free play with her sparkling black eyes. Elena was in a more
than usually brilliant vein, and impressed Andrea as being so
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 253
far removed from bin , so unfamiliar, so unconcerned, that he
almost doubted whethor yesterday's scene had not been all a
dream. Ludovico Ba -barisi and the Prince of Ferentino
aided and abetted the ^dies; Lord Heathfield entertained
his ' young friend ' by boring him to extinction with questions
as to the coming sales and giving him minute details of a
very rare edition of the Metamorphoses of Apuleius Roma,
1469 in folio, which he had acquired a day or two ago for
fifteen hundred and twenty lire. He broke off every now and
then to watch Barbarella, and then that gleam of dementia
would flash into his eyes, and his repulsive hands trembled
Andrea's irritation, disgust, and boredom at last reached
such a pitch that he was unable to conceal his feelings.
' You seem out of spirits, Ugenta,' said the princess.
'Well, a little, perhaps Miching Mallecho is ill.'
Barbarisi at once overwhelmed him with importunate
questions about the horse's ailments ; and then Lord Heath-
field recommenced the story of the Metamorphoses from the
The Princess turned to her cousin. 'What do you think,
Ludovico,' she said with a laugh, 'yesterday, at the concert,
we surprised him in a flirtation with an Incognita ! '
'So we did,' added Elena.
' An Incognita ? ' exclaimed Ludovico.
'Yes, but perhaps you can give us further information.
She is the wife of the new Minister for Guatemala.'
'Aha I know.'
' For the moment, I only know the Minister. I see him
playing at the Club every night.'
'Tell me, Ugenta, has she been received at court yet?
'I really do not know, Princess,' Andrea returned with
The whole business had become simply intolerable to him.
Elena's gaiety jarred horribly on him, and her husband's pre-
sence was more odious than ever. But if he was out of
254 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
temper, it was more with himself thar with the rest of the
company. At the root of his irritation lay a dim longing
after the pleasure he had so lately rejected. Hurt and
offended by Elena's indifference, ais heart turned with
poignant regret to the other woman, and he pictured her
wandering pensive and alone through the silent avenues, more
beautiful, more noble than ever before.
The Princess rose and led the way into an adjoining room.
Barbarella ran to the piano, which was entirely enveloped in
an immense antique caparison of red velvet embroidered with
dull gold, and began to sing Bizet's Tarantelle dedicated to
Christine Nilsson. Elena and Eva leaned over her to read
the music, while Ludovico stood behind them smoking a
cigarette. The Prince had disappeared.
But Lord Heathfield kept firm hold of Andrea. He had
drawn him into a window and was discoursing to him on
certain little Urbanese ' coppette amatorie' which he had
picked up at the Cavaliere Davila's sale, and the rasping
voice with its aggravating interrogative inflections, the
gestures with which he indicated the dimensions of the cups,
and his glance now dull and fishy, now keen as steel under
the great prominent brow in short, the whole man was so
unendurably obnoxious to Andrea that he clenched his teeth
convulsively like a patient under the surgeon's knife.
His one absorbing thought was how to get away. His plan
was to rush to the Pincio in the hope of finding Donna Maria
and taking her, after all, to the Villa Medici. It was about
two o'clock. He looked out of the window at the glorious
sunshine ; he turned back into the room, and saw the group
of pretty women at the piano, bathed in the red glow struck
out of the velvet cover by a strong golden ray. With this red
glow the smoke of the cigarette mingled lightly as the talk-
ing and laughter mingled with the chords Barbarelli Viti struck
haphazard on the keys. Ludovico whispered a word or two
in his cousin's ear, which the Princess forthwith communi-
cated to her friends, for there was a renewed burst of laughter,
ringing and deep, like a string of pearls dropping into a silver
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 255
bowl. Then Barbarella took up Bizet's air again in a low
' Tra, la la Le papillon s'est envole" Tra, la la '
Andrea was anxiously on the watch for a favourable
moment at which to interrupt Lord Heathfield's harangue
and make his escape. But the collector had entered upon a
series of rounded periods, each intimately connected with the
other, without one break, without one pause for breath. A
single stop would have saved the persecuted listener, but it
never came, and the victim's torments grew more unbearable
' Oui ! Le papillon s'est envole Oui ! Ah ! ah ! ah ! ah !
Andrea looked at his watch.
' Two o'clock already ! Excuse me, Marquis, but I must
He left the window and went over to the ladies.
'Will you excuse me, Princess, I have a consultation at
two with the veterinary surgeons at my stables ? '
He took leave in a great hurry. Elena gave him the tips of
her fingers, Barbarella presented him with ^fondant, saying
'Give it to poor Mallecho with my love.'
Ludovico offered to accompany him.
' No, no stay where you are.'
He bowed and left flew down the stairs like lightning and
jumped into his carriage, shouting to the coachman
1 To the Pincio quick ! '
He was filled with a frenzied longing to reach Maria
Ferres' side, to enjoy the delights which he had refused
before. The rapid pace of his horses was not quick enough
for him. He looked out anxiously for the Trinita de' Monti,
the avenue the gates.
The carriage flashed through the gates. He ordered the
coachman to moderate his pace and to drive through each of
the avenues. His heart gave a bound every time the figure
of a woman appeared in the distance through the trees He
got out and, on foot, explored the paths forbidden to vehicles.
He searched every nook and corner in vain.
256 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
The Villa Borghese being open to the public, the Pincio
lay deserted and silent under the languid smile of the
February sun. Few carriages or foot-passengers disturbed
the peaceful solitude of the place. The grayish-white trees,
tinged here and there with violet, spread their leafless
branches against a diaphanous sky, and the air was full of
delicate spider-webs which the breeze shook and tore
asunder. The pines and cypresses all the evergreen trees
took on something of this colourless pallor, seemed to fade
and melt into the all-prevailing monotone.
Surely something of Donna Maria's sadness still lingered in
the atmosphere. Andrea stood for several minutes leaning
against the railings of the Villa Medici, crushed beneath a
load of melancholy too heavy to be borne.
IN the days that followed, the double pursuit continued with
the same tortures, or worse, and with the same odious menda-
city. By a phenomenon which is of frequent occurrence in
the moral degradation of men of keen intellect, he now had
a terrible lucidity of conscience, a lucidity without interrup-
tions, without a moment of dimness or eclipse. He knew
what he was doing and criticised what he had done. With
him self-scorn went hand in hand with feebleness of will.
But his variable humour, his incertitude, his unaccountable
silences and equally unaccountable effusions, in short, all the
peculiarities of manner which such a condition of mind
inevitably brings along with it, only increased and excited the
passionate commiseration of Donna Maria. She saw him
suffer, and it filled her with grief and tenderness. ' By slow
degrees I shall cure him,' she thought. But slowly and surely,
without being aware of it, she was losing her strength of
purpose and was bending to the sick man's will.
The downward slope was gentle.
In the drawing-room of the Countess Stamina, an indefin-
able thrill ran through her when she felt Andrea's gaze upon
her bare shoulders and arms. It was the first time he had
seen her in evening dress. Her face and her hands were all
he knew. This evening he saw how exquisite was the shape
of her neck and shoulders and of her arms too, although they
were a little thin.
She was dressed in ivory-white brocade trimmed with sable.
A narrow band of fur edged the low bodice and imparted an
indescribable delicacy to the tints of the skin. The line of
258 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
the shoulders, from the neck to the top of the arms, had that
gracious slope which is such a sure mark of physical aristo-
cracy and so rare nowadays. In her magnificent hair,
arranged in the manner affected by Verocchio for his busts,
there was not one jewel, not one flower.
At two or three propitious moments, Andrea murmured
words of passionate admiration in her ear.
' This is the first time we have met in society,' he said to
her. ' Give me a glove as a souvenir.'
'Why not, Maria?'
' No, no. Be quiet.'
' Oh, those hands of yours ! Do you remember when I
copied them at Schifanoja ? I feel as if I had a right to them ;
as if you ought to grant them to me ; of your whole person
they are the part that is most intimately connected with your
soul, the most spiritualised, almost, one might say, the purest
Oh, hands of kindness hands of pardon. How dearly I should
love to possess at least a semblance of their form, some token
to which their delicate perfume still clings. You will give me
a glove before you leave ? '
She did not answer. The conversation dropped. A short
time afterwards, on being asked to play, she consented, and
drawing off her gloves laid them on the music-stand in front
of her. Her fingers, tapering and glittering with rings, looked
very white as she drew off their delicate covering. On the
ring finger of her left hand blazed a great opal.
She played the two Sonata-Fantasias of Beethoven (Op.
27). The one, dedicated to Giulietta Guicciardi, expressed
a hopeless renunciation, told of an awakening after a dream
that had lasted too long. The other, from the first bars of
the Andante, described by its full smooth rhythm the calm
that comes after the storm ; then, passing through the dis-
quietude of the second movement, opened out into an Adagio
of luminous serenity, and ended in an Allegro Vivace in which
there was a rising note of courage, almost of fervour.
Though surrounded by an attentive audience, Andrea felt
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 259
that she was playing for him alone. From time to time, his
eyes wandering from the fingers of the pianist to the long
gloves hanging from the music stand, which still retained the
form of those hands, still preserved an inexpressible charm
in the small opening at the wrist where, but a short time ago,
a tiny morsel of her soft flesh had been visible.
Maria rose amidst a round of applause. She left the piano,
but she did not take away her gloves. Andrea was tempted
to steal them. Had she not perhaps left them for him?
But he only wanted one. As a connoisseur in amatory
matters has said, a pair of gloves is a totally different thing
from a single one.
Led back to the piano by the insistence of the Countess
Stamina, Maria removed her gloves from the desk and placed
them in a corner of the keyboard, in the shadow. She then
played Rameau's Gavotte the Gavotte of the Yellow Ladies
the never-to-be-forgotten dance of Indifference and Love.
Andrea regarded her fixedly with a little trepidation.
When she rose, she took up one of her gloves. The other
she left in the shadowy corner of the piano for him.
Three days afterwards, when astonished Rome had
awakened to find itself under a covering of snow, Andrea
received a note to the following effect
' Tuesday, 2 p.m. To-night, between eleven and twelve
o'clock, you will wait for me in a carriage in front of the
Palazzo Barberini, outside the gates. If by midnight I am
not there, you can go away again. A stranger:
The tone of the note was mysterious and romantic. Was
it in remembrance of the 25th of March two years ago?
Lady Heathfield seemed particularly fond of the use of
carriages in her love affairs. Had she the intention of taking
up the adventure at the point where it broke off? And why
A stranger"} Andrea could not repress a smile. He had
just come back from a visit to Maria a very pleasing visit
and his heart inclined, for the moment, more to the Siennese
than to the other. His ear still retained the sound of her
sweet and gentle words as they stood together at the window
260 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
and watched the snow falling soft as peach or apple blossom
on the trees of the Villa Aldobrandini, already touched with
the presentiment of the coming Spring. However, before
going out to dinner, he gave very particular orders to
Eleven o'clock found him in front of the palace, devoured
by impatience and curiosity. The novelty of the situation,
the spectacle of the snowy night, the mystery and uncertainty
of it all, inflamed his imagination and transported him beyond
the realities of life.
Over Rome, on that memorable February night, there
shone a full moon of fabulous size and unheard of splendour.
In that immense radiance, the surrounding objects seemed
to exist only as in a dream, impalpable, meteoric, and visible
at a great distance by virtue of some fantastic irradiation of
their own. The snow covered the railings of the gateway,
concealing the iron and transforming it into a piece of open-
work, more frail and airy than filigree ; while the white-robed
Colossi supported it as oaks support a spider's web. The
garden looked like a motionless forest of enormous and mis-
shapen lilies all of ice ; a garden under some lunar enchant-
ment, a lifeless paradise of Selene. Mute, solemn and
massive the Palazzo Barberini reared its great bulk into the
sky, its most salient points standing out dazzlingly white and
casting a pale blue shadow as transparent as light.
He waited, leaning forward on the watch ; and under the
fascination of that marvellous spectacle, he felt the spirits
that wait on love awake in him, that the lyric summits of his
sentiment began to gleam and glitter like the frozen shafts
of the gateway under the moon. But he could not make up
his mind which of the two women he would prefer as the
centre of this fantastic scenery : Elena Heathfield robed in
imperial purple, or Maria Ferres robed in ermine. And as
he lingered pleasurably over this uncertainty of choice, he
ended by mingling and confounding his two anxieties the
real one for Elena and the imaginary one for Maria.
A clock near by struck in the silence with a clear vibrating
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 261
sound, and each stroke seemed to break something crystalline
in the air. The clock of the Trinita de' Monti responded
to the call, and after that the clock of the Quirinal then
others faintly out of the distance. It was a quarter past
Andrea strained his eyes towards the portico. Would she
dare to traverse the garden on foot? He pictured the figure
of Elena in the midst of all this dazzling whiteness, then, in
an instant, that of Donna Maria appeared to him, obliterating
the other, triumphant over the whiteness, Candida super
nivem. This night of moonlight and snow then was under
the dominance of Maria Ferres as under some invincible
actual influence. The image of the pure creature grew
symbolically out of the sovereign purity of the surrounding
aspect of things. The symbol re-acted forcibly on the spirit
of the poet.
While still watching to see if the other one would come,
he gave himself up to a vision suggested by the scene before
It was a poetic, almost a mystic dream. He was waiting
for Donna Maria she had chosen this night of supernatural
purity on which to sacrifice her own purity to her lover's
desire. All the white things about her, cognisant of the great
sacrifice about to be accomplished, were waiting to cry Ave
and Amen at the passage of their sister. The silence was
And behold, she comes ! Incedit per lilia et super nivem.
She comes, robed in ermine; her tresses bound about with
a fillet ; her steps lighter than a shadow ; the moon and the
snow are less pale than she Ave I
A shadow, azure as the light that tints the sapphire, accom-
panies her. The great mis-shapen lilies bend not as she
passes ; the frost has congealed them, has made them like
the asphodels that illumine the paths of Hades. And yet,
like those of the Christian paradise, they have a voice and say
with one accord Amen.
So be it the Beloved glides on to the sacrifice. Already
262 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
she nears the watcher sitting mute and icy, but whose eyes
are burning and eloquent. And on her hands, the dear
hands that close his wounds and open the doors of dreams,
he presses his kiss. So be it.
Then on her lips, the dear lips that know no word of false-
ness, he lays his kiss. Released from the fillet, her hair
spreads like a glorious flood in which all the shadows of the
night put to flight by the moon and the snow seem to have
taken refuge. Comis suis obumbrabit tibi, et sub comis peccavit.
And still the other did not come ! Through the silence,
through the poetry, the hours of men sounded again from the
towers and belfries of Rome. A carriage or two rolled noise-
lessly past the Four Fountains towards the Piazza or crawled
slowly up towards Santa Maria Maggiore; and each street-
lamp shone yellow as a topaz in the light. It seemed as if
the night, reaching its highest point, had grown more
luminously radiant. The filigree of the gateway twinkled
and flashed as if its silver embroideries were studded with
jewels. In the palace, great circles of dazzling light shone on
the windows like diamond florins.
'What if she does not come ?' thought Andrea to himself.
The flood of lyric fervour that had passed over his soul at
Maria's name had submerged the anxiety of his vigil, had
appeased his desire and calmed his impatience. For a
.moment, the thought that she would not come only made
him smile. But the next, the anguish of uncertainty
began again worse than ever, and he was tortured by the
vision of the joys that might have been his, here in the warm
carriage where the roses breathed so sweet an atmosphere.
Besides which, his sufferings were further increased, as on
New Year's Eve, by a sharp touch of wounded vanity; it
annoyed him particularly that his delicate preparations for a
love scene should thus be wasted and useless.
In the carriage, the cold was tempered by the pleasant
warmth diffused by a metal foot- warmer, full of hot water.
A bunch of white roses, snowy, moonlike, lay on the bracket
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 263
in front of the seat. A white bear-skin covered his knees.
Everything pointed to an intentional arrangement of a sort of
Symphonic en llanc-majeur.
The clocks struck for the third time. It was a quarter to
twelve. The vigil had lasted too long Andrea was growing
tired and cross. In Elena's apartments, in the left wing of
the palace, there \vas no light but that which came from
outside. Was she coming? And if so, in what manner?
Secretly? Under what pretext? Lord Heathfield was cer-
tainly in Rome how would she explain her nocturnal
absence? Once more the soul of the former lover was torn
with curiosity ; once more jealousy gnawed at his heart and
carnal passion inflamed him. He thought of Musellaro's
derisive suggestion about the husband, and he determined to
have Elena again at all costs, both for pleasure and for
revenge. Oh, if only she would come !
A carriage drove through the gates and into the garden.
He leaned forward to look at it. He recognised Elena's
horses and caught a glimpse inside of the figure of a woman.
The carriage disappeared into the portico. He remained
perplexed. She had been out then? She had returned
alone ? He fixed a scrutinising gaze upon the portico. The
carriage came out, passed through the garden and drove
away towards the Via Rasella ; it was empty.
It wanted but two or three minutes to midnight and she
had not come !
It struck the hour. A bitter pang smote the heart of the
deluded watcher. She was not coming.
Unable to see any cause for her having missed the appoint-
ment, he turned upon her in sudden anger ; he even had a
suspicion that she might have wished to inflict a humiliation,
a punishment upon him, or else that she had merely indulged
in a whim in order to inflame his desire afresh. The next
moment he called to the coachman
' Piazza del Quirinale.'
He yielded to the attraction of Maria Ferres ; he abandoned
himself once more to the vaguely tender sentiment which,
264 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
ever since his visit in the afternoon, had left, as it were, a
perfume in his soul and suggested to him thoughts and
images of poetic beauty. The recent disappointment,
proving, as he considered, Elena's malice and indifference,
urged him more strongly than ever towards the love and
goodness of the other. His regret for the loss of so beautiful
a night increased, under the influence of the vision he had
dreamed just now. And, truth to tell, it was one of the
most enchanting nights Rome had ever known ; one of those
spectacles that oppress the human soul with deep sadness,
because they transcend all power of admiration, all possibility
of human expression.
The Piazza del Quirinale, magnified by the all-pervading
whiteness, lay spread out solitary and dazzling, like an
Olympian acropolis above the silent city. The edifices
surrounding it reared their stately proportions into the deep
sky; Bernini's great portal to the royal palace surmounted
by the loggia offered an optical delusion by seeming to
detach itself from the building and stand out all alone in
all its unwieldy magnificence, like some mausoleum sculptured
out of a meteoric block of stone. The rich architraves to the
Palazzo della Consulta were curiously transformed by the
accumulated masses of snow. Sublime amidst the uniform
whiteness, the colossal statues seemed to dominate all things.
The grouping of the Dioscuri and the horses looked bolder
and larger in that light ; the broad backs of the steeds
glittered under jewelled trappings, there was a sparkle as
of diamonds on the shoulders and the uplifted arm of each
An august solemnity flowed from the monument. Rome
lay plunged in a death-like silence, motionless, empty a
city under a spell. The houses, the churches, the spires and
turrets, all the confusion and intermingling of Christian and
Pagan architecture, resolved itself into one unbroken forest
between the heights of the Janiculum and the Monte Mario,
drowned in a silvery vapour, far off, infinitely immaterial,
reminding one a little of a lunar landscape, calling up visions
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 265
of some half extinct planet peopled by shades. The dome
of St. Peter's, shining with a peculiar metallic lustre in the
blue atmosphere looked gigantic and so close that one might
have thought to touch it. And the two youthful Heroes, sons
of the Swan, radiant with beauty in the vast expanse of white-
ness as in the apotheosis of their origin, seemed to be the
immortal Genii of Rome guarding the slumbers of the sacred
The carriage stopped in front of the palace and remained
there for a long time. The poet was once more absorbed in
his impossible dream. And Maria Ferres was quite near,
was perhaps watching and dreaming also, perhaps she too
felt the grandeur of the night weighing upon her heart and
crushing it in vain.
Slowly the carriage passed her closed door, while the
windows reflected the full moon gazing at the hanging
gardens of the Villa Aldobrandini where the trees looked like
aerial miracles. And as he passed, the poet threw the bunch
of roses on to the snow before Donna Maria's door in token
' I SAW I guessed I had been at the window for a long
time, unable to tear myself away from the fascination of all
that whiteness. I saw the carriage pass slowly in the snow.
I felt that it was you, before I saw you throw the roses. No
words can describe to you the tenderness of my tears. I
wept for you from love and for the roses out of pity. Poor
roses ! It seemed to me that they were alive and must suffer
and die in the snow. I seemed to hear them call to me and
lament like human creatures that have been deserted. As
soon as your carriage had disappeared, I leaned out of the
window to look at them. I was on the point of going down
into the street to pick them up. But a servant was still in
the hall waiting up for some one. I thought of a thousand