskilled, or very little in earnest, for the Campagna is alive with small game every month in the year—or was, at least, twenty years ago. It was no more than I owed to my reputation for Byronism, to discover a careless, youthful grace in the young fellow's attitude. One of his legs was flung over the other; one of his arms was thrust back under his head, and the other resting loosely on the grass; his head drooped backward, and exposed a strong, young throat; his hat was pulled over his eyes, so that we could see nothing but his mouth and chin. "An American rustic asleep is an ugly fellow," said I; "but this young Roman clodhopper, as he lies snoring there, is really statuesque;" "clodhopper," was for argument, for our rustic Endymion, judging by his garments, was something better than a mere peasant. He turned uneasily as we stood above him, and muttered something. "It's not fair to wake him," I said, and passed my arm into Scrope's, to lead him away; but he resisted, and I saw that something had struck him.
In his change of position, our picturesque friend had opened the hand which was resting on the grass. The palm, turned upward, contained a dull-colored oval object, of the size of a small snuff-box. "What has he got there?" I said to Scrope; but Scrope only answered by bending over and looking at it. "Really, we are taking great liberties with the poor fellow," I said. "Let him finish his nap in peace." And I was on the point of walking away. But my voice had aroused him; he lifted his hand, and, with the movement, the object I have compared to a snuff-box caught the light, and emitted a dull flash.
"It's a gem," said Scrope, "recently disinterred and encrusted with dirt."
The young man awoke in earnest, pushed back his hat, stared at us, and slowly sat up. He rubbed his eyes, to see if he were not still dreaming, then glanced at the gem, if gem it was, thrust his hand mechanically into his pocket, and gave us a broad smile. "Gentle, serene Italian nature!" I exclaimed. "A young New England farmer, whom we should have disturbed in this fashion, would wake up with an oath and a kick."
"I mean to test his gentleness," said Scrope. "I'm determined to see what he has got there." Scrope was very fond of small bric-a-brac, and had ransacked every curiosity shop in Rome. It was an oddity among his many oddities, but it agreed well enough with the rest of them. What he looked for and relished in old prints and old china was not, generally, beauty of form nor romantic association; it was elaborate and patient workmanship, fine engraving, skillful method.
"Good day," I said to our young man; "we didn't mean to interrupt you."
He shook himself, got up, and stood before us, looking out from under his thick curls, and still frankly smiling. There was something very simple,—a trifle silly,—in his smile, and I wondered whether he was not under-witted. He was young, but he was not a mere lad. His eyes were dark and heavy, but they gleamed with a friendly light, and his parted lips showed the glitter of his strong, white teeth. His complexion was of a fine, deep brown, just removed from coarseness by that vague suffused pallor common among Italians. He had the frame of a young Hercules; he was altogether as handsome a vagabond as you could wish for the foreground of a pastoral landscape.
"You've not earned your rest," said Scrope, pointing to his empty game bag; "you've got no birds."
He looked at the bag and at Scrope, and then scratched his head and laughed. "I don't want to kill them," he said. "I bring out my gun because it's stupid to walk about pulling a straw! And then my uncle is always grumbling at me for not doing something. When he sees me leave the house with my gun, he thinks I may, at least, get my dinner. He didn't know the lock's broke; even if I had powder and shot, the old blunderbuss wouldn't go off. When I'm hungry I go to sleep." And he glanced, with his handsome grin, at his recent couch. "The birds might come and perch on my nose, and not wake me up. My uncle never thinks of asking me what I have brought home for supper. He is a holy man, and lives on black bread and beans."
"Who is your uncle?" I inquired.
"The Padre Girolamo at Lariceia."
He looked at our hats and whips, asked us a dozen questions about our ride, our horses, and what we paid for them, our nationality, and our way of life in Rome, and at last walked away to caress our browsing animals and scratch their noses. "He has got something precious there," Scrope said, as we strolled after him. "He has evidently found it in the ground. The Campagna is full of treasures yet." As we overtook our new acquaintance he thrust his indistinguishable prize behind him, and gave a foolish laugh, which tried my companion's patience. "The fellow's an idiot!" he cried. "Does he think I want to snatch the thing?"
"What is it you've got there?" I asked kindly.
"Which hand will you have?" he said, still laughing.
"The left," said Scrope, as he hesitated.
He fumbled behind him a moment more, and then produced his treasure with a flourish. Scrope took it, wiped it off carefully with his handkerchief, and bent his nearsighted eyes over it. I left him to examine it. I was more interested in watching the Padre Girolamo's nephew. The latter stood looking at my friend gravely, while Scrope rubbed and scratched the little black stone, breathed upon it and held it up to the light. He frowned and scratched his head; he was evidently trying to concentrate his wits on the fine account he expected Scrope to give of it. When I glanced towards Scrope, I found he had flushed excitedly, and I immediately bent my nose over it too. It was of about the size of a small hen's-egg, of a dull brown color, stained and encrusted by long burial, and deeply corrugated on one surface. Scrope paid no heed to my questions, but continued to scrape and polish. At last—"How did you come by this thing?" he asked dryly.
"I found it in the earth, a couple of miles from here, this morning." And the young fellow put out his hand nervously, to take it back. Scrope resisted a moment, but thought better, and surrendered it. As an old mouser, he began instinctively to play at indifference. Our companion looked hard at the little stone, turned it over and over, then thrust it behind him again, with his simple-souled laugh.
"Here's a precious chance," murmured Scrope.
"But in Heaven's name, what is it?" I demanded, impatiently.
"Don't ask me. I don't care to phrase the conjecture audibly—it's immense—if it's what I think it is; and here stands this giggling lout with a prior claim to it. What shall I do with him? I should like to knock him in the head with the butt end of his blunderbuss."
"I suppose he'll sell you the thing, if you offer him enough."
"Enough? What does he know about enough? He don't know a topaz from a turnip."
"Is it a topaz, then?"
"Hold your tongue, and don't mentin names. He must sell it as a turnip. Make him tell you just where he found it."
He told us very frankly, still smiling from ear to ear. He had observed in a solitary ilex-tree, of great age, the traces of a recent lightning-stroke. (A week of unseasonably sultry weather had, in fact, some days before, culminated in a terrific thunder-storm.) The tree had been shivered and killed, and the earth turned up at its foot. The bolt, burying itself, had dug a deep, straight hole, in which one might have planted a stake. "I don't know why," said our friend, "but as I stood looking at it, I thrust the muzzle of my old gun into the aperture. It descended for some distance and stopped with a strange noise, as if it were striking a metallic surface. I rammed it up and down, and heard the same noise. Then I said to myself—'Something is hidden there—quattrini, perhaps; let us see.' I made a spade of one of the shivered boughs, dug, and scraped and scratched; and, in twenty minutes, fished up a little, rotten, iron box. It was so rotten that the lid and sides were as thin as letter-paper. When I gave them a knock, they crumbled. It was filled with other bits of iron of the same sort, which seemed to have formed the compartments of a case; and with the damp earth, which had oozed in through the holes and crevices. In the middle lay this stone, embedded in earth and mold. There was nothing else. I broke the box to pieces and kept the stone. Ecco!"
Scrope, with a shrug, repossessed himself of the moldy treasure, and our friend, as he gave it up, declared it was a thousand years old. Julius Caesar had worn it in his crown!
"Julius Caesar wore no crown, my dear friend," said Scrope urbanely. "It may be a thousand years old, and it may be ten. It may be an—agate, and it may be a flint! I don't know. But if you will sell it on the chance?—" And he tossed it three times high into the air, and caught it as it fell.
"I have my idea it's precious," said the young man. "Precious things are found here every day—why shouldn't I stumble on something as well as another? Why should the lightning strike just that spot, and no other? It was sent there by my patron, the blessed Saint Angelo!"
He was not such a simpleton, after all; or rather he was a puzzling mixture of simplicity and sense. "If you really want the thing," I said to Scrope, "make him an offer, and have done with it."
"'Have done with it,' is easily said. How little do you suppose he will take?"
"I haven't the smallest idea of its value."
"Its value has nothing to do with the matter. Estimate it at its value and we may as well put it back into its hole—of its probable value, he knows nothing; he need never know," and Scrope, musing an instant, counted, and flung them down on the grass, ten silver scudi—the same number of dollars. Angelo,—he virtually told us his name,—watched them fall, one by one, but made no movement to pick them up. But his eyes brightened; his simplicity and his shrewdness were debating the question. The little heap of silver was most agreeable; to make a poor bargain, on the other hand, was not. He looked at Scrope with a dumb appeal to his fairness which quite touched me. It touched Scrope, too, a trifle; for, after a moment's hesitation, he flung down another scudo. Angelo gave a puzzled sigh, and Scrope turned short about and began to mount. In another moment we were both in the saddle. Angela stood looking at his money. "Are you satisfied?" said my companion, curtly.
The young fellow gave a strange smile. "Have you a good conscience?" he demanded.
"Hang your impudence!" cried Scrope, very red. "What's my conscience to you?" And he thrust in his spurs and galloped away. I waved my hand to our friend and followed more slowly. Before long I turned in the saddle and looked back. Angelo was standing as we had left him, staring after us, with his money evidently yet untouched. But, of course, he would pick it up!
I rode along with my friend in silence; I was wondering over his off-hand justice. I was youthful enough to shrink from being thought a Puritan or a casuist, but it seemed to me that I scented sophistry in Scrope's double valuation of Angelo's treasure. If it was a prize for him, it was a prize for Angelo, and ten scudi,—and one over,—was meagre payment for a prize. It cost me some discomfort to find rigid Sam Scrope, of all men, capable of a piece of bargaining which needed to be ingeniously explained. Such as it was, he offered his explanation at last—half angrily, as if he knew his logic was rather grotesque. "Say it out; say it, for Heaven's sake!" he cried. "I know what you're thinking—I've played that pretty-faced simpleton a trick, eh?—and I'm no better than a swindler, evidently! Let me tell you, once for all, that I'm not ashamed of having got my prize cheap. It was ten scudi or nothing! If I had offered a farthing more I should have opened those sleepy eyes of his. It was a case to pocket one's scruples and act. That silly boy was not to be trusted with the keeping of such a prize for another half hour; the deuce knows what might have become of it. I rescued it in the interest of art, of science, of taste. The proper price of the thing I couldn't have dreamed of offering; where was I to raise ten thousand dollars to buy a bauble? Say I had offered a hundred—forthwith our picturesque friend, thick-witted though he is, would have pricked up his ears and held fast! He would have asked time to reflect and take advice, and he would have hurried back to his village and to his uncle, the shrewd old priest, Padre Girolamo. The wise-heads of the place would have held a conclave, and decided—I don't know what; that they must go up to Rome and see Signor Castillani, or the director of the Papal excavations. Some knowing person would have got wind of the affair, and whispered to the Padre Girolamo that his handsome nephew had been guided by a miracle to a fortune, and might marry a contessina. And when all was done, where should I be for my pains? As it is, I discriminate; I look at the matter all round, and I decide. I get my prize; the ingenious Angelo gets a month's carouse,—he'll enjoy it,—and goes to sleep again. Pleasant dreams to him! What does he want of money? Money would have corrupted him! I've saved the contessina, too; I'm sure he would have beaten her. So, if we're all satisfied, is it for you to look black? My mind's at ease; I'm neither richer nor poorer. I'm not poorer, because against my eleven scudi may stand the sense of having given a harmless treat to an innocent lad; I'm not richer, because,—I hope you understand,—I mean never to turn my stone into money. There it is that delicacy comes in. It's a stone and nothing more; and all the income I shall derive from it will be enjoying the way people open their eyes and hold their breath when I make it sparkle under the lamp, and tell them just what stone it is."
"What stone is it, then, in the name of all that's demoralizing?" I asked, with ardor.
Scrope broke into a gleeful chuckle, and patted me on the arm. "Pazrinza! Wait till we get under the lamp, some evening, and then I'll make it sparkle and tell you. I must be sure first," he added, with sudden gravity.
But it was the feverish elation of his tone, and not its gravity, that struck me. I began to hate the stone; it seemed to have corrupted him. His ingenious account of his motives left something vaguely unexplained—almost inexplicable. There are dusky corners in the simplest natures; strange, moral involutions in the healthiest. Scrope was not simple, and, in virtue of his defiant self-consciousness, he might have been called morbid; so that I came to consider his injustice in this particular case as the fruit of a vicious seed which I find it hard to name. Everything in Italy seemed mutely to reproach him with his meager faculty of pleasing; the indefinable gracefulness of nature and man murmured forever in his ears that he was an angular cynic. This was the real motive of his intolerance of my sympathetic rhapsodies, and it prompted him now to regale himself, once for all, with the sense of an advantage wrested, if not by fair means, then by foul, from some sentient form of irritating Italian felicity. This is a rather metaphysical account of the matter; at the time I guessed the secret, without phrasing it.
Scrope carried his stone to no appraiser, and asked no archæological advice about it. He quietly informed himself, as if from general curiosity, as to the best methods of cleansing, polishing, and restoring antique gems, laid in a provision of delicate tools and acids, turned the key in his door, and took the measure of his prize. I asked him no questions, but I saw that he was intensely preoccupied, and was becoming daily better convinced that it was a rare one. He went about whistling and humming odd scraps of song, like a lover freshly accepted. Whenever I heard him I had a sudden vision of our friend Angelo staring blankly after us, as we rode away like a pair of ravishers in a German ballad. Scrope and I lodged in the same house, and one evening, at the end of a week, after I had gone to bed, he made his way into my room, and shook me out of my slumbers as if the house were on fire. I guessed his errand before he had told it, shuffled on my dressing-gown, and hurried to his own apartment "I couldn't wait till morning," he said, "I've just given it the last touch; there it lies in its imperial beauty!"
There it lay, indeed, under the lamp, flashing back the light from its glowing heart—a splendid golden topaz on a cushion of white velvet. He thrust a magnifying glass into my hand, and pushed me into a chair by the table. I saw the surface of the stone was worked in elaborate intaglio, but I was not prepared for the portentous character of image and legend. In the center was a full-length naked figure, which I supposed at first to be a pagan deity. Then I saw the orb of sovereignty in one outstretched hand, the chiselled imperial scepter in the other, and the laurel-crown on the low-browed head. All round the face of the stone, near the edges, ran a chain of carven figures—warriors, and horses, and chariots, and young men and women interlaced in elaborate confusion. Over the head of the image, within this concave frieze, stood the inscription:
DIVUS TIBERIUS CÆSAR TOTIUS ORBIS IMPERATOR.
The workmanship was extraordinarily delicate; beneath the powerful glass I held in my hand, the figures revealed the perfection and finish of the most renowned of antique marbles. The color of the stone was superb, and, now that its purity had been restored, its size seemed prodigious. It was in every way a gem among gems, a priceless treasure.
"Don't you think it was worth while getting up to shake hands with the Emperor Tiberius?" cried Scrope, after observing my surprise. "Shabby Nineteenth Century Yankees, as we are, we are having our audience. Down on your knees, barbarian, we're in a tremendous presence! Haven't I worked all these days and nights, with my little rags and files, to some purpose? I've annulled the centuries—I've resuscitated a totius orbis imperator. Do you conceive, do you apprehend, does your heart thump against your ribs? Not as it should, evidently. This is where Cæsar wore it, dull modern—here, on his breast, near the shoulder, framed in chiselled gold, circled about with pearls as big as plums, clasping together the two sides of his gold-stiffened mantle. It was the agraffe of the imperial purple. Tremble, sir!" and he took up the splendid jewel, and held it against my breast. "No doubts—no objections—no reflections—or we're mortal enemies. How do I know it—where's my warrant? It simply must be! It's too precious to have been anything else. It's the finest intaglio in the world. It has told me its secret; it has lain whispering classic Latin to me by the hour all this week past."
"And has it told you how it came to be buried in its iron box?"
"It has told me everything—more than I can tell you now. Content yourself for the present with admiring it."
Admire it I did for a long time. Certainly, if Scrope's hypothesis was not sound, it ought to have been, and if the Emperor Tiberius had never worn the topaz in his mantle, he was by so much the less imperial. But the design, the legend, the shape of the stone, were all very cogent evidence that the gem had played a great part. "Yes, surely," I said, "it's the finest of known intaglios."
Scrope was silent a while. "Say of unknown," he answered at last. "No one shall ever know it. You I hereby hold pledged to secrecy. I shall show it to no one else—except to my mistress, if I ever have one. I paid for the chance of its turning out something great. I couldn't pay for the renown of possessing it. That only a princely fortune could have purchased. To be known as the owner of the finest intaglio in the world would make a great man of me, and that would hardly be fair to our friend Angelo. I shall sink the glory, and cherish my treasure for its simple artistic worth."
"And how would you express that simple artistic worth in Roman scudi?"
"It's impossible. Fix upon any sum you please."
I looked again at the golden topaz, gleaming in its velvet nest; and I felt that there could be no successful effort to conceal such a magnificent negation of obscurity. "I recommend you," I said at last, "to think twice before showing it to your mistress."
I had no idea, when I spoke, that my words were timely; for I had vaguely taken for granted that my friend was foredoomed to dispense with this graceful appendage, very much as Peter Schlemihl, in the tale, was condemned to have no shadow. Nevertheless, before a month had passed he was in a fair way to become engaged to a charming girl. "Juxtaposition is much," says Clough; especially juxtaposition, he implies, in foreign countries; and in Scrope's case it had been particularly close. His cousin, Mrs. Waddington, arrived in Rome, and with her a young girl who though really no relative, offered him all the opportunities of cousinship, added to the remoter charm of a young lady to whom he had to be introduced. Adina Waddington was her companion's stepdaughter, the elder lady having, some eight years before, married a widower with a little girl. Mr. Waddington had recently died, and the two ladies were just emerging from their deep mourning. These dusky emblems of a common grief helped them to seem united, as indeed they really were, although Mrs. Waddington was but ten years older than her stepdaughter. She was an excellent woman, without a fault that I know of, but that of thinking all the world as good as herself and keeping dinner waiting sometimes while she sketched the sunset. She was stout and fresh-colored, she laughed and talked rather loud, and generally, in galleries and temples, caused a good many stiff British necks to turn round.
She had a mania for excursions, and at Frascati and Tivoli she inflicted her good-humored ponderosity on diminutive donkeys with a relish which seemed to prove that a passion for scenery, like all our passions, is capable of making the best of us pitiless. I had often heard Scrope say that he detested boisterous women, but he forgave his cousin her fine spirits, and stepped into his place as her natural escort and adviser. In the vulgar sense he was not selfish; he had a very definite theory as to the sacrifices a gentleman should make to formal courtesy; but I was nevertheless surprised at the easy terms on which the two ladies secured his services. The key to the mystery was the one which fits so many locks; he was in love with Miss Waddington. There was a sweet stillness about her which balanced the widow's exuberance. Her pretty name of Adina seemed to me to have somehow a mystic fitness to her personality. She was short and slight and blonde, and her black dress gave a sort of infantine bloom to her fairness. She wore her auburn hair twisted into a thousand fantastic braids, like a coiffure in a Renaissance drawing, and she looked out at you from grave blue eyes, in which, behind a cold shyness, there seemed to lurk a tremulous promise to be franker when she knew you better. She never consented to know me well enough to be very frank; she talked very little, and we hardly exchanged a dozen words a day; but I confess that I found a perturbing charm in those eyes. As it was all in silence, though, there was no harm.
Scrope, however, ventured to tell his love—or, at least, to hint at it eloquently enough. I was not so deeply smitten as to be jealous, and I drew a breath of relief when I guessed his secret. It made me think better of him again. The stand he had taken about poor Angelo's gem, in spite of my efforts to account for it philosophically, had given an uncomfortable twist to our friendship. I asked myself if he really had no heart; I even wondered whether there was not a screw loose in his intellect. But here was a hearty, healthy, natural passion, such as only an honest man could feel—such as no man could feel without being the better for it. I began to hope that the sunshine of his fine sentiment would melt away his aversion to giving Angelo his dues. He was charmed, soul and sense, and for a couple of months he really forgot himself, and ceased to send forth his unsweetened wit to do battle for his ugly face. His happiness rarely made him "gush," as they say; but I could see that he was vastly contented with his prospects. More than once, when we were together, he broke into a kind of nervous, fantastic laugh, over his own thoughts; and on his refusal to part with them for the penny which one offers under those circumstances, I said to myself that this was humorous surprise at his good luck. How had he come to please that exquisite creature? Of course, I learned even less from the young girl about her own view of the case; but Mrs. Waddington and I, not being in love with each other, had nothing to do but to gossip about our companions whenever (which was very often) they consigned us to a tête-à-tête. "She tells me nothing," the good-humored widow said; "and if I'm to know the answer to a riddle, I must have it in black and white. My cousin is not what is called 'attractive,' but I think Adina, nevertheless, is interested in him. How do you and I know how passion may transfigure and exalt him? And who shall say beforehand what a fanciful young girl shall do with that terrible little idea of machinery she calls her heart? Adina is a strange child; she is fanciful without being capricious. For all I know, she may admire my cousin for his very ugliness and queerness. She has decided, very likely, that she wants an 'intellectual' husband, and if Mr. Scrope is not handsome, nor frivolous, nor over-polite, there's a greater chance of his being wise." Why Adina should have listened to my friend, however, was her own business. Listen to him she did, and with a sweet attentiveness which may well have flattered and charmed him.
We rarely spoke of the imperial topaz; it seemed not a subject for light allusions. It might properly make a man feel solemn to possess it; the mere memory of its luster lay like a weight on my own conscience. I had felt, as we lost sight of our friend Angelo, that, in one way or another, we should hear of him again; but the weeks passed by without his re-appearing, and my conjectures as to the sequel, on his side, of his remarkable bargain remained quite unanswered. Christmas arrived, and with it the usual ceremonies. Scrope and I took the requisite vigorous measures,—it was a matter, you know, of fists and elbows and knees,—and obtained places for the two ladies at the Midnight Mass at the Sistine Chapel. Mrs. Waddington was my especial charge, and on coming out we found we had lost sight of our companions in the crowd. We waited awhile in the Colonnade, but they were not among the passers, and we supposed that they had gone home independently, and expected us to do likewise. But on reaching Mrs. Waddington's lodging we found they had not come in. As their prolonged absence demanded an explanation, it occurred to me that they had wandered into Saint Peter's, with many others of the attendants at the Mass, and were watching the tapers twinkle in its dusky immensity. It was not perfectly regular that a young lady should be wandering about at three o'clock in the morning with a very "unattractive" young man; but "after all," said, Mrs. Waddington, "she's almost his cousin." By the time they returned she was much more. I went home, went to bed, and slept as late as the Christmas bells would allow me. On rising, I knocked at Scrope's door to wish him the compliments of the season, but on his coming to open it for me, perceived that such common-place greetings were quite below the mark. He was but half undressed, and had flung himself, on his return, on the outside of his bed. He had gone with Adina, as I supposed, into Saint Peter's, and they had found the twinkling tapers as picturesque as need be. He walked about the room for some time restlessly, and I saw that he had something to say. At last he brought it out. "I say, I'm accepted. I'm engaged. I'm what's called a happy man."
Of course I wished him joy on the news; and could assure him, with ardent conviction, that he had chosen well. Miss Waddington was the loveliest, the purest, the most interesting of young girls. I could see that he was grateful for my sympathy, but he disliked "expansion," and he contented himself, as he shook hands with me, with simply saying—"Oh yes; she's the right thing." He took two or three more turns about the room, and then suddenly stopped before his toilet-table, and pulled out a tray in his dressing-case. There lay the great intaglio; larger even than I should have dared to boast. "That would be a pretty thing to offer one's fiancée," he said, after gazing at it for some time. "How could she wear it—how could one have it set?"
"There could be but one way," I said; "as a massive medallion, depending from a necklace. It certainly would light up the world more, on the bosom of a beautiful woman, than thrust away here, among your brushes and razors. But, to my sense, only a beauty of a certain type could properly wear it—a splendid, dusky beauty, with the brow of a Roman Empress, and the shoulders of an antique statue. A fair, slender girl, with blue eyes, and sweet smile, would seem, somehow, to be overweighted by it, and if I were to see it hung, for instance, round Miss Waddington's white neck, I should feel as if it were pulling her down to the ground, and giving her a mysterious pain."
He was a trifle annoyed, I think, by this rather fine-spun objection; but he smiled as he closed the tray. "Adina may not have the shoulders of the Venus of Milo," he said, "but I hope it will take more than a bauble like this to make her stoop."
I don't always go to church on Christmas Day; but I have a life-long habit of taking a solitary walk, in all weathers, and harboring Christian thoughts if they come. This was a Southern Christmas, without snow on the ground, or sleigh-bells in the air, or the smoke of crowded firesides rising into a cold, blue sky. The day was mild, and almost warm, the sky gray and sunless. If I was disposed toward Christmas thoughts, I confess, I sought them among Pagan memories. I strolled about the forums, and then walked along to the Coliseum. It was empty, save for a single figure, sitting on the steps at the foot of the cross in the center—a young man, apparently, leaning forward, motionless, with his elbows on his knees, and his head buried in his hands. As he neither stirred nor observed me when I passed near him, I said to myself that, brooding there so intensely in the shadow of the sign of redemption, he might pass for an image of youthful remorse. Then, as he never moved, I wondered whether it was not a deeper passion even than repentance. Suddenly he looked up, and I recognized our friend Angelo—not immediately, but in response to a gradual movement of recognition in his own face. But seven weeks had passed since our meeting, and yet he looked three years older. It seemed to me that he had list flesh, and gained expression. His simple-souled smile was gone; there was no trace of it in the shy mistrust of his greeting. He looked graver, manlier, and very much less rustic. He was equipped in new garments of a pretentious pattern, though they were carelessly worn, and bespattered with mud. I remember he had a flaming orange necktie, which harmonized admirably with his picturesque coloring. Evidently he was greatly altered; as much altered as if he had made a voyage round the world. I offered him my hand, and asked if he remembered me.
"Per Dio! he cried. "With good reason." Even his voice seemed changed; it was fuller and harsher. He bore us a grudge. I wondered how his eyes had been opened. He fixed them on me with a dumb reproachfulness, which was half appealing and half ominous. He had been brooding and brooding on his meager bargain till the sense of wrong had become a kind of smothered fear. I observed all this with poignant compassion, for it seemed to me that he had parted with something more precious even than his imperial intaglio. He had lost his boyish ignorance—that pastoral peace of mind which had suffered him to doze there so gracefully with his head among the flowers. But even in his resentment he was simple still. "Where is the other one—your friend?" he asked.
"He's at home—he's still in Rome."
"And the stone—what has he done with it?"
"Nothing. He has it still."
He shook his head dolefully. "Will he give it back to me for twenty-five scudi?"
"I'm afraid not. He values it."
"I believe so. Will he let me see it?"
"That you must ask him. He shows it to no one."
"He's afraid of being robbed, eh? That proves its value! He hasn't shown it to a jeweler—to a, what do they call them?—a lapidary?"
"To no one. You must believe me."
"But he has cleaned it, and polished it, and discovered what it is?"
"It's very old. It's hard to say."
"Very old! Of course it's old. There are more years in it than it brought me scudi. What does it look like? Is it red, blue, green, yellow?"
"Well, my friend," I said, after a moment's hesitation, "it's yellow."
He gave me a searching stare; then quickly—"it's what's called a topaz," he cried.
"Yes, it's what's called a topaz."
"And it's sculptured—that I could see! It's an intaglio. Oh, I know the names, and I've paid enough for my learning. What's the figure? A king's head—or a Pope's, perhaps, eh? Or the portrait of some beautiful woman that you read about?"
"It is the figure of an Emperor."
"What is his name?"
"Corpo di Cristo!" his face flushed, and his his filled with angry tears.
"Come," I said, "I see you're sorry to have parted with the stone. Some one has been talking to you, and making you discontented."
"Every one, per Dio! Like the finished fool I was, I couldn't keep my folly to myself. I went home with my eleven scudi, thinking I should never see the end of them. The first thing I did was to buy a gilt hair-pin from a peddler, and give it to Ninetta—a young girl of my village, with whom I had a friendship. She stuck it into her braids, and looked at herself in the glass, and then asked how I had suddenly got so rich! 'Oh, I'm richer than you suppose,' said I, and showed her my money, and told her the story of the stone. She is a very clever girl, and it would take a knowing fellow to have the last word with her. She laughed in my face, and told me I was an idiot, that the stone was surely worth five hundred scudi; that my forestiere was a pitiless rascal; that I ought to have brought it away, and shown it to my elders and betters; in fine, that I might take her word for it, I had held a fortune in my hand, and thrown it to the dogs. And, to wind up this sweet speech, she took out her hairpin, and tossed it into my face. She never wished to see me again; she had as lief marry a blind beggar at a crossroad. What was I to say? She had a sister who was waiting-maid to a fine lady in Rome,—a marchesa,—who had a priceless necklace made of fine old stones picked up on the Campagna. I went away hanging my head, and cursing my folly: I flung my money down in the dirt, and spat upon it! At last, to ease my spirit, I went to drink a foglietta at the wine-shop. There I found three or four young fellows I knew; I treated them all round; I hated my money, and wanted to get rid of it. Of course they too wanted to know how I came by my full pockets. I told them the truth. I hoped they would give me a better account of things than that vixen of a Ninetta. But they knocked their glasses on the table, and jeered at me in chorus. Any donkey, out a-grazing, if he had turned up such a treasure with his nose, would have taken it in his teeth and brought it home to his master. This was cold comfort; I drowned my rage in wine. I emptied one flask after another; for the first time in my life I got drunk. But I can't speak of that night! The next day I took what was left of my money to my uncle, and told him to give it to the poor, to buy new candlesticks for his church, or to say masses for the redemption of my blaspheming soul. He looked at it very hard, and hoped I had come by it honestly. I was in for it; I told him too! He listened to me in silence, looking at me over his spectacles. When I had done, he turned over the money in his hands, and then sat for three minutes with his eyes closed. Suddenly he thrust it back into my own hands. 'Keep it—keep it, my son,' he said, 'your wits will never help you to a supper, make the most of what you've got!' Since then, do you see, I've been in a fever. I can think of nothing else but the fortune I've lost."
"Oh, a fortune!" I said, deprecatingly. "You exaggerate."
"It would have been a fortune to me. A voice keeps ringing in my ear night and day, and telling me I could have got a thousand scudi for it.
I'm afraid I blushed; I turned away a moment; when I looked at the young man again, his face had kindled. "Tiberius, eh? A Roman emperor sculptured on a big topaz—that's fortune enough for me! Your friend's a rascal—do you know that? I don't say it for you; I like your face, and I believe that, if you can, you'll help me. But your friend is an ugly little monster. I don't know why the devil I trusted him; I saw he wished me no good. Yet, if ever there was a harmless fellow, I was. Ecco! it's my fate. That's very well to say; I say it and say it, but it helps me no more than an empty glass helps your thirst. I'm not harmless now. If I meet your friend, and he refuses me justice, I won't answer for these two hands. You see—they're strong; I could easily strangle him! Oh, at first, I shall speak him fair, but if he turns me off, and answers me with English oaths, I shall think only of my revenge! And with a passionate gesture he pulled off his hat, and flung it on the ground, and stood wiping the perspiration from his forehead.
I answered him briefly but kindly enough. I told him to leave his case in my hands, go back to Lariceia and try and find some occupation which would divert him from his grievance. I confess that even as I gave this respectable advice, I but half believed in it. It was none of poor Angelo's mission to arrive at virtue through tribulation. His indolent nature, active only in immediate feeling, would have found my prescription of wholesome labor more intolerable even than his wrong. He stared gloomily and made no answer, but he saw that I had his interests at heart, and he promised me, at least, to leave Rome, and believe that I would fairly plead his cause. If I had good news for him I was to address him at Lariceia. It was thus I learned his full name,—a name, certainly, that ought to have been to its wearer a sort of talisman against trouble,—Angelo Beati.
Sam Scrope looked extremely annoyed when I began to tell him of my encounter with our friend, and I saw there was still a cantankerous something in the depths of his heart intensely hostile to fairness. It was characteristic of his peculiar temper that his happiness, as an accepted lover, had not disposed him to graceful concessions. He treated his bliss as his own private property, and was as little in the humor to diffuse its influence as he would have been to send out in charity a choice dish from an unfinished dinner. Nevertheless, I think he might have stiffly admitted that there was a grain of reason in Angelo's claim, if I had not been too indiscreetly accurate in my report of our interview. I had been impressed, indeed, with something picturesquely tragic in the poor boy's condition, and, to do perfect justice to the picture, I told him he had flung down his hat on the earth as a gauntlet of defiance and talked about his revenge. Scrope hereupon looked fiercely disgusted and pronounced him a theatrical jackanapes; but he authorized me to drop him a line saying that he would speak with him a couple of days later. I was surprised at Scrope's consenting to see him, but I perceived that he was making a conscientious effort to shirk none of the disagreeables of the matter. "I won't have him stamping and shouting in the house here," he said. "I'll also meet him at the Coliseum." He named his hour and I despatched to Lariceia three lines of incorrect but courteous Italian.
It was better,—far better,—that they should not have met. What passed between them Scrope requested me on his return to excuse him from repeating; suffice it that Angelo was an impudent puppy, and that he hoped never to hear of him again. Had Angelo, at last, I asked, received any compensation? "Not a farthing!" cried Scrope, and walked out of the room. Evidently the two young men had been a source of immitigable offense to each other. Angelo had promised to speak to him fair, and I inclined to believe had done so; but the very change in his appearance, by seeming to challenge my companion's sympathy in too peremptory a fashion, had had the irritating effect of a menace. Scrope had been contemptuous, and his awkward, ungracious Italian had doubtless made him seem more so. One can't handle Italians with contempt; those who know them have learned what may be done with a moderate amount of superficial concession. Angelo had replied in wrath, and, as I afterwards learned, had demanded, as a right, the restitution of the topaz in exchange for the sum received for it. Scrope had rejoined that if he took that tone he should get nothing at all, and the injured youth had retorted with reckless and insulting threats. What had prevented them from coming to blows, I know not, no sign of flinching, certainly, on my companion's part. Face to face, he had not seemed to Angelo so easy to strangle, and that saving grain of discretion which mingles with all Italian passion had whispered to the young man to postpone his revenge. Without taking a melodramatic view of things, it seemed to me that Scrope had an evil chance in waiting for him. I had, perhaps, no definite vision of a cloaked assassin lurking under a dark archway, but I thought it perfectly possible that Angelo might make himself intolerably disagreeable. His simply telling his story up and down Rome to whomsoever would listen to him, might be a grave annoyance; though indeed Scrope had the advantage that most people might refuse to believe in the existence of a gem of which its owner was so little inclined to boast. The whole situation, at all events, made me extremely nervous. I cursed my companion one day for a hungrier Jew than Shylock, and pitied him the next as the victim of a moral hallucination. If we gave him time, he would come to his senses; he would repay poor Angelo with interest. Meanwhile, however, I could do nothing, for I felt that it was worse than useless to suggest to Scrope that he was in danger. He would have scorned the idea of a ranting Italian making him swerve an inch from his chosen path.
I am unable to say whether Angelo's "imprudence" had seemed to relieve him, generally, from his vow to conceal the intaglio; a few words, at all events, from Miss Waddingon, a couple of evenings later, reminded me of the original reservation he had made to the vow. Mrs. Waddington was at the piano, deciphering a new piece of music, and Scrope, who was fond of a puzzle, as a puzzle, was pretending, half jocosely, to superintend and correct her. I've seen it," Adina said to me, with grave, expanded eyes; "I've seen the wonderful topaz. He says you are in the secret. He won't tell me how he came by it. Honestly, I hope."
I tried to laugh. "You mustn't investigate too closely the honesty of hunters for antiquities. It's hardly dishonest in their code to treat loose cameos and snuff-boxes as pickpockets treat purses."
She looked at me in shy surprise, as if I had made a really cruel joke. "He says that I must wear it one of these days as a medallion," she went on. "But I shall not. The stone is beautiful, but I should feel most uncomfortable in carrying the Emperor Tiberius so near my heart. Wasn't he one of the bad Emperors—one of the worst? It is almost a pollution to have a thing that he had looked at and touched coming to one in such direct descent. His image almost spoils for me the beauty of the stone and I'm very glad Mr. Scrope keeps it out of sight." This seemed a very becoming state of mind in a blonde angel of New England origin.
The days passed by and Angelo's "revenge" still hung fire. Scrope never met his fate at a short turning of one of the dusky Roman streets; he came in punctually every evening at eleven o'clock. I wondered whether our brooding friend had already spent the sinister force of a nature formed to be lazily contented. I hoped so, but I was wrong. We had gone to walk one afternoon,—the ladies, Scrope and I,—in the charming Villa Borghese, and, to escape from the rattle of the fashionable world and its distraction, we had wandered away to an unfrequented corner where the old moldering wall and the slim black cypresses and the untrodden grass made, beneath the splendid Roman sky, the most harmonious of pictures. Of course there was a mossy stone hemicycle not far off, and cracked benches with griffin's feet, where one might sit and gossip and watch the lizards scamper in the sun. We had done so for some half an hour when Adina espied the first violet of the year glimmering at the root of a cypress. She made haste to rise and gather it, then wandered further, in the hope of giving it a few companions. Scrope sat and watched her as she moved slowly away, trailing her long shadow on the grass and drooping her head from side to side in her charming quest. It was not, I know, that he felt no impulse to join her; but that he was in love, for the moment, with looking at her from where he sat. Her search carried her some distance and at last she passed out of sight behind a bend in the villa wall. Mrs. Waddington proposed in a few moments that we should overtake her, and we moved forward. We had not advanced many paces before she re-appeared, glancing over her shoulder as she came toward us with an air of suppressed perturbation. In an instant I saw she was being followed; a man was close behind her—a man in whom my second glance reconized Angelo Beati. Adina was pale; something had evidently passed between them. By the time she had met us, we were also face to face with Angelo. He was pale, as well, and, between these two pallors, Scrope had flushed crimson. I was afraid of an explosion and stepped toward Angelo to avert it. But to my surprise, he was evidently following another line. He turned the cloudy brightness of his eyes upon each of us and poised his hand in the air as if to say, in answer to my unspoken charge—"Leave me alone, I kno» what I am about." I exchanged a glance with Scropt, urging him to pass on with the ladies and let me deal with the intruder. Miss Waddington stopped; she was gazing at Angelo with soft intentness. Her lover, to lead her away, grasped her arm almost rudely, and as she went with him I saw her faintly flushing. Mrs. Waddington, unsuspicious of evil, saw nothing but a very handsome young man. "What a beautiful creature for a sketch!" I heard her exclaim, as she followed her step-daughter.
"I'm not going to make a noise," said Angelo, with a somber smile; "don't be frightened! I know what good manners are. These three weeks now that I've been hanging about Rome, I've learned to play the gentleman. Who's that young lady?"
"My dear young man, it's none of your business. I hope you had not the hardihood to speak to her."
He was silent a moment, looking after her as she retreated in her companion's arm. "Yes, I spoke to her—and she understood me. Keep quiet; I said nothing she mightn't hear. But such as it was, she understood it. She's your friend's amica; I know that. I've been watching you for half an hour from behind those trees. She is wonderfully beautiful. Farewell; I wish you no harm, but tell your friend I've not forgotten him. I'm only awaiting my chance; I think it will come. I don't want to kill him; I want to give him some hurt that he'll survive and feel—forever!" He was turning away, but he paused and watched my companions till they disappeared. At last—"He has more than his share of good luck," he said, with a sort of forced coldness. "A topaz—and a pearl! both at once! Eh, farewell!" And he walked rapidly away, waving his hand. I let him go. I was unsatisfied, but his unexpected sobriety left me nothing to say.
When a startling event comes to pass, we are apt to waste a good deal of time in trying to recollect the correct signs and portents which preceded it, and when they seem fewer than they should be, we don't scruple to imagine them—we invent them after the fact. Therefore it is that I don't pretend to be sure that I was particularly struck, from this time forward, with something strange in our quiet Adina. She had always seemed to me vaguely, innocently strange; it was part of her charm that in the daily noiseless movement of her life a mystic undertone seemed to murmur—"You don't half know me!" Perhaps we three prosaic mortals were not quite worthy to know her; yet I believe that if a practised man of the world had whispered to me, one day, over his wine, after Miss Waddington had rustled away from the table, that there was a young lady, who, sooner or later, would treat her friends to a first class surprise, I should have laid my finger on his sleeve and told him with a smile that he phrased my own thought. Was she more silent than usual, was she preoccupied, was she melancholy, was she restless? Picturesquely, she ought to have been all these things; but in fact, she was still to the illumined eye simply a very pretty blonde maiden, who smiled more than she spoke, and accepted her lover's devotion with a charming demureness which savored much more of humility than of condescension. It seemed to me useless to repeat to Scrope the young Italian's declaration that he had spoken to her, and poor Sam never intimated to me either that he had questioned her in suspicion of the fact, or that she had offered him any account of it. I was sure, however, that something must have passed between the young girl and her lover in the way of question and answer and I privately wondered what the deuce Angelo had meant by saying she had understood him. What had she understood? Surely not the story of Scrope's acquisition of the gem; for granting—what was unlikely—that Angelo had had time to impart it, it was unnatural that Adina should not have frankly demanded an explanation. At last I broke the ice and asked Scrope if he supposed Miss Waddingtoo had reason to connect the great intaglio with the picturesque young man she had met in the Villa Borghese.
My question caused him visible discomfort. "Picturesque?" he growled. "Did she tell you she thought him picturesque?"
"By no means. But he is! You must at least allow him that."
"He hadn't brushed his hair for a week—if that's what you mean. But it's a charm which I doubt that Adina appreciates. But she has certainly taken," he added in a moment, "an unaccountable dislike to the topaz. She says the Emperor Tiberius spoils it for her. It's carrying historical antipathies rather far: I supposed nothing could spoil a fine gem for a pretty woman. It appears," he finally said, "that that rascal spoke to her."
"What did he say?"
"He asked her if she was engaged to me."
"And what did she answer?"
"I suppose she was frightened."
"She might have been; but she says she was not. He begged her not to be; he told her he was a poor harmless fellow looking for justice. She left him, without speaking. I told her he was crazy—it's not a lie."
"Possibly!" I rejoined. Then, as a last attempt—"You know it wouldn't be quite a lie," I added, "to say that you are not absolutely sane. You're very erratic, about the topaz; obstinacy, pushed under certain circumstances beyond a certain point, bears a dangerous likeness to craziness."
I suppose that if one could reason with a mule it would make him rather more mulish to know one called him stubborn. Scrope gave me a chilling grin. "I deny your circumstances. If I'm mad, I claim the madman's privilege of believing myself peculiarly sane. If you wish to preach to me, you must catch me in a lucid interval."
The breath of early spring in Rome, though magical, as you know, in its visible influence on the dark old city, is often rather trying to the foreign constitution. After a fortnight of uninterrupted sirocco, Mrs. Waddington's fine spirits confessed to depression. She was afraid, of course, that she was going to have "the fever," and made haste to consult a physician. He reassured her, told her she simply needed change of air, and recommended a month at Albano. To Albano, accordingly, the two ladies repaired, under Scrope's escort. Mrs. Waddington kindly urged my going with them; but I was detained in Rome by the arrival of some relations of my own, for whom I was obliged to play cicerone. I could only promise to make an occasional visit to Albano. My uncle and his three daughters were magnificent sight-seers, and gave me plenty to do; nevertheless, at the end of a week I was able to redeem my promise. I found my friends lodging at the inn, and the two ladies doing their best to merge the sense of dirty stone floors and crumpled yellow table-cloth in ecstatic contemplation, from their windows, of the great misty sea-like level of the Campagna. The view apart, they were passing delightful days. You remember the loveliness of the place and its picturesque neighbourhood of strange old mountain towns. The country was blooming with early flowers and foliage, and my friends lived in the open air. Mrs. Waddington sketched in water colors. Adina gathered wild nosegays, and Scrope hovered contentedly between them—not without an occasional frank stricture on the elder lady's use of her pigments and Adina's combination of narcissus and cyclamen. All seemed to me very happy and, without ill-nature, I felt almost tempted to wonder whether the most desirable gift of the gods is not a thick-and-thin conviction of one's own impeccability. Yet even a lover with a bad conscience might be cheated into a disbelief in retribution by the unbargained sweetness of such a presence in his life as Adina Waddington's.
I spent the night at Albano, but as I had pledged myself to go the next morning to a funzione with my fair cousins in Rome,—"fair" is for rhetoric; but they were excellent girls:—I was obliged to rise and start at dawn. Scrope had offered to go with me part of the way, and walk back to the inn before breakfast; but I declined to accept so onerous a favor, and departed alone, in the early twilight. A rickety diligence made the transit across the Campagna, and I had a five minutes' walk to the post-office, while it stood waiting for its freight. I made my way through the | little garden of the inn, as this saved me some steps. At the sound of my tread on the gravel, a figure rose slowly; from a bench at the foot of a crippled grim statue, and I found myself staring at Angelo Beati. I greeted him with an exclamation, which was virtually a challenge of his right to be there. He stood and looked at me fixedly, with a strangely defiant, unembarrassed smile, and at last, in answer to my repeated inquiry as to what the deuce he was about, he said he supposed he had a right to take a stroll in a neighbor's garden.
"A neighbor?" said I. "How—?"
"Eh, per Dio! don't I live at Lariceia?" And he laughed in almost as simple a fashion as when we had awaked him from his dreamless sleep in the meadows.
I had had so many other demands on my attention during my friend's absence that it never occurred to me that Scrope had lodged himself in the very jaws of the enemy. But I began to believe that, after all, the enemy was very harmless. If Angelo confined his machinations to sitting about in damp gardens at malarial hours, Scrope would not be the first to suffer. I had fancied at first that his sense of injury had made a man of him; but there seemed still to hang about him a sort of a romantic ineffectiveness. His painful impulsion toward maturity had lasted but a day and he had become again an irresponsible lounger in Arcady. But he must have had an Arcadian constitution to brave the Roman dews at that rate. "And you came here for a purpose," I said. "It ought to be a very good one to warrant your spending your nights out of doors in this silly fashion. If you are not careful you'll get the fever and die, and that will be the end of everything."
He seemed grateful for my interest in his health. "No, no, Signorino mio, I'll not get the fever. I've a fever here"—and he struck a blow on his breast—"that's a safeguard against the other. I've had a purpose in coming here, but you'll never guess it. Leave me alone; I shan't harm you! But now, that day is beginning, I must go; I must not be seen."
I grasped him by the arm, looked at him hard and tried to penetrate his meaning. He met my eyes frankly and gave a little contented laugh. Whatever his secret was, he was not ashamed of it; I saw with some satisfaction that it was teaching him patience. Something in his face, in the impression it gave me of his nature, reassured me, at the same time, that it contradicted my hypothesis of a moment before. There was no evil in it and no malignity, but a deep, insistent, natural desire which seemed to be slumbering for the time in a mysterious prevision of success. He thought, apparently, that his face was telling too much. He gave another little laugh, and began to whistle softly. "You are meant for something better," I said, "than to skulk about here like a burglar. How would you like to go to America and do some honest work?" I had an absurd momentary vision of helping him on his way, and giving him a letter of introduction to my brother-in-law, who was in the hardware business.
He took off his hat and passed his hand through his hair. "You think, then, I am meant for something good?"
"If you will! If you'll give up your idle idea of 'revenge' and trust to time to right your wrong."
"Give it up?—Impossible!" he said, grimly. "Ask me rather to chop off my arm. This is the same thing. It's part of my life. I have trusted to time—I've waited four long months, and yet here I stand as poor and helpless as at the beginning. No, no, I'm not to be treated like a dog. If he had been just, I would have done anything for him. I'm not a bad fellow; I never had an unkind thought. Very likely I was too simple, too stupid, too contented with being poor and shabby. The Lord does with us as he pleases; he thought I needed a little shaking up. I've got it, surely! But did your friend take counsel of the Lord? No, no! He took counsel of his own selfishness, and he thought himself clever enough to steal the sweet and never taste the bitter. But the bitter will come; and it will be my sweet."
"That's fine talk! Tell me in three words what it means."
"Aspetti!—If you are going to Rome by the coach, as I suppose, you should be moving. You may lose your place. I have an idea we shall meet again." He walked away, and in a moment I heard the great iron gate of the garden croaking on its iron hinges. I was puzzled, and for a moment, I had a dozen minds to stop over with my friends. But on the one hand, I saw no definite way in which I could preserve them from annoyance; and on the other, I was confidently expected in Rome. Besides, might not the dusky cloud be the sooner dissipated by lettingAngelo's project,—substance or shadow, whatever it was,—play itself out? To Rome accordingly I returned; but for several days I was haunted with a suspicion that something ugly, something sad, something strange, at any rate, was taking place at Albano. At last it became so oppressive that I hired a light carriage and drove back again. I reached the inn toward the close of the afternoon, and but half expected to find my friends at home. They had in fact gone out to walk, and the landlord had not noticed in what direction. I had nothing to do but to stroll about the dirty little town till their return. Do you remember the Capuchin convent at the edge of the Alban lake? I walked up to it and, seeing the door of the church still open, made my way in. The dusk had gathered in the corners, but the altar, for some pious reason, was glowing with an unusual number of candles. They twinkled picturesquely in the gloom; here and there a kneeling figure defined itself vaguely; it was a pretty piece of chiaroscuro, and I sat down to enjoy it. Presently I noticed the look of intense devotion of a young woman sitting near me. Her hands were clasped on her knees, her head thrown back and her eyes fixed in strange expansion on the shining altar. We make out pictures, you know, in the glow of the hearth at home; this young girl seemed to be reading an ecstatic vision in the light of the tapers. Her expression was so peculiar that for some moments it disguised her face and left me to perceive with a sudden shock that I was watching Adina Waddington. I looked round for her companions, but she was evidently alone. It seemed to me then that I had no right to watch her covertly, and yet I was indisposed either to disturb her or to retire and leave her. The evening was approaching; how came it that she was unaccompanied? I concluded that she was waiting for the others; Scrope, perhaps, had gone in to see the sunset from the terrace of the convent garden—a privilege denied to ladies; and Mrs. Waddington was lingering outside the church to take memoranda for a sketch. I turned away, walked round the church and approached the young girl on the other side. This time my nearness aroused her. She removed her eyes from the altar, looked at me, let them rest on my face, and yet gave no sign of recognition. But at last she slowly rose and I saw that she knew me. Was she turning Catholic and preparing to give up her heretical friends? I greeted her, but she continued to look at me with intense gravity, as if her thoughts were urging her beyond frivolous civilities. She seemed not in the least flurried—as I had feared she would be—at having been observed; she was preoccupied, excited, in a deeper fashion. In suspecting that something strange was happening at Albano, apparently I was not far wrong—"What are you doing, my dear young lady," I asked brusquely, "in this lonely church?"
"I'm asking for light," she said.
"I hope you've found it!" I answered smiling.
"I think so!" and she moved toward the door. "I'm alone," she added, "will you take me home?" She accepted my arm and we passed out; but in front of the church she paused. "Tell me," she said suddenly, "are you a very intimate friend of Mr. Scrope's?"
"You must ask him." I answered, "if he considers me so. I at least aspire to the honor." The intensity of her manner embarrassed me, and I tried to take refuge in jocosity.
"Tell me then this: will he bear a disappointment—a keen disappointment?"
She seemed to appeal to me to say yes! But I felt that she had a project in hand, and I had no warrant to give her a license. I looked at her a moment; her solemn eyes seemed to grow and grow till they made her whole face a mute entreaty. "No," I said resolutely, "decidedly not!"
She gave a heavy sigh and we walked on. She seemed buried in her thoughts! she gave no heed to my attempts at conversation, and I had to wait till we reached the inn for an explanation of her solitary visit to Capuccini. Her companions had come in, and from them, after their welcome, I learned that the three had gone out together, but that Adina had presently complained of fatigue, and obtained leave to go home. "If I break down on the way," she had said, "I will go into a church to rest." They had been surprised at not finding her at the inn, and were grateful for my having met her. Evidently, they, too, had discovered that the young girl was in a singular mood. Mrs. Waddington had a forced smile, and Scrope had no smile at all. Adina quietly sat down to her needlework, and we confessed, even tacitly, to no suspicion of her being "nervous." Common nervousness it certainly was not; she bent her head calmly over her embroiderly, and drew her stitches with a hand innocent of the slightest tremor. At last we had dinner; it passed somewhat oppressively, and I was thankful for Scrope's proposal, afterwards, to go and smoke a cigar in the garden. Poor Scrope was unhappy; I could see that, but I hardly ventured to hope that he would tell me off-hand what was the matter with Adina. It naturally occurred to me that she had shown a disposition to retract her engagement. I gave him a dozen chances to say so, but he evidently could not trust himself to utter his fears. To give an impetus to our conversation, I reminded him of his nearness to Lariceia, and asked whether he had had a glimpse of Angelo Beati.
"Several," he said. "He has passed me in the village, or on the roads, some half a dozen times. He gives me an impudent stare and goes his way. He takes it out in looking daggers from his dark eyes; you see how much there is to be feared from him!"
"He doesn't quite take it out," I presently said, "in looking daggers. He hangs about the inn at night; he roams about the garden while you're in bed, as if he thought that he might give you bad dreams by staring at your windows." And I described our recent interview at dawn.
Scrope stared in great surprise, then slowly flushed in rising anger. "Curse the meddling idiot!" he cried. "If he doesn't know where to stop, I'll show him."
"Buy him off!" I said sturdily.
"I'll buy him a horsewhip and give it to him over his broad back!"
I put my hands in my pockets, I believe, and strolled away, whistling. Come what might, I washed my hands of mediation! But it was not irritation, for I felt a strange, half-reasoned increase of pity for my friend's want of pliancy. He stood puffing his cigar gloomily, and by way of showing him that I didn't altogether give up, I asked him at last whether it had yet been settled when he should marry. He had told me shortly before that this was still an open question, and that Miss Waddington preferred to leave it so.
He made no immediate answer, but looked at me hard. "Why do you ask—just now?"
"Why, my dear fellow, friendly curiosity—" I began.
He tossed the end of his cigar nervously upon the ground. "No, no; it's not friendly curiosity!" he cried. "You've noticed something—you suspect something!"
Since he insisted, I confessed that I did. "That beautiful girl," I said, "seems to me agitated and preoccupied; I wondered whether you had been having a quarrel."
He seemed relieved at being pressed to speak.
"That beautiful girl is a puzzle. I don't know what's the matter with her; it's all very painful; she's a very strange creature. I never dreamed there was an obstacle to our happiness—to our union. She has never protested and promised; it's not her way, nor her nature; she is always humble, passive, gentle; but always extremely grateful for every sign of tenderness. Till within three or four days ago, she seemed to me more so than ever; her habitual gentleness took the form of a sort of shrinking, almost suffering, deprecation of my attentions, my petits soins, my lover's nonsense. It was as if they oppressed and mortified her—and she would have liked me to bear more lightly. I did not see directly that it was not the excess of my devotion, but my devotion itself—the very fact of my love and her engagement that pained her. When I did it was a blow in the face. I don't know what under heaven I've done! Women are fathomless creatures. And yet Adina is not capricious, in the common sense. Mrs. Waddington told me that it was a 'girl's mood,' that we must not seem to heed it—it would pass over. I've been waiting, but the situation don't mend; you've guessed at trouble without a hint. So these are peines d'amour?" he went on, after brooding a moment. "I didn't know how fiercely I was in love!"
I don't remember with what well-meaning foolishness I was going to attempt to console him; Mrs. Waddington suddenly appeared and drew him aside. After a moment's murmured talk with her, he went rapidly into the house. She remained with me and, as she seemed greatly perplexed, and we had, moreover, often discussed our companion's situation and prospects, I immediately told her that Scrope had just been relating his present troubles. "They are very unexpected," she cried. "It's thunder in a clear sky. Just now Adina laid down her work and told me solemnly that she would like to see Mr. Scrope alone; would I kindly call him? 'Would she kindly tell me,' I inquired, 'what in common sense was the matter with her, and what she proposed to say to him? She looked at me a moment as if I were a child of five years old interrupting family prayers; then came up gently and kissed me, and said I would know everything in good time. Does she mean to stand there in that same ghostly fashion and tell him that, on the whole, she has decided not to marry him? What has the poor man done?"
"She has ceased to love him," I suggested.
"Why ceased, all of a sudden?"
"Perhaps it's not so sudden as you suppose. Such things have happened, in young women's hearts, as a gradual revision of a first impression."
"Yes, but not without a particular motive—another fancy. Adina is fanciful, that I know; with all respect be it said, it was fanciful to accept poor Sam to begin with. But her choice deliberately made, what has put her out of humor with it?—in a word the only possible explanation would be that our young lady has transferred her affections. But it's impossible!"
"Absolutely so?" I asked.
"Absolutely. Judge for yourself. To whom, pray? She hasn't seen another man in a month. Who could have so mysteriously charmed her? The little hunchback who brings us mandarin oranges every morning? Perhaps she has lost her heart to Prince Doria! I believe he has been staying at his villa yonder."
I found no smile for this mild sarcasm. I was wondering—wondering. "Has she literally seen no one else?" I asked when my wonderings left me breath.
"I can't answer for whom she may have seen; she's not blind. But she has spoken to no one else, nor been spoken to; that's very certain. Love at sight—at sight only—used to be common in the novels I devoured when I was fifteen; but I doubt whether it exists anywhere else."
I had a question on my tongue's end, but I hesitated some time to risk it. I debated some time in silence and at last I uttered it, with a prefatory apology. "On which side of the house is Adina's room?"
"Pray, what are you coming to?" said my companion. "On this side."
"It looks into the garden?"
"There it is in the second story."
"Be so good — which one?
"The third window—the one with the shutters tied back with a handkerchief."
The shutters and the handkerchief suddenly acquired a mysterious fascination for me. I looked at them for some time, and when I glanced back at my companion our eyes met. I don't know what she thought—what she thought I thought. I thought it might be out of a novel—such a thing as love at sight; such a thing as an unspoken dialogue, between a handsome young Italian with a "wrong," in a starlit garden, and a fanciful western maid at a window. From her own sudden impression Mrs. Waddington seemed slowly to recoil. She gathered her shawl about her, shivered, and turned towards the house. "The thing to do," I said, offering her my arm, "is to leave Albano to-morrow."
On the inner staircase we paused; Mrs. Waddington was loath to interrupt Adina's interview with Scrope. While she was hesitating whither to turn, the door of her sitting-room opened, and the young girl passed out. Scrope stood behind her, very pale, his face distorted with an emotion he was determined to repress. She herself was pale, but her eyes were lighted up like two wind-blown torches. Meeting the elder lady, she stopped, stood for a moment, looking down and hesitating, and then took Mrs. Waddington's two hands and silently kissed her. She turned to me, put out her hand, and said "Good night!" I shook it, I imagine, with sensible ardor, for somehow I was deeply impressed. There was a nameless force in the girl, before which one had to stand back. She lingered but an instant and rapidly disappeared towards her room, in the dusky corridor. Mrs. Waddington laid her hand kindly upon Scrope's arm and led him back into the parlor. He evidently was not going to be plaintive; his pride was rankling and burning, and it seasoned his self-control.
"Our engagement is at an end," he simply said.
Mrs. Waddington folded her hands. "And for what reason?"
It was cruel, certainly; but what could we say? Mrs. Waddington sank upon the sofa and gazed at the poor fellow in mute, motherly compassion. Her large, caressing pity irritated him; he took up a book and sat down with his back to her. I took up another, but I couldn't read; I sat noticing that he never turned his own page. Mrs. Waddington at last transferred her gaze uneasily, appealingly, to me; she moved about restlessly in her place; she was trying to shape my vague intimations in the garden into something palpable to common credulity. I could give her now no explanation that would not have been a gratuitous offense to Scrope. But I felt more and more nervous; my own vague previsions oppressed me. I flung down my book at last, and left the room. In the corridor Mrs. Waddington overtook me, and requested me to tell her what I meant by my extraordinary allusions to—"in plain English," she said, "to an intrigue."
"It would be needless, and it would be painful," I answered, "to tell you now and here. But promise me to return to Rome to-morrow. There we can take breath and talk."
"Oh, we shall bundle off, I promise!" she cried. And we separated. I mounted the stairs to go to my room; as I did so I heard her dress rustling in the corridor, undecidedly. Then came the sound of a knock; she had stopped at Adina's door. Involuntarily I paused and listened. There was a silence, and then another knock; another silence and a third knock; after this, despairing, apparently, of obtaining admission, she moved away, and I went to my room. It was useless going to bed; I knew I should not sleep. I stood a long time at my open window, wondering whether I had anything to say to Scrope. At the end of half an hour I wandered down into the garden again, and strolled through all the alleys. They were empty, and there was a light in Adina's window. No; it seemed to me that there was nothing I could bring myself to say to Scrope, but that he should leave Albano the next day, and Rome and Italy as soon after as possible, wait a year, and then try his fortune with Miss Waddington again. Towards morning, I did sleep.
Breakfast was served in Mrs. Waddington's parlor, and Scrope appeared punctually, as neatly shaved and brushed as if he were still under tribute to a pair of blue eyes. He really, of course, felt less serene than he looked. It can never be comfortable to meet at breakfast the young lady who has rejected you over night. Mrs. Waddington kept us waiting some time, but at last she entered with surprising energy. Her comely face was flushed from brow to chin, and in her hand she clasped a crumpled note. She flung herself upon the sofa and burst into tears; I had only time to turn the grinning cameriêra out of the room. "She's gone, gone, gone!" she cried, among her sobs. "Oh, the crazy, wicked, ungrateful girl!"
Scrope, of course, knew no more than a tea-pot what she meant; but I understood her more promptly—and yet I believe I gave a long whistle. Scrope stood staring at her as she thrust out the crumpled note: that she meant that Adina—that Adina had left us in the night—was too large a horror for his unprepared sense. His dumb amazement was an almost touching sign of the absence of a thought which could have injured the girl. He saw by my face that I knew something, and he let me draw the note from Mrs. Waddington's hand and read it aloud:
Good-by to everything! Think me crazy if you will. I could never explain. Only forget me and believe that I am happy, happy, happy!Adina Beati.
I laid my hand on his shoulder; even yet he seemed powerless to apprehend. "Angelo Beati," I said gravely, "has at last taken his revenge!"
"Angelo Beati!" he cried. "An Italian beggar! It's a lie!"
I shook my head and patted his shoulder. "He has insisted on payment. He's a clever fellow!"
He saw that I knew, and slowly, distractedly he answered with a burning blush!
It was a most extraordinary occurrence; we had ample time to say so, and to say so again, and yet never really to understand it. Neither of my companions ever saw the young girl again; Scrope never mentioned her but once. He went about for a week in absolute silence; when at last he spoke I saw that the fold was taken, that he was going to be a professional cynic for the rest of his days. Mrs. Waddington was a good-natured woman, as I have said, I and, better still, she was a just woman. But I assure you, she never forgave her step-daughter. In after years, as I grew older, I took an increasing satisfaction in having assisted, as they say, at this episode. As mere action, it seemed to me really superb, and in judging of human nature I often weighed it mentally against the perpetual spectacle of strong impulses frittered in weakness and perverted by prudence. There has been no prudence here, certainly, but there has been ardent, full-blown, positive passion. We see the one every day, the other once in five years. More than once I ventured to ventilate this heresy before the kindly widow, but she always stopped me short, "The thing was odious," she said; "I thank heaven the girl's father did not live to see it."
We didn't finish that dismal day at Albano, but returned in the evening to Rome. Before our departure I had an interview with the Padre Girolamo of Lariceia, who failed to strike me as the holy man whom his nephew had described. He was a swarthy, snuffy little old priest, with a dishonest eye—quite capable, I believed, of teaching his handsome nephew to play his cards. But I had no reproaches to waste upon him; I simply wished to know whither Angelo had taken the young girl. I obtained the information with difficulty and only after a solemn promise that if Adina should reiterate, vivâ voce, to a person delegated by her friends, the statement that she was happy, they would take no steps to recover possession of her. She was in Rome, and in that holy city they should leave her. "Remember," said the Padre, very softly, "that she is of age, and her own mistress, and can do what she likes with her money;—she has a good deal of it, eh?" She had less than he thought, but evidently the Padre knew his ground. It was he, he admitted, who had united the young couple in marriage, the day before; the ceremony had taken place in the little old circular church on the hill, at Albano, at five o'clock in the morning. "You see, Signor,' he said, slowly rubbing his yellow hands, "she had taken a great fancy!" I gave him no chance, by any remark of my own, to remind me that Angelo had a grudge to satisfy, but he professed the assurance that his nephew was the sweetest fellow in the world. I heard and departed in silence; my curiosity, at least, had not yet done with Angelo.
Mrs. Waddington, also, had more of this sentiment than she confessed to; her kindness wondered, under protest of her indignation, how on earth the young girl was living, and whether the smells on her staircase were very bad indeed. It was, therefore, at her tacit request that I repaired to the lodging of the young pair, in the neighborhood of the Piazza Barberini. The quarters were modest, but they looked into the quaint old gardens of the Capuchin Friars: and in the way of smells, I observed nothing worse than the heavy breath of a great bunch of pinks in a green jug on the window sill. Angelo stood there, pulling one of the pinks to pieces, and looking quite the proper hero of his romance. He eyed me shyly and a trifle coldly at first, as if he were prepared to stand firm against a possible blowing up; but when he saw that I chose to make no allusions whatever to the past, he suffered his dark brow to betray his serene contentment. I was no more disposed than I had been a week before, to call him a bad fellow; but he was a mystery,—his character was as great an enigma as the method of his courtship. That he was in love I don't pretend to say; but I think he had already forgotten how his happiness had come to him, and that he was basking in a sort of primitive natural sensuous delight in being adored. It was like the warm sunshine, or like plenty of good wine. I don't believe his fortune in the least surprised him; at the bottom of every genuine Roman heart,—even if it beats beneath a beggar's rags,—you'll find an ineradicable belief that we are all barbarians, and made to pay them tribute. He was welcome to all his grotesque superstitions, but what sort of a future did they promise for Adina? I asked leave to speak with her; he shrugged his shoulders, said she was free to choose, and went into an adjoining room with my proposal. Her choice apparently was difficult; I waited sometime, wondering how she would look on the other side of the ugly chasm she had so audaciously leaped. she came in at last, and I immediately saw that she was vexed by my visit. She wished to utterly forget her past. She was pale and very grave; she seemed to wear a frigid mask of reserve. If she had seemed to me a singular creature before, it didn't help me to understand her to see her there, beside her extraordinary husband. My eyes went from one to the other and, I suppose, betrayed my reflections; she suddenly begged me to inform her of my errand.
"I have been asked," I said, "to enquire whether you are contented. Mrs. Waddington is unwilling to leave Rome while there is a chance of your—" I hesitated for a word, and she interrupted me.
"Of my repentance, is what you mean to say?" She fixed her eyes on the ground for a moment, then suddenly raised them. "Mrs. Waddington may leave Rome," she said softly. I turned in silence, but waited a moment for some slight message of farewell. "I only ask to be forgotten!" she added, seeing me stand.
Love is said to be par excellence the egotistical passion; if so Adina was far gone. "I can't promise to forget you." I said; "you and my friend here deserve to be remembered!"
She turned away; Angelo seemed relieved at the cessation of our English. He opened the door for me, and stood for a moment with a significant, conscious smile.
"She's happy, eh?" he asked.
"So she says!"
He laid his hand on my arm. "So am I!—She's better than the topaz!"
"You're a queer fellow!" I cried; and, pushing past him, I hurried away.
Mrs. Waddington gave her step-daughter another chance to repent, for she lingered in Rome a fortnight more. She was disappointed at my being able to bring her no information as to how Adina had eluded observation—how she had played her game and kept her secret. My own belief was that there had been a very small amount of courtship, and that until she stole out of the house the morning before her flight, to meet the Padre Girolamo and his nephew at the church, she had barely heard the sound of her lover's voice. There had been signs, and glances, and other unspoken vows, two or three notes, perhaps. Exactly who Angelo was, and what had originally secured for us the honor of his attentions, Mrs. Waddington never learned, it was enough for her that he was a friendless, picturesque Italian. Where everything was a painful puzzle, a shade or two, more or less, of obscurity hardly mattered. Scrope of course, never attempted to account for his own blindness, though to his silent thoughts it must have seemed bitterly strange. He spoke of Adina, as I said, but once.
He knew by instinct, by divination,—for I had not told him,—that I had been to see her, and late on the evening following my visit, he proposed to me to take a stroll through the streets. It was a soft, damp night, with vague, scattered cloud masses, through which the moon was slowly drifting. A warm south wind had found its way into the dusky heart of the city. "Let us go to St. Peter's," he said, "and see the fountains play in the fitful moonshine." When we reached the bridge of St. Angelo, he paused and leaned some time on the parapet, looking over into the Tiber. At last, suddenly raising himself—"You've seen her?" he asked.
"What did she say?"
"She said she was happy."
He was silent, and we walked on. Half-way over the bridge he stopped again and gazed at the river. Then he drew a small velvet case from his pocket, opened it, and let something shine in the moonlight. It was the beautiful, the imperial, the baleful topaz. He looked at me and I knew what his look meant. It made my heart beat, but I did not say—no! It had been a curse, the golden gem, with its cruel emblems; let it return to the moldering underworld of the Roman past! I shook his hand firmly, he stretched out the other and, with a great flourish, tossed the glittering jewel into the dusky river. There it lies! Some day, I suppose, they will dredge the Tiber for treasures, and, possibly, disinter our topaz, and recognize it. But who will guess at this passionate human interlude to its burial of centuries?