'Then dine with me to-night at the Club about eight
o'clock. That will give us an opportunity of seeing after the
other affair too.'
' All right. Good-bye, Goldbeard. Run ! '
They parted in the Piazza di Spagna, at the foot of the
steps, and as Elena came across the square in the direction
of the Via due Macelli to go up to the Quattro Fontane,
Secinaro joined her and walked on with her.
The strain of dissimulation once over, Andrea's heart sank
within him like a leaden weight. He did not know how he
was to drag himself up the steps. He was quite assured that,
after this, Secinaro would tell him everything, and somehow
this seemed to him a point to his advantage. By a sort of
intoxication, a species of madness, resulting from the severity
of his sufferings, he rushed blindly into new and ever more
cruel and senseless torments; aggravating and complicating
his miserable state in a thousand ways ; passing from perver-
sion to perversion, from aberration to aberration, without being
able to hold back or to stop for one moment in his giddy
descent. He seemed to be devoured by an inextinguishable
fever, the heat of which made all the germs of human lust
lying dormant in the hidden depths of his being flourish and
grow big. His every thought, his every emotion showed the
And yet, it was the very deception itself that bound him
so strongly to the woman he deceived. His mind had
adapted itself so thoroughly to the monstrous comedy that he
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 295
was no longer capable of conceiving any other way of satisfy-
ing his passion. This incarnation of one woman in another
was no longer a result of exasperated desire, but a deliberate
habit of vice, and now finally an imperious necessity. From
thenceforth, the unconscious instrument of his vicious ima-
gination had become as necessary to him as the vice itself.
By a process of sensual depravity, he had almost come to
think that the real possession of Elena would not afford him
such exquisite and violent delight as the imaginary. He was
hardly able to separate the two women in his thoughts. And
just as he felt that his pleasure would be diminished by the
actual possession of the one, so his nerves received a shock if
by some lassitude of the imagination he found himself in the
presence of the other without the interposing image of her
Thus he felt crushed to the earth at the thought that Don
Manuel's ruin meant for him the loss of Maria.
When she came to him that evening, he saw at once that
the poor thing was ignorant as yet of her misfortune. But
the next day, she arrived, panting, convulsed, pale as death.
She threw herself into his arms, and hid her face on his
'You know ? ' she gasped between her sobs.
The news had spread. Disgrace and ruin were inevitable,
irremediable. There followed days of hideous torture, during
which Maria, left alone after the precipitate flight of the
gamester, abandoned by the few friends she possessed, per-
secuted by the innumerable creditors of her husband, be-
wildered by the legal formalities of the seizure of their effects,
by bailiffs, money-lenders and rogues of all sorts, gave evi-
dences of a courage that was nothing less than heroic,
but failed to avert the utter ruin that overwhelmed the
From her lover she would receive no assistance of any
kind ; she told him nothing of the martyrdom she was
enduring even when he reproached her for the brevity of her
visits, She never complained ; for him she always managed
296 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
to call up a less mournful smile ; still obeyed the dictates of
her lover's capricious passion, and lavished upon her ruthless
destroyer all the treasures of her fond heart.
Her presentiments had not deceived her. Everything was
falling in ruins around her. Punishment had overtaken her
without a moment's warning.
But she never regretted having yielded to her lover ; never
repented having given herself so utterly to him, never be-
wailed her lost purity. Her one sorrow stronger than
remorse, or fear, or any other trouble of mind was the
thought that she must go away, must be separated from this
man who was the life of her life.
* My darling, I shall die. I am going away to die far from
you alone all alone and you will not be there to close my
She smiled as she spoke with certainty and resignation.
But Andrea endeavoured to kindle an illusive hope in her
breast, to sow in her heart the seeds of a dream that could
only lead to future suffering.
' I will not let you die ! You will be mine again and for a
long time to come. We hare many happy days of love before
us yet ! '
He spoke of the immediate future. He would go and
establish himself in Florence ; from there he could go over
as often as he liked to Sienna under the pretext of study
could pass whole months there copying some Old Master or
making researches in ancient chronicles. Their love should
have its hidden nest in some deserted street, or beyond the
city, in the country, in some villa decorated with rural
ornaments and surrounded by a meadow. She would be
able to spare an hour now and then for their love. Some-
times she would come and spend a whole week in Florence,
a week of unbroken happiness. They would air their idyll
on the hillside of Fiesole in a September as mild as April, and
the cypresses of Montughi would not be less kind to them
than the cypresses of Schifanoja.
* Would it were true ! Would it were true ! ' sighed Maria.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE . 297
'You don't believe me?'
'Oh yes, I believe you; but my heart tells me that all
these sweet things will remain a dream.'
She made Andrea take her in his arms and hold her there
for a long time ; and she leaned upon his breast, silently
crouching into his embrace as if to hide herself, with the
shiver of a sick person or of one who seeks protection from
some threatening danger. She asked of Andrea only the
delicate caresses that in the language of affection she called
' kisses of the soul ' and that melted her to tears sweeter than
any more carnal delights. She could not understand how in
these moments of supreme spirituality, in these last sad hours
of passion and farewell her lover was not content to kiss her
'No no, dear love,' she besought him, half repelled by
Andrea's crude display of passion, ' I feel that you are nearer
to me, closer to my heart, more entirely one with me, when
you are sitting at my side, and take my hand in yours and
look into my eyes and say the things to me that you alone
know how to say. Those other caresses seem to put us far
away from each other, to set some shadow between you and
me 1 don't know how to express my thought properly
And afterwards it leaves me so sad, so sad I don't know
what it is 1 feel then so tired but a tiredness that has
something evil about it ! '
She entreated him, humbly, submissively, fearing to make
him angry. Then she fell to recalling memories of things
recent and passed, down to the smallest details, the most
trivial words, the most insignificant facts, which all had a vast
amount of significance for her. But it was towards the first
days of her stay at Schifanoja that her heart returned most
' You remember ? You remember ? '
And suddenly the tears filled her downcast eyes.
One evening Andrea, thinking of her husband, asked her
1 Since I knew you, have you always been wholly mine ? '
298 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
( I am not speaking of the soul
' Hush ! yes, always wholly yours.'
And he, who had never before believed one of his
mistresses on this point, believed Maria without a shadow
of doubt as to the truth of her assertion.
He believed her even while he deceived and profaned her
without remorse ; he knew himself to be boundlessly loved by
a lofty and noble spirit, that he was face to face with a grand
and all-absorbing passion, and recognised fully both the
grandeur of that passion and his own vileness. And yet
under the lash of his base imaginings he would go so far as
to hurt the mouth of the fond and patient creature, to prevent
himself from crying aloud upon her lips the name that rose
invincibly to his ; and that loving and pathetic mouth would
murmur, all unconscious, smiling though it bled
' Even thus you do not hurt me.'
IT wanted but a few days now to their parting. Miss Dorothy
had taken Delfina to Sienna, and then returned to help her
mistress in the last and most trying arrangements and to
accompany her on the journey. In the mother's house in
Sienna the truth of the story was not known, and Delfina of
course knew nothing. Maria had merely written that Don
Manuel had been suddenly recalled by his government. And
she made ready to go to leave these rooms, so full of
cherished things, to the hands of the public auctioneers who
had already drawn up the inventory and fixed the date of the
sale for the 20th of June, at ten in the morning.
On the evening of the Qth, as she was leaving Andrea, she
missed a glove. While looking for it she came upon a
volume of Shelley, the one which Andrea had lent her in
Schifanoja, the dear and affecting book in which, before the
excursion to Vicomile, she had underlined the words
' And forget me, for I can never
She took up the book with visible emotion and turned over
the pages till she came to the one which bore the mark of
'Never/' she murmured with a shake of the head. 'You
remember? And hardly eight months have passed since.'
She pensively turned over a few more leaves and read other
' He is our poet,' she went on. ' How often you promised
to take me to the English Cemetery! You remember, we
were to take flowers for his grave. Shall we go? You
300 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
might take me before I leave. It will be our last walk
' Let us go to-morrow,' he answered.
The next evening, when the sun was already declining,
they went in a closed carriage ; on her knees lay a bunch of
roses. They drove along the foot of the leafy Aventino and
caught a glimpse of the boats laden with Sicilian wine
anchored in the port of Ripa Grande.
In the neighbourhood of the cemetery they left the carriage
and went the rest of the way to the gates on foot and in
silence. At the bottom of her heart, Maria felt that not only
was she here to lay flowers on the tomb of a poet, but that in
this place of death she would weep for something of herself
irreparably lost. A Fragment of Shelley, read in the sleep-
less watches of the night echoed through her spirit as she
gazed at the cypresses pointing to the sky on the other side
of the white wall.
' Death is here, and Death is there,
Death is busy everywhere ;
All around, within, beneath,
Above, is death and we are death.
Death has set his mark and seal
On all we are and all we feel,
On all we know and all we fear
First our pleasures die, and then
Our hopes, and then our fears : and when
These are dead, the debt is due,
Dust claims dust and we die too.
All things that we love and cherish,
Like ourselves must fade and perish.
Such is our rude mortal lot :
Love itself would, did they not *
As she passed through the gateway she put her arm through
Andrea's and shivered.
The cemetery was solitary and deserted. A few gardeners
were engaged in watering the plants along by the wall, swing-
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 301
ing their watering-cans from side to side with an even and
continuous motion and in silence.
The funeral cypresses stood up straight and motionless in
the air ; only their tops, gilded by the sun, trembled lightly.
Between the rigid, greenish-black trunks rose the white tombs
square slabs of stone, broken pillars, urns, sarcophagi.
From the sombre mass of the cypresses fell a mysterious
shadow, a religious peace, a sort of human kindness, as limpid
and beneficent waters gush from the hard rock. The un-
changing regularity of the trees and the chastened whiteness
of the sepulchral monuments affected the spirit with a sense
of solemn and sweet repose. But between the stiff ranks of
the trees, standing in line like the deep pipes of an organ, and
interspersed among the tombs, graceful oleanders swayed their
tufts of pink blossom; roses dropped their petals at every
light touch of the breeze, strewing the ground with their
fragrant snow; the eucalyptus shook its pale tresses now
dark, now silvery white; willows wept over the crosses and
crowns ; and, here and there, the cactus displayed the glory
of its white blooms like a swarm of sleeping butterflies or an
aigrette of wonderful feathers. The silence was unbroken
save by the cry, now and then, of some solitary bird.
Andrea pointed to the top of the hill.
'The poet's tomb is up there,' he said, 'near that ruin to
the left, just below the last tower.'
She dropped his arm and went on in front of him through
the narrow paths bordered with low myrtle hedges. She
walked as if fatigued, turning round every few minutes to
smile back at her lover. She was dressed in black and wore
a black veil that cast over her faint and trembling smile a
shadow of mourning. Her oval chin was paler and purer
than the roses she carried in her hand.
Once, as she turned, one of the roses shed its petals on the
path. Andrea stooped to pick them up. She looked at him
and he fell on his knees before her.
' Adorata I ' he exclaimed.
A scene rose up before her, vividly as a picture.
302 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
'You remember,' she said, 'that morning at Schifanoja
when I threw a handful of leaves down to you from the higher
terrace ? You bent your knee to me while I descended the
steps. I do not know how it is, but that time seems to me so
near and yet so far away ! I feel as if it had happened
yesterday, and then again, a century ago. But perhaps, after
all it only happened in a dream.'
Passing along between the low myrtle hedges, they at last
reached the tower near which lies the tomb of the poet and of
Trelawny. The jasmin climbing over the old ruin was in
flower, but of the violets nothing was left but their thick
carpet of leaves. The tops of the cypresses, which here just
reached the line of vision, were vividly illumined by the last
red gleams of the sun as it sank behind the black cross of the
Monte Testaccio. A great purple cloud edged with burning
gold sailed across the sky in the direction of the Aventino
' These are two friends whose lives were undivided.
So let their memory be, now they have glided
Under their grave ; let not their bones be parted
For their two hearts in life were single-hearted. '
Maria repeated the last line. Then, moved by a delicate
inspiration ' Please unfasten my veil,' she said to Andrea.
She leaned her head back slightly so that he might untie
the knot, and Andrea's fingers touched her hair that magni-
ficent hair, in the dense shadow of which he had so often
tasted all the delights of his perfidious imagination, evoked
the image of her rival.
' Thank you,' she said.
She then drew the veil from before her face and looked
at Andrea with eyes that were a little dazed. She looked
very beautiful. The shadows round her eyes were darker and
deeper, but the eyes themselves burned with a more intense
light. Her hair clung to her temples in heavy hyacinthine
curls tinged with violet. The middle of her forehead, which
was left free, gleamed, by contrast, in moonlike purity. Her
features had fined down and lost something of their materiality
through stress of love and sorrow.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 303
She wound the veil about the stems of the roses, tied the
two ends together with much care, and then buried her face
in the flowers, inhaling their perfume. Then she laid them on
the simple stone that bears the poet's name engraved upon it.
There was an indefinable expression in the gesture, which
Andrea could not understand.
As they moved away, he suddenly stopped short, and look-
ing back towards the tower, 'How did you manage to get
those roses ? ' he asked.
She smiled, but her eyes were wet.
'They are yours those of that snowy night they have
bloomed again this evening. Do you not believe it ? '
The evening breeze was rising, and behind the hill the sky
was overspread with gold, in the midst of which the purple
cloud dissolved, as if consumed by fire. Against this field of
light, the serried ranks of the cypresses looked more imposing
and mysterious than before. The Psyche at the end of the
middle avenue seemed to flush with pale tints as of flesh. A
crescent moon rose over the pyramid of Cestius, in a deep and
glassy sky, like the waters of a calm and sheltered bay.
They went through the centre avenue to the gates. The
gardeners were still watering the plants, and two other men
held a velvet and silver pall by the two ends, and were beat-
ing it vigorously, while the dust rose high and glittered in the
From the Aventine came the sound of bells.
Maria clung to her lover's arm, unable to control her
anguish, feeling the ground give way beneath her feet, her
life ebb from her at every step. Once inside the carriage,
she burst into a passion of tears, sobbing despairingly on her
'I shall die!'
But she did not die. Better a thousand times for her that
Two days after this, Andrea was lunching with Galeazzo
Secinaro at a table in the Gaffe di Roma. It was a hot
morning. The place was almost empty ; the waiters nodded
drowsily among the buzzing flies.
c And so,' the bearded prince went on, ' knowing that she
had a fancy for strange and out-of-the-way situations, I had
the courage to
He was relating in the crudest terms the extremely
audacious means by which he had at last succeeded in over-
coming Lady Heathfield's resistance. He exhibited neither
reserve nor scruples, omitting no single detail, and praising
the acquisition to the connoisseur. He only broke off, from
time to time, to put his fork into a piece of juicy red meat, or
to empty a glass of red wine. His whole bearing was expres-
sive of robust health and strength.
Andrea Sperelli lit a cigarette. In spite of all his efforts,
he could not bring himself to swallow a mouthful of food, and
with the wine Secinaro poured out for him, he seemed to be
There came a moment at last, when the prince, in spite of
his obtuseness, had a qualm of doubt, and he looked sharply
at Elena's former lover. Except his want of appetite, Andrea
gave no outward sign of inward agitation; with the utmost
calm he puffed clouds of smoke into the air, and smiled his
habitual, half-ironical smile, at his jocund companion.
The prince continued : ' She is coming to see me to-day for
the first time '
'To you to-day?'
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 305
' Yes, at three o'clock.'
The two men looked at their watches.
' Shall we go ? ' asked Andrea.
'Let us,' assented Galeazzo rising. ' We can go up the Via
de' Condotti together. I want to get some flowers. As you
know all about it, tell me what flowers does she like best ? '
Andrea laughed. An abominable answer was on the tip of
his tongue, but he restrained himself and replied unmoved
' Roses, at one time.'
In front of the Barcaccia they parted.
At that hour the Piazza di Spagna had the deserted look of
high summer. Some workmen were repairing a main water-
pipe, and a heap of earth dried by the sun threw up clouds of
dust in the hot breath of the wind. The stairway of the
Trinita gleamed white and deserted.
Slowly, slowly, Andrea went up, standing still every two or
three steps, as if he were dragging a terrible weight after him.
He went into his rooms and threw himself on his bed, where
he remained till a quarter to three. At a quarter to three he
got up and went out. He turned into the Via Sistina, on
through the Via Quattro Fontane, passed the Palazzo Barberini
and stopped before a book-stall to wait for three o'clock. The
bookseller, a little wrinkled, dried-up old man, like a decrepit
tortoise, offered him books, taking down his choicest volumes
one by one, and spreading them out under his eyes, speaking
all the time in an insufferable nasal monotone. Three o'clock
would strike directly; Andrea looked at the titles of the
books, keeping an eye on the gates of the palace, while the
voice of the bookseller mingled confusedly with the loud
thumping of his heart
A lady passed through the gates, went down the street
towards the piazza, got into a cab, and drove away through
the Via del Tritone.
Andrea went home. There he threw himself once more on
his bed, and waited till Maria should come, keeping himself
\n a state of such complete immobility, that he seemed not to
be suffering any more.
3 o6 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
At five Maria came.
* Do you know,' she said, panting, ' I can stay with you the
whole evening till to-morrow. It will be our first and last
night of love. I am going on Tuesday.'
She sobbed despairingly, and clung to him, her lips pressed
convulsively to his.
' Don't let me see the light of another day kill me ! ' she
Then, catching sight of his discomposed face, c You are
suffering?' she exclaimed. 'You too you think we shall
never meet again ? '
He had almost insuperable difficulty in speaking, in answer-
ing her. His tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, the
words failed him. He had an instinctive desire to hide his
face from those observant eyes, to avoid her questions at all
cost. He was neither capable of consoling her nor of practising
* Hush ! ' he whispered in a choking, almost irrecognisable
Crouching at her feet, he laid his head in her lap and
remained like that for a long time without speaking, while she
laid her tender hands upon his temples and felt the wild,
irregular beating of his arteries. She realised that he was
suffering fiercely, and in his pain forgot all thought of her own,
grieving now only for his grief only for him.
Presently he rose, and clasped her with such mad vehemence
to him that she was frightened.
' What has come to you ! What is it ? ' she cried, trying to
look in his eyes, to discover the reason of his sudden frenzy.
But he only buried his face deeper in her bosom, her neck,
her hair anywhere out of sight.
All at once, she struggled free of his embrace, her whole
form convulsed with horror, her face ghastly and distraught
as if she had at that moment torn herself from the arms of
That name ! That name ! She had heard that name !
A deep and awful silence fell upon her soul, and in it there
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 307
suddenly opened one of those great gulfs into which the
whole universe seems to be hurled at the touch of one
thought. She heard nothing more. Andrea might writhe
and supplicate and despair as he would in vain.
She heard nothing. Some instinct directed her actions.
She found her things and put them on.
Andrea lay upon the floor, sobbing, frenzied, mad.
He was conscious that she was preparing to leave the
' Maria ! Maria !
1 Maria ! '
He only heard the sound of the door closing behind her
she was gone.
AT ten o'clock in the morning of June 2oth the sale began of
the furniture and hangings belonging to His Excellency the
Minister Plenipotentiary for Guatemala.
It was a burning hot morning. Summer blazed already
over Rome. Up and down the Via Nationale ran the tram-
cars, drawn by horses with funny white caps over their heads
to protect them against the sun. Long lines of heavily-laden
carts encumbered the road, while the blare of trumpets
mingled with the cracking of whips and the hoarse cries ot
Andrea could not make up his mind to cross the threshold
of that house, but wandered about the street a long time,
weighed down by a horrible sense of lassitude, a lassitude
so overwhelming and desperate as to be almost a physical
longing for death.
At last, seeing a porter come out of the house with a piece
of furniture on his shoulder, he decided to go in. He ran
rapidly up the stairs. From the landing already he could
hear the voice of the auctioneer.
The sale was going on in the largest room of the suite the
one in which the Buddha had stood. The buyers were
gathered round the auctioneer's table. They were, for the
most part, shopkeepers, second-hand furniture dealers and the
lower classes generally. There being little competition in
summer when town was empty, the dealers rushed in, sure of
obtaining costly articles for next to nothing. A vile odour
permeated the hot air exhaled by the crowd of dirty and