glory round the situation, and all the inborn generosity of
his young blood awoke at the prospect of danger.
With a beating heart, he went forward to meet his horse as
to a friend who was bringing him the news of some great
good fortune. He stroked its nose fondly, and the glances
of the animal's eye, an eye that flashed with the inextinguish-
able fire of noblest breeding, intoxicated him like a woman's
' Mallecho,' he whispered as he caressed the horse, ' this is
a great day we must win ! '
His trainer, a little red-faced man, who was engaged in
scrutinising the other horses as they were led past by their
grooms, answered in his rough husky voice, 'There's no
doubt but you will ! '
Miching Mallecho was a superb bay from the stables of
the Baron de Soubeyran, and combined extreme elegance of
build with extraordinary strength of muscle. His fine and
shining coat, under which the tracery of veins was distinctly
visible on chest and flank, seemed almost to exhale a fiery
vapour, so intense was the creature's vitality. A splendid
jumper, he had often carried his master in the hunting-field
76 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
over every obstacle of the Roman countryside, irrespective
of the nature of the ground, never refusing the highest gate,
the most forbidding wall, for ever at the tail of the hounds.
A word from his rider had more effect on him than the spur,
a caress made him quiver with delight.
Before mounting, Andrea carefully examined every strap
and buckle, then with a smile he vaulted into the saddle.
As he watched his master move away the trainer expressed
his confidence in an eloquent gesture.
A crowd of bettors pressed round the indicator. Andrea
felt that every eye was upon him. Gazing eagerly at the
stand to the right, he tried to catch sight of Ippolita
Albonico, but could distinguish no one among the multitude
of ladies. The Marchesa d'Ateleta, who had heard of the
quarrel, made him a sign of reproof from afar.
' How is the betting on Mallecho ? ' he asked of Ludovico
As he moved towards the starting-post, he reflected
calmly on the means he would employ for winning, and
considered his three rivals critically, calculating the strength
and science of each of them. Paolo Caligaro was a tricky
devil, as thoroughly versed in all the knavery of the stable as
any jockey; but Carbonilla, although fast, had little staying
power. The Duke di Beffi, a rider of the 'haute e*cole'
style, who had come off victorious in more than one race in
England, was mounted on an animal of uncertain temper
which would probably refuse some of the jumps. Giannetto
Rutolo, on the contrary, was riding a well-bred and well-
trained horse, but though he was a very capable rider he was
too impetuous ; moreover, this was the first time he had taken
part in a public race. Besides, he must be in a terrible
state of nervous irritation, as was apparent from numerous
As he looked at him, Andrea thought to himself ' I have
no doubt that my victory to-day would influence the course
of the duel to-morrow. In both instances, he will lose his
head it behoves me to keep calm on both fields ' Then
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 77
'I wonder what Donna Ippolita feels about it?' There
seemed to be an unusual silence round about him. With
his eye he measured the distance that separated him from
the first hurdle ; he noticed a shining stone on the course ;
he observed that Rutolo was watching him, and a tremor ran
through him from head to foot.
The bell gave the signal, but Brummel was off too soon
and the start was no good. The second time too they made
a false start, and again through Brummel's fault. Sperelli
and the duke exchanged a furtive smile.
The third start was successful. Brummel instantly detached
himself from the group and swept along by the palings.
The other three horses followed abreast for a moment or so,
and cleared the first hurdle and then the second very well.
Each of the three riders played a different game. The Duke
di Beffi tried to keep with the group, so that Satirist might be
induced to follow the example of the other horses at the
obstacles ; Caligaro moderated Carbonilla's pace in order to
save up her strength for the last five hundred yards. Sperelli
increased his speed gradually with the intention of catching
up with his adversary in the neighbourhood of the most
difficult obstacle. In effect, Mallecho soon distanced his
two companions and began to press Brummel very closely.
Rutolo heard the rapidly approaching hoof-thuds behind
him and was seized with such nervousness that his sight
seemed to fail him. Everything swam before his eyes as if
he were on the point of swooning. He made a frightful
effort to keep his spurs at his horse's sides, overcome by
terror at the thought that his senses might leave him.
There was a muffled roar in his ears, and through that roar
he caught the hard, clear sound of Andrea Sperelli's ' Hi ! '
More susceptible to the voice than any other mode of
urging, Mallecho simply devoured the intervening space ; he
was not more than two or three lengths behind Brummel
was on the point of joining of passing him.
A high barrier intersected the course. Rutolo actually did
78 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
not see it, having lost all sense of his surroundings, and only
preserved a furious instinct to remain glued to his horse and
force it along, never mind how. Brummel jumped, but
receiving no aid from his rider, caught his hind legs against
the barrier, and came down so awkwardly on the other side
that the rider lost his stirrups, without, however, coming out
of the saddle, and he continued to run. Andrea Sperelli now
took the lead, Giannetto Rutolo, without having recovered
his stirrups, being second, with Paolo Caligaro close upon his
heels; the duke, retarded by a refusal from Satirist, came
last. In this order they passed the grand stand. They
heard a confused clamour but it soon died away.
The spectators held their breath in suspense. From
time to time, somebody would remark aloud on the various
incidents of the running. At every change in the order
of the horses numerous exclamations sounded through the
continuous murmur, and the ladies thrilled visibly. Donna
Ippolita Albonico, mounted on a seat, with her hands on the
shoulders of her husband who stood below her, watched
the race with marvellous self-control and without a trace
of apparent emotion, unless the over-tight compression of
her lips and a scarcely perceptible furrow between her brows
might have revealed the effort to an observant eye. At a
certain moment, however, she drew her hands away from
her husband's shoulder, fearful of betraying herself by some
' Sperelli is down ! ' announced the Contessa di Lucoli in
a loud voice.
Mallecho, in jumping, had slipped on the wet grass and
come down on his knees, but recovered himself in an instant.
Andrea had gone over his head, but was none the worse, and
with lightning rapidity was back in the saddle as Rutolo and
Caligaro came up with him. Brummel performed prodigies,
in spite of the wounded leg, and showed the quality of his
blood. Carbonilla was at last putting out all her speed,
guided with consummate skill by her rider. There were
still about eight hundred yards to the winning post.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 79
Sperelli saw victory escaping him and gathered up all his
forces to grasp it again. Standing in the stirrups, bent low
over his horse's neck, he uttered from time to time that short,
sharp, ringing word which always acted so effectively upon the
noble creature. While Brummel and Carbonilla, fatigued by
the heaviness of the ground, began to lose the pace, Mallecho
steadily increased the vehemence of his rush and had nearly
reconquered his former position, scenting victory already
with his fiery nostrils. Flying over the last obstacle, he
passed Brummel his head was level with Carbonilla's
shoulder a hundred yards from the post he skirted the
barrier on on leaving Caligaro's black mare ten lengths
behind. The bell rang a furious clapping of hands, like the
pelting of hail-stones, and then a dull roar spread through
the great crowd on the green sward under the flood of
As he entered the enclosure, Andrea Sperelli thought to
himself ' Fortune is with me to-day, but how will it be to-
morrow?' And feeling the breath of triumph surge round
him, a vague sense of resentment rose up in him against the
possibilities of the morrow. He would have preferred to
face it to-day and get it over, that he might enjoy a double
victory and then taste the fruit offered to him by the hand
of Ippolita Albonico. He was possessed, for the moment,
by that inexplfcable intoxication which results with certain
men of intellect from the exercise of their physical powers,
the experience of their courage and the revelation of their
inherent brutality. The substratum of primitive ferocity
which exists at the bottom of most of us rushes to the surface,
on occasion, with curious vehemence, and under the skin-deep
varnish of modern civilisation, our hearts swell sometimes
with a nameless sanguinary fury, .and visions of carnage rise
up before us. Inhaling the hot and acrid exhalations of his
horse, Andrea Sperelli felt that none of the delicate perfumes
affected by him up till now, had ever afforded him such in-
He had scarcely quitted the saddle, before he found
8o THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
himself surrounded by friends of both sexes, eager to con-
gratulate him. Mallecho, breathing hard, smoking and
covered with foam, snorted and stretched his neck, shaking
the bridle. His sides rose and fell with a deep continuous
movement, as if they must burst ; his muscles vibrated under
skin like a bow-string after the shot; his eyes, dilated and
bloodshot, had the cruel glare of those of a beast of prey;
his coat, now showing great patches of darker colour, ran
down with rivulets of perspiration. The incessant trembling
of his whole body was pitiable to see, like the suffering of a
' Poor fellow ! ' murmured one of the ladies.
Andrea examined his knees to see if he had taken any
hurt from his fall. They were sound. Then patting him
softly on the neck, he said in an indefinable tone of gentle-
ness 'Go, Mallecho, go
And he followed him with his eyes till he disappeared.
Directly he had changed his clothes, he went in search of
Ludovico Barbarisi and the Baron di Santa Margherita.
Both instantly accepted the office of arranging prelimin-
aries with Rutolo. He begged them to hasten matters as
much as possible.
'Fix it all by this evening. To-morrow by one o'clock
I absolutely must be free. But let me sleep till nine to-
morrow morning. I dine with the Ferentinos, then I shall
look in at the Palazzo Giustiniani, and after that I shall go
to the Club, but it will be late You will know where to find
me. Many thanks, my dear fellows, and a rividerci.'
He repaired to the grand stand, but avoided approaching
Donna Ippolita at once. He smiled, feeling every feminine
eye upon him. Many a fair hand was held out, many a sweet
voice called him familiarly ' Andrea ' some of them even
a little ostentatiously. The ladies who had bet upon his
horses told him the amount of their winnings, others asked
curiously if he were really going to fight.
It seemed to him that in one day he had reached the
summit of adventurous glory. He had come out victor in
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 81
a record race, had gained the graces of a new love, magnifi-
cent and serene as a Venetian Dogaressa, had provoked a man
to mortal combat and now was passing calm and courteous
but neither more so nor less than usual amid the openly
adoring smiles of all these fair women.
' See the conquering hero comes ! ' cried Ippolita's hus-
band with outstretched hand and pressing Andrea's with
'Yes, indeed; quite a hero!' echoed Donna Ippolita in
the superficial tone of necessary compliment, affecting igno-
rance of the real drama.
Sperelli bowed and passed on, feeling strangely embarrassed
by Albonico's excessive friendliness. A suspicion crossed
his mind that he was grateful to him for having provoked a
quarrel with his wife's lover, and the cowardice of the man
brought a supercilious smile to his lips.
Returning from the races on the Prince di Ferentino's mail
coach, he espied Giannetto Rutolo tearing back to Rome in
a little two-wheeled trap behind a great fast-trotting roan ;
bending forward with head down, a cigar between his teeth
and utterly regardless of the injunctions of the police to keep
in the line. Rome rose up before them, black against a
band of saffron light, and in the violet sky above that light
the statues on the Basilica of San Giovanni stood out ex-
aggeratedly large. And Andrea then fully realised the pain
he was inflicting on this man's soul.
AT the Palazzo Giustiniani that evening, Andrea said to
Ippolita Albonico, 'Well then, it is a fixed thing that I
expect you to-morrow between two and five ? '
She would like to have said : ' Then you are not going to
fight to-morrow?' but she did not dare.
' I have promised,' she replied.
A minute or two afterwards, her husband came up to
Andrea and taking his arm with much effusion, began asking
particulars about the duel. He was a youngish man, slim,
with very thin fair hair and colourless eyes and projecting
teeth. He had a slight stammer.
'Well, well so it is to come off to-morrow, is it?'
Andrea could not repress his disgust, and let his arm hang
loosely at his side to show that he was in no mood for these
familiarities. Seeing the Baron di Santi Margherita enter
the room, he disengaged himself quickly.
* Excuse me, Count,' he said, 'I want to speak to Santa
The Baron met him with the assurance that all was in order.
'Very good at what hour?'
1 Half-past ten at the Villa Sciarra. Rapiers and fencing-
gloves, d entrance?
' Whom else have you got for seconds ? '
'Roberto Casteldieri and Carlo de Souza. We settled
everything as quickly as possible, avoiding formalities.
Giannetto had got his seconds already. We arranged the
proceedings at the Club without any fuss. Try not to be too
late in going to bed you must be dead tired.'
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 83
Bat, heedless of this good advice, on leaving the Palazzo
Giustiniani, Andrea betook himself to the Club, where Santa
Margherita came upon him at two o'clock in the morning,
and, forcing him to leave the card-tables, bore him off on foot
to the Palazzo Zuccari.
' My dear boy,' he said reproachfully as they walked along,
'you are really foolhardy. In a case like this, the smallest
imprudence might lead to fatal results. To preserve his full
strength and activity, a good swordsman should have as much
care for his person as a tenor has for his voice. The wrist is
as delicate an organ as the throat the articulations of the
legs as sensitive as the vocal chords. The mechanism suffers
from the smallest disturbance ; the instrument gets out of
gear and will not answer to the player. After a night of play
or drink, Camillo Agrippa himself could not thrust straight, and
his parries were neither sure nor rapid. An error of a hair's
breadth will suffice to let three inches of steel into one's
body.' They were at the top of the Via Condotti, and in the
distance they could see the Piazza di Spagna, lighted up by
the full moon, the stairway bathed in silver, and the Trinita
de' Monti rising into the soft blue.
' Certainly,' continued the Baron, ' you have great advan-
tages over your adversary, amongst others, a cool head also
you have been out before. I saw you in Paris in your affair
with Gauvaudan you remember? A grand duel that ! You
fought like a god ! '
Andrea laughed, much gratified. The praise of this un-
rivalled duellist made his heart swell with pride, and infused
fresh vigour into his muscles. Instinctively, he grasped his
walking stick, and repeated the famous pass which pierced
the arm of the Marquis de Gauvaudan the previous winter.
' Yes,' he said, ' it was a direct return hit after a parry of
"centre de tierce."'
' On the floor, Giannetto Rutolo is a skilful swordsman,
but in the open he gets confused. He has only been out once
before with my cousin Cassibile, and he came off ba^ily. He
does far too much of the one, two, one, two, three business
84 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
in attacking. Stop thrusts and hits with a half volte would be
useful to you. It was just in that way that my cousin touched
him in the second round. And those thrusts are your special
forte. Keep a sharp look-out and try to keep your distance.
And do not forget that you have to do with a man whom, as
I hear, you have robbed of his mistress, and to whom you
lifted your whip.'
They had reached the Piazza di Spagna. The Barcaccia
splashed and gurgled softly, glistening under the moon that
was mirrored in its waters. Four or five hackney carriages
stood in a line with their lamps lighted. From the Via del
Babuino came a tinkle of bells, and the dull tramp of hoofs,
as of a herd in motion.
At the foot of the steps the Baron took leave of him.
'Good-bye then, till to-morrow. I shall be with you a
little before nine with Ludovico. You must make a pass or
so, just to unstiffen the muscles. We will see about the
doctor. Off with you now and get a good sleep.'
Andrea mounted the steps. At the first broad landing, he
stood still to listen to the tinkle of the approaching bells.
In truth, he did feel rather tired, and even a little heartsick.
Now that the excitement called up by the conversation on
fencing, and the recollection of his former doughty deeds in
that line had subsided, a sense of dissatisfaction had come
upon him, confusedly, as yet, and mingled with doubt and
regret. After being on the stretch throughout the violent
feverish incidents of the day, his nerves relaxed under the
balmy influences of the spring night. Why should he,
without any excuse of passion, out of mere caprice, from pure
vanity and arrogance, have taken pleasure in awakening the
hatred, and deeply wounding the heart of a fellow man?
The thought of the horrid pain that must be torturing his
adversary filled him with a sort of compassion. Elena's
image flashed before him, and he called to mind the anguish
he had endured the year before, what time he had lost her
his jealousy, his anger, his nameless torments. Then, as
now, the nights were serene and calm, and filled with
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 85
perfume, and yet how they weighed upon his spirit ! He
inhaled the fragrant breath of the roses blooming in the
little gardens about, and watched the flock of sheep passing
through the Piazza below.
The mass of thick white fleece advanced with a continuous
undulating motion, a compact and unbroken surface, like a
muddy wave pouring over the pavement. A sharp quavering
bleat would mingle with the tinkling bells to be answered by
other voices, fainter and more timid ; from time to time, the
mounted shepherds, riding at either side or behind the flock,
gave a sharp word of command, or used their long staves.
The splendour of the moonlight lent to this passage of flocks
through the midst of the slumbering city the mystery of
things seen in a dream.
Andrea recalled one serene February night when, on
coming away from a ball at the English Embassy, he and
Elena had met a flock of sheep in the Via Venti Settembre
which obliged their carriage to stop. Elena, her face pressed
to the window, watched the sheep crowding against the
carriage wheels, and pointed to the little lambs with childish
delight ; and he with his face close to hers, his eyes half
closed, listened to the pattering hoofs, the bleating, the
Why should these recollections of Elena come back to him
just now ? He resumed his way slowly up the steps, his feet
heavy with fatigue, his knees giving way beneath him. Sud-
denly the thought of death flashed across his mind. 'What
if I were killed, or received such a wound as to maim me for
life ? ' But his thirst for life and pleasure caused his whole
being to revolt against such a sinister possibility. 'I must
come off victorious ! ' he said to himself. And he began
reviewing all the advantages that would fall to him from
this second victory : the prestige of his success, the fame of
his prowess, Ippolita's kisses, new loves, new pleasures, the
gratification of new whims.
Presently, however, he bethought him of the necessary
precautions for insuring his bodily vigour. He went to bed
86 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
and slept soundly till he was awakened by the arrival of his
seconds; took his customary shower-bath; had a strip of
linoleum laid down and invited Santa Margherita and then
Barbarisi to exchange a few passes with him, during which
he executed with precision several stop thrusts.
' In capital form ! ' the Baron congratulated him.
Sperelli then took two cups of tea and some biscuits,
donned a very easy pair of trousers, comfortable shoes with
low heels and a very slightly starched shirt; he prepared his
gloves by moistening the palm slightly and rubbing in pow-
dered resin ; arranged a leather strap for fastening the guard
to his wrist ; examined the blade and the point of both
rapiers ; omitted no precaution, no detail.
When all was to his satisfaction ' Let us be going now,'
he said ; ' better be on the ground before the others. What
about the doctor?'
' He will be waiting for us there.'
On the way down stairs they met Grimiti, who had come
on behalf of the Marchesa d'Ateleta.
' I shall follow you to the Villa and then bring the news
as quickly as possible to Francesca,' said he.
They all went down together. The Duke jumped into his
buggy and the others entered a closed carriage. Andrea
made no show of indifference or good spirits to make
jokes before engaging in a serious duel seemed to him
execrably bad taste but he was perfectly calm. He smoked
and listened composedly to Santa Margherita and Barbarisi,
who were discussing apropos of a recent case in France
whether it was legitimate or not to use the left hand against
an adversary. Now and again, he leaned forward to look out
of the window.
On this May morning Rome shone resplendent under the
caressing sun. Here a fountain lit up with its silvery laughter
a little piazzetta still plunged in shadow ; there the open gates
of a palace disclosed a vista of courtyard with a background
of portico and statues ; from the baroque architecture of a
brick church hung the decorations for the month of Mary.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 87
Under the bridge, the Tiber gleamed and glistened as it
hurried away between the gray-green houses towards the
island of San Bartolomeo. After a short ascent, the whole
city spread out before them, immense, imperial, radiant,
bristling with spires and columns and obelisks, crowned
with cupolas and rotundas, clean cut out of the blue like
' Ave Roma, moriturus te salutatf exclaimed Andrea
Sperelli, throwing away the end of his cigarette. ' Though,
to tell the truth, my dear fellows,' he added, 'a sword-thrust
would decidedly inconvenience me this morning.'
They had reached the Villa Sciarra, already partially pro-
faned by the builders of modern houses, and were passing
through an avenue of tall and slender laurels bordered by
hedges of roses. Santa Margherita, putting his head out of
the window, caught sight of another carriage standing in the
drive before the villa.
' They are waiting for us,' he said.
He consulted his watch ten minutes yet to the hour
agreed upon. He got out of the carriage and went across
with the other seconds and the surgeons to the opponents.
Andrea stayed behind in the avenue. He went over, in his
own mind, certain points of attack and defence he hoped to
employ successfully, but the miracles of light and shadow
playing fitfully through the interlacing laurels distracted his
attention. While his mind was occupied with the position
of the wound he intended inflicting, his eyes were attracted
by the reeds shivering in the morning breeze, and the trees,
tender as the amorous allegories of Petrarch, sighed gently
over a head that was wholly absorbed in plans of dealing a
Barbarisi came to call him.
' Everything is ready,' he said. ' The caretaker has opened
the villa for us we have the rooms on the ground floor at
our disposal most convenient. Come and undress.'
Andrea followed him. While he undressed, the two sur-
geons opened their surgical cases and displayed the array