up the drive. A man with a great golden beard nodded to
him from the window. It was Galeazzo Secinaro.
In a flash, the recollection of the May Bazaar came back to
him, and the episode of Galeazzo offering Elena a sum of
money if she would dry her beautiful hands, all wet with
champagne, on his beard. He hurried through the garden
and out into the street. He had a dull confused sense as of
some deafening noise going on inside his head.
It was an afternoon at the end of April, warm and rnoist.
2 8o THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
The sun appeared and disappeared again among the fleecy
slow-sailing clouds. The languor of the sirocco lay over
On the pavement in front of him in the Via Sistina, he
perceived a lady walking slowly in the direction of the
Trinita. He recognised her as Donna Maria Ferres. He
looked at his watch ; it was on the stroke of five ; only a
minute or two before the accustomed hour of meeting. Maria
was assuredly on her way to the Palazzo Zuccari.
He hastened forward to join her. When he reached her
side, he called her by name.
She started violently. 'What? You here? I was just
going up to you. It is five o'clock.'
' It wants a minute or two yet to the hour. I was hurrying
on to receive you. Forgive me.'
'But you seem quite upset and very pale. Where were
you coming from ? '
She frowned slightly, regarding him fixedly through her
' From my stables,' Andrea replied, meeting her look un-
blushingly as though he had not a drop of blood left to send
to his face. ' A horse that I thought a great deal of has
been hurt in the knee the fault of the jockey and now it
will not be able to run in the Derby on Sunday. It has
anaoyed and upset me very much. Please forgive me. I
over-stayed the time without noticing it. But it is still a
few minutes to five.'
' It does not matter. Good-bye. I am going back.'
They had reached the Piazza del Trinita. She stopped
and held out her hand. A furrow still lingered between her
brows. With all her great sweetness of temper, she occasion-
ally had moments of angry impatience and petulancy that
seemed to transform her into another creature.
'No, Maria come, be kind ! I am going up now to wait
for you. Go on as far as the gates of the Pincio and then
come back. Will you ? '
The clock of the Trinita de' Monti began to strike.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 281
'You hear that?' he added.
She hesitated for a moment.
' Very well, I will come.'
'Thank you so much ! I love you.'
'And I love you.'
Donna Maria went on across the piazza and into the
avenue. Over her head, the languid breath of the sirocco
sent a broken murmur through the green trees. Subtle
waves of perfume rose and fell upon the warm, damp breeze.
The clouds seemed lower ; the swallows skimmed close to
the ground ; and in the languorous heaviness of the air
there was something that melted the passionate heart of
Ever since she had yielded to Andrea's persuasions, her
heart had been filled with a happiness that was deeply
fraught with fear. All her Christian blood was on fire with
the hitherto undreamed-of raptures of her passion, and froze
with terror at her sin. Her passion was all-conquering,
supreme, immense, so despotic that for hours sometimes it
obliterated all thought of her child. She went so far as to
forget, to neglect Delfina ! And afterwards, she would have
a sudden access of remorse, of repentance, of tenderness, in
which she covered the astonished little girl's face with tears
and kisses, sobbing in horrible despair as over a corpse.
Her whole being quickened at this flame, grew keener,
more acute, acquired a marvellous sensibility, a sort of
clairvoyance, a faculty of divination which caused her endless
torture. Hardly a deception of Andrea's but seemed to
send a shadow across her spirit ; she felt an indefinite sense
of disquietude which sometimes condensed itself into a
suspicion. And this suspicion would gnaw at her heart,
embittering kisses and caresses, till it was dissipated by
the transports and ardent passion of her incomprehensible
She was jealous. Jealousy was her implacable tormentor ;
not jealousy of the present but of the past. With the cruelty
282 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
that jealous people exercise against themselves, she would
have wished to read the secrets of Andrea's memory, to
find the traces left there by former mistresses, to know to
know . The question that most often rose to her lips
if Andrea seemed moody and silent was, 'What are you
thinking about?' And yet, at the very moment of asking
the question, a shadow would cross her eyes and her
spirit, an inevitable rush of sadness would rise out of
To-day again, when he turned up so unexpectedly in the
street, had she not had an instinctive movement of suspicion ?
With a flash of lucidity, the idea had leapt into her mind
that Andrea was coming from the Palazzo Barberini, from
She knew that Andrea had been this woman's lover ; she
knew that her name was Elena ; she knew also that she was
the Elena of the inscription ' Ich lebe ! ' Goethe's distich
rang painfully in her heart. That lyric cry gave her the
measure of Andrea's love for this most beautiful woman.
He must have loved her boundlessly !
Walking slowly under the trees, she recalled Elena's ap-
pearance in the concert-hall and the ill-disguised uneasiness
of the old lover. She remembered her own terrible agitation
one evening at the Austrian Embassy when the Countess
Stamina said to her, seeing Elena pass by 'What do you
think of Lady Heathfield? She was, and is still, I fancy, a
great flame of our friend Sperelli's.'
' Is still, I fancy.' What tortures in a single sentence !
She followed her rival persistently with her eyes through the
throng, and more than once her gaze met that of the other,
sending a nameless shiver through her. Later on in the
evening, when they were introduced to one another by the
Baroness Bockhorst, in the middle of the crowd, they merely
exchanged an inclination of the head. And that perfunctory
salutation had been repeated on the rare occasions on which
Maria Ferres had joined in any social function.
Why should these doubts and suspicions, beaten down and
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 283
stifled under the flood of her passion, rise up again now with
so much vehemence? Why had she not the strength to
repress them or put them away from her altogether? The
least touch brought them up to the surface as lively as ever.
Her distress and unhappiness increased with every moment.
Her neart was not satisfied; the dream that had risen up
within her on that mystical morning under the flowering trees
in sight of the sea, had not come true. All that was purest
and fairest in that love had remained down there in the
sequestered glades in the symbolical forest that bloomed and
bore fruit perpetually in contemplation of the Infinite.
She stood and leaned against the parapet that looks to-
wards San Sebastianello. The ancient oaks, their foliage so
dark as almost to seem black, spread a sombre artificial roof
over the fountain. There were great rents in their trunks
filled up with bricks and mortar like the breaches in a wall.
Oh, the young arbutus-trees all radiant and breathing in the
light ! The fountain, dripping from the higher into the lower
basin, moaned at intervals, like a heart that fills with anguish
and then overflows in a torrent of tears ; oh, the melody of
the Hundred Fountains in the laurel avenue ! The city lay
as dead, as if buried under the ashes of an invisible volcano,
silent and funereal as a city ravaged by the plague, enormous,
shapeless, dominated by the cupola that rose out of its
bosom like a cloud. Oh, the sea, the tranquil sea !
Her uneasiness increased. An obscure menace emanated
from these things. She was seized with the feeling of terror
she had already experienced on so many occasions. Across
her pious spirit there flashed once more the thought of
Nevertheless, the recollection that her lover awaited her,
thrilled her to the heart's core ; at the thought of his kisses,
his caresses, his mad endearments, her blood was on fire
and her soul grew faint. The thrill of passion triumphed
over the fear of God. She turned her steps towards her
lover's house with all the palpitating emotion of her first
284 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
'At last!' cried Andrea, gathering her into his arms, and
drinking the breath from her panting lips.
He took one of her hands and held it against his
' Feel my heart. If you had stayed away a minute longer,
it would have broken.'
But instead of her hand, she laid her cheek upon it. He
kissed the white nape of her neck.
' Do you hear it beat ? '
'Yes, and it speaks to me.'
' What does it tell you ? ' *
' That you do not love me.'
' What does it tell you ? ' repeated the young man, biting
her neck softly and preventing her from raising her head.
' That you love me.'
She removed her cloak, her hat and her gloves, and then
went to smell the bouquets of white lilac that filled the high
Florentine vases like those of the tondo in the Borghese
Gallery. Her step on the carpet was extraordinarily light,
and nothing could exceed her grace of attitude as she buried
her face in the delicate tassels of bloom.
She bit off the end of a spray, and holding it between her
' Take it,' she said.
They exchanged a long, long kiss in among the perfume.
He drew her closer and said with a tremor in his voice,
' No, Andrea no ; let us stay here. I will make the tea
She took her lover's hand and twined her fingers into his.
' I don't know what is the matter with me. My heart is so
full of love that I could almost cry.'
The words trembled on her lips; her eyes were full of
' Oh, if only I need not leave you, if I could stay here
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 285
Her heart was so full that it lent an indefinable sadness to
' When I think that you can never know the whole extent
of my love ! That I can never know yours ! Do you love
me ? Tell me, say it a hundred, a thousand times always
you love me ? '
' As if you did not know ! '
' No, I do not know.'
She uttered the words in so low a tone that Andrea hardly
Maria ! '
She silently laid her head on Andrea's breast, waiting for
him to speak, as if listening to his heart.
He regarded that hapless head, weighed down by the burden
of a sad foreboding ; he felt the light pressure of that noble,
mournful brow upon his breast, which was hardened by false-
hood, encased in duplicity as in a cuirass of steel. He was
stirred by genuine emotion ; a sense of human pity for this
most human suffering gripped him by the throat. And yet
this agitation of soul resolved itself into lying words and lent
a quiver of seeming sincerity to his voice.
' You do not know ! Your voice was so low that it died
away upon your lips ; at the bottom of your heart something
protested against your words ; all, all the memories of our
love rose up and protested against them. Oh ! you do not
know that I love you !
She remained leaning against him, listening, trembling,
recognising or fancying that she recognised in his moving
voice the accents of true passion, the accents that intoxicated
her and that she supposed were inimitable. And he went on
speaking, almost in her ear, in the silence of the room, with
his hot breath on her cheek and with pauses that were almost
sweeter than words. ' To have one sole thought, contin-
ually, every hour, every moment not to be able to con-
ceive of any happiness but the transcendent one that beams
upon me from your mere presence to live throughout the
day in the anticipation impatient, restless, fierce of the
286 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
moment when I shall see you again, and, after you have gone,
to caress and cherish your image in my heart, to believe
in you alone, to swear by you alone, in you alone to put my
faith, my strength, my pride, my whole world, all that I dream
and all that I hope '
She lifted her face all bathed in tears. He ceased to speak,
and with his lips arrested the course of the warm drops that
flowed over her cheeks. She wept and smiled, caressing his
hair with trembling hands, shaken with irrepressible sobs.
' My heart, my dearest heart ! '
He made her sit down and knelt before her without ceasing
to kiss her lids Suddenly he started. He had felt her long
lashes tremble on his lips like the flutter of an airy wing.
Time was, when Elena had laughingly given him that caress
twenty times in succession. Maria had learned it from him,
and at that caress he had often managed to conjure up the
image of the other.
His start made Maria smile ; and as a tear still lingered
on her lashes ' This one too,' she said.
He kissed it away, and she laughed softly without a thought
Her tears had ceased, and, reassured, she turned almost
gay and full of charming graces.
' I am going to make the tea now,' she said.
'No, stay where you are.' The image of Elena had
suddenly interposed between them.
'No, let me get up,' begged Maria, disengaging herself
from his constraining arms. ' I want you to taste my tea.
The aroma will penetrate to your very soul.'
She was alluding to some costly tea she had received
from Calcutta which she had given to Andrea the day
She rose and went over to the armchair with the dragons
in which the melting shades of the rosa di gruogo of the
ancient dalmatic continued to languish exquisitely. The
little cups of fine Castel-Durante Majolica still glittered on
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 287
While preparing the tea, she said a thousand charming
things, she let all the goodness and tenderness of her fond
heart bloom out with entire freedom ; she took an ingenuous
delight in this dear and secret intimacy, the hushed calm of
the room with all its accessories of refined luxury. Behind
her, as behind the Virgin in Botticelli's tondo, rose the tafll
vases crowned with sprays of white lilac, and her archangelic
hands moved about among the little mythological pictures
of Luzio Dolci and the hexameters of Ovid beneath them.
'What are you thinking about?' she asked Andrea, who
was sitting on the floor beside her, leaning his head against
the arm of her chair.
1 1 am listening to you. Go on ! '
' I have nothing more to say.'
1 Yes, you have. Tell me a thousand, thousand things '
' What sort of things ? '
' The things that you alone know how to say.'
He wanted Maria's voice to lull the anguish caused him
by the other ; to animate for him the image of the other.
'Do you smell that?' she exclaimed, as she poured the
boiling water on to the aromatic leaves.
A delicious fragrance diffused itself through the air with
' How I love that ! ' she cried.
Andrea shivered. Were not those the very words and
spoken in her very tone that Elena had used on the evening
she offered him her love? He fixed his eyes on Maria's
1 Say that again.'
'What you just said.'
' The words sound so sweet when you pronounce them
you cannot understand it, of course. Say them again.'
She smiled, divining nothing, and a little troubled, even a
little shy, under her lover's strange gaze.
'Well then I love that!'
288 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
' And me ? '
' What ? '
' And me ? you '
She looked down puzzled at her lover writhing at her feet,
his face haggard and drawn, waiting for the words he was
trying to draw out of her.
' And me ?
' Ah ! you 1 love you
4 That is it ! That is it ! Say it again again '
She did so, quite unsuspecting. He felt a spasm of
' Why do you shut your eyes ? ' she asked, not because of
any suspicion in her mind, but to lead him on to explain his
' So that I may die.'
He laid his head on her knee and remained for some
minutes in that attitude, silent and abstracted. She gently
stroked his hair, his brow that brow behind which his in-
famous imagination was working. Shadows began to fill the
room, and the fragrance of the flowers and the aromatic
beverage mingled in the air; the outlines of the surround-
ing objects melted into one vague form, harmonious, dim,
Presently she said : ' Get up, dearest, I must go. It is
' Stay a little longer with me,' he entreated.
He drew her over to the divan where the gold on the
cushions still gleamed through the shadows. There he
suddenly clasped her head between his hands and covered
her face with fierce hot kisses. He let himself imagine it
was the other face he held, and he thought of it as sullied by
the lips of her husband ; and instead of disgust, was filled with
still more savage desire of it. All the turbid sensations he
had experienced in the presence of this man now rose to
the surface of his consciousness, and with his kisses these vile
things swept over the cheeks, the brow, the hair, the throat,
the lips of Maria.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 289
' Let me go let me go,' she cried, struggling out of his
She ran across to the tea-table to light the candles.
' You must be good,' she said, panting a little still, and with
an air of fond reproof.
He did not move from the divan, but looked at her in
She went over to the side of the mantelpiece, where, on the
wall, hung the little old mirror. She put on her hat and veil
before its dim surface, that looked so like a pool of dull and
' I am so loath to leave you this evening ! ' she murmured,
oppressed by the melancholy of the twilight hour. 'This
evening more than ever before.'
The violet gleam of the sunset struggled with the light of
the candles. The lilac in the crystal vases looked waxen
white. The cushion in the arm-chair retained the impress of
the form that had leaned against it.
The clock of the Trinita began to strike.
' Heavens ! how late ! Help me to put on my cloak,'
exclaimed the poor creature, turning to Andrea.
He only clasped her once more in his arms, kissing her
furiously, blindly, madly, with a devouring passion, stifling on
her lips his own insane desire to cry aloud the name of Elena.
At last she managed to gasp in an expiring voice
'You are drawing my life out of me.' But his passionate
vehemence seemed to make her happy.
' My love, my soul, all, all mine ! ' she said.
And again, blissfully ' I can feel your heart beating so
fast, so fast.'
At last, with a sigh, ' I must go now.'
Andrea was as lividly pale and convulsed as if he had just
committed a murder.
' What ails you ? ' she asked with tender solicitude.
He tried to smile. ' I never felt so profound an emotion,'
1 1 thought I should have died.'
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
He took the bouquet of flowers from one of the vases and
handed it to her and went with her towards the door, almost
hurrying her departure, for this woman's every look and
gesture and word was a fresh sword-thrust in his heart.
' Good-bye, dear heart ! ' said the hapless creature to him
with unspeakable tenderness. ' Think of me.'
ON the morning of the 2oth of May, as Andrea Sperelli was
walking along the Corso in the radiant sunshine, he heard his
name called from the doorway of the Club.
On the pavement in front of it was a group of gentlemen
amusing themselves by watching the ladies pass and talking
scandal. They were Giulio Musellaro, Ludovico Barbarisi,
the Duke of Grimiti, Galeazzo Secinaro, Gino Bomminaco,
and two or three others.
' Have you heard what happened last night ? ' Barbarisi
1 No, what ? '
' Don Manuel Ferres, the Minister for Guatemala
'Was caught red-handed cheating at cards.'
Sperelli retained his self-command, although some of the
men were looking at him with a certain malicious curiosity.
' How was that ? '
' Galeazzo was there and was playing at the same table.'
Secinaro proceeded to give him the details.
Andrea did not affect indifference, he listened with a grave
and attentive air. At the end of the story, he said, ' I am
extremely sorry to hear it.'
After remaining a minute or two longer with the group,
he bowed and passed on.
' Which way are you going ? ' asked Secinaro.
'I am going home.'
' I will go with you part of the way.'
They went off together in the direction of the Via de'
Condotti. The Corso was one glittering stream of sunshine
292 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
from the Piazzo di Venezia to the Piazzo del Popolo. Ladies
in light spring dress passed along by the brilliant shop-
windows the Princess of Ferentino with Barbarella Viti
under one big lace parasol ; Bianca Dolcebuono j Leonetto
Lanza's young wife.
'Do you know this man this Ferres ?' asked Galeazzo
of Andrea, who had not spoken as yet.
'Yes, I met him last year at Schifanoja, at my cousin
Ateleta's. The wife is a great friend of Francesca's. That
is why the affair annoys me so much. We must see that it is
hushed up as much as possible. You will be doing me the
greatest favour if you will help me about it.'
Galeazzo promised his assistance with the most cordial
' I think,' said he, ' that the worst of the scandal might be
avoided if the Minister sends in his resignation to his Govern-
ment without a moment's delay. That is what the President of
the Club advised, but Ferres refused last night. He blustered
and did the insulted. And yet the proofs were there, as clear
as daylight. He will have to be persuaded.'
They continued on the subject as they walked along.
Sperelli was grateful to Secinaro for his assistance, and the
intimate tone of the conversation predisposed Secinaro to
At the corner of the Via de' Condotti, they caught sight of
Lady Heathfield strolling along the left side of the street past
the Japanese shop-windows, with her undulating, rhythmic,
' Ah Donna Elena,' said Galeazzo.
Both the men watched her, and both felt the glamour
of that rhythmic gait.
When they came up to her, they both bowed but passed on.
They no longer saw her, but she saw them ; and for Andrea
it was a form of torture to have to walk beside a rival under
the gaze of the woman he desired, and feel that those piercing
eyes were perhaps taking a delight in weighing the merits of
both men. He compared himself with Secinaro.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 293
Galeazzo was of the bovine type, a Lucius Verus with
golden hair and blue eyes ; while amid the magnificent abun-
dance of his golden beard shone a full red mouth, handsome,
but without the slightest expression. He was tall, square-
shouldered and strong, with an air of elegance that was not
exactly refined, but easy and unaffected.
' Well ? ' Sperelli asked, goaded on by a sort of madness.
' Are matters going on favourably ? '
He knew he might adopt this tone with a man of this
Galeazzo turned and looked at him half surprised, half
suspicious. He certainly did not expect such a question
from him, and still less the airy and perfectly calm tone
in which the question was uttered.
' Ah, the time that siege of mine has lasted ! ' groaned the
bearded prince. ' Ages simply I have tried every kind of
manoeuvre but always without success. I always came too
late, some other fellow had always been before me in storming
the citadel. But I never lost heart. I was convinced that
sooner or later my turn would come. Attendre pour atteindre.
And sure enough '
'Lady Heathfield is kinder to me than the Duchess of
Scerni. I shall have, I hope, the very enviable honour
of being set down after you on the list.'
He burst into a rather coarse laugh, showing his splendid
'I fancy that my doughty deeds in India, which Giulio
Musellaro spread abroad, have added to my beard several
heroic strands of irresistible virtue.'
' Ah, just in these days that beard of yours should fairly
quiver with memories.'
' What memories ? '
' Memories of a Bacchic nature.'
' I don't understand.'
'What, have you forgotten the famous May Bazaar of
294 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
1 Well, upon my word, now that you remind me of it, the
third anniversary does fall on one of these next days. But
you were not there who told you ? '
' You want to know more than is good for you, my dear
'Do tell me!'
1 Bend your mind rather to making the most skilful use of
this anniversary and give me news as soon as you have any.'
' When shall I see you again ? '
'Whenever you like.'