Arthur Cosslett Smith.

The turquoise cup, and The desert online

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3 1822 01329 8245



3 1822 01329 8245




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Copyright) 1903, by Charles Scribner s Sons
Published February, 1903

D. B. Updike, The Merrymount Press. Boston



The Turquoise Cup 3


The Desert 107



L HE Cardinal Archbishop sat on his
shaded balcony, his well-kept hands
clasped upon his breast, his feet stretched
out so straight before him that the pigeon,
perched on the rail of the balcony, might
have seen fully six inches of scarlet silk

The cardinal was a small man, but very
neatly made. His hair was as white as spun
glass. Perhaps he was sixty; perhaps he
was seventy; perhaps he was fifty. His red
biretta lay upon a near-by chair. His head
bore no tonsure. The razor of the barber

[3 ]

The Turquoise Cup

and the scythe of Time had passed him
by. There was that faint tinge upon his
cheeks that comes to those who, having
once had black beards, shave twice daily.
His features were clearly cut. His skin
would have been pallid had it not been
olive. A rebellious lock of hair curved
upon his forehead. He resembled the first
Napoleon, before the latter became fa
mous and fat.

The pigeon s mate came floating
through the blue sky that silhouetted the
trees in the garden. She made a pretence
of alighting upon the balcony railing,
sheered off, coquetted among the tree-
tops, came back again, retreated so far that
she was merely a white speck against the
blue vault, and then, true to her sex, hav
ing proved her liberty only to tire of it,
with a flight so swift that the eye could
scarcely follow her, she came back again


The Turquoise Cup

and rested upon the farther end of the
balcony, where she immediately began to
preen herself and to affecl an air of non
chalance and virtue.

Her mate lazily opened one eye, which
regarded her for a moment, and then
closed with a wink.

"Ah, my friends," said the cardinal,
"there are days when you make me re
gret that I am not of the world, but this is
not one of them. You have quarrelled, I
perceive. When you build your nest down
yonder in the cote, I envy you. When
you are giving up your lives to feeding
your children, I envy you. I watch your
flights for food for them. I say to myself,
I, too, would struggle to keep a child, if
I had one. Commerce, invention, specu
lation why could I not succeed in one
of these? I have arrived in the most in
tricate profession of all. I am a cardinal


The Turquoise Cup

archbishop. Could I not have been a stock
broker? Ah, signore and signora," and he
bowed to the pigeons, "you get nearer
heaven than we poor mortals. Have you
learned nothing have you heard no
whisper have you no message for me? "

"Your eminence," said a servant who
came upon the balcony, a silver tray in
his hand, "a visitor."

The cardinal took the card and read it
aloud "The Earl of Vauxhall."

He sat silent a moment, thinking. "I
do not know him," he said at length ; " but
show him up."

He put on his biretta, assumed a more
ere<5r. attitude, and then turned to the

"Adieu," he said; " commercialism ap
proaches in the person of an Englishman.
He comes either to buy or to sell. You
have nothing in common with him. Fly

The Turquoise Cup

away to the Piazza, but come back to
morrow. If you do not, I shall miss you

The curtains parted, and the servant
announced, "The Earl of Vauxhall."

The cardinal rose from his chair.

A young man stepped upon the bal
cony. He was tall and lithe and blond,
and six-and-twenty.

"Your grace," he said, "I have come
because I am in deep trouble."

"In that event, "said the cardinal, "you
do me much honor. My vocation is to
seek out those who are in trouble. When
they seek me it argues that I am not un
known. You are an Englishman. You may
speak your own language. It is not the
most flexible, but it is an excellent vehicle
for the truth."

"Thank you," said the young man;
"that gives me a better chance, since my

The Turquoise Cup

Italian is of the gondolier type. I speak
it mostly with my arms," and he began to

" I understand," said the cardinal, smil
ing, "and I fear that my English is open
to some criticism. I picked it up in the
University of Oxford. My friends in the
Vatican tell me that it is a patois"

"I dare say," said the young man. "I
was at Cambridge."

"Ah," said the cardinal, " how unfortu
nate. Still, we may be able to understand
one another. Will you have some tea? It
is a habit I contracted in England, and I
find it to be a good one. I sit here at five
o clock, drink my cup of tea, feed the
pigeons that light upon the railing, and
have a half-hour in which to remember
how great is England, and " with a bow
" how much the rest of the world owes
to her."


T /ie Turquoise Cup

"A decent sort of chap, for an Italian,"
thought the earl. The cardinal busied
himself with the tea-pot.

"Your grace," said the earl, finally,
"I came here in trouble."

"It cannot be of long standing," said
the cardinal. "You do not look like one
who has passed through the fire."

"No," said the earl, "but I scarcely
know what to say to you. I am embar

"My son," said the cardinal, "when
an Englishman is embarrassed he is truly
penitent. You may begin as abruptly as
you choose. Are you a Catholic?"

"No," replied the earl, "I am of the
Church of England."

The cardinal shrugged his shoulders
the least bit. "I never cease to admire
your countrymen," he said. " On Sundays
they say, I believe in the Holy Catholic


T/ie Turquoise Cup

Church, and, on work-days, they say, I
believe in the Holy Anglican Church.
You are admirably trained. You adapt
yourselves to circumstances."

" Yes," said the earl, a trifle nettled, " I
believe we do, but at present I find my
self as maladroit as though I had been
born on the Continent in Italy, for ex

"Good," laughed the cardinal; "I am
getting to be a garrulous old man. I love
to air my English speech, and, in my ef
fort to speak it freely, I sometimes speak
it beyond license. Can you forgive me,
my lord, and will you tell me how I can
serve you?"

"I came," said the Earl of Vauxhall,
"to ask you if there is any way in which
I can buy the turquoise cup."

" I do not understand," said the cardi

[ 10]

The Turquoise Cup

" The turquoise cup," repeated the earl.
"The one in the treasury of St. Mark s."

The cardinal began to laugh then he
suddenly ceased, looked hard at the earl
and asked, "Are you serious, my lord?"

"Very," replied the earl.

"Are you quite well?" asked the car

"Yes," said the earl, "but I am very

The cardinal began to pace up and
down the balcony.

"My lord," he asked, finally, "have
you ever negotiated for the Holy Coat at
Treves; for the breastplate of Charle
magne in the Louvre; for the Crown
Jewels in the Tower?"

" No," said the earl; " I have no use for

them, but I very much need the turquoise


"Are you a professional or an amateur?"

The Turquoise Cup

asked the cardinal, his eyes flashing, his
lips twitching.

"As I understand it," said the earl,
slowly, a faint blush stealing into his
cheeks, "an amateur is a lover. If that
is right, perhaps you had better put me
down as an amateur."

The cardinal saw the blush and his
anger vanished.

"Ah," he said, softly, "there is a wo
man, is there?"

"Yes," replied the earl, "there is a

" Well," said the cardinal, " I am listen

" It won t bore you? " asked the earl. " If
I begin about her I sha n t know when
to stop."

" My lord," said the cardinal, " if there
were no women there would be no priests.
Our occupation would be gone. There was

[ 12 ]

The Turquoise Cup

a time when men built churches, beautified
them, and went to them. How is it now;
even here in Venice, where art still exists,
and where there is no bourse? I was speak
ing with a man only to-day a man of
affairs, one who buys and sells, who has
agents in foreign lands and ships on the
seas; a man who, in the old religious days,
would have given a tenth of all his goods
to the Church and would have found honor
and contentment in the remainder; but
he is bitten with this new-fangled belief
of disbelief. He has a sneaking fear that
Christianity has been supplanted by elec
tricity, and he worships Huxley rather
than Christ crucified H uxley ! " and the
cardinal threw up his hands. " Did ever a
man die the easier because he had grov
elled at the knees of Huxley? What did
Huxley preach? The doclrine of despair.
He was the Pope of protoplasm. He beat
[ -3 ]

The Turquoise Cup

his wings against the bars of the unknow
able. He set his finite mind the task of
solving the infinite. A mere creature, he
sought to fathom the mind of his creator.
Read the lines upon his tomb, written by
his wife what do they teach? Nothing
but let us eat and drink, for to-morrow
we die. If a man follows Huxley, then is
he a fool if he does not give to this poor
squeezed-lemon of a world another twist.
If I believed there was nothing after this
life, do you think I should be sitting here,
feeding the pigeons? Do you think but
there, I have aired my English speech and
have had my fling at Huxley. Let me fill
your cup and then tell me of this woman
whom I have kept waiting all this time
by my vanity and my ill manners. Is she
English, French, Spanish, or American?
There are many Americans nowadays."
"No," said the earl, "she is Irish."

[ H]

The Turquoise Cup

" The most dangerous of all," remarked
the cardinal.

"It is plain that you know women,"
said the earl.

" I ? " exclaimed the cardinal. " No ; nor
any living man."

" Her father," resumed the earl, " was a
great brewer in Dublin. He made ripping
stout. Perhaps you use it. It has a green
label, with a bull s head. He kept straight
all through the home-rule troubles, and
he chipped in a lot for the Jubilee fund,
and they made him Lord Vatsmore. He
died two years ago and left one child. She
is Lady Nora Daly. She is waiting for me
now in the Piazza."

" Perhaps I am detaining you? " said the

"By no means," replied the earl. "I
don t dare to go back just yet. I met her
first at home, last season. I ve followed her
[ 5 ]

"The Turquoise Cup

about like a spaniel ever since. I started in
for a lark, and now I m in for keeps. She
has a peculiar way with her," continued
the earl, smoothing his hat; " one minute
you think you are great chums and, the
next, you wonder if you have ever been

" I recognize the Irish variety," said the

" She is here with her yacht," continued
the earl. " Her aunt is with her. The aunt
is a good sort. I am sure you would like

"Doubtless," said the cardinal, with a
shrug; "but have you nothing more to say
about the niece ? "

"I followed her here," continued the
earl, his hands still busy with his hat, " and
I ve done my best. Just now, in the Piazza,
I asked her to marry me, and she laughed.
We went into St. Mark s, and the lights

[ 16]

The Turquoise Cup

and the music and the pictures and the
perfume seemed to soften her. Did you
mean it? she said to me. I told her I did.
Don t speak to me for a little while, she
said, I want to think. That was strange,

5 . , 3 >J

was n t it r

" No," said the cardinal, " I don t think
that was strange. I think it was merely

"We came out of the church," con
tinued the earl, "and I felt sure of her; but
when we came into the Piazza and she saw
the life of the place, the fountain playing,
the banners flying, the pigeons wheeling,
and heard the band, she began to laugh
and chaff. Bobby, she said, suddenly,
did you mean it ?

" Yes, I said, I meant it. She looked
at me for a moment so fixedly that I be
gan to think of the things I had done and
which she had not done, of the gulf there
[ -7]

The Turquoise Cup

was between us you understand?"

" Yes," said the cardinal, " I understand
that is, I can imagine."

"And then," continued the earl, "I
ventured to look into her eyes, and she
was laughing at me.

" Bobby, she said, I believe I ve
landed you. I know you re a fortune-
hunter, but what blame ? I dare say I
should be one, but for the beer. I m throw
ing myself away. With my fortune and my
figure I think I could get a duke, an el
derly duke, perhaps, and a little over on his
knees, but still a duke. A well-brought-
up young woman would take the duke,
but I am nothing but a wild Irish girl.
Bobby, you are jolly and wholesome, and
auntie likes you, and I ll take you hold
hard, she said, as I moved up I ll take
you, if you ll give me the turquoise cup.
What s that? I asked. The turquoise

The Turquoise Cup

cup, she said; the one in the treasury of
St. Mark s. Give me that and Nora Daly
is yours. All right, I said, I 11 trot off
and buy it.

"Here I am, your grace, an impecu
nious but determined man. I have four
thousand pounds at Coutts s, all I have
in the world; will it lift the cup?"

The cardinal rubbed his white hands to
gether, uncrossed and recrossed his legs,
struck the arm of his chair, and burst into
a laugh so merry and so prolonged that the
earl, perforce, joined him.

" It s funny," said the latter, finally,
"but, all the same, it s serious."

" Oh, Love ! " exclaimed the cardinal ;
"you little naked boy with wings and a
bow! You give us more trouble than all
the rest of the heathen deities combined
-you fly about so you appear in such
strange places you compel mortals to

[ 19 ]

The Turquoise Cup

do such remarkable things you debauch
my pigeons, and, when the ill is done, you
send your victims to me, or another priest,
and ask for absolution, so that they may
begin all over again."

" Do I get the cup ? " asked the earl, with
some impatience.

"My lord," said the cardinal, "if the
cup were mine, I have a fancy that I would
give it to you, with my blessing and my
best wishes; but when you ask me to sell it
to you, it is as though you asked your queen
to sell you the Kohinoor. She dare not, if
she could. She could not, if she dare. Both
the diamond and the cup were, doubtless,
stolen. The diamond was taken in this cen
tury; the cup was looted so long ago that
no one knows. A sad attribute of crime is
that time softens it. There is a mental stat
ute of limitations that converts possession
into ownership. We stole the Kohinoor

The Turquoise Cup

so long ago, says the Englishman, that
we own it now. So it is with the cup.
Where did it come from? It is doubtless
Byzantine, but where did its maker live;
in Byzantium or here, in Venice? We used
to kidnap Oriental artists in the good old
days when art was a religion. This cup was
made by one whom God befriended; by a
brain steeped in the love of the beautiful;
by a hand so cunning that when it died art
languished; by a power so compelling that
the treasuries of the world were opened
to it. Its bowl is a turquoise, the size and
shape of an ostrich s egg, sawn through its
longer diameter, and resting on its side.
Four gold arms clasp the bowl and meet
under it. These arms are set with rubies en
cabochon, except one, which is cut in facets.
The arms are welded beneath the bowl
and form the stem. Midway of the stem,
and pierced by it, is a diamond, as large"

The Turquoise Cup

the cardinal picked up his teaspoon
and looked at it "yes," he said, "as large
as the bowl of this spoon. The foot of the
cup is an emerald, flat on the bottom and
joined to the stem by a ferrule of transpar
ent enamel. If this treasure were offered
for sale the wealth of the world would
fight for it. No, no, my lord, you cannot
have the cup. Take your four thousand
pounds to Testolini, thejeweller, and buy
a string of pearls. Very few good women
can resist pearls."

"Your grace," said the earl, rising, "I
appreciate fully the absurdity of my er
rand and the kindness of your forbearance.
I fear, however, that you scarcely grasp
the situation. I am going to marry Lady
Nora. I cannot marry her without the
cup. You perceive the conclusion I shall
have the cup. Good-by, your grace; I
thank you for your patience."

r ]

The Turquoise Cup

"Good-by," said the cardinal, ringing
for a servant. " I wish that I might serve
you ; but, when children cry for the moon,
what is to be done? Come and see me
again; I am nearly always at home about
this hour."

" I repeat, your grace," said the earl,
"that I shall have the cup. All is fair in
love and war, is it not?"

There was a certain quality in the earl s
voice that quiet, even note of sincerity
which quells riots, which quiets horses,
which leads forlorn hopes, and the well-
trained ear of the cardinal recognized it.

"Pietro," he said to the servant who
answered the bell, "I am going out. My
hat and stick. I will go a little way with
you, my lord."

They went down the broad stairs to
gether, and the earl noticed, for the first
time, that his companion limped.

The Turquoise Cup

"Gout? "he asked.

"No," said the cardinal; "the indis
cretion of youth. I was with Garibaldi
and caught a bullet."

"Take my arm," said the earl.

"Willingly," said the cardinal, "since
I know that you will bring me into the
presence of a woman worth seeing; a wo
man who can compel a peer of England
to meditate a theft."

" How do you know that? " exclaimed
the earl; and he stopped so abruptly that
the cardinal put his free hand against his
companion s breast to right himself.

"Because," said the cardinal, "I saw
your face when you said good-by to me.
It was not a pleasant face."



HEY went on silently and soon they
came to the Piazza.

"I don t see her," said the earl; "per
haps she has gone back to the church."

They crossed the Piazza and entered
St. Mark s.

"Not here," said the earl.

They walked up the south aisle and
came to the anteroom of the treasury. Its
door was open. They entered what had
once been a tower of the old palace. The
door of the treasury was also open. They
went in and found the sacristan and a wo
man. She held the turquoise cup in her

"Did you buy it, Bobby?" she ex

She turned and saw that the earl was not
alone. -,

The Turquoise Cup

"Your grace," he said, "I present you
to Lady Nora Daly."

She bent with a motion half genuflex
ion, half courtesy, and then straightened
herself, smiling.

The cardinal did not notice the obei
sance, but he did notice the smile. It
seemed to him, as he looked at her, that
the treasures of St. Mark s, the jewelled
chalices and patens, the agate and crystal
vessels, the reliquaries of gold and pre
cious stones, the candlesticks, the two tex-
tus covers of golden cloisonne, and even
the turquoise cup itself, turned dull and
wan and common by comparison with her

" Your eminence," she said, " you must
pardon Bobby s gaucherie. He presented
you to me and called you your grace.
He forgot, or did not know, that you arc
a cardinal a prince and that I should

The Turquoise Cup

have been presented to you. Bobby means
well, but he is an English peer and a
guardsman, so we don t expecl: much else
of Bobby."

" He has done a very gracious thing to
day," said the cardinal. " He has brought
me to you."

Lady Nora looked up quickly, scenting
a compliment, and ready to meet it, but
the cardinal s face was so grave and so
sincere that her readiness forsook her and
she stood silent.

The earl seemed to be interested in a
crucifix of the eleventh century.

"While my lord is occupied with the
crucifix," said the cardinal, " will you not
walk with me?"

" Willingly," said Lady Nora, and they
went out into the church.

" My dear lady," said the cardinal, after
an interval of silence, "you are entering

The Turquoise Cup

upon life. You have a position, you have
wealth, you have youth, you have health,
and," with a bow, "you have beauty such
as God gives to His creatures only for
good purposes. Some women, like Helen
of Troy and Cleopatra, have used their
beauty for evil. Others, like my Queen,
Margarita, and like Mary, Queen of the
Scots, have held their beauty as a trust to
be exploited for good, as a power to be
exercised on the side of the powerless."

"Your eminence," said Lady Nora,
"we are now taught in England that
Queen Mary was not altogether proper."

"She had beauty, had she not?" asked
the cardinal.

"Yes," replied Lady Nora.

"She was beheaded, was she not?"
asked the cardinal.

" Yes," said Lady Nora, " and by a very
plain woman."

The Turquoise Cup

"There you have it!" exclaimed the
cardinal. " If Elizabeth had been beautiful
and Mary plain, Mary would have kept
her head. It is sad to see beautiful women
lose their heads. It is sad to see you lose

"Mine?" exclaimed Lady Nora, and
she put her hands up to her hat-pins, to
reassure herself.

"Yes," said the cardinal, "I fear that
it is quite gone."

Lady Nora looked at him with ques
tioning eyes. "Yes," she said, "I must
have lost it, for I do not understand you,
and I have not always been dull."

"My dear lady, "said the cardinal, "the
Earl of Vauxhall was good enough to pay
me a visit this afternoon."

" Oh," exclaimed Lady Nora, clapping
her hands, " if I only could have been be
hind the curtains ! What did he say?"

The Turquoise Cup

"He said," replied the cardinal, "that
he had asked you to be his wife."

" Indeed he has," said Lady Nora, " and
so have others."

"He also said," continued the cardi
nal, "that you had promised to marry
him when he brought you the turquoise

"And so I will," said Lady Nora.

" He proposed to buy the cup," con
tinued the cardinal. "He offered four
thousand pounds, which, he said, was all
he had in the world."

"Good old Bobby!" exclaimed Lady
Nora. " That was nice of him, was n t it? "
and her eyes glistened.

"Yes,"said thecardinal/ thatwas nice
of him; but when I had explained how
impossible it was to sell the cup he bade
me good-by, and, as he was going, said,
4 1 shall have it. All is fair in love and war.


The Turquoise Cup

I feared then that he meant to take the
cup. Since I have seen you I am certain
of it."

"What larks!" cried Lady Nora.
"Fancy Bobby with a dark lantern, a
bristly beard, and a red handkerchief about
his neck. All burglars are like that, you
know; and then fancy him creeping up
the aisle with hisjohnnie no,hisjimmy
and his felt slippers fancy Bobby in
felt slippers and he reaches the treasury
door, and just then the moon comes up
and shines through that window and il
luminates the key in St. Peter s hand, and
Bobby says, An omen, and he takes out
his own key-ring and the first one he tries
fits the lock and the door flies open, and
Bobby lifts the cup, locks the door, goes
down to the steps by the Doge s palace
no gondola too late, you know, so he
puts the cup in his teeth, takes a header,

[31 ]

The Turquoise Cup

and swims to the yacht. When he comes
alongside they hail him, and he comes up
the ladder. Where s your mistress? he
asks, and they call me, and I come on deck
in my pink saut du lit, and there stands
Bobby, the water running off him and
the cup in his teeth. There s your bauble,
he says. (Of course he takes the cup out
of his mouth when he speaks.) And here s
your Nora, I say, and the boatswain pipes
all hands aft to witness the marriage
ceremony. No, no, your eminence," she
laughed, "it s too good to be true. Bobby
will never steal the cup. He has never
done anything in all his life but walk down
Bond Street. He s a love, but he is not

"You are doubtless right," said the car
dinal, "and my fears are but the timidity
of age; still "

The earl joined them. He had just giv-


The Turquoise Cup

en the sacristan ten pounds, and had en
deavored to treat the gift as a disinter
ested pourboire. He felt that he had failed;
that he had overdone it, and had made
himself a marked man. The sacristan fol
lowed him voluble, eulogistic.

"Tommaso," said the cardinal, "this is
the Earl of Vauxhall. He is to have every
privilege, every liberty. He is to be left
alone if he desires it. He is not to be both
ered with attendance or suggestions. He

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