He noticed first of all that the air was very hot, almost
stifling, and that there was a strong odour of chloroform.
Then, through the semi-darkness, he became aware of some-
thing red the crimson of the wall paper and the curtains of
the bed and then he heard Elena's languid voice murmuring,
'Thank you so much for coming, Andrea I feel better
He made his way to her with some difficulty, being unable
to distinguish things very clearly in the half light.
She smiled wanly at him from among the pillows out of the
gloom. Across her forehead and round her face, like a nun's
wimple, lay a band of white linen which was scarcely whiter
than the cheeks it encircled, such was her extreme pallor.
The outer angles of her eyelids were contracted by the pain
of her inflamed nerves, the lower lids quivering spasmodically
from time to time, and the eyes were dewy and infinitely melt-
ing, as if veiled by a mist of unshed tears under the trembling
A flood of pity and tenderness swept over the young man's
heart when he came close to her and could see her clearly.
Very slowly she drew one hand from under the coverlet and
held it out to him. He bent over it till he half knelt on the edge
of the couch and rained kisses thick and fast upon that burning,
fevered hand, and the white wrist with its hurrying pulse.
' Elena Elena my love ! '
Elena had closed her eyes, as if to resign herself more
wholly to the ecstasy that penetrated to the most hidden fibre
of her being. Then she turned her hand over that she might
feel those kisses on her palm, on each finger, all round her
wrist, on every vein, in every pore.
' Enough ! ' she murmured at last, opening her eyes again,
and passed her languid hand softly over Andrea's hair.
Her caress, though light, was so ineffably tender, that to
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 49
the lover's soul it had the effect of a rose leaf falling into a full
cup of water. His passion brimmed over. His lips trembled
under a confused torrent of words which rose to them but
which he could not express. He had the violent and divine
sensation as of a new life spreading in widening circles round
him beyond all physical perception.
' What bliss ! ' said Elena, repeating her fond gesture, and
a tremor ran through her whole person, visible through the
But when Andrea made as if to take her hand again ' No,'
she entreated, ' do not move stay as you are, I like to have
She gently pressed his head down till his cheek lay
against her knee. She gazed at him a little, still with that
caressing touch upon his head, and then in a voice that
seemed to faint with ecstasy she murmured, lingering over the
' How I love you ! '
There was an ineffable seduction in the way she pro-
nounced the words so liquid, so enthralling on a woman's lips.
'Again!' whispered her lover, whose senses were
languishing with passion under the touch of those hands,
the sound of that caressing voice. 'Say it again go on
'I love you,' repeated Elena, noticing that his eyes
were fixed upon her lips, and being perhaps aware of the
fascination that emanated from them while pronouncing the
With a sudden movement she raised herself from the
pillows, and taking Andrea's head between her two hands, she
drew him to her, and their lips met in a long and passionate
Afterwards she fell back again, and lying with her
arms stretched straight along the coverlet at her sides, she
gazed at Andrea with wide open eyes, while one by one the
great tears gathered slowly, and silently rolled down her
5 o THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
'What is it, Elena tell me What is it?' asked her lover,
clasping her hands and leaning over her to kiss away the tears.
She clenched her teeth and bit her lips to keep back the
' Nothing nothing go now, leave me please! You
shall see me to-morrow go now.'
Her voice and her look were so imploring that Andrea
'Goodbye,' he said, and kissed her tenderly on the lips,
carrying away upon his own the taste of her salt tears.
' Goodbye ! Love me and do not forget.'
As he crossed the threshold, he seemed to hear her break
into sobs behind him. He went on a little unsteadily, like
a man who is not sure of his sight. The odour of chloroform
lingered in his nostrils like the fumes of an intoxicating
vapour ; but, with every step he took, some virtue seemed to
go out of him, to be dissipated in the air. The rooms lay
empty and silent before him. ' Mademoiselle ' appeared at
a door without any warning sound of steps or rustle of
garments, like a ghost.
' This way, Signer Conte, you will not be able to find your
She smiled in an ambiguous and irritating manner, her
gray eyes glittering with ill-concealed curiosity. Andrea did
not speak. Once more the presence of this woman annoyed
and disturbed him, arousing an undefined sense of repulsion
and anger in him.
No sooner was he outside the door than he drew a deep
breath like a man relieved from some heavy burden. The
gentle splash of the fountain came through the trees, broken
now and then by some clearer, louder sound ; the whole
firmament glittered with stars, veiled here and there by long
trailing strips of cloud like tresses of pale hair; carriage
lamps flitted rapidly hither and thither, the life of the great
city sent up its breath into the keen air, bells were ringing
far and near. At last, he had the full consciousness of his
THUS began for them a bliss that was full, frenzied, for ever
changing and for ever new; a passion that wrapped them
round and rendered them oblivious of all that did not
minister immediately to their mutual delight.
' What a strange love ! ' Elena said once, recalling those
first days her illness, her rapid surrender 'My heart was
yours from the first moment I saw you.'
She felt a certain pride in the fact.
'And when, on that evening, I heard my name announced
immediately after yours/ her lover replied, 'I don't know
why, but I suddenly had the firm conviction that my life was
bound to yours for ever ! '
And they really believed what they said. Together they
re-read Goethe's Roman elegy Lass dich, Geliebte, nicht reu'n,
dass du inir so schnell dich ergeben ! Have no regrets, my
Beloved, that thou didst yield thee so soon 'Believe me,
dearest, I do not attribute one base or impure thought to
you. Cupid's darts have varying effects some inflict but
a slight scratch, and the poison they insinuate lingers for years
before it really touches the heart, while others, well feathered
and armed with a sharp and penetrating point, pierce to the
heart's core at once and send the fever racing through the
blood. In the old heroic days of the loves of the gods and
goddesses desire followed upon sight. Think you that the
goddess of Love considered long in the grove of Ida that
day Anchises found favour in her eyes ? And Luna ? had
she hesitated, envious Aurora would soon have wakened her
For them, as for Faustina's divine singer, Rome was
52 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
illumined by a new light. Wherever their footsteps strayed
they left a memory of love. The forgotten churches of the
Aventine Santa Sabina with its wonderful columns of Parian
marble, the charming garden of Santa Maria del Priorata, the
campanile of Santa Maria in Cosmedin piercing the azure
with its slender rose-coloured spire grew to know them well.
The villas of the cardinals and the princes the Villa Pam-
fili mirrored in its fountains and its lakes, all sweetness
and grace, where every shady grove seems to harbour some
noble idyll; the Villa Albani, cold and silent as a church,
with its avenues of sculptured marble and centenarian trees ;
where in the vestibules, under the porticos and between the
granite pillars, Caryatides and Hermes, symbols of immobility,
gaze at the immutable symmetry of the verdant lawns ; and
the Villa Medici like a forest of emerald green spreading
away in a fairy tale, and the Villa Ludovici a little wild
redolent of violets, consecrated by the presence of that Juno
adored by Goethe in the days when the plane-trees and the
cypresses, that one might well have thought immortal, had
already begun to tremble with the foreboding of sale and
death all the patrician villas, the crowning glory of Rome,
became well acquainted with their love. The picture and
sculpture galleries too the room in the Borghese where,
before Correggio's ' Danae ' Elena smiled as at her own reflec-
tion ; and the Mirror Room, where her image glided among
the Cupids of Giro Ferri and the garlands of Mario de' Fiori ;
the chamber of Heliodorus, where Raphael has succeeded in
making the dull walls throb and palpitate with life; and the
apartments of the Corgias, where the great fantasia of Pentu-
ricchio unfolds its marvellous web of history, fable, dreams,
caprices and audacities; and the Galatea Room, through
which is diffused an ineffable freshness, a perennial serenity
of light and grace ; and the room where the Hermaphrodite,
that gentle monster, offspring of the loves of a nymph and a
demi-god, extends his ambiguous form amidst the sparkle of
polished stone all these unfrequented abodes of Beauty were
well acquainted with them.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 53
They echoed fervently the sublime cry of the poet Eine
Welt zwar bist du, O Rom t Thou art a world in thyself, oh
Rome! But as without love the world would not be the
world, so Rome without love would not be Rome, and the
stairway of the Trinita, glorified by the slow ascension of the
Day, became the Stairway of Felicity by the ascent of Elena
the Fair on her way to the Palazzo Zuccari.
'At times,' Elena said to him, 'my feeling for you is so
delicate, so profound, that it becomes how shall I describe
it ? maternal almost ! '
Andrea laughed, for she was his senior by barely three
'And at times,' he rejoined, 'I feel the communion of our
spirits to be so chaste that I could call you sister while I kiss
These fallacious ideas of purity and loftiness of sentiment
were but the reaction after more carnal delights, when the
soul experiences a vague yearning for the ideal. At such
times too, the young man's aspirations towards the art he so
much loved were apt to revive. The desire to give pleasure
to his mistress by his literary or artistic efforts drove him to
work. He accordingly wrote La Simona, and executed his
two engravings : The Zodiac and Alexanders Bowl.
For the execution of his art, he chose by preference, the
most difficult, exact, and incorruptible vehicles verse and
engraving ; and he aimed at adhering strictly to, and reviving,
the traditional Italian methods, by going back to the poets
of the stil novo, and the painters who were precursors of the
Renaissance. His tendencies were essentially towards form;
his mind more occupied by the expression of his thought
than the thought itself. Like Taine, he considered it a
greater achievement to write three really fine lines, than to win
a pitched battle. His Story of the Hermaphrodite imitated
in its structure Poligiano's Story of Orpheus and contained
lines of extraordinary delicacy, power and melody, particularly
in the choruses of hybrid monsters the Centaurs, Sirens and
Sphinxes. His new tragedy, La Simona, of moderate length,
54 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
possessed a most singular charm. Written and rhymed
though it was, on the ancient Tuscan rules, it might have
been conceived by an English poet of Elizabeth's time, after
a story from the Decameron, and it breathed something of
the strange and delicious charm of certain of the minor
dramas of Shakespeare.
On the frontispiece of the single copy, the author had
signed his work: A. S. CALCOGRAPHUS AQUA FORTI SIBI
Copper had greater attractions for him than paper, nitric
acid than ink, the graving-tool than the pen. One of his
ancestors before him, Giusio Sperelli, had tried his hand at
engraving. Certain plates of his, executed about 1520,
showed distinct evidences of the influence of Antonio del
Pollajuolo by the depth and acidity, so to speak, of the design.
Andrea used the Rembrandt method a tratti liberi and the
maniera nera so much affected by the English engravers of
the school of Green, Dixon, and Earlom. He had formed
himself on all models, had studied separately the effects
sought after by each engraver, had schooled himself under
Albrecht Diirer and Parmigianino, Marc' Antonio and
Holbein, Hannibal Carracci, MacArdell, Guido, Toschi and
Audran ; but once his copper plate before him, his one aim
was to light up, by Rembrandtesque effects, the elegance in
design of the fifteenth-century Florentines of the second
generation, such as Botticelli, Ghirlandajo and Filippino
One of Andrea's most precious possessions was a bed-cover
of finest silk in faded blue, round the border of which circled
the twelve signs of the Zodiac, each with its appropriate
legend : Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra,
Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces in gothic
characters. A flaming golden sun occupied the centre ; the
animal figures, drawn in somewhat archaic style, as one sees
in mosaics, were extraordinarily brilliant. The whole thing
was worthy to grace an Emperor's bed, and had, in fact,
formed part of the trousseau of Bianca Maria Sforza, niece
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 55
of Ludovico the Moor, when she espoused the Emperor
One of the engravings represented Elena asleep under this
celestial counterpane. The rounded limbs appeared outlined
under the silken folds, the head thrown carelessly back
towards the edge of the couch, the hair rippling in a torrent
to the floor, one arm hanging down, the other stretched
along her side. The parts which were left uncovered, the
face, the neck, the shoulders, and the arms, were extremely
luminous, and the stile had reproduced most effectively the
glitter of the embroidery in the half-light and the mysterious
quality of the symbols. A tall white hound, Famulus, brother
to the one which lays its head on the knee of the Countess of
Arundel in Rubens' picture, stretched his muzzle towards
the lady, guarding her slumbers, and was designed with much
felicitous boldness of foreshortening. The background of
the room was sumptuous and shadowy.
The other engraving referred to an immense silver basin
which Elena had inherited from her aunt Flaminia.
This basin was historical, and was known as Alexander's
Bowl. It had been given to the Princess of Bisenti by Caesar
Borgia on his departure for France, when he went to carry the
Papal Bill of divorce and dispensation to Louis xn. The
design for the figures running round it and the two which
rose over the edge at either side were attributed to Raphael.
It was called the Bowl of Alexander because it purported
to be a reproduction of the prodigious vessel out of which
the famous King of Macedonia was wont to drink at his
splendid festivals. Groups of archers surrounded its base,
their bows stretched, in the admirable attitudes of those
painted by Raphael aiming their arrows at Hermes in the
fresco of that room in the Borghese decorated by John of
Bologna. They were in pursuit of a great Chimera, which
emerged over the edge of the bowl in guise of a handle, while
on the opposite side bounded the youthful Bellerophon, his
bow at full stretch against the monster. The ornaments of
the base and the edge were of rare elegance. The inside was
56 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
gilded, the metal sonorous as a bell, and weighed three
hundred pounds. Its shape was extremely harmonious.
Never had Andrea Sperelli experienced so intensely both
the delight and the anxiety of the artist who watches the
blind and irreparable action of the acid ; never before had he
brought so much patience to bear upon the delicate work of
the dry point. The fact was, that like Lucas of Leyden, he
was a born engraver, possessed of an admirable knowledge,
or, more properly speaking, a rare instinct as to the most
minute particularity of time and degree, which may aid in
varying the efficacy of the acid on copper. It was not only
practice, industry, and intelligence, but more especially this
inborn, well-nigh infallible instinct which warned him of the
exact instant at which the corrosion had proceeded far enough
to give such and such a value to the shadows as, in the artist's
intention, the engraving required. It was just this triumph
of mind over matter, this power of infusing an aesthetic spirit
into it, as it were, this mysterious correspondence between
the throb of his pulses and the progressive gnawing of the
acid that was his pride, his torment, and his joy.
In his dedication of these works to her, Elena felt herself 1
deified by her lover as was Isotta di Rimini by the medals
which Sigismondo Malatesta caused to be struck in her
honour; and yet, on those days when Andrea was at work,
she would become moody and taciturn, as if under the
influence of some secret grief, or she would give way to such
sudden bursts of tenderness, mingled with tears and half-
suppressed sobs, that the young man was startled and, not
understanding her, became suspicious.
One evening, they were returning on horseback from the
Aventine down the Via di Santa Sabina, their eyes still filled
with a vision of imperial palaces flaming under the setting
sun that burned red through the cypresses and seemed to
cover them with golden dust. They rode in silence, for
Elena seemed out of spirits, and her depression had com-
municated itself to her lover. As they passed the church of
Santa Sabina, Andrea reined up his horse.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 57
' Do you remember ? ' he said.
Some fowls, picking about peacefully in the grass, skurried
away at the barking of Famulus. The whole place was as
quiet and unassuming as the purlieus of a village church, but
the walls had that singular luminous glow which the buildings
of Rome seem to give out at ' Titian's hour.'
Elena drew up beside him.
'That day how long ago it seems now !' she said with a
little tremor in her voice.
In truth, the memory of it had already dropped away into
the gulf of time as if their love had endured for years.
Elena's words raised that illusion in Andrea's mind, but, at the
same time, a certain uneasiness. She began recalling the details
of their visit to Santa Sabina one afternoon in January under
a prematurely mild sun. She dwelt insistently upon the most
trivial incidents, breaking off from time to time as if following
a separate train of thought, distinct from the words she
uttered. Andrea fancied he caught a note of regret in her
voice. Yet, what had she to regret? Surely their love had
many a sweeter day before it still the Spring had come
again to Rome. Doubting and perplexed, he ceased to listen
to her. The horses went on down the hill at a walk, side by
side, snorting noisily from time to time, and putting their
heads together, as if exchanging confidences. Famulus sped
on before, or bounded after them, perpetually on the gallop.
'Do you remember,' Elena went on, 'do you remember
the Brother who came to open the gates for us when we
rang the bell ? '
' And how perfectly aghast he looked when he saw who it
was? He was such a little, little red-faced man without any
beard. When he went to get the keys of the church, he left
us alone in the vestibule and you kissed me do you
remember ? '
' And all those barrels in the vestibule .' And the smell of
wine while the Brother was explaining the legends carved on
5 8 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
the cypress-wood door. And then about the Madonna of the
Rosary do you remember? his explanation made you laugh,
and I could not help laughing too, and the poor man was so
put out, that he would not open his mouth again, not even to
thank you at the last
There was a little pause. Then she began again.
' And at Sant' Alexio, where you would not let me look at
the cupola through the keyhole. How we laughed then
too ! '
Renewed silence. Along the road towards them came a
party of men carrying a coffin, and followed by a hired
conveyance full of tearful relatives. They were on their way
to the Jewish cemetery. It was a grim and silent funeral.
The men with their hooked noses and rapacious eyes were all
as like one another as brothers. The two horses separated to
let the procession pass, keeping close to the wall on either
side, and the lovers looked at each other across the dead,
their spirits sinking lower with every moment.
When presently they rejoined one another, Andrea said
'Tell me what is the matter ? What is on your mind ? '
She hesitated a moment before replying, keeping her eyes
on her horse's neck and stroking it with the end of her riding
whip, irresolute and very pale.
'You have something on your mind,' persisted the young
' Very well then yes and I had better tell you and get it
over. I am going away next Wednesday. I do not know
for how long perhaps for a long time perhaps for ever. I
cannot say. We must break with one another. It is entirely
my fault. But do not ask me why do not ask me anything,
I entreat you I could not answer you.'
Andrea looked at her incredulously. The thing seemed
to him so utterly impossible that it did not affect him
' Of course you are only joking, Elena ? '
She shook her head ; there was a lump in her throat, and
she could not speak. She suddenly set her horse into a trot.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 59
Behind them the bells of Santa Sabina and Santa Prisca
began to ring through the twilight. They trotted on in
silence, awakening the echoes under the arches and among
the temples all the solitary and desolate ruins on their way.
They passed San Giorgio in Velabo on their left, which still
retained a gleam of rosy light on its campanile ; they passed
the Roman Forum, the Forum of Nerva already full of blue
shadow like that which hovers over the glaciers at night, and
stopped at last at the Arco dei Pantani, where their grooms
and carriages awaited them.
Hardly was Elena out of the saddle, than she held out her
hand to Andrea without meeting his eyes. She seemed in a
great hurry to be gone.
' Well ? ' said Andrea as he helped her into the carriage.
'To-morrow not this evening I cannot '
THE Campagna stretched away before them under an ideal
light, as a landscape seen in dreams, where the objects seem
visible at a great distance by virtue of some inward irradiation
which magnifies their outlines.
The closed carriage rolled along smoothly at a brisk trot ;
the walls of ancient patrician villas, grayish-white and dim,
slid past the windows with a continuous and gentle motion.
Great iron gateways came in view from time to time, through
which you caught a glimpse of an avenue of lofty beech trees,
or some verdant cloister inhabited by antique statues, or a
long green arcade pierced here and there by a laughing ray of
Wrapped in her ample furs, her veil drawn down, her hands
encased in thick chamois leather gloves, Elena sat and mutely
watched the passing landscape. Andrea breathed with delight
the subtle perfume of heliotrope exhaled by the costly fur,
while he felt Elena's arm warm against his own. They
felt themselves far from the haunts of men alone although
from time to time the black carriage of a priest would flit
past them, or a drover on horseback, or a herd of cattle.
Just before they reached the bridge she said ' Let us get
Here in the open country the light was translucent and
cold as the waters of a spring, and when the trees waved in
the wind their undulation seemed to communicate itself to all
the surrounding objects.
She clung close to his arm, stumbling a little on the uneven
ground. 'I am going away this evening,' she said, 'this is
the last time '
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 61
There was a moment's silence ; then in plaintive tones, and
with frequent pauses in between, she began to speak of the
necessity of her departure, the necessity of their rupture.
The wind wrenched the words from her lips, but she con-
tinued in spite of it, till Andrea interrupted her by seizing her
' Don't ! ' he cried ' be quiet.'
They walked on struggling against the fierce gusts of wind.
' Don't go don't leave me ! I want you want you always.'
He had managed to unfasten her glove and laid hold
of her bare wrist with a caressing insistent clasp that was
full of tormenting desire.
She threw him one of those glances that intoxicate like wine.