eye-sockets. On the forehead was engraved, Ruit flora ; and
on the occiput Tibi, Hippolyta. It opened like a box, the
hinging being almost imperceptible, and the ticking inside
lent an indescribable air of life to the diminutive skull. This
sepulchral jewel, the offering of some unknown artist to his
mistress, had doubtless marked many an hour of rapture, and
served as a warning symbol to their amorous souls.
Could a lover wish for anything more exquisite and more
suggestive ? ' Has she any special reason for recommending
this to me?' thought Andrea, all his hopes reviving on the
instant. He threw himself into the bidding with a sort of
fury. Two or three others bid against him, notably Giannetto
Rutolo, who, being in love with Donna Ippolita Albonico,
was attracted by the dedication : Tibi, Hippolyta.
Presently Rutolo and Sperelli were left alone in the contest.
The bidding rose higher than the actual value of the article,
which forced a smile from the auctioneer. At last, vanquished
by his adversary's determination, Giannetto Rutolo was silent
' Going going ! '
Donna Ippolita's lover, a little pale, cried one last sum.
Sperelli named a higher there was a moment's silence.
The auctioneer looked from one to the other, then he raised
his hammer and slowly, still looking at the two ' Going
going gone ! '
The Death's-head fell to the Conte d'Ugenta. A murmur
ran round the room. A sudden flood of light burst through
the windows, lit up the gleaming gold backgrounds of the
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 35
triptychs, and played over the sorrowfully patient brow of the
Siennese Madonna and the glittering steel scales on the
Princess di Ferentino's little grey hat.
'When is the goblet coming on?' asked the princess
Her friends consulted the catalogue. There was no hope
of the goblet for that day. The unusual amount of competi-
tion made the sale go slowly. There was still a long list of
smaller articles cameos, medallions, coins. Several anti-
quaries and Prince Stroganow disputed each piece hotly.
The rest felt considerably disappointed. The Duchess of
Scerni rose to go.
'Good-bye, Sperelli,' she said. 'I shall see you again this
' I do not feel well.'
' What is the matter ? '
She turned away without replying, and took leave of the
others. Many of them followed her example and left with
her. The young men were making fun of the ' spectacle
manque".' The Marchesa d'Ateleta laughed, but the princess
was evidently thoroughly out of temper. The footmen wait-
ing in the hall called for the carriages as if at the door of a
theatre or concert hall.
'Are you not coming on to Laura Miano's?' Francesca
asked the duchess.
'No, I am going home.'
She waited on the pavement for her brougham to come up.
The rain was passing over ; patches of blue were beginning
to appear between the great banks of white cloud; a shaft
of sunshine made the wet flags glitter. Flooded by this
pale rose splendour, her magnificent furs falling in straight
symmetrical folds to her feet, Elena was very beautiful. As
Andrea caught a glimpse of the inside of her brougham, all
cosily lined with white satin like a little boudoir, with its
shining silver foot-warmer for the comfort of her small feet,
his dream of the preceding evening came back to him 'Oh,
36 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
to be there with her alone, and feel the warm perfume of her
breath mingling with the violets behind the mist-dimmed
windows through which one hardly sees the muddy streets,
the gray houses, the dull crowd ! '
But she only bowed slightly to him at the door, without
even a smile, and the next moment the carriage had flashed
away in the direction of the Palazzo Barberini, leaving the
young man with a dim sense of depression and heartache.
She only said 'perhaps,' so it was quite possible that she
would not be at the Palazzo Farnese that evening. What
should he do then ? The thought that he might not see her
was intolerable ; already every hour he passed far from her
weighed heavily on his spirits. 'Am I then so deeply in
love with her already?' he asked himself. His spirit seemed
imprisoned within a circle in which the phantoms of all his
sensations in presence of this woman surged and wheeled
around him. Suddenly there would emerge from this tangle
of memory, with singular precision, some phrase of hers, an
inflection of her voice, an attitude, a glance, the seat where
they had sat, the finale of the Beethoven sonata, a burst of
melody from Mary Dyce, the face of the footman who had
held back the portfire anything that happened to have
caught his attention at the moment and these images
obscured by their extreme vividness the actual life around
him. He pleaded with her ; said to her in thought what he
would say to her in reality by and by.
Arrived in his own rooms, he ordered tea of his man-
servant, installed himself in front of the fire and gave himself
up to the fictions of his hope and his desire. He took the
little jewelled skull out of its case and examined it carefully.
The tiny diamond teeth flashed back at him in the firelight,
and the rubies lit up the shadowy orbits. Behind the smooth
ivory brow time pulsed unceasingly Ruil Hora. Who was
the artist who had contrived for his Hippolyta so superb and
bold a fantasy of Death, at a period too when the masters of
enamelling had been wont to ornament with tender idylls
the little watches destined to warn Coquette of the time of
THE QHILD OF PLEASURE 37
the rendezvous in the parks of Watteau? The modelling
gave evidence of a masterly hand vigorous and full of
admirable style ; altogether it was worthy of a fifteenth
century artist as forcible as Verrocchio.
' I recommend this clock to your consideration.' Andrea
could not help smiling a little at Elena's words uttered in so
peculiar a tone after so cold a silence. He was assured that
she intended him to put the construction upon her words
which he had afterwards done, but then why retire into im-
penetrable reserve again why take no further notice of him
what ailed her? Andrea lost himself in a maze of con-
jecture. Nevertheless, the warm atmosphere of the room,
the luxurious chair, the shaded lamp, the fitful gleams of
firelight, the aroma of the tea all these soothing influences
combined to mitigate his pain. He went on dreamingly,
aimlessly, as if wandering through a fantastic labyrinth.
With him reverie sometimes had the effect of opium it
' May I take the liberty of reminding the Signer Conte
that he is expected at the Casa Doria at seven o'clock,'
observed his valet in a subdued and discreet murmur, one
of his offices being to jog his master's memory. 'Everything
He went into an adjoining octagonal room to dress, the
most luxurious and comfortable dressing-room any young
man of fashion could possibly desire. On a great Roman
sarcophagus, transformed with much taste into a toilet table,
were ranged a selection of cambric handkerchiefs, evening
gloves, card and cigarette cases, bottles of scent, and five or
six fresh gardenias in separate little pale blue china vases
all these frivolous and fragile things on this mass of stone,
on which a funeral cortigc was sculptured by a masterly
AT the Casa Doria, speaking of one thing and another, the
Duchess Angelieri remarked 'It seems that Laura Miano
and Elena Muti have quarrelled.'
'About Giorgio perhaps?' returned another lady laughing.
' So they say. The story began this summer at Lucerne
' But Laura was not at Lucerne.'
' Exactly but her husband was
' I believe it is a pure invention,' broke in the Florentine
countess Donna Bianca Dolcebuono 'Giorgio is in Paris
Andrea heard it all in spite of the chattering of the little
Contessa Stamina, who sat at his right hand, and never gave
him a moment's peace. Bianca Dolcebuono's words did
litile to ease the smart of his wound. At least, he would have
liked to know the whole story. But the Duchess Angelieri
did not resume the thread of her discourse, and other con-
versations crossed and recrossed the table under the great
gorgeous roses from the Villa Pamfili.
Who was this Giorgio ? A former lover ? Elena had
spent part of the summer at Lucerne, she had just come
from Paris. After the sale she had refused to go to Laura
Miano's. A fierce desire assailed him to see her, to speak
to her again. The invitation at the Palazzo Farnese was
for ten o'clock half past ten found him there waiting
He waited long. The rooms filled rapidly ; the dancing
began. In the Carracci gallery the divinities of fashionable
Rome vied in beauty with the Ariadnes, the Galateas, the
Auroras, the Dianas of the frescos; couples whirled past;
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 39
heads glittering with jewels drooped or raised themselves,
bosoms panted, the breath came fast through parted crimson
' You are not dancing, Sperelli ? ' asked Gabriella Barbarisi,
a girl brown as the oliva speciosa, as she passed him on the
arm of her partner, fanning herself and smiling to show a
dimple she had at the corner of her mouth.
I Yes later on,' Andrea responded hastily ' later on.'
Heedless of introductions or greetings, his torment increased
with every moment of this fruitless expectation, and he roamed
aimlessly from room to room. That ' perhaps ' made him
sadly afraid that Elena would not come. And supposing she
really did not ? When was he likely to see her again ? Donna
Bianca Dolcebuona passed, and, almost without knowing why,
he attached himself to her side, saying a thousand agreeable
things to her, feeling some slight comfort in her society. He
had the greatest desire to speak to her about Elena, to
question her, to reassure himself; but the orchestra struck up
a languorous mazurka and the Florentine countess was carried
off by her partner.
Thereupon, Andrea joined a group of young men near one
of the doors Ludovico Barbarisi, the Duke di Beffi, Filippo
del Gallo and Gino Bomminaco. They were watching the
couples, and exchanging observations not over refined in
quality. One of them turned to Andrea as he came up.
' Why, what has become of you this evening ? Your cousin
was looking for you a moment ago. There she is dancing
with my brother now.'
' Look !' exclaimed Filippo del Gallo 'the Albonico has
come back, she is dancing with Giannetto.'
'The Duchess of Scerni came back last week,' said
Ludovico ; ' what a lovely creature ! '
'Is she here?'
I 1 have not seen ner yet.'
Andrea's heart stopped beating for a moment, fearing that
something would be said against her by one or other of these
malicious tongues. But the passing of the Princess Isse" on
40 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
the arm of the Danish Minister diverted their attention.
Nevertheless, his desire for further knowledge was so intense,
that it almost drove him to lead back the conversation to the
name of his lady-love. But he was not quite bold enough.
The mazurka was over; the group broke up. 'She is not
coming ! She is not coming ! ' His secret anxiety rose to
such a pitch that he half thought of leaving the place
altogether ; the contact of this laughing, careless throng was
As he turned away, he saw the Duchess of Scerni entering
the gallery on the arm of the French ambassador. For one
instant their eyes met, but that one glance seemed to draw
them to each other, to penetrate to the very depths of their
souls. Both knew that each had only been looking for the
other, and at that moment there seemed to fall a silence upon
both hearts, even in the midst of the babel of voices, and all
their surroundings to vanish and be swept away by the force
of their own absorbing thought.
She advanced along the frescoed gallery where the crowd
was thinnest, her long white train rippling like a wave over
the floor behind her. All white and simple, she passed slowly
along, turning from side to side in answer to the numerous
greetings, with an air of manifest fatigue and a somewhat
strained smile which drew down the corners of her mouth,
while her eyes looked larger than ever under the low white
brow, her extreme pallor imparting to her whole face a look
so ethereal and delicate as to be almost ghostly. This was
not the same woman who had sat beside him at the Ateleta's
table, nor the one of the Sale Rooms, nor the one standing
waiting for a moment on the pavement of the Via Sistina.
Her beauty at this moment was of ideal nobility, and shone
with additional splendour among all these women heated
with the dance, over-excited and restless in their manner.
The men looked at her and grew thoughtful no mind was
so obtuse or empty that she did not exercise a disturbing
influence upon it, inspire some vague and indefinable hope.
He whose heart was free imagined with a thrill what such a
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 41
woman's love would be ; he who loved already conceived a
vague regret, and dreamed of raptures hitherto unknown ; he
who bore a wound dealt by some woman's jealousy or faith-
lessness suddenly felt that he might easily recover.
Thus she advanced amid the homage of the men, en-
veloped by their gaze. Arrived at the end of the gallery, she
joined a group of ladies who were talking and fanning them-
selves excitedly under the fresco of Perseus turning Phineus
to stone. They were the Princess di Ferentino, Hortensa
Massa d'Alba, the Marchesa Daddi-Tosinghi and Bianca
' Why so late ? ' asked the latter.
' I hesitated very much whether to come at all I don't
'Yes, you look very pale.'
' I believe I am going to have neuralgia badly again, like
' Heaven forefend ! '
' Elena, do look at Madame de la Boissiere,' exclaimed
Giovanella Daddi in her queer husky voice ; ' doesn't she look
like a camel with a yellow wig ! '
' Mademoiselle Vanloo is losing her head over your cousin,'
said Hortensa Massa d'Alba to the Princess as Sophie Vanloo
passed on Ludovico Barbarisi's arm. 'I heard her say just
now when they passed me in the mazurka Ludovic, tie faites
plus fa en dansant; je frissonne toute
The ladies laughed in chorus, fluttering their fans. The
first notes of a Hungarian waltz floated in from the next
room. The gentlemen came to claim their partners. At
last Andrea was able to offer Elena his arm and carry
' I thought I should have died waiting for you ! If you
had not come I should have gone to find you anywhere.
When I saw you come in I could scarcely repress a cry.
This is only the second evening I have met you, and yet I
feel as if I had loved you for years. The thought of you and
you alone is now the life of my life.'
42 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
He uttered his burning words of love in a low voice,
looking straight before him, and she listened in a similar
attitude, apparently quite impassive, almost stony. Only a
sprinkling of people remained in the gallery. Between the
busts of the Caesars along the walls, lamps with milky globes
shaped like lilies shed an even, tempered light. The pro-
fusion of palms and flowering plants gave the whole place the
look of a sumptuous conservatory. The music floated
through the warm-scented air under the vaulted roof and
over all this mythology like a breeze though an enchanted
' Can you love me ? ' he asked ; ' tell me if you think you
can ever love me.'
' I came only for you,' she returned slowly.
' Tell me that you will love me,' he repeated, while every
drop of blood seemed to rush in a tumult of joy to his
' Perhaps ' she answered, and she looked into his face
with that same look which, on the preceding evening, had
seemed to hold a divine promise, that ineffable gaze which
acts like the velvet touch of a loving hand. Neither of them
spoke ; they listened to the sweet and fitful strains of the
music, now slow and faint as a zephyr, now loud and rushing
like a sudden tempest.
'Shall we dance?' he asked with a secret tremor of
delight at the prospect of encircling her with his arm.
She hesitated a moment before replying. ' No ; I would
Then, seeing the Duchess of Bugnare, her aunt, entering
the gallery with the Princess Alberoni and the French
ambassadress, she added hurriedly, ' Now be prudent, and
She held out her gloved hand to him and advanced alone
to meet the ladies with a light firm step. Her long white
train lent an additional grace to her figure, the wide and
heavy folds of brocade serving to accentuate the slenderness
of her waist Andrea, as he followed her with his eyes, kept
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 43
repeating her words to himself, ' I came for you alone I
came f jr you alone ! ' The orchestra suddenly took up the
waltz measure with a fresh impetus. And never, through all
his life, did he forget that music, nor the attitude of the
woman he loved, nor the sumptuous folds of the brocade
trailing over the floor, nor the faintest shadow on the rich
material, nor one single detail of that supreme moment.
ELENA left the Farnese palace very soon after this, almost
stealthily, without taking leave of Andrea or of any one else.
She had therefore not stayed more than half an hour at the
ball. Her lover searched for her through all the rooms in
vain. The next morning, he sent a servant to the Palazzo
Barberini to inquire after the duchess, and learned from him
that she was ill. In the evening he went in person, hoping
to be received ; but a maid informed him that her mistress
was in great pain and could see no one. On the Saturday,
towards five o'clock, he came back once more, still hoping for
He left his house on foot. The evening was chill and
gray, and a heavy leaden twilight was settling over the city.
The lamps were already lighted round the fountain in the
Piazza. Barberini like pale tapers round a funeral bier, and the
Triton, whether being under repair or for some other reason,
had ceased to spout water. Down the sloping roadway came
i line of carts drawn by two or three horses harnessed in
single file, and bands of workmen returning home from the
new buildings. A group of these came swaying along arm in
arm, singing a lewd song at the pitch of their voices.
Andrea stopped to let them pass. Two or three of the
debased, weather-beaten faces impressed themselves on his
memory. He noticed that a carter had his hand wrapped
in a blood-stained bandage, and that another, who was
kneeling in his cart, had the livid complexion, deep sunken
eyes and convulsively contracted mouth of a man who has
been poisoned. The words of the song were mingled with
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 45
guttural cries, the cracking of whips, the grinding of wheels,
the jingling of horee bells and shrill discordant laughter.
His mental depression increased. He found himself in a
very curious mood. The sensibility of his nerves was so
acute that the most trivial impression conveyed to them by
external means assumed the gravity of a wound. While one
fixed thought occupied and tormented his spirit, the rest of
his being was left exposed to the rude jostling of surrounding
circumstances. Groups of sensations rushed with lightning
rapidity across his mental field of vision, like the phantas-
magoria of a magic lantern, startling and alarming him. The
banked-up clouds of evening, the form of the Triton sur-
rounded by the cadaverous lights, this sudden descent oi
savage looking men and huge animals, these shouts and
songs and curses aggravated his condition, arousing a vague
terror in his heart, a foreboding of disaster.
A closed carriage drove out of the palace garden. He
caught a glimpse of a lady bowing to him, but he failed to
recognise her. The palace rose up before him, vast as some
royal residence. The windows of the first floor gleamed with
violet reflections, a pale strip of sunset sky rested just above
it ; a brougham was turning away from the door.
' If I could but see her ! ' he thought to himself, standing
still for a moment. He lingered, purposely to prolong his
uncertainty and his hope. Shut up in this immense edifice
she seemed to him immeasurably far away lost to him.
The brougham stopped, and a gentleman put his head out
of the window and called ' Andrea ! '
It was the Duke of Grimiti, a near relative of his.
'Going to call on the Scerni?' asked the duke with a
' Yes,' answered Andrea, ' to inquire after her she is ill,
'Yes, I know I have just come from there. She is
' Does she receive ? '
'Me no. But she may perhaps receive you.' And
46 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
Grimiti laughed maliciously through the smoke of his
1 1 don't understand,' Andrea answered coldly.
'Bah!' said the duke. 'Report says you are high in
favour. I heard it last night at the Pallavicinis', from a lady,
a great friend of yours give you my word ! '
Andrea turned on his heel with a gesture of impatience.
' Bonne chance 1 ' cried the duke.
Andrea entered the portico. In reality he was delighted
and flattered that such a report should be circulated already.
Grimiti's words had suddenly revived his courage like a
draught of some cordial. As he mounted the steps, his
hopes rose high. He waited for a moment at the door
to allow his excitement to calm down a little. Then he
The servant recognised him and said at once : ' If the
Signer Conte will have the kindness to wait a moment I will
go and inform Mademoiselle?
He nodded assent, and began pacing the vast ante-chamber,
which seemed to echo the violent beating of his heart.
Hanging lamps of wrought iron shed an uncertain light over
the stamped leather panelling of the walls, the carved oak
chests, the antique busts on pedestals. Under a magnificently
embroidered baldachin blazed the ducal arms : a unicorn on
a field gules. A bronze card-tray, heaped with cards, stood
in the middle of a table, and happening to cast his eye over
them, Andrea noticed the one which Grimiti had just left
lying on the top Bonne chancel The ironical augury still
rang in his ears.
Mademoiselle now made her appearance. 'The duchess
is feeling a little better,' she said. 'I think the Signer
Conte might see her for a moment. This way, if you
She was a woman past her first youth, rather thin and
dressed in black, with a pair of gray eyes that glittered
curiously under the curls of her false fringe. Her step and
her movements generally were light, not to say furtive, as of
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 47
one who is in the habit of attending upon invalids or of
executing secret orders.
' This way, Signor Conte.'
She preceded Andrea though the long flight of dimly-
lighted rooms, the thick soft carpets deadening every sound ;
and even through the almost uncontrollable tumult of his soul,
the young man was conscious of an instinctive feeling of repul-
sion against her, without being able to assign an adequate
reason for it.
Arrived in front of a door concealed by two pieces of
tapestry of the Medicean period, bordered with deep red
velvet, she stopped.
' I will go first and announce you. Please to wait
A voice from within, which he recognised as Elena's, called,
Christina ! '
At the sound of her voice coming thus unexpectedly,
Andrea began to tremble so violently that he thought to him-
self 'I am sure I am going to faint.' He had a dim pre-
sentiment of some more than mortal happiness in store for
him which should exceed his utmost expectations, his wildest
dreams almost beyond his powers to support. She was
there on the other side of that door. All perception of
reality deserted him. It seemed to him that he had already
imagined in some picture, some poem a similar adventure,
under the self-same circumstances, with these identical sur-
roundings and enveloped in the same mystery, but of which
another some fiction of his own brain was the hero. And
now, by some strange trick of the imagination, the fictitious
was confounded with the real, causing him an indescribable
sense of confusion and bewilderment. On each of the pieces
of tapestry was a large symbolical figure Silence and Slum-
ber two Genii, tall and slender, which might have been de-
signed by Primaticcio of Bologna, guarding the door. And he
he himself stood before the door waiting, and on the other
side of it was his divine lady. He almost thought he could
hear her breathe.
48 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
At last Mademoiselle returned. Holding back the heavy
draperies she smiled, and in a low voice said :
1 Please go in.'
She effaced herself, and Andrea entered the room.