' Francesca is still young, and has retained the frank and
charming gaiety which, in our school days, exercised such a
strange fascination over my somewhat gloomy temperament.
She has one great and rare virtue : though she is light-hearted
herself, she can enter into the troubles of others and knows
how to lighten them by her kindly sympathy and pity. She
is above all things a woman of high intelligence and refined
tastes, a perfect hostess and a friend who never palls upon
one. She is perhaps a trifle too fond of witty mots and
sparkling epigrams, but her darts are always tipped with gold,
and she aims them with inimitable grace. Among all the
women of the great world I have ever known there is certainly
not one to compare with her, and of all my friends, she is the
one I care for most.
'Her children are not like her, they are not handsome.
But the youngest, Muriella, is a dear little thing, with the
sweet laugh and the eyes of her mother. She did the honours
of the house to Delfina with all the air of a little lady ; she
has certainly inherited her mother's perfect manner.
i^4 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
1 Delfina seems to be happy. She has already explored the
greater part of the grounds, as far as the sea, and has run
down all the flights of steps. She came to tell me about all
the wonderful things she had seen panting, swallowing half
the words, her eyes looking almost dazzled. She spoke
continually of her new friend Muriella a pretty name that
sounds still prettier from her lips.
1 She is fast asleep. When her eyes are closed, her lashes
cast a long, long shadow on her cheeks. Francesca's cousin
was struck by their length this ^evening and quoted a
beautiful line from Shakespeare's Tempest on Miranda's eye-
' The scent of the flowers is too strong in this room.
Delfina was anxious to keep the bouquet of roses by her
bedside, but now that she is asleep I shall take them away
and put them out into the loggia in the fresh air.
' I am tired, and yet I have written four pages ; I am sleepy,
and yet I would gladly prolong this languor of soul, lulled by
I know not what unwonted sense of tenderness diffused
around me. It is so long so long since I have felt myself
surrounded by a little kindness !
' I have just carried the vase of roses into the loggia and
stayed there a few moments to listen to the voices of the
night, moved by the regret of losing in the blindness of sleep
the hours that pass under so beautiful a sky. How strange
is the harmony between the song of the fountains and the
murmur of the sea ! The cypresses seemed to be the pillars
of the firmament ; the stars shining just above them tipped
their summits with fire.
' September i6th. A delightful afternoon, spent almost
entirely in conversation with Francesca in the loggia, on- the
terraces, in the avenues, at the various points of outlook of
this villa, which looks as if it had been built by a princely
poet to drown a grief. The name of the Palace at Ferrara
suits it admirably.
' Francesca gave me a sonnet of Count Sperelli's to read
a trifle, but of rare literary charm, and inscribed on vellum.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 145
Sperelli has a mind of a very high order, and is most
intense. To-day at dinner, he said several very beautiful
things. He is recovering from a terrible wound received in
a duel in Rome last May. In all his actions, his looks, his
words, there is that affectionate and charming licence which
is the prerogative of the convalescent, of those who have
newly escaped the clutches of death. He must be very
young, but he has gone through much and lived fast. He
bears the evidences of it. ... A charming evening of con-
versation and music all by ourselves after dinner. I talked
too much, or, at any rate, with two much eagerness. But
Francesca listened and encouraged me, and so did Count
Sperelli. That is just the delightful part of a conversation
not on common subjects to feel the same degree of warmth
animating the minds of all present. Only then do one's words
have the true ring of sincerity and give real pleasure, both to
the speaker and the hearer.
'Francesca's cousin is a most cultivated judge of music.
He greatly admires the masters of the eighteenth century,
Domenico Scarlatti being his special favourite. But his most
ardent devotion is reserved for Sebastian Bach. He does
not care much for Chopin, and Beethoven affects him too
profoundly and perturbs his spirit.
' He listened to me with a singular expression, almost as if
dazed or distressed. I nearly always addressed myself to
Francesca, but I felt his eyes upon me with an insistence
which embarrassed but did not offend me. He must still be
weak and ill and a prey to his nerves. Finally he asked me
" Do you sing ? " in the same tone in which he would have
said "Do you love me?"
' I sang an air of Paisiello's and another by Salieri, and I
played a little eighteenth century music. I was in good voice
and my touch on the piano happy.
' He gave me no word of thanks or praise, but remained
perfectly silent. I wonder why ?
' Delfina was in bed by that time. When I went upstairs
afterwards to see her, I found her asleep, but with her eye-
i 4 6 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
lashes wet as if with tears. Poor darling ! Dorothy told me
that my voice could be heard distinctly up here, and that
Delfina had wakened from her first sleep and begun to sob,
and wanted to come down.
c She is asleep again now, but from time to time her little
bosom heaves with a suppressed sob which sends a vague
distress into my own heart, and a desire to respond to that
involun^ry sob, to this grief which sleep cannot assuage.
Poor darling !
'Who is playing the piano downstairs, I wonder? With
the soft pedal down, some one is trying over that gavotte of
Rameau's, so full of bewitching melancholy, that I was
playing just now. Who can it be ? Francesca came up with
me it is late.
' I went out and leaned over the loggia. The room opening
into the vestibule is dark, but there is light in the room
next to it, where Manuel and the Marchese are still playing
'The gavotte has stopped, some one is going down the steps
into the garden.
' Why should I be so alert, so watchful, so curious ? Why
should every sound startle me to-night ?
' Delfina has wakened and is calling me.
' September I'jth. Manuel left this morning. We accom-
panied him to the station at Rovigliano. He will return
about the xoth of October to fetch me, and we all go on to
Sienna, to my mother. Delfina and I will probably stay at
Sienna till after the New Year. I shall see the Loggia of the
Pope and the Fonte Gaja, and my beautiful black and white
Cathedral once more that beloved dwelling-place of the
Blessed Virgin, where a part of my soul has ever remained
to pray in a spot that my knees know well.
' I always have a vision of that spot clearly before me, and
when I go back I shall kneel on the exact stone where
I always used to. I know it as well as if my knees had left
a deep hollow there. And there too I shall find that portion
of my soul which still lingers there in prayer beneath the
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 147
starry blue vault above, which is mirrored in the marble floor
like a midnight sky in a placid lake.
'Assuredly nothing there is changed. In the costly chapel,
full of palpitating shadow and mysterious gloom, alive with
the glint of precious marble, the lamps burned softly, all
their light seemingly gathered into the little globe of oil that
fed the flame as into some limpid topaz. Little by little,
under my intent gaze, the sculptured stone grew less coldly
white, took on warm ivory tints, became gradually penetrated
by the pallid life of the celestial beings, and over the marble
forms crept the faint transparency of angelic flesh.
' Ah, how fervent and spontaneous were my prayers then !
When I absorbed myself in meditation, I seemed to be
walking through the secret paths of my soul as in a garden
of delight, where nightingales sang in the blossoming trees
and turtle-doves cooed beside the running waters of Grace
' September 1 8//fc. A day of nameless torture. Something
seems to be forcing me to gather up, to re-adjust, to join
together the fragments of a dream, half of which is being
confusedly realised outside of me, and the other half going
on equally confusedly in my own heart. And try as I will, I
cannot succeed in piecing it completely together.
'September \^th. Continued torture. Long ago, some one
sang to me but never finished the song. Now some one is
taking up the strain at the point where it broke off, but mean-
while, I have forgotten the beginning. And my spirit loses
itself in vain gropings after the old melody, nor can it find
any pleasure in the new.
'September 2oM. To-day, after lunch, Andrea Sperelli
invited me and Francesca to come to his room and look at
some drawings that had arrived for him yesterday from
' It would not be too much to say that an entire Art has
passed before our eyes to-day an art studied and analysed
by the hand of a master draughtsman. I have never ex
perienced a more intense pleasure.
i 4 8 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
1 The drawings are Sperelli's own work studies, sketches,
notes, mementos of every gallery in Europe ; they are, so to
speak, his breviary, a wonderful breviary in which each of the
Old Masters has his special page, affording a condensed
example of his manner, bringing out the most lofty and
original beauties of his work, \hzpunctum saliens of his entire
productions. In going through the large collection, not only
have I received a distinct impression of the various schools,
the movements, the influences which have combined to
develop the art of painting in various countries, but I feel
that I have had a glimpse into the spirit, the essential mean-
ing of the art of each individual painter. I am as if intoxi-
cated with art, my brain is full of lines and figures, but in the
midst of the apparent confusion there stand out clearly before
me the women of the early masters, those never-to-be-forgotten
heads of Saints and Virgins which smiled down upon my
childish piety in old Sienna from the frescoes of Taddeo and
'No masterpiece of art, however advanced and brilliant,
leaves upon the mind so strong and enduring an impression.
All these slender forms, delicate and drooping as lily-buds,
these grave and noble attitudes for receiving a flower offered
by an angel, placing the fingers on an open book, bending
over the Holy Infant, or supporting the body of Christ ; in
the act of blessing, of agonising, of ascending into Heaven
all these things, so pure, so sincere, so profoundly touching,
affect the soul to its depths and imprint themselves for ever
on the memory.
1 Thus, one by one, the women of the Early Masters passed
in review before us. Francesca and I were seated on a low
couch with a great stand before us, on which lay the portfolio
containing the drawings which the artist, seated opposite,
slowly turned over, commenting on each in succession. I
watched his hand as he took up a sheet and placed it with
peculiar care on the other side of the portfolio, and each
time I felt a sort of thrill, as if that hand were going to touch
me Why ?
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 149
' Presently, his position doubtless becoming uncomfortable,
he knelt on the floor, and in that attitude continued turning
over the drawings. In speaking, he nearly always addressed
himself to me, not at all with the air of imparting instruction,
but as if discussing the pictures with a person as familiar
with the subject as he was himself; and, at the bottom of my
heart, I was conscious of a sense of complacency mingled
with gratitude. Whenever I exclaimed in admiration, he
looked at me with a smile which I can still see, but cannot
define. Two or three times, Francesca rested her arm on his
shoulder in unconscious familiarity. Looking at the head of
the first-born of Moses, copied from Botticelli's fresco in
the Sistine Chapel, she said "It has a look of you when
you are in one of your melancholy moods." And when
we came to the head of the Archangel Michael from
Perugino's Madonna of Pavia, she remarked " It is a little
like Giulia Moceto, is it not?" He did not answer, but only
turned the page over rather sooner than usual. Upon which
she added with a laugh "Away with the pictures of sin !"
'This Giulia Moceto is, I suppose, some one he was once in
love with. The page once turned, I had a wild, unreasoning
desire to look at the Michael again and examine the face
more closely. Was it merely artistic curiosity ?
' I cannot say, I dare not pry into my heart, I prefer to
temporise, to deceive myself; I have not the courage to face
the battle, I am a coward.
' And yet the present is so sweet. My imagination is as
excited as if I had drunk strong tea. I have no desire to go
to bed. The night is soft and warm as if it were August,
the sky is cloudless but dimly veiled, the breathing of the sea
comes slow and deep, but the fountains fill up the pauses.
The loggia attracts me shall we go out and dream a little,
my heart and I ? dream of what ?
' The eyes of the Virgins and the Saints pursue me deep-
set, long and narrow, with meekly downcast lids, from under
which they gaze at one with that charmed look innocent as
the dove, and yet a little side-long like the serpent. "Be
1 50 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
ye harmless as doves and wise as serpents," said Our
' Yes, be wise go, say your prayers, and then, to bed and
' September 2\st. Alas, must the heavy task ever painfully
begin again from the beginning, the steep path be climbed,
the battle that was won fought over again !
' September 22nd. He has given me one of his poems, The
Story of the Hermaphrodite, the twenty-first of the twenty-five
copies, printed on vellum and with two proof engravings of
' It is a remarkable work, enclosing a mystic and profound
idea, although the musical element predominates, entrancing
the soul by the unfamiliar magic of its melody, which
envelopes the thoughts that shine out like a glister of gold
and diamonds through a limpid stream. Certain lines
pursue me incessantly and will continue to do so for long, no
doubt they are so intense . . . Every day and every hour
he subjugates me more and more, mind and soul against
my will, despite my resistance. His every word and look,
his slightest action sinks into my heart.
'September 2yd, When we converse with one another, I
sometimes feel as if his voice were an echo of my soul. At
times, a sudden wild frenzy comes over me, a blind desire, an
unreasoning impulse to make some remark, utter some word
that would betray my secret weakness. I only save myself
from it by a miracle, and then there falls an interval of silence,
during which I am shaken with inward terror. Then, when
I do speak again, it is to say something trivial in the lightest
tone I can command, but I feel as if a flame were rushing
over my face that I am going to blush. If he were to seize
this moment to look me boldly in the eyes, I should be lost !
c I played a good deal this evening, chiefly Bach and
Schumann. As on the first evening, he sat in a low chair
to the right but a little behind me. From time to time, at
the end of each piece, he rose and leaned over me, turning
the pages to point out another Fugue or Intermezzo. Then
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 151
he would sit down again and listen, motionless, profoundly
absorbed, his eyes fixed on me, forcing me to feel his
* Did he understand, I wonder, how much of myself, of my
thoughts and griefs found voice in the music of others?
' It is a threatening night. A hot moist wind blows over
the garden and its dull moaning dies away in the darkness
only to begin again more loudly. The tops of the cypresses
wave to and fro under an almost inky sky in which the
stars burn with feeble ray. A band of clouds spans the
heavens from side to side, ragged, contorted, blacker
than the sky, like the tragic locks of a Medusa. The sea is
invisible through the darkness, but it sobs as if in measure-
less and uncontrollable grief forsaken and alone.
' Why this unreasoning terror? The night seems to warn
me of approaching disaster, a warning that finds its echo in a
dim remorse within my heart.
' But I always take comfort from my daughter, she heals
my fever like some blessed balm.
' She is asleep now, shaded from the lamp which shines with
the soft radiance of the moon. Her face white with dewy
freshness of a white rose, seems half buried in the masses of
her dark hair. One would think the eyelids were too deli-
cately transparent to veil the splendour of her eyes. As I
lean over her and gaze at her, all the sinister voices of the
night are silenced for me, and the silence is measured only
by her gentle respiration.
' She feels the vicinity of her mother. The longer I contem-
plate her, the more does she assume in my eyes the aspect of
some ethereal creature, of a being formed of " such stuff as
dreams are made of."
1 She shall grow up nourished and enwrapped by the flame
of my love of my great, my only love
'September 2 4* A. I can form no resolve I can decide
upon no plan of action. I am simply abandoning myself a
little to this new sentiment, shutting my eyes to the distant
peril, and my ears to the warning voice of conscience, with
i 5 2 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
the shuddering temerity of one who, in gathering violets,
ventures too near the edge of a precipice at the foot of which
roars a hungry torrent.
' He shall never know anything from my lips, I shall never
know anything from his. Our two souls will mount together,
for a brief space, to the mountain-tops of the Ideal, will drink
side by side at the perennial fountains, and then each go on its
separate way, encouraged and refreshed.
' How still the air is this afternoon ! The sea has the faint
milky-blue tints of the opal, of Murano glass, with here and
there a patch like a mirror dimmed by a breath.
' I am reading Shelley, a favourite poet with him, that divine
Ariel feeding upon light and speaking with the tongues of
angels. It is night
'September 2$th. Mio Dio I Mio Dio! His voice when
he spoke my name the tremor in it oh, I thought my
heart was breaking in my bosom, and that I must inevitably
lose consciousness. "You will never know," he said " never
know how utterly my soul is yours."
1 We were in the avenue of the fountains I was listening to
the sound of the water; but from that moment, I heard
nothing more. Everything around me seemed to flee away,
carrying my life with it, and the earth to open beneath my
feet. I made a superhuman effort to control myself.
Delfina's name rose to my lips and I was seized with a wild
impulse to fly to her for protection, for safety. Three times
I cried that name, but in the intervals my heart ceased to
beat and the breath died away upon my lips.
' September 2(>th. Was it true? Was it not merely some
illusion of my overwrought and distracted spirit ? Why should
that hour yesterday seem to me so far away, so unreal?
' He spoke a second time, at greater length, close to my
side while I walked on under the trees as in a dream.
Under the trees was it? It seemed to me rather that I was
walking through the hidden pathways of my soul, among
flowers born of my imagination, listening to the words of an
invisible spirit that yet was part of myself.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 153
'I can still hear the sweet and dreadful words "I would
renounce all that the future may hold for me to live in a
small corner of your heart Far from the world, wholly lost
in the thought of you until death, to all eternity 1 ' And
again " Pity from you would be far dearer to me than love
from any other woman. Your mere presence suffices to
intoxicate me I feel it flowing into my veins like my life's
blood and filling my soul with rapture beyond all telling."
' September 27 th. When he gathered the spray of blossom
at the entrance to the wood and offered it to me, did I not, in
my heart, call him Life of my /tfe?
'When, in the avenue, we passed again by the fountain
where he first spoke to me, did I not call him Life of my
' When he took the wreath from off the Hermes and gave
it back to my child, did he not give me to understand that
the woman exalted in these verses had fallen from her high
estate, and that I, I alone, was all his hope? And once
more I called him Life of my life.
1 September 28///. How long I have been in finding peace !
' From that moment onwards, what hours of struggle and
travail I have had, how painfully I have striven to penetrate
the real state of my mind, to see things in their true light,
bring a calm and fair judgment to bear upon what has
happened, to recognise and determine upon my duty ! But
I continually evaded myself, my mind became confused, my
will was but a broken reed on which to lean, every effort was
vain. By a sort of instinct, I have avoided being alone with
him, kept close to Francesca or my child, or stayed here in
my room as in a haven of refuge. When my eyes did meet
his, I seemed to read in them a profound and imploring
sadness. Does he not know how deeply, deeply, deeply I
love him ?
1 He does not know it, nor ever will. That is my firm
resolve that is my duty. Courage !
' Help me, oh my God !
' September z^th. Why did he speak? Why did he break
154 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
the enchanted silence in which I let my soul be steeped,
almost without regret or fear? Why tear away the veil of
uncertainty and put me face to face with his unveiled love?
Now I have no further excuse for temporising, for deluding
myself. The danger is there certain, undeniable, manifest
it attracts me to its dizzy edge like a precipice. One moment
of weakness, of languor, and I am lost.
' I ask myself am I sincere in my pain and regret at
this unexpected revelation? How is it that I think per-
petually of those words? And why, when I repeat them to
myself, does a wave of ineffable rapture sweep over my soul ?
Why do I thrill to the heart's core at the imagined prospect
of hearing more more such words ?
' Night. The agitation of my soul takes the forms of ques-
tions, riddles I ask myself endless questions to which I
never have an answer. I have not had the courage to look
myself through and through to form a really bold and honest
resolution. I am pusillanimous, I am a coward. I shrink
from pain, I want to suffer as little as possible, I prefer
to temporise, to hang back, to resort to subterfuges, to
wilfully blind myself instead of courageously facing the risks
of a decisive battle.
' The fact of the matter is this that I am afraid of being
alone with him, of having a serious conversation with him,
and so my life is reduced to a series of petty schemes and
manceuvrings and pretexts for avoiding his company. Such
devices are unworthy of me. Either I must renounce this
love altogether, and he shall hear my sad but firm resolve,
or I shall accept it, in so far as it is pure, and he will receive
my spiritual consent.
' And now I ask myself What do I really want ? Which
of the two paths am I to choose ? Must I renounce shall I
' My God ! my God ! answer Thou for me light up the
path before me !
' To renounce is like tearing out a piece of my heart with
my own hands. The agony would be supreme, the wrench
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 155
would exceed the limits of the endurable. But, by God's
grace, such heroism would be crowned by resignation, would
be rewarded by that sweet and holy calm which follows upon
every high moral impulse, every victory of the soul over the
dread of suffering.
' I shall renounce my daughter shall keep possession of
my whole life, of my whole soul. That is the path of duty,
and I will walk in it.
' Sow in tears, oh mourning souls, that ye may reap with
songs of gladness !
' September 30^. I feel somewhat calmer in writing these
pages. I regain, at least for the moment, some slight balance
of mind. I can look my misfortune more clearly in the face,
and my heart seems relieved as if after confession.
' Oh, if I could but go to confession ! could implore
counsel and help of my old friend and comforter, Dom
'What sustains me most of all in my tribulation, is the
thought that in a short time I shall see him again and be able
to pour out all my griefs and fears to him, show him all my
wounds, ask of him a balm for all my ills, as I used to in the
days when his benign and solemn words would call up tears
of tenderness to my eyes, that knew not then the bitterness