to the sea. Before him the tree-trunks, straight but of un-
even height, like the pipes of the great god Pan, intercepted
his view of the sea ; all around him the acanthus spread the
exquisite grace of its foliage, symmetrical as the capitals of
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 103
He thought of the words of Salamis in the Story of the
' Noble acanthus, in the woods of Earth
Tokens of peace, high-flowering coronals,
Of most pure form ; O ye, the slender basket
That Silence weaves with light, untroubled hand
To gather up the flowers of woody dreams,
What virtue have ye poured on this fair youth
Out of those dusky and sweet-smelling leaves?
Naked he sleeps ; his arm supports his head.'
Other lines came back to him, and yet others a riot of
verse. His soul was filled with the music of rhymes and
rhythmic measures. He was overjoyed ; coming to him thus
spontaneously and unexpectedly, this poetic agitation caused
him inexpressible happiness. And he gave ear to the music,
delighting himself in rich imagery, in rare epithets, in the
luminous metaphors, the exquisite harmonies, the subtle
refinements which distinguished his metrical style and the
mysterious artifices of the endecasyllabic verse learned from the
admirable poets of the fourteenth century, and more especially
from Petrarch. Once more the magic spell of versification
subjugated his soul, and he felt the full force of the sentiment
of a contemporary poet Verse is everything !
A perfect line of verse is absolute, immutable, deathless.
It encloses a thought as within a clearly marked circle which
no force can break ; it belongs no more to the poet, it
belongs to all and yet to none, as do space, light, all things
mtransitory and perpetual. When the poet is about to bring
forth one of these deathless lines he is warned by a divine
torrent of joy which sweeps over his soul
Andrea half closed his eyes to prolong this delicious tremor
which with him was ever the forerunner of inspiration, and
more especially of poetic inspiration, and he determined in a
moment upon the metrical form into which he would pour
his thoughts, like wine into a cup the sonnet.
While composing Andrea studied himself curiously. It was
long since he had made verses. Had this interval of idleness
io 4 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
been harmful to his technical capacities ? It seemed to him
that the lines, rising one by one out of the depths of his brain,
had a new grace. The consonance came of itself, and ideas
were born of the rhymes. Then suddenly some obstacle
would intercept the flow, a line would rebel and the whole
verse would be displaced like a shaken puzzle ; the syllables
would struggle against the constraint of the measure; a
musical and luminous word which had taken his fancy had to
be excluded by the severity of the rhythm, do what he would
to retain it, and the verse was like a medal which has turned
out imperfect through the inexperience of the caster, who has
not calculated the proper quantity of metal necessary for
filling the mould. With ingenious patience he poured the
metal back into the crucible and began all over again.
Finally the verse came out full and clear, and the whole
sonnet lived and breathed like a free and perfect creature.
Thus he composed now slow, now fast with a delight
never felt before. As the day grew, the sea cast luminous
darts between the trees as between the columns of a jasper
portico. Here Alma Tadema would have depicted a Sappho
with hyacinthine locks, seated at the foot of the marble
Hermes, singing to a seven-stringed lyre and surrounded by
a chorus of maidens with locks of flame, all pallid and intent,
drinking in the pure harmony of the verses.
Having accomplished the four sonnets, he heaved a sigh
and proceeded to recite them silently but with inward
emphasis. Then he wrote them on the quadrangular
pedestal of the Hermes, one on each surface in the following
' Four-fronted Hermes, to thy four-foM sense
Have these my marvellous tidings been made known ?
Suave spirits, singing on their way, have flown
Forth from my heart, light-hearted ; and from thence
Have cast forth every foul intelligence,
And every foul stream dammed, and overthrown
The old unguarded bridges, stone by stone,
And quenched the flame of my impenitence.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 105
Singing, the spirits ascend ; I know the voice,
The hymn ; and, inextinguishable and vast,
Delighting laughters from my heart arise.
Pale, but a king, I bid my soul rejoice
To hearken my heart's laughter, as at last
Low in the dust the conquered evil lies.
The glad soul laughs, because its loves have fled,
Because the conquered evil bites the dust
Which into intertangled fires had thrust,
As into fiery thickets, feet now led
Into the circle human 'sorrows tread ;
It leaves the treacherous labyrinths of lust,
Where the fair pagan monsters lure the just,
In hyacinth robes, a novice, garmented.
Now may no Sphinx with golden nails ensnare,
No Gorgon freeze it out of snaky folds,
No Siren lull it on a sleepy coast ;
But, at the circle's summit, see, a fair
White woman, in the act of worship, holds
In her pure hands the sacrificial Host.
Beyond all harm, all ambush, and all hate,
Tranquil of face, and strong at heart, she stands,
And knows till death, and scorns, and understands
All evil things that on her passage wait.
Thou hast in ward and keeping every gate,
The winds breathe sweetness at thy sweet commands,
Might 'st thou but take, when with these restless hands
I lay at thine untroubled feet my fate !
Even now there shines before me in thy meek
And holy hands the Host, like to a sun.
Have I attained, have I then paid tht price ?
She, that is favourable to all that seek,
Lifting the Host, declares : Now is begun
And ended the eternal sacrifice I
io6 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
For I, she saith, am the unnatural Rose,
I am the Rose of Beauty. I instil
The drunkenness of ecstasy, I fill
The spirit -with my rapture and repose.
Sowing with tears, sorrowful still are those
That with much singing gather harvest still.
After long sorrow, this my sweetness will
Be sweeter than all sweets thy spirit knows.
So be it, Madonna ; and from my heart outburst
The blood of tears, flooding all mortal things,
And the immortal sorrow be yet whole ;
Let the depths swallow me, let there as at first
Be darkness, so I see the glimmerings
Of light that rain on my unconqucred soul 1
Die XII. Septembris MDCCCLXXXVI.'
SCHIFANOJA was situated on the heights at that point where
the chain of hills, after following the curving coast line, took
a landward bend and sloped away towards the plain. Not-
withstanding that it had been built in the latter half of the
eighteenth century by the Cardinal Alfonso Carafa d'Ateleta
the villa showed a certain purity of architectural design.
It was a square building of two stories, with arched colonnades
alternating with the apartments, which imparted to the whole
edifice a look of lightness and grace. It was a real summer
palace, open on all sides to the breath of the sea. At the
side towards the sloping gardens, a wide hall opened on to a
noble double flight of steps leading to a platform like a vast
terrace, surrounded by a stone balustrade and adorned by two
fountains. At either end of this terrace, other flights of steps
interrupted by more terraces led by easy stages almost to the
sea, affording a full view from the level ground of their seven-
fold windings through superb verdure and masses of roses.
The special glories of Schifanoja were its cypresses and
its roses. Roses were there of every kind and for every
season, enough l pour en tirer neuf ou dix muytz cTeaue rose '
as the poet of the Vergier rfhonneur would have said. The
cypresses, sharp-pointed and sombre, more hieratic than the
Pyramids, more enigmatic than the obelisks, were in no re-
spect inferior either to those of the Villa d'Este, or the Villa
Mondragone or any of the giants growing round the glorious
The Marchesa d'Ateleta was in the habit of spending the
summer and part of the autumn at Schifanoja ; for, though a
io8 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
thorough woman of the world, she was fond of the country
and its freedom, and liked to keep open house there for her
friends. She had lavished every care and attention upon
Andrea during his illness ; had been to him like an elder
sister, almost a mother, and untiring in her devotion. She
cherished a profound affection for her cousin, was ever ready
to excuse or pardon, was a good and frank friend to him,
capable of understanding many things, always at his beck and
call, always cheerful, always bright and witty. Although she
had overstepped the thirties by a year, she had lost nothing
of her youth, vivacity and great personal charm, for she pos-
sessed the secret of Madame de Pompadour's fascination,
that c beaute sans traits ' which lights up with unexpected
graces. Moreover, she possessed that rare gift commonly
called tact. A fine feminine sense of the fitness of things
was an infallible guide to her. In her relations with a host
of acquaintances of either sex she always succeeded in steer-
ing her course discreetly; she never committed an error of
taste, never weighed heavily on the lives of others, never
arrived at an inopportune moment nor became importunate,
no deed or word of hers but was entirely to the point. Her
treatment of Andrea during the somewhat trying period of his
convalescence was beyond all praise. She did her utmost to
avoid disturbing or annoying him, and, what is more, managed
that no one else should ; she left him complete liberty, pre-
tended not to notice his whims and melancholies; never
worried him with indiscreet questions ; made her company
sit as lightly as possible on him at obligatory moments, and
even went so far as to refrain from her usual witty remarks
in his presence to save him the trouble of forcing a smile.
Andrea recognised her delicacy and was profoundly
Returning from the garden with unwonted lightness of
heart on that September morning after writing his sonnets
on the Hermes, he encountered Donna Francesca on the
steps, and, kissing her hand, he exclaimed in laughing
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 109
' Cousin Francesca, I have found the Truth and the Way ! '
' Alleluja ! ' she returned, lifting up her fair rounded arms,
And she continued on her way down to the garden while
Andrea went on to his room with heart refreshed.
A little while afterwards there came a gentle knock at the
door and Francesca's voice asking 'May I come in?'
She entered with the lap of her dress and both arms full of
great clusters of dewy roses, white, yellow, crimson, russet
brown. Some were wide and transparent like those of the
Villa Pamfili, all fresh and glistening, others were densely
petalled, and with that intensity of colouring which recalls the
boasted magnificence of the dyes of Tyre and Sidon ; others
again were like little heaps of odorous snow, and gave one a
strange desire to bite into them and eat them. The infinite
gradations of red, from violent crimson to the faded pink of
over-ripe strawberries, mingled with the most delicate and
almost imperceptible variations of white, from the immaculate
purity of freshly fallen snow to the indefinable shades of new
milk, the sap of the reed, dull silver, alabaster and opal.
' It is a festa to-day,' she said, her laughing face appearing
over the flowers that covered her whole bosom up to the
' Thanks ! Thanks ! ' Andrea cried again and again as he
helped her to empty the mass of bloom on to the table, all
over the books and papers and portfolios 'Rosa rosarumT
Her hands once free, she proceeded to collect all the vases
in the room and fill them with roses, arranging each cluster
with rare artistic skill. While she did so, she talked of a
thousand things with her usual blithe volubility, almost as if
compensating herself for the parsimony of words and laughter
she had exercised up till now, out of regard for Andrea's
Presently she remarked, 'On the i5th we expect a
beautiful guest, Donna Maria Ferres y Capdevila, the
wife of the Plenipotentiary for Guatemala. Do you know
no THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
' I think not.'
' No, I do not suppose you could. She only returned to
Italy a few months ago, but she will spend next winter in
Rome because her husband has been appointed to that post.
She is a very dear friend of mine we knew each other as
children, and were three years together at the Convent of
the Annunciation in Florence. She is younger than I am.'
' Is she an American ? '
'No, an Italian. She is from Sienna. She comes of the
Bandinelli family, and was baptized with water from the
" Fonte Gaja." For all that, she is rather melancholy by
nature, but very sweet. The story of her marriage is not
a very cheerful one. Ferres is a most unsympathetic
person. However, they have a little girl a perfect darling
you will see ; a little white face with enormous eyes and
masses of dark hair. She is very like her mother Look,
Andrea, is not that rose just like velvet? And this I
could eat it look it is like glorified cream. How
delicious ! '
She went on picking out the different roses and chatting
pleasantly. A wave of perfume, intoxicating as century-old
wine, streamed from the massed flowers ; some of the petals
dropped and hung in the folds of Francesca's gown ; beneath
the window the dark shaft of a cypress pierced the golden
sunshine, and through Andrea's memory ran persistently, like
a phrase of music, a line from Petrarch :
' Cast partia le rose e le parole. '
Two days afterwards he repaid his cousin by presenting her
with a sonnet curiously fashioned on an antique model and
inscribed on vellum with illuminated ornaments in the style
of those that enliven the missals of Attavante and of Liberale
' Ferrara, for its d'Estes glorious,
Where Cossa strove in triumphs to recall
Cosimo Tura's triumphs on the the wal\
Saw never feast more fair and plenteous.
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
Monna Francesca plucked and bore to us
Such store of roses, and so shed on all,
That heaven had lacked for such a coronal
The little angels it engarlands thus.
She spoke, and shed the roses in such showers,
And such a loveliness was seen in her,
This, said I, is some Grace the sun discloses.
I trembled at the sweetness of the flowers.
A verse of Petrarch mounted in the air :
She scatters words and scatters with them roses.
ON the following Wednesday, the i5th of September, the
new guest arrived.
The Marchesa, accompanied by Andrea and her eldest
son, Fernanindo, drove over to Rovigliano, the nearest
station, to meet her. As they drove along the road shad-
owed by lofty poplars, the Marchesa spoke to Andrea of
her friend with much affection.
'I think you will like her,' she remarked in conclusion.
Then she began to laugh as if at some sudden thought.
' Why do you laugh ? ' asked Andrea.
'I am making a comparison.'
' What comparison ? '
' I can't.'
' Well, I was thinking of another introduction I gave you
about two years ago, which I accompanied by a delightful
prophecy you remember ? '
'Ah ha '
'And I laughed because this time again there is an un-
known lady in question and this time too I may play the
part of an involuntary providence.'
'But this case is very different, or rather the difference
lies in the heroine of the possible drama.'
'That Maria Ferres is a turn's ebttrnea.'
'And I am now a vas spirituale?
'Ah yes, I had forgotten that you had, at last, found the
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 113
Truth and the Way " The glad soul laughs because its loves
have fled " '
' What you are quoting my verses ? '
' I know them by heart.'
' How sweet of you ! '
' However, I confess, my dear cousin, that your " fair
white woman" holding the Host in her pure hands seems to
me a trifle suspicious. She has, to my mind, too much of
the air of a hollow shape, a robe without a body inside it,
at the mercy of whatever soul, be it angel or demon, that
chooses to enter it and offer you the communion.
' But this is sacrilege rank sacrilege ! '
'Ah, you had better take care! Watch that figure and
use plenty of exorcisms But there, I am prophesying
again ! Really, it seems a weakness of mine.'
' Here we are at the station.'
They both laughed, and all three entered the little station
to wait for the train, which was due in a few minutes. Fer-
nandino, a sickly-looking boy of twelve, was carrying a
bouquet which he was to present to Donna Maria. Andrea,
put in excellent spirits by his little conversation with his
cousin, took a tea-rose from the bouquet and stuck it in his
button-hole, then cast a rapid glance over his light summer
clothes and noticed with complaisance that his hands had
become whiter and thinner since his illness. But he did it
all without reflection, simply from an instinct of harmless
vanity which had suddenly awakened in him.
' Here comes the train,' said Fernandino.
The Marchesa hurried forward to greet her friend, who
was already leaning out of the carriage window waving her
hand and nodding. Her head was enveloped in a large gray
gauze veil which half covered her large black hat.
1 Francesca ! Francesca ! ' she cried with a little tremor of
joy in her voice.
The sound of that voice made a singular impression on
Andrea it reminded him vaguely of a voice he knew but
n 4 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
Donna Maria left the carriage with a rapid and light step,
and with a pretty grace raised her veil above her mouth to
kiss her friend. Suddenly Andrea was struck by the pro-
found charm of this slender, graceful, veiled woman of whose
face he saw only the mouth and chin.
' Maria, let me present my cousin to you Count Andrea
Andrea bowed. The lady's lips parted in a smile that
was rendered mysterious from the rest of the face being
concealed by the veil.
The Marchesa then introduced Andrea to Don Manuel
Ferres y Capdcvila ; then, stroking the hair of the little girl
who was gazing at the young man with a pair of wide-open,
astonished eyes, 'This is Delfina,' she said.
In the carriage, Andrea sat opposite to Donna Maria and
beside her husband. She kept her veil down still ; Fernan-
dino's bouquet lay in her lap and from time to time she
raised it to her face to inhale the perfume while she answered
the Marchesa's questions. Andrea was right; there were
tones in her voice exactly like Elena's. He was seized
with impatient curiosity to see her face its expression and
'Manuel,' she was saying, 'has to leave on Friday. He
will come back for me later on.'
' Much later, let us hope,' said Donna Francesca cordially.
'A month, at the very least, eh, Don Manuel? The best
plan would be to wait and all go on the same day. We are
at Schifanoja till the first of November.'
' If my mother were not expecting me, nothing would
delight me more than to stay with you. But I have pro-
mised faithfully to be in Sienna for the xyth of October
'What a pity! on the 2oth there is the Festival of the
Donations at Rovigliano so very beautiful and peculiar.'
' What is to be done ? If I do not keep my promise, my
mother will be dreadfully disappointed. She adores Delfina.'
The husband took no part whatever in the conversation,
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 115
he seemed a very taciturn man. He was of middle height,
inclined to be stout and bald, and his skin of a most peculiar
hue something between green and violet, in which the whites
of the eyes gleamed as they moved like the enamel eyes of
certain antique bronze heads. His moustache, which was
harsh and black and cut evenly like the bristles of a brush,
shadowed a coarse and sardonic mouth. He appeared to be
about forty, or rather more. In his whole appearance there
was something disagreeably hybrid and morose, that indefin-
able air of viciousness which belongs to the later generations
of bastard races brought up in the midst of moral disorder.
' Look, Delfina orange trees, all in flower ! ' exclaimed
Donna Maria, stretching out her hand to pluck a spray as
Near Schifanoja, the road lay between orange groves, the
trees being so high that they afforded a pleasant shade,
through which the sea-breeze sighed and fluttered, so laden
wi:h perfume that one might almost have quaffed it like a
draught of cool water.
Delfina was kneeling on the carriage seat and leaned out
to catch at the branches. Her mother wound an arm about
her to keep her from falling out.
' Take care ! Take care ! You will tumble wait a
moment till I untie my veil. Would you mind helping me,
Francesca ? '
She bent her head towards her friend to let her unfasten
the veil from her hat, and in doing so the bouquet of roses
fell at her feet. Andrea promptly picked them up, and as
he rose from his stooping position, he at last saw her whole
It was an oval face, perhaps the least trifle too long, but
hardly worth mentioning that aristocratic oval which the
most graceful portrait painters of the fifteenth century were
rather fond of exaggerating. The refined features had that
subtle expression of suffering and lassitude which lends the
human charm to the Virgins of the Florentine tondi of the
time of Cosimo. A soft and tender shadow, the fusion of
n6 THE CHILD OF PLEASURE
two diaphanous tints violet and Blue, lay under her eyes,
which had the leonine irises of the brown-haired angels.
Her hair lay on her forehead and temples like a heavy crown,
and was gathered into a massive coil on her neck. The
shorter locks in front were thick and waving as those that
cover the head of the Farnese Antinous. Nothing could
exceed the charm of that delicate head, which seemed to
droop under its burden as under some divine chastisement.
' Dio mio ! ' she sighed, endeavouring to lighten with her
hands the weight of tresses gathered up and compressed
under her hat. ' My head aches as if I had been hanging by
the hair for an hour. I cannot keep it fastened up for long
together, it tires me so. It is a perfect slavery.'
' Do you remember at school,' broke in Francesca, ' how
we were all wild to comb your hair? It led to furious
quarrels every day. Fancy, Andrea at last it came to
bloodshed ! Oh, I shall never forget the scene between
Carlotta Fiordelise and Gabreilla Vanni. It got to be sheer
monomania. To comb Maria Bandinelli's hair was the one
ambition in life of every school-girl there big or little.
The epidemic spread through the whole school, and resulted
in scoldings, punishments, and finally threats to have your
hair cut off. Do you remember, Maria? Our very souls
were enthralled by the magnificent black plait that hung
like a rope to your heels ! '
Donna Maria smiled a mournful, dreamy smile. Her lips
were slightly parted, the upper one projecting the least little
bit beyond the under one ; the corners of her mouth drooped
plaintively, the soft curve losing itself in shadow which gave
her an expression both sad and kind, but with a dash of that
pride which reveals the moral elevation of those who have
suffered much and been strong.
To Andrea the story of these girls enamoured of a plait
of hair, enflamed with passion and jealousy, wild to pass a
comb or their fingers through the living treasure, seemed a
charming and poetic episode of convent life, and in his
imagination, this woman with the sumptuous hair became
THE CHILD OF PLEASURE 117
vaguely illumined like the heroine of some Christian legend
of the childhood of a saint destined for martyrdom and
future canonisation. At the same time, it struck him what
rich and varied lines might be afforded to the design of a
female figure by the undulating masses of that black hair.
Not that it was really black, as Andrea perceived next
day at dinner, when a ray of sunshine touched the lady's
head, bringing out sombre violet lights, reflections as of
tempered steel or burnished silver. Notwithstanding its
density too, it was perfectly light, each hair seeming to stand
apart as if permeated by and breathing the air. Her conver-
sation revealed keen intelligence and a delicate mind, much
refinement of taste and pleasure in the Eesthetic. She
possessed abundant and varied culture, a vivid imagination,
and the rich, descriptive language of one who has seen many
lands, lived under widely different climes, known many